Updated: Oct 19, 2020
"I am a great nutritionist because I have tried and failed and tried and tried again."
Among my earliest memories is sitting in a gymnasium listening to Cyndi Lauper and Duran Duran as my mother taught step aerobics in a leopard print thong leotard. Luckily, Mom was remarkably healthy and through her example instilled in her four children a fundamental concern for wellness. She went gaga for Jane Fonda’s step aerobics, though she too succumbed to the fat-free craze. Looking back on my childhood, I recognize that she always provided quality, whole foods through delicious, home-cooked meals just about every day for us, even hiding vegetables in our favorite dishes when we were too picky to eat them willingly. In this way and so many others, she was ahead of her time and this simple act of love left an indelible mark on me.
My personal interest in nutrition peaked in high school when my tenure as a competitive athlete came into conflict with the southern girl’s all-too-common fixation on weight. Running cross country, playing soccer, and dancing, I expended so much energy that I was forced to reckon with the role food played in fueling my performance, which suffered when I cut back on calories or ingested the wrong kinds of foods.
Athletics took their toll on my body. Whiplash. Torn ACL, shoulder and meniscus. Years after my competitive days ended, injuries remain more common than I’d like to admit. Diet became a tool for pain-reduction, allowing me to return to the movement on which I had become physically and psychically dependent.
After graduate school, a stint living and working with the Quinault Tribe on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington taught one of my greatest joys: wild harvesting. Sprouts and seaweed, seal and berries, the yields of nature and the philosophy of eating close to the earth stimulated my mind, body and tastebuds. Nutrition took on a whole new meaning.
After three years in the rainforest, my husband and I moved to Seattle, where I adjusted to urban life while remembering the grounding that had come from my time with the Quinaults. But what had become my routine of long bike rides, runs, lake swims and rock climbing adventures all came to a crashing halt following a fluke injury that occured during a seemingly routine treatment for whiplash. While receiving lidocaine injections to my neck to improve mobility, the needle slipped errantly, puncturing my spinal cord, resulting in a fluid leak that lasted an excruciating 14 months during which I was able to remain upright just two hours a day.
During those two hours, I would cook, and eventually started a blog about my recipes while face down on the massage table that became my home for most of that time. I was more depressed than I’ve ever been, bordering on suicidal, and angry at my situation and my body that seemed to be failing me prematurely despite all my best efforts over the years.
It was on a ferry trip to Petersburg, Alaska, organized out of desperation by my husband, that everything changed. We set up my trusty massage table on the deck of the boat, I found myself easing into the present moment and grateful for the first time for the sort of adventure I thought no longer possible for me. We harvested every day on that trip: seaweed, halibut, salmon, clams, chanterelle mushrooms, wild huckleberries. After 10 days of living off the land in Tongass National Forest, my symptoms started to subside. We left Alaska and went directly to the Mayo Clinic for my scheduled appointments and learned that I no longer had a spinal leak, but received a new diagnosis: a scary-sounding heart condition called Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, or POTS.
Fortunately, one of the key treatments for POTS is regular exercise, meaning my life could mostly go back to normal. I started running, mountain biking, backpacking, and working as a nutritionist again. I became a mother. Nutrition and health took on a whole new level of importance to me.
I have treated my chronic conditions and ongoing injuries with research and trial and error, developing a diet and lifestyle that have provided me with improved functional ability, less fatigue, more brain power, less pain, and more mobility.
I am a mother, adventure-seeker, naturalist, teacher, nutritionist, and overall health nut. I also have a masters degree in nutrition (and minor in exercise science.)
Knowing is power for me. With understanding of the root causes of my conditions, I can give my body the nutrients and support that it needs and the patience and grace I need to heal. Instead of fighting myself, I’ve learned to support myself. I hope to do the same for you.
I’m not a great nutritionist because I have a perfect life. I am a great nutritionist because I have tried and failed and tried and tried again. I’m still trying, and I truly believe food and intention are our greatest medicine.