One of the first questions new clients ask me is ‘how & why did you get into your profession’? My answer? I want to educate, inspire, and empower others to take hold of their health by making proper lifestyle changes so they can live each and every day to its fullest. This actually started with my own personal story, which I will share with you below, that trickled down to wanting to share what I now know with as many people as I can.
HOW IT ALL STARTED
Growing up I was overweight and ate a convenient, processed foods diet. Remember those frozen dinners with the hard, crusty brownie square? I started the day with Captain Crunch at breakfast, PB and fluffernutter sandwiches at lunch, and Kraft mac & cheese maybe with canned asparagus at dinner. Lots of Twinkies and Little Debbie Snacks in between. If we ate out, the favs were Taco Bell and White Castle. No wonder I was fat and fatigued! Then, when I was 16 years old, I had a tonsillectomy that led to weight loss. Seeing I actually had muscle beneath my fat rolls was enough to inspire me to abandon the unhealthy habits I learned — I joined the gym and started exercising daily, preparing nutritious meals (I still hear about the ripe smell of California mix I left sitting in the microwave) and moving toward a holistic way of living.
As happy as I was about my own new way of life, I was even more ecstatic when I learned I could make a career out of helping others do the same.
I earned my degree in Dietetics from the University of Illinois-Urbana in 1991, then began working in hospitals as a clinical dietitian. That wasn’t enough! I also ran my own personal training business on the side, traveling to client’s homes to work them out. Six years later, I decided to stop fighting with the Doctors on my patient’s care and I started my own business called The Complete Fitness Experience. I taught fitness and nutrition to individuals and small groups, as well as created and ran successful large group classes (like kickboxing and yoga) and wellness events.
During this time my awareness that my conventional training was not enough entered the picture. I was in my early 30s and had just had my son when I started experiencing every symptom of hypothyroidism. I was struggling to exist in my current life, yet my conventional doctor refused to treat me. He wouldn’t listen! I couldn’t function – I was depressed, exhausted, constipated, gaining weight and my hands and feet were freezing all the time.
I couldn’t accept my destiny was to struggle with these symptoms for the rest of my life. So, I began my training in the field of Integrative and Functional Nutrition and Medicine, and through it was able to learn how my body truly worked and how to holistically manage my condition and get my life back.
This education helped me again in my early 40s, when I started to experience significant adrenal fatigue. I was taking naps in between clients at work, I fell asleep on the couch by 7 p.m., I couldn’t tolerate any exercise, I was sore all the time, and I was depressed and apathetic. Through functional lab testing, supplementation and lifestyle adjustments, I was able to crawl out of the hole I was in and once again get back to my desired life.
I took a 10-year break from self-employment when I moved from Illinois to Minnesota 11 years ago, working in a variety of management and education roles for one of the country’s largest premiere health and fitness clubs, Life Time. But, I found I missed helping clients on a day-to-day basis and being an entrepreneur, so I decided to go back into business for myself — that’s when Wellness 4 Women, LLC was born. Why this name & focus you ask? I am very passionate about helping women through their hormonal milieu during the ‘4’ stages of hormonal shifts – pre-menopause, fertility & pregnancy, perimenopause (that roller coaster transition to what I fondly call ‘womanhood’), and menopause. Other than menopause, which I hope and pray is just around the corner, I have been through all these stages and understand personally what women are enduring. I want to help!
AND ANOTHER THING …
Many years ago, I vowed I wasn’t going to fall victim to my genetics. You already know my childhood story. Well, my family members (4 of them) are overweight, have multiple chronic health conditions and are dependent on a myriad of medications. Through functional medicine, I’ve been able to avoid all that, other than one genetic blip that grabbed hold of me in 2016 after having a spinal injection. I had a 2 foot (yes, you heard me correctly – 2 feet long) blood clot in my left leg due to a genetic blood clotting disorder that got triggered from the steroid injection. I now need to rely on one blood thinning medication and very trendy thigh high compression hose. But hey, I am still here and can live my life as I desire with a healthy, plant heavy diet and exercise regime. I’m grateful for that. Despite my long history with hypothyroidism as well, I’ve been able to manage it holistically and no longer require medication. I have also maintained my weight within 10 pounds of my high school weight.
The good news is our genetics play a small role in the whole scope of our health’s destiny, with an average ~25-30% of the whole equation. It’s our environment (diet, exercise, environmental exposures, etc) that turn on or off those genes, making up to 75% of the whole equation. What that means is we DO have control over our health’s destiny and I’m here to educate and inspire you to grab hold of the wheel and make a difference!
I lost my Dad this past December, which has been very hard on me since we had a close relationship. And I’m angry! I truly believe he became victim to the healthcare system, inundated by new and more medications every time his health slipped. This only made his ability to function normally, not even optimally, nearly impossible until it ultimately took his life. We have a choice. How we live our life, from early on, matters. I have an additional mission this year to extend my Dad’s legacy – empower others to take hold of their own health, making the right lifestyle changes so they can get off medications which have multiple side effects, not fall victim to the ‘system’ and live their life to its fullest until their time is here.
MORE ABOUT ME PERSONALLY
I live in a Southeast burb of Minneapolis – St. Paul with my amazing husband of 27 years, Dennis, and our playful and devoted dog, Luka. Our son, Alec, goes to college locally, so we’re lucky to be able to see him whenever we’d like. We love to be out in nature, which was the main selling point of our home — it backs up to a regional park with thousands of acres of trails and ponds that we (our dog included) love to use as much as we can.
I’m an educational junkie, so when I’m not outdoors you’ll often find me with a book or article in hand, at a conference or class, or completing a new online certification. I also spend a lot of time experimenting in the kitchen and the gym — how can I help guide others if I haven’t tried the recipes and workouts myself? My motto for both areas is that less is more: healthy foods should be quick and easy, while exercises should take minimal time with maximum impact.