When I stopped eating gluten 10 years ago, I saw immediate improvements to my everyday quality of life. I was no longer extremely fatigued, my constant stomach aches, headaches and body aches disappeared almost overnight and my overall mood and enjoyment of life improved significantly. A little after 2 years of eliminating gluten from my diet, I was back in the same place as I was before. I felt like a stranger in my own body. No matter what I ate, I felt terrible and even though I was working out daily, my weight kept increasing, while my overall confidence and excitement for life diminished.
My job in healthcare administration – a job that I loved – was demanding more and more from me and I finally hit a wall. When I visited my PCP and complained of my symptoms, she immediately recommended a colonoscopy. While I knew that was a route I could certainly take, at 26 years old I intuitively knew that a colonoscopy was not the first step I wanted to take. I wanted to get to the bottom of how my lifestyle (go, go, go, and chronic stress) was contributing to my symptoms so I could nourish the root cause and be in the driver’s seat of my own health journey. So I began to search for alternative options…
What drew you to naturopathic medicine?
I was introduced to Dr. Melanie Wong, ND by a colleague who had a health journey similar to mine. It was my first time working with a licensed naturopathic doctor and I was so impressed with Dr. Wong’s ability to zone in on the root causes of my symptoms (leaky gut) and align her recommendations and protocols to my values. She also offered a number of resources for other supportive practitioners (an amazing nutritionist) and this holistic approach not only helped me to heal my gut and my body but begin the journey from hating my aching, fatigued body to having the tools to take control over my own health journey and heal from the inside out naturopathically.
Fast forward a few years and I found myself in a similar spot. A new job – still one that I loved – was requiring more of my time, more of my energy, and all of my stress. Even though I was equipped with a great foundation from my work with Dr. Wong, my tools seemed to not be doing the job any more. Late nights, little sleep, body pounding workouts and a disregard for caring for my entire self left me in a world of hurt. Not only did my body ache in all ways all day, every day, but it literally started breaking. I fractured, and refractured my foot within a matter of a year and my road to recovery from my foot injuries took me down a path to knee surgery. It’s like my body was turning up the volume begging me to make a change.
I finally listened when I walked into what I thought was a yoga class and it turned out to be a meditation class. Not wanting to be the person who immediately turned and walked out of the room, I decided to (very reluctantly) give it a try. In that moment I realized just how much stress and anxiety I was holding onto physically, mentally and emotionally. I had never once paid attention to the quality and the power of my breath before that moment. I left that class in tears with the realization that I needed to make some big changes in my life if I wanted to live a healthy one. I also left that class with a connection to a stress management coach who I’ve worked with over the last 5 years to reimagine what success looks like from a holistic perspective (career, life, physical movement, nutrition, relationships). Before this deep dive into health and wellbeing, I knew that I was stressed, but I didn’t know how much that chronic stress impacted every aspect of my life. And I didn’t know that I was in complete burnout.
What does Living Naturopathically mean to you?
On my journey to health, the changes didn’t happen overnight. They happened little by little in a way that felt approachable and in a way that supported sustainable transformation. Through my work with a diverse set of practitioners, I’ve realized that the best way I can take care of myself every day is to build an intimate relationship with my stress and my intuition. I always considered myself to be “healthy”, but honing my ability to check-in with my gut to ask, “what would feel most supportive in the moment?” and honing in on what triggers and how to nourish my stress has allowed me to live my healthiest, happiest and most pain-free life.
Living Naturopathically means having alignment between my mind, my heart, and my gut to make the health and wellness decisions that are right for me at any given moment. It means caring for the root cause and not just the symptoms.
My own journey inspired me to start my own coaching business focused on teaching go-getter leaders to build an empowered relationship with their stress so they can achieve (and be present for) what matters most to them! I am inspired on a daily basis by the women I work with one-on-one and in group settings and it’s a constant reminder that healthcare and caring for our health starts with caring for ourselves long before any symptoms appear.
How do you incorporate natural health practices into your daily life? We’d love some tips!
While I love routine, I’m also learning the importance of being flexible! My daily choices are guided by my own personal pillars of wellness. Over the years it’s become abundantly clear that the pillars of (1) Sleep (2) Nutrition (3) Hydration and (4) Physical movement are my keys to living an emotionally and physically balanced life and these pillars may be different for everyone. In the past, if one thing went wrong (e.g. sleep), they all went wrong (little to no movement, all coffee and no water, and an unconscious decision to either starve or binge). Now, these four pillars act like a barometer to my health. If I know sleep will not be a priority one week, I then have other levers (nutrition, hydration, and gentle movement) in my back pocket to ensure I’m still feeling healthy and well.
What has your health allowed you to achieve today?
Though I don’t have control over everything that happens in my life, I do have control over how I speak to myself and how I treat myself as life unfolds. Some days it’s easier than others, but reminding myself that I’m doing my best in any given moment and to have a generous amount of self-compassion along the way I’ve been able to drastically transform my relationship with my own body, with my own health story, with my most cherished friends and family and am able to find joy in the day-to-day. I no longer feel like a stranger in my own body. I feel grounded, strong and empowered.
How do you think we can work to Realize a Healthy California and beyond?
Realizing a Healthy California means taking a holistic approach to health starting way upstream from the traditional healthcare system. It means understanding the Social Determinants of Health and ensuring naturopathic medicine is equitable and available in all communities. It means equipping our children with the skills to understand their emotions and nourish their stress. It means healthier workplaces that understand caring for yourself and your health contributes to the bottom line. It means broadening our definition of success from title and paycheck and realizing the importance of slowing down to care for ourselves and our communities. It means sharing empowering and diverse health stories so we can learn from one another and build a healthier future together.
Katie Abbott is a holistic leadership and wellness coach. Through 1:1 coaching, small group programs, and workshops, Katie teaches her clients how to build an empowered relationship with their stress so they can move from ‘just surviving’ to sustainably thriving in all areas of life. Find Katie Online or on Instagram.
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