I'm Nikki Ostrower, a nutritional expert and the proud owner of NAO Wellness. As a recovering anorexic, bulimic, and compulsive night eater, my connection to my work runs deep.
The Naked Truth
My story and struggle with food addiction began at a very young age, when my parents' divorce and the pressures of fitting in led me to seek solace in food. At times, I felt so painfully isolated and alone. By nine years old, I developed an acute preoccupation with my body.
Shortly after, two events compounded that thinking and sparked what would become the struggle of my life: The first occurred when a close family member callously warned me to watch my weight, noting our family's genetic predisposition toward obesity. Then, not even two weeks later, a routine physical prompted our doctor to declare, "in order to look right and be healthy, you have to lose seven pounds."
My whole life changed in that instant.Preoccupation turned to obsession and my entire self-concept became wrapped up in my weight. I even convinced my mother to take me to Weight Watchers—at nine years of age. Crazytown!
Like so many others who suffer this way, I believed gaining control over my appearance meant my external circumstances—and the emotional struggles that resulted—would simply disappear. To that little girl, being skinny meant a life resembling the Cosby's.
I dabbled in everything from extreme diets to pills and laxatives, eventually discovering binging and purging. After suffering the highs and lows of losing weight only to gain it right back, I finally found a way to have my cake and eat it too, so to speak.
It filled me with a false sense of empowerment and became my dirty little well-kept secret. I hid it for years, trapped by its vicious cycle throughout high school and college. I convinced myself that once I got out into "the real world," I'd finally stop and just eat healthy. But life just got more complicated.Old habits died hard and I just couldn't stop on my own.
After earning a business degree from SUNY Binghamton, I went on to work for a fortune 100 company. As my disease progressed, so did the negative effects on my body. I suffered terrible migraines, acid reflux, major constipation, and of course, depression. Simple daily tasks seemed impossible.
I did everything to avoid responsibility, but as my hair thinned and my bones protruded, friends and family took notice. I finally realized I was out of control. This way of living wasn't living at all. I desperately needed help and no amount of discipline in the world was enough to face it alone.
So, I surrendered. It was one of the most freeing moments of my life.
The Road to Recovery
I quickly gathered a team of experts to guide me through the process: a therapist, nutritionist, and a mentor. I felt a sense of peace and hope like never before, but there were still aspects of the disease I couldn't shake.
So, in May of 2005, I completed a 30-day stay at the Rosewood treatment center in Arizona—a decision that saved my life. It was a daily battle that took endless amounts of acceptance, willingness, courage, and strength.
After treatment, I took a year off from work to focus on healing. It was as if I was discovering the real me for the first time. It was painful at times, but I knew it was all part of the growth process, and if I stayed the course, great things were ahead.
With lots of guidance and hand holding, I transformed my relationship to food. I took cooking lessons, practiced getting my hands dirty, and somehow avoided burning down the kitchen. Eventually, it became my sanctuary.
It was at that time I decided to go back to school to study nutrition, earning my degree from the Academy of Healing Nutrition. I threw myself into the process and fell in love with what it really meant to be healthy. I also fell in love with a handsome guy who just happened to be my roommate! We unexpectedly became best friends, and eventually, husband and wife.
Grateful for the support that changed my life, I set out to empower others to change theirs. The very first client I treated was myself. It was through that trial and error that I discovered what really works.
That theme continues with the NAO Wellness Center. I always knew NAO would grow beyond a nutrition practice, but it was my own desire for an empowering and unpretentious NY wellness space—and the realization it didn't exist— that sparked this expansion
For years, I reluctantly stomached spas and wellness spaces that triggered feelings of judgment and insecurity. Instead of being relaxed and refreshed, I often found myself confronting my already low self-esteem and unable to get fully comfortable in my own skin. It was completely counterproductive and only led to more isolation.
I wanted a place I could go to take care of myself that felt warm and welcoming. I also craved the convenience and cost-effectiveness of having all my favorite wellness modalities in one space.Knowing I wasn't alone in those desires only fueled my passion further. I had to bring this dream to life—so, I did!
NAO Wellness is the result of so much love and support, and I'm so grateful it's become the healthy lifestyle destination I always envisioned. Our community is SO amazing! You inspire me to continue growing and healing EVERY SINGLE DAY.
Through ongoing passion, dedication, and the support of friends, family, and my wellness warrior community, NAO has flourished—and thankfully, so have I. It's become so much more than a business; it's validated my struggles and allowed me to live out my dream.
When I'm not working, wellness lives on in every aspect of my life. My daughter, Emma and husband, Matt continue to give me the strength and perseverance to empower myself and others through this work. They keep me humble, laughing, and feeling loved.
Matt and I enjoy a mix of live music, cooking four course meals for friends at our West Village apartment, dinner dates at our favorite NYC spots, taking Emma for walks along the highline, and keeping our beloved chocolate Lab, Kirby, out of the mud puddles in the park.
Thanks for reading my story—and allowing me to be part of yours.
— XO, Nikki