My Story

Despite my personal and professional achievements, the area I have the most experience in is being obese and struggling with my weight, my relationship to food, and the relationship with my body.

While always taller and happier than most over the years, I was rather plump from toddler age and onward. I topped the scale at 220 lbs in the 5th grade, during which I started my first official diet. I entered high school weighing 290 lbs, during which I tried my 2nd unsuccessful half-hearted diet, and I went on to complete high school and most of my 20's weighing over 300 lbs. The road through these milestones included various experiences with dysfunction, financial stress, family illnesses, and other experiences in the "school of hard knocks." While my family was abounding in love, so too was it abundant in avoidance and shame. Being a rather sensitive and big hearted individual who feels things deeply, when largely not taught or modeled other coping mechanisms, food became a comfort and coping default along the way, in addition to a real lack of knowledge surrounding food choices, portions, nutrition, healthy cooking, and so on. I am well versed in emotional/anxious eating, stress eating, binge-eating, and so on.

Largely due to some health issues in my mid 20's I attempted my third official diet, for which I successfully lost 120 pounds over the course of roughly 2 years, resulting in the smallest weight of my entire teenage and adult life. Even though it was a seemingly healthy diet, eventually I prioritized physical health and the number on the scale over other aspects of health and wellness. While I learned portion sizes and more healthy options, I was essentially obsessed with the number on the scale, weighing myself, and counting calories/points. In a way, I was dieting and I was not living, and it took up a lot of my precious mental energy. Not to mention, I didn't address any of the underlying issues that caused me to be over 300 pounds in the first place. I hadn't changed or let go of any old thought patterns or limiting beliefs (some of which were placed on me by society) or dealt with any childhood issues or trauma; I had just learned more about exercise and nutrition. I let the number on the scale dictate how I felt about myself and how I felt for the rest of the day, even though the scale wasn't even accurate at reflecting my progress. I had essentially traded one version of an eating disorder for another version.

Despite having the potential to address some physical issues, the assumption that losing weight will solve all your problems is faulty. Additionally, I was not prepared for the new body image issues that come along with losing extreme amounts of weight. A lower number on a scale does not equate with happiness or self worth, and it certainly doesn't guarantee self awareness. If you don't love yourself and are ashamed of yourself at your highest weight, you can't possible love yourself and let go of shame at your lowest weight. I looked at myself (current and former) from a total lack of self compassion. Eventually you develop a perfectionist attitude around dieting and it becomes all or nothing. And like most diets where you follow a "plan" instead of your body's cues, restriction can only last so long and inevitably leaves you feeling like a failure. This brings about more shame and guilt; and so the vicious cycle continues.

When faced with another round of stressful situations in my life, I slowly began to put the weight back on, returned to my old coping mechanisms, and I essentially gave up. I was overworked, overweight, and overwhelmed.

My mom had lost her 4 year battle to cancer, a few months later my dad subsequently lost his life to an utterly tragic suicide, and a few months after that my car was t-boned on my way to work. I was left with 4 fractured ribs and had 3 spinal surgeries fusing my entire lumbar, the last of which was almost fatal due to an incompetent surgeon and complications that left me waking up in the ICU with respiratory tubes shoved down my throat and my spine butchered. It left me barely able to move my left leg on my own for months from nerve damage, in addition to burns on my face and body that required the burn unit team and 6 plastic surgery treatments. I contracted 3 superbug infections from the hospital that almost killed me. Due to infection complications from what turned out to be fusion surgeries I didn't in fact need, I had to have 3 more spinal surgeries to save my life, including the removal of 5 pounds of metal hardware from my back that was helping keep my spine together and had been solidifying in my bones for 6 months. I was hooked up to IV antibiotics for over 7 months, followed by oral antibiotics for 12 months, prolonging my recovery. Whenever I wasn't lying in bed, an annoying back brace that went from nearly my chin to my waist became part of my daily attire for almost a year. My new normal became excruciating non stop pain and I continue to endure pain and complications as part of my new life, including an uneven hip structure and herniated discs in my neck. I couldn't walk without a walker or a cane for over a year and couldn't stand up to do things as simple as brushing my hair or teeth. When I finally could stand and walk better I had to relearn how to walk because my gait and muscle structure were so off. It took me a long time to be able to do things most take for granted on a daily basis, like a year and a half to put on and tie my own shoes. Additionally, I battled a lawsuit that tried to break my spirit and my mind.

While getting better became my only job, I still spent a long time just surviving each day. With that came a lot of feeling sorry for myself. I could barely do anything and barely go anywhere and I was in so much pain all the time physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I always showed up and always kept a smile, but in a real way I felt as though I was going through my own "dark night of the soul" experience at times. I was depressed about the past and anxious about my uncertain future. I largely turned to food to comfort myself because I couldn't really do or think of much else to console all my pain. I overate on a regular basis, sometimes to the point of physical pain. I don't know how you can feel nothing at the same time as feeling so much, but I did. And so I ate my emotions, I ate my anxiety, I ate my anger, I ate my fear, I ate my depression. The physical pain of overeating was far more bearable than the other types of pain I had and wasn't ready to face. I was left in the aftermath of PTSD, anxiety, and depression and eventually I would have to sit with them, unpack them, and overcome them.

Roughly 14 months after my first surgery, more bad news became the turning point in my life as I got diagnosed with hypothyroidism. It is unclear if it was genetic or due to my extended antibiotic use. If it wasn't either of those, I knew my lifestyle habits of fast food, processed food, and overeating certainly contributed to the problem. I finally got really angry instead of numbing it out. I was angry that I had to go on ANOTHER medication, when I already had experience with pain medications, nerve pain medications, muscle relaxers, high blood pressure pills, anxiety pills, and depression pills. I was angry that I had ANOTHER health condition to worry about or that maybe I even caused. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired! I was tired of being obese and fed up (pun intended) with overweight individuals being treated unfairly and unjustly by society, health care providers, the legal system and so on. I didn't want to be passive and a victim of my circumstances anymore.

So I decided to fight: for my life, my health, my happiness, against societal norms and indoctrination about weight bias and diets. In the months leading up to this huge shift I knew I had a huge mountain to climb in my recovery. And I knew I had a lot of baggage from the past weighing me down, so I had started to unpack them very slowly. I knew it was them or me; I couldn't climb the mountain successfully with them in tow. So for months when I was stuck largely doing nothing I sat with my shit and unpacked it at my own pace. Then I knew it was finally time to start climbing.

I knew to give myself the best fighting shot I needed to implement healthy strategies for stress reduction, self-care, and emotional processing. I knew I needed to eat in a way that would fight my infections, build muscle to protect my spine, fight my thyroid issues, and fight my anxiety and depression. I decided from Day 1 that losing weight WAS NOT my primary goal. If it was a side effect, then so be it. I knew that after almost dying more than once, there was more to life than being obsessed with counting your food, weighing yourself, what you look like, and what others think of you. I refuse to devote my precious mental energy to that way of life again. I had already gotten into the body positivity movement at the beginning of my recovery, but I also recognized a need to bridge the gap between body positivity (accepting yourself with love and compassion, health at every size, fighting for equal rights and against discrimination and fatphobia, letting fat people exist, etc.) while at the same time really needing to transform yourself. So I became passionate about all things natural, holistic, and integrative and I have found that happy medium. I approached my health journey refusing to be a slave to restriction, calorie counting or other strict diets, and the scale, and you can too.

Food should be enjoyed and infused with love for yourself and exercise should not serve as a punishment. Heath is a vehicle and not a destination and the key is progress over perfection. Small sustainable changes add up and your approach to your "best health" and the tools you implement can be ever changing as you slay goals and come up with new ones and experience different mountains of your own to climb.

Through it all I maintained a more than reasonable amount of positivity and lost 164 lbs all naturally in a little over 2 years DURING my recovery. In my darkest days when I was a shell of myself, my surgeon thought my quality of life would not improve (ex: might not walk without a walker or cane again, etc). My physical therapists told me repeatedly I could never do yoga again. So naturally, I decided that I would! Not only would I do yoga again one day, but I would take one of the longest flights in the world and go to a yoga retreat in Bali alone with complete strangers (just a year after physically being unable to take a flight a few states away to one of my best friend's weddings). Here I am living life and pushing myself to new goals all the time. I've managed to keep my sanity while losing weight and have found acceptance, joy, and happiness in the process. I have amazing cholesterol, heart/oxygen rates, and blood pressure levels and I no longer use pharmaceutical pain medications, nerve medications, mental health medications, or blood pressure medications.

If I can improve my health in a sustainable manner, anyone can improve their life. Attitude is everything! We can't wait for a better life to happen because life is happening around us NOW. There is no better time, because we are not guaranteed tomorrow. Trust me, there is nothing you can never come back from. There is no life situation that cannot be improved upon. Don't settle for a mediocre life or just surviving your days wishing you were someone or somewhere else. I will never apologize for my size and you shouldn't either. I will never apologize for at times using food as a coping mechanism, because in actuality it could have saved my life and when put into perspective is less harmful than other coping mechanisms. But I did then what I knew how to do, now that I know better, I do better.

Do you want to learn how to do better for yourself? Alongside someone who has been there and done it herself? Who knows how to navigate the obstacles you may face? Whether you have struggled to be healthy your whole life or find yourself newly riding the struggle bus and you aren't quite sure how you got there or how to get off. Your body is sending you messages all the time, are you listening? Are you treating it with kindness and compassion? What baggage do you need help unpacking that you are carrying around that no longer serves you? If you don't want to be a victim of your circumstances, then you must ACT. If you are ready to put the work in to TRANSFORM yourself, working with me just might be the launching pad you need to RISE to the best version of yourself. Let's start climbing together.

Don't fear your path; start to live it, and if you can't; create a new one.

Out of the ashes.
PHOENIX TRANSFORM. TIME TO RISE.

Love always,
Emily

I received my training from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition*, where I studied a variety of dietary theories and practical lifestyle coaching methods. With my knowledge, we co-create completely personalized actions based on your goals to move you toward your ideal vision of health within your unique body, lifestyle, preferences, and resources.

As a coach, I put the power back in YOUR hands.
Learn more about my training and my unique approach to health coaching.