Skin Health: Why it Matters to Me

https://www.health.com/skin-cancer/sun-protection-dermatologists

Our skin is our largest organ in the body and one that we sometimes take for granted because it’s always there, it doesn’t seem to ‘do’ as much as our other organs, however without it, we would just be a really gross looking exposed human walking around… not cute!

Growing up….

I was a teenager in the early 2000’s, so my skin health back then consisted of Seabreeze astringent, Oxy Cleansing Pads and Victoria’s Secret Love Spell lotion. I really had no idea what moisturizer was, and if I stumbled across it in my mom’s makeup, I would just write it off, ‘that’s for old ladies!’ Also, this was back when tanning beds were a weekly occurrence in the winter months and I lived at the pool during the summer.

My mom and grandmother have had the softest, plumpest skin, never seemed to burn from the sun, would easily tan, and had hardly any freckles or moles. Well, I must’ve ended up with all of my Dad’s German genes… I’ll never forget my pediatrician commenting on the mole that I had on the side of my mouth and saying, you know - you’ve got to watch those! I thought they were just what made me unique, not something that I should ‘watch.’ Then after the 10th time a stranger told me I had chocolate on the side of my mouth, I pleaded with my mom, “Can we please have it removed?” She agreed, there were several moles that were distracting that needed to be removed.

Little did I know, those three moles were just the beginning! I grew up in the 90’s, Brittany Spears was popular and all of the girls were competing to see who had the darkest tan. It was a challenge to see who could be the most tan by Spring Break every year - visiting the tanning bed two times a week. Everyone would justify it by saying “Oh - well this way we won’t burn when we get to Florida!” This was way before anyone really knew the real dangers of indoor tanning and skin health.

My outlook on skin health changed completely in 2012…

I was working in an inside sales job, not really loving what I was doing. It was spring and I was wearing a skirt, I crossed my legs and noticed a pink raised blemish on the inside of my thigh. It looked like the end of a pencil eraser, perfecting round! I thought, “hmm, I’ve got over 100 moles but none of them are pink!” I have seen a dermatologist annually since I had pre-cancerous cells removed from my shoulder when I was 20 (and loving the sun). My next appointment was in a few months, so I figured I would just ask the Derm about it then. A few weeks passed and half of it had turned really dark brown. Immediately, my instinct said “Call the doc!”

Sure enough, the doctor scheduled an appointment for the next day to biopsy and found out it was melanoma in-situ. At age 27, I was in the best health of my life, wasn’t drinking or smoking.. and yet hear the “C” word was quite a difficult pill to swallow. I was devestated but also extremely grateful because it was caught SUPER early. “In-situ” means before it gets to the fat/bloodstream - meaning full removal was possible!

It was quite the wake-up call for me… I was working in a job that felt lifeless, living 1,000 miles from home, and not following any of my passions. After the full removal - about a 2 inch deep and 2 inch wide chunk out of my thigh, I started to reevaluate and reprioritize my life. That experience is what actually motivated me to get into wellness! I moved back closer to home and haven’t looked back.

Melanoma and skin cancer awareness mean a lot to me … and I have particiapted in many advocacy events to help spread awareness and support organizations that are funding research and medications.

Surprising facts about Skin Cancer:

  • Every hour someone dies from melanoma.

  • Women age 49 and under are more likely to develop melanoma than any other cancer except breast and thyroid cancers.

  • Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is a proven human carcinogen (aka tanning beds are like street drugs!)

  • More people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year in the U.S. than all other cancers combined.

  • People who use sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher daily show 24 percent less skin aging than those who do not use sunscreen daily.

  • Regular daily use of an SPF 15 or higher sunscreen reduces the risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma by about 40 percent.

  • Melanoma is the fastest-growing cancer in the world, especially in people under 35. It is the leading cause of cancer death in women ages 25-30.

    *Additional stats can be found here.

Here are some way you can get involed:

  • Miles for Melanoma 5K (actually won 2nd place in my age group in 2014!)

  • The Big See - more info coming soon!

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320071.php

My morning skin routine

My morning routine starts my day and really sets the tone for the rest of my day. I love starting off with a healthy breakfast and a quiet moment to read and journal. After grounding myself, I move on to my bathroom routine. I start off with exfoliating using Tata Harper’s exfoliating regenerating cleanser with the foreo cleanser tool (love this thing!) Followed by my fave serums, moisturizers and eye cream. I don’t have a very complicated skin care routine - I like to keep it pretty simple. I love Tata Harper, Drunk Elephant, Beauty Counter, and Sunday Riley. I’ll venture off and try other things here and there, but I usually end up going back to these guys. I also really love this amazon find for taking off makeup - Bioderma Sensibio H2O.

Then onto makeup - again simplicity is my thing! I love Tarte and Beauty Counter but I also use NARS, Anastasia, etc. I like to follow the 80/20 rule when it comes to clean products. If a product is maing me break out or stinging my skin, I don’t use it - even thought it may look beautiful on others. It’s all about what works best for YOUR skin.

I cannot live without my Suntegrity 5 in 1 tinted moisturizer! Seriously such a game changer for me. I wanted to be sure I was protecting my skin from the sun but didn’t love the sticky, oily, thick face sunscreens and moisturizers that were out there. They would either sweat off or flake. Suntegrity is a top-notch product and contains certified organic aloe vera, jojoba, sunflower, pomegranate, cucumber and green tea to help provide hydration and a boost in sun protection. Zinc-oxide not only protects the skin from the damaging UV rays, but may also help soothe skin. Plus it provides mineral Broad Spectrum SPF 30 protection!

My evening skin routine

My evening routine is hit or miss, don’t get me wrong! As much as I would love to be religious with it - like I am in the morning. I don’t always get around to it every night - just keepin’ it real ya’ll! Just a simple swab with my makeup remover is sometimes all I get around to!

When I’m intentional.. I follow the same steps as my morning routine - cleaner + moisturize but I usually will add in a face mask or extra moisturizer for added self-care. I love using my gua sha and jade-roller for depuffing, helping reduce fine lines, and relaxation.

Favorite sun protection products

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Moisturizers with sun protection:

  • Suntegrity - the GOAT. Ya’ll I’m not kidding about this one - highly recommended! If you’re wanting to protect yourself from sun and add a high quality moisterizer to your routine with a pretty glow… this is it! Antioxidants and even protects against blue light!

  • SuperGoop! - 100% mineral sunscreen - no harmful chemicals

  • Murad- C-Day moisturizer with SPF 30

Sunscreens: (on the cleaner side)

  • Coola - light, gentle and sheer - smells like mangos!

  • Shisheido - invisbile face and body sunscreen

  • La Roche-Posay - 100% oil-free matte finish, great drug store find! Derm recommended

  • Beauty Counter - lightweight mineral sunscreen & water resistant

In sun(mary).. hehe.. see what I did there

No matter what your age, it’s imporant to prioritize your skin health. It is truly the one organ that takes on all of the wear and tear of our daily life and SHOWS it. Stress, sun damage, health issues, aging all show up on your skin. The sooner you start taking care of it, the better! And no - I am not a fan of putting artificial toxic chemicals in or on your skin in order to look like a baby face when you’re 90. Aging is beautiful and toxins are bad for you..no matter where they come from. But if you’re a botox believer, go for it! It just ain’t for me!

Happy to share additional details and my experience with various clean products, reach out anytime!

I hope this gives you a good place to start when it comes to protecting your skin!

xoxo - GH

Start with Smoothies

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Alright ya’ll, the weather is getting nice in Nashville. The days are longer, summer is right around the corner! This is the time of year when everyone is thinking about improving the health - whether for aesthetic or health reasons.

  • Are you someone who only buys the frozen meals during the winter and now considering buying fresh fruit and veggies but not sure what to do with them?

  • Are your friends, family, and co-workers jumping on the keto, paleo or vegan train and telling you how great they feel and you’re thinking about doing the same but a bit intimidated by the meal prep and strict rules that are involved?

  • Have you thought about improving your diet but you are overwhelmed with the options and don’t know where to start?

  • Do you skip breakfast and end up eating way more than you had planned later in the day?

    If you answered YES to any of these questions, keep reading!

Why change everything when you can start with one simple thing?!

Smoothies are the catalyst to improving your health!

My personal experience with smoothies began over 7 years ago when I was really into fitness and protien powders were all the rage. (Did you even workout if you didn’t drink protien smoothies?!) As I began learning more about the power of fruits and veggies, I realized smoothies were a great way to get in several servings in one sitting! Plus, the energy I had after drinking smoothies for breakfast consistently made me a believer and inspired me to try other healthy habits. Smoothies were the gateway to my holistic health and wellness journey!

Why are smoothies so great? Oh, let me count the ways…

  • They’re super refreshing in the summer! They’ll cool you off!

  • They’re simple and easy to make - more on that below

  • No cooking involved - however, there is a tiny bit of prep

  • Endless recipe combinations - variety is key to staying on track with your health goals

  • You can take them on-the-go - no waking up super early to make a healthy breakfast

  • You can eat them year-round - stock up on your fave fruits and veggies when they’re in season, freeze and use when you’re ready

  • You can eat them to help you lose weight and/or build muscle - ah, the power of macro-nutrients

  • The entire family loves them - you can sneak in the spinach and kale with tasty fruits and the kids will never know

  • You can eat them for any meal (or snack!) - smoothies are best eaten when you’re…hungry

What makes smoothies healthy?

They’re jam-packed with micronutrients and nutrient-dense means that you will stay fuller longer. Most adults skip breakfast and instead run out the door with a cup of joe or nothing at all! A recent study shows that 10% of Americans don’t eat breakfast. Which can lead to over eating later in the day. Having stable blood sugar is really important to overall health and wellness, and smoothies can provide the right amount of nutrients to keep you going strong all morning!

Tips if your goals are weight-loss:

  • Eat less sugar (instead of bananas, sub with steamed then frozen cauliflower or zuchinni)

  • Instead of milk, use coconut water or filtered water

  • Add enough protien to serve as a meal replacement

  • Add healthy fat - yes! Healthy fat will help you lose weight. Add 1/4 avocado, flax seeds, chia seeds, coconut cream/kefir, almond/nut butter

  • Add more greens - spinach and kale are my go-to’s. Mix with fruit (esp bananas and citris fruits) to avoid tasting the greens

  • Green tea powder (matcha) - green tea is known to speed up weight loss

Tips if your goals are muscle-building:

  • Increase protein (double what you normally do)

  • Add higher fat content (instead of just one healthy fat, add 2-3 servings)

  • Add egg white powder or whole egg

  • Increase the number of smoothies you have (one for breakfast and one in the afternoon for a snack)

    • Be sure to increase your strength-training exerices in order to see results!

What you need to get started:

  • High powered blender - Some of my faves include

  • Storage containers (freezer zip lock bags, sturdy Tupperware)

  • Frozen fruit

  • Frozen veggies

  • Healthy fat (butters: almond, cashew, walnut, peanut; seeds/nuts: flax, hemp, chia, brazil nuts; yogurt or kefir, coconut oil or MCT oil)

  • Liquid of choice ( milks: almond, coconut, macadamia, hemp, flax, cashew; juices: apple, orange, coconut water, pomegranate, cherry)

  • Ice (if preferred)

  • Superfoods: (if preferred): spirulina, moringa, barley grass powder, mushrooms (reishi, chaga, cordyceps, lion’s mane), maca powder, acai powder,

  • Clean protein powder (if preferred): some of my faves: hemp powder, Genuine Health vanilla protein, Ancient Nutrition Bone Broth protein, Orgain vanilla protein, Garden of Life organic Raw Fit protien

  • Toppings: (if preferred) dried fruit (coconut, mulberries, goji berries) cacao nibs

  • Mason jars or blender bottles

  • Reusable straws (I use aluminum or glass)


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Check out G+H Smoothie Recipes

Spring/Summer Smoothie Recipes:

Fall/Winter Smoothies:

Check out these food-bloggers for even more inspo!

@BeWellbyKelly - FabFour Smoothies help you stay fuller longer (fiber + fat + greens + protein)

@Alison_Wu - layered smoothie Queen! Her layers are so colorful and look like art!

@naturally.jo - Her smoothie bowls don’t even look real! Way too cute to eat!

@befitsmoothies - a compilation of the most delish and aesthetically pleasing smoothies!

Happy Blending!

xoxo - GH

Need additional help in getting started with your daily smoothie?

I’m always here to help! Shoot me a note if you have questions.

An Open Letter to the Girl Trying to Recover from Addiction

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First and foremost, I want you to know…

You are not alone.

As much as your addiction has led you to beieve that you are worthless, a lost cause, insecure, incompetant, incapable, unloveable, unable to be forgiven, shameful, and all of the other lies, the fact of the matter is NONE of these are or ever will be true.

Please know that it took me more than just a few day, weeks, or years sober to know that deep within my soul. The truth sometimes can get buried when you are in the midst of the endless cycles of addiction.

And also, let me start by saying that you may be reading this because you have opening admitted to yourself, to your HIgher Power or to somone you love that you have a problem with addiction. Can I say that you are LIGHTYEARS ahead of most folks?! There are millions of people on this planet that struggle with addiction that will never be able to admit to anyone, or themselves that they are struggling and powerless.

So - now that we’ve got that out of the way. The next misconception about addiction is that it all has to look the same. You have to have lost your job, your family, your health, your license, etc. to really have a problem. That is also 1,000% not true. Addiction doesn’t discriminate. Most likely, you walked by 5-10 people today that are struggling that you would never have guessed it from the surface.

Let me be SUPER DUPER clear… I am not preaching to you. This is not a monologue. This is just me speaking (or writing) to the girl (or woman) who doesn’t fully feel seen in her struggle. The girl who doesn’t know if she has what it takes to fully recover. The girl who feels like she may be drowning a bit, not sure if she’ll ever see the other side of things. To the girl who has had recovery, went back to old behaviors, and realizing that recovery actually is the best choice. To that girl, I want you to know I’m am her too.

I speak from experience. The words on this page haven’t been copied and pasted from some textbook about how to overcome addiction. The only folks who have come close to understanding how to do so are Dr. Bob and Bill in the 1940’s. (AA’s founders)

No, these are words that come from my heart..knowing that there are so many others who struggle with this disease who feel like they don’t have a voice. I’ve been there! Heck, I’m 10 1/2 years sober and I still find myself playing small, thinking “oh, no one wants to hear from me..they won’t be able to relate, my struggles aren’t as bad as others, so who am I?” All of those limiting beliefs are not serving me or anyone else.

So, I have decided to put myself out there in hopes that you feel supported, lifted up, and most importantly that you find HOPE that you too can recover.

What I know for sure about addiction: (*channels inner Oprah*)

  • It is NOT linear. And it can look messy at times. Alright, this is something that folks in early recovery tend to not realize and then they get let down after the ‘pink cloud’ wears off because they thought (and I did too!) that just because they’re sober, or have stopped doing the addictive behavior, that it can only go up from there! This is true. But life happens! We have things that happen in our lives that we have never encountered that require a whole new set of tools. Which can be scary, and challenging. During those times, we naturally turn to old behaviors to feel ‘in control’ admist the chaos. Slips, lapses, and relapses are a part of recovery. That’s just a part of the journey! I wish someone told me that early on, because it would have lessoned the embarrassment and shame that comes along with not doing this recovery thing perfect. Let yourself off the hook! You can always get back on the wagon!

  • We all have some kind of addiction (or vice, or ‘thing’) - yep, all of us! If you’re human, you have wanted to escape from someone at one point in your life. Knowing this has made me feel so much less alone. And the fact that I have chosen to live in recovery, digging throug the muck and going into the darkness in order to bring it into the light is such a brave and noble thing! So many people live thier entire life never overcoming thier addiction. Hitting my ‘bottom’ was the best thing that could have happened because it made me realize how badly I want to live in the opposite direction! Contrast is a blessing. And just becuase you are in active recovery does not mean something is wrong with you. In fact you are BLESSED.

  • You won’t be able to change overnight. And just getting sober won’t keep you sober. As much as I know this to be true, I still struggle with it on a regular basis. I hold myself to a higher standard because I’m sober, that’s really tough, ya know?! (eye roll) For an addict to get sober, that requires an immense amount of courage, faith, trust, and surrender. And to stay sober.. that’s an even harder challenge. I have met a handful of folks (outisde of AA) who are in awe of the fact that I’m sober. But the truth is, yes, I’m proud of my 10 1/2 years of sobriety…it’s like GOLD to me. But that’s not enough for me to live happy, joyous and free. It’s a great start. But in order to stay on the straight and narrow and living my best life, it requires doing the hard deep work. I highly recommend therapy (all types: talk, family, relationship, trauma healing, reiki, nuerofeedback, EFT tapping, Splankna, PSYCH-K, etc) Get to the root, forgive yourself and others. Feel the feelings, yes - the ugly feelings that addiction tries to numb. And then you’ll start to see the love and light all around you!

  • Doing the next right thing is all you have control over. Plus your attitude and perspective! There are SO many things in this world that we have zero control over. Once I realized that I truly cannot control my external environment (esp. other people) I found so much relief and peace. Much of my addiction was rooted in the crazy idea that I thought I could control things that were completely out of my control. What empowers me is knowing that I can control my actions, beliefs and attitude. And that alone is enough!

  • Faith in a Higher Power can and will save your life! And make daily life much more enjoyable. This is the first step is admitting that we are powerless and that our lives have become unmanageable. The second step is believing there is a power greater than ourselves. Thankfully, I grew up going to church (on Easter and Christmas Eve) and the seed was planted that there is a God, that Jesus died on the cross for my sins, and there is a Heaven and Hell. In some of my darkest times, I always knew there was someone or something else in charge of this Universe. When I finally surrendered to this Power greater than myself, I realized He was the only thing that could break the chains that my addiction created. Each day that passes, I am reminded of His immense GRACE, forgiveness, mercy and love that he so freely gives to each one of us, no matter what. Praise the Lord!

I want you to know…

You are worthy.

You are loved.

You are forgiven.

Your life matters.

You are here for a reason

You have so much to offer this world.

You are ENOUGH!

Sending you So much love and light!

Yours Truly,

Gretchen

P.S. If you’re curious about how to recover, I’m always an email away! It would be my honor to help point you in the right direction. I know I wouldn’t be here today if someone hadn’t done the same for me. Check out these resources as well. And if you’re not ready just yet, that’s okay…just know that we will always be here waiting for you with open arms!

"Woo-Woo" Wellness Practices That I Love

https://www.elledecor.com/life-culture/cleaning-organizing/g12483410/energy-muse-home-makeover/

What is ‘woo-woo’ exactly?

/ˈwo͞oˌwo͞o/

adjective

  1. relating to or holding unconventional beliefs regarded as having little or no scientific basis, especially those relating to spirituality, mysticism, or alternative medicine.

    "quartz crystals that were so popular with the woo-woo crowd"

Webster’s definition seems to be a bit… um, derogatory. I, on the other hand, believe quite the opposite. What the world deems ‘woo-woo,’ I believe to be more defined as magical, metaphysical, spiritual, energetic, and vibrational. All of these descriptions are REAL. We (all things) are made up of energy. It’s actually proven that when you stare at an object, the vibration of the object changes. I’m no scientist, but the atoms and molecules and stuff are actually really powerful and something that we shouldn’t simply disregard due to lack of understanding!

There’s a new term that’s taking hold this year that encompasses more than just energy work, called ‘stay woke.’ The meaning of this saying varies from economic to environmental issues but can also apply to other ways of viewing the world, i.e. spiritually.

Why I practice them?

Many of these practices I started as a way to increase more peace + serenity + balance into my life. When I was struggling with adrenal fatigue, these were LIFE-SAVORS! Also, they have greatly reduced my anxiety and depression and help me deal with everyday stressors much much better.

Also, if you’ve been following me for awhile, you know that I am very intuitive and sensitive to other’s energy/vibes. Once I realized this, these practices have helped me ground, detach, cleanse, and release energy that isn’t mine. It has been truly the most empowering realization I’ve made about myself!

I’m all about trying new things and opening my mind up to different perspectives. Once I began experimenting with alternative medicines and really noticing the positive benefits, my curiosity has been sparked as it relates to energetic healing.

For those who have an open mind, I’d love to share some ‘woo-woo’, ahem.. mindfulness and spiritual practices that I love and that I have personally benefited from!

Practices:

Meditation

How often: I have been meditating on and off since 2013 when I stumbled upon Deepok Chopra and Oprah Winfrey’s 21-day free meditation. (which they still do every so often!) As of this past summer, July 2018, I’ve been meditating at least 4-5 times per week. I wake up more excited about meditating than I do a cup of coffee, which is a huge shift! I truly believe we will be meditating daily as a part of our hygene like brushing our teeth in the near future.

Benefits:

Types:

  • Transcendental (TM), Breath (focused attention)

  • Loving-kindness

  • Body Scan

  • Mindfulness

  • Zen

Meditation Resources:

Yoga

Just like meditation, I couldn’t live without yoga! There are so many amazing benefits of yoga in every aspect of life. Physically, yoga has improved my flexibility and strength - allowing me to do everyday activities with greater ease (i.e. carry the groceries!) Spiritually, practicing yoga has improved my patience, stamina, acceptance and ability to surrender. Holding the pigeon pose for 2 minutes in class can really transform the way you handle difficult situations in every day life! Emotinally, going to a yoga class helps me feel a part of something bigger than myself. I can

Benefits: Can decrease stress, relieves anxiety, may reduce inflammation, could improve heart healt, improves quality of life, may fight depression, could reduce chronic pain, could improve sleep quality, improves flexibility and balance, could improve breathing, may relieve migraines, promotes healthy eating habits, can improve strength

Learn more here!

Types:

  • Hatha yoga

  • Iyengar yoga

  • Kundalini yoga

  • Ashtanga yoga

  • Vinyasa yoga

  • Yin yoga

  • Restorative yoga

  • Prenatal yoga

  • Anusara yoga

  • Jivamukti yoga

    Get the breakdown of these major types here.

Yoga Resources

Breathing Exercices

Benefits:

  • Oxygen delivery improves. Breathing deeply will help you to relax well. When you breathe, you will notice that fresh oxygen will pour into your body cell. This will enhance the functionality of your system, physical stamina, and mental concentration.

  • Your blood pressure lowers. Breathing properly will drastically lower your blood pressure. When you breathe well, your muscle will let go of tension and your blood pressure will return to normalcy.

  • Endorphins are released. Deep breathing provides pain-relief, improves feelings of well-being as well as triggers the release of endorphins.

  • Detoxification improves. Breathing properly will help your lymphatic system to function at an optimal level. This will surely inspire the release of harmful toxins from your system.  Deep breathing will cleanse your body, and allow it to engage in more productive lifestyle.

  • Relieve stress and anxiety. Stress management is an essential key needed to improve your quality of living and health. Healthcare experts believe that deep breathing exercises remains a foundational step that will manage your life’s stresses.

Types:

  • Sama Vritti or “Equal Breathing”

  • Abdominal Breathing Technique.

  • Nadi Shodhana or “Alternate Nostril Breathing”

  • Kapalabhati or “Skull Shining Breath”

  • Progressive Relaxation

  • Guided Visualization

Breathing Resources:

Affirmations & MantraS

Benefits:

  • You become aware of your daily thoughts and words, reducing the risk of letting negativity seep in.

  • You notice more synchronicities in your life, which serves to encourage and motivate you to keep up the practice.  

  • Daily affirmations not only help keep you surrounded by the things you want in your life but they help bring about more blessings and gifts.

  • A daily practice helps to keep the small things in perspective. In this high-speed world you can easily lose sight of how large the small things really are. When healthy you may forget to think of how much you appreciate it. A simple morning affirmation sentence of “I am healthy” can go a long way.

  • A recent study shows that optimistic people have healthier hearts, and affirmations help you to stay positive.

  • As you continue this practice, others take note and you begin to help those around you without even trying. This, in turn, helps keep you focused.

  • Daily affirmations keep you in a constant state of gratitude.

Types:

  • Positive Affirmations

  • Gratitude Affirmations

  • Body Love & Healing Affirmations

  • Abundance Affirmations

  • Personal Affirmations

  • Kundalini Mantras

    You can search all of these on YouTube to find helpful videos

Massage

Benefits:

  • Powerful relaxation tool that promotes pain relief

  • Lowers stress levels

  • Lowers blood pressure

  • Promotes muscle recovery and boost energy

  • Improves circulation

  • Improves posture

  • Improves sleep

  • Helps strengthen the body’s immune system

    Learn more here!

Types:

  • Swedish massage, Hot stone massage, Aromatherapy massage, Deep tissue massage, Sports massage, Trigger point massage, Reflexology, Shiatsu massage, and more!

Nashville Resources:

Float Tank & Salt Baths

Benefits: Known to help with: chronic pain relief, strengthened immune system, decompress spine and joints, deep mental relaxation, regulate sleep, muscle & bone regeneration, reduced risk of hypertension & anxiety (learn more here)

Nashville Resources:

Infrared Suana

Benefits: better sleep, relaxation, detoxification, weight loss, relief from sore muscles, relief from joint pain such as arthritis, clear and tighter skin, improved circulation.

Nashville Resources:

Journaling

Ever since I had a my minor lapse this past summer (more will be shared on that soon!), I haven’t missed a day of journaling! I wake up and actually look forward to writing out my gratitude list and meditating and love ending my day with a review of what happened that day, how I felt, how I want to live tomorrow differently, etc! I love to write - as you all probably can tell! However, if you’re not much of a writer, it’s still really important to simply put pen to pencil. There are actually loads of studies about how writing down just your goals helps make them a reality and if you only keep them in your head, they won’t actually come to fruition! How powerful is that?!

Benefits:

  • Stretching your IQ

  • Evoking mindfulness

  • Achieving goals

  • Emotional intelligence

  • Boosting memory and comprehension

  • Improve communication skills

  • Healing

  • Sparks creativity

  • Self confidence

    Get the details here!

How to get Started: The easiest way to get started is to just free-write, whatever comes to your mind. I love to take a pad and pen to a park and just sit and get every thought that I can think of onto paper. It’s amazing how much space that can free up in your head!

Download one of these apps: Morning Pages, 5 Minute Journal (you can purchase this on amazon here) Bullet Journaling, Day One Journal, Momento, Moodnotes, Journey, Daylio, Grid Diary, Five Minute Journal, Penzu.

Here are some of my favorite writing tools:

Check out these helpful writing prompts to get started!


More advanced level of woo-woo:

Numerology:

In simple terms, numerology is a study of numbers in your life. Numerology is the idea that the universe is a system and once broken down we are left with the basic elements, which is numbers. These numbers can then be used to help us to better understand the world and ourselves as individuals.

The idea behind numerology is that the cosmos and your life is affected by your birth date, birth name and many other factors surrounding an individual. In this way, there are great depths that a numerology reading can go into. Consequently, it can provide often astounding insights about someone.

It is believed that there are no coincidences in the Universe that your name and birthday affect the journey that you will take and your characteristics, in the same way, that some look at horoscopes or astrology to interpret signs or destinies.

How to Get Started:

Astrology & manifestation

Astrology - Okay, yall. So the truth is, there have been loads and loads of people who have put out incorrect information (i.e horoscopes) for a very long time in order to profit. Which has turned most people away from

The Power of the Moon: (@spiritdaughter and @wearemoonclub are really helpful on IG)

  • Learn more here about how every phase of the moon can affect your life (New Moon, Full Moon, Eclipses, Equinox)

Manifestation:

Ever since the movie, “The Secret” came out, manifestation has been a hot topic! Unfortuntaly, it has gotten a bad rep as well due to the misuse of this Universal law. However, it is very very powerful.

Another really helpful tool that can help you better understand how you use your energy in the world is to understand your Human Design.

Once I found out that I’m a Manifesting Generator, I began to see how I can make things happen easier than others because it comes natural to me. Over time, understanding your Human Design helps you learn what brings fulfillment. Everyone has a Signature — peace, satisfaction, success or surprise—that comes when they are living in accordance with their true nature. A lessening of resistance in the form of anger, frustration, bitterness or disappointment is the end result.

Find out your Human Design here.

The Seven Steps of Manifestation:

Step 1: Get clear on what you want.

Step 2: Ask the universe.

Step 3: Work toward your goals.

Step 4: Trust the process.

Step 5: Receive and acknowledge what you get.

Step 6: Keep Your Vibration High.

Step 7: Clear your resistance.

Watch this amazing video on the power of Manifestation!

Podcasts that go into depth: “Expanded” by Lacy Phillips, “Manifest This” by Ashley Wood, Almost 30, “Woke & Wired”, “Aubrey Marcus”, “The Balanced Blonde” by Jordan Younger, “Radically Loved” by Rosie Acosta, “So you think You’re Intuitive” by Natalie Miles

Gemstones & Crystals

Resources:

Saging/Smudge

I always thought burning sage or sticks of wood was way too hokey, until I tried it! Whenever I burn sage (aka smudging) I immediately feel the energy shift in the space.

You can take a moment of meditation to notice if the smell evokes a sense memory for you. Where does that resonate in your body? Examine whether you feel a spiritual connection, or an earthy, ancestral stirring within your blood. This is the smell of thousands of years of spiritual communion and ritual.

Smudging your sacred space, your home or office, or even your body with sage is like taking an energetic shower, or doing a deep metaphysical cleansing. The smoke from dried sage actually changes the ionic composition of the air, and can have a direct effect on reducing our stress response.

Benefits:

  • Increase your sense of well-being

  • Improve mental focus

  • Cleansing your aura

  • Improved sleep

  • Uplifting and increasing energy

  • Removing negative energy in a home/enclosed space

Resources:

  • Learn more about what smudging is here.

  • Check out this article on how to smudge.

  • YouTube “saging music” or “saging prayer”

ayruvedic techniques

Thousands of years before modern medicine provided scientific evidence for the mind-body connection, the sages of India developed Ayurveda, which continues to be one of the world’s most sophisticated and powerful mind-body health systems.

More than a mere system of treating illness, Ayurveda is a science of life (Ayur = life, Veda = science or knowledge). It offers a body of wisdom designed to help people stay vibrant and healthy while realizing their full human potential.

The two main guiding principles of Ayurveda

  1. The mind and the body are inextricably connected

  2. Nothing has more power to heal and transform the body than the mind

Freedom from illness depends upon expanding our own awareness, bringing it into balance, and then extending that balance to the body. This process isn’t as complicated as it may sound.

  • Create a morning ritual

  • Nourish dry skin with oils

  • Eat according to your dosha and a colorful diet with all 6 tastes (sweet, salty, sour, pungent, bitter, astringent)

  • Strengthen your digestive power

  • Get abundant restful sleep

  • Experience nature regularly

  • Tune into your body when you exercise

  • Find quiet time each day

Resources:

The Lemon Test

I saved the most woo-woo practice for last! But there’s also a reason that 1.7 Million people have watched this video! According to Mark Barjerski, spiritual teacher, having a a few lemons around the house can tell you if the energy is positive or negative! I tried it and it’s amazing how well it works! Watch the video below to learn more.

Resources:

I hope this post was helpful to you! If you have any questions about woo-woo wellness, please don’t hesitate to reach out!


As always, please check with your physician before starting a new wellness routine or regime. All of the practices mentioned in this post are only suggestions. Please practice them at your own risk.


10 Lessons I've Learned from 10 Years of Sobriety

10 Lessons I've Learned from 10 Years of Sobriety

Sharing 10 lessons from 10 years of sobriety. Some of these lessons I live by every day and some of them I’m still practicing and implementing. Every day sober is a day of learning, growing, and becoming the best version of myself.

Finding Beauty & Strength in Your Scars

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If you have lived long enough you probably have a memorable scar. You may even have multiple with a crazy, silly, or unbelievable story associated with them. Some of you may even have a scar that you wish you could get rid of and not ever think about ever again. The reasons of wanting to rid of them may vary: it may be discolored or a oddly shaped, it may be in a noticable place, it may remind you of something you wish you could forget. Ultimately, your scar(s) makes you feel INSECURE, less than, embarrassed, shameful, etc.

Side note: To those of you who somehow have skimmed through life without ANY bumps, bruises or scars - honestly, you’d have to live in a bubble to not have one scar - you probably have emotional scars that no one can see. With every hard life experience, there is always a scar that reminds us of what we have been through and ultimately OVERCOME!

To those of you who do relate to having physical scars, I hope this post helps you feel a little less alone and ultimately empowered by your imperfections instead of feeling less than, insecure, or unworthy because of them.

my scar Story

Now that I have you thinking about that scar you possess, you may be replaying how it happened in your head. That right there is your ‘scar story.’ What kind of story does it tell? Is it a story of hope? It is a story that makes people laugh or cry? How do you tell the story to people who see your scar and ask about it? Are you confident or ashamed?

Do you ever wonder why people ask you about your scar? Before I came to love and accept my scars, I would get so upset when people would ask me about about my scars. I would pause before answering thinking, “Why do you want to know? Are you trying to make me feel small or insecure? Geez, some couarge you have!” I would answer them with a quick answer and usually my face would turn red because of the shame and embarrassment that would rush over me. Now that I have come to peace with my scars and the stories they represent, my answer looks a little different:

Them: “Oh wow - what happened to your arm?”

Me: “Oh, I had a car accident a few years ago.

Them: “Oh gosh.. etc. etc. (these responses can vary)

Me: “Yeah, it’s discolored because that’s asphalt still in there! haha Can you believe that’s the only thing that I walked away with?!”

Them: “Oh wow!” …if they are curious about the accident or have had a similar experience I will then decide if I want to elaborate on what happened and what I learned.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Please protect yourself. Don’t share with someone you don’t know all of the details of your tramatic or tragic experience. If you haven’t done the internal work yet, it’s important that you keep this brief, positive, upbeat, and expressing gratitude for your scar, then changing the subject. If not, you could walk away from the interaction feeling more emotionally scarred.

However, if you have a God-intervention experience, like I have, AND you have practiced healthy boundaries, then you can decide if you want to share your testimony with that person. I have found that sharing how my accident (or my other scar stories) helped me completely change my life around, fully surrender to God, and how I somehow escaped a near-fatal car accident with a crazy looking scar on my forearm, only helps bring me closer and connect with the other person. However, your reactions and responses may vary, so remember, those reactions have nothing to do with you or your scar story - they have everything to do with the other person and thier own insecurities.

My other significant scars that have shown me how powerful God is, how much strengh I have, and how incredible my body is - that I am sometimes asked about - include:

  • 2 inch scar on my right leg behind my knee from melanoma in-situ removal (this scar motivated and inspired me to change careers and move back to Nashville to work in corporate wellness)

  • 2 inch scar in the middle of my upper back from pre-cancerous mole removal (inspired me to no longer lay out in the sun without strong sunscreen/protection!)

  • 1 inch scar on right shoulder from pre-cancerous mole removal (inspired me stop going to the tanning bed)

  • internal scar tissue on C6-C7 spinal cord disc that continues to heal (motivated me to take care of my body and to treat it gently and kindly. Great reminder that we only have one body for our entire life! No more crazy acrobatic workouts in the gym or super heavy lifting and more yoga, stretching, therapuetic exercises)

  • 1 cm scar on left wrist where a peice of windshield was lodged from car accident (the most painful but a funny story… feel free to ask me about it sometime!)

…And I’m extremely grateful for each and every one of them!

The significance of your scar story

All of us have a testimony from our scars. Whether it was a childhood experience, that one time in college, that freak thing that came out of no where that we had zero control over. The experiences we may have been able to prevent, but nevertheless, they happened for a reason. The reasons and lessons I have learned from each one of my scars:

  • To stay humble

  • To remember I’m not bulletproof or invincable (to be careful!)

  • I’m not in control

  • My life has a purpose and everything I overcome can and does help others

  • My body is incredibly resilient (and so is my heart)

finding beauty in your scars

The truth is, your scar helps others to see VISABLY that you have lived life. That you have gone out there and risked getting a little flesh wound to LIVE life to the fullest! That you’ve overcome something uncomfortable and painful and they have added character!

Another important truth: We are all broken (and scarred). There is brokenness in the physical sense that sometimes requires surgery. But there is also a universal spiritual brokenness that always requires surgery and healing of the soul, that only by surrendering to God can provide.

Scars not only tell the story of past wounds; scars tell the story of healing. For if there were no scar, there would be no healing. A wound that was once open has now closed. Healing has taken place and has left its mark as a scar.

Whenever I find myself wishing my scars away, I remember that Jesus bore scars on His resurrected body. It was through His scars that the disciples believed in His resurrection. When Jesus first appeared to His disciples in a resurrected body, “He showed them the wounds in His hands and His side.” When the disciples saw these wounds, “…they were filled with joy when they saw the Lord!” (John 20: 20).

It takes time…As I mentinoned above, the scar on my left arm with the lovely black, purple, red, pink discoloration and funky shape took me about two years to fully accept and love. I spent hard-earned money on laser treatments (that I think may have helped but really didn’t work!), expensive makeup (that takes forever to apply and rubs off on my clothing!) I even have given serious consideration to covering it up with a salamander tatoo! (thanks for the recommendation, Dad! hehe)

Helpful self-love practices: In order to find the acceptance, love and beauty in my scars, I spend time doing the following self-love practices that you may find help you do the same:

  • Spend time in the shower and in front of the mirror telling my scars how beautiful they are (out loud)

  • Kiss and massage your scars (essentail oils, vitamin E gel and other scar creams may be useful)

  • Thank them for protecting you and healing that part of your body. (out loud) It’s amazing how much your energy will shift if you take time to actually love on your body.

  • I will also think about how strong I am in my meditations because of those experiences. Thanking God for the miracle of healing!

  • Find supportive people who love you because of how much you’ve been through and who also have scars that they have come to accept and love

embracing your scars fully

Embracing your scars means being able to walk confidently and hold your head high when someone asks you about the story behind them. (I cannot reiterate enough how important it is for you to discern how and with whom you want to share your scar story.) Finding the confidence to share your story will take practice. You’re going to stumble the first few times. But be easy on yourself and give yourself grace. Your body has given you grace just by HEALING, so practice that same grace with yourself.

The bottom line: You are beautiful because of your imperfections. Owning them fully only makes you that much more beautiful and REAL. In this fake, image-obsessed world that we live in, seeing a physical scar is incredibly refreshing and draws me closer to the person that I can see isn’t ‘perfect.’

Love on your scars today…they are a beautiful reminder of what you’re made of!

15 Random Facts About Me

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Hi, Hello, Hola, Ciao, Bonjour, Hey ya'll! 

My name's Gretchen Hoechner (pronounced HECK-NER, in KY!) I started this blog a few years ago as a place to share my love for everything 'health and fitness,' which has now evolved to include everything 'wellness' related. I know you're probably rolling your eyes thinking, "What's the difference between the two?" For me, quite a lot! (more on that later) I've been super slow in posting because well..I have a gillion ideas but always think, "oh, I'll blog about it later" and then later never comes. So - I'm making myself sit still and type! My hope is that you gain information + inspo + motivation + confidence in yourself and your health after reading my posts. I get a lot of questions about ME (not just food), which makes me feel oh so loved! So, I thought I'd share some random facts about me in an effort to help you get to know me better. I'm basically an open book, but some of these things you may not already know about me. If you have more questions, please feel free to comment below and I'll do my best to answer! :)

  1. I used to be terrified of public speaking! I would get so nervous that my face would turn bright red and I'd sometimes start sweating uncontrollably. Thankfully, with lots of practice, I've actually become really fond of public speaking and speak at least 5-10 times throughout the year to audiences of up to 500+ sharing my story of recovery and educating about eating disorders. I've come a long way, but still have a lot to learn. I'd LOVE to do a Ted talk some day, that's definitely on the bucket list!
  2. I've always been an athlete. I think I came out of the womb kicking a soccer ball! I was always super competitive in literally everything! From rainy day Battleship games with my family to P.E. class and wanting to beat ALL of the boys in every race/game/match/etc.  I usually can pick up sports pretty quickly, however - my hand-eye coordination isn't the best. My most loved sport was soccer (left-defender) but I swam year-round, gymnastics, dance, tennis, track (actually made it to State every year in HS for the 4x400 relay). My parents thankfully encouraged me to participate in as many sports as possible, and I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity. It's truly given me so much will-power, self-belief, grit and confidence in myself. Some of the most influencial people in my life were my coaches. 
  3. We've had mini-schnauzers all my life - literally haven't gone more than 6 months without having one in our family. Token, Abby, Roxie, and now Margot! Miss Margot is truly such a LIGHT. I've never met such a loving and in-tune dog. She is so sensitive the people's energy and wants to love on literally everyone until she runs out of love. She has no limits! And she is extremely fast! Probably the most athletic pooch we've ever had! Roxie was my girl. We had her when I was age 15-28, so most of my life! She would go on runs with me when I was staying in shape for sports, she had such an outgoing (alpha) personality! When I came home from college/first real job, she would smile so big for hours! It was so funny! She made such a positive impact on everyone's life! (depsite her really LOUD bark that my mom tried to quiet by cutting her vocal chords but they just grew back stronger!)
  4. The women in my family are really incredible. I have a really awesome legacy of women that came before me who really paved the way. My grandmother married a professional golfer in the 30's and modeled hats. Her husband passed away suddenly and she was widowed with two children. She ended up working odd jobs in order to make ends meet (she even worked in Oak Ridge, TN keeping secrets about the Atom bomb!) She decided to start her own framing business out of her home and ended up moving into a shop downtown Bowling Green, KY and expanded it to include antiques, interiors, gifts, etc. My mom has taken it over and has kept the business running succesfully for the past 60+ years! Work ethic + ownership + responsibility were values that were instilled in me as a kid and have helped me in every job I've ever had. 
  5. I'm such a homebody and always prefer staying in over going out. 'Living my best life' is camped out on the couch in a comfy sweatshirt and slippers, eating a delish chocolate treat, wearing a face mask, and watching something funny on Apple TV. (I'm always open to Netflix suggestions!)
  6. I'm a huge nerd! I really love to learn. I'm super open to other people's opinions and perspectives and always intrigued by different cultures. (I'd love to travel more in order to experience them first hand) I used to read the American Girls books out loud to my mom on long car rides. I love history and always love a good story about strong women. I'm always looking for new things to learn (not just wellness related) and spend a lot of my free time listening to podcasts + audiobooks + etc. 
  7. Most of you know I have a twin bro. He's pretty dang cool. (not just b/c he's my twin!) I'm Baby A - one full minute older! We grew up playing with each other non-stop. My mom would have to pull us a part. Then around age 9, we started hanging out with our friends. I was into sports, he was into working outside. He started stripping tobacco and driving a truck on farms at age 12! He is NOT afraid of hard work. In fact, he started his own lawn care + landscape company when we were 13 years old. He now has a really successful business (15 years going strong!) and is well-known in my hometown. He's a business man, through and through. (And literally could teach any Dave Ramsey class!) We really didn't hang out much in our teens and twenties but now he's teaching me about business and I'm teaching him about marketing. 
  8. I really love the hippie + bohemian lifestyle. I marvel at the people that can literally sell everything they own and hit the road for months living out of thier van/RV. I think that's how we really all should live. No schedules, no deadlines, no pressure, just BE. Experience all that life has to offer and help people along the way. I'm down! (I may try it out someday)
  9. I was a brunnette for about 6 months in college. I hated it! It was horrid. I've always been blonde so the brown and blonde mixture came out this mousey-brown color that really washed me out. Everyone was like, ummm..yeah, I like you as a blonde! Same, people. Same. 
  10. I was always a pretty healthy eater (mainly because I knew I felt better when I ate healthier) but I also grew up in the 90's so ya know, everything came in a box of some kind! My favorite foods as a kid were Snack Well's Devil's Food Cookie Cakes, Baked Lay's, Mini Muffins, Kellogg's strawberry cereal, ranch rice cakes, cinnamon rolls, muffins of any kind (I would eat the top off and leave the rest for the next person! haha, so rude!) 
  11. I have always been horrible at math. I somehow only needed to take the entry-level math in college and changed my major 3 times so I didn't have to take an advanced class! (that's not the only reason but it definitely contributed)
  12. As a kid, I always pictured myself in a job where I wore a suit and carried a briefcase (I think because I saw pictures of my mom doing this in the 80's). That evolved during my teenage years and I thought I wanted to be a graphic designer. I went to school for graphic design for 3 years and got to my advanced Photoshop class, looked around the room, and realized I would be fetching coffee for my boss and not designing ads if I continued. So, I switching my major to focus on branding and sales. I ended up graduating with an Interdisciplinary Studies degree. (basically a bunch of random advertising/marketing/sales classes hodge-podged together!) Who really cares what degree people have anyway, right?!
  13. I got my first job out of college before actually graduating. I was OLD when I graduated college! I took the long route, ya'll. So by my senior year, I was so over it. I ended up going to a Sales competition with one of my professors and had interviews on the spot for a few sales companies. One of them landed and I was offered a job selling custom suits in Charlotte, NC. I ended up having 9 more hours to finish and completing them online during my first 6 months in Charlotte and also working in full-time commission sales. (not recommended)
  14. I truly believe everything in life happens for a reason. The good, the bad, and everything in between. Everyone is in this boat together and we're all doing the best we can with what we've got! Once I realized this, I started to see the beauty and grace in my daily life. Plus, I know how short life really is, so why not live it to the fullest! No regrets. 
  15. I was born and raised in Kentucky. (pronounced CAN-TUCK-EE) I swear I'm not a red-neck or hick by any means but I have witnessed my fair share of jacked-up trucks with monster truck tires and big exhaust pipes and can understand southern folks who sound like they're chewing on cow curd! I know how to target and skeet shoot and could hold my own in a country line dance competition! I grew up listening to Garth Brooks, George Strait, Faith Hill, etc. and now live in Nashville, TN so, I haven't steered too far away from my roots! And no...Kentucky isn't just a bunch of toothless people wearing overalls without shoes on. It's a beautiful state, you should definitely visit!

Alright, ya'll! That's it for now. I'm sure I'll think of more random things to add to the list just for laughs. I hope this helped you get a better idea of who I am. This whole 'social media' thing is tough. We feel like we know people we follow but we really don't. We just see the 'highlight reel' and never really get to know someone's real life struggles and things they're gone through. If you ever feel like you don't really know who I am. Please know, you can ask me anything! I'm willing to share in hopes that you don't feel alone and who knows, we may actually become friends IRL. Thanks for reading! 

Have a question? Ask me here

My Eating Disorder Recovery Journey

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Have you ever felt lost, alone, unsure, or just afraid of the unknown?

Have you been led to believe that you take up too much space, or that your opinions, thoughts, feelings don’t matter to those around you? Have you felt like you aren’t worthy enough to just be, and instead you perform for those around you in search of acceptance, love, and appreciation?

If you’re human, I’m sure you’ve felt some of these emotions!

*Trigger Warning: If any of my story distresses you or triggers negative feelings, please stop reading. It's always right to protect yourself and your emotions.

However, some of us take these emotions and internalize them, causing internal discontentment otherwise known as an eating disorder. Wait, did you flinch when you heard the word - ‘eating disorder’? Did it make you feel a bit uncomfortable? Maybe you yourself or someone close to you has dealt with disorder eating or destructive eating behaviors and maybe still are today. I’m hoping I can help shed some light on this terrible, awful, no good illness that affects 8 million people in the U.S. alone. Eating disorders also have the highest mortality rate of any other mental illness. There are many factors into why someone develops an eating disorder - but mostly, it boils down to environmental factors, genetics, and personality traits. For me, I think my personality plays a big part, but I was also environmentally triggered. The way that I perceived society’s pressures on women (men, too!) was something I thought defined me. I remember thinking as a teenager, that if I didn’t look like the girl on the cover of Teen magazine - not knowing photoshop existed - I wasn’t good enough, worthy, or even lovable. 

If you’ve been following me for awhile now, or you know me personally, you know that I struggled with an eating disorder right after highschool. My eating disorder was triggered by the fears of the unknown. I was on my way to a big college, a few hours away from home, and none of my high school friends were going with me. I was facing this big, bad world all alone, and I didn’t have my usual ‘comfort zone’ that I had become so accustomed to in high school and growing up in a small town in Kentucky. Sound familiar? We all have to leave the nest at some point, right? 

But, if we go back a few years, I remember my eating disorder started as a way to ‘get healthy’ for sports. I started playing soccer at age 5. I was a feisty little thing. I remember thinking there weren’t ANY boys that could beat me! I wanted to be the fastest, the strongest and the all star from a very early age. My parents noticed this drive and competitive nature and encouraged me to participate in any sport that my heart desired. I was fortunate to be able to play soccer, swim year-round, and run track. Despite my hunger and ambition to be the best, I wasn’t naturally the best. I had to really work at it, spending hours after practice and on weekends to condition myself, fine-tune my skills and really work on my ‘winning mindset,’ as my coaches called it. My friends would be out at the skating rink or the mall, and I’d politely decline in order to work on my juggling. I never felt like I was missing out, though. I loved nothing more than to work on myself and improve my skills. It was like a high. 

Thankfully, all of the hard work paid off and I was a starter, playing for the entire game on the Varsity soccer team. I went to State in the 400m relay as a freshman and won regionals in the 400m as a junior. I was doing just as well in swimming but I chose soccer over swimming because the thought of getting into an ice cold pool at 4am didn’t sound like too much fun!

I was able to spend more time with friends, once I had ‘perfected’ myself in sports. I remember thinking, if my thighs look a certain way in shorts, then I’m able to go hang with boys, because they wouldn't want to hang with me if I had fat thighs. My confidence was higher than ever. I was flying through school work and ranking top of my class at graduation. I was helping others with their school work, thinking I would be even more accepted if I could show them how smart I was too! Honestly, any opportunity to prove myself, I jumped on without hesitation. The feeling of getting the gold star, pat on the back and put on a pedestal was like food to my soul.

Senior year when things started to get a little less enjoyable. I had signed up for a weightlifting class and ended up winning the weightlifting award (beating all of the guys!) four years in a row. I felt like everyone around me had stopped trying to compete because they knew I’d do anything to win. So logically, I decided to just compete with myself. Plus, I was thinking I had to ‘prepare’ myself for this big State college. I didn’t want to let my family down if I got there and underperformed. Such pressure, right! Sheesh. 

I remember our high school graduation party was the day I decided - no more messing around, I’m going to stand out once I get to college. I was convinced that I may have been burnt out from soccer, so I decided to let go of the sports and focus on getting into a sorority. And that was a totally different kind of pressure: ‘Be the prettiest, skinniest girl so you can be accepted into the best sorority.’

It started out as an innocent effort to go to the gym a little more and quickly turned into an obsession. I had nothing else to do - no soccer or track practice, no homework. Instead of going shopping or lounging by the pool, I was at the gym. Four to five hours a day. I began tracking every single calorie burned and before I knew it, my friends and boyfriend at the time were concerned. I was lying about where I was and thinking I was invincible. And I was losing weight - quickly. I had lost thirty pounds in less than three months, and I didn’t have thirty pounds to lose. 

The first day of college was pretty tough. I remember feeling overwhelmed with emotion when my parents said good-bye. “Oh shoot, it’s just me, here, all alone.” Within 3 months, my parents were making an emergency trip to pick me up and take me home. Things had gotten way out of control and my eating disorder had taken over.

Thankfully, I was able to withdraw from school and go to an excellent treatment facility two years later. But it was a very slow process of crawling before I could walk. Those two years of being completely consumed by eating disorder behaviors and thoughts were going to take some time to un-do and I had to figure out who I was without my eating disorder. My quest for identity in someone that never existed before - the thought of not having ‘rules’ around food and exercise was hard to comprehend.

Treatment was more about putting on weight than anything else. It has taken me many years (and something I still work on every single day) to fully live in recovery mentally as well as ‘carrying around a little more weight.’ Eating disorders are about much more than weight. You may have heard the terms EDNOS or Orthorexia. EDNOS refers to an eating disorder not otherwise specified, which allows doctors to lump all of the people who have ‘issues’ around food into a general diagnosis in order for them to receive treatment. Orthorexia has just recently come onto the scene with the rise of the wellness movement and social media. Orthorexia is when someone becomes obsessed and compulsive around eating healthy. Yep! Even eating healthy can be taken too far. Social media has been a really big problem over the past few years as it relates to eating disorders. I speak from personal experience!

There’s no doubt in my mind that I dipped my toe into orthorexic territory once my Instagram account became my main focus after a tough breakup. I was getting validation for every ‘vegan’ picture that I posted. It turned into the next ‘high.’ Becoming concerned with the size of legs in pictures and if my face looked swollen. And truly living my life around my next Instagram post. Whew, talk about exhausting and talk about alienating and being out of touch with reality! I'm sure you can probably relate. That too started off with good intentions and turned a negative corner quickly. As you can probably tell, I like to do things ALL the way. Not half-way. If I’m going to do something, I’m going to be sure and take it to the limit! That’s something that I’ve had to really be conscious of and work on in recovery. Thankfully, I have an amazing therapist that is on speed-dial and a supportive group of people around me that helped me work through the healthy eating obsession. 

After leaving treatment (too soon due to lack of insurance coverage) in 2007, I turned 21 a few short months later. I won’t go into my cross-addiction (I’ll save that for another post!) but I quickly turned to alcohol and drugs to cope with the world around me. I was so close to death in treatment, that I knew I didn’t want to die. Food was no longer the enemy. I was never a drinker before because sports were such a focus, but once I had my first real ‘drunk’ experience, I was hooked. I could feel numb and not deal with all of the emotions, specifically shame and guilt over my eating disorder. 

I will be picking up my 9 year sobriety token on January 20th. Wow - it’s hard to believe it’s already been almost a decade of not taking a drink or a drug. But the truth is recovery to me is not about the number of years under your belt. You can be 30 years sober and still miserable. 

Recovery is SO much more than that. 

It would be really cool to stand here and say, “Oh, and I’ve not had ANY eating disorder thoughts or behaviors for 9 years either.” But the reality is, there’s no way that would be true. There are definitely days, weeks, and even months where I forget that I even struggled with an eating disorder. I don’t think twice about what I put in my mouth, I don’t have rules around food, and life is GOOD. But there are times when I think, “Gretch, do you not remember anything you learned in treatment or over the past 9 years, what are you doing!?” That’s the funny thing about recovery. It’s a very complex lifestyle but one that I wouldn’t trade for the WORLD.

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What Recovery Means to Me:

RECOVERY LOOKS DIFFERENT FOR EVERYONE

Recovery isn’t a one-size-fits all cookie cutter deal. It can be pretty messy, in fact. Recovery isn’t just about stopping the eating disorder behaviors, eating food without anxiety, and exercising for enjoyment. The physical changes are the first step. Changing long-held beliefs that are deeply rooted can take time to fully work through. I remember it wasn’t until 5 years sober that I started to fully understand myself and feel like I was coming into my true, authentic self. Patience is essential and allowing yourself to have set-backs. Relapses are a part of recovery, believe it or not. As much as I believe I would never pick up a drink or restrict my food ever again, it could happen. I’ve struggled with other areas like relationships and finances, that could most definitely qualify as a ‘relapse.’ And yet, without them, I wouldn’t have the insight and wisdom that I have know. Every set back is a set up for a come back. I know recovery isn’t ever going to be perfect, and I’m always learning and growing.

RECOVERY ISN’T LINEAR

Just like life! We have our good days and bad days. There are times when I can go out to eat with friends and eat whatever sounds good on the menu without breaking down the macros in my head. But then there are days when I’m so consumed with what’s going in my body that I don’t even enjoy the food. There are times of year when ole ED will rear his ugly head and say things to me when I look at myself in the mirror or convince me that others are thinking a certain way about my body, usually in the summertime and around the holidays. Then there are times when I I’ve gone days without even thinking about how much space my body is taking up or how much cellulite I have. 

RECOVERY ISN’T A DESTINATION

It’s important, for me, to never forget that I’m in recovery and always will be until I die. Whenever I hear people say, “I’m a recovered alcoholic,” or “I’m recovered from anorexia.” I get an uneasy feeling in my gut. I think to myself, oh gosh, I never want to think I’ve out-smarted my illness. It’s not like you finish treatment or work the 12 steps once and then get your ‘Recovery Degree.’ It’s a daily reprieve. I take a personal inventory on myself every day, ensuring that I’m moving in the right direction. My eating disorder (and alcoholism) is a progressive illness. If I were to drink tomorrow or start restricting my food, my illness will be full-blown and pick up right where I left off. I respect that fact, and treat recovery just as I would a family member - with compassion, understanding, love and acceptance. It doesn’t define me, but it most definitely has made me who I am today. I’m proud to say I am in active recovery. I don’t want to think I’ve got it all figured out, because that’s when I get a little too big for my britches! 

RECOVERY IS THE MOST COURAGEOUS ACT

Not many 22 year olds are forced to look at themselves and their behavior, admit they aren’t in control and completely change their lives. And then throwing on top of that being addicted to a substance or a way of life. If you know someone who has quit smoking, for example, you know that overcoming an addiction isn’t for the faint of heart! All of the underlying beliefs and reasons why you were doing the destructive behaviors have to be analyzed and understood in order for real long-lasting change to take place. It wasn’t easy, and still isn’t, even 9 years later. It requires an incredibly strong belief in a power greater than yourself. Realizing you are powerless over your addiction and then having to rebuild your confidence and self-esteem in order to act like a normal citizen is a tall order! It was a lot easier to just be the bum at the bar or the helpless anorexic. I had to choose LIFE and then take it one day at a time, sometimes even an hour at a time. I wish recovery and the 12 steps were taught in school. I think this world would be a much more peaceful, happier place to live if we all practiced the recovery principles. 

RECOVERY IS A BLESSING

I think about how much I have grown personally over the past 9 years and it astonishes me. I remember early in recovery, I couldn’t relate to any of my peers because I was 23 with the wisdom of a 33 year old. Being in recovery has required me to look into the deepest, darkest parts of myself and honestly face things that are extremely difficult to face. Most people go their entire lives never taking an honest look at themselves and the way they live their lives. Once I dug up all the garbage, I was able to live free from the bondage of myself and truly be happy. I honestly don’t know how people don’t live like those in recovery - it would feel like groundhog day to me. Get up, go to work, do the family thing, do my thing, go to bed. Repeat. And never stopping to smell the roses or wake up early enough to see the sunrise. I take delight now in the smallest things that I would’ve never noticed before. Having an eating disorder keeps you in a ‘belly-gazing’ way of life. Head down, focused on yourself, and nothing else. Recovery allows me to actually feel the chill bumps on my arms when I hear a beautiful song on the radio, laugh at kids being kids, play with pets, feel the magnitude of this incredible planet, delight in the birds singing outside my window and slow down to actually feel the joy in every moment. I am so blessed.
 

RECOVERY ISN’T SELFISH

Early on in recovery, I was spending a lot of time alone. Reflecting, journaling, seeking the truth within myself. It was a deep dive into self-discovery and soul searching. And it was required! I needed to step out of my life for a bit to understand why I was doing the things that had got me where I was. Some people didn’t understand, and criticized me for always needing to go home early or go to church on Sunday alone. It was a really vulnerable time in my life and required me to put my needs and my recovery first. Once I began to build confidence in myself again and forgave myself for the past, thats when I was able to show up fully myself for others - which is actually the most selfless thing you can do. 

RECOVERY IS A FAMILY AFFAIR

In the depth of my addiction, I had no idea that my actions were affecting anyone around me. In reality, my addiction was affecting pretty much everyone I came in contact with, especially my family. I could not have asked for a better family. I grew up knowing right from wrong, my grandparents instilled morals and values like honesty, integrity, work ethic, and respect into me every chance they got, my parents supported everything I ever wanted to do and helped build the belief in me that I can literally do anything I set my mind to. I never felt like we were lacking as kids. So, when things got tough, my family had a really hard time understanding why and of course questioned themselves. “What could we have done differently?” or “We should’ve never let her go off to college.” The truth is, I believe my addiction was going to take shape at some point in my life. I’m just extremely grateful that I was able to be in recovery at such an early age and now I have the rest of my life ahead of me! My parents took time to do their own therapy while I was early in recovery, giving me space to handle things on my own, which was the best decision they could’ve made. I’m beyond grateful for the family I have, and work hard every day to show them how much they mean to me. They are very often my ‘why’ behind staying sober. 

RECOVERY REQUIRES COMMUNITY

This is probably the lesson that has taken me the longest to learn. I’ve always been extremely independent. I always figured things out on my own and it seemed to work for me. I enjoyed being the expert and teaching others about sports or studies. I learned really quickly in recovery that I cannot do this alone. Faith is critical. Community of others going through what you’re going through is just as critical. The two things that feed my addiction: too much alone time in my head + not around people who ‘get it’ and are also in recovery. I’m a huge advocate of AA - it helped save my life early in recovery. But if that’s not your thing, there are a lot of other recovery communities you can join. Getting a sponsor, or someone that has been where you are and can help you along your journey is also really important. Even just joining a small group at a church or a book club can help! Getting around other like-minded people is the best medicine for me.

RECOVERY MADE MY HEART GROW 10X

If you were to have met me when I was deep in my addiction, you would’ve thought my heart was as cold as ice. When you’re consumed by addiction, the only thing you’re concerned about it YOURSELF. You will literally do anything to get that next ‘fix’ so to speak. And that means lying, stealing, and hurting those closest to you. I’ve had to made amends to people and continue to do so by always doing the next right thing. Living this life of recovery IS my amends to my family. I was without a place to live for a few days thankfully had friends that were able to help get me into a halfway house. Now, when I pass a homeless person on the street, I always wave, nod, smile and pray “By the Grace of God, there Go I.” Because, truly - I was a breath away from that being my life. The amount of compassion and empathy that I have for those struggling with addiction and difficult times is the size of the state of Tennessee. Just thinking about how grateful and appreciative I am for people that helped me makes my heart SWELL. And that’s also why I spend a lot of my free time serving in the community and giving back. I wouldn’t be where I am today without people doing the same for me. My experience has also allowed me to be able to relate to people from pretty much any background. I can point my pinky finger in the air with the high-rollers and I can laugh and cry with those who have nothing. I’ve been there, done that. I got the t-shirt. The amount of humility that gives me is hard to put into words. I know I can’t help everyone but there are a few places in Nashville that I try to make an effort to volunteer as much as possible. Check them out here


RECOVERY HAS SAVED MY LIFE

After many consequences and hitting my version of ‘bottom’ - I realize that this recovery way of life has (and continues to) save my life. I know I would not be here today if it weren’t for the people that showed up when I was without a place to live, helping me get back on my feet in every sense of the word! Treatment was absolutely essential to my recovery and something I think everyone should experience if they are able! Being away from the people, places and things that helped keep you sick and taking a pause on your life to heal is truly the best thing you can do for yourself. The things I learned in treatment are what fuel my recovery on a daily basis. (If you have questions about treatment centers, please contact me! There are a few resources you can access here as well.)

If you’ve made it this far, THANK YOU FOR READING! It means more than I can even begin to explain. My hope is that after hearing pieces of my journey, that you feel less alone. That you can maybe go easier on yourself if you relate to it in any way. That you know you are worthy, loved, accepted and valuable exactly as you are and you have nothing to prove or protect. Just by showing up as your unique beautiful self is ENOUGH.

For those that may be curious about recovery and feeling like you’re ready for a little guidance on how to live ‘in moderation’ or a little less strict. I thought I’d share a few recovery practices that I try and incorporate in my daily life to keep myself on track and continuously healing.


What I do to Stay on Track in my Recovery:

  1. Self care is a priority - Sunday self care is taking over the wellness world. Digital detoxes, time in nature, filling the bath tub with flowers, face masks, massages, red light therapy - ALL of the above. If you're not finding time in this crazy chaotic world to destress and tune out the noise, it will eventually catch up with you. I try to take at least one day a week to realign myself, whether that's through meditation or yoga, or just lunch with a friend. It's important to take time to get away from email, social media and responsibilities. Fill your cup up first!
  2. Have fun in the kitchen - There are so many amazing delicious recipes online and I think everyone I know who has a website in the wellness world has a 'meal prep how-to guide' (mine is coming soon!) I love thinking of fun new meals to make that keep my tastebuds excited for each meal! I love having fresh produce cut and ready to eat every week. I also really enjoy making my meals colorful and fun so when I'm at work, I have something to look forward to mid-day that brightens my mood. Throw a meal-prep party every Sunday with friends. Bake something yummy each week as a way to treat yourself. Some of my most fond memories are those made in the kitchen. 
  3. No more fad dieting - Paleo, Keto, LFHC, Vegan... you name it, I have tried it! There are certain foods that I enjoy more than others and I choose to be dairy free and wheat free. But above all else - no foods are 'bad foods,' food shouldn't have a label. It's just food. There are some foods that aren't the healthiest option and I try to avoid certain things like canola oil and packaged foods full of sugar and preservatives (i.e. Little Debbies) but if I'm out and about with friends and someone wants to get a donut, it's okay for me to eat a donut! I love having food freedom knowing that my body is an incredibly strong, resilient machine that will always find equilibrium and homeostatis no matter what. And it's important to enjoy life, including food! #balance right?!
  4. Ask for help - This is one that I usually have a hard time with, mainly because I pride myself of being able to handle things - "I'm tough, I can handle it." That mindset is great 80% of the time, but there are times when it's important to let go of the wheel and allow others to help you. People truly want to help! Humility is a key part of my recovery and something that I have to consciously work on daily. Letting people over in traffic or cut ahead of me in line, holding the door for others, waiting to speak in a meeting - all of these things help me to remember that the world doesn't revolve around me! 
  5. Animal therapy - I swear dogs speak to me! Whenever I'm having a down day I think about the fact that there are people in this world who are allergic to dogs! It can always be worse, right?! Animals have an amazing ability to love unconditionally and 
  6. Always look for the good - No matter what you're going through, there is always something good that can come from it. It's easy to say that if you're not the one going through it! But I know that beleiving this to be true has pulled me through some really tough times. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, you are NOT stuck, you are NOT alone you are going to be so much stronger after the storm has passed. The silver lining sometimes is that you're still here, breathing, alive and able to live another day. If you've got all of your limbs, that's a win right there!
  7. Let myself off the hook - Whenever things are stressful or I feel like I'm not where I want to be, expectations aren't being met, etc. I naturally want to turn inward and beat myself up. That's when I have to stop myself and remember, we're all doing the best we can with what we have in each moment. If things aren't going as planned, I take a breather, go for a walk, call a friend, whatever I can to change my perspective and try again. Sometimes it's best to just make a cup of tea and start again the next day. 
  8. Remember how far I’ve come - One of the best peieces of advice that I've been given is to take a personal inventory of how much I've overcome. In other words, write out a 'brag sheet' from as far back as you can remember. This list has grown over the years and whenever I'm feeling like I need a pick-me-up, I grab it and read every obstacle that I've successfully overcome. When you put them all out on paper it's amazing to see how much you've gone through and how strong you are because of each obstacle. Take out a pen and paper, this is a must do! You'll be standing a little taller with your head held high!
  9. Stop comparing myself to others - This is EVERYTHING! So many of my 'problems' would be solved if I stopped comparing my life with others. Thank you Instagram! We don't have to fall victim to the social media comparison game if we set boundaries with our phones. Allow yourself 15 minutes a day (I know that sounds crazy!) to scroll through to see who's gotten engaged, who hates Trump and who got a new puppy or who has a baby on the way! Limits are KEY. And taking time to remind yourself how awesome you're doing. (see #8)
  10. Find movement that I enjoy - As I continue to age I realize my body doesn't always want to do 30 minutes of HIIT or a super intense cross fit workout. Sometimes the best way for me to feel the endorphins from a workout is to just go for a 45 minute stroll. I've become obsessed with stretching and of course, yoga is magical. Our bodies are meant to move, not be the brunt of our stress and frustration. Treat it kindly, it's the only one we've got!
  11. Allow for grace - Forgive yourself. Over and over and over again. You are human. You're going to have seasons of trials and sowing and seasons of reaping and joy. That's life. So expect that 'this too shall pass' (both good and bad times) and take delight in the good times because just like the weather, there are always going to be storms. BUT there's always a rainbow after the storm. Never give up on your goals and your vision. Find time every day (or at least every week) to take a personal inventory and right your wrongs. And remember to 'Live and let live.'
  12. Be still - When life gives lemons, get still. That's the best piece of advice I've got for you! Stillness allows me to go inward. Ask myself the questions that need to be asked - what's creating all of this stress, discomfort, fear, frustration. Most of the time, the answer is really simple. But sometimes it takes a few days in a row of just being STILL. Once I find the truth in a situation, I turn it over to the power greater than myself and let it go. Sometimes, I'll write out my false belief on a napkin and burn it. It's very freeing. Knowing and trusting that God and the Universe have my back, always.
  13. Get outside comfort zone - This could mean going to a networking event by yourself to meeting new people, volunteering at a place that supports a mission you believe in, trying out a new hobby, going ice skating - that's out of my comfort zone! Even just driving a different way to work can make a big difference on how you feel and the way you perceive your world. Find ways to shake things up and keep things fun, spontaneous and enjoyable. Life isn't lived inside of a bubble. Get out there! Share your goodness with the world, they're dying to meet you!
  14. Stop hiding - We are here on this planet to build relationships and connections with others. People cannot live without love and connection. It's impossible. One of the easiest things to do when feeling down is to crawl back under the covers, avoid social interactions becuase you're afraid others will see how you're actually feeling on the inside. The truth is, they really have no idea what you're going through. The only way we can connect with others to allow people in, to share your true, authentic, unique and beautiful self. Show up, with intention to be seen. You'll be amazed at who rises to meet you. 
  15. Share my story with others - One of the best ways to heal is to share your story with others. (ahem..trying to take my own advice!) It's important to remember who your audience is, however. And to only share what you feel most comfortable sharing. Some people don't understand and may choose to never understand, and that's okay. Share your testimony and truth with those who want to hear it because they love you. They're the ones who matter. The others, just bless them and move on. 
  16. Present over perfect - There's an incredible book (you can purchase here) called "Present Over Perfect" that talks about how to get yourself out of a being overwhelmed and longing for connection, meaning, depth, but settling for busy. Instead of proving and earning your worth, she shares authentically how you can begin to give yourself the gift of perfect. This is a mantra that I repeat on the daily!

I really truly hope that this post was meaningful to you in some way, shape or form. If you could relate to a peice of my story, I'm so glad to know that I'M not alone. And if you learned a thing or two, that's icing on the cake! :) But at the end of the day, I hope and pray that my story helps others know that their lives matter, they are here for a reason and every single thing you go through is for YOUR GOOD. If you ever want to chat face-to-face or over the phone, I'm an open book and would love to serve you. Please don't hesitate to reach out

In Good Health - xoxo - Gretchen 

Trader Joe's Grocery Shopping Guide

Feeling a bit distracted by all of the holiday goodies everywhere you turn?

I've got you covered!

It's the holiday season, we're in full swing of Thanksgiving prep and getting ready to induldge in ALL of the delicious sides and desserts for the biggest meal of the year! The day we can literally put on maternity pants and not have a care in the world because, it's Thanksgiving! - you're supposed to stuff yourself, right?!

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I'm all about balance and moderation, and seconds for that matter! BUT, I want you to feel and look your best all year 'round. Not just in the summer! The two most important aspects to staying healthy is CONSISTENCY and PREPARATION. Without those two things, you're going to have a really hard time staying on track. Our will-power can only take us so far for so long.

So, I'm here to help! Instead of allowing yourself to be distracted by the fudge, cakes, cookies, etc that are on every end-cap and the first thing you see when you enter a grocery store, print out this handy-dandy grocery shopping guide to stay focused on your health goals! Hey, New Years is only a few weeks away, why not get in the habit now?!

Download your guide HERE! It'll help keep you on track toward reaching your health goals, help make meal prep super simple during the busy and stressful holiday season AND give you a head start on your New Years resolutions! 

Questions about the guide? Email me! I'm happy to help :) 

Your Purpose is in Your Pain

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I bet you haven't stared at the doctor who has a big needle in his hands and thought, "Oh - this is what it's all about, I'm supposed to be here, going through this difficult time because it's going to make me a better person." I highly doubt you've watched or driven past a car accident or stood outside of your own car wrecked to pieces and thought "Wow, this is all for my good! This is God's way of saying, I love you! I see you and you are here for a reason. This is my call to you, yes, it's painful because this is the only way I could get your attention. And now that I have your attention, I want you to know how much I love you. How much I want to use you to help others." 

If you've had any tragic, traumatic, or painfully difficult experiences in your life, you may be able to shake your head "YES!" in conviction to that statement. Or you may be thinking, "What new green juice is Gretchen drinking because it's gone to her head, annnnd she's lost it!" 

The past few months have been extremely painful. Physically, emotionally, and somewhat challenging spiritually. Mostly, looking back, my faith has grown tremendously and I've never felt closer to God than I do at this very moment.

You may not know my entire life story.. but if you know pieces of it, then you know that I have been through trials, tests, errors and pretty difficult circumstances. Most of them though, I have put myself through. They have been consequences of poor decisions. Those on the outside witnessing and who don't fully understand addiction usually just point their fingers, whisper to their friends and family, and stay away from you like the plague. 

Those who do have compassion for those struggling with addiction may be thinking, "But Gretchen, you've been through some really tough stuff, what could possibly have been more devastating than having to go to treatment three times, withdraw from college three times, live in a halfway house, do jail time, and not to mention the physical pain you overcame in the years of your anorexia and bulimia?" Great question. The longer I am in recovery and the more I come to understand and live in the world without numbing out and actually feel things, the more I truly grasp the depth of God in my life and in my soul. The difficulties and struggles just seem to touch me in a deeper place than before. I cry when I see dogs on Netflix for gosh's sakes! I guess you could say, I continue to get more in touch with my emotions the longer that I am sober. I feel things, very deeply. I guess that's what happens when you're finally present and in tune with yourself and the world around you. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to live that vulnerably. But I strive to do it every single day.

So.. what has happened the past few months that has caused me to have this epiphany and yet another come-to-Jesus moment?! Well, I had a mishap at a chiropractic appointment that ended up pinching a nerve in my neck that felt like I was literally going to die! Dramatic, I know. But honestly, I wouldn't wish that kind of pain on my worst enemy. I've learned quite a lot after experiencing what I later found out to be a herniated C6-C7 injury and I have felt it heavy on my heart to share those lessons with you. 

For those that don't know, I was in a car accident in October 2016. It was the day after my grandmother's passing. I had reached for my phone, after zero sleep the night before, and before I knew it I had hit a cement wall going 65 mph, twice, and rolled my car. I walked away from that accident with a skinned arm, but luckily (by the grace of God) nothing else seemed to have been out of place. However, the doctor thinks that my neck may have been a little injured and it hadn't caught up until the recent chiropractic mishap. 

We need connection.

Three months ago, I was spending ALL of my energy running around as fast as I could to jobs, gyms, coffee shops, grocery stores, etc. never spending a minute to just be still and rest. I was working a full-time and part-time job, working out like a mad-woman every day, trying to hustle with Instagram on the side, and yet - I would lay down at night and have the most intense anxiety, wondering why I was feeling so overwhelmed. I had convinced myself that I had it all together, and I'm sure many of you thought the same. A quick smiling selfie on Snapchat sent the message to the world that "I've got this..look at how happy I am!" When deep down, I was lost, broken and unfulfilled.  In the darkest days of my addiction, I was doing the exact same thing. Running around town from bar to bar and house party to house party - and then wondering why I was waking up the next morning feeling so empty and depressed. It's a lot easier to cover up these dark feelings when you have a good job, a reliable car, and nice apartment and food in the fridge. Plus, even if I wanted to ask for help or cry out in surrender, I was afraid that people would say, "My gosh, Gretchen! What do you have to complain about?! Look at your life! You should be more grateful, etc. etc." So the shame continued to push me through the whispers and nudges that God was sending to slow me down. I would notice them, and justify my workaholic behavior. "But God, I have credit cards to pay off! I have student loans to pay, I have people that need me!" If only I could stop for a second to hear the grace and love that God wanted me to feel. 

Humility is a virtue.

Up until three months ago, when things got tough, when I felt overwhelmed, or my emotions began to rise up and the knot in my throat would start to swell, the first thing I would do was lace up my trainers, grab my rap music and hit the gym. The gym was my savior in early recovery. It was my church, my therapy, my fellowship. It gave me the high and peace that the drugs and alcohol gave me. Plus, I've always been competitive. There's no doubt in mind that I kicked my twin brother around in my mother's womb so that I could come out first! I've always strived to be the best, the first, the star! Therapy has helped me tame my competitive nature so that is serves me. But, there are still times when I know better and my competitive side rears it's ugly head and gets the best of me. (For ex: going to the gym after an incredibly exhausting day and then doing acrobatic jumps and swings in the gym that I have no business doing!) When the doctor came back in the room after reviewing my MRI and x-rays, the words out of his mouth were, "No wonder you feel the way you do! You're not going to like what I have to say." I thought "Oh, I'm okay - I'm tough, I'm sure it's not that big of a deal. I'll be back in the gym next week. I mean.. I was at hot yoga two weeks after my car accident!" Well, the truth was.. I was not in control. Spinal cord injuries are NOTHING to be messed with. The injury I was experiencing started to affect my bowels, my nervous system, my eyesight - it was no laughing matter. My hands were tied. I was at the mercy of the doctors, the physical therapists and God's grace.

I have surrendered in the past. Granted, I was forced to surrender. Two DUI's back to back pretty much keeps you from doing what you want to do. However, my spirit still fought to take back the reins. I know now that the message that God was helping me to finally understand is that I now longer have to prove myself or kill myself to keep striving to be the best. All I need to do is let go and let God take over - completely.

I remember sitting in the physical therapy waiting room after the doctor told me to sit and rest as much as possible and that the symptoms may last anywhere from 6 months to 2 years, and that surgery may have to be considered, balling my eyes out. Probably the hardest I've cried in a very long time. I was embarrassed and felt more vulnerable than ever. I was using every ounce of my energy to hold back the tears. "Gretchen, you've been through way worse. You're going to be okay, why are you crying?!" And honestly, I knew in my gut that everything was going to be okay, it was baffling why the tears just KEPT coming. I took me weeks to finally understand where all of those tears were coming from. But then like a message from God, a question came out of nowhere when sitting in traffic, "Who are you without weightlifting? Who are you without the gym? Who are you and why are you here? Despite facing death three times in thirty years, there has GOT to be a bigger plan than just getting sweaty and eating healthy every day." That was it! Sitting in that waiting room, I didn't realize it at the time but I was having of an identity crisis. And what a large pill to swallow. When you think you have your life exactly as it supposed to be, you think you're doing the right things, then God shows up and says, "Yeah, remember those whispers? You weren't listening. So now that I have your attention, look up and follow me. I've got you, girl. I will always have your back. I will always provide, just trust me." So I left that PT session and barely even recognized myself. I felt lighter and freer than I've ever felt (yes, even more than the day I was let out of jail!) It was as if God had finally placed on my heart and it finally sunk in that I AM ENOUGH. Just as I am. 

Grace is magical.

If you asked me three months ago if I had felt God's grace in my life, I would've said, "of course! I get really close parking spots at Whole Foods all the time!" But the grace that I have felt the past three months. The moments of utter fear that my body wouldn't be able to heal itself. The moments of loneliness and solitude when my routines had completely been dismembered and I was forced to finally listen to the silence. But I think the main lesson is all of this is that once I fully surrendered, I began to feel more ALIVE, FULL and ENERGIZED than I've felt in years! The past three months have been filled with more love, joy, laughter, connection, service and contentment that I've felt since I was a child. There are some days when I truly feel like I'm 10 years old again! Almost like it's finally my chance to be God's hands and feet and eyes and ears. He has saved me countless times and I never allowed myself to feel saved. I still felt as if I was lacking, not good enough, 'lucky' and now I know, I am saved because my purpose on this life is not to be in control but to fully be OF service to others in all walks of life. I've learned that I can't serve others when I'm constantly spending my energy on proving and striving. I have everything that I need. After finally realizing this truth, I have began to live from a place where my love and compassion give me the highest high. No drug, drink, or exercise session will ever be able to live up to the feeling of fully being connected to a power greater than me and letting that be the source of my strength.   

The truth is.. ALL difficult and painful experiences are here to make us stronger and mature us in ways that we can not possibly do on our own. They are here to teach us and to help us grow. I'm so incredibly grateful I'm here to share these lessons with you and can't wait to see what the future has in store! I hope this gives you the confidence to let go of your inner struggle and trust that He will never fail you. Ever.

With overwhelming love and hands lifted...

xoxo Gretchen