I started developing a weight problem when I was 10 years old. My liver began to fail and I was admitted to the hospital and began a steroid treatment for what they termed Autoimmune Chronic Active Hepatitis. Essentially, my immune system is attacking my liver and they could never figure out why. The start of the treatment was rough. I was on a high dosage and I gained weight very quickly. The treatment was not effective for at least a few weeks and I was told that I only had less than 3 months to live. They also said IF I lived past ten years of age, I would not live past twenty. You can imagine the weight of those words on a child’s spirit and my mother was devastated. My father remained hopeful and prayer-filled. I even received a wish from the Make-A-Wish foundation.
HOW DID YOUR WEIGHT AFFECT ANY ASPECT(S) OF YOUR LIFE? Once the steroids and other medications began to work, I became an outpatient. I was heavier than I ever could have imagined. I was hungry, irritable, depressed, tired, fatigued, and I felt alone. I had not seen my older sister or twin sister in a few months and I didn’t know how to connect with anyone including friends at this point. I didn’t recognize myself in the mirror and I was scared that other kids would bully me and make fun of me without caring about the fact that I was going to die. During my time in Junior High School, I transferred from my local school where all my friends were privy to my delicate situation and journeyed to a Middle School where my great-uncle was the principal and where my father worked as an administrator. My mother’s idea was that my sister’s and I would have someone to watch over us especially if an emergency happened with me. That was the worst move my parents could have decided for an already traumatized kid. I was bullied everyday and even when I would tell the children that I almost died, there was no compassion or empathy. All they saw was a fat, swollen, mess. It was tough. I pleaded with my mother to transfer me back to my old school and broke down crying. When she learned of the bullying, she spoke with my older sister who was two grades above me, and told her to handle the situation. I took a day or two off and when I went back to school, everyone was nicer to me. Kudos to my sister.
But…I was still overweight from the steroids. That was about to change. When I turned 15, I had an amazing spiritual encounter that shifted my spiritual mindset forever. I had just lost my very first cat and I cried myself to sleep from the stress of losing my little fur ball, and feeling the depression and side effects of the steroids. I awoke in the middle of the night sensing that something was waiting for me in the darkness. As I sat up in my bed staring into the darkness, an angel appeared. She was brilliant beyond words and her voice was like a much needed exhale. She told me that God had heard my cry and that when I go to see my GI doctor in the morning, he will take me off of the steroids. She told me to dry my eyes, showed me my cat standing next to her, and instructed me to go back to sleep. As she disappeared, I sat there stunned and then slowly turned around and went back to bed. The next day went just as the angel had predicted and I was taken off of the steroids. Soon after, I became active in my school’s volleyball intramural’s and dropped so much weight after that but….I was still unhealthy, very unhealthy.
During the course of my health journey, my mother became ill and was diagnosed with Lupus. My twin sister was also diagnosed with an autoimmune liver disease. They labeled her’s “passive” as it was not in active form, yet. My mother passed away a few short years later and since she was my leader, my chief, and my hospital partner-in-crime, I felt alone and doomed. I remembered the medical prophecy that the doctors had spoken and I was only 2 years away from twenty when my mother passed. At this point, I was unsure if there was anything to live for but I kept striving remembering that God was on my side and loved me enough to send an Angel.
During college, my weight yo-yo’d and I was still experiencing liver inflammation on various scales. I became pregnant at 22 and the weight of the pregnancy on my liver sent my inflammation skyrocketing. I was still taking medication and at 4 months, I miscarried. The next few years, I spent yo-yo-ing again with my weight and with my obscenely high liver levels. I was not taught how to eat better even though I kept hearing the same dialogue, “Change Your Diet.”
At the age of 30, I was put back on steroids for another 2 years. I was miserable. I had many physicians that instructed me to change my diet but I had no clue what that even meant or entailed. Change my diet to what?? How does someone change their diet? what do they eat? How do they prepare it? I was overwhelmed, depressed, fatigued, and had every side effect in the steroid pamphlet. The only advice they could offer was to see a nutritionist. At this point it was too late. After a cat scan of my liver showed that I had reached Cirrhosis status, my doctor–a new fellow I had seen at the time–cupped his head in his hands and sadly apologized over and over wishing he could have done more. Little did he know, he was about to make good on his wish.
WHAT WAS THE “TURNING POINT” THAT GOT YOU STARTED ON YOUR WEIGHT LOSS JOURNEY? I gently touched the hands of my doctor as he shook his head in despair over my current health situation and said, “it will be okay, I promise.” He looked at me and said, “I think I know how to fix this but you cannot tell anybody I suggested this to you.” I shook my head in agreement understanding that I was about to be thrown a life line. He jotted down a site called maximummilkthistle.com. He said many of his patients had experienced success with this supplement but some had not. He explained that it was worth a shot. A few days later, I ordered the Maximum Milk Thistle and began taking the dosage suggested on the bottle. I watched my liver levels drop from being in the 100’s to floating in the late 30’s and 40’s—closer to normal, more normal than I have ever had. “There’s something to this natural approach” I thought. If I’m going to survive, I have to “ramp” this up, I told myself.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED? I started researching videos, articles, youtubers, and anything that I could get my hands on about the effects of food on the body. I watched videos and documentaries like “Forks Over Knives,” and became obsessed with vegan youtubers like “Fully-Raw Kristina” and Chris from “ChrisBeatCancer.com.” I researched natural beauty alternatives from youtuber, Francesca Medina of “Hey Fran Hey.” I was desperate. I wanted to live and I had read the statistics of how many people die each year waiting for a liver transplant. I was not ready for that to be me. I did it all and am still doing it all: oil pulling, natural deodorant, non-fluoride toothpaste, Big Berkley Water Filter, no meat, no dairy, no sugar, no flour, no bread, natural body spray and perfume, and more. I cut so many things out. I learned how to prepare lentils, beans, and vegetables steamed, sautéed, raw, juicing, blending, you name it. I had held on to some books by natural health M.D. and guru, Dr. Andrew Weil that my mother had purchased when she was alive. I began to read and implement foods from his anti-inflammatory food pyramid. I even committed to a gym membership and hired a personal trainer.
HOW LONG AFTER YOU STARTED DID YOU BEGIN TO SEE RESULTS OF YOUR WEIGHT LOSS EFFORTS? I didn’t notice results right away. What I was focused on more importantly, was my liver levels. The weight loss was an added bonus. What the doctors fail to mention regarding the use of steroids is that once you are taken off of them, you still have to lose all that weight that you gained from being on them. It does not just fall off and that was a tough pill to swallow. The first result I noticed was that my liver levels dropped from being in the 40’s range to being in the lower 30 range. This meant my dietary and lifestyle changes were having an effect. I pressed forward with my new lifestyle. I noticed an increase in energy and that little cloud of depression that used to follow me, suddenly dissipated. I felt so great that I had not even noticed if I was losing weight. I just felt amazing.
Within a few months, I had friends and family commenting about a slight weight loss. Perhaps 10-15 pounds. While that was great, all I cared about were my liver levels and if I had made the needle move in my favor. Within a year, I had lost 80 pounds. In August of 2014, I began seeing a naturopathic doctor–Dr. Ginger Nash in Connecticut. This was the BEST decision I have ever made for my health and myself. Between the prescribed supplements and my dietary commitment, I lost an extra 40+ pounds, and more importantly, my liver levels began to hit the normal markers. I was seeing numbers I had not even knew were possible for me.
WHAT WAS THE HARDEST PART? Who really loves working out in a gym? Not me. It’s boring. I am not a cardio queen and any fitness routine I decide to take on has to implement a form of play, peace, or competition. I love yoga. I love pilates. I love some sports. And I love to dance. Anything outside of these activities is going to be–and has been–a challenge to stick with.
I think the biggest obstacle I am still overcoming are the cravings. I don’t crave sugar nearly as much as I used to. I realized that sugar makes me cranky, moody, and gives me a headache. But nonetheless, when I decide to indulge in a small cupcake–or 5–I try not to beat myself up too much and begin again tomorrow hoping my liver will be forgiving and that I will be disciplined enough to stay on course the next day.
DID YOU EVER WANT TO GIVE UP? WHAT KEPT YOU GOING? Every day I eat something that makes me want to give up whether it is a treat like a cupcake, a sweet protein bar, a small plate of mac and cheese from a family event, or a small cup of generic ginger ale from a summer bbq. It’s tough. The toughest part is having to scrutinze your food choices, where and how it was grown, etc. It’s not just effecting your weight but its effecting your organs and inflammation levels in the body. I remember how I felt emotionally and physically before I made the change, and how I tend to feel when I eat the wrong things and my body responds in a negative way. I remember these things. My body remembers these things and I make those sacrifices so that I could live one more day healthier and happier.
DID YOU HIT ANY WEIGHT LOSS PLATEAUS? HOW DID YOU OVERCOME THEM? I hit a weight loss plateau after I lost 80 pounds. I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t moving forward. When I connected with my naturopathic doctor, she explained that our bodies will hold on to toxic metals that can cause inflammation, puffiness, and swelling in our faces and in our bodies. I began taking these Unda drops that act as chelators–herbs that bind to toxic heavy metals and flush them out of the body. I learned that there are also common herbs that have strong chelation functions such as parsley and cilantro. Once I began to take the Unda drops and implement more chelation herbs into my diet, my metabolism revved up and the weight came down.
HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOU TO LOSE MOST OF THE WEIGHT? Yeesh, lol. From the start of my journey where I learned about Maximum Milk Thistle and changed my diet to my last weigh-in at the end of last year, I would say about 2 years. 80 pounds the first year and 40+ pounds last year.
DID YOU HAVE ANY NON-SCALE VICTORIES? I’m not dead, lol. No really! Lol. That’s such a huge victory for me. My liver doctor illustrated an interesting point to me about my current condition. He explained that I am at portal hypertension status with my liver. For anyone else, that would either mean a death sentence or hospital detention until a transplant is done. But for me, I am still living, moving, and happily being with a distorted liver that is somehow functioning. And even though he doesn’t agree with my choice to see my naturopathic doctor, he cannot deny that the choices I have made to change my diet, implement supplements, and hire a naturopath, have all factored into this amazing walking miracle that I am today. Thats not just a victory, it’s a blessing.
WHAT DOES YOUR DAILY DIET LOOK LIKE COMPARED TO WHEN YOU WERE HEAVIER? I used to have a love affair with ginger ale. I’m so glad I tossed all commercial brands to the side. Occasionally, I will indulge in a Grown Up Soda (GUS) which can be purchased at a Whole Foods, Fairway, or any other natural food store in your area.
Every morning, I make sure to have some green juice. I call my green juice #TheBruceBanner. I also love to juice beets, apples, carrots, lemons, and ginger. Beets are Amaze-Balls for the liver! Artichoke! Love artichoke and it is powerful for the liver.
First thing in the morning I will take supplements prescribed to me by my naturopath mixed into my green juice. I will also add a protein powder by Vega or Garden of Life’s Raw powder.
Throughout the day I will snack on Luna protein bars, light popcorn, dried tart cherries, and maybe some cashews.
I still LOVE eggs so I may have 2 eggs scrambled with some grated Irish cheddar. If I want to skip the gastritis that cheese can sometimes offer, I will make them sunny side up and add a piece of Ezekiel Toast with cashew butter and locally-based strawberry rhubarb jam. I may have this with some water, tea, or flavored apple cider vinegar water from Braggs.
I may have another luna bar or a few unsalted Kettle Brand potato chips and a cup of green or beet juice.
Soup, small salad, baked root veggies, vegan chocolate chili, or whatever I feel like eating.
More supplements and drops with beet or green juice.
More snack munching.
I don’t even want to tell you what I was eating when I was heavier, lol. Even though I will swear up and down that I didn’t have a poor diet, in hindsight, it was a poor diet.
HOW DOES YOUR PHYSICAL ACTIVITY COMPARE TO WHEN YOU WERE HEAVIER? I’m running more. I’m on the ground more. I’m moving fluidly overall and its pretty awesome. Even if I don’t make it to the gym, I find other ways to stay active like walking and running with my dogs, doing hours and hours of housework, running around chasing a baby, and I love to indulge in my Friday night ritual of latin dancing. I could dance for hours and hours, and I have!
MY WEIGHT LOSS TIPS & TRICKS
- Don’t Deny Yourself The Struggle:
You will want to rip your arm off for your craving or to avoid going through the hardship of changing your mind and body. Especially with sugar cause its the ultimate drug. You will go through withdrawal like any other drug addict. Walk through it. Get angry, get desperate, tell yourself this is the last time you will be going through this, and stay committed. You need the struggle to reach your transformation.
- Invest In Yourself & Your Health:
Watch every food and nutrition documentary and youtube video. Even when you feel like you have given up and you are too far away from starting over again, start again! Watch them again. Read as many books as you can. Talk to people. Connect with a naturopathic doctor in your area. Become desperate enough to invest in yourself.
- Trust Your Blessing and Not The Blocking:
What do I mean by this? Notice and trust your wins, strides, and those positive “coincidences” that tend to manifest from your desires surrounding your health and happiness goals. Don’t give focus, energy, or direction to those things that block you from any goal that will help you honor yourself and your body.
- Eat Clean and You Will NEVER Go Wrong:
Whether you love meat and potatoes or are the sugar and butter queen, I challenge you to add more clean food to your diet, and your body WILL take care of the rest. Your body will begin to decide your food choices for you versus you forcing yourself to make them, and your cravings will be for healthier choices. Look at me! I freaking crave protein bars and green juice. Who does that?!
- Begin Anywhere and F**k The Naysayers:
Yes, I said it. She said it. F**k the naysayers and start somewhere. Be a f**kin wolf and fight for your life. In my coaching practice, I call my rebel rouser ladies, She Wolves. Wolves don’t back down. Wolves have a pack to feed. They have to have a diet that is conducive to their environment so they can continue to hunt and lead a pack. A she-wolf knows that the pack looks to her for guidance, support, food, and reproduction. She’s the backbone of the pack and her male counterpart is expecting her to be just as fierce as he is. So be a she-wolf and despite how people look at you in the gym, despite what friends or family may say about your new food choices, and so f**kin what if they laugh that you bought a dress 3 sizes too small. You’re a wolf! You’re going to stay the course, keep your mind strong, keep your body strong, eat right, and fit into that f**kin dress soon. I did it! And I got the dress to prove it. I know you can do it too!