Over several doggy playdates, Heather has shared her wisdom about nutrition and energy medicine with me. Her personal experience with food brought her on a life-saving journey, not just for herself, but also for others. As she sought answers for her own health, she uncovered connections between mind, body, and spirit. One of the things I love the most about Heather is her eagerness to learn. That trait has earned her many credentials and continuous growth in her capacity as a healer. So now, savor, and then gobble up the goodness of Heather’s inspiring story, along with some practical advice that you can apply to your own health today.
Could you tell a little about your background and education with energy work and nutrition coaching?
My story begins with food ~ I was diagnosed as lactose intolerant at 8, then pre-diabetic at 16 and told to not eat sugar by the doctor with no further instructions on how to do this or why it was important. Being a teenager in America, his instructions fell on deaf ears. I never knew what I should eat and I constantly felt exhausted and moody and stuck.
My lowest point came in December of 2005. Despite having a Master’s Degree in Counseling, nothing in my life seemed to be working, the tools I had to get me out of a depression were not working AND I was eating pretty much nothing but sugar, gluten, and dairy.. There was a day when I laid in bed and thought of 5 different ways to end my life.
Not wanting to leave that kind of legacy for my nieces and nephews I remembered that I had read somewhere that sugar causes depression so I made a deal with myself to not eat sugar for a week and see if I noticed a difference.
I told myself that if I still felt the same way at the end of the week then I could take my life.
I know, it sounds so depressing…but that’s where I was at the time.
Within a few days, I could feel the fog lifting from my body and I realized there might be something to this “food impacts” mood thought.
Wanting to learn all I could about this, I attended The Institute for Integrative Nutrition and became a health coach and a then went to The Natural Gourmet Institute and became natural food chef (my family seriously laughed out loud when I told them I was going to culinary school because I was the worst in the kitchen). I studied under amazing women such as the author and t.v. chef Christina Pirello and founder of The Natural Gourmet Institute, Annemarie Colbin.
Along the way, I learned that in addition to dairy and sugar my body also doesn’t like gluten. This was devastating since I had a huge sweet tooth and it seemed like there was nothing left for me to eat. Longing for sweets, I decided to make baked goods I could eat, which turned into opening Sweet Freedom Bakery, the country’s first bakery that is 100% free of gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, corn & refined sugar where we were featured The Cooking Channel (“Unique Sweets” and “Food(ography)” and The Food Network (“Cupcake Wars”).
In 2012 I sold my shares of the bakery and decided to get back into coaching. I expanded my training by becoming a Master NLP practitioner, worked as a coach for Tony Robbins company for 3.5 years.
During that time I started learning more about how our subconscious is 95% of who we are and that most therapy and coaching modalities only address the 5% conscious mind — so to work with the 95%, I became a certified Body Code Practitioner (the Body Code is a form of energy medicine that identifies and releases trapped emotions and trauma that are keeping people stuck in patterns that aren’t serving them.)
In 2017 I decided to go out on my own so that I could work with people in a system that combines the therapy/coaching/energy medicine tools and I’ve been having fun with that ever since!
What has your experience been in helping others with their nutrition?
My own struggles with food created a passion to help other people learn how to take care of themselves. When I finished my health coaching certification, I worked with people 1:1 in helping them to create better choices for their lives. After culinary school I started teaching group cooking classes as well.
I loved doing those but found that when people weren’t in alignment with who they wanted to be ~ meaning, they said they wanted to be healthy but deep down didn’t feel like they deserved to be healthy, we wouldn’t make progress. That’s when I started exploring the energy work side of things.
Using the tool of the Body Code, we are able to uncover the subconscious blocks that keep them believing that they can never have the health or body they desire. Once those are cleared, it’s much easier to help others make choices that serve their body.
What are a few baby steps that a person who wants to change their diet could make today?
One of the best “baby steps” is to do an experiment to begin the journey of listening to the cues the body is giving. Since there is no one right diet for everyone, when we follow what “experts” tell us without doing the work of paying attention to see how we feel when eating a certain way, we miss out on the cues the body gives us as to whether or not what we are doing is actually working for us. It’s helpful to do that because the body, which is just energy, is constantly changing. So a certain food that worked for us at one stage of our lives might not work at another stage. And paying attention to our body cues keeps us out of the trap of being stuck in a “diet” that an expert says is great…but it’s not great for us.
Some of my favorite experiments are to, for a week pick one of these:
- Refrain from eating any refined sugar
- Eat all veggies, especially leafy greens
- Avoid gluten (things like bread, pasta & pizza)
- Substitute cow’s milk with non-dairy milks
- Each day have something different for breakfast –for example: one day a sugary cereal, the next day a bowl of soup (yes, it’s ok to have soup for breakfast), another day have protein for breakfast etc…
Notice how you feel and what your body does. Is your energy low or high? Does your body feel light or heavy?
(It is important to note here that when you are making changes to your diet, your body can go through what’s called a “Healing Crisis” ~ meaning, it may feel a bit worse before it feels better as it’s releasing toxins that have been stuck inside the body.)
Another great baby step is to up-level your choices. I have always been a sucker for a peanut-butter cup. When I started to make changes in my diet, instead of having the one that had a ton of ingredients that I couldn’t pronounce I chose one that had ingredients that I knew what they were and the sugar content wasn’t as high.
What foods are the biggest contributors to anxiety and depression? And which foods combat anxiety and depression the best?
For every person, there can be different foods but the main culprits are refined sugar, alcohol, gluten, and dairy.
The foods that combat anxiety and depression the best are foods that are in their original form–meaning foods that aren’t processed. When one has a diet that is full of veggies, beans/legumes, non-glutinous grains (rice, quinoa, millet, buckwheat) and clean animal proteins they experience less of a propensity towards anxiety and depression.
What do you see as the biggest obstacle to eating healthy in our society and/or in your clients individually?
The biggest obstacles to eating healthy in our society are both a lack of education and also of availability.
Educating ourselves on how to properly nourish ourselves is so important and not something that we can outsource to our doctors or our government. We’ve gone from being a people who understood that food is medicine to only viewing food as entertainment as marketing has taken over the world. From the time we are young, advertisers are marketing their food-like products to children. These products have no nutritional value and are intentionally created to be very addictive, creating a culture where 75% of people are overweight and 42% are obese. We get stuck in a cycle of feeling sick and tired, with little energy to do anything about it and not even knowing where to go to fix it. Then, we go to a doctor, who has had less than 20 hours of nutritional training and are prescribed a pill that many believe will be the magic cure….but all it does is cause other issues that the doctor prescribes more pills to take.
The other issue is availability. In many parts of the country there are what’s called “food deserts” ~ these are places where there is no access to real food AND, in addition to that, the big food companies are funding so many programs for low income families that it’s almost impossible to get out of the cycle of eating poorly.
One of my favorite talks about this comes from Dr. Mark Hyman, Head of Strategy and Innovation for the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine. It’s titled “ Speaking Up About The Things That Matter: Hidden Forms of Racism” and is absolutely worth the 11:43 of listening. He has also written many books on this topic–two that I believe are “musts” for anyone who desires to take their health into their own hands are “Food: What the Heck Should I Eat?” and “Food Fix: How to Save Our Health, Our Economy, Our Communities, and Our Planet–One Bite at a Time.”
How does nutrition relate to body trauma?
Our body, spirit and mind are all connected ~ if one of them is unwell, the others will also be unwell.
When our bodies are inflamed from a poor diet we experience a breakdown–whether it’s through obesity, heart-disease, type-2 diabetes, cancer ~ it decreases our ability to deal with stressful situations in life. Having an inflamed body makes it difficult to process any kind of trauma and perpetuates the cycle of experiencing trauma in the body.
When I work with clients, we look at all areas of our lives ~ our physical, emotional, energetic, mental and spiritual body because we can’t just do energy work on releasing trauma while someone is eating a daily dose of sugar and wondering why they are still feeling crappy. And we can’t just change our diet without working on releasing years of trauma from the body.
The healthier our body is, the healthier our mind and souls are.
The healthier our minds and soul are, the healthier our body is.