Hello! I’m Heather, the voice behind Wild Glow. I am a recovered anorexia survivor and a Celiac (or “gluten head” as I’ve been endearingly called by family members). My journey through anorexia and a Celiac disease diagnosis brought me to the decision to pursue nutrition as my career and ignited the promotion of wellness and prevention as my passion.
I suffered from disordered eating and a negative relationship with food beginning in middle school which developed into anorexia in high school and was the story of much of my college experience. On top of my eating disorder, I was diagnosed with Celiac disease when I was 14 years old. I had suffered ever since I could remember from stomach pains and upsets that had me lying on the floor of friend’s bathrooms at sleepovers just waiting for something to be rejected from my body.
First, let’s talk about the eating disorder (or “ED” as I unendearingly call it). I’ll never forget the day my big sister gave me a bag of hand-me-downs to go through and some of the clothes were too small. I looked at my nine-year-old self in the mirror wearing her pants, and I was devastated. I thought “Wow, Heather, your thighs are huge. You can’t even fit into your older sister’s clothes!” And so it began. The dark, negative thoughts crept in in the smallest ways. Whether they were thoughts about restricting “this much” food, doing “this many” more crunches, ensuring my thighs didn’t touch in dance class, or taking total control in the kitchen to cook all the meals for my family. ED hopped in the driver’s seat and took me for a long, wild ride.
I refused to go to therapy or to see a nutritionist in the beginning. My dad’s best friend pointed out that I was turning yellow and frail, and he wasn’t wrong. I looked so sickly. But I didn’t see or understand that at the time. Body dysmorphia is a very real thing – never tell someone otherwise. I would look in the mirror in dance classes and see a figure completely opposite of the girl wasting away in front of me.
Body dysmorphia is a very real thing – never tell someone otherwise.
Eventually, I had heard enough of the “Heather, go eat a burger” comments that I decided maybe these people who cared about me were on to something. Maybe I really was sick. Maybe my obsessive control over food became an addiction. I experienced something similar to a high when I was starving myself, which gave me so much confidence that I would actually crave the feeling of hunger pangs instead of craving food. I didn’t want to lose that feeling, but I also hadn’t had my period in a year and knew that was not only a bad outlook on fulfilling my desire to have children one day, but also osteoporosis and damage to my brain’s grey matter. So, I decided to give therapy and nutrition counseling a whirl – still, mostly to appease my family.
My team was a dynamic duo who took on my case with deep understanding and care. Melanie and Trish, my therapist and dietitian, saw me frequently for days that turned into weeks, that turned into months, that turned into years. After anorexia ruined my gut, my skin, my hormones, and my mind, I thought I would have nothing left. One day, after I realized that my eating disorder had taken over my life, I decided it was time to actually put effort into the healing process, and I was ready to take serious ownership of my recovery
Through nutritional counseling and therapy by my wonderful team, I went through more valleys and over more peaks than I knew were humanly possible for a teenager to journey through. But the counseling and therapy worked. I remember when Trish, my dietitian, looked me in the eye and told me, “Heather, I think you’re strong. I think you’re ready to stop seeing me.” And with wide, tear-filled eyes, I walked out of her office proud of my strength and thankful for my healing.
My relationship with ED didn’t just end there, though. It took several more years of utilizing the tools I gained in therapy, accountability from friends and family, and really allowing myself to continue working through emotions I had suppressed for years. Towards the end of my recovery, I went through my first break-up, I graduated college, I traveled the world with 50 strangers on this insane thing called the World Race for a year, my sweet grandpa passed when I was out of the country, and my parents got divorced. There was ample opportunity to divert back to old habits of which I sometimes gave into. But I had the support and the love of the community I intentionally surrounded myself with, and I remained constant in my recovery process.
Then there was Celiac disease. What a doozy that was in the midst of battling ED. It was one more restriction to navigate in the midst of a bunch of phony restrictions I had tricked myself into thinking were necessary for the perfection I thought I could attain. When the blood work and the biopsy came back positive for Celiac disease, my GI doctor handed me a list of things I could and could not eat and he sent me on my way out the door. My mom drove me home from that appointment relieved that her baby girl finally would get relief, but also devastated and aware of the challenges this presented to my recovery. I, however, sat in the passenger seat thankful for a final diagnosis and end to severe, chronic GI issues, and also elated that there was a real reason for me to not eat a major food item. The mental side of my healing as I figured out gluten-free living was no small feat, but I did it. I eventually eliminated gluten from my diet without ED barging in every second telling me what a great job I was doing restricting. I realized I was honoring and supporting my body toward greater health by avoiding gluten. I was well on my way to mental health stability as well as GI health.
But my story didn’t end there. I had, over the years, jumped from restricting to binging, paleo to vegetarian, vegan to ketogenic. What I didn’t know or realize was just how much havoc I had wreaked deep within my body. Chaos ran rampant in my gut and my hormones. I still struggled with GI irregularity after I had followed a gluten-free diet. I still wasn’t getting my period even at my healthier weight. In fact, at the ripe old age of twenty-two, my sex hormone panel came back looking like a post-menopausal woman (the test results literally showed my biomarkers in the range of a post-menopausal woman). Enter the best naturopathic doctor who guided me toward the best hormonal health and gut health I’ve ever experienced.
Through changing my diet and creating consistency in the supportive foods I was eating, along with finding the right supplements for my unique situation, I found even deeper physical healing. My energy stabilized. I could exercise in healthy ways that gave me vitality rather than lethargy. I gained a bit more weight, which made me waiver in my mental health progress at first, but when I realized my skin was literally glowing and, again, my energy was unbelievable, I worked through the mental games. I not only began to accept my body, I started to love my body and all that it could do! My GI health also became incredible (TMI: my BMs were, and still are, on point!). And the best part was getting my period back and experiencing consistency in my cycle like never before. All because of my willingness to use food as medicine.
I not only began to accept my body, I started to love my body and all that it could do!
What I’ve learned is that health, whether it’s physical, mental, or spiritual, is not something to attain – it is an ever shifting, ongoing expedition. It’s full of setbacks and catalysts, mountain tops and valleys low. It’s an adventure full of ups and downs, and we have to learn to accept that reality. No one reaches health like Buddha reached enlightenment. Health isn’t stagnant or final. There are countless factors that make each individual’s health status deeply complex and dynamic, and that is why I am passionate about teaching others to live in food freedom, using food as medicine, and supporting the whole person rather than just singling out a solitary body system.
We are multifaceted beings that experience physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual upset, trauma, and disconnect from time to time. Full health is found in the connectedness and awareness of all aspects of our being. My hope is that I will be able to promote this in every person I support. I hope to encourage individuals by sharing my knowledge and my story in order to empower them to start, or continue, fostering their healing and recovery – be it from an eating disorder or just the complexities of life! I want people to experience fullness of life. To not be held back by obsessive, anxious, worrisome thoughts about their body and wellbeing. I believe that food is both functional AND enjoyable and that it should never be all consuming and scary.
I am excited you’ve joined me in the journey! Here’s to wilder, glowing days full of good health, deep connections, great food, and loads of joy! Cheers!