The Road to Health

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Meet my new friend, Tracey. She and I met this past week in Washington, D.C. at the “Food for Life Instructor Training” that we both attended through PCRM. Tracey is from Rhode Island and is the mother of two boys. Her story of healing and personal transformation is truly inspirational!

Tracey & I at the PCRM Headquarter

Illness as a Motivator

Tell me Tracey about what we initially talked about when we met. If I go back nine or ten years ago, I was 25 pounds overweight, I was taking six to eight medications on a given day and I was just told by a doctor that I probably should have part of my intestines cut out and it may or may not fix my problem. This problem, that I had already tried three different medications for. I had never been one not to listen to doctors or question them, but for some reason I thought, “There’s got to be a better way!” So I started digging a little bit based on some information that I had learned because my oldest son has Asperger’s. I had gotten information about natural protocol to help him, so I started looking at diet. Like what am I eating? How can I fix this problem on my own without having to have surgery. I was even thinking of the medication or the wait, all I knew was that I didn’t want to have the surgery. That does not sound like fun. No, especially not when you’re telling me that it might not be working. It was pretty serious!

Stress, Meds & Hockey Games

Moving forward was really a pretty gradual process. I was also in a very stressful job! One of my medications was Celexa, which is for anxiety. Basically I worked ten hours per day, came home, turned my computer on…And you have two kids [I inject] Yes, I have two kids that played sports and were in school. How old were they at the time? They were roughly 11 and 14. Two boys. They played hockey, so a lot of running around. I have friends who would not let their kids play hockey simply on watching my schedule. [Tracey laughs!] Hockey is pretty intense when it comes to scheduling. We had to get up at 4:30 some days for practice. We had games at ten o’clock at night. Oh, and I was in school full-time! [We both laugh at this wildly crazy schedule Tracey had going on!] Oh my gosh, that’s insane!

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

I had this habit of putting all of this on myself. I would come home, try to get dinner made and when I just started researching how can I fix this one problem, I started learning about processed foods, artificial colors, artificial flavors, organic, the fertilizers, the pesticides, the hormones in the meat…all these things kept coming up in relation to curing these different problems. I was specifically looking at IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), so most people have it where it’s more on the diarrhea side, but for me it was life long constipation, so I had to have a colonoscopy to make sure that there weren’t blockages and the doctor ended up telling me that it was physiological, that there was no cure. So obviously it was very uncomfortable! I was bloated every time I ate, crampy, gassy all the time. Further, I had migraines all the time. There were times where we’d be ready to go. Coats on, ready to go somewhere and I had to go back to bed because my migraine was just coming on and I couldn’t function. 

Healthy Resolutions

I had allergies at that time that had recently escalated to asthma. I had never had asthma in my life and now I had asthma. I felt like I had the flu all the time. I couldn’t breathe. All these things were just coming up and I thought, “You know it just can’t be coincidence that the more medication I go on, the more stress I put myself under, the worse my health is getting!” Here I am 31 or 32 years old and the only thought that kept going through my mind was, “What am I going to look like at 42? What am I going to look like at 52?” That was my primary driver to say, “Enough! I don’t want to be killing myself!” I traveled a lot for my job, so it was kind of difficult during those times, but I ended up making a conscious effort. I threw away all the crap in my house [Tracey laughs out loud] I started shopping at Whole Foods and buying everything organic. It was  tough, right, because my kids don’t want to eat Whole Food organic sandwich cookies. They want Oreo cookies. My husband thinks it’s more expensive until I went through the whole list and compared to where we normally had shopped. I said, “It’s twenty bucks extra for our health!” The difference was twenty dollars extra. It’s definitely a misconception. I was still eating meat and dairy, but it was getting rid of all the processed crap. I gradually moved to going vegetarian.

Loosing Thirty Pounds – Gaining Health

Before I even went vegetarian, I got rid of my migraines and I got rid of my anxiety medication. In less than a couple of years, I lost thirty pounds. I knew that the weight kept going on. I knew it was from stress and after I had read so much and I knew it was from some of the medications, but that wasn’t my primary focus. It was kind of a nice “side effect” that I lost thirty pounds, but the best thing that happened to me was that I learned how to take care of myself in all aspects of my life.

Self-Care and Yoga

A really good example that I will tell people, when I give a talk or when I talk to people, is I started going to yoga. So I would leave work at 6 or 6:30 pm and be driving home from work and say, “I have to make dinner. I don’t know what I’m making. I have to make sure everyone’s homework is done. Hockey practice here. This one has to be at hockey practice here. I have homework to do! Yoga! All this other stuff, right! If I go to yoga no one is going to eat…blah blah blah. The days I have chosen to go to yoga, I went home and no one was starving. No one was on the floor dying because they haven’t eaten. [This example makes me giggle!] The homework was getting it done and I didn’t bring the aggravated stress from my day into the house. I had more patience and I felt happy! [Tracey laughs and smiles happily!] The days that I didn’t go and that I walked in [at home] – it was a continuation of my day. My job was very stressful. It was extremely stressful! Isn’t it funny that we think that things are going to fall apart without us, yet we’re the ones – when we don’t take care of ourselves – who end up falling apart inside and out when we’re not mindful of our own health!

Mother’s Guilt & Victim Mode

Exactly, when we don’t put our health first. It’s a whole holistic thing. It’s funny that you say that because it’s the opposite of what we think. Mother’s have constant guilt. I was divorced so I had guilt from that constantly. Mother’s have constant guilt about anything they do for themselves because they should be taking that time, that money, that energy…that whatever and that should be going to the kids. But what they don’t realize and what I didn’t realize is that I was not a great mother. I was on the verge of divorce. I had no patience for my kids. I was not present when I was with them…and you were anxious and it was making you sick [I inject] Right, so I didn’t have that bond that I would like to have with my kids. If there’s one message I’d like to get to mother’s it’s that “You are a much better wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend when you’re taking care of yourself!” Otherwise you’re constantly in victim mode and trying to get out of that. That’s what takes that ball of energy. It drains you. You can’t take care of other people or spend time with people in a present perspective that you need to to get out of those relationships what you want to. 

The image that I’m getting, you know when you’re on the airplane and if the air mask was to fall down [Tracey laughs loudly and says, “YES!” (She knows where I’m going with this!)] You are to put it on your self first before you help the next person…or your child. Exactly! And I can’t tell you how many mothers will say, “No way!” But you’re risking your child more by not doing it. Yes, you’d die from what I know, you only have a few seconds if the pressure was to drop quickly in the cabin and you were going down! If that mask falls, you better put it on FIRST…and RIGHT away! Yes, right away!

Right and food became a non-negotiable. Back then, I was taking pills to go to sleep at night, pills to get up in the morning. I was living on Starbucks and Advil every day of my life. That was gone! It was just a vicious cycle and now I sleep the way I did when I was sixteen. Like a lot. My husband is so jealous! I lay down and I’ll be asleep within five minutes and he’ll be in bed for like an hour before he can fall asleep. I try to tell him how to do it. I feel so much better. Let me tell you that every time I go out with people, no matter what I ate…bloating, cramping, gassy, stomach pain and now none of that!

So tell me, when did you go vegetarian? How many years ago? 2005? What sparked you to go that route? The more I researched, because I’ve done a ton of research. Just to go back on one point, I didn’t realize that all of these medications went away until much later. I’d go, “Oh my god, I haven’t had a migraine in a year. Oh my gosh, I haven’t needed this.” Like the allergy pills? Yes, like the allergy pills. It was kind of  looking back – it all got caught up with me and why I went vegetarian, the more research I did the more it pointed to prevention.

Pathways to Health

I was worried when I first started that journey what my health would look like. I had a grandfather who dropped dead at 65 of a heart attack. I have a mother who has high blood pressure and high cholesterol. I have cancer and heart disease in my blood line. I’d always been healthy. Always been an athlete. I ran a half  marathon several years ago. I’d always considered myself healthy, but when I looked at how I ate it was terrible! It wasn’t healthy at all. For me it was all about prevention and knowing how good I felt the more I made changes. The more I just wanted to! I never felt I deprived myself.

We both love this book!

Like I’d told you, I’d read the book “Skinny Bitch” on an airplane ride and I was with two other women and we went to the barbeque place in the Austin airport and had pulled pork. I didn’t eat that much meat to begin with, but I ate fish, because in my mind that was what was healthy.  So I bought the book and my friend says, “If you really like to eat you shouldn’t read that!” Cause she had read it. It didn’t make a change for her then? No, it didn’t. We worked together. She had told me about it and I always believe there’s a reason you interact with people, you get something. It didn’t do anything for her, but the reason the Universe had her read it was for her to be that next step in my journey. Yes, my massage therapist was the one who told me about it and gave me her copy after she’d read it! I loved it too!

Integrated Nutrition

Around this time, I also started working with an energy healer and she was vegetarian, so I had been thinking about it for a while. It was June and I basically said that I’m going to try it. If I can try it I’m not going to say that I can never have cheese again, so I went vegetarian and ate fish, eggs, and cheese. Very little, but I did. What happened was that I went to I.N.N. (Integrated Nutrition) for my coaching degree. I had looked at it for several years. I wanted to wait till my youngest was out of high school. His senior year of high school [I.N.N.] told me it was the last year that they were running a “live program”, so I did it. I thought it was going to be hard because I had to go to New York City every other weekend, but I did it and it was life changing. I would recommend it to anyone, even if you’re not going to change careers! It’s life changing! Again, I was drawn to people like Dr. Barnard, David Wolfe…because I truly believe in the medicinal properties of whole plant foods! So was it through going thru I.N.N. and hearing these people, is that how you decided to go plant-based vegan? No, it was because I was basically not eating any of those things. The fish, the eggs, the cheese. Gradually the more I learned, the better educated I became and the better I felt, the more I was like I just didn’t want it! You know? Right! So I was like, “Well, why eat it at all?” I thought, so I’m just going to try to cut it all out! 

So you have started counseling people in your private practice as a holistic health coach? Yes! Is there like a common question that people ask you? My primary practice is for busy stressed out professionals, so my spiel is that I help busy professionals recognize the damaging effects of stress and diet. I help them to reverse it so they can have optimal weight, maximum weight and a more active libido. That is what happened to me! I was a very stressed out, busy professional and not at all am I saying that everyone should leave their corporate jobs. I mean I did it for eight years in a much different way than I had done it in the previous eight years. I enjoyed the people I was working with. I felt better. I had more energy. I was able to manage the stress when it came around. Those are the people I help in my private practice!

Striking Epiphany

Tracey, so you’ve been out of the corporate world since June? Yes, since June. And you were in it for twenty years? Yes, I worked in technology for twenty years. It was a long time! How do you feel now that you’re out? I feel like I’m giving so much more back! I did not feel like I was contributing much to society in my corporate job. Like I said, there were a lot of challenges in trying to get anything done and anything I was getting done it was for an industry…it was the gambling industry, so aside from the people I loved, that I worked with, I didn’t feel that I was doing anything good for society. And the other side of it, when I had this “AHA, my life is so much better now. It’s like a different world.” I actually said to my energy healer, “Why doesn’t everyone know this? Why are people living like That? Living in misery and anger, feeling like victims when they don’t have to and can actually enjoy their lives!” It was like I pulled this big curtain and was like “Aaaahhhh!” [Tracey gestures pulling the curtain and sings out the sound. We both laugh!] I see colors. Green. Blue. Sunshine! Where have you been all my life? I have been in this rainstorm, you know. [I am laughing out loud as Tracey speaks enthusiastically about this epiphany!] My goal was that people need to know that their life doesn’t have to be like this! I wish I could take a photo of you right now. You have such great energy! [Here’s the shot. You got to admit that she’s not only radiating, but glowing!]

Tracey while sharing her story with me!

It’s not meant to be like this. We are not meant to spend the last twenty or thirty years of our lives in misery. My mission is to educate as many people as I can! Yes, I feel the exact same way!

What’s waiting behind your curtain?

You made this major shift in your life! How has this been received by your husband, by your children, family? So my husband calls himself a “part-time vegan”. He watches the movies with me. He believes in them. He understands it, but he’s not ready to make the change. I tell people, “I’m not out to make everyone a vegan. Would I love that? Absolutely! But the same way that I felt that I took gradual steps that were in the right time, in the right way for me. Even if I have a client that doesn’t convert to veganism I was a step in their path. I was the next person who was supposed to move them a little bit closer and make them a little more aware and educated. And then they have to decide what direction they want to continue going in, so my husband he’s not there yet, but like I said, he eats everything I eat at home. We do shopping together. We cook the food together. If we go out, he might have a steak. [Tracey laughs!]

Children, Health and Happiness

Tell me about your kids. My kids are still carnivores. Part of the struggle was that they were high school boys, middle school, when I was going through all of this, so it was really hard, but they know so much more about eating clean. We’ll go on vacation and I’ll say to one of my kids, “I’m going to the market. What do you want?” And they’ll respond, “Salad!” They know and I hear from other parents, “Sammy is so healthy!” They know so much, but again, I think that’s the progression. Just knowing what’s good for him and what’s not that’s going to help him make decisions when he needs to when it’s his time. I agree, and know that we all go through this process! I don’t always understand it. For me it’s hard because there’s no one in my family. I have three sisters and my parents. None of them are vegan. Does anyone give you grief about it? No, they are actually pretty supportive. My sisters might actually consider themselves part-time vegans, you know. They are very supportive. They’ll try everything. Well, they must have seen the change that’s been happening with you! [Tracey smiles big with a new thought!] We took our Mom out for Mother’s Day this year and one of my sisters was telling how she was asking me something and I said, “Yes, sure!” She said, “You’re freakin’ always happy all the time now!” [I laugh. The expression on Tracey’s face is great as she’s telling me this!] “You’re happy about everything!”

Healthy Happy Clients

Even people in my corporate job when I left said, “There’s definitely something different about you! You seem so much happier. You can just see it in you!” People notice! A friend said, “Whatever you have I want!” It’s just so noticeably different. I feel so much better than I did, my life has transformed for the better and I get to see that with my clients.  One of my clients was very unhappy in her marriage and not taking care of herself, she is more than happy to spend time with her husband now and feels good about it. Feels good about herself so she can have some of those hard conversations that she wouldn’t have before. Get close where she’d shy away. That’s huge for people! That’s so awesome! You’re doing such transformative work! It just feels really good! This is so much more rewarding than my previous job. I hate to say it. I did it for a long time and I like technology. I tell people that I went from being an IT geek to being a nutrition geek! Right on! Even now I like the data and the scientific part with my scientific background. That’s great!

Thank you Tracey, you really inspired me with your story of taking charge of your health and I know what a gift you are to those around you, both to your family, to your children, and now to your clients! They are all so fortunate to have you in their lives!

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About urbanveganchic

I'm an urban chic woman, who is passionate about educating others about the benefits of a whole foods, plant-based vegan diet, cancer prevention & survival, as well as art & life. I love adventures and travel. As an artist and a teacher, I care deeply about healthy living, being a conscious steward of our planet, and being kind & respectful towards animals. Learning about a vegan plant-based diet has been like discovering a new country and falling in love with it, so if I sound like I'm enamored you now know why! As a world traveler, I truly wish I had discovered this beautiful new country twenty years ago! Better late than never, as they say, cause there's no going back now! Born and raised in Scandinavia. Proud owner of a tripod cat & a foxy little pup. Speak four languages...some better than others. Working on the fifth one. We are all either part of the problem or the solution! Health & Happiness to you! ~UrbanVeganChic

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  1. Pingback: Two Years of Plant-based Interviews | urbanveganchic

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