Audrey Byker: Journey to Health Coach
At times it feels like yesterday I stood in front of my mirror as a 17 year old junior in high school, examining every inch of my body, wondering if something had gone detrimentally wrong. There was so much to be grateful for, but the pressures of society mixed with my deeply wounded heart from childhood made it hard to see clear. The day I stood in front of that mirror I had no idea I would be staring at the woman I am today. It was the beginning of a life long journey of health, of a wellness and understanding I had no idea I was set to explore. The truth on that day is the same as the present one, but my knowledge, faith and soul has transformed.
After a 7-year battle of dieting ups and downs, extreme exercise, severe calorie restriction, and even smoking, I finally started to open my eyes to how unhealthy I was feeling inside. Every time I read a new diet book, put it into practice and experienced the outcome, I learned just a little bit more. Titles like “The Zone”, “Body for Life”, “Atkins” and “Slim Fast” brought me one step closer to realizing I am not the person who fit the mold of each and every plan. Protein powders and bars, food scales and perfectly measured portions left me feeling completely out of touch with the signals and cravings my body was pleading for me to listen to and understand.
I graduated from college with a degree in physical education and a new-found passion to not only discover and learn more about health and wellness, but to share and make it contagious to others. My wounded heart was still very much there. It was easier to dismiss my insecurities and run away from my anxiety than to work through it head-on. Of course, the 17 year old looking in my mirror had overcome a few fears, but the journey never stops and God had more things in store.
While I once believed I thrived clinging to control, my next step on my journey proved—once again—to teach me something new. After a few years teaching in the schools, connecting with students and teachers, all while marrying the man of my dreams, I found myself pregnant so soon. Although this was different than my plan, I chose to be gracious and ready to become a mom. The day my daughter was born it seems a new chapter began. The steps were starting to feel much heavier—moving forward—while giving most of me to a baby, was a weight I could hardly bare. In an almost constant state of panic I called my Dr. one day and said “I can’t do this anymore.” He offered me Prozac and I said no because I didn’t believe it would heal at my core.
I convinced him to walk me down the hall to the psychologist’s office that day, which left me waiting to meet with my new therapist for what felt like years. 6+ months later there was a load just about the weight of the world off my shoulders. It almost felt like life was brand new. During that time my husband and I made the decision to keep me at home to raise our daughter, to go against all my dreams of a career. The truth is, I was scared to death by the thought of being home all of the time. Then I blinked and two more babies were born.
It’s hard for me to explain what happens when one becomes a mom. Most of the questions I had about my value and worth seemed to not matter as much anymore. When I chose a food to eat I was always thinking about how it would make me feel, if it would sustain my baby and me or harm us in a way. I started really questioning what was on ingredient labels and learning more about the history of our bodies and what they were created to endure. When I started showing signs of newly developed allergies—both environmental and food—there was no way I could go without learning more. With baby #2 in my belly I heard about the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. At that point I knew eating whole foods was something I was going to keep striving for. That chemicals and additives or anything different than the food I had to prepare was something I did not want in my home. There’s also something extra special and sweet about growing, preparing, cooking and eating food together that our whole family began to enjoy. A career as a health coach seemed like the missing piece of me I lost when I decided to stay at home.
16 years into the journey we continue on. I’m no longer in this alone, but linking arms with others who are maybe looking in that same mirror. Every story is different and there will be no end, but learning, discovering, healing and growing is something worth striving for. I believe we were all created equal, equally deserving of a love for life, for a vibrancy and outlook that is better than great.