(Listening time 9 minutes, 40 seconds)
I vividly remember the moment the endocrinologist wrote me a prescription for thyroid medication in summer 2011.
Will it make me leaner I asked? At the time my eyes were set on qualifying for the ultimate physique competition, the Olympia and I was going to do whatever it took to make it happen.
I told my coach what the doctor diagnosed me with, "Hashimotos"
"That happens sometimes," he said.
I added a little orange pill of synthetic thyroid hormone to my morning handful of supplements and kept going towards my goal.
I ended up reaching my goal and made it to the Olympia that year. The day I qualified I remember a deep stillness coming over me as I waited to walk out on stage. I felt a confidence I had not experienced in prior contests. When I got on stage that day it was like I blacked out. I don't remember striking poses. I don't remember thinking, smiling at the judges. I only remember feeling the intensity of a single light, whether it was a stage light overhead or a light that was within I do not now. It is one of the handful times I felt sincere flow. What I felt others could see and feel, too.
"You were literally glowing," they said.
I held my gigantic check up and smiled. The following week I was packing my bags for Vegas. I had made to the 2011 Olympia.
On Saturday evening, I walked out on stage and stood beneath the lights in front of a packed auditorium. Smiling and squeezing my abs and glute/hamstring tie in tightly I remember it feeling like a smile was slapped on my face, but through my teeth I was saying, “really, this is it. This is the moment?“
Three months later I was in my tiny studio. I walked about 4 steps from my "office" over to the kitchenette preparing to take the tiny orange pill. I held the bottle in my hand and looked at the block lettering on the bottle. My name was on a prescription drug. I was going to have to take this pill everyday of my life.
In that moment, I got angry and I decided not to take the pill. I put the bottle in the drawer and never took one of those orange pills again. I marched four steps out of the kitchen back over to my corner desk and started to take matters into my own hands.
I knew that medication like that would work in the beginning, but then my system would down regulate. Eventually it could be greater doses. It was not in alignment with my core values and beliefs or vision.
So, I was going to have a change.
To accompany the newfound thyroid condition, I had a bigger issue to deal with- I had not had a menstrual cycle in several years. Going from D1 lacrosse in college to marathons to beach sprinting, to the IFBB ….it was go go go, then on top of my own training I would teach dozens of fast paced classes per week and I lived in constant fear and financial struggle living paycheck to paycheck. All of this created a lack of safety within. It was like my body didn't trust me and I didn't trust it either.
My nervous system was getting fried and my hormones were on strike.
To heal from the inside out I was going to have to do the hardest thing in life…let go.
I was going to have to let go of control, let go of my pride, and egoic goals.
Let go of strict dieting and my 8% body fat to get my hormones happy and healthy. I began by focusing on eating real food, not counting every single calorie and carb I ate and having more balance in my diet...and in my life.
I let go of hours of steady state cardio and focused more on lifting for strength and interval training and eating to fuel my workouts.
I let go of hiding behind titles, accolades, and my training programs and schedules to compensate for my insecurities and constant feeling of not being good enough.
The process was not easy to say the least, but that’s not even the tip of the iceberg.
In winter of 2014 after the bomb dropping that the fitness show I signed a contract to create and host was not going to happen I went through a cycle of severe depletion. I felt zapped of energy and relied on Healer’s Tea a blend of Chinese Herbs from Ron Teeguarden’s Dragon Herbs to get me through the day. Then one day in the midst of my depletion as I was lying in bed. I got a sudden throbbing sensation in my head. I had never had migraines so I wasn't sure if that was what was happening, but ( get ready...I know this may sound a bit woo woo but it was my true experience) I heard a voice.
“What are you going to do? Continue to lay here forever and feel sorry for yourself? Go outside.”
The calling was so strong I got up, tossed on my hiking shoes, called for my Dog and headed out to a nearby hiking trail in Pacific Palisades. It was late afternoon in February and the sun would be setting soon.
I didn’t care.
I hiked up to a rock where I had to climb through a tiny hole to sit on the ledge and look out over the ocean. It felt like I was above the noise, out of the chaos, away from the hurt and the shame. I could finally see that what I thought was the biggest failure and pain of my life was really just a slip dip in the path not a massive dark hole.
My mind went silent. I observed that there was no thought. I even tried to think and I couldn’t. I tried to tell myself the old stories of failure and hurt; the ones that had become so ingrained, but I couldn’t. There was nothing.
I loved that- silence.
For the first time in a long time at that point I felt myself opening and expanding.
I wanted to stay on that mountain. I wanted to live on that rock.
I started fantasizing about how I could carry a tent up that trail and sleep there every night. I began to think about how I could just shower at the gym, pack my cooler with healthy food, and live the simple life. I became so enthralled with the idea it began to take form to the point it was no longer a fantasy.
I walked down the trail in the dark with Quincy, my pup, in tow and a new life plan.
Within the next month I sold all of my furniture, put some essentials in storage, and turned in the key to my Venice Beach apartment. Quincy and I set out on an adventure where we traveled to different cities and national parks for 4 days out of the week camping and living out of my car and I worked in Los Angeles for 3 days mid-week.
Every week was an adventure. I felt like a kid again. I felt like I was coming back to life after burn out. For the first time it felt like my life was expanding again after it was road block after road block and stumbles and face plants.
Our nomadic lifestyle lasted for about a month before I was ready to gain more stability, but I still wasn’t ready to put down roots yet so instead we floated.
An idea came to me, "Wow, wouldn’t it be awesome to live on a sailboat?!"
I looked on Craigslist and the very first post I read was to rent a docked sailboat in Marina Del Rey. It was a sign. I called the owner and that day Quincy and I found ourselves a new home.
On that tiny sailboat I would sleep with the top open so I could listen to the water and gaze at the moon. In the mornings I would do mobility, bodyweight workouts on the dock, and jump rope careful not to wake up my neighbors.
It was truly a playful time. I took acrobatic and flexibility lessons from one of my boatyard neighbors, an ex Russian gymnastics coach who kept referring to me as a Dominque Moceanu as he pressed my chest to the ground in middle splits and I would flatten like a pancake with a terrified look upon my face.
During the days I would try so hard to be productive, but that boat would rock me to sleep. My body and mind needed the rest.
I lived on that little yellow sailboat for 3 months. On my 30th birthday I moved out and back into an apartment. I felt more stable inside and outside and was ready for my external environment to reflect that back at me.
Later that summer when I went to go see the same endocrinologist I visited back in 2011. He took extensive blood work. Everything was optimal. Thyroid and all.
“I want to know what you did so I can be happy like you,” he said.
"I didn’t do anything. That’s the secret," I said with a smile.
I knew that divine intelligence and nature had taken care of it for me. I was just following instructions.
After a summer of surfing and learning the art of work and play from scratch my cycles returned naturally after a 10 year absence, no complications, no pain or cramps, just ease. My hormones were turning back on and I felt like I was coming back to life.
It was like I reached a turning point in my health and fitness journey, but there more lessons to be learned around the bend.
To be continued...