Helping busy families reclaim their health.
10 years after starting her own personal health journey, Donna has now devoted her life to health activism. Author of Indulge Your Way to Healthy, Donna offers practical, holistic living tips to make healthy living attainable and sustainable.
As co-founder of the non-profit GetREAL, Donna works to bring healthier eating education to kids, parents, and schools.
Visit the events page to see where she will be speaking!
When I entered the health coaching program with the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN), I was floored by all the amazing transformation stories.
So many people had rid their bodies of illness like cancer, candida, irritable bowel, and chronic fatigue.
It made me wonder what I had to offer.
After all, I grew up eating Cap’n Crunch for breakfast. Spam on Wonder Bread was my favorite lunch. Peas only tasted good if they were mushy and came from a can. McDonald’s was a treat, and when I was old enough to walk through our neighborhood to get to one, I visited often.
Yet here I was, and my health was perfectly fine!
Except it wasn’t.
Once I started remembering, I made connections. There were the 48 allergies I’d been diagnosed with at age 8. I’m sure I was the first in my childhood state of Maine to have a wheat allergy. I sneezed my way through spring and fall, and forget visiting friends who had cats. Weekly visits to the doctor’s office for allergy shots left me feeling like a human pin cushion.
I lived with asthma so bad, it kept me from playing the sports I loved, left me laid up in bed beside a humidifier many a school day, and nearly killed me a couple times when I was struck with attacks at times I didn’t have an inhaler with me.
There is nothing quite as scary as struggling for every. single. breath.
Later, in my 20’s, I was hospitalized with pneumonia for five days. A few years later, a diagnosis of Stage 1 cervical cancer sent me to the hospital twice for surgery. In my 30’s, I threw my back out with a sneeze and was forced to down giant pills for years afterward just to be able to get out of bed.
This was my life. And I didn’t think anything was that wrong.
Illness was a mystery. You couldn’t really predict who got sick, who’d be diagnosed with cancer. Aches and pains were simply a matter of getting older.
Seems everyone has a turning point in their lives.
Often more than one. My latest defining moment happened shortly after the weekend of my 40th birthday. I’d spent the time in Woodstock, NY, with a bunch of my gal pals. It was a blast. But it was the photos taken by my camera-toting friend, Tracey, that changed my life.
This is one of them.
When I saw this photo, I cringed. I cringed beyond a cringe. It was painful.
I had just turned 40 yet, to me, this photo showed a much older woman. Not only was I a little overweight, I was slouching, my skin was broken out and dull, and my hair…what was I thinking with that hair???
Now, in all fairness to me, this WAS a gal’s weekend in the hippie mecca of the northeast. Not exactly the kind of environment to be concerned about one’s physical appearance.
But still, the person in this photo was not who I was, so I decided to make changes.
With my son starting preschool, I was able to hit the gym three times a week. That felt great. By that time, I’d been researching a lot about nutrition, so I’d cut out dairy and was cooking with more whole foods. With just those first steps, the extra weight came off and I had more energy. I shared what I was learning with friends, and they began coming to me with questions.
I held an event called Veg Out Night. Vegetarian dishes lined the table and I presented information about the benefits of a plant-based diet to the 17 moms gathered in my living room. It was primitive and I was all over the place with my information, but it was a success nonetheless and after that, I knew I’d found my purpose.
I didn’t find IIN; it found me.
I received a random e-mail from a woman I’d interviewed for an article (I’m a freelance writer). Somehow I’d made it onto her address list. In the message, she praised the school and all she learned from it. I clicked on the link- yet another defining moment- and here I am today.
I swear, I feel the best I’ve felt in my life!
I wouldn’t trade in my 40’s for a younger me, because I know so much more today and have so much more energy. I eat a clean diet. I know that illness is not a mystery; that I have far more control over my health than I once believed. I no longer suffer from asthma. In fact, I’ve not carried an inhaler for years. My allergies have nearly disappeared. I have no back pain. For two years, I’ve participated in a 2-day 150-mile bike trek on Cape Cod to raise money for MS.
Now my days are full of joy.
I’ve changed my attitude to welcome positivity into my life every day. When negative situations arise, I view them as learning experiences and do my best to change or remove them from my life. I love to live and see each day as an opportunity to learn something new. I appreciate all the beautiful people I am so fortunate to have in my life.
I understand that I can make my future happen, and I’m a firm believer in manifesting what I desire.
I’m not finished with myself. I still have more to learn and much to “fix”, but life is a journey.
If you are frustrated with your health, do not give up.
Know that YOU have the power to change your health…and your life.
Turns out I did have a story after all.
Certified as a health coach and trained in mindfulness-based stress reduction, Donna travels New England to share her research and stories about the power of lifestyle on our health, and to provide support and inspiration to empower others as well.
Donna is the author of Indulge Your Way to Healthy, and her work has also been published in Bay State Parent Magazine, Boston Parents’ Paper, Highlights for Children, and Cup of Comfort for Adoptive Families.
Donna is also co-founder of the non-profit Get REAL Food Campaign, with a mission to diminish the power of a billion dollar food industry and its specific marketing to children by making real, plant-based whole foods cool to eat through awareness, education, celebrity influence, and fun activities so that they and future generations may thrive.
Contact her at Donna@betteroffwell.com