Hey! As you may know by now, my name is Ashleen. I am the co-founder of the Not So Sugar Coated which is an Online Health Coaching business. If you’ve known me before I moved to Cayman you might be asking me how the heck I even got involved in all of this and fair enough, my life has taken a complete 180 from where it was 4 years ago! Let’s get into how it all started… But before we do, if you want to get a quick little insight into all the magical steps, strategies and foods that got me here you’re going to want to check out this Ultimate Guide I created just for you!
Let’s start with a little background about me! I was born and raised in and around Chicago, Illinois and it will always be one of my favorite places to go. My siblings and I grew up in a suburb of Chicago and then when high school came along we moved to a very small place in Northern Illinois called Poplar Grove. It was an interesting and more country type of town than what I was used to but loved it all the same. I’m definitely a person who enjoys change and I love that I got to experience all different kinds of life at a young age. I feel as though it made me more open and understanding to ALL walks of life! Plus I think of myself as a chameleon, I feel like I can fit and relate to people in any situation which I think is a pretty cool characteristic [if I do say so myself].
Where It All Began
After high school I ended up going to a small college in Wisconsin and was a Communication Disorders major with a Special Education minor so I could become a Speech Pathologist. I had no real reason to become a speech therapist besides the facts that I would have liked to work in a hospital and help people and somehow speech found its way onto my radar. So pretty random, but that’s me :) I absolutely loved all the classes and weirdly enough neuroscience and anatomy were my top favorites [obviously enjoyed learning about our bodies and it came naturally to me]. Funny side story; I originally wanted to be a medical examiner and was all geared up to go to Michigan State University to be one and last minute ended up choosing Whitewater, oh how funny life is.
During college I worked at Hooters and then at Buffalo Wild Wings as a waitress. These two lovely establishments began my obsession for wings and beer and when I say obsessed I mean… every meal my friends and I were out seeking wings and beer. I never would have been labeled a healthy person during my college years or even my high school years. I frequently was up and down in weight as I played around with diet cycling as most of us do. In high school and college I frequently dabbled with weight loss pills as well which really messed with my body [obviously]. In high school there was a period of time I was only drinking Coke Zeros for lunch and a part of college when I took very strong diet pills for an entire Summer and lost almost 30 pounds [I only began at 140]. I basically didn’t eat for an entire Summer and only remember drinking fruit infused water for 3 months… what?! These pills were not safe [they’re off the market now thank god] and who even knows what damage they’ve done to my poor insides [at one point there was mysterious scarring on my liver, if that gives you an idea].
As many young girls have dabbled in the above, unfortunately my body wasn’t quite as resilient as most. I’ve always experienced some sort of stomach issues almost my whole life, in and out of hospitals for stomach pains that just turned out to be trapped gas or painful constipation and eventually I thought all these pains were completely normal. After I ate certain foods [i.e. fried, battered or oily] I would expect severe stomach pain and it just sort of ‘is what it is’.
If you want to read more about how dieting is bad for your mental health read this post.
This was my idea of normal but it gets worse… in college I was also known for being a “hot head” I guess you could say. My nickname was “Hulk-leen” because most nights I’d end up in a bit of a rage or I’d be super agitated and irritable. How I even had and kept friends is beyond me [thnx guys]. To me, this was me, take it or leave it and as long as people basically accepted it for what it was it was fine and it just became a part of my identity. #NotCool
I was often angry and people would keep things from me as to not ‘wake the beast’. Now I want to be clear my personality has always been very giggly, light and fun but if any little thing happened I went 0-100. Which made things very NOT light a lot of the time.
The Big Move
After basically pissing my friends off for 4 years and having a pretty negative outlook on life, I graduated with my Bachelor’s Degree in ComDis. I chose not to go on and get my Master’s Degree [required to become a Speech Pathologist] and instead take a year off to save money and move to the Cayman Islands, a British territory off the coast of Cuba in the Caribbean. My mom had moved here 3 years prior so I figured why the heck not go join her for a bit. I found a job as a waitress and was gone within two weeks.
Once I arrived in Cayman I started my job and I was really excited to be somewhere different and new. I missed everyone at home but was also relieved that I got to do something on my own and start fresh - thinking this would get rid of my negativity. Turns out I was wrong, as most are about this, running away from your problems DOESN’T work… what?! Crazy. I know. I lived and worked on one of the top 10 beaches in the world and was still a raging jerk and constantly complaining. BUT things started to look up… my friend from work found a job in the paper that talked about speech therapy and she told me about it. It was a Speech Therapist Assistant job for the public schools on island and it was exactly what I was qualified for! I immediately applied and ended up getting the job increasing my income by a whole heck of a lot and finally feeling like a real adult! I was so excited but this feeling was fleeting. It was popping in and out of my life all dependent on what was happening around me.
Once I got that job, I had truly knocked out every single thing I was complaining about in my life that was “causing” it to suck. Finally, I felt like I had enough of feeling miserable when my life was working out more perfectly than I ever could have imagined [did I mention I also pulled the cutest french guy and made him my boyfriend?!]. LIFE. WAS. GOOD. But I still wasn’t. So, I got a therapist.
If I preach, influence, or share enough to get you to do ONE thing it would be to get a therapist. I listed off all my little ticks and triggers and the things that I thought were silly that I did [cause yes, I even annoyed myself with my own behavior sometimes] and it turned out a lot of those ‘symptoms’ were related to anxiety, I had no idea! I never would have thought or categorized my behaviors as anxiety but it made sense once it was labeled.
Lucky for me, I also found a holistic therapist who also was well trained in nutrition and she quickly started to link my food behaviors to my mood. I had never eaten a proper diet, I hated water (lol what!!), frequently binged on sugary treats, hardly ever ate any vegetables and never cooked at home. The bingeing was especially alarming for my therapist and we worked on that first. Once I slowed down my sugar intake and began to eat more balanced I started to feel better physically but I also started to feel better mentally! I was more open to positive remarks, it was easier to catch myself being negative, I really started hearing myself more when I talked and my intense irritability and anger had significantly diminished! No more hulk-leen!!
If you want to read more about how sugar is increasing your anxiety read this post.
I took therapy very seriously after finally feeling the effects of my work and began journaling and meditating every single day. I read my cognitive distortion list every morning and would try to catch as many as I could throughout the day. I retrained my brain. Eating better and calming my gut down had such an impact on helping me to do this! I could think more clearly about my actions, I didn’t feel like crawling out of my own skin and my social anxiety had even gone down because I could actually talk to people without forgetting what I was going to say or overthinking the conversation! It was INSANE, in the best way possible.
If you want to read more about how your gut health affects your mental health read this post.
After doing this for a year I was able to do all this without much thought. My brain would reframe itself without me focusing on it and I just began being more positive without all the effort. I also started eating better just because I started craving that now because of the impact I saw. I enjoyed different foods and had transformed my taste buds. I felt amazing.
Now, almost 4 years later I am still doing all these things with ease. It’s natural and no longer such a struggle. When I begin going back to old ways I am able to catch it before it spirals, I am way more aware and I’m motivated to keep what I have going because it’s such a huge difference! I even notice now that when I begin eating differently for longer than usual [hello, quarantine] I become irritable again, my stomach pains come back, I feel lethargic and exhausted, I start to pick out more negatives than positives again. This all shows me how important my nutrition is for my mind. It proves what a powerful effect it has! This doesn’t mean I never eat anything that’s deemed “bad” but now I can listen to my body and know when enough is enough. When I can enjoy the right amount to feel satisfied and not have to sacrifice feeling good.
How This Can Help You
You can have this too! Far too many people suffer just because they think that’s how they have to feel, but I disagree because I’ve felt the powerful effects of change. Sure it’s work but it gets SO easy, it doesn’t have to be a difficult or painful process. Sustainable health is an amazing and simple thing that people often overthink it. You don’t have to count calories or macros, you don’t have to watch every single thing you put in your mouth, you don’t have to give up everything you love. You don’t. You will get to your natural weight with ease, your mind will feel clear, your body will feel light and happy and you will be so happy you decided to make a change - I did it and I want that for you too! That’s how I got into Health Coaching.
I NEEDED to share this with other people, to learn more about what impacts your mind and body. It’s so powerful and it’s often so overlooked. I went back to school to get certified at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition so that I could share this message with the world and now 3 years later I couldn’t be happier, I’ve helped people have the same mind-blowing experience I had and it’s been incredibly rewarding.
If you are interested in learning more about how to do this make sure you download the [free!] Ultimate Guide for Easing Anxiety through Food. You’ll get 4 great strategies I used when I first started with my therapist and all the foods to improve your gut health so you can finally start feeling more open, light and free from annoying digestive symptoms like constipation [1-2 bowel movements a week], bloating, frequent gas, stomach pain, headaches, exhaustion [even after 8 hours of sleep], irritability … the list goes on!! You don’t have to live like this, let me show you how! Download the free guide here.
<< If you need more guided support, be sure to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know what you're struggling with! >>
Tell me a bit about your story in the comments!
Hey! My names Ashleen.