Written by Christopher Kelly
Sept. 8, 2015
I started smoking aged 16. Around the same time, I started riding motorbikes. I had my first serious accident aged 19, a collision with a car that severed my carotid artery. Five hours of surgery and 11 units of blood later, the doctors were able to replace the missing artery with a vein from my inner thigh. A week after I got out of the hospital, I was back on the bike.
Throughout university, I ate almost nothing but the foods to which I know now that I'm exquisitely sensitive. Bread, pasta, cereal and processed meats were all staples. I drank to excess and took recreational drugs. When I wasn't partying, I was sat at a desk writing code, barely emerging from the house from one day to the next. Somehow, I emerged from university with a first-class degree in computer science. Quite how I did that remains a mystery to me.
My symptoms of brain fog, mild depression, anxiety, bloating and low libido started at a very young age, but only much later did things reach a breaking point. I think the first time I knew something was wrong with me was when I refused to move in with a longtime girlfriend after her mother died suddenly of cancer. I still can't explain why I did that, anxiety and depression frequently made me irrational.
After that relationship had ended for obvious reasons, I moved to work for a large tech company in Silicon Valley. Within a month, I gained 10lb eating the food from the canteen, and soon after my brain fog got really bad. My commute took over an hour, and I spent eight hours a day in a six by five grey cubicle lit with florescent lights. Crap food and soda fountains were everywhere, and I was well on the road to destruction.
I think it was Robb Wolf that said that men only go to the doctor when their dick doesn't work, or they have pain in the chest, and for me it was the former. Living in San Francisco, I had expended huge amounts of energy in finding a girl using online dating sites, but none of the relationships would progress very far because I had zero interest in sex. What the hell was I thinking? That somehow the magic sort-it-out fairies would intervene, and fabulous sex would appear out of thin air if only the opportunity were to arise?
Eventually, I found myself sat on the concrete outside the house of a girl I respected very much on a chilly June evening in the city. I was trying to pretend my bum hadn't gone numb as the girl delivered an ultimatum. "Go to the doctor and sort yourself out then give me a call," she said. And so I did. I went to the doctor and told him all about my digestive trouble and brain fog. I told him about the anxiety and insomnia. He seemed pretty smart and was wearing a white coat, but the answer he gave me didn't seem very convincing. "You're an athlete," he said. "This is to be expected," he said. "Take this prescription for Viagra and you'll be fine". To be fair to the doctor, Viagra works well, but I can't say it did much for my bloating.
In the end, I was fine. I'm now completely free of all of my symptoms and feel better than at any other time in my life. The next girl that I met was Julia, now my beautiful wife to whom I will be forever grateful for helping to heal me with her cooking and knowledge of food science. Our daughter is nearly two, and she's perfect, even with half of my crappy genetic material.
So what changed?
I suddenly had a glimpse of my mortality and with it I was ready. Ready to seriously commit to eating, sleeping, moving, managing stress and correcting the problems I found with the home health tests that I did. For me to be ready took 35 years. 35 years of feeling like shit and not even knowing it! Now with hindsight, I wonder if that's what everyone must go through to be ready.
Take my daughter Ivy as an example. She's never eaten anything that most people would consider "not Paleo". Between that and being lovingly breastfed for two years has resulted in not a single trip to the doctor. She's never even had a nappy rash. So what motivation does she have to stay strict with her diet? Pretty much none I'd say. And how bad would things have to get for her to be ready?
It's been almost two years since I left my job at the hedge fund to start Nourish Balance Thrive, and for the first time in my life I love what I do. Now my work helps people feel better, and I find that hugely fulfilling and slightly addictive. Almost every day I look at my Quickbooks, and I think "I need to get a job". But every day I talk to someone who has had a life-changing experience by following my recommendations, and it more than makes up for the money.
The health coaching business is a tough nut to crack, but not for the reasons you might expect. Helping people feel better than before is not as hard as you would think, and there are lots of good practitioners out there. The thing that makes health coaching difficult is marketing and managing a small business. Few people have all these skills.
If I'm to make this a successful business, I need to spot the people who are ready. How do I know if you're ready? You're ready if you want this more than I do, and I don't think that will happen until you've had a glimpse of your mortality.
Most of my success stories belong to people over the age of 35. In the interest of good business, perhaps I should impose a minimum age limit for NBT customers. Or maybe I'm wrong, perhaps you're younger than 35, and you're ready. If so, let me know in the comments below.