Julianne Rowland’s story
HCF: What made you decide you needed to change your life?
“My big “life change” took place in August 2011, two months shy of my 45th birthday. That’s when I embarked on a fully plant-based diet and exercise program and got serious about taking control of my physical and emotional health. In the years prior, I had become a mother in 2005 and again in 2008, and was juggling the stresses of motherhood and family life with a full-time job as a home-based freelance translator. I’ve always been the type of person who throws herself 110% into any endeavor, and as a result, all my efforts were directed at that time toward my family and work. Lacking clear boundaries and balance, I ran myself ragged caring for my young children and also accepted far too much work, frequently leading to sleepless nights and weekend work to meet my numerous deadlines. I lacked proper self-care routines and often turned to emotional eating to “get me through” the stressful times. These self-imposed stressors continued to build up until June 2011, when a dramatic event in our family catapulted me head-on into what I consider to be a full-on nervous breakdown. My mother-in-law suddenly passed away of a heart attack, and within 3 days, I began experiencing a host of symptoms, including nausea and an inability to eat, anxiety, and extremely strange tingling sensations in my limbs and face, which left me feeling weak and were exacerbated any time I moved or exerted myself physically. In my anxiety, I was convinced I was developing a neurological disease and would soon die. Due to weakness in my fingers and hands, I was unable to work. I have clear memories of lying on my office floor during work hours, unable to move, for days on end. And the mere thought of taking my children out into public filled me with fear and anxiety. I consulted a doctor, who suggested I take an antidepressant and have a nerve conduction study done to make sure everything checked out. My natural aversion to medication caused me to refuse the antidepressant – for a while at least – and the nerve conduction study results came back normal. The symptoms continued to get worse, however, and so I finally relented and began taking the antidepressant.”
HCF: What steps did you take to improve your life?
“After a month or so of agony and fear, I resolved to take control and do everything in my power to fix myself or die in the process of trying. That’s when I sought treatment from an acupuncturist. My weekly visits were key in allowing me to relax and decompress, and I gradually began feeling better. At about the same time, I just happened to catch a show on PBS that ended up changing my life. It was a presentation on healthful eating by Dr. Joel Fuhrman. Having always been interested in optimal nutrition and a firm believer in the healing power of diet, I was intrigued. I ordered his materials and launched myself head-on into his high-nutrient, plant-based style of eating. The transition was not difficult for me, as I had been a near-vegetarian for years. I also began exercising regularly, at first with walking – to the degree I could tolerate the exertion – and gradually leading up to working with a trainer at my local gym a couple of times a week. I also consulted a psychologist during that time and began implementing regular stress-relieving activities and relaxation techniques. Slowly but surely, I began to feel better. My physical symptoms were resolving, and my mental disposition was improving. I was still determined to stop using the antidepressant, but I do acknowledge that it was a key factor in evening out the emotional ups and downs, which in turn facilitated my healing and allowed me to progress on my journey to health. And for that, I am grateful. I continued to work with my acupuncturist, who administered some Chinese herbs to help me through the transition, continued eating high-nutrient plant-based foods and exercising, and was slowly able to wean myself off the antidepressant – no small feat, as my system had become adapted to the medication and I experienced withdrawal symptoms in the beginning. On the physical activity front, I fell in love with my workouts, as they became a regular part of my routine. I gained strength and muscle tone, and my energy levels increased greatly. I now lift 5 times per week and engage in as much physical activity as possible during my daily routine. This includes swimming, running, Crossfit, yoga, and cycling and hiking with my family – anything that keeps me moving! I also work at a standing workstation, which literally keeps me up and on my toes all day and have really worked on my stress management and time management skills. Finally, I have learned to draw appropriate boundaries between work and the rest of my life. It’s not always easy, and I do sometimes backslide, these days mostly into using food as a coping mechanism for life’s stressors, but I always get right back on track and strive to achieve a healthy balance overall.”
HCF: What motivates you to keep on this path?
“I am now deeply committed to taking care of myself and will NEVER go back to my former ways. My current path is a holistic approach that addresses my spiritual, emotional and physical needs.”
HCF: What are you most proud of going thru this journey?
“I am extremely proud that I was able to lift myself out of a very dark place through sheer will and determination. I have realized that not only is it NOT selfish to prioritize myself, but it’s also a necessity – for my own sanity and for the sake of my family. At age 48, I feel healthier, more energetic and more vibrant than ever, thanks to my health-promoting lifestyle.”
HCF: What future goals do you have?
“Right now, my focus is on enjoying the journey. I tend to be extremely driven, almost to a fault, so for me, the challenge lies in being present and living fully and with gratitude each and every day. I’m knocking on the door of my fifth decade (yikes!) and plan on continuing to enjoy vibrant health for many years to come.”
HCF: If you could share any advice or words of encouragement what would they be?
“It IS possible to take control of your health destiny – at any age. It’s not easy, and it’s not quick, but it can be done through daily hard work and dedication. And as hard as the process may seem, the rewards are immense, and once you’ve fully embraced a healthy lifestyle, you’ll never want to go back. I promise.”
HCF: Where can people get in touch with you?
Facebook: Julianne Rowland