My Journey and Wish for You
I endured events early in my life that were unexpected and out of my control — my parent’s divorce, moving when my mom remarried, gaining six new siblings, broken romantic relationships, and an undetected food sensitivity, amongst other experiences. As a result, I became severely overweight, suffered from chronic migraine headaches, stomach issues and recurring sinus infections.
Like most people, I have borne my share of trials and graces. While I still wander, part of my journey has led me to this place, helping others make positives changes in their own lives.
I was my own first complicated subject
Audible over the emotional and physical storm I was fighting at the time, a voice inside me encouraged my curious, passionate nature for knowledge. My grandfather’s consistent gifts of books and magazines and my parents’ encouragement to keep learning and pursue higher education shaped and emboldened this voice.
Curiosity fueled my desire to become a doctor. I began my college education majoring in chemistry. Nearly three years in, I landed in a psychology class, which struck a deep passion in me to learn about and understand people.
As I dove into the study of people — how and why they think and act the way they do — I continued to cope with my own physical and emotional challenges. As a competitive swimmer and tennis player growing up, the foundation of being active was deeply ingrained in my life. This active life coupled with my curiosity and desire for knowledge became my way to reduce stress and stay as healthy as I could despite my circumstances.
For the next 10 years, my quest to manage my stress and look and feel healthy led me to compete in 5Ks, half marathons and sprint triathlons while I continued to search for the “right” diet, supplements and medicines to help me shed excess weight and alleviate my chronic health symptoms. During this time, I deeply explored my cumulative emotional stress as well.
Over the years my body, nervous system and emotions took significant hits that ultimately wreaked havoc on my life and health. All the exploration and knowledge-seeking weren’t enough to nurse me back to the full, active life I wanted. The life I wanted was one of being at a healthy and a reasonable weight as well as one filled with active experiences such as hiking, biking and rafting, shared with friends, family and/or a significant other. A life where I felt good physically, emotionally and spiritually. While I was active during this time, I didn’t feel great, was still overweight and my energy and spirit were often depleted.
In my 20s and 30s my grandparents were diagnosed with diabetes, thyroid conditions, colon cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. My Mom had fibromyalgia, migraines and arthritis. The penultimate awakening came when my Dad had a heart attack at 53, requiring surgery. It quickly became clear to me that stark reality of my weight, health conditions and genetic predisposition to these various diseases fueled me to begin my quest for healthy aging.
Following my Dad’s heart attack, I knew if I didn’t act, no matter how small at first, I may eventually end up with one or multiple health conditions that would impede the quality of my life and possibly my career, which at the time was solely medical massage therapy.
Immediately, I started eating healthier, keeping track of my food intake and drinking more water as I continued to exercise. With these habits, I began losing weight – finally. Several months later, I reached my goal totaling 85 pounds lost.
Healthy aging is being able cultivate and sustain the highest possible quality of health, flexibility and mobility in mind, body and spirit. This quickly became my new life mission and passion. A deep desire to be healthy and mobile into my 90s or beyond was born.
And then someone changed the rules of the road
I sustained the 85-pound weight loss for 5 years until I turned 40 — officially midlife. I gained an unexplained 40 pounds while continuing my active, healthy lifestyle. I did what brought me results before — cleaned up my eating by eating whole foods, increased my exercise to 60 to 90 minute sessions 5 to 6 days a week. After a few months, I had lost all of 2 pounds, so I doubled down on my nutrition and exercise. Following this path led me to more fatigue and frustration.
A few more months went by and I lost a few more pounds, but clearly something wasn’t right. I should have been losing more. I should have had more energy. I shouldn’t have been so tired.
My discipline and sacrifice weren’t paying off. After nearly a year of doing what I had always done to maintain my health and weight, only to see that it didn’t work anymore, I became very discouraged.
Seeking answers elsewhere, I reached out to my traditional doctor. After a myriad of testing, everything came back “normal.” There seemed to be no discernible reasons for my weight gain and fatigue, amongst other symptoms.
Next, I sought the help of a functional medicine practitioner. She dug deep into my bloodwork numbers and, lo and behold, my hormones were way out of whack, causing a cascade of symptoms that crashed my metabolism and energy. The byproduct was gaining weight.
The diagnosis came in as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, an autoimmune condition where the body attacks the thyroid gland, plus I was in full-blown perimenopause. Essentially, a hormonal hurricane was raging alongside a crashed immune system. The cumulative years of physical and emotional stress, and undetected food sensitivities had taken its toll. But I had a name to put to all the symptoms I had been experiencing, and with the diagnosis came hope and a plan for treatment.
Several thousands of dollars, multiple rounds of blood work, surgery, medications and supplements later, I began to feel somewhat better. But somewhat wasn’t good enough for me, and the thought of continuing to spend more and more money on follow-ups, procedures and treatments didn’t sound appealing, either.
Nearly at the end of my rope, I thought to myself, “Food may be a critical part of the answer.” Digging in to information about Hashimoto’s, I learned that gluten mimics the thyroid hormone in the body. Every time I would eat a gluten-filled meal, my immune system went haywire, so I went gluten free.
I also began studying functional nutrition. I bought a Vitamix (a high-powered blender) and a juicer — big investments, but still a mere fraction of the money I’d already spent. Armed with my new knowledge, I began to incorporate whole foods, juices and smoothies, amongst other things. This new way of eating, plus discovering the right medications and supplements, led me to finally start feeling better, losing weight and learning the right amount of sleep and exercise for me.
My journey took 7 years. I learned many things along the way.
- What you’ve always done may not be what works now (especially after 40).
- Be your own medical advocate — do your own research to help you find resources and answers.
- Start with food and water — they are medicinal.
- Blood work is only a snapshot in time — use the information only as one marker, not a total answer.
- The real solution lies in just the right medications, supplements and lifestyle changes — stress reduction, sleep, nutrition, movement and exercise.
- Taking care of your body and mind after 40 takes persistence and perseverance.
- You don’t have to acquiesce to feeling “somewhat better.”
It has been a long, winding, challenging and expensive road I’ve followed towards cultivating my best, healthiest self. Along the way, it has been the seemingly ordinary changes that have brought about the most impact.
My hope is for you is to identify the first goal that will be a game changer for your life and/or health and take one action to help you progress towards achieving it. Developing sustainable lifestyle habits and health can begin with this one goal that ripples out to the rest of your life.
What lies in the pages on this site is practical inspiration for you to discover your own path towards healthy aging and living the life you want to live. My supreme goal is for your journey to be shorter than mine. Life is short, now is the time to begin your journey.
My multi-passionate specialties
In my practice and experience in life and health coaching, medical massage therapy, and yoga, I work with people in several ways, such as:
- Supporting people in healing health conditions and healthy aging using a functional medicine, health coaching and nutrition approach.
- Helping people create a practical multidisciplinary plan to manage chronic neck or low-back pain or headaches, which may include medical massage as well as physical therapy, exercise, orthopedic or pain management physicians.
- Helping people discover or rediscover their dreams and supporting them in creating and sustaining the life they want to live.
- Using Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction and yoga to help people examine their relationship to stress and cultivate resilience to help them cultivate more peace amidst the chaotic, busy pace of modern life.
To make an appointment, inquire about services or share your own “journey,” click here to connect with me.
Stuff that would be on my resume, if I had one:
My Mission and Vision: To help people be healthy, live their dreams and be fully engaged in their personal and professional lives.
- Saint Mary's College, Notre Dame, IN - BA in Psychology (studied Chemistry for 3 years, too.)
- Health Enrichment Center, Indianapolis, IN - Certification in Massage Therapy
- Floyd Consulting, Chicago, IL - Certified Senior Dream Manager (Ultimate Life Coach) and Executive Coach training
- Duke Integrative Medicine, Durham, NC - Certification in Integrative Health Coaching and Integrative Yoga for Seniors
- Shamrock Wellness, Carmel, IN - Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT200)
- Holistic Nutrition Lab, Portland, OR, Online Functional Nutrition Training
- 1994 to present - One Body Therapeutic Massage
- Owner, Medical Massage Therapist & Chief Health Officer
- 2002 to 2004 - American Massage Therapy Association
- Member at Large
- 2003 to 2004 - American Massage Therapy Association
- Finance Committee Chair (18 million-dollar budget)
- 2005 to 2007 - American Massage Therapy Association
- National President
- 2008 to present - Floyd Consulting
- Senior Certified Dream Manager (Ultimate Life Coach)
- Executive Coach
- 2011 to present - Mary Beth Braun
- Certified Integrative Health Coach
- 2013 to present – Mindful Movement Studio
- Yoga Instructor
- 2014 to present – Mary Beth Braun
- Functional Nutrition Detective
- Stress Management Specialist