What Made Me Become A Nutritionist
Most of my clients find me as their Nutritionist through a google search or as a trusted referral. NAO has become one of the most trusted Nutrition Counseling brands in the country while also being a welcoming support system for those struggling with Eating Disorders, Emotional Eating, Body Dysmorphia, and the like.
While overcoming a long-held struggle with Eating Disorders had a major impact on my decision to become an Integrative Nutritionist, something not many people know about me is that I also struggled with physical symptoms of imbalance for years. The problem was…no one believed me…
I am forever grateful to my mentors and coaches at the start of my journey in Eating Disorder Recovery. ED is absolutely influenced by one’s own mental and spiritual image of themselves. It is a journey of the heart like nothing I can describe. But above and beyond what I was going through mentally and emotionally, I was also struggling with endless brain fog, popping advil for relentless headaches, and my legs and feet were so itchy I’d scratch until I bled.
The unfortunate truth is that while my deeper instinct told me that there was more than met the eye with my physical symptoms, my eating disorder practitioners said it was “all in my head”. It was their belief that the foods I was eating and the mountains of sugar I was consuming had nothing to do with how I felt. At one point, I started doing a little digging…
I began reading every integrative nutrition book I could get my hands on. As I began sharing what I was learning with my providers, especially with regards to sugar’s impact on the body, they said things like, “Sugar addiction isn’t real”, “There is no such thing as candida overgrowth”, “Your headaches are all stress-related”, “Your constipation is because of your ED alone”.
So at the beginning of my inpatient treatment, I decided to roll with their guidance only. I went into the experience choosing powerfully to trust in THEIR process, so I went home and threw out every book on integrative wellness I owned.
As part of the program, I would go out for meals that included desserts. I liked that they were champions of having “no fear” around food! But when it comes to food, and especially sugar, not everyone responds the same way. When I would eat sugar at that point in my life my brain would light up and I’d feel like a heroin addict. No amount felt like “enough”.
Meanwhile, my physical symptoms just kept getting worse. I had boxing gloves on to not act out on my ED symptoms even after a 45-day stint in treatment. My sugar cravings were still out of control, I literally could not poop and was desperate for relief, and it felt like no amount of therapy nor Overeaters Anonymous meetings were going to fully relieve what I was going through.
I was working so hard doing both physical and emotional overhaul, yet felt defeated and ignored. I once had a sponsor tell me I “wasn’t working the program hard enough”, and that all my physical symptoms and issues stemmed from “holding onto older demons”. I knew intuitively there had to be more than just emotional recovery. In fact, it’s my strong-held belief that the theory of intuitive eating is antiquated and quite literally dangerous to those struggling to find their way with food in the beginning. (Telling my client to ‘eat intuitively’ when they are craving sugar 24/7 is very backward advice. I’ll be writing about that in a separate post!).
When I finally learned how to cook, started crowding out sugar and inflammatory foods that I believed could be contributing to my physical symptoms, and started creating a new relationship with food as medicine, that’s when I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. Cutting out sugar allowed my cravings and addiction to disappear, and with that, I was eventually able to eat the occasional dessert from good sources that weren’t triggering to my mind and body. It feel great!
My itchiness started to go away. I learned that the NSAIDs I was popping like candy were wreaking havoc on my stomach and gut health, causing worsening of my symptoms while ignoring the real problem. The brain fog slowly lifted as well, replaced by more and more clarity.
I wanted to keep honoring what my body told me WAS working and to feel good mentally, physically, and emotionally through my food choices. Rather than forcing myself to eat certain foods that were creating an inflammatory cascade.
Not all are sensitive to sugar specifically, but so many clients I’ve worked with do have their own particular “trigger foods”. Those are foods that, for their unique body, are more addictive for one reason or another and therefore very difficult if not impossible for you to eat in moderation. I’ve learned from years of experience that the cause of a food addiction is multi-faceted. It can be a combination of the ingredients made to be more addictive by the creators, as well as your genetic profile (what you’re predisposed to), micronutrient insufficiencies (crave chocolate? You might need magnesium), stressors, environmental factors, and your relationships with their work, spirituality, love, etc. causing you to reach for food to “fill the void”. I’ve had clients overcome food addictions by rebalancing their gut microbiome, and others who have literally cured themselves of binge eating disorder through meditation because stress was their main root cause.
I am so glad I didn’t give up seeking more knowledge and wisdom to overcome my physical symptoms. And I know I’m not alone. Pretty much every health story I’ve been told from friends, family, co-ED survivors, and clients alike began something like this: “I knew there was something wrong. I went to my provider and they told me it was all in my head. But I’m glad I didn’t give up because as it turns out, I was right.”
I wanted to become a Nutritionist to educate, support, and help people feel less alone with their health journey. The PMS you feel every month isn’t “normal” nor something you “just have to deal with”. It’s not crazy to think the food you are fueling your body with daily affects your brain health (we’ve proven this to be true, that your gut is your second brain). You are not “simply getting old” and feeling exhausted, chronically sore, and inflamed. You can feel great at any age. You are not deficient in Xanax. You are needing to reduce the inflammatory triggers in your life and fuel your body with the nutrients it needs to remain calm. Physical symptoms can lead to emotional drivers and vice versa.
My personal journey also influenced why I emphasize the need for customization in my practice and never a one-size-fits-all approach to wellness. With my Eating Disorder Recovery, it was the same process for everyone. But with years of experience in the Nutrition world, I’ve found that no single diet and lifestyle approach works for everyone. People need personalization in order to make the plan work for them rather than trying to fit themselves into a generic plan.
For those who have had a similar experience and are wanting to work with a Nutritionist who truly walks the talk, believing in the mind, body, spirit connection, I’m here for you. You are not crazy for wanting to dive deeper and truly understand how your diet and lifestyle choices affect your entire life every day. Because whether you truly believe it or not, they most definitely do.