Jen, let’s start by telling us how you start your mornings?
I start my morning every day between 6:30-7:30 am. When it’s nice out, I will go for a 2-mile walk on the Hudson and end with a meditation outside. If I don’t go for a walk, I will make my morning smoothie and do some reading or blogging before my workday begins. I try not to check social or scroll through emails the second I wake up. My full-time job starts around 9:30 am but I work from home.
You’re very passionate about work-life balance, where did this stem from?
Yes! Before my chronic illness, my life revolved around work and obligations. I had a few high-stress, demanding jobs that didn’t help. It wasn’t until I got sick that my life was put into perspective. I always thought my career was most important but I realized without my health, I had nothing. Building a health-centered life that allowed me to have a career but also support my health became my new mission.
You were diagnosed with Lyme disease some time ago. Can you please share your story with us and your initial response to the diagnosis?
In my mid-twenties, I became chronically ill out of nowhere. I experienced all sorts of vague but debilitating symptoms that none of the 10+ doctors I visited could diagnosis. Things like shooting pains through my body, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, migraines, food sensitivities, and dramatic weight loss. The list could go on forever. Doctors either thought I was crazy and offered antidepressants as a solution or believed me but couldn’t figure it out.
I decided to try taking matters into my own hands by making changes to my lifestyle. At the time, I wasn’t treating my body well. I was drinking often, eating crappy food and hardly resting.
One day on my lunch break, I stopped in a pop-up juice bar (this is before juicing was a thing) and started exploring. A helpful woman who worked there asked if she could help me with anything. I told her I wasn’t feeling well and wanted to try incorporating juices into my diet.
She asked what my symptoms were and I went through my list. When I was done, she said: “You have Lyme disease. Here is my doctor. Go get tested.” And I did.
I’ve always tested indeterminate for Lyme but tested positive for 4 tick-borne co-infections along with other things. That was the beginning of a very long road to recovery.
At first, I was relieved to finally have validation for all my suffering. But that was short-lived. I realized this was way more complex than I had ever imagined and it wasn’t going away anytime soon.
Had you ever heard of Lyme disease before, and if so, how much did you know about it?
I grew up on the east coast so I was familiar with it but had no idea just how much destruction it can cause if it’s not caught in time. You are taught that if you have a bullseye rash to go to the doctor and get antibiotics. The thing is, I never had a bullseye rash, or at least not one I could see. And I never saw the tick.
What was that transition like for you? How did your friends and family respond to it and did they support you?
The transition was beyond difficult. Nobody really knew how badly I was suffering. Aside from dramatic weight loss, I looked the same. My family wanted to support but didn’t know what to do to help. I lost most of my friends during this time which added an extra layer of pain. My life was turned upside down overnight. I moved in with my now-husband who helped take care of me throughout the healing process.
What was the biggest challenge for you when you were diagnosed?
One of the biggest challenges was figuring out how to balance my full-time job and feeling ill. I had to work so I could have health insurance and pay for treatment. There were days when I felt okay and there were days when I felt awful. As challenging as it was to balance the two, having a purpose beyond my illness also helped me keep going.
How do you deal with moments of being overwhelmed?
I like to take my attention away from the overwhelm and focus on something else. There is something about a walk in nature that is incredibly healing and always has a way of making me feel balanced. I also download meditations, read inspiring or uplifting books. Or sometimes good old-fashioned journaling. I think with overwhelm, it’s about taking a moment to regroup and figuring out what next baby step to take. We don’t have to do everything at once.
You’re now a health coach. Tell us a bit about what you do and how you do it?
I like to help women move away from feeling exhausted and unwell into a place of balance and well-being. Through my sessions, we assess things like stressors, diet, work-life balance, etc. Together we figure out how to create boundaries and identify actions to pivot into a healthier lifestyle. My coaching sessions allow us to focus on individual needs while having the support and accountability to make real change. Working together allows for my clients to get clear on how to move forward towards the life they want.
Can you share a success story with us where you’ve helped a client out of a toxic situation?
I just started my official coaching practice but recently helped guide a friend to resources that helped get them out of a toxic, destructive mindset. It feels good to watch people flip a switch and look at their challenges from a new lens.
Please finish this sentence ‘you know that your life is toxic if…’ (what should we be looking out for)
This is a loaded question because toxic can mean so many things but I would say you know your life is toxic:
- If you wake up every morning dreading your day ahead
- If you hate the way you feel in your body
- Or if you surround yourself with bad people, who bring you down
Our mission is to fight inflammation from all angles. As a health coach, what does that mean to you?
Fighting inflammation is so incredibly important to feeling well. To me, this means nourishing our bodies with real food, lowering our stress levels, and having a good laugh with friends.
Tell us something new you’ve learnt about yourself since you were diagnosed and started a new chapter?
Since I was diagnosed, I learned that I really enjoy writing. It’s very therapeutic. And I learned to go with my gut! I always knew deep down I could get better even when I hit a wall with my doctors. Instead of listening to the negativity, I found people who believed in my ability to get better. And even though it took a few years, and a lot of work, I did eventually heal myself.
What’s currently in your fridge? And why?
Right now I have:
- Foragers Vanilla Yogurt (it has live cultures that support the gut)
- Raw Sauerkraut (also for the gut)
- Siete Grain-free Tortilla’s (leftover tacos
- Fresh veggies and onions (gotta get those veggies in)
- Apples (because they’re in season)
- A packet of fresh herbs (to season meat)
- Chicken, lamb, and steak (animal protein helps me heal)
- Maple Syrup (I use it as a sweetener in recipes)
- Lemons (to squeeze on the asparagus I’m cooking)
- Filtered water (because I don’t want to drink heavy metals)
- Oh and a gluten-free, vegan, a soy-free cupcake from Erin Mckenna’s bakery on the Lower East Side. (Because you have to live a little).