While other girls were sunbathing, or barbecuing at our apartment complex, I spent my afternoons in gastroenterologists’ offices, one after another. By the time I was 18 I’d had a colonoscopy and two upper endoscopies, which showed nothing wrong. I was prescribed every antacid under the sun. The doctors experimented with different doses and brands, but nothing worked.

In college, my hands and knuckles became constantly sore and inflamed. At first I wrote it off as a sports injury from years of playing field hockey and jammed fingers during basketball games, but finally my mom took me to one of the top orthopedists in Washington, D.C., who said that I most likely had rheumatoid arthritis. He suggested methotrexate, which I later learned is an immunosuppressant and chemotherapy drug used to treat certain types of cancers. It’s also prescribed for severe RA when other treatments haven’t worked.

The doctor wasn’t even sure if what I had was actually rheumatoid arthritis, yet he was quick to prescribe a powerful medication with serious side effects. I remember sitting in that room as the doctor read one of them: skin turning a grayish tone after exposure to direct sunlight. Could anything possibly sound worse to a girl in college? I opted not to take the medication.

In my 20s the health issues continued. My newly launched career in sales, fueled by late-night client dinners of steaks and martinis and not enough sleep, definitely didn’t help. One day, on a lark, I decided to do a juice cleanse with a colleague from work, and I started to notice how food affected me. Looking at my plate I could predict the consequences: Pizza caused a night of agony and fire; a turkey sandwich turned into instant bloating; that steak dinner meant the pipes were clogged for days.

About six years ago I hit a wall. Fed up with feeling so lousy, I went to an acupuncturist who, after taking one look at my eyes and my tongue, said that I had “text-book” candida, which is an over-production of yeast. And it was causing inflammation throughout my body, including in my digestive tract, persistent ear infections, and even swollen joints.

Even though I’d noticed how I reacted to certain foods, I’d never made the connection between dietary choices and illness (and now, wellness). Nutrition wasn't even a thought, or a question.

The acupuncturist introduced me to a holistic health coach who changed my life. She put me on a candida protocol cleanse for 60 days. I cut out sugar, caffeine, alcohol, dairy and gluten. My diet became mostly plant-based, and I learned about food combining. I invested in a Vitamix and I started making smoothies. I started incorporating infrared sauna sessions.

Within two weeks I tossed the Prevacid. I started sleeping soundly through the night and -- the coolest thing -- my hair started growing like crazy.  My body became lean and longer looking because there was no inflammation simmering under my skin. I had boundless energy – so much so that sometimes I couldn’t fall asleep at night.  It felt like a new me -- and it was truly incredible. The eye-opener was that giving up many of the things I’d been eating most of my life and replacing them with whole, unprocessed foods, didn’t make me feel like I was missing out on anything. I felt nourished in a whole new way.

Inspired by how good I felt, I was determined to continue leading a healthier lifestyle while connecting with clients and building professional relationships. So I traded in martini and steak dinners for Sweat-working, a company I created to host fitness- and wellness-themed networking events.  Right away I could see the positive effect on colleagues and their business relationships as people began connecting in a truly “feel good” environment, making more genuine connections during and after the shared experience of challenging themselves to complete the class.

Feeling genuinely transformed in all aspects of my life, I decided to get my degree from the renowned Institute for Integrative Nutrition, and in my holistic wellness practice I teach women and men about the powerful connection between nutrition and wellbeing – mind, body and soul. My programs are designed just like a personal training program - starting with a clean approach to your diet, and tailored to your very individual needs and goals.