My Journey – Part 3

atmosphere blue bright cloudiness

Missed Part 1 and Part 2?

Finally….

I discovered something that I was passionate about, but didn’t know it until I was doing it. Which, in retrospect I find very interesting and how having a strict plan in life, may not be the way to go. A road map, guideline..perhaps. But one thing I realized writing this story is that the road to where I am now was not the one I planned on 10-15 years ago. The universe had its own plan, I just had to listen to it.

Teaching has become a primary focus in my life. It was something I really wanted to be good at. I spent (still do) a great deal of time researching for my nutrition lectures. I always wanted to make sure I gave them good science background for every topic (with my own experience trickled in too). This was a science class, technically. I actually really like reading biochemistry and nutrition journals (yes, I am still a science nerd, haha). Truthfully, I never cared to “research” for any other job before, because the material never excited me to the same extent. This is material I can get excited about. I truly love learning about this stuff, so it makes it very easy to keep learning.

Nutrition is a weird subject because everyone can have a different spin on it. “Eat meat, or don’t”. “Is fat really bad, and how much”? Everyone has a different opinion when it comes to food (some people can treat it like a religion, ever noticed that?). Its the only “science” where both sides can have valid arguments or be “right”. So then what does one do?

I knew from the very beginning that I could never teach one way of eating because everyone is different and has different needs. I also really cared about my students. I wanted them to actually get something from the course. I didn’t really care if they understood the chemistry or got straight A’s. I always joked that I had to grade them, but I didn’t really want to (which is true). I was just happy showing them this stuff. I just wanted them to learn healthier habits, especially because they were in college. I wished I took a course like this in college. It would have set me up in a much better way when I got out on my own. Perhaps, I wouldn’t have struggled for so long during my twenties, if I knew what I know now.

After a few years of teaching nutrition, I came to a realization. “How can I teach this stuff and help people outside of the school”? That’s what led me to becoming an Integrative Health Coach. The program I found has met my expectations and so much more. I am amazed how much more information there was still to learn! Healthy living really is more than the food you eat. Its everything in your life being in balance. This was something I think, I intuitively realized through my own health journey. Its why I named my site “Balanced Life.”

Then a few weeks after I enrolled in the course, my life met another big change. We found out we were pregnant. So, I am currently involved in two major transitions in my life that are happening at the exact same time. Which has made both journeys better (and perhaps easier?), I think. Because I am navigating the ever-changing process of being pregnant (and what’s to come after), plus being ingrained with all these new holistic teachings. (I rather write another post on this topic or this post really will be a novel).

I realized these past 10+ years that “being healthy” really just means being happy and calm in life. If something is off, like hating your job situation, it really affects other areas of your life. For me, when I was miserable at work, it led to other problems like not eating right, constant stress, which led to gaining weight, grumpiness, and just feeling crappy all the time. When, I started following my passions and doing what I wanted, and changing my mindset, things made a dramatic turn with my health (and sanity too, honestly). I ate better, slept better, lost weight, exercised consistently, made time for myself, which snowballed into just being a better version of me. Also, when I did put time into bettering myself, the other areas of my life improved too. When I ate better and took better care of myself,  I was more productive, energetic and just handled stress better. This was a huge epiphany moment for me.

Now, I always think of it as a circle:

food stress health circle

If one is off, it will affect the other two. They all have to balanced for you to feel your best.

This is what I hope to bring to my health coaching practice. I want to help people improve their circle. I want people to follow their passions and truly enjoy life. Its more than just eating better. Of course, that is one major piece. But sometimes there is something blocking it. And that’s ok. Everyone is on their own journey. It took me a long time to get here and who knows where I will be 10 years from now. I am scared again because it is something new. But, the last scary thing I did, I ended up doing well and everything worked out better on the other side. Sometimes, its good to be scared, especially when its something new and exciting. I know that I will only get to the life I want, but pushing through this and just letting the universe do its thing.

 

 

 

 

What happens Carbs after you eat them – Part 2

 

I discussed the initial breakdown and digestion of carbohydrates last time. So, what happens from here? Where does all this glucose go in your body? What does your body do with it? This is actually where things get more interesting (I think) and how carbs get a bad reputation (and basically the whole premise of low carb diets).

So we just ate, digested (which really means, our digestive system broke down in tiny pieces) carbohydrates into little sugar molecules that get sent to your liver: mainly glucose and fructose. All carbohydrates contain glucose. But you also get a fair amount of fructose sugars too if you have eaten anything containing table sugar, maple syrup, honey, agave, high fructose corn syrup, and fruit! So now you have a bunch of glucose and fructose hanging out in your liver.

Your liver’s main job is to process everything that gets into it from your digestive system. Everything that gets digested and absorbed from your small intestine (except FAT), gets transported to your liver directly to be processed. Your liver basically decides if its good/useful (and sends it into your blood stream), bad (breaks it down to be eliminated) or needs to be changed into something useful.

Glucose is put in the “useful” category. Fructose is put in the “needs to be changed” category.

Fructose is then turned into glucose, to make it useful. So now, you have a ton of glucose hanging out in your liver! Three main things are done with it:

  1. A good amount is sent into you blood stream to be circulated in your body (this is your blood sugar). It does this because you blood is basically a highway to all your cells in your body. In order for the glucose to reach your cells, it needs to be put into you blood to actually get to them. Once they reach your cells,  your cells absorb it and turn it into energy. Your body uses this energy to keep your body running. This is why when your “blood sugar drops,” you feel tired and hungry. You body used up its quick, available energy source and is now telling your brain to add more (or eat something! to provide more glucose!).
  2. Extra glucose can be stored for later. It can be stored in your liver and in your muscles. The fancy word for this storage system is glycogen. You body only makes a limited amount of glycogen though. Enough to really last about a day. Your muscles use this stored glucose for you when you need extra energy (like heavy lifting or exercising), fasting (not eating), or in times of stress (both mental and physical stress). Once, your glycogen is used up, you will need to make more (eat more glucose!).
  3. Extra extra glucose gets converted to fat. Since your body only needs a limited amount of glucose for energy, and a limited amount to make glycogen, anything remaining gets converted to fat. Fat really is your body’s way of creating long term energy storage. Remember glycogen only lasts about a day (you need to constantly replenish it), but fat can last a long time, if its not used. Your body is very smart. It will put something it knows it can use into long time storage as a survival mechanism.

There is one important player I forgot to mention that is also involved in these three processes…INSULIN.

What is insulin? Its a hormone. What’s a hormone? Its a molecule whose sole purpose is to tell other things what to do. Hormones literally talk to your cells to get them to do things. Cells have these little “switches” on them that need to be turned on or off. Who controls these switches? Hormones.

So what switches does insulin turn on?

  1. Tells your cells to take in glucose to be used for energy.
  2. Tells your liver/muscle cells to store glucose (make glycogen).
  3. Tells your fat cells to make more fat!

Reason #3 is why low carb diets exist and a big reason why people are people told to limit their sugar intake. Insulin is only triggered when it senses glucose in your body. Therefore: no carbs = no glucose = no insulin

If insulin’s job is to tell your body to literally make fat, what happens when there is no insulin? There is nothing there to tell your body to make fat.

Now, if you are eating too much sugar/carbs over a long period of time, insulin is constantly being triggered. So any extra glucose that you body can’t use, will get converted into fat. ALSO, if insulin is constantly being triggered, your cells become desensitized to it (or “resistant” to it). So, what happens when your cells start ignoring insulin? There is nothing to tell the glucose where to go. This is bad. This is how diabetes is formed. Its almost like the “boy who cried wolf.”

Also, all this fat that is created overtime is what leads to obesity, heart disease and other problems.

So what to do? Obvious answer: eat less sugar! At least start with less “added sugars.” In the average diet in the western world (aka Standard American Diet or SAD), too many people are eating processed foods and not enough real, whole, home cooked food. Processed food contains a lot of added sugar

Just read the labels, if you don’t believe me. Look at the grams (g) of sugar in each serving. A teaspoon = 4 g sugar (if you need a visual).

So a really good place to start if you are in this category, is to start eating more real food and less processed food (basically anything that has ingredients in it you can’t pronounce, don’t know what it is, or is a laundry list of things). Stick to actual veggies and actual fruit. Make more meals at home. This is a really good starting point. Then you can tweak it from there. But by adding in more real food, you will naturally eat less of the other stuff and probably already will start feeling better.

Also, the more sugar you eat, the more you will want to eat it. And good news! The opposite is true too! The less you eat sugar, the less you will want to eat sugar! I would suggest a slow transition out. Just slowly start cutting out sugary things out of your diet. Give your body (and taste buds) a chance to adjust. This will be much more sustainable then the all or nothing approach. Slowly add in healthier foods to compensate. Or add in more protein/fat in your diet to curb cravings and also satisfy hunger (you will naturally eat less because you will get full faster).

You can also send me a message too, if you need help! If this was an easy task, no one would have health problems, so I get it! My job is to help in this transition and make it easier and sustainable for the long term.

Do you have any tricks to help cut sugar out? I would love to hear them!

 

What happens to Carbs after you eat them?

white ceramic mug filled with dessert

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

 

What happens to Carbs after we eat them?

I was thinking about what topic to write about this month and I figured in continuation with our digestion discussion last month, I will discuss how our body actually digests carbs and how that can be related to unwanted weight or even health problems down the road.

Remember digestion occurs in the mouth, stomach, small intestine and large intestine. So, lets dive into what happens in each, that’s specific for carbohydrates: 

Mouth: The enzymes in your mouth actually begin to break down carbs into smaller pieces. However, because food only spends a few seconds in your mouth, this is short lived. This is why the longer your chew (especially with starchy, or bready foods), the better. Gives your digestion a head start. Then it travels into your 

Stomach: The acid in your stomach actually shuts off these enzymes from your mouth, preventing them from working further. This means, that carbs are not digested at all in your stomach (boring!). They just wait there until they enter your

Small Intestine: Enzymes (lots of them!) are released here to really break down all the carbs you have just eaten. How fast this occurs depends on the type of carbs you just ate. I think most people have heard of simple vs complex carbohydrates. But what does this actually mean? Actually, it goes back to molecular chemistry (yay chemistry!) So get ready for some science talk real quick: 

Technically all carbs you eat contain a small sugar molecule called glucose. It doesn’t matter if its a candy bar, an apple or a piece of bread. They all contain glucose. What differs between them is the amount of glucose and how glucose is arranged. 

It can be just 1 or 2 glucose molecules together, or glucose can be with another sugar, like fructose. These tiny sugar molecules are what are classified as Simple sugars. Because they are only a few of them with only 1 or 2 bonded together, they are “simple.”

Table sugar (sucrose) for example, is 1 glucose molecule attached to 1 fructose molecule. Or lactose (like in milk products) are 1 glucose molecule and 1 galactose molecule (another type of sugar) bonded together. Since, these are small molecules, it doesn’t take any effort to digest them. Your body absorbs these little guys very fast, since they are already small. 

What has simple sugars in them? Anything with table sugar (sucrose), high fructose corn syrup, maple syrup, honey, agave…..basically anything we would classify as “sugar.” It doesn’t take a lot of effort to digest these things because they are already small. So, the sugar gets absorbed into your blood stream very fast (high blood sugar).

Now imagine you have 1000’s of glucose molecules attached to one another. That’s a lot of glucose! These are your complex carbs. Much bigger molecules, compared to the simple ones that only have like 1 or 2 sugars, hence why they are “complex.” 

These complex carbs are found in your starchy foods (like wheat flours, bread products, potatoes, rice, etc). The enzymes can still break these down into tiny sugars because they are still technically sugar, just more of it. However, it will take longer to break down, because the molecules are bigger, but it still will happen. Once, they are broken down small enough, all these tiny sugars are also absorbed into your blood (high blood sugar). 

This is why if you were ever to measure your blood sugar after eating a candy bar vs. pasta, your blood sugar will be high. It doesn’t matter the source of the sugar, its all sugar and your body treats it the same way.

But if it doesn’t get broken down in the small intestine, the carbs end up going into the

Large Intestine: If you have eaten too much carby foods that your small intestine can’t break down, it is all is up the bacteria in your large intestine to handle. This is why people complain about bloating when they eat too much bread or pasta. That’s the bacteria having to eat all the leftover sugars, causing gas and discomfort (not fun!). 

Now what about fiber?

Fiber is technically a complex carb too. It contains 1000’s of glucose sugars (and maybe some other things too). However, the way the glucose molecules are attached is very different than they are for starches. The enzymes in your small intestine cannot break these molecules down because their bonds are too strong.

This is why we like fiber. Fiber doesn’t get broken down into tiny sugars, but just keeps moving through your digestive system. Because of this, it actually helps slow the process down, and gives your body a chance to break down other things more effectively, so they can be absorbed at slower pace (avoiding that high blood sugar spike!). It also attracts water to your intestines, helping things move along too. This is why you are told to eat fiber to help your digestion. It just helps to “keep things moving.” Which, is what you want. 

So, eating an apple vs. a candy bar is different because an apple contains fiber (and vitamins and other good stuff too!). The fiber in the apple slows the body’s ability to absorb sugar, delaying it from entering your blood. However, the sugar from the candy bar just absorbs directly into your blood (blood sugar spike!), plus it has no other nutrients. Yes, you are still getting sugar from both, but since an apple has other helpful things in it, its actually better for you.

The same principle applies to white bread vs. whole grain brain. The whole grains still have their fiber intact (plus other nutrients!), and the white bread does not.

Now what?

All the sugar you eat, whether its from a simple (sugar) form or a complex (starch) form, enters your liver. Your liver than decides on what to do with it. It sends some to your bloodstream to be used by your body for energy. It stores some of it (for when you need energy later), or it converts it to fat.

You body only needs so much for energy purposes. And your body will never waste anything, it thinks it can use later. It loves to store fat. That is why any extra sugar you eat, will get converted to fat. That’s just your body’s survival mechanism. Unfortunately, this fat (too much of it over time), can lead to problems, like obesity, heart disease and diabetes. This is why we need to be careful.

So, how do you know if you are eating enough carbs, or too much? Well, first: Are you gaining excess weight (or having trouble losing excess weight)? Do you feel bloated or uncomfortable after eating something that is too sugary or carby? Do you get “sugar highs” and then “sugar crashes?” Another symptom, I’ve noticed is heart palpitations after eating too much sugar. Too much sugar can also wreck havoc with your hormones (leading to acne, or even fertility problems overtime). Brain fog, poor sleep, and just lack of energy are also signs of too much sugar. Basically,  you need to watch your physical symptoms after you eat. Everyone is different and there isn’t a one size fits all. The best way is really to just pay attention to your body’s cues. If you think you are eating too much, cut back and see what happens. (Be careful because your body can literally go through a sugar detox, which can take some days to work through). Also, if you cut back on carbs, your body will be looking for an energy source: healthy fats or protein need to be added to compensate. 

If you still are unsure, let me know! That’s my job is to help. Unfortunately our society makes eating healthy very difficult. It’s also a very sugary world out there. I can help you navigate it.

What’s your experience with eating carbohydrates or sugar? Do you feel low carb is better for you? How do you navigate this sugar world? I’d love to hear your experience!

 

My Journey – Part 2

close up of flowers

If you missed part 1, see it here! 

Where we left off…

Even though I had this new outlook in life and newly found confidence in myself, I was still stuck in my current job situation. I still haven’t figured out my new path yet. I still very much felt lost in terms of work and what to do about it. Do I job search? Go back to school? I had no clue. Then something happened out of my control: I was laid off. Or, as they put it: ” I am being displaced.” Thanks.

Yes, most people would probably freak out at being laid off. Which I was, at first. Really, I felt hurt (and maybe embarrassed) that I was one of the chosen ones. But it was the best thing they could have done. I would have never left on my own. I still didn’t have the courage to or a point of direction that would have allowed me to leave on my own. I needed that kick in the pants. I needed a push. Yes, it helped that I got a severance and unemployment. But those funds really don’t last long when you have bills (plus thanks to taxes, they take like half that money away right off the bat, so you really don’t get as much as you think you do on paper).

I got let go in November, so I decided that the following spring I would go back to school full time and finish my Masters in chemistry. For a few years at this point, I was going to school part time, which was taking forever since I was only taking 1-2 classes at time. I took this opportunity to at least finish this degree and be done with it. I only had four classes left, so I just took them all at once.

It was nice being in school full time again. Felt weird because I felt like the oldest one there (I was only like 29, but everyone else was right out of college, so I felt old). I also came from working full time for like 7 years, so I really felt like I was in a different mental place than everyone else. Even though it was a graduate program, majority of the students were in their early twenties and haven’t really entered the work force yet (just out of undergrad). I remember thinking, “you have no idea what you are getting yourself into, “ haha.  (Mind you, I was just burned by the industry, so of course I was bitter).

However, during this time, I really enjoyed being home. Like a lot. I loved getting up and just starting my day when I wanted, and the only worry was going to class. I really wanted to take this opportunity and just catch up on life. Since I had this newly found time freedom, I told myself I have no excuse for getting myself healthy again. I realized that years of job stress contributed to me gaining weight and not putting consistent healthy habits first. I started to workout, everyday (no excuses!). I discovered Zuzkalight and HIIT workouts. I found out that I loved to workout at home and loved the intensity of the shorter workout model. I still workout to her everyday (well, not so much now during pregnancy, but still a few times a week. She is amazing.).

I created my own schedule and routine of getting up, having coffee, relaxing a bit, working out, and then continuing on with my day. I realized that working out first thing was the best for me, and it really set me up for the day. I had more energy and confidence throughout the day on the days I exercised first thing.  I realized the importance of having a good morning routine to creating less stress for the rest of the day (now “morning routines” are all the rage, but back then you never heard about them, so this really was new found knowledge for me).

All these practices I started then, but I still do to this day because I realized that starting the day right, is very important to me. Getting up, having a cup of coffee, and just relaxing for the first hour of the day really does set the tone and mood (plus does anyone else notice that your first cup of coffee (or tea) is the best thing ever?). So, when I eventually did go back to work full time, I never gave this routine up. I rather go to work late, but in the right frame of mind, then start my day with stress and not having “my time.” My productivity is actually better when my mornings are about me, so I always kept these little morning rituals going.

After the semester ended and it was was now summer I realized, “OMG, my first summer off in like 10 years”! It was amazing! I was able to visit my parents during the week and go to the beach. I was able to actually have a summer where it felt like summer. Forgot what that was like. Yes, I was starting to become a little more broke as time went on but I never really actively job hunted.  I hated the idea of going to back to the pharmaceutical industry or corporate life, because I was so miserable before. Yes, finances were starting to stress me out, but I still wasn’t ready yet and honestly, I didn’t really know what to do. (I might have applied to some things online, just to say I did something, but my heart was never in it). I spent this time, still reading and listening to personal development books to keep my mindset in check. I knew that I had to in order to get through this. If I had dwelled on being unemployed or freaked out over my situation, I knew it would not help me. I sort of had this mentality, that everything will work out. I just didn’t know how yet. (Yes, I know I was very lucky to go this long without a job and be able to do this.  Disclaimer: I was still a consultant with Arbonne at this time too, so it wasn’t completely like I was doing nothing. Doing that really helped with the sanity too).

To this day, I am very grateful to my husband for just letting me have this time without pressuring me to get a job. I told him,”everything will work out, it just sucks now”. He really was good to me during this time and allowed me to just figure things out on my own. Yes, our savings was taking a huge hit and we had to cut back on a lot of things. However, reflecting back on this period now, I realized that I really needed time to “reset.” It was like I had left a horrible relationship. I had to rediscover what I really wanted again and to put “me” first.

Right when money was about to become a real issue, something happened. I received an email from the chemistry department chair from my school about becoming an adjunct professor to teach lab. What?! Talk about timing. She knew I had industry experience, and was unemployed so asked me if I was interested. Mind you, I had no teaching experience and if you had asked me to teach like 5 years ago, I would have definitely said no (and thought you were crazy for even asking).  But, I accepted. I felt very flattered that she would even consider me, so I jumped on it.

I was given a freshman chemistry lab course. It was the scariest thing I have done in a long time. I literally had no idea what I was doing. I just followed one of the other lab professors and thankfully, they have a really good lab coordinator who helped me a lot that year. But every single time I had to talk in front of the class, I turned beet red and basically fumbled my way through. This was entirely new territory to me. Since, I was home during the day, I was able to take the time to learn the material before each class so I didn’t look completely stupid to them. I really wanted to be good at this. I would practice in front the mirror a lot and just walk through what I was going to say before each class, so I would feel more comfortable. It was a whole new experience for me.

It didn’t take me long to discover something: I loved teaching. The students were so much fun and I loved showing them lab stuff. It did take me a looooog time to feel at least somewhat confident to talk at the chalkboard, but if I was showing them how to set up experiments or lab stuff, it felt very natural to me. I still loved being in a lab, even if it was just a freshman college lab. I spent 7-8 years in a industry lab setting. I knew some stuff (haha). I taught in a way that felt the most authentic for me. This whole teaching thing was actually kinda cool.

I taught two semesters of just lab. Loved every second of it. Plus, I liked the flexibility of it. Yes, class times were set, but the rest of the time was mine. Since I was only an adjunct, I only had to be there during my class time. I could prep and grade at home on my schedule. Before my third semester at working at the school, I was offered a class upgrade: lecture course. I had a meeting with the department chair and she offered me a chance to teach a lecture in the fall. I had two choices: forensic science (which, yes would have been an interesting class), and nutrition. Well, more specifically, Chemistry and Nutrition. In my head, I was shocked. A nutrition class!! Something about this opportunity felt very good. I mean, they were offering me a class to teach two of my favorite subjects: chemistry and healthy living. Talk about the universe talking. Of course, I jumped on it. I spent the last 10 years teaching myself how to be healthier and obsessing over all the nutrition info I was learning and reading. I really felt this was something, I was meant to do. It may sound so silly, but it felt like the universe really was telling me something at this moment. It truly felt like I was given a huge gift or a big slap in the face, “This is your path! Seize it!”

However, teaching a lecture is completely different than teaching lab. In lab, you are given everything. I didn’t have to write up anything and the whole syllabus was given to me to how to run the class. But for lecture, I had to come up with everything. The lectures, the exams, and all the materials. I was given a book at the beginning and some old lectures/exams from when it was taught years ago which was a starting point. It gave me a baseline to work on. I basically just lectured straight from that book that first year. It gave me structure and a foundation.

That very first day, I was scared to death. Probably more freaked out than when I first starting teaching lab. This was my class. These students were completely dependent on me. Scary thought.  I still feel bad for those first semester students. I had no idea what I was doing or what I was talking about. Also, I felt like I looked like a student, so it was a real test to my confidence. I somehow survived (and so did the students). But after that first semester, I realized that that was the most fun I have had in a long time “working.”

 

(Stayed tuned the Part 3 and where I am now!)

My journey

I feel like the journey to becoming a health coach (and where I am now) wasn’t exactly a planned one. It really was a specific set of circumstances over the past 10+ years that sort of led me down this path. Ten years ago, or even right out out of college, I would have thought you were crazy, if you told me this is what I was doing in my life now at 34 (I can’t be the only one who feels like this, right?). I split it into parts, so this post wouldn’t end up being ridiculously long. I wanted to write this out because I seem to be in a reflective state at the moment (either due to the impeding life change that is about to happen in my life or that I just had a birthday, which is always a weird reflective time for me anyway, or maybe both).

I also felt that if there is anyone else who feels stuck in life, or hate their job situation, maybe this can help you too. Because I was stuck too, for a very long time. It hard to feel like things will work out for the better when you are knee deep in a crappy or unsettling situation in life and don’t see the light at the end. Also, reading other people’s life stories have always helped me. Or maybe you just like reading other people’s stories, which is totally cool too. 🙂

Part 1

I went to college with every intention of majoring in chemistry. I literally picked the school I went to for three reasons: it had a chemistry major, the campus was pretty, and it was close enough to home to be able to drive home, but still far enough away that I was on my own. I never did a campus tour or really mulled over the decision. Those were literally my reasons (Now come to think about it, I still base a lot of decisions that way. Very to the point. I guess I just had a good vibe from the place and went with it). At first, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with the major, I just liked the idea of being a “chemist” and thought I would probably get a good job afterwards. I didn’t exactly have a thought out plan or anything. I just liked chemistry and was sort of decent at it.

The summer before my junior year of college, I was able to get a research job in a chemistry lab for the summer at school. I loved it! I had the best summer that year. It also helped that my best friend stayed on campus too that year and we basically spent the summer hanging out, partying and doing fun things on campus (like crashing campus functions for food and alcohol, or raiding empty dorm rooms, because apparently people leave a lot of stuff behind when they move out, who knew? I remember collecting a broom and a mirror, haha). We had the best time.

In addition to getting myself into crazy campus shenanigans, I had a real summer job, in my field! This job was the first time I realized that I loved working in a lab, creating something that could potentially be useful for the future. I liked mixing chemicals and using the fancy equipment and actually seeing real life results that weren’t from a boring book. It was way different than what I was during for class. It was actually fun! From there, I realized that I wanted to do research as a career. I wanted to work in a research lab, doing fun lab experiments everyday.

During my senior year of college, like most seniors, I started to think about getting a “real” job.” At this time, I wasn’t sure how to even begin to get a research position (or really in what type of lab). I just did things that seemed to make sense to me at the time. I learned how to write a resume and went to a job fair. I didn’t want to completely overwhelm myself because my classwork was hard enough as it was to deal with. I also really wanted to enjoy my last year of college, since I knew it was ending soon.

Also, during this time I started dating someone new (who ended up marrying me 10 years later 🙂 ) He used to visit me on the weekends and we used to go to this diner for breakfast every time he came to visit (can’t exactly make him eat my (nonexistent) dorm food or go to the school cafeteria, so a diner it was). On our way to this diner, we would past a big pharma company. Every time we passed it, I would think to myself “This is the type of place I want to work.” Literally, I thought this every time. Doubt I even said it out loud. I don’t even think I knew what company it was or what exactly I would do there. I just knew that it was the type of place I wanted to be at. It just seemed so flashy to me. It had a nice campus and it was a big company and it just seemed the place to be. “Very professional” looking, I guess.

Flash forward to about a month before graduation, I got a interview (from a contract company I met at that one job fair I went to) for a temp research position in a lab. I made it through the pre-interview, then phone interview and then I was invited for the in person interview. However, when it came time to go into the in person interview, it turned out to be for the company near the diner!  (The location wasn’t specific on the job description.) The same campus, I had told myself that I wanted to be at. Crazy right? I met like 3 different people at this interview and as I was given the lab walk through, I just kept saying to myself..”This is perfect, I have to work here”. The lab was super fancy and new and it seemed so cool to work there. I remember literally sending brain waves (“I want to work here..”) to the interviewer the whole time, no joke. They hired me that day. It wasn’t until I read The Secret many years later, that I knew that I totally used mindfulness to get me this dream job (and why I am so passionate about that book now). I had the research job at the location that I wanted. It was perfect! For the first few years, anyway. I was happy and I felt very lucky and worked very hard.

Then the recession happened. My company was bought by another company and literally overnight everything changed. It went from being a good “research position” to a politically charged corporate one. Sucky new managers, super competitive environment, major layoffs, relocations which gave long commutes..everything. During these next 3-4 years, I began to become very disenchanted with my job. I looked at people who were older that me, doing this work for longer, and realized they all had one thing in common: They were miserable. “Is this my future?”, I thought. I lost a lot of my motivation at work. I just couldn’t “play the game.” I didn’t care to. I just wanted to be in the lab, doing fun lab experiments. That’s what I signed up for. I never thought that this fun research job would turn into this. The fun was over. I felt like no matter how hard I worked, it was never enough. It was all metrics and numbers and fighting for “visibility” (Anyone, who has worked in corporate understands what I mean by this). Plus, they moved my location twice, each further away, so my commute got increasingly worse. Also, imagine that every single person you work with is unhappy? How is that for morale? Remember “misery loves company.” It was horrible. Life got really crappy and when you aren’t happy at work, the rest of your life suffers too (I know this now, but at the time I definitely did not pick up on this). I was tired and grumpy all the time. Which isn’t good or fair to the partner you live with. I drank more often because I was stressed everyday and needed a stress release. Not a “healthy” situation at all.

Since, I was bored and unmotivated most days now, what did I do? Peruse the internet, of course. I discovered blogs at this time, which was a good source of time passing. I loved reading about other people’s stories. I mainly read the healthy living ones (with some interior design and food ones too). Rewind back a few years: Right after college, I realized that I had gained some weight (maybe like 20 lbs-ish), especially during my senior year. Which honestly, shocked me because I never had to worry about my weight before. I also remember one day looking down at my thighs and saw stretch marks for the first time, which was a total wake up call for me too. Like “where did those come from?” Granted, I partied a lot in school and never once thought about whether I was eating healthy or not. I would routinely eat a bag of candy multiple nights a week when I was studying at the library. I doubt I even ate one vegetable most days. Pretzels, chips, sandwiches, burgers..whatever I could scrounge in the cafeteria was what I lived on. Also, since my parents never really allowed a lot of processed food or soda in the house growing up, I also binged on a lot of these things once I was on my own too. After college, I realized that the super fast metabolism I have had my whole life wasn’t permanent and I needed to start to watch what I ate. So, during this time is when I started the long journey to healthy living.

At first, I thought it was just age getting the better of me! (which is funny to me now). So of course, I wanted to lose this weight and I did what everyone else does when they try to lose weight…diets. Well, I tried, anyway. Never was good at it. I tried the traditional low fat and low calorie for a while..which sucked and did not work (and I know why now, but at the time it baffled me. I mean it worked for those people!). I started working out and going to the gym. Actually, I was pretty consistent with working out. I loved it. I was a “runner” for a minute. I did all the exercise classes on my lunch break. I liked the variety of trying new things and I really did enjoy group classes. The scale never moved, however. Actually, kept creeping up (again, I understand now that you can’t exercise away a bad diet (plus I was still stressed out all the time), but I was just doing what these “experts” were saying to lose weight).

However, this whole time I was fascinated by what I was reading online. I wanted to know everything. I tried all the trendy “health” foods and recipes (still guilty of this! But I love to cook and try to new foods, so I consider this is a good thing). I read a lot of books about eating better. I read the China Study and lots of vegan books, which prompted me to stop eating meat for a few years (which my husband calls the “dark time,”  haha). I credit those books to my first nutrition knowledge and food experimenting and also learning what really happens at factory farms, which, even though I eat meat now, I am very conscious of where my meat comes from. I even drank those slim fasts everyday for a while, which (in retrospect) never satisfied me (Haha, I cringe thinking about that now). But I kept learning. I kept reading. I kept following blogs, because I loved being a part of this little community, where there were others out there who liked this stuff too, and liked to talk about it.

I started to want to leave my job, badly. In fact, I wanted to leave the pharma industry completely because it seemed to be the same crappy, political, corporate, culture everywhere, so what was the point of just going to a different company? That definitely didn’t make sense to me. Plus, not having a PhD in the pharma industry really set me back, which frustrated me. I had the experience, but because I didn’t have that degree, it didn’t mean anything. It was too competitive of an environment now. So, I didn’t know what to do. I researched becoming a nutritionist, which would mean going back to school. I researched just going back to get a PhD (I did get my Masters, but I will get to that), but I wasn’t sure in what. I felt extremely stuck and miserable for a long time. Then, something pivotal happened. I was introduced to Arbonne. Mind you, I have heard of it and was asked about it way before this and turned it down. I never even tried any of the products. But this time was different. I hated my current situation. I needed something new to put my focus on. I was super scared to try something new, but I signed up anyway. I just needed something different. I knew nothing about social marketing, but I figured I would learn (plus it was a health and beauty company, so how bad could it have been?). I still remember the day I signed up (which in retrospect was not a big deal at all), but I was so freaked out, that my husband thought something was really wrong by the look of shock on my face (so funny, thinking about that now).

My Arbonne journey is totally a roller coaster in itself, but there was one major thing that it taught me: There is a whole life outside what you are currently doing and there are people who are willing to help you figure that out. I needed that. Desperately. I did not want to become one of those miserable people who stayed in their current situation for the next 10, 20+ years because that is all they knew what to do. I saw that there was hope. I found a new group of friends who were loving life and were happy. There was this whole other world out there beyond what I was seeing every day in my current situation. Just having something different to focus on, being with people who were doing the same things and wanting to be better and more successful at life was mind blowing to me. (Remember, all I knew was misery and complaining, so this was a whole new territory for me). I also learned what personal development was and how important it was. That alone was life changing to me. “Personal development” wasn’t even in my vocabulary before. Now, it was something I was doing on a consistent basis. I started reading books that helped grow confidence, leadership skills, success, and just how to improve mindset. I started to learn how to build meaningful relationships and getting out of my comfort zone (I am totally an introvert, but have learned to overcome it in many ways because of these new teachings). I started to face my fears about talking to new people, talking in front of people, and just getting out there more. Who am I? My husband even noticed a change in me.

All of sudden, I wanted to be a better person. Not just a better “worker, ” but a better, happier, and more balanced person.  I wanted to succeed in life and actually be happy doing it. All of a sudden, a light bulb switched on inside me. I don’t have to settle anymore for a boring life “just because everyone else has.” I can do whatever I want. I had hope for the first time. Still no real direction, but for the first time, I had hope.

(Continue reading in Part 2….)