I would like to look back and say:
"I never gave up, when I had every reason too; and that I did the right thing even when it was the hardest to do."-Rose D.
"I hope that I may always desire more than I can accomplish" -Michelangelo
Several years ago, while frequenting a fitness forum, and posed with a question; it had dawned on me, that I have never really put my WHOLE story, that is my "fitness/health story", in writing before. To be honest, it's still an evolving one...
Here is the condensed original story:
The smell of freshly cut grass still transports me...
I grew up an athlete. I played soccer from the age of 5 years old and throughout high school competitively (indoor club and summer leagues). I also played other sports, club volleyball from junior high till about sophomore year, including on a corporate team, two nights out of the week. I also played tennis during the summer, but never officially, more like pick-up matches. I always had a desire to get ranked.
I grew up an athlete and have always been an athlete. I grew up an active kid and was thin all the way up till about 3rd-4th grade, when I started gaining weight uncontrollably, at about the beginning of puberty. From then on, I was always muscular fat. I carried most of my weight around the mid-section. I had taut arms and strong muscular legs, and till this day I still put on muscle very easily.
Many of my coaches and even a Dietitian, that my father brought me too, were baffled. That encounter became the basis for my long distrust of Dietitians. Obviously, one that I would eventually resolve. With recent advances in nutritional research and credentialing standards within the The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. I would like to share how my opinion has changed and how the organization is moving closer to a science-based food and nutrition source and science-based decisions, derived from the best available research and evidence.*
Nevertheless, if the adage of "move more and eat less" really does hold true, I really shouldn't have had the issues I was having, especially with my level of activity.
This was the time before people really knew anything about PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome). I had irregular periods from the very beginning. Also, to be quite honest, high school coaches, were mostly teachers, and had very little to any real knowledge about proper nutrition and training. They weren't specialized. That is one of my other passions, advocating for more informed, qualified, and certified trainers in student athletics. For many of us, that is a time of great athletic influence. It is one of the reasons why I valued my time with C.A.T.C.H. as a CDC Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child model, in which health education, school environment, and family/community involvement, work together in order to support youth in a healthy lifestyle.
At first, it was a welcome occurrence. No adolescent girl really wants to have periods, that is the truth. Especially when you are young and active. I trained like anyone during that time, a lot of cardio, and diet/nutrition wise, a lot of refined carbs. I remember eating a pasta salad for lunch every day during high school. That thought makes me cringe now.
After all, that was the standard and prevailing thought in fitness at the time. Full of catch phrases, "calories in, calories out", "work more, eat less" and these are still truths, but they are far from truths, when it concerns those battling hormonal imbalances. This led to years of on and off-again, over-training & distorted eating. There was a lot of yo-yo dieting, going to experts (Dietitian) that didn't know anything about PCOS. It wasn't even in the realm of thought for many in the medical community. In fact, just a few years ago, one of my old doctors refused to diagnose me because in her words, "it could be PCOS, but it could be other things". Which in hindsight, she wasn't completely wrong about. Needless to say, I sought out other answers and opinions. I support self-advocacy in owning one's health & wellness.
However, as a result of the lack of information and medical climate at the time; therefore, throughout high school, I was never diagnosed.
Fast forward, I really started seriously lifting in college, but still not honed in on nutrition/dieting, at least, the right kind of nutrition for my unique issues. My training was recreational for the most part. But I took it seriously because it was an integral part of myself and identity. It also baffled those around me, especially seeing my dedication and commitment to 5 AM training sessions, while also balancing school and work.
I trained. I knew how to train. I could train, day, night, hours upon hours, activity after activity. I knew how to MOVE. That was never an issue, ever. Around the same time, I started dibble dabbling around with a traditional bodybuilder diet, clean eating, but was still eating a lot of complex and refined carbs, A LOT. Mostly in the form of oats and wheat. It worked in some ways to establish new habits, new ways of thinking, and relating nutrition to training. But in the end, it still wasn't the right answer for me. I would lose and gain equally. During this time, I also seriously started looking at supplementation and that included fat-burners & pre-workouts. I was not prepared for what this would add to my compounding issues. Currently, school was an added stress, but academic stress was not something I wasn't use too. I grew up in honors classes & AP classes throughout high school, it was familial; however, it was still stress and learning to manage it, would be a skill I would not be able to master until much later.
My third year of university, my family was hit with a financial crisis, I decided to leave school with a year left. I don't regret that decision in the slightest. If ever asked to do it again, I would make the same sacrifice. I left university stress for real-life stress. I worked in healthcare and took care of every population from the cradle to the grave. I had erratic hours and had a knack for walking into work situations that were in flux & chaotic, management & staff wise, with high turn-over and always understaffed. It really reflects the state of healthcare & social services. During this time, I was still training and eating clean for the most part, but hardly consistent, since finances & work really took a toll on my body. At the same time, I was trying to support my brother through school. This went on for a few years. I finally got my brother through school and the rest of my family situated. This experience greatly influences my view of managing nutrition, health and wellness in first-responders, medical/healthcare and human/social service professions.
I moved back home. A work injury became a huge turning point, I left healthcare and ended up in Finance for two years. I was so head set on finance that I was being groomed by a CFP (Certified Financial Planner) who owned her own financial office. I was going to take my Series 7 license exam, but then the financial bubble busted, and I was right where I started off. But much worst; because I was injured and financially not sound, and with no one around me, in a stable place either. For the summer, I worked in a drafting firm, my dad owned a drafting company when I was growing up; so, I've been drafting since I was 14 years old. It only lasted a summer. At this point, I took stock of everything, and went strictly clean and trained heavy in a basement gym for about a month. It healed me in so many ways, but I was still in significant pain, that is when, I really fell in love with lifting and I was never going to turn back. I lost 20-30 lbs. during that time and kept it off.
A month later, I started working in social services again. I became a Children's Case Manager for a Domestic Violence organization. It was still the same chaotic work environment. After serving there for 3 years, I left social services and went back to direct care again, but in a school setting. I worked in School Health as a Health Services Coordinator. At this point, my back had healed for the most part, but I had lingering Sciatica pain down my left leg. It was a horrible time. I started seeing some terrible symptoms arise besides the irregular periods: fatigue, losing/thinning hair, scalp psoriasis, uncontrollable weight gain, male-pattern hair growth etc. During this time, I started to transition to Keto type diets, starting with Atkins, I saw the most significant and lasting change from high-protein diets. Naturally, I was introduced to Anabolic Diet and then permanently transitioned to Clean-Keto. I realized that I got the best results when I watched (refined) carbs (near Ketosis or in Ketosis) but if I was truthful, still not eating enough and training a lot.
About 6 years ago, I cut everything out, all supplementation. I went very holistic and whole-listic (organic & unprocessed in almost all aspects of my life). I cut out a lot of stressors, that included people. Also, I had a sinking feeling that my adrenals were shot from all the caffeine from abusing pre-workouts, fat burners and previous NSAIDs use during my back injury. I went strict Paleo, mostly because I believe that the body knows how to heal itself and when you have hormonal problems, not eating food that is laden with chemicals, antibiotics/
hormones, helps to alleviate an already stressed out system.
In my opinion, it’s the best possible way to eat for my issues and respectively PCOS. It wasn't till much later that all of this would be termed metabolic damage/metabolic syndrome.
I started seeing a doctor who understood PCOS, she was a godsend, and she did not hesitate to diagnose me. I found out I was also hypothyroid, which I think is a direct result of not eating salt for years through strict adherence to clean eating and to my never-ending line of dieting. I was also insulin resistant, this I attributed more to PCOS. But in all honesty, they all were acting in concert with one another. My Doctor put me on Cytomel and Metformin, within that year, my hormones had begun to FINALLY be restored. Later in the journey, my doctor put me on LDN (low dose Naltroxene) for off-label use to heal/trick my pituitary gland into healing itself, feedback issues. We did this mostly to address my sleep-wake cycle.
This was also the reason why I went strict Paleo; I knew I would be on medication to correct these hormonal imbalances and I wanted it to be as pure and unobstructed as possible. I wanted my body to be at optimum to receive & repair. All my symptoms subsided or are all gone, periods are back or finally regular without progesterone and I lost 40 lbs., which was a huge accomplishment, because I finally stopped the never ending losing and regaining cycle. I still maintain muscle and build on strength. Everything around me has improved tremendously.
At one point in time, while changing careers and losing health insurance, I stopped all medication and fitness driven commercial supplementation. I sought natural, organic supplementation and food driven strategies. It was at this moment, I realized the power and potential of food as medicine and the importance of returning to eating and my heritage-eating roots.
Currently, I am an 80/20 Paleo/Ketogenic. Limited refined carbs, all my carbohydrate sources are from, for the most part, tubular vegetables & vegetable sources and occasionally pseudo grains. I found out I have a wheat sensitivity from following AIP (Auto-Immune Protocol) and Whole 30 at one time and was already lactose intolerant (so all those years of using milk-based protein powders was less than desirable). Some of these autoimmune issues may stem from my birth story (born premature due to maternal food allergy reaction), which I'll have to elaborate further in the blog. I also eat the right number of calories for my body which also accounts for my activity level. This is due to a slow cycle If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM) and Reverse Dieting
at one time. Yes, no more disordered eating while over-training.
I still monitor, albeit not with such a strict hand, what kind of chemicals, antibiotics etc. I am allowing into my body; whether, in the form of supplementation or medication. As of 2019, I am healed from insulin resistance and hypothyroidism.
A passion of mine is the study, cultivation, and education of Ancient/Ancestral Nutrition. My hope is that individuals embrace those roots again. Much of Clinical Nutrition can be one-dimensional and does not account for the diversity that makes nutritional sustenance, so amazing and very personal. A study of what our ancestors were able to accomplish with earthly raw resources, to create food dishes that sustained generations, is so important for creating strategies that honor our epidemiological genomic history. Their choices are written in our epigenetic code. Part of my mission is to address health and nutritional disparities in underrepresented and marginalized populations.
After several years, with the last three in Physical Medicine/Acute Rehab, Cardiac Surveillance and Med Surg/Telemetry, working direct bed side care; I have discovered I am more interested in preventative care, teaching, and research. I hope to expand on that in the future. I still draw a lot of inspiration and knowledge from the patients and students, I've served and cared for, throughout the years. Each hold a special place in my heart and forever a place in my memories. Currently, I am solely focused on synthesizing the gaps between, Medicine, Healthcare, Nutritional Science, Fitness, and Health Promotion, while also dispelling fiction from fact.
Furthermore, my hope is by sharing this that whoever needs to hear and understand it, will find it useful. I encourage you to trust your instincts and be a self-advocate for your health. My hope is as you navigate through this space and place that you find the answers & resources you seek. I am privilege to share this journey with you. In the near future, it would a be a pleasure to assist you in achieving your own health, fitness, and wellness goals!
*As a healthcare professional, it is important to note that the information and views on this site are for educational purposes with the objective for meaningful discourse, however, they are my own and may not reflect the opinions or positions of the organizations that I belong too.