The beginning of my health journey
In 2007, I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, a condition where the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormones. I realized something was wrong when I gained 12 pounds over a two-month period while training for my second marathon. At the time, I was also experiencing extreme fatigue, brain fog, and cold hands and feet. After researching, everything pointed to an underactive thyroid, so I made an appointment to see my doctor.
He confirmed my suspicions and diagnosed me with hypothyroidism. This set me on a 14-year journey to heal my body and understand my hormones instead of fearing them. Before my diagnosis, I did not know a lot about hormones and the female body. I did know they could wreak havoc on our bodies during pregnancy, menopause, menstrual cycles, and breakouts, but I had no idea thyroid function also affects metabolism, brain function, and heart health!
My doctor prescribed Synthroid, a synthetic thyroid hormone. I was reluctant to start on synthetic hormones and sought the opinion of another doctor who prescribed Armour Thyroid, a medication made from animal thyroid glands that reportedly causes less side effects. Initially, I had great results, but over the next nine years, my doctor adjusted my dosage numerous times as symptoms returned and indicated hormone imbalance.*
My doctor would constantly ask about the level of stress in my life, and I would always say it was high. I owned and operated a boutique gym in New York City from 2012 to 2019, so my stress was definitely elevated! I was an entrepreneur in a city that demanded constant hustle to be successful (or so I thought). I quickly learned the stress hormone cortisol decreases the production and conversion of thyroid hormones – even when on medication – so managing stress daily was as important as taking my medication.
I felt overwhelmed – which added even more stress – because I was not getting a handle on how to regulate the pressures in my life in order to manage my thyroid. I was eating healthy, exercising a lot, and taking my meds, yet my body seemed like it was fighting me. I thought exercise was my stress management, but I eventually realized it was not enough.
My 'aha' moment in the face of extreme, chronic stress
I moved my gym into a larger location in 2017, and six months later, I knew my business was in trouble. With an abundance of investor-backed boutique gyms opening throughout the city, it was extremely hard for a small business like mine to thrive in Midtown Manhattan. The stress felt overbearing.
By spring 2018, I felt physically and emotionally drained. A visit to my doctor revealed my thyroid level was 57 – healthy levels are between 0.4–4.0 milliunits per liter. I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease of the thyroid. My doctor could not understand how I got up every day or had the energy to exercise and work. He told me most people would be bedridden with such a reading. Once again, I explained I had a business to run and was determined to be successful, which I thought meant working through fatigue. For this reason, I didn’t realize how extreme my situation really was.
My business took priority over everything, and though I knew I had to do better for my health, I was not able to be as committed as I wanted and needed to be. By later that year, I realized I had gained 35 pounds over two years and felt like a stranger in my body.
This was my aha moment. My approach to “taking care of myself” was not working, and I had to get a handle on my hormones or my situation would continue to deteriorate.
Overhauling my health routine
I decided to no longer be a hostage to my hormones. I hired a nutritionist who specialized in women’s health, hormones, and autoimmune issues. She gave me a road map that included a gluten-free diet, less caffeine, more water, daily meditation, breathwork, and a mix of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and less-intense exercises. Finally, I was mentally and physically prepared to work on balancing my hormones to improve my health and overall well-being.
In January 2019, I closed my gym. To no surprise, this eliminated the biggest stressor in my life. My plan was to heal my mind and body over the course of the year, and that’s exactly what I did. In addition to my new physical health protocol, I also focused on my mental and emotional health by prioritizing finding experiences that brought me joy!
I found myself winning the struggle to keep my hormone levels in range. Self-care was my number one priority, and I was consistent with my mindfulness practice. For the first time in over seven years, I felt at peace in my mind and body. I felt the positive effects of the mind-body connection for the first time in my life, and I lost 40 pounds.
Finding a new way to share my passion for health and well-being
I had to rethink my purpose in life after closing my gym. This was part of my healing as well. I enrolled in IIN’s Health Coach Training Program because it was a great next step in figuring out how to combine my knowledge of fitness with my newfound realization of the importance of holistic health.
I learned more about various methods of holistic healing, the importance of using food as medicine, and the role of hormones in the body. I also learned that activating “happy hormones,” like dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins, promotes a positive response in my body that overpowers cortisol. My Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is now under control, and I credit my success not only to learning more about the impacts of good and bad hormones on the body but also the power of primary food – the need to nourish ourselves through areas of our lives that aren’t food.
IIN helped me connect to my purpose regarding health and career. I am passionate about health and fitness, and I previously used my boutique gym as the vessel to facilitate positive change. Becoming a Health Coach has now empowered me to start my own coaching business where I support women in their transformation journey, creating positive lifestyle changes in an empathetic and nonjudgmental environment. Seeing clients gain autonomy as they embrace positive change and adopt healthier habits is priceless and gives me so much joy.
*Everyone’s health is different and needs to be addressed based on the individual. If you are struggling with thyroid dysfunction, please consult your personal healthcare provider about what protocols may be right for you.