Here is a snippet of me.
I am a Certified Holistic Health Coach accredited by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners. I received my education from The Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York City. Before becoming a health coach, I had a long, fast-paced career as a strategic planner for the advertising powerhouse called WPP in both Asia and the US. I am also a regular Vipassana (insightful) meditation practitioner and a Level II reiki healer (a form of energy healing).
My own journey with food and its impact on health started eight years ago when I discovered that my gluten and egg intolerance were the cause of years of adult acne, migraines and hormonal irregularities. By eliminating the food I was not tolerating well, I healed my body. However, a few years later the stress and pollution I encountered while living in Shanghai, China, meant I developed Hashimoto’s Disease (an autoimmune disease in which your own body attacks its thyroid. Crazy, right?). Yet again, I embarked on a two-year journey to battle what the endocrinologists say is incurable. It’s a lonely journey when you work “against the system” but I won this battle with food and reframed thoughts as my only weapons.
I have been a competitive athlete (skiing, running, biking and adventure sports) for most of my life. Along the intense training and conditioning came injuries. This is how I discovered the complementary power of yoga. With yoga came meditation. With meditation came the healing power of reiki.
If you came to my website, you are probably seeking help with food as a healing source to the thyroid, your adrenal health and perhaps beyond.
I’m glad you did. My business is driven by my passion to give you hope, knowledge and direction to self-heal so you get your energy, weight joy and optimism where you always wanted it to be.
If you have a moment, this is the full me.
Like with most people, my journey with food and health started with a personal crisis. But first, a bit of a back story.
Starting from the day I was born – I was not a breast-fed baby. It was the early 1970ties when the powder milk companies bought the health industry and powder milk was declared “richer in nutrients” than mother’s milk. The nurse would also hint another benefit of not breast feeding – the young mother’s breasts won’t sag in the future. From a very early age, I struggled with eczema and chronic ear infections. I still remember the tubes they would insert deep inside my ears to suck out the puss. There is not much that I remember from being 5 years old but I do remember the tubes. The procedures have impacted my hearing forever.
On the contrary, my sister, as a breast fed baby, had no such issues.
Going into my teenage years, I struggled with acne and chronic migraines. In our Western society, zits welcome you to teenage hood and then you make best friends with Oxy. Migraines were due to “weather changes and dropping pressure before the rain” as my dad would console me, in his good intentions.
By the age of 28, I had pretty much tried every cream, antibiotic (the dermatologist made me sign a document that if I got pregnant he won’t be responsible for the health of the baby..), Chinese herb, Western herb and bogus diet. My face became scarred, dry and tired and I now had even more acne; on my back, arms and chest; only deeper under the skin, painful and emotionally scarring. I was reluctant to date boys, owned no open-back tops or dresses and was reluctant to wear a bikini.
By medical standards, I was a “healthy person”. I excelled in sports with ease, I was academically strong and curious. It’s probably the sense of curiosity and the inner voice that pushed me to ask the so seemingly simple yet so rare of a question: “why is it happening to me?”. I’m 28, I eat well yet I have acne, chronic migraines and very irregular periods. Again, my sister had none of those.
A simple internet search pointed me in the direction of food. I started discovering the connection between food and many medical conditions that at first puzzled me and later consumed me with fascination. A simple blood test and an elimination diet showed I had a severe food sensitivity to gluten, dairy and eggs. This was my first introduction to the works of the immune system and the gut. By cutting out gluten and eggs from my diet, the inflammation of my body subsided so much so that my acne cleared up, my migraines were gone and my periods showed up precisely every 28 days.
I became, what I thought was a “conscious and healthy eater”. Crusading for making the connection between food and health became part of my social DNA; to the delight of some friends and dismay of others.
This time, to my own disbelief, I was found to have hyper-thyroidism. It was probably Graves’ disease (an autoimmune condition) so I was put on medication, taken off it after 6 months and declared “cured”.
Being Type A personality, my advertising career took off at a lighting speed; I became very good in digital strategic planning and was the go-to person in the industry, jet-setting, pitching and working on Fortune 500 brands; living the life many aspire or envy, a life we are told represents “personal growth” and “self-fulfillment”. Don’t get me wrong; I loved it deeply and completely. The way any addict loves his fix.
I probably had Hashimoto’s Disease for far longer than I knew. Who knows. When adrenaline powers you for that long, your adrenals get exhausted, you just do not know it. I was living the high life in Shanghai when I realized something was really wrong. I still remember the day when Nike’s (my then client) debriefed us on a new campaign; I took some notes and thought I would start on the plan the next day. The next morning, I opened my notebook and had no recollections of the notes, the meeting and no idea what is it that I had to do.
I don’t’ know if you ever felt like you do not know yourself anymore. Till today, I consider it the scariest day.
What followed were months of sporadic anxiety attacks, more forgetfulness, sliding into depression and swinging between being hyper- to being hypo-. One day a barking dog would spook me, I would yell at a waiter, another day I was too tired to get out of bed and too depressed and embarrassed to admit it. Again, I was beginning to hate who I had become.
After all, I was always the strong, go-to person and showing vulnerability was not part of my DNA nor my vocabulary.
It was a very lonely time. I did not want to admit to anyone what I was going through, yet, the few people I tried explaining it to gave me the “we are all tired” look, “slow down a bit” or “but you are so healthy” comment.
So that you know – Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disease in which our own immune system starts attacking the thyroid, thinking it is an enemy. As a result, the thyroid start dying and becomes sluggish and hypo-. At times, it fights back, so you swing back to being hyper-, the way I was. The thyroid is a glad with a huge impact on the nervous system, metabolism, digestion and skin/nails.
My crusade for answers started again – this time in the offices of multiple endocrinologists, Chinese Traditional Medicine doctors, holistic healers, 32 books, endless internet research hours and emails, calls to people who had it. I was determined to get to the bottom of it; the same way I dealt with my acne and migraines 10 years earlier.
I never went on any medication as my TSH, T4 and T3 were “normal”. My TPO antibodies however were over 1,000 (the norm is <35) but since the only medication they had were steroids, I decided to pass. Western medicine had nothing to offer a Hashimoto’s patient. No hope, no resources, no dietary advice, just a plain “we have no cure”. With this, came a realization that today’s medicine and doctors have failed me and millions of other thyroid patients and … I was on my own.
The food + toxicity + thyroid connection
The one thing I kept coming across over and over again is the toxicity found in food, environment and our emotions that have a huge impact on the thyroid.
I was committed to making it work; I decided to slow down and clean up my act. I took a big step back. I quit my job, moved out of toxic Shanghai with another job and started the healing process. It is not easy when you are Type A personality.
I always get the “so how did you do it?” question. Since it’s not commonly known to successfully manage an autoimmune disorder, so this is a very valid question to which I find no short answer to. I don’t want you to think that I’m oversimplifying it by saying that I just cut out what was toxic; in terms of food, water and emotions (stress). But, it really is that simple. In spite of being a “good eater” (by whose standards?), I was still sick. So I further cut out what was toxic to a thyroid and added what was densely nourishing.
I graduated from Institute for Integrative Nutrition as part of my healing journey and became a Certified Holistic Health Coach. As I began to heal, people would ask me “how did you it?”. I realized that my healing path is different from yours as we are all different from each other. The school helped me learn the principals of bio-individuality; something I apply actively in my practice today.
Fired from my job
Yeah, so in spite of taking a “slower” job, I got fired, laid-off, whatever is the right term and I soon got another job offer to work on one of the leading junk food brands; the key strategy was getting kids and families addicted to junk food. My stomach turned upside down. For the first time in my life, I got physically ill at a thought of working on a client’s agenda. This was the day I realized that a: as long as I work for someone, I will never be able to determine my destiny and b: it’s time to apply my advertising skills of impacting the masses to better causes.
Remission, symptoms-free and Thyroid Diet Coach
Take a look at my blood test results.
Here is when I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s in 2008 (click to enlarge): As you can see the TSH, Free T3 and Free T4 were “within range” but my antibodies were sky high. Most importantly, I suffered from so many symptoms which the doctors dismissed.
And these are the results after having made diet and lifestyle changes (click to enlarge): Most importantly, I’m symptoms free. My TPO antibodies are still slightly elevated and I am working hard to get them to below 35 but… I also chose to primarily focus on the fact that I’ve been feeling simply… amazing.
This is why and how I set up my company. What else can I say? I’m happier and healthier than ever. I’m 40 years old today and I feel better than I felt when I was 25. In fact, I probably am more energetic than most 25-year-olds today. My mission in life is to inspire you, give you hope and knowledge that you can heal too. Our body is an amazing machine; just give it a chance to heal.
Putting the puzzle together
Looking back at it now, I clearly see what had happened. As a non-breast-fed baby, my immune system was never strong and probably never will be, I’ve learned to accept it. This is why eczema and ear infections plaqued my early life. Being overly sensitive to food and environment is also the result of a suppressed immune system – this is why I’m gluten-, dairy- and egg-intolerant today. Having lived through the Chernobyl disaster and having consumed fresh milk and veggies one week after the explosion (the officials hid the news from the public), had a profound effect on my thyroid too (and millions of other women’s). Being in a highly stress job I exhausted my adrenals which are so hugely connected to the thyroid. I remember falling asleep after vigorous work-out routines; now I know the adrenals were just screaming for help.
A message for you
All I want you to take back from my story is this: there is hope and there is viable healing. Our body has an amazing capability to heal and recover. Just give it a chance by nourishing it with highly nutritionally-dense food and cutting out toxicity. Modern medicine, as we know it and trust it, does not always have the answers. Activate your inner voice and start searching for solutions outside of medication.
Update June 2013: Part II of my journey where I talk about discovering and struggling with hair loss, adrenal fatigue, estrogen dominance and heavy metal toxicity and what I did about it. Read here.