HOW I OVERCAME THE DEBILITATING EFFECTS OF A STRESSFUL LIFESTYLE (AND HOW HOLISTIC HEALTH SAVED ME)
I live in beautiful Asheville, North Carolina with my husband, Aaron, and my 2 canine family members, Daisy and Duke. I have found my passion in helping people live their best lives using what I’ve studied and experienced to be effective for myself and my clients. In sharing my journey with you, I hope that it brings inspiration into your life.
Here's my story (scroll down for professional decrees).
I grew up on the standard American diet. I had cystic acne as a teenager that limited my confidence. I wished, "If only I could get rid of my acne, THEN I would be happy."
In 2002, at the age of 18 in my first year of college, my parents apprehensively agreed to put me on the drug, Accutane. The side effects were devastating and debilitating (the doses were stronger then). Severe dryness, weight gain, depression and the trigger for what the conventional western doctors diagnosed me with, IBS.
After the 9 month long treatment cycle of Accutane I lost weight- too much weight- because I couldn’t digest anything! I remember crying to my dad over the phone about the gut wrenching pain and inflammation.
Living in this constant state of indigestion and distended abdomen, I did my best as a full time student with 2 part time jobs (tending bar and a Publix cashier). To add more insult to injury, the acne only disappeared for a few months post treatment. It returned within a few months.
I began researching about food and tried an elimination diet, where I discovered dairy was a big trigger for me. I researched holistic health and nutrition. I went vegetarian. I went on a candida cleanse (which FINALLY cleared the acne!). By the time I graduated college, I had my digestion somewhat under control with intermittent flare ups that were less severe.
2008 was a big year. I graduated college, enrolled in massage school and started dating my hubby, Aaron. This was also the time I began developing chemical sensitivities and had my first migraines.
In November 2008, we started up our CrossFit Gym and shortly after that, I adopted the Paleo Diet and started eating meat again. In addition to the dairy-free diet I was already eating, going grain and legume free decreased occurrence and severity of the inflammatory episodes.
For the next few years, I was crossfitting and eating paleo. I thought my health was better, but I started having severe fatigue and all I wanted to do on the weekends was sit on the couch and rest. Additionally, I never looked truly lean due to chronic inflammation and water retention.
In 2009, I got the signal from my body that my health was only getting worse and more debilitating then I could ever imagine- vertigo spells that lasted more than a week and left me bedridden for 7-14 days. They were so intense I couldn’t move my body, I couldn’t turn my head, I couldn’t even open my eyes.
I had 3 intense spells over the course of 5 years. My husband, during these times, was a Saint (he pretty much always is!). He was at my bedside doing things for me that only nurses and caretakers do. I couldn't have made it through this without him.
Still, the question persisted- why wasn’t I healthy? During this time in my life, I received regular chiropractic care, regular acupuncture, regular massages, ate clean and paleo, exercised regularly, and was under the care of a doctor of Functional Medicine and Chinese Medicine (which helped me discover the SNP MTHFR).
However, perpetuating through all of this care, my glands were chronically swollen, I suffered with migraines, dealt with intermittent headaches, my stomach still bloated up like I was 6 months pregnant (despite following a strict diet), I had a severe sensitivity to chemicals, insomnia, night sweats (I was in my twenties!) and the ever persisting fatigue.
It was then I made some changes. I stopped working out like an Olympic athlete (Read more about how high intensity exercise ruined my health in this blog post). I picked up Qigong. I learned and enforced my personal boundaries with my job as a trainer and business owner.
Searching for fulfillment and success, from 2014-2015 we started a homemade nutrition bar company (MandiBites) on the side which added more stress and longer hours working between the two.
As I persevered through running the gym and MandiBites, I continued my spiritual and personal journey. I learned to get in touch with my emotions. I learned about mindfulness. I did more yoga. I learned how to live my life based on how I want to feel. I considered my health and well-being when making decisions.
Aaron and I both knew it was time for a change. The gym became too much of a stressor and we had completely lost our passion for training like professional athletes and teaching others to do the same. It didn't match up with our newfound philosophies on health and wellness. We knew this part of our lives was no longer serving us.
It took a lot of hard work, one failed deal, and many sleepless nights but in the summer of 2016 we finally sold our gym, our home, one of our cars, and moved to Asheville, North Carolina.
Living here, practicing health coaching, and being out of a daily grind has given me the space for continued healing, self-compassion, and how I truly want to live my daily life. My fitness routine is hiking, yoga, and light exercise. I meditate and practice Qigong daily which keeps me grounded and resilient to stress.
Another turning point in my healing, after much curiosity, at the start of 2017 I finally read Medical Medium: The Secret How to Finally Heal by Anthony William. This knowledge has ignited an entirely new path for my own personal healing and my clients' healing. I was inspired to give up meat and eggs and I've adopted a grain-free plant-based diet FULL of fruits and vegetables. Very different from the paleo diet the previous 8 years!
Although this is how I choose to eat, I'm not biased towards one way of eating or another-- I believe everyone has many influences when it comes to food choices and I honor that with all of my clients.
I'm happy to report my chronic water retention and bloating has never been better. I have fewer migraines and headaches. I sleep deeply throughout the entire night. I no longer have night sweats. The chemical sensitivity has improved. I have more energy than I have had in years. I am a healthier and more grounded than I've ever been.
I am an open book and I'm always happy to share my strengths, my challenges, and my experiences.
Chronic disease and debilitating symptoms keep us from living our lives and being who we want to be. I won't say that going through this has kept from being the best version of myself because I believe it's led me towards being the best version of myself. But that doesn't mean we have to live with it forever. Our symptoms can subside and we can get better.
MY PROFESSIONAL JOURNEY
In 2008, I graduated from the University of Florida with a B.S. in Food Science and Human Nutrition.
Immediately following my university graduation, I attended the Florida School of Massage and became a Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT) in February 2009.
From November 2008 to April 2016, my husband and I ran a CrossFit gym in Gainesville, FL. We were pioneers in “functional fitness” for 8 years where we lived everyday helping people get fit. I used my skills as a Massage Therapist and studied Kelly Starret’s Mobility WOD to improve the functionality of my clients’ movement patterns, relieve their aches and pains, and educated them on self-care. Along the way, I received various CrossFit oriented certifications including, Nutrition, CrossFit Kids, and Mobility where I then taught numerous workshops and classes on the subjects.
From 2013-2015 I had a successful but short-lived business venture making paleo energy bites called MandiBites. Although the "little old Italian lady" in me loved watching people enjoy my confections, and despite a big franchise wanting them in multiple locations, I decided to fold because it just didn't feel like my ultimate passion.
In 2016, I received a certification from Flowing Zen in Qigong, which is a revitalizing, ancient Chinese method of moving meditation.
In 2017, I became a Functional Medicine Certified Health Coach (FMCHC) via the Functional Medicine Coaching Academy in association with the Institute for Functional Medicine.
My curiosity fuels me everyday to continue to research and learn all things health that can help me, my family, and my clients to be our vibrantly healthy selves.