After moving to NYC, fresh out of high school at eighteen, I launched myself full throttle into the pursuit of a career as a professional dancer in musical theatre. After about several months, the constant pressure of pursuing perfection and the stress of becoming an adult basically overnight hit me. As a result, my physical and mental health started to decline. I began under-eating, over-exercising, and following the ever-so-popular low carb, calorie-counting diet. I became obsessed with food and extremely self-conscious of my body image. Food, which I had always loved and enjoyed in abundance growing up, became the subject of extreme anxiety for me. Soon after my big move to NYC, I booked my first big show. It was a fifteen-month world tour of the musical West Side Story. I was beyond ecstatic to embark on this adventure, despite my snowballing health affliction that continued to taunt me. The stress of the intense travel itinerary, combined with the physical and psychological demands of rigorous rehearsals and daily performances, negatively impacted my body and mind. I had lost a lot of weight and was always insatiably hungry. I began secretly binge eating and ultimately lost my period, the absence of which would span for almost 3 years.
About six months into my world tour, I began to recognize that I had a problem. I wanted to rid myself of my disordered eating habits and regain my health immediately. I intuitively knew that I wanted to heal my body naturally without pills or drugs; thus, I began to pour myself into hours upon hours of research. It was neither an easy journey nor a quick fix back to full health. Stress pumped through my body 24/7, and I could feel myself beginning to burn out. I was barely sleeping at night, was always battling a cold, and never had energy. I felt like my hormones were on a relentless roller coaster ride. My anxiety surrounding food, my negative perception of my body, and the shame of bingeing hung over my head like a thick, heavy rain cloud that constantly tormented me. I was harsh with myself. Patience and self-love were not a part of my ritual. Instead, I beat myself up over what I falsely perceived was weakness and a lack of willpower for not getting over my health crisis immediately, as soon as I identified and admitted to the problem. I felt empty, isolated, completely overwhelmed, and hopeless, a mindset I would struggle with for a long time.
My world tour ended, several months passed, and I completely devoted myself to regaining my health. I had always had an interest in health, but this time I began to whole heartedly focus my research on exploring a holistic view of overall health and wellness. I began in earnest to listen to my body. At the time I didn’t really know what a holistic lifestyle truly meant, but I felt drawn to it. After letting food control me for so long and letting outside voices dictate my choices, I wanted to give my own intuition a chance to guide me back to health. What I didn’t know was that this lifestyle would be about letting go of control and stepping out in faith. I had to learn to listen to my body’s cues, trust what I heard, interpret them, and follow through accordingly. This step was the scariest yet.
I reached out to my mom for help and started seeing a therapist. I was getting acupuncture sessions regularly to help get my period back and to restore my body’s natural balance. After an amazing church trip to California for a conference, I was inspired to further take my health into my own hands by getting a formal education in the field of health and nutrition. Although I already knew quite bit about this field, I was lacking a real foundation. I remember a friend telling me about the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) and enrolled in their innovative Health Coach Training Program. Over time, through a comprehensive education in nutrition and holistic wellness, lots of tears, opening up to family and friends, shifting my mindset, embracing change, and lots of patience, my body began to heal. My period returned naturally without the use of pharmaceuticals, and my hormones began to work in harmony. My relationship with food regained a healthy perspective, as I became aware of my own bio-individuality and the nutritional plan that best met my body’s unique needs. I was able to enjoy life more freely and deeply with my family and friends. Last, but certainly not least, my passion for health and fitness burst into full bloom. I had an epiphany when I realized that my heart-felt mission in life was to help other women discover their own unique version of vibrant health, one that makes them glow from the inside out.
The farther along into my wellness journey that I progress, the more I am able to distance myself from my health crisis. I am better able to see the tremendously beautiful life experiences I had amidst the desperate and tumultuous struggles. During the course of those difficult times, I’ve discovered that I never completely lost hope, even though hope may have been just a dull flicker at times. Challenging times can make it hard for us to see the proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel,” yet that is precisely when we must forcefully hold on and patiently persevere. Despite the oppressive health struggles during that period in my life, I didn’t let them define the entirety of my existence! I co-existed with them and still managed to have the most amazing experiences while touring around the world. My time on tour with West Side is something that I’ll always hold so close to my heart. The other shows I’ve performed in all host so many wonderful laughs, treasured memories on stage and off, and life-long friendships. I discovered so many different passions and creative projects that I never expected to be interested in. Grace and revelation shone through my heart, and I reconnected with my faith. My family and I experienced so many fun travels, meals, and adventures that we will cherish forever.
And so, I leave you with these thoughts. Your struggles do not define you. The light at the end of the tunnel won’t ever fade out no matter how unreachable it seems. Be patient and kind to yourself…really be kind to yourself, adopt a growth mindset, and discipline your thoughts to let go of control. Thank you for taking the time to read my story. Go forth and bloom, Babe.