Written by Christopher Kelly
Dec. 20, 2019
Megan: Hello and welcome to the Nourish Balance Thrive Podcast. My name is Megan Roberts, and today I'm delighted to be joined by EPP client, Anastasia Lasky. Hi, Ana!
Megan: How are you this morning?
Ana: I'm great. How are you?
Megan: I'm doing well. I'm really excited to chat with you about your experience with NBT and what that might look like going forward. Do you want to start by telling us a little bit about who you are and what kind of thing that brought you to NBT in the first place many years ago?
Ana: Yes, many years ago, year three and counting. Anyway, I'm Anastasia Lasky. I currently live in Atlanta. I have lived in New England. I've lived in California. Now, I've settled in Atlanta with my husband. I came to Nourish Balance Thrive about three years ago feeling extremely terrible. I had felt that way for a very long time, possibly my whole life, but more specifically the two years prior to me finding NBT. I had been struggling with what we learned was really severe gut dysbiosis, C. diff, an E. coli overgrowth. Did I miss anything, Megan, about what was wrong with me? A candida overgrowth and some undiagnosed allergies namely gluten and dairy, so I was in a really bad state. I had gone through a lot of traditional doctor visits trying to get answers, getting nowhere. Then I think on a podcast, a random podcast, someone just name-dropped Chris and I Googled him. I went to the website and I said, "Oh, they might be able to help me," and so I signed up and here we are three years later.
Megan: Awesome! What was the experience like working with Nourish Balance Thrive? I guess we could start at the beginning and talk about the things we found at first and then where you went with all of that. I know you have a very complicated story, which I think people would be really interested to hear about. What did we find first? What did we uncover first? I know I came in a little bit after you started working with NBT, so tell us the story there.
Ana: Yeah. The initial approach that NBT took with me, I would say, was -- I mean everything about working with you guys is phenomenal, but the additional approach was so refreshing because I had spent two years being extremely ill on a day-to-day basis, severe brain fog, barely able to get out of bed some days, and to have people that had a game plan for how we were going to actually learn with science, what was wrong with me rather than just giving me non-answers was kind of the boost I needed to gather a little bit of energy and motivation to actually do the interventions that were then required. I would say that the amount of information I received during the initial phase of testing that we did was incredible. I didn’t even know that some of these tests existed and what they could uncover. Immediately following that, the amount of work that I had to do and the NBT team had to do given how I responded to the initial treatments was a lot, so it basically became almost a full-time job for me to try to fix what was going on because it was so severe.
Some of the things I had to change were what I was eating. The month before I found NBT, I had actually, also through random name-dropping and Google searches, found out about the Primal Blueprint, and so I had already started eating "primal" because I was like, well, I've tried everything else. I might as well try this thing. That has started to help I think because I had removed gluten from my diet using that framework, and so I was already doing that, but then working with you all, there were some additional parameters that you all encouraged me to try within that framework. Then from there, once we found out that I had C. diff, the game changed and we tried a number of dietary interventions, none of which worked for me personally. They didn’t help with the C. diff, but it was a lot of effort to do it.
Megan: Yeah, and a lot of experimentation because we didn’t know if something like a lower fat, higher carbohydrate, less animal protein style of diet would work. We speculated it would due to the endotoxemia that was likely going on with the C. diff, but at the same time, we didn’t know if that would help you. Ultimately, diet wasn't the thing that helped. Supplements weren't the thing that helped. I know you had a pretty bad reaction to the Saccharomyces boulardii supplements that we tried.
Ana: It's just interesting to me because a lot of the things that we try seem to not work as well on me.
I attribute it to probably the amount of dysbiosis that I still continue to struggle against every day. It's like we tweak anything and it throws everything out, but saccharomyces boulardii made me incredibly ill, more ill than I already was with having C. diff. I lasted all of about I think ten days on that one before I was basically in tears on the phone with Chris saying, "I can't, I can't, I can't" and then he said, "Well, you need to think about what your options are from that point because we've narrowed it down to two different things that are left that you can try, one of which is going to a regular doctor, providing them with your test results, and getting some courses of Vancomycin going, which could work, or it might make you worse. The other option is getting a fecal transplant" which is a very intensive endeavor that is not available in my home country of America, so I would have to fly to the UK or maybe the Bahamas or maybe Argentina. Those are my options, so I had to take a stark look at where I was and the quality of life I wanted and I ended up going to England for a fecal transplant at Taymount Clinic, which was a very drastic step, but hey, it worked!
Megan: Tell us about the experience of the FMT. You don’t have to obviously go into details if you don’t want to, but not very many people have been through that. It's something that does come up periodically in talking to other clients and I think it would be nice for others to hear about what you went through, your experience, would you do it again. Obviously, everybody is going to be different, but if you want to talk a little bit about that.
Ana: Yeah. I think conceptually, a fecal transplant makes perfect sense for someone like me who every time we tried just a minor tweak, the gut just responded by going completely haywire and in the other direction. The premise of a fecal transplant is that instead of doing minor things, you do a major thing. You completely replace all of the gut flora over a series of days through a specific medical procedure and then hopefully, that totally new gut microbiome will take hold and it will eradicate any remaining "bad bugs" that are left.
Conceptually, I understand why it worked for me give what I had seen. The experience of going over to England and going to Taymount was fairly incredible. It was really nice for me to have -- you're there for about two weeks, so I was overseas for about two and a half to three weeks just including travel time on each side. It was a great way for me to not only receive this wonderful, in my opinion, life-saving treatment, but also to take that time and only be worried about my health during that time. I didn’t have all of my other priorities on my plate, so I greatly enjoyed it. I went in November, and as someone who grew up outside of Boston, I think London in November is just really beautiful, so I really enjoyed it.
Megan: So you did the FMT. That took about two weeks there. When you came back, how soon after the FMT did your quality of life change? Was it immediately after the first transplant? Was it a couple of weeks after you were back home? How did your symptoms change afterwards?
Ana: Yeah, for sure. Before going, I had asked the Taymount folks what can I expect in terms of outcomes and I want to relay what they told me just so I don’t give people a false sense of how things might progress, but they relayed it to me at that time, which is the end of 2017, they said that about a third of their patients see an improvement within the first month, about a third of their patients see an improvement within the first three months, and then a third of their patients either takes longer than that or they don’t see any sort of significant improvement in their symptoms or their conditions that they're coming there for. C. diff is not the only thing that they treat at Taymount, so just to get that out of the way.
For myself, personally within the first five days of treatment, I saw a significant improvement just in my energy levels. I started to have energy, which was refreshing after almost at that point two and a half to three years of being really ill, and so I started to see those improvements.
When I got back home, within the first month, I definitely felt like I could do a lot more. I could exercise. I could be more mobile and I could eat a lot more food. So right before I went to Taymount, working with NBT, I had narrowed my diet down to things that didn’t make me react so terribly and it was very small amount of foods that I could eat. It was basically leafy green vegetables and meats, but having to be very careful about what types of oils I use to prepare them and what cuts of meat and things like that. I remember telling you, Megan, when I was there, I was like, "I ate corn and I ate potatoes and I didn’t get sick" and I was so excited, so it was great to come home and actually be able to eat sort of normally and go to restaurants again.
Then within three months, that's when my immune system really caught up with all the changes. It was almost like a light switch flipped. Before going, I hadn't had regular periods for a number of years and then it was like at three months, everything started to become regular for me hormonally. My hair had all been thinning and falling out for the past two years just because of how ill I was, and again, I had that three-month mark and I'm noticing all this healthy thick hair growing. My brain fog and all that, it just kept getting less and less and less, so that was great.
Megan: I remember that transition and I was so excited for you, so excited. So the FMT was great. Would you say that it was a panacea? Was it a silver bullet for all of your issues?
Ana: No. With me, I have come to accept that it's never so simple. It rarely is for anyone, I guess. I had the FMT and I felt great and then I started to feel weird as time went on. I was still a lot better. Quality of life went from two out of ten to a seven or an eight out of ten after FMT and that fact hasn't changed, so I would say it was definitely effective, but then I started to have all these other secondary things, so I somehow ended up with H. pylori, which we have no idea how that one happened. Then I made some progress against the H. pylori and then I felt like I'm kind of getting a little bloated and feeling uncomfortable every time I eat. Maybe I have SIBO. I had quite a severe case of SIBO. I think that my gut is mostly managed, but it is not perfect.
Megan: Yeah, absolutely. Oftentimes with clients, it's one of those things where working with us gets you most of the way, and then it's kind of an ongoing work in progress and that can be continuing to work with us. It can be going off and doing your own thing and knowing that we're always here if you need us, but the SIBO for a lot of people is one of those that it's hard to completely get rid of and then keep it away forever. A lot of times, it can be recurring and you have to be a little bit more, I guess, careful with what you choose to eat and the lifestyle you choose to live. Actually, I know this because we've talked about it a lot, but lifestyle aspects have also played a big role in how you feel. Do you want to talk a little bit about what you found there over the course of the last couple of years working with us?
Ana: Yeah, absolutely. I kind of have already talked about the dietary stuff, but what I do now is essentially I eat primal-ish. I eat the primal method, no dairy. How would I describe it? Primal, no dairy plus rice and potatoes would be how I describe it.
Megan: I think potatoes are technically primal as well, plus some rice. Primal, no dairy, plus rice.
Ana: Yes, so that works pretty well for me 90% of the time. I think the places that I struggle are in getting enough protein. At a certain point, when you're eating, it's just a lot of meat for me and I have to sometimes sit myself down and say, "No, you really need these calories from protein, not from carbohydrates," which is where I kind of default, so that works really well for me.
Megan: Can I ask how you determined that it was protein that you needed more of versus carbohydrates? How do you feel differently on protein versus carbs?
Ana: Yeah, absolutely. It definitely was an experimentation --
Megan: Yeah. I asked because one of the things I'm always trying to get people to do is to eat more protein. It's really easy for many people to under eat protein especially when you're getting it from steak and chicken and fish versus chugging away protein shakes. If dairy is off the table, you don’t have things like Greek yogurt. So what were the signs that you needed more protein versus another macronutrient?
Ana: Totally. I'm sure you're familiar with the term "hangry".
I experience extreme "hanger" when I am not eating enough protein, so it's definitely a mood issue and an energy issue. I learned through experimentation when I was not eating enough protein or still when I have a few days where I'm either traveling or I get off track, I'll be like, "Why am I so hungry all the time?" I feel very hungry all the time and I then have to remember, "Oh, that's because you're not eating enough protein and probably not eating enough animal fat alongside that protein," so I have to just balance everything out. Frankly, it's a lot more work to eat enough animal protein compared to eating even plant proteins like a granola bar that says it has five grams of protein. To me, those don’t actually do anything for me. They may help other people, but for me, I'm better off just having in my fridge a few chopped up chicken breasts that I chop up into cubes and if I'm looking for a snack, I can just eat chicken. I actually really like to do that with salmon as well, have little chopped up salmons around.
Megan: That's great. My follow-up question was going to be tips that you have -- because I know you're an excellent cook -- to eat more protein because a lot of times, sure, you can have an EPIC bar if you're out on the run, but it's much easier to grab a banana, which there's nothing wrong with a banana, but again, you're not getting enough protein if you get hungry versus going to the fridge and having something available. I think that's really key for a lot of people, and it sounds like it is for you, is having the chicken already made so you don’t have to go take 25 minutes to cook chicken breasts in the oven.
Ana: Correct. I'll give you my tips. One is there is a Wild Planet sardines with lemon oil or lemon whatever. If you like fish, you'll like those. They are like little candy snacks. You can just eat that.
Megan: I love sardines. I've never had somebody describe them as candy snacks.
Ana: As someone who doesn’t like sugar, never liked it, I'm more about the savory, so those are good. The other thing I've been doing lately is I've been buying European bacon. It's a lot leaner in terms of the bacon. It still has a lot of fat, but protein-wise, it has more of a protein level. I've been buying that and having that on hand and actually been eating that for breakfast with random other things. Whenever I'm cooking anything that I'm going to grill, if it's salmon, if it's steak, if it's whatever, I'll try to have an extra unit of that, so if I'm going to grill six chicken breasts, maybe I'll grill eight instead and then chop up two and keep them to the side. I can also throw them in anything and use that. I'm not a big fan of canned salmon, but I am a big fan of canned tuna. I'm also a big fan of canned organic chicken breasts. I love soup. Soup is my favorite thing, so I'll have that and I'll throw it in to bone broth with a bunch of frozen organic veggies and the canned chicken. I've just made chicken and vegetable soup in about two minutes and that works great. My favorite brand of beef jerky is called Chudabeef and it's delicious because they leave enough fat on the beef when they dry it out or whatever that it has a crackly, crispy taste to it or texture. It's very delightful. That's my plug for that brand. Those are my snacking protein sources.
Megan: Great! Do you want to talk a little bit about how intuitive eating has fit into all of this and where you are now? I know that, kind of like what we talked about in the beginning, you've experimented with the lower fat version of things when you were dealing with the C. diff. You've experimented with Keto. You've come into this personalized primal approach, but I also know that intuitive eating, it can be really helpful for psychological health as well. Do you want to talk a little bit about that?
Ana: Yeah, totally. I think going back to all the specific interventions that I in a way had to undertake to try to manage feeling extremely terrible, part of doing that is -- at least if you're me, I'm a zero percent or a hundred percent person. When I was 100% in on doing that, I was really not just doing it, but I was tracking everything I ate and I was getting very obsessed with analytics and numbers. As someone who does stuff with numbers for their professional job, it makes sense why I would get so obsessed with it. So I got to a place mentally where I was, I would say, not having a healthy approach or a balanced approach to how I was viewing the food that I was eating.
It was taking its toll on me in a way of I didn’t want to go out to eat with friends or something because I was worried and anxious that I wouldn't be able to accurately measure what I was consuming or that there were things in the food that I didn’t know that I couldn't account for, let's say. These are irrational anxieties that came forward after me spending, in my opinion, a little too much time obsessing over what I was intaking.
After that period of really trying to get well and reaching a point of stability, an eight out of ten kind of feeling, I thought to myself -- and I remember you and I talking about it like I need to do something different so that I'm not creating more stress for myself because the stress -- and we can talk about that later -- stress is the number one trigger of gut dysbiosis for me point blank, period. I was Googling around and looking around online and I stumbled across Healthy at Every Size and Intuitive Eating. There's a term called "body neutrality" that I recently learned about and there are all sorts of different things that each of those offer, but the main thing that I took away is that basically, if I can build my skill in attuning to my body and truly understanding what it is that is driving my impulse around food whether that'd be a positive impulse or a negative impulse then I can more naturally eat and I can eat what is right for me at that time knowing that that would change day to day, moment to moment, whatever, so it's been very helpful for me. Some days, I don’t really eat breakfast because I'm not hungry and that's kind of hard to believe because we're raised to eat three meals a day, let's say.
Megan: Yeah. That's really great to hear. I know that a lot of people, they come from a place of eating a standard American diet then they get into this paleo, primal, ancestral health world, and what is originally a good intention of eating healthy food, it can become an obsession. It can become a really big focus and people are really focused on the food, whereas they need to take a step back and say, "Okay. Maybe there's something else driving my symptoms." Maybe, like you just mentioned, it's stress. I know for me, my gut is pretty solid, but if something stressful is going on, that's when things take a hit in my gut. That's a really good observation or something that you've learned that you could use these intuitive eating principles and have a really healthy approach to your diet both from a physical standpoint, you're nourishing your body, as well as the psychological standpoint, so that's really great. Did you want to talk a little bit about how stress plays into all of this?
Ana: Absolutely, yeah. About a year before I started working with NBT, I had reached a point -- well, I was feeling terrible physically, but I was also feeling terrible mentally and emotionally. There's a whole long, too-long-for-the-podcast set of stories that I could say about why that was all happening, but basically, it was your classic quarter-life crisis. I've been doing this standard track that has been laid out for me. You grow up. You go to school. You get good grades. You go to a good college. You get a good job, then I was like, but I hate it. Thanks, I hate it. So what do I do? That kind of existential crisis was creating a lot of issues for me.
One of the main features of how I was living before was that I was very, very stressed out. I held my work very, very close to me emotionally. I was very affected by every single thing that was happening in the workplace, in personal life. Everything was being held so close to me that I was getting very stressed and my baseline stress level was just through the roof, and we have the test results to prove it. We can look back at the diagnostic tests for my cortisol levels. They were very high. So from there, on my own, I was seeing a cognitive behavioral therapist before I started working with you all and I continued that through the first bit of working with you as well and that really helped me to learn some skills to position myself relative to actions and situations I have no control over and to lower my stress in that way, but when you've done that for 27 years, even now three years later, it's still a work in progress, which is good.
Megan: Yes. I can absolutely relate. I'm guessing -- and I don’t want to put words in your mouth or ask a leading question, but I'm guessing that addressing some of those stressors and bringing that baseline level of stress down was not only helpful for your gut health, but was helpful for everything else in your life as well as other symptoms that were going on.
Ana: Totally. Everything that I've done with NBT has had a positive effect on my mental and emotional health or whatever I'm working on over in that department and then vice versa like lowering my stress levels has had a good effect on my gut. Looking back, if you feel like a two out of ten truly every day and you're going through the world, everything is going to stress you out. Everything is going to feel bad. You're not in the mental state because of your physical ailments to actually engage with people at a higher level. You're just functioning in this base primal animal level and that's not going to have a good result, so it all has worked together to lift my overall life.
Megan: Yeah. That's absolutely fantastic. I'm guessing that creating new habits was a really important part of bringing that baseline level of stress down. I know that stacking habits and making habits stick and all these things have been aspects that we've been working on over the last handful of years both with NBT and then also on your own. Do you want to talk a little bit about maybe how you've learned to make those habits stick and then also what are the keystone habits that you found have worked well for you?
Ana: Yeah, totally. The biggest thing I've learned is how to form a habit. For me, the thing that was undermining my habit formation, I came to learn, was not giving myself reasonable steps to increase whatever it was I needed to increase to achieve the habit.
Megan: So you're trying to go from zero to a hundred versus having baby steps along the way.
Ana: Correct. Some things for me are very easy to form a habit like if I decide I'm now going to eat this way, whatever that way is, I can just go ahead and do that, and for whatever reason, that works for me, but things that need to be done as a part of your life, not just the entire thing like diet to me is like you're either doing it or you're not. That's how I think about it, but things like exercise, things like just having self-care, stress reduction, habits, even right now, I'm learning some coding stuff for work and I need to step into it in a slower way than I was doing it before, and so one of the things that I've worked on with you is like okay, there are seven things that I need to do, but can you please prioritize two of them for me? Then I will start with those two and I will get those down over a week or a month depending on what they are, and then we'll go back to the list and then we'll add another thing because I've learned that to form an actual habit and not just be using the sheer force of your will to accomplish something, which just really drains your energy, you have to go in increments towards it.
Megan: That's a great observation. What are some of the habits that you have done that with that have created the most significance in your life, positive significance?
Ana: This is kind of weird, but organizing my workload like my professional work in order to lower my overall stress, that has been the number one habit. It's actually a collection of different habits. It's like a collection of habits around how often and when and with what intention I'm accessing my emails or taking communications from my clients and how I approach work. I used to be very much like let me think it all out in my head and not document that anywhere, and then suddenly expect myself to a week later remember all of that. Now, I have more habits around how I work and what exactly I do and where all the work in progress things live and that's really helped me.
Definitely a habit that comes and goes, but I know how to build it if I want, is my exercise habits. I would say that for me, in addition to making things bite size, the other thing is that the success of the habit really depends on the setup of the environment around that habit. You're not going to succeed at, let's say, running a marathon if you don’t own running shoes and you live in some sort of radioactive wasteland. You can't go run outside. What are you going to do? I've learned a lot about, for exercise specifically, setting up the system and the structures so that I have the time in the day to do it and I have the shoes that I need or whatever equipment that I need to enact.
Megan: Speaking of exercise, I know that you've realized or come to the realization that physical activity can happen outside of a conventional gym. Do you want to talk a little bit about what you've been doing with your house or with gardening to get the physical activity that your body needs and that you enjoy without having to go and go do squats at the gym or go walk on the treadmill at the gym or whatever people do?
Ana: Yeah, totally. There's nothing wrong with the gym, and to be fair, I'm thinking of joining the gym again for the winter, but what I wanted to do at my house was create some physical activities that need to be done all the time. We have a pool and there's a lot of arm and core work that needs to be done on a daily basis, skimming the leaves and vacuuming the pool and scrubbing the sides of the pool, so that's one thing. My garden -- we've built this really cool -- it's under 100 square feet of total growing area, but with that, there's always something to do whether you're getting in there and clipping things or bending down, squatting down to plant things or weed or whatever you need to do, so that's been really fun. Yeah, just doing stuff around the house. Scrubbing the floors is a very good cardiovascular activity and physical activity.
Another thing, because I work from home, is I have a standing desk that I use 99% of the time now and while I'm standing, I'm not actually standing. I'm moving around doing squats and stretching and doing all sorts of weird moves. I think my neighbors probably think I'm kind of crazy looking through the window.
Megan: That's great. Anything else that you want to talk about as far as habits go? We covered one in the beginning as well with the proteins, so you've learned that keeping protein snacks around you that are pre-prepared, that's ultimately a habit as well, right?
Ana: Totally. Another dietary habit that I have learned works really well for me is a CSA or a farm box subscription because I as an analytical person, if I'm responsible to figure out what the meals are going to be without any guiding input, I get way over the top and I'm like, "We're going to have gluten-free soufflés" or whatever. It's too complicated, so that causes me stress then. I have this Farm Box that I get. The one we have locally is called Fresh Harvest and they're cool because they do a lot of work in the community around here as well. They deliver it to my house every Wednesday and I don’t have to choose really what vegetables I'm going to start with. All I need to do is from there, get creative and say, "Hey, I have a leek. What am I going to do with a leek?" then I start to find a recipe that works and build from that. For me, that works really, really well. It inspires my creativity, which makes me more likely to want to do it versus saying, "Oh, I give up. I'll just go down to the local restaurant and order something."
Megan: I love the CSA box as well. That's great. One thing that oftentimes we work with NBT clients on over the year or multiple years of them working with us is choosing which levers to pull when and also creating a toolbox of things whether it's dietary interventions or stress reduction interventions or exercise interventions or what have you. Sleep is a big one for a lot of people. What are some of the levers over time that you have found have been the most helpful? What are the things that you do all the time? Maybe what are the things that you tend to maybe bring on when there's a lot of stress and you're feeling those symptoms of stress? Does that make sense?
Ana: Yeah, totally. Well, number one -- and that is to me very foundational -- is sleep. For me specifically, what that means is I structure my day nearly every day so that I don’t have any reason that I would have to set an alarm to get out of bed. What that allows me to do is sleep as much as my body actually needs. Typically, I'm up before sunrise like I'm not sleeping in by any means, but sometimes when I'm not feeling great or I am under a lot of stress, my body does actually need that stress, so the number one lever for me is I don’t start calls or any meetings, appointments, anything until after 10:00 a.m. and that allows me to know that I'll be awake and ready for that later. I sleep without stress of wondering, "Am I going to wake up with the alarm? Am I going to be late?" That's an everyday lever around sleep, and I try to go to bed around ten, if I can, 10:00 p.m.
The other big lever is that I have a very sensitive nervous system, I've learned, through this whole process. I'm very overstimulated by everything. I'm especially overstimulated by fluorescent lighting and open plan offices and ambient noise. I had already quit my corporate job and was doing consulting when I started working with NBT, but just throughout this whole process, it's reinforced -- just all the experiences that I've had, it's reinforced that the career path that I have now chosen for myself in terms of working from home as a consultant is the right path because it allows me to maintain a lower stress level. It allows me to have a lower nervous system baseline, and so doing that really means that I can work much faster and more efficiently without distraction, more focus, and then I have more time to do whatever I want, which is great.
Megan: That is great. That's a stress reduction tactic in and of itself, right? The fact that you're creating more space and more time for you to do things that feed you at a deep personal level.
Megan: What about the sugar lever?
Ana: Oh yeah. Basically, I need to not eat any sugar is what the lever is. I've tried to play with this lever. Actually, this summer, I took about a month and a half of not working with NBT to experiment with being "cured" and I just ate a lot of sugar -- a lot of sugar for me, which is just more than zero -- and I became quite ill again with my SIBO symptoms returning and some yeast overgrowth symptoms returning. We're working on that and I am doing better, but I've just learned that both from a blood sugar standpoint, I don’t know if it's genetics or what, but I have very poor glucose regulation as a baseline, and so to maintain my mood and my energy, I need to eat little to no sugar.
Megan: Yeah. That is the case for some people. It's just a matter of knowing yourself and knowing what works for you. I know you've put "cured" in quotations there. Do you want to talk a little bit about that and maybe how your perception of having symptoms or having "chronic illness" changed along the way?
Ana: Yeah, totally. I think a lot of my perception starts with the fundamental idea that everything is like you're either -- it's like 0 or 100. There is a 100% nice neat bow that you can tie everything up with and you can call it done. Over the past three years or four years, my broader growth as a human has been at trying to create some gray area in the middle between black and white and live in that and enjoy that journey, which for me was very, very, very emotionally uncomfortable prior to getting some help and some toolkits from my therapist about it, but I reached a point where we, as in you and I and the rest of the NBT team, we had gotten things tweaked to this kind of ideal state towards the beginning of this past spring and I was like, "I'm cured. I'm done. I can do whatever I want. We fixed all the problems. Yay!" Well, we fixed all the problems. I wasn't symptomatically being so affected by all the problems.
Now, when all the problems were fixed, I failed to remember that I was doing six different major lifestyle interventions and that's what was actually holding those problems in the fixed category. I learned a lot over the past several months what happens when you forget or you just don’t acknowledge the reason that you're "cured" and you just stop doing those things. For me, people have always told me I have to learn the hard way, so I have to try it myself. I tried basically just doing whatever I wanted and that worked really well for four or five weeks. I think my body could handle it at that point, and then after that, I started to feel really terrible again, started to get a lot of migraines and things like that. I sent you guys an email and said, "I'm back."
Megan: We're glad to have you back, and ultimately, that's a really good observation that it's not really a matter of being cured, but it's a matter of creating these lifestyle habits that allow you to live your life as you want with it. If one of those falls away then yeah, symptoms might return and that's where the learning happens and that's okay as well.
Ana: Totally. I think the other thing is it also encouraged me -- since I started working with you all again and I started feeling better and we're doing all these antimicrobial protocols and I'm actually seeing a chiropractor for my neck and back issues that needed to be treated, I'm learning that the interventions I'm doing, it's not like I'm suffering as a result of that. It's not necessarily convenient when your friends want to go to a pizza restaurant and you're like, "Well, I can't really order anything." That's not convenient, but beyond that, there's not really a lot of limits that I'm experiencing by doing things that I know make my body feel better and that help me be at the best I could be.
Megan: Absolutely. I think that -- I found this myself -- it's easier to say "no" to things when you know they're going to affect you so negatively, so whether that's staying up until 2:00 a.m. or whether that's having pizza or whatever it is, having alcohol, if you know that it's going to affect you negatively, it's easier to say "no" or it's easier to say, "Okay, I'm going to have this in moderation and I might have to accept the consequences," right?
Ana: Totally, yeah, and I think that what I have been learning is that second thing where it's like it's probably okay for me if I'm on a cruise or something like that and I'm wanting to have a drink on the ship or I want to eat stuff with dairy in it on the ship or whatever, but that's one week. What's really important is enjoying that time not feeling guilty over doing things that you "know" are bad, not that they're bad, but you know that they affect you negatively, rallying through that, and then when you get back, that's what actually matters, is did you get your kale today? Did you actually eat vegetables now that you're back from your vacation? You can still enjoy your vacation, but you have to find a way to not continue the self-sabotage and let it turn into this self-sabotaging trend.
Megan: Yeah, absolutely. Cool. Anything else that we haven't touched on that you want to talk about? This is open to anything. I don’t know if you want to say a few words about where you're hoping to get to or your goals in the next year working with us.
Ana: Wow, very open-ended. Well, I can talk about my goals. I would say I'm working with you all in a reduced capacity, so I'm not -- what is it called, the Graduate Program?
Megan: The Graduate Program, yeah.
Ana: Yeah. I'm officially getting my master's degree now, so --
Megan: We'll give you a diploma and everything too.
Ana: That would be nice.
Megan: You've certainly earned it.
Ana: Thank you. What I'm working on is really basically just continuing to reinforce what I've learned, which is that I need to continue some of these interventions indefinitely and still be responsive to my body evolving over time and changing over time and my environment changing over time and whatnot, but I'm using my working relationship with you all to be a really good point of accountability for me to make sure that I am checking in every four or six weeks to let you know how I'm doing. That encourages me behind the scenes to actually do things so that I have something to report to you that I did, so that's good. Then my other goal is obviously to get myself feeling a little bit better because I was feeling at about a five or a six out of ten when I came compared to my eight or nine out of ten. I'm already feeling better. It's been -- what has it been, a month now? I'll have to update you anyway. I haven't spoken to you in quite a while. I'm feeling great. I'm just continuing on with all the supplements that you have recommended that I take for what I'm experiencing and doing that.
On that note about accountability, I think one thing that I've really learned is for me, accountability is the thing that used to terrify me. Now, I've learned to lean into that discomfort and use it as a tool to take action, encourage me to take action without -- I've learned a way to do that without it causing me a paralyzing level of stress. I've taken that coaching model and I've learned the reason that accountability works for me is because you, Megan, are an individual human that is a normal person I can talk to. It's not like some faceless organization that I'm submitting papers to or something like that. You're understanding and you're kind and you understand if I couldn't do something that I said I was going to do because of a reasonable life circumstance happening, so I've taken that model and I've gone on from there to find other coaching type relationships that are really helping me.
That's also something I've taken in to my professional life. I used to work in tech and startup game out in Silicon Valley, and now, I have my own consulting firm, but if you don’t have a manager, how are you going to learn new skills? So now, I have a career coach, an executive coach here in Atlanta who's phenomenal and really helps me to do the same things we're doing with NBT, but on the professional side.
Megan: That's great and I really look forward to working with you for another year.
Ana: Of course.
Megan: Selfishly, I'm glad you're back. It was great to have you on the podcast. Any other closing thoughts, closing words that you want to add in?
Ana: I just want to say thanks. Thanks to you. Thanks to Chris for having the idea to start this company because I tell everyone about you. I'm like, "You've got to go and do an NBT" or whatever. You guys are reaching hundreds and thousands and millions of people, bringing them information that has in a way been willfully hidden from them, without getting my tin foil hat on, so I think it's great and I'm really thankful that I found you. I love working with you, so, thanks!
Megan: You're very welcome and we love working with you too, so thank you.
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