digging deeper and changing her lifestyle, she is helping others as well. She has so much more knowledge to share and I am happy to have her again sharing more of her journey.
Since our last interview in 2016 my life has changed a lot. Some good, some not so good but such is life, isn’t it? The not so good has been discovering recently that I might have endometriosis and that this may in fact be the bigger player in my hormone issues, rather than PCOS. I have yet to be medically diagnosed so I’ve been trying not to self-diagnose until I make a gynocologist visit but I hit the nail on the head on so many of the symptoms that I’m almost 90% sure I have endometriosis. The symptoms that really stood out to me was that my bladder prolapsed a few months ago and pelvic floor dysfunction is apparently a common condition for women with endo, I discovered. Mittelschmerz (aka painful ovulation) is also associated with endometriosis and this started happening since the beginning of my hormone journey and has never gone away even with my better eating and regular exercise which helps a lot with my PCOS related symptoms. Also, very painful periods is a staple symptom for endometriosis and while my diet and exercise helps a lot with pain management today, not all the time I might add, I remember my first and second period at age 11 being excessively heavy and excruciatingly painful. As women we’re taught that periods are supposed to be very painful, but this is far from the truth and this should have been a red flag for me if I had not societally accepted this as the norm.
Onto more positive news; becoming certified as a Specialist in Fitness Nutrition in 2017 has been one of the best and most positively life altering decisions I’ve ever made. Prior to my ISSA certification, I had danced around with the idea of getting my second degree in Nutrition since changing my diet was the defining chapter in my hormone journey, but when I discovered that there were no part time options locally for me to pursue I decided to do a shorter but internationally accredited course that involved two things that truly made the difference in my PCOS journey re: diet and exercise. With the knowledge gained I’ve been developing Individualized nutrition and workout plans since November 2017 for clients struggling to lose fat or gain muscle with much success and being the initiator in others fitness journey has been an incredibly spiritually fulfilling experience. Nutrition coaching is something that I genuinely love doing and is something I plan to pursue professionally in the near future, god willing.
2. What is PCOS and how would you describe your symptoms today compared to two or three years ago?
Through my blogs and insta-stories I’ve been trying to push the message to my viewers about the importance of nutritional eating and meal planning. It is admittedly something that takes consistency and time management, but the opportunity costs are miniscule in my opinion. Through planning my own meals I’ve not only controlled my weight over the years, but I also control what goes into my body. The benefit of exercise for hormone regulation is important but more so is diet. Of course I eat junk like everyone else but this is not the norm for me nor should it be for anyone. By eating more whole foods, limiting processed foods and managing my sugar, carbohydrate and saturated fat intake I’ve been able to keep my former worst PCOS symptoms at bay like fatigue, anxiety and depression. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is the most common endocrine disorder affecting 10-15% of women in their reproductive age. Women with PCOS are more vulnerable to develop diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and metabolic syndrome. Insulin resistance is also prevalent with PCOS independently of obesity and is critically involved in reproductive and metabolic complications of the syndrome. Research is ongoing, but there are some that indicate links between PCOS and inflammation as well. This is why losing weight, in my opinion, is not the only way to manage this condition but also paying attention to the quality of food we eat.
3. Tell me about your personal fitness and nutrition journey.
By eating foods of better quality we can improve our health however this does not translate into fat loss. This was probably the biggest revelation for me when I completed my course and started to embark upon my own fitness journey. Eating for fat loss and eating to be healthier are two very different things, but a lot of people believe they are directly correlated and this is why a lot of people end up spinning top in mud in their fat loss journey. Fat loss occurs when we create a calorie/energy deficit however a lot of healthy foods are also high in calories eg salmon, avocado and nuts therefore we can easily get healthier, like improve our cholesterol profile and blood glucose levels, but not lose fat. Understanding energy balance is fundamental to fat loss.
4. What made you decide to become a certified specialist in fitness nutrition? Was there a defining moment when you knew?
When you diet and exercise you lose fat but do you understand why? Dieting is a way of creating a calorie deficit by consuming less calories and exercise creates a calorie deficit by burning more calories. These are both simply different methods to create a calorie deficit, yet in all my years in my fitness journey not one person in the fitness industry had ever explained this simple concept to me. When I fully understood the importance of a calorie deficit for fat loss and was able to create one through a healthy balance of diet and exercise is when I knew that I had to share this information and help those struggling to achieve this balance. This is when I decided to start developing customized nutrition plans for those having a hard time creating a deficit with their own diet. A lot of people fail at dieting because they decided to find some generic, highly restrictive meal plan from the internet and try to apply it to their everyday life when the reality is that it simply takes making small but consistent adjustments to your own diet to create a long term, sustainable calorie deficit. A lot of my nutrition coaching involves pushing this change in mentality.
5. What were the best & hardest parts of starting your business, both personally and professionally?
The hardest part of what I do is trying to change the mentality that dieting is hard and restrictive and that exercising or just being more active is an option and not mandatory. I practice flexible dieting and I make it a habit to show my IG followers that I eat like a “normal’ person also and that I don’t ‘live in the gym’ but I make the effort to go three time a week because it improves the function of my hormones and overall health. Exercising is a great way to change your body composition, but it’s not necessary to exercise to lose fat; this can be done through dieting alone. Additionally, you can change the way your body looks through exercise, but that doesn’t mean that you will lose fat unless you’re also eating in a deficit. Going to the gym but not changing your diet means that overall body composition changes will be minimal and this is why I try to get people to look at making adjustments to their diet first rather than relying on exercising alone as the only means of creating a deficit as it’s much easier, in my opinion, to not consume 500 calories rather than trying to burn 500 calories through exercise. The rationalizing that some people do to attempt to burn 500 calories in one gym session as opposed to replacing some donuts with some fruits in their diet always baffles me but this mentality is scarily common and one that is an ongoing battle for me professionally.
Personally, it should be no surprise by now that I’ve chosen the holistic route to treat my PCOS (and maybe endometriosis) condition and therefore a lot of my blog posts are based on anecdotal evidence on myself over the years. There is nothing that I share publically that I have not done on myself and I share both the pros and cons of everything I do. All I can attempt to do with my professional forum is present holistic alternatives to treating PCOS from what worked for me; I am simply giving women an additional option to treat their PCOS and I will always encourage women to spend time learning their body as I have done and have benefitted tremendously from doing so. I am in no way advocating that this is the only way to treat these conditions though nor would I ever advise someone to disregard their doctor recommended prescriptions because that would be grossly negligent and harmful and goes against everything I stand for. That being said, it usually takes me close to a month to write just one blog because I spend a large amount of time reading scientific journals and ensuring that the information I put out there has sufficient scientific backing as well. I do this because I’ve found that Holistic Nutrition and people that practice it like myself are not treated with respect by the medical community because of the inclusion of anecdotal research which is truly sad to me because it adds to the stigma that most doctors don’t listen and are dismissive about their patients’ PCOS symptoms and just try to treat PCOS by prescribing more birth control. I’ve heard about this treatment from so many women with PCOS, and it was unfortunately also my experience, so I’m really hoping that this changes as time goes by because it would greatly help with a lot of the isolation women with PCOS experience from having their symptoms dismissed.
6. What did you learn about yourself and your support system while studying, training and starting your business?
For the most part though, I’ve received a lot of support from family and friends and my little online community. I’ve learned that a lot of people that struggle with fat loss know what they’re supposed to do, but fail in the long term to keep the weight off because they don’t have a strong support system or someone that motivates them to stay on track. Accountability is something that I push through my nutrition programs, but gently. This ‘gentleness’ is not something that comes naturally to me honestly as I’m by nature a more ‘tough love’ person but I’ve chosen to use the positive reinforcement approach on my clients as well as encouraging them to create better eating behaviors and forming a healthier relationship with food because in the end this is what it takes to accomplish long term fat loss. Building a support system also for my clients is something that I knew I had to do when I decided to become certified, but I didn’t know how essential it was to their progress until I started doing one-on-one coaching. It’s now something that I take very seriously because I remember how much of a mental toll it took on me to continuously tap into my inner strength during my hormone journey because I didn’t have much of a support system at that time. I always tell them that ‘we got this’ rather than ‘you got this’ so they know they’re not alone as they embark on one of the biggest journeys of their life.
7. What is your business niche? How do potential clients find & recognize you?
Working in advertising over the years has taught me that people seek information that is relevant to them. I had heard about polycystic ovaries and PCOS before but I didn’t go seeking information on it until I was diagnosed. I rarely actively try to seek new fat loss clients because unless you’ve been thinking about changing your lifestyle, the content that I put on my social media will be irrelevant to you. What I do instead is consistently put information that is relevant to me, like nutrition tips, meal planning, exercise routines, fat loss guides and hormone imbalance topics, and in doing so I find clients that have been seeking the information I share. By focusing on this instead of trying to reach everyone I’ve gotten a lot of clients and people that tell me that they’ve referred me to someone who needs help with their hormone journey or those that tell me that they will be coming to me when they’re ready to start their fitness journey. I also know from working in advertising that people are selfish with their ‘likes’ on social media. What do I mean by this? Why do you think some videos have over 100,000 views but only 2,000 likes? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people come up to me telling me how much my last blog or my last workout video helped or inspired them but I couldn’t recall them liking my content. This is why I just keep focused on developing content and sharing my interests so that the right client finds me.
8. How do you stay focused on your personal and professional goals? What motivates you?
Staying focused on professional goals though when you have a full time job in advertising and two part-time jobs can be difficult especially as it can make managing my hormone imbalance symptoms a lot harder. I’ve learned over time that when I feel overwhelmed to take a few ‘rest and reflect’ days to mentally regroup and these really help in getting me back on track. From what I’ve personally experienced, hormone health is linked to mental health and I had to change my ‘do now or die’ and ‘sleep is for the dead’ mentality as it was adding to my stress and keeping me back rather than helping me grow. These days my mantra is all about creating balance and one that I try to teach my clients as well. I’ve stopped putting unrealistic timelines on my goals and I made a vow to myself to be more ‘in the moment’ rather than always looking ahead. Professionally I’m not where I want to be as yet, but I know it will be soon. That ‘soon’ can be in two months or two years but either way I’m committed to the process of learning.
9. Where do you see yourself and your business in 5 years?
In five years I hope to be a full time Nutrition Coach as well as continuing to be a part-time photographer as I will always need some creative expression outlet. My ultimate goal is to open a Women’s Wellness Centre for women seeking holistic treatment options for PCOS and Endometriosis or just needing a support system while managing their hormone imbalance. I also want to write a book on my entire hormone journey, but this may be a little harder as it’s always evolving. It definitely remains a goal though.
10. What advice do you have for anyone looking to change their health or lifestyle?
My advice to anyone looking to change their health or lifestyle is to be realistic with their goals and to remember that it’s meant to be a journey, not a short trip. People who seek help for fat loss are usually so desperate to lose the fat that they try a lot of short term fat gimmicks that end up putting them in a worse place than before. The short term fat loss cycle mentality can be vicious and a physically dangerous one and I implore upon people to create long term sustainable habits. The key elements in fat loss are consistency and to remind yourself that your goal is long term. The aim is not to keep the fat off for three months but for the rest of your life.
11. Who do you look up to or admire in the health and fitness community?
I stay motivated by following a bunch of fitness and health professionals on social media. I’m not talking about the ones that just post a bunch of selfies of their abs or ass, but those that share meaningful and helpful content with their followers. This is how I aspire to have my content; purposeful. There are so many on Instagram that I look up to that I just can’t post one that comes to mind but I wish there were more locally for me to follow, to be honest. Anyone that I see trying to change themselves for the better will always get my admiration and respect.
12. Tell me about your most recent professional and/or personal "win."
I also admire people that try to go outside of their comfort zone because I know how tough that can be as well. A person and professional win for me this year was being asked and paid to talk about my hormone and fitness journey at a Women’s health fair in May. I was deeply honored to have been asked as it proved to me that my message was reaching the necessary audience but it also brought about serious anxiety as I had no real public speaking abilities. I almost said no the opportunity because of this fear but I knew that this is what I want to do in the future so I bit the bullet. It was extremely scary to stand in front of a crowd of over 50 people and I thought I did a horrible job as a first time speaker, but I got a lot of good reviews from the audience at the meet and greet after I spoke and I learned some essential ‘do’s and don’ts’ for the next time I go up on a stage. You’ll see me talking soon to crowds of over a hundred or more and I wouldn’t have the confidence to say that unless I hadn’t gone outside of what makes me feel safe.