After tapping the snooze button on my alarm, I rolled back under the covers. I snuggled deep into the mess of pillows and bunched up sheets to enjoy those precious extra minutes of sleep. When the alarm beeped again I slowly emerged from my blanket cocoon and instinctively scooped up my phone from the side table. Ten missed calls from mum. I sat bolt upright. A chill ran through my body and my heart froze. Mum had called me in the UK from Australia in the middle of the night. This cannot be good news.
I yelled out to my twin Sarah who was sleeping in the next room. Within minutes we were sitting on the edge of the bed making a Skype call. I’ll never forget mum’s first words. I’d never seen her so serious. She was always delighted to speak to her “giggling girls” but this time something was terribly wrong. “Can you please sit down and put a blanket around you?” The dread in the pit of my stomach became heavier. Sarah and I huddled closer together. Mum sighed deeply then said simply “Byron is dead”. My sister screamed. My mind started spinning. My best friend dead. My sister’s boyfriend dead. It can’t be. He was hanging out with us just 3 days ago. I’ll never forget that cold September morning. Icy cold outside, colder inside. As we hugged each other tight, my sister and I sobbed uncontrollably.
I didn’t think it could get worse, but it did. I stumbled through the next few months. I’d been swallowed up by the UK gym culture so I was working out super hard for hours every day. I was wearing a ton of commercial make-up products and was ploughing through high sugar, high salt processed food for comfort. I wasn’t sleeping well as I had images of Byron spinning his parent’s sports car off a cliff regularly flashing through my mind. While grief was busy eating away my joy, my body was suffering adrenal fatigue, chronic anxiety and exercise induced stress. I was crippled by IBS and my hormones were going haywire. Unsurprisingly, my confidence was rotting away as felt as though I’d lost myself. I hit rock bottom.
I believe that with every roadblock in life we have three choices. We can choose to be indifferent and stay stalled. We can choose to be consumed by it, sinking further and further until we are completely stuck. Or we can choose to Grab Life by the throat and fight. And that’s what I did. I choose in that dark hour to fight for my health, for my vitality, for my joy. And wow, it was tough. But I was tougher. I changed virtually everything in my life – my diet, what I put into my body, my internal dialogue, and especially my workouts.
Believe it or not, it only took me three months to heal myself completely of adrenal fatigue, chronic anxiety, IBS, hormonal imbalances and all the other stress-related illness I’d accepted as a normal part of life. I was as radiant and hopeful as before this terrible year. I had energy to burn and people could see joy burning in my eyes again. I felt truly alive again.
So what did I do in those three months? Well, first I started with my inner life. I read books that encouraged and sustained me. After reading Louise Hay’s and Cheryl Richardson’s inspirational book “You can Create an Exceptional Life”, I immediately integrated positive affirmations into my life. Another book I found really empowering was Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now”. My favourite line in the book is his response to people who say they are looking for inner peace -“You have it already. You just can’t feel it because your mind is making too much noise”. I love that! It’s so true. I managed to quieten the noise in my head with daily Mindfulness Meditation. My anxiety started to melt away as I realised I’m so much more than my mind and my ego driven fears.
I practiced gratitude daily, focusing on what I still did have as opposed to what had been taken away. By reading nurturing books and putting their insights into practice I gained control over my innerlife.
The next step was to nurture my body back to full health. I started studying holistic health and become a certified CHEK practitioner, a multidisciplinary approach that opened my eyes to the importance of diet. I eliminated all processed and refined food and replaced it with fresh and organic produce. I discovered the rejuvenating effect of eating alkaline foods as they reduced the toxins and inflammation in my system by balancing out my blood PH levels. My skin, weight and hormones stabilised after I drastically reduced the amount of acidic foods I was consuming. The CHEK course also alerted me to the dangers of toxic chemicals found in many common shampoo, toothpaste, body lotion and makeup brands. After realising I was slapping hormone disrupting and cancer causing concoctions on my body every day I immediately switched to organic, botanical, cruelty free products with no hidden nasties. By being mindful about what I exposed my body to and what I ingested, in three short months I was feeling thoroughly rejuvenated and revitalised.
But the biggest step to grabbing life by the throat was the dramatic change to my exercise routine. It was time to be more gentle with myself at the gym. I stopped doing those brutal bootcamp-style PT sessions that resembled torture and started ignoring outdated exercise prescriptions such as running on a treadmill. I learnt the proper way to stretch from Paul Chek and started to regain the physical balance my body was craving. My posture improved and my alignment was so strong that I could balance taut and tight muscles with supple flexibility. My focus on functional exercises shaped better abs than those generic PT sit ups ever could, and my core strength improved out of sight. I decided to name this new exercise style “Working In”, as I felt as though I was working the energy into my body not working it out. This type of training did not elevate or trigger cortisol or stress response in the body but still gave the great benefits of exercise. I was exercising but I felt energized not exhausted.
A year later my life changed dramatically again. But this time it was accompanied not by tears but by laughter and smiles. I was working in a prestigious health club in Oxford at this stage and was studying a Masters in Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation in Oxford too. Life was great and couldn’t get any better…or so I thought. One Monday morning a famous Hollywood actress walks into the gym and asks me to train her for the BAFTA Awards. I immediately knew in my bones that no one could help her like I could. I understood both personally and professionally how to journey from a body under stress and pressure to a healthy mind, body and spirit. I still remember the look on her face after our first ‘work in’ session. The session was finely calibrated to stretch the body, soothe the mind and energise the spirit. She left the gym that day walking on air. So did I.
A couple of months later she begged me to be her live-in trainer and nutritionist. I was to be flown around the world to film sets, premieres and private homes. Unsurprisingly, I said yes! The film star lifestyle is glamorous but its also wildly stressful so soon I found other actresses asking me to help them get the strength, poise and vitality they saw in their famous friend. Once they became addicted to my sessions, word of mouth spread and I soon became the go-to exercise coach to A-List celebrities all over the world.
Sometimes life has grabbed me by the throat, like when I hit rock bottom. But with my wonderful friends and my loving family by my side (and great food and exercise!) more often than not I’ve grabbed it by the throat and I’m not letting go! Life is for living…go for it!