It's time for our first staff spotlight! We have several employees at Nature's Finest Nutrition, and each has a special story of his/her journey toward better nutrition and health. For the next few months, we'll highlight one staff member every few weeks and share with you our personal paths to better health.
This month, we're highlighting our assistant Julia. Read her story below:
For as long as I can remember, I've struggled with my weight, asthma, allergies, fatigue, back pain, and a number of other health issues. From the time I hit puberty, I hated my body and how I felt. I hated how I looked in pictures, in mirrors, and I hated waking up so tired it was all I could do to make it to two in the afternoon before crashing for a nap.
Even those didn't help. I'd sleep for an hour, two, maybe three depending on the day's schedule and my levels of exhaustion, and still wake up groggy, disoriented, and with a headache that lasted until bed.
I hated exercise because it made me feel insecure. I didn't want to join a gym because I couldn't exercise for long without losing my breath, and I felt so defeated every time I tried. I liked walking, but never had enough energy to actually get out and go.
I was seventeen years old, nearly fifty pounds overweight, and extremely introverted as a result.
That's when I came to Nature's Finest.
My mom had been shopping here since I was a kid, but I'd never come with her. We'd been by several times, but the first time I went in was for my job interview.
Needless to say, I was hired, and that's when my journey to health began.
I didn't jump right in, as perhaps most would have. I'm a skeptic at heart. I'm cautious by nature and tend to study things, learn all I can about them, take into account several angles and options, and then make a decision.
It took me a minimum of six months before I was willing to consider trying anything, and most of my motivation came from the stories of customers, most of whom were seeing tremendous results in everything from colds and flu to cancer.
When I finally did try something, it was an herbal combination for my allergies.
From an early age (about eight or ten or so), after suffering through two years of bronchitis, I was diagnosed with allergy-induced asthma and put on three medications: Advair, Claritin, and Nasonex. I have prescribed three puffs of Advair daily, two sprays of Nasonex in each nostril daily, and one Claritin every night before bed. I also had an emergency inhaler and a packet of Prednisone on me at all times in case of an attack. The inhaler, Albuterol, I used as needed, usually two or three times yearly, depending on my physical habits, weather, and other issues.
Slowly, over the years, I started weaning myself off each medication without telling my doctor. By the time I started working at Nature's Finest, I was taking one puff of Advair every other day or as needed, and the same with the others. If I felt like I was dragging, I'd medicate. Otherwise, I left them well alone.
When I started taking Nature's Sunshine's ALJ, I felt every bit as healthy as I did when I was taking my medication full-time, if not better. When I went to see my doctor, I passed my examination with flying colors. As far as he was concerned, I was still taking my medications as prescribed and doing better than ever. My lung function was up my allergies, down.
No more medication for me!
After that, I grew a bit more curious. Working here, I felt like a fraud for only taking one product and knowing practically nothing about the many others on our shelves.
Slowly, I began to watch, pay attention to the bestselling products, and do a lot of research, both for the business and on my own. I began taking our best and most popular multivitamin and mineral: GNLD's Formula IV Plus.
Although the results weren't immediate, I experienced huge changes.
All my life I had hormonal and glandular issues and didn't know it. My adrenal glands were overtaxed and weak. As a result, I had heavy, painful cycles every month with a number of symptoms, including bloating, crippling leg cramps, and nausea, to name a few.
I thought I was one of those unfortunate people doomed with heavy cycles. I didn't know there was a way to fix or change it, but birth control wasn't an option. I wasn't going to take another pill after finally eliminating several others. It wasn't worth the risk and possible side effects.
So for years, I suffered, until Formula IV Plus.
It wasn't overnight, but slowly, I noticed my pain lessening month by month, and my cycle growing easier and more regular. My other symptoms were lessening, too. After my glandular issues were pointed out to me, I added NeoLife's Multi-Min into the mix and again, my symptoms eased significantly.
Eventually, I started drinking NeoLife's GR2 Control shakes, as I decided it was also time to do something about my weight. Protein is key to healing the endocrine system, and with their GR2 technology, I could keep my blood sugar levels balanced and possibly - hopefully - lose weight, too.
True enough, my menstrual cycles completely normalized. For over a year now I've had regular, dare I say, easy cycles. Gone are the days I spent lying in bed or cuddled on the couch in too much pain to move or sleep.
My life is a lot easier, and that's nowhere near the end of it.
Weight loss has, by far, been my hardest struggle.
I started with metabolism boosters a bit before I tried the protein shakes. I tried avocado oil, coconut oil, and green coffee bean extract. I'd lose five pounds in a week on each and then gain it back slowly over the next month.
It was this way with all of them, except Raspberry Ketone.
It's safe to say I experienced minor success with this one. I made absolutely no changes to my diet, I wasn't exercising, and I lost about ten pounds on the product. When it came to Thanksgiving, I doubled my dosage (from one pill before each meal to two) and was happily surprised to find I didn't gain any weight the entire week, despite consuming several pies, cakes, and sweets more than I should.
However, I plateaued again and felt my hope draining.
It was around this time that our health coach, Cheryl Howe, joined the team. Working alongside her, seeing her help other people with their weight loss goals, and hearing her talk about real, raw foods inspired me to try to move in that direction.
One day, I cut out all sodas. Cold turkey.
My house was swimming with them, but I avoided them like the plague. It took an enormous amount of willpower, yet somehow, I've only slipped up once since eliminating them, and even then only as a treat. Over a year later, I've remained soda-free ever since.
After cutting out soda, I started drinking two protein shakes a day as a meal replacement and upping my water intake. I drink half my body weight daily in water, and slightly more on the days I exercise.
Which brings me to the next step. I started walking three days a week on the treadmill. I started simply. I walked for half an hour, increasing the speed every few minutes until I reached my peak, and then warming back down. As my peak grew higher, my walk time increased until I was up to forty minutes.
I watched movies, TV shows, or listened to music as I walked, and ate breakfast afterward. This way, I burned stored fat rather than calories from food and followed up my workout with a low-glycemic breakfast. Typically, full-fat greek yogurt with half a cup of fruit (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, or grapes), honey, and a sprinkling of granola.
This served its purpose. I was losing weight slowly but steadily, and I was starting to feel less groggy, more clear-minded, and my mid-afternoon crash was lessening. I had more energy and more body-confidence, but I knew there was more I could change if I really wanted to be healthy.
I went from a size 16+ (I wore sixteens, but had to squeeze into them and probably stretched them out in the process) to a size 14 just in time for a friend's wedding. About a fifteen-pound weight loss. I couldn't have been prouder.
I thought about stopping, but with a healthy BMI as my goal, I kept working.
Thanks again to Cheryl, I was introduced to interval or burst exercising. In layman's terms, it's an easy way to exercise in less time and get more done. It involves short bursts of high-intensity activity followed by ninety-second rest periods. This is done to increase the heart rate and include strength training, and that's not even the best part. There are a plethora of health benefits that come with it, too, including balanced blood sugar levels, increased and longer fat burn, improved heart function, muscle growth, increased metabolism, and more!
Upon starting interval training, I lost more weight and felt even better. I had higher levels of sustained energy, and I was sleeping better, too.
I continued on the protein shakes and changed my diet yet again. I dropped ALL sugar, processed foods, and ate out only when necessary. I was eating one whole-food meal a day in conjunction with the shakes, which I started accompanying with a granola bar or a small serving of yogurt.
As I dropped more sizes, from a 14 to a 12, then down to a 10, I've eliminated the shakes in favor of healthy eating. I eat only foods with real, unprocessed ingredients (no sugar, no chemicals - especially canola oil or any other hydrogenated oils, no GMOs, etc...), organic when I can afford it, and I add chia seeds to nearly everything.
Considered powerhouses of nutrition, chia seeds, when soaked in water or other liquids, will become gelatinous. They can then be mixed in smoothies, drinks, puddings, yogurts, added to salad dressings, used in baking, desserts, and more! The uses are innumerable. I find more and more ways to use them every day, and I love them all. Chia seeds are high in fiber, protein, low in calories, and rich in vitamins and minerals. They're a great way to stay full all day long.
In addition, I eat only sprouted grain bread. They're easier to digest, high in vitamins and minerals, and full of whole grains. They have a nuttier, richer flavor in my opinion, too. The best is the Ezekiel 4:9 bread, found in the freezer section in more and more grocery stores. Publix, Whole Foods, Earth Fare, and Bi-Lo, to name a few.
I previously cut out all bread, but now can enjoy sprouted bread with health benefits, versus the fattening, insubstantial white bread varieties. If that's not a win-win, I don't know what is.
Dairy-wise, I don't eat much (apart from greek yogurt) unless I can get unpasteurized raw milk. In that case, I drink as much milk as I can get. Eggs are the same way. I eat organic, free-range eggs when I can. The differences are astounding. Raw milk is richer, smoother, and completely devoid of the after-taste I so despise in the store-bought varieties. The raw eggs are also more delicious, more golden in color, and worth every penny.
Now, a year and a half later, after too many diet and exercise changes, too many diet pill attempts, I'm down to a size 8/10 depending on the brand and style of clothing, and I'm less than ten pounds away from my goal. I'm a healthy BMI for the first time in my life, and I have energy levels, unlike anything I've ever encountered.
Gone is the fatigue. Gone is the bloating after every meal. Gone is my back pain. I feel clean and fresh, much like the foods I'm eating.
Now, I crave healthier foods. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, leafy greens. I crave the foods that two years ago I would have turned up my nose at. I eat a lot of protein, still drink a lot of water, and feel better than ever before.
If I eat sugar these days, my body reacts adversely. I feel bloated and sluggish for a day or two afterward, and the same goes for processed or fast foods. Now that my body gets a steady supply of real food, it wants nothing else.
I plan to keep it that way.
Two years and 45+ pounds lighter, I'm finally happy in my skin. It doesn't get much better than that.
We do not directly or indirectly give medical advice or prescribe through alternative treatment. We recommend that people contact their doctor if they need a medical diagnosis. We assume no responsibility if anyone decides to use this information, which is of historical value, for they are choosing to prescribe for themselves. Healing is sometimes a slow process, and we suggest that you do not stop taking any medications without the guidance of a doctor.
Dr. Joseph Mercola. "12 Reasons Why You Should Quit Drinking Soda." Published 20 August, 2012.< http://www.drmercola.info/soda/12-reasons-why-you-should-quit-drinking-soda/ > Accessed 18 December, 2014.
Gryphon Adams. "Does Walking on an Empty Stomach Burn More Fat?" Updated 18 September, 2013.< http://www.livestrong.com/article/353785-does-walking-on-an-empty-stomach-burn-more-fat/ > Accessed 18 December, 2014.
Charlotte Hilton Andersen. "8 Benefits of High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)" 29 August, 2013.< http://www.shape.com/fitness/workouts/8-benefits-high-intensity-interval-training-hiit/slide/7 > Accessed 18 December, 2014.
Kris Gunnars. "11 Proven Health Benefits of Chia Seeds (No. 3 is Best)." No date.< http://authoritynutrition.com/11-proven-health-benefits-of-chia-seeds/ > Accessed 18 December, 2014.