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My Health Journey

The truth is, I wasn’t always healthy. I grew up on Captain Crunch and microwave meals, was overweight as a child, and developed serious body image issues and eating disorders at the age of 12. For most of my life, I struggled with acne, hypersensitive skin, digestive issues, yo-yo dieting, and a serious lack of self-worth. Simply put, I hated my body and I tried everything to change it.

Eventually, my vicious cycle of extreme dieting and binge eating, work/coffee addiction, lack of sleep, chronic stress, and completely toxic lifestyle finally caught up with me one morning in July 2009 when I couldn’t lift myself out of bed. I literally could not move. 

Specialists, scopes, and scans later, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. I was 24 years old. 

In that moment, I realized something extremely important – I have one body, one life on this earth, and I better start learning how to take care of myself before it’s too late!

So, I did just that – I started researching how to heal my body naturally and read every holistic health, nutrition, and detox book I could get my hands on. Luckily, at that time I was entering my second year of graduate school and had access to a wide range of public health researchers and natural health experts. I quickly shifted my focus from solely studying obesity and weight loss to studying autoimmune diseases and using food as medicine. 

I had no idea that what you ate had such an impact on all aspects of your health (including your skin). 

Drink vegetable juice? Yuck! Eat berries? Does strawberries n’ cream oatmeal count? Apparently not. Reluctantly, I listened to the experts. I adopted an anti-inflammatory diet eating nothing but high-quality, nutrient-dense, whole foods. I stopped eating sugar and started drinking green smoothies. I slept more. So much more. 

Within a few weeks, I felt like a new person. I had more energy, my skin was clearing up, and my digestion improved.

Subsequently, I learned how certain synthetic chemicals and fragrances found in personal care products were associated with an increased risk of serious health conditions from infertility to various autoimmune diseases and cancers. Day-by-day, room-by-room, I started taking small steps to detox my personal care products and home. 

Within a year of changing my diet, lifestyle, and home environment, I completely reversed all of my symptoms and had no sign of an autoimmune disease when tested.

Now, I wish I could say my life was full of rainbows and butterflies from there. But it wasn’t.

After graduating, becoming a personal trainer, getting a full-time job, and starting my first business I found myself slipping back into old habits (working 12 hour days, staying up late, neglecting family & friends, flogging my body at the gym, and counting every morsel of food on my plate) all in the pursuit of “success” and the “perfect body.”

My physical appearance may have looked healthy, but my thoughts, feelings, and behaviors were FAR from it.

I became obsessed with fitness to the point where I was diagnosed with athletes amenorrhea (I didn’t get my period for 3 years) and adrenal fatigue. I was “fit” on the outside but still felt miserable inside. 

At this point, I had ENOUGH! I wanted to be happy and healthy – mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

By the grace of God, my cry for help led me to the largest nutrition school in the world, Institute for Integrative Nutrition, to start my journey to become a certified Holistic Health Coach.

At IIN, I quickly learned that health is SO MUCH MORE than your physical appearance or food on your plate. Health is…

…Your mind, your body, and your spirit.

…A direct reflection of your thoughts (such as “I am beautiful,” or “I’m so ugly”), core beliefs (such as “I’ll never have clear skin” or “I can transform my skin”), feelings (such as your perception of stress and urgency), actions (such as what you choose to put in or on your body), and environment (the air you breathe and the people you surround yourself with). 

…A journey, not a destination.

I also learned that being the healthiest, most beautiful version of yourself is not something you can ever forget about, or be done with. It’s a decision that you’ll have to make every single day.

Even though I am healthier, happier, and more in tune with myself than ever before, I’m still refining and adapting my habits, and I know I always will be. 

My focus is on progress, not perfection, which can be a struggle for us Enneagram 3’s who are typically success-oriented, excelling, driven, and image-conscious achievers!  

As I reflect back on the times in life when my skin was clear, smooth, bright, and effortlessly glowing, I was always taking care of myself. Whereas, the seasons in life when I had sensitive, acne-prone, and dull skin, it was the exact opposite. I was so focused on getting a 4.0 in college, excelling in my career, or growing a business that I put my health and self-care on the back-burner. 

My personal health challenges are one of the many reasons I do what I do. I’m passionate about educating women on the deep connection between diet, lifestyle and skin. Because the truth is, impacting the world and people around you becomes increasingly difficult if you don’t feel your best.

I truly believe that with God and good health, we can do ANYTHING! I also believe that we’re better wives, mothers, daughters, friends, and leaders when we’re well rested, nourished, and fulfilled. In my 10+ years educating on healthy lifestyle habits, I’ve helped hundreds of women to lose weight, sleep better, reduce stress, clear up their skin, and reclaim their energy. I’ve witnessed women transform mentally, physically, and emotionally by adopting healthier habits. I am thrilled to share everything I’ve learned to help you look and feel your absolute best too!

If my story resonated with you or if you have questions about what I do, feel free to reach out – rachel@rachelsunley.com. I’d love to connect with you!