My journey to health and well-being coaching
My childhood was one of many physical health issues, too often 'cured' with a decent dose of antibiotics. In hindsight, I know that these health issues were mainly symptoms of the trauma I lived through as a child.
In my teens, I 'grew out' of the health issues. Physically, I felt strong. Mentally, I didn't allow myself to be weak or to even think that the trauma I had been – and was – living through, was not okay. I was a superwoman, and I could handle things! It goes without saying that I did not.
My support system consisted of two friends, who both lost their lives in car accidents when I was in my early twenties. These events triggered a whole new set of health issues. When this carefully built support system vanished overnight, I did not seek any psychological support, as mental health was considered to be something for the fainthearted. Despite the trauma-upon-trauma, I still pretended to be some kind of superwoman, and I thought I had to work through it all by myself.
When I arrived in the Netherlands (after having graduated as a photographer), I realized that not all people look at life from what can go wrong, the belief-system in which I was raised. Now, I look at this as a typical Belgian way of approaching life. In the Netherlands, I experienced a completely different perspective: a can-do attitude to life, not starting out from the fear of what might go wrong. (I know I'm generalizing here.)
I managed to build up a successful career in marketing and communication. When my relationship came to an end, I decided to move to back to Belgium. After a couple of years in a middle management position in Brussels, my health slowly started to deteriorate again. I consulted many health care providers and nothing seemed to be wrong with me. When, in my early thirties, it started to become difficult to walk, I got desperate. I had gained weight, doctors kept on telling me to go on a diet and exercise. They could not believe that I was watching everything I ate and that exercise was impossible, because even when I did feel good enough to go out for a walk, it took me days to recover from that walk.
Out of sheer desperation, I consulted a physician with a pretty controversial reputation. I had created a whole file on my own health: tables and charts with symptoms and the severity of those symptoms, and copies of every medical exam I had had in those years. The physician examined me, and my file, and compared my health to a bucket that slowly fills up with water: each drop has a negative impact on your health; when the bucket starts to overflow, you feel dis-ease. It basically comes down to the straw that broke the camel's back.
The good man listened to my story, immediately put me on tons of vitamins and supplements, and sent me to see a nutritionist. Two weeks into the treatment, I had lost one-third of my total weight gain, and I felt better than I had felt in my entire life.
This was 2008. I had just started working at the European Commission and had almost passed the medical exam with flying colors, except for a tiny issue with my thyroid. That thyroid turned out to be the culprit. After years and years of health issues, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's disease.
The diet, the weight loss, and a job that suited my circadian rhythm made it possible for me to make a swift recovery.
After having left the European and the Belgian public services, I wanted to learn about how diet had changed my life: how was it possible that what I ate had such an impact on how I felt, and why had Western medicine not been able to help me heal?
In 2013, I started out my coaching journey and obtained a life coaching certification from CVA in Antwerp, Belgium. In 2016, I came across Forks Over Knives. Inspired by the film, I started studying Whole-Foods, Plant-Based nutrition (WFPB) at the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, based in Ithaca, NY. I continued my educational journey at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN), in New York City, where I graduated as an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach in 2018.
I studied with the world's top health and well-being experts, learned about different dietary theories, and about how health requires a holistic (integrative) approach.
During my time at IIN, I allowed myself to look back at my own life, and realized that childhood trauma is what got me in this state of health. I can't blame my family for what happened, as they were dealing in their very own ways with the traumas they had survived. Their best way of raising a child was by passing on that trauma.
My professional growth does not stop there! Although I keep on reading and studying, I learn the most from the experiences that my clients care to share with me. Sharing our experiences makes us stronger, inspiring me even more to work with people from all kinds of backgrounds and walks of life.
More About Me
I am in my late 40s and even though I love big city life, I also love getting my hands dirty gardening. Hence, the modest urban jungle in my living room.
Before the Covid-19 health crisis, I spent quite a few years commuting to New York, as my then partner lived there. Both the Netherlands and the United States hold a very special place in my heart. The Covid-pandemic has taken me to the outskirts of Brussels, but I'm currently working on returning to the inner city, where I feel most alive.
Although I fully support the WFPB-lifestyle, I am a flexitarian, i.e., I mainly eat a plant-based diet and add on moderate amounts of animal protein every now and then. I know first-hand that there is no one-size-fits-all diet, and this is what works best for me.
When I am not coaching or writing, I am cooking, sipping tea, taking photos, practicing yoga, teaching Dutch, dancing in my living room, watching my favorite football club play, out enjoying live music, swimming, or napping on my couch with my cats. (Yes, it can be busy at times!) I also used to run barefoot and I am thinking about picking that up again soon. When I'm not enjoying the city, I'm probably sitting on a beach somewhere, staring at the sea.