How I Found My Way to Health + Wellness
How I Found My Way to Health + Wellness
And How It Became My “Why”
You have heard me mention how I grew up in suburban Chicago, in a home that was a glorified version of 7-Eleven… yes, we had home-cooked meals for dinner every night, but we also had every junk food known to mankind. With ZERO portion control. If you don’t know my junk food story yet, check out my blog post https://nikkiwellness.com/2019/02/20/my-sugar-story/ to get the 411 on my sugar addiction, and steps on how to end yours.
I am positive I have mentioned my complete lack of exercise, as well. Seriously, I was so inactive as a kid that my junior high P.E. teacher called me a pansy (but don’t worry, I turned that around and let that label shape me who I have become now…. a story for another day!)
I continued to NOT break a sweat for the next three and a half decades. I seriously didn’t move a muscle or consider a healthier lifestyle until I was almost 35 years old. And this was AFTER I’d been diagnosed with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s Disease at age 22, and had my third baby at age 33.
My “A-HA!” moment came at a family function, elbow-deep in a chocolate fountain, when I finally realized that I. Feel. Awful.
And so began the first steps of my own health and wellness journey. A friend of mine dragged me to her gym and a couple of weeks later, I begrudgingly joined Ellen’s Ultimate Workout. For some extra motivation, I bought myself some cute new workout clothes (what is this circular red and white logo that looks like a girl’s head that I keep seeing everywhere??), and slowly got started with different types of classes. I tried pilates (didn’t love), spin (love!), yoga (I thiiiiink I likey?), and this crazy cardio/weights class called the Ultimate Workout (anyone heard of Orange Theory? This was the OG invented by Ellen herself).
One day in the Ultimate class, the instructor, Casey, sauntered over to me and hijacked the treadmill that I was happily walking on. I will never forget the convo: “C’mon, Nikki! You can go faster than that,” she said. “No, you don’t understand. My PE teacher called me a pansy in 6th grade,” I explained to her. “Well, you’re not in PE class anymore. Let’s go!” And with that, she punched up my speed to the point that I had to jog. Wait, was I running?
About a month later, on my 35th birthday, my hubby at the time and I were in Central Park at the reservoir track. “C’mon, 35!” he was playfully yelling at me. “Let’s go, 35!” It was right then and there that I started running outdoors. We are talking tiny distances: like to that stop sign. In no time, though (and much to my own disbelief!), I caught the running and competition bug. We started signing up for every 5k race we could find. Next came the 10k’s. Then the half marathons and eventually two full marathons. Then came learning to swim and bike…. because, triathlons! I was hooked on getting fitter and was just plain ol’ amazed at what my body was capable of. I also had a coach who knew the best ways to push me out of my comfort zone and who believed in me FAR more than I believed in myself. As I always say, it takes a village, folks!
The food piece came much later. It wasn’t until I worked for a brilliant Registered Dietitian, who taught me SO many important lessons when it came to my nutrition and lifestyle. When I first met her, I considered myself healthy-ish. Ya know the type, the same breakfast every. single. morning (a packet of brown sugar instant oatmeal with blueberries) and a salad topped with grilled chicken for lunch. For dinner, I would make something halfway decent a couple of nights a week, and we would order in Chinese or Italian for the rest.
From grocery store tours to meal planning tips, from focusing on nourishing your body at every opportunity to the importance of whole foods and variation, there’s so much knowledge that my boss imparted to me that impacts me to this very day. The years I spent with her are invaluable to me and I owe so much to her for helping shape the lifestyle that I practice on the daily and that makes me feel my best.
I still have a relentless sweet tooth that I work hard to moderate. I am all about balance and proudly practice what I preach. I live my life by the 80/20 rule – 80% of the time I choose healthy foods that make me feel energetic and nourished, and 20% of the time I mindfully indulge in things that I truly enjoy, like going out for pizza with my kiddos or a yummy dessert with my guy on a Saturday night.
Now to my WHY. My mom died suddenly of a heart attack in the late afternoon on December 5, 2012, when she was just 66 years old. It was a Wednesday. I still remember our last conversation that we had that morning. I was on my way to the gym when we had our usual morning check-in phone call. We ended the call as we always did… I told her that I loved her and she told me she loved me too. I can still remember what red traffic light I was sitting at the last time I heard her voice….
I have to assume that my mom’s death only strengthened my commitment to finding a healthier path for myself and ultimately becoming a Health Coach. She lived an unhealthy life filled with skipped meals, cigarettes, Pinot Grigio and late night TV. She never made self-love or self-care a top priority; she was definitely not the picture of health. It saddens me that she’s not here to see her five grandkids grow up or just to give me her opinion on a knick-knack for my office. My kids tease me for being a little rigid about catching my melatonin window (between 10pm-2am, peeps!) and jumping into bed at 9pm, or getting up at 4am to hit the gym, but my healthy habits have become an essential part of who I am.
I may have been 39 years old when I first realized that my passion and purpose were one and the same, but I am so grateful that I figured it out. I know firsthand what it feels like to be uncomfortable in your own skin, yet feel so overwhelmed that you don’t know where to begin. I also know firsthand what it feels like to have a coach in your corner, who believes in you, pushes you out of your comfort zone, yet makes you feel safe. My passion and purpose are to coach, support, and nurture pre-teens, teens and adults to live their healthiest lives. To eat, move, and think healthier. And more than anything, to teach them to love the crap out of themselves ENOUGH to want to stick around for a long, long time. For themselves and for their families.