How I Overcame the Debilitating Effects of a Stressful Lifestyle (and How Holistic Health Saved Me)

Aaron and I as CrossFit gym owners

Aaron and I as CrossFit gym owners

I live in beautiful Asheville, North Carolina with my husband, Aaron, and my 2 canine family members, Daisy and Duke. I have found my passion in helping people live their best lives using what I’ve studied and experienced to be effective for myself and my clients. In sharing my journey with you, I hope that it brings inspiration into your life. 

Here's my story (scroll down for professional decrees).

I grew up on the standard American diet. I had cystic acne as a teenager that limited my confidence. I wished, if only I could get rid of my acne, THEN I would be happy. In 2002, at the age of 18 in my first year of college, my parents apprehensively agreed to put me on the drug, Accutane. The side effects were devastating and debilitating. Severe dryness, weight gain, depression and the trigger for what the conventional western doctors diagnosed me with, IBS.

After the 9 month long treatment cycle of Accutane I lost the weight- too much weight- because I couldn’t digest anything! I remember crying to my dad over the phone about the gut wrenching pain and inflammation. Living in this constant state of indigestion and distended abdomen, I did my best as a full time student with 2 part time jobs (tending bar and a Publix cashier). To add more insult to injury, the acne only disappeared for a few months post treatment. It returned within a few months. 

I began researching about food and tried the elimination diet, where I discovered dairy was a big trigger for me. I researched holistic health and nutrition. I went vegetarian. I went on a candida cleanse (which FINALLY cleared the acne!). By the time I graduated college, I had my digestion somewhat under control with intermittent flare ups that were less severe.

In 2008 I started eating meat again which was influenced by my new beau, Aaron. Together we started up our CrossFit Gym and shortly after that, I adopted the Paleo Diet. In addition to the dairy-free diet I was already eating, going grain and legume free decreased occurrence and severity of the inflammatory episodes.

I was crossfitting and eating paleo. I thought my health was better, but I started having severe fatigue and all I wanted to do on the weekends was sit on the couch and rest. I never looked truly lean due to chronic inflammation and water retention. It was then I got the signal from my body that my health was only getting worse and more debilitating then I could ever imagine- vertigo spells that lasted more than a week and left me bedridden for a week and sometimes more. They were so intense I couldn’t move my body, I couldn’t turn my head, I couldn’t open my eyes.

I had 3 spells over the course of 5 years. My husband, during these times, was a Saint (he pretty much always is!). He was at my bedside doing things for me that only nurses and caretakers do. I couldn't have made it through this without him.

Still, the question persisted- why wasn’t I healthy? Throughout the next several years, I received regular chiropractic care, regular acupuncture, regular massages, ate clean and paleo, exercised regularly, and was under the care of a doctor of Functional Medicine and Chinese Medicine (which helped me discover the SNP MTHFR).


However, perpetuating through all of this care, my glands were chronically swollen, I developed migraines, dealt with intermittent headaches, my stomach still bloated up like I'm 6 months pregnant (despite following a strict diet), I had a severe sensitivity to chemicals, insomnia, and the ever persisting fatigue.


It was then I made some changes. I stopped working out like an Olympic athlete (Read more about how high intensity exercise ruined my health in this blog post). I picked up Qigong. I learned and enforced my personal boundaries with my job as a trainer and business owner.

Searching for fulfillment and success, from 2014-2015 we started a homemade nutrition bar company (MandiBites) on the side which added more stress and longer hours working between the two. 

As I persevered through running the gym and "MandiBites", I continued my spiritual and personal journey. I learned to get in touch with my emotions. I learned about mindfulness. I did more yoga. I learned how to live my life based on how I want to feel. I considered my health and well-being when making decisions.

Aaron and I both knew it was time for a change. The gym became too much of a stressor and we had completely lost our passion for training like professional athletes and teaching others to do the same. It didn't match up with our newfound philosophies on health and wellness. We knew this part of our lives was no longer serving us. 

It took a lot of hard work, one failed deal, and many sleepless nights but in the summer of 2016 we finally sold our gym, our home, one of our cars, and moved to Asheville, North Carolina.

Daisy and Duke playing with a stick together in the river and loving nature as much as their Mom and Dad!

Daisy and Duke playing with a stick together in the river and loving nature as much as their Mom and Dad!

Living here, practicing health coaching, and being out of a daily grind has given me the space for continued healing, self-compassion, and how I truly want to live my daily life. My fitness routine is hiking, yoga, and light exercise. I meditate and practice Qigong daily which keeps me grounded and resilient to stress.

At the start of 2017 and after much curiosity, I finally read Medical Medium: The Secret How to Finally Heal by Anthony William. This knowledge has ignited an entirely new path for my own personal healing and my clients' healing. I was inspired to give up meat and eggs and I've adopted a grain-free vegan diet FULL of fruits and vegetables. Very different from the paleo diet the previous 8 years, it's what feels right for me at this juncture. I'm not biased towards one way of eating or another-- I believe everyone has unique food choices, needs, and beliefs. 

I'm happy to report my chronic water retention and bloating has never been better. I have fewer migraines and headaches. I sleep deeply throughout the entire night. I have more energy than I have had in years. I am a healthier and more grounded than I've ever been.

I am an open book and I'm always happy to share my strengths, my challenges, and my experiences. 

Chronic disease and debilitating symptoms keep us from living our lives and being who we want to be. However, I won't say that going through this has kept from being the best version of myself because I believe it's led me towards being the best version of myself. But that doesn't mean we have to live with it forever. Our symptoms can subside and we can get better.


My Experience, Education, & Qualifications in Health & Wellness

In 2008, I graduated from the University of Florida with a B.S. in Food Science and Human Nutrition.

Immediately following my university graduation, I attended the Florida School of Massage and became a Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT) in February 2009.

From November 2008 to April 2016, my husband and I ran a CrossFit gym in Gainesville, FL. We were pioneers in “functional fitness” for 8 years where we lived everyday helping people get fit. I used my skills as a Massage Therapist and studied Kelly Starret’s Mobility WOD to improve the functionality of my clients’ movement patterns, relieve their aches and pains, and educated them on self-care. Along the way, I received various CrossFit oriented certifications including, Nutrition, CrossFit Kids, and Mobility where I then taught numerous workshops and classes on the subjects.

In 2016, I received a certification from Flowing Zen in Qigong, which is a revitalizing, ancient Chinese method of moving meditation.

In 2017, I became a Functional Medicine Certified Health Coach (FMCHC) via the Functional Medicine Coaching Academy in association with the Institute for Functional Medicine. 

I'd love to hear YOUR story.

Read what others have to say about their experience working with Mandi

Learn how health coaching with Mandi can help you.