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My story is one of struggles and personal growth, it is the story that brought me to become an integrative health coach. My childhood is a reflection of longing for connection, not understanding why I was being bullied and made to feel embarrassed of who I was. As a result, these traumatic experiences were only exacerbated as I entered the adolescent years, which brought with it a body I was ashamed of and ridiculed for, poor self-esteem, and the feeling of isolation. These struggles followed me into adulthood, intensifying my negative self-reflection and leading me to find comfort in food. I found myself tipping the scale into a diagnosis of obesity, consumed with more shame and regret for my choices. Shopping for clothes and enjoying the mall with my best friend went from being fun to something I loathed. I knew I had a choice to make, if I wanted change, and began my journey into healthy eating and exploring exercise. Afraid to show myself in a gym, I resorted to working out on an elliptical where I worked, and which was often unused. 10 minutes was the most I could handle when I first started, but every day I added a few extra minutes and within a month I was able to complete a 45-minute workout. Additionally, I kept a food journal and purchased a heart rate monitor to record my calorie intake and burn. Before I knew it, I lost enough weight and fostered confidence to join a gym, and I had the dedication to go on a consistent basis. Between an improved diet and working out, I was starting to feel good about myself.

At this time I entered into what resulted in an abusive relationship; verbally and emotionally. Rather than doing things for myself, daily endeavors were aligned to what he wanted, how and when he wanted them. I was subjected to fat shaming, forced to withdraw from my friendships, controlled in every which way that suited him. I pretended to be happy but underneath the façade, I was miserable, lonely, depressed, and hurt. This year-long relationship ended a week before his already arranged marriage, and was beyond my control. I was left a puddle on the floor with no idea how I was going to lift myself up off the ground and put one foot in front of the other. My health and wellbeing suffered, my relationships with family and friends were strained, and I had no clue how to live my own life. Getting out of bed was a chore, going to work even more so. After many tearful conversations with my best friend, she offered me a challenge to complete something I never thought I could do in my life; for me this was a 5k. It was the catalyst for my change, the mechanism that brought forth the fighter in me taking me away from the darkness and into the light.

Once you hit rock bottom, there is only one way to go. There was no stopping me. I had no idea where the dedication and drive came from at the time, but I know now it is in the intrinsic motivation we all have deep inside of us that surfaces when we are truly ready for change. Not only did I complete my first 5k, but I worked towards my first 10k and 10-miler. I was no longer obese, in fact, I was the definition of physically fit and I was eating the cleanest, nutrient-dense diet I had ever consumed.

However, I found myself consumed by a new addiction; numbers. The number on the scale, my body fat percentage, the number of calories consumed, the number of calories burned, the amount of protein in my diet, the time of running pace, and the size of my clothes controlled me and determined my being. It’s funny how we work so hard to let go of negative behaviors only to replace them with more. Once again, I had to dig in deep and recognize my life is much more than a reflection of numbers. It does not determine who I am; I am enough and it’s unbelievable how enough I am regardless of a number.

My struggles seemed unrelenting. I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Disease (autoimmune hypothyroid disease) and just when I thought I made progress, I was knocked back down and forced to do it all over again. I was on a roller coaster of highs and lows with little in-between. I recently learned I suffer from Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS), a result of biotoxin exposure and illness. Simply put, CIRS corrupts your immune system and it is the mechanism behind all of the autoimmune and reproductive struggles I have endured, and continue to overcome.

But there is nothing that will stop me from forging on with my life; my glass remains full despite the challenges. My own quest for knowledge and research for answers fueled my passion in health and wellness, leaving me wondering how I could help others successfully overcome their struggles. It led me to Maryland University of Integrative Health, where I obtained my Post-baccalaureate in Health and Wellness Coaching (April 2015) and my Masters in Health and Wellness Coaching (April 2016), establishing my own coaching practice to collaborative work with others wanting to make powerful changes in their life. I learned to acknowledge the inner critic, working to dismiss her because she wasn’t serving me. I learned how to accept the choices I made – and continue to make – in my life, the mistakes included, and find appreciation for the valuable lessons I walked away with. As a result, I found myself, my authentic being.

My journey has also led me to wanting to understand more about integrative ways to heal the mind, body, and spirit. I believe that we suffer from an epidemic of stress, poor diet, lack of movement, being present and mindful, and thus the means to fully fuel and sustain our bodies. To be more proactive in helping others reduce their risks of chronic disease, and to help those already suffering, I completed the Masters in Science Health Sciences, Integrative Medicine, at The George Washington University in January 2018. My education has afforded be the opportunity to transition from a health and wellness coach to an integrative coach, expanding my role so that I can support and motivate individuals struggling with chronic disease and other risk factors in making powerful changes they can sustain throughout their lives, and obtain optimal health and well-being.

I have come to recognize struggles and challenges are a part of life; they will never cease. It is how we perceive these struggles and how we respond to them that offers resiliency, self-efficacy, and increased life satisfaction. We are whole, resourceful beings whose health and wellbeing is established through integrative practices. I recognize the power of listening as it offers an opportunity to find reason in what is being said, and fosters a sense of connection, relatability. I understand the importance of having support, someone cheering you through what is the most difficult challenge you are trying to overcome, and being held accountable for the decisions you make. You, alone, determine your success, self-worth, and happiness.

“You are enough. You are so enough, it’s unbelievable how enough you are!” ~Sierra Boggess