Each of us has come through life on a certain path to reach the point that we are at now and this journey defines who we are in this moment. For me the journey to becoming a nutritionist was a winding path and I would have never expected to end up here but yet am not surprised to be here at all because it feels so Right.
When I was growing up I knew I wanted to work in the field of helping people. Straight out of high school I attended Mount Royal College (now Mount Royal University) in Calgary to complete my Social work Diploma. After two years of study I took a break to travel and complete an international work placement in England. It was here in Bournemouth, England that I first became more of a vegetarian.
Now to back up a little, I grew up on 'healthy food'. My parents believed in the 'white evils' (evil white bread, sugar, milk..... very uncommon in the '80s) so we drank soy milk (for which my mom still apologizes, as we didn't know any better at the time), we ate tofu, some meat, fish, legumes and lots of veggies. I would go to friends houses for sleepovers and, for breakfast, I would get biggest bowl and fill it with all the sugary cereal I could. Jujubes were my absolute weakness and licorice too (not the good kind). My childhood best friend still reminds me that I told her that we had a rule in our house that you had to eat black licorice (that I had asked my parents to buy because it was more healthy) before you got any red licorice (which was a very rare treat in our house). She is still convinced that this was my evil plan to torture her.
I was exposed to fairly 'healthy' food at home but sought out sweets wherever I could. My husband still blames this imbalance for my continued loved for sweets (yes I still love candy and do eat it, I might be a nutritionist but we all have our vices). In my early teens I became obsessed with my weight (as so many young girls do). I was bigger than most of my friends, what some people called big boned (I still Hate that phrase because I thought/think it was the polite way of calling me fat). I loved food but wanted to be more like my size 2 best friend. I skipped breakfast, ate bagels and cream cheese for lunch (because I thought that was healthy). Dinners were probably pretty good as I don't remember being too restrictive while eating with my family (NOTE: This was probably a saviour for me to have this family meal time when it was possible. I strongly believe that sitting down as a family for meals whenever possible is So very important for shaping healthy eating patterns). Somewhere during this time I began eating less meat (only chicken and fish) because I thought it was going to make me skinnier. I continued through adolescence hating my body, and obsessing about food. I thankfully discovered physical activity, first swimming, then running and other gym activities which I latched onto as another way to control my weight.
Skip forward to my time abroad in England in 2003.... I had gotten a job in a care home working with adults with special needs. One of our tasks was cooking meals. I had to relearn how to cook because my veggies were always too crunchy and my dishes too spicy/or too flavourful (it is true what they say about Traditional English food.... they like it mushy and bland, although I also had some of the best Indian food while in England). I also had the experience of cooking a full chicken for the first time in my life. (We helped cook a lot at home but this had never been something that I had done). Taking the giblets out was a bit much for me and I decided at, that pivotal moment, that if I could not cook it, I shouldn't eat it. It only made sense to become a full vegetarian so I eliminated fish as well. I continued to struggle with weight, control my food, and obsess about my body, which, I know now, is such a common story for so many women. My weight fluctuated, I tried diet pills, and even tried to make myself sick after eating. I don't know if I was not determined enough to make myself sick or if my body just knew this was not a good thing, but I was never able to 'successfully' become bulimic and for this I am forever grateful. All this time I continued to find respite in exercise which has continued to be a saving grace in so many aspects of my life.
Controlling food, obsessing about weight, and striving for the perfect body continued. I never had regular bowel movements, my skin flared up with acne on and off, I experienced cramping, bloating and terrible gas. I was moody, and stressed, and ate when I was bored, when I was upset and when I was not hungry then felt guilty for eating. Many times after eating, I was uncomfortable and it was not until traveling with my husband-to-be, Jason, that he pointed out to me that this was really not that normal. But I had never known any different and did not have the tools or knowledge or determination to change the situation.
Before I got married I discovered hot yoga and a restrictive diet weight loss program which took me to my lowest weight ever. People told me, for the most part, that I looked great! Although there were some people, especially those that had known me a while, that thought this was not a healthy weight for me. I was still not satisfied with my weight and still did not believe people when they said that I was tiny. Life carried on and when I stopped the restrictive weight loss program the weight slowly came back. (The hot yoga piece of the puzzle I do think also played a part in this weight loss and yoga continues to be something that is so very important for Balance in my life).
After Jason and I got married, we moved to Penticton and I started working in a preschool (I had also taken my schooling for Early Childhood Education). After over 2 years at the preschool, trying desperately to find my place in Penticton, I became very depressed and chose to try antidepressants. I took a summer off work to try and get myself well and discovered the girls at Vitamin King.
During this time when we were first in Penticton I sought out Lisa Kilgour, a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, for help with my digestive complaints. Although I only saw her for 1 or 2 appointments, she opened my eyes to the unhealthy relationship that I had with food and suggested that I begin to eat more Real food and rely less on shakes (part of the diet weight loss program that I had become obsessed with and continued to included in my everyday meals). For the first time someone took the time to explain the importance of preparing food with love and care. The process of preparing food prepares our body to consume the food (something we loose when we throw some processed powder in a blender and drink it mindlessly on the run). Little did I know at that time, that I myself would become a R.H.N.
While working at Vitamin King I slowly began regaining confidence and wellness in body and mind. I learned so much about natural supplements and was soon able to stop taking antidepressants thanks to a natural product designed to support mental health. This process happened slowly over time. I saw a counsellor, a naturopath, and a physiotherapist as well as working very hard to developing the community that I was so longing for. A coworker, Devyn, talked to me about this school that she really wanted to attend which specialized in natural nutrition, Canadian School of Natural Nutrition. I was craving a new beginning and low and behold there was a school just opening in Kelowna that September. I jumped at the chance and thus began my journey as a nutritionist. I continued working at Vitamin King and attended the CSNN for the one year fast track program. The content was very interesting and I met many people who had come on very different paths to find themselves in the program. I learned how common my issues were and began to see how my digestion (or lack there of) was affecting my whole body and how my how my whole lifestyle was affecting my digestion and my relationship with food. I was taught about Disordered eating which is a recently recognized diagnosis for a very common issue which was so very familiar to me.
Over this time at school I did not make any dramatic changes in my diet as some might have done. I soaked up the knowledge and continued to eat a fairly balanced vegetarian diet while focusing on making small changes to assist my overall wellness. During the second half of the school year, Jason and I got pregnant and I fully embraced this new stage of our lives.