My Wellness Journey (so far)

October 2, 2023

Hey there! I’m Kasey, a NASM Certified Personal Trainer and Functional Wellness Practitioner. Welcome to my little corner of the internet where we talk about workouts, sleep, nervous system regulation, stress reduction, food, and any/all things wellness. 

My wellness journey started when I was in law school, but didn’t really get rolling until March of 2011, and it’s been evolving every year since!  

In law school,  I followed a pre-planned meal system and found the time to exercise a couple of times a week.  I got down to the smallest I had ever been (which was still overweight mind you).  

Unfortunately, the stress of studying for the bar coupled with the stress of my grandpa being diagnosed with a brain tumor destroyed my fragile nutrition and exercise habits and wrecked my immune system. In November 2010, the very same week I got my bar results, and about 3 weeks before my grandpa passed away, I was diagnosed with a severe case of mono.

My liver swelled, my spleen swelled, and I had to be put on steroids to keep my throat from swelling shut.  The only thing I was “eating” was slurpees from 7-11 because they were liquid and icy cold. I was sleeping 22-23 hours a day, living in the recliner in my parents living room.  

As an added bonus, my mono was originally diagnosed as strep, (because who gets mono at 25 years old?!) and I was treated with antibiotics.  Antibiotics that react with the Epstein-Barr Virus (that causes mono) and left me with red, blotchy, itchy, peeling skin all over my body – like a sunburn on steroids or a chemical peel gone wrong.

I spent 3-4 months practically bedridden, which only exacerbated my life-long weight issues.

When I could finally stay awake during the day, I decided that enough was enough, I needed to start taking better care of myself. I researched cheap gyms in my area (because I was unemployed at the time) and printed off a day pass to Fitness 19.  When I walked in, the staff was friendly and got me all set up and showed me around.  I spent 20 minutes on the elliptical and that was enough to wear me out and to convince me to sign up for a membership. 

When I signed up, I had no intention of doing anything besides the elliptical at first.  However, the manager set me up with a personal trainer for a body assessment test.  I didn’t have to agree to this; I knew what the results were going to be – overweight, out of shape, and in need of some serious work. At the same time, I knew that having an appointment would ensure that I return to the gym the next day.

The trainer I was set up with was young and energetic.  He asked me about my fitness goals and we had a long discussion about everything that had happened over the last year and things I had tried in the past.  He was certain that with my commitment he could help me reach my goal weight in less than a year.  I was sold.  I paid for 16 sessions with him right then and there, and vowed to stay dedicated to my goal.  

We set up a session for the very next day as I was anxious to get started.  It was nothing short of a disaster.  I was a mess.  I could not keep up.  I started getting dizzy and had to lay down a couple of times throughout the session which was only 30 mins!  It was crazy.  I was disappointed when I finished, but my trainer was optimistic.  He said this was just the beginning and that it was hard to get back into working out, especially with being sedentary for so long and sick on top of it.  He set up another appointment for the next day to make sure I came back. 

The second session went MUCH better.  I was able to keep up with the exercises and did not get that dizzy feeling I had in the first session (we figured out that the dizziness was because I had not eaten breakfast prior to my first session – a big no no!).  After the session my trainer told me the cardio that I needed to do after our sessions and on days that I did not meet with him.  We set up 2 more appointments for the following week.  I walked out of the gym that day feeling more confident and more committed to my goals. 

I spent the remainder of the year sleeping, eating, going to the gym, and job searching. I was religious about my gym time.  I strength trained 2x per week with my trainer and did cardio 5-7 times a week. I even went through a period of time when I did double days at the gym.  I also started working with a nutritionist at the gym, seeing him once a month. By the end of 2011, I had lost 70lbs.

In 2012, I fired my nutritionist because he wasn’t listening to me; in his place, I hired a health coach who came highly recommended by a friend of mine. Later that year, I saw a “1” as the first digit in my weight for the first time in my adult life.  2012 was also the year I got a big-girl job and I moved from the SF bay area back down to Orange County where I had attended college and law school.

Unfortunately in those days, training via zoom wasn’t a thing, which meant I needed to find a new trainer. I converted my Fitness 19 single gym membership to an all gyms membership and started going to the Fitness 19 in Orange. I went through 3 different trainers at the gym.  The first one kept canceling on my last minute, the second one got promoted and stopped training clients in the evenings, and the third one was a new trainer who hadn’t quite got his footing – I knew more than he did at that point.  Needless to say, none of these trainers were a good fit.

I started going to bootcamps instead, and tried small group training for awhile, but the location of the gym and times of the classes were inconvenient and I found myself missing more of them than I was making. It was time to try something else.

So, I started training myself.  I had learned a TON from my first trainer, so I proceeded with that knowledge for a while.  Then I added at-home workouts like T25 and Insanity to my routine, along with various gym classes. I started really cracking down on my diet. When I wasn’t at work, or in bed, I was at the gym working out or the kitchen meal prepping.

At some time in 2014, I crossed over the 100lbs lost mark. By this time, I was working fulltime as an attorney. I was unhappy at work and knew that I didn’t want to practice law for the rest of my life.  I was spending all my free time working out or coaching others in their fitness journeys.  In fall of 2014, I marked on my calendar to quit my job on March 13, 2015, no matter what.

At the end of February 2015, I found out that my mom had a brain tumor and that she would need radiation and chemotherapy. I quit my job that day and made arrangements to move back to the bay area.  My last day as a practicing attorney was March 6, 2015.

I wish I could say it was a straight shot at that point from attorney to fitness professional, but that’s far from the truth.  When I moved back to the bay area, I moved in with my parents while I was figuring out next steps. I ended up getting sick again, and had to have my tonsils removed in June 2015.

From July 2015 until the end of the year, I studied for the personal training exam, healed from my surgery, and helped my mom out. In December 2015, I took and passed the personal training exam. I immediately applied to be a trainers at Equinox, the only gym I wanted to work at and was hired on the spot. 

Left: Photo of me holding up my NASM Personal Training Exam Results: PASSED
Right: Photo of me in 2010, two weeks after being diagnosed with mono and on steroids vs. Photo of me in 2016 when I started working at Equinox as a Personal Trainer.

I started at Equinox in January 2016 as a newbie trainer. I learned everything I could about training and took all kinds of classes and certifications – pre/post natal, kettlebells, TRX, trigger point, etc. If it was offered, I took it. 

I was working A LOT; I’d have clients 6-10 and then again 5-9 during the week and from 8-5 on Sundays.  I loved working there.  I loved my clients. I loved training. But I was burning the candle at both ends. My workouts were suffering, my nutrition was poor, my weight was creeping up, and I was doing all the things I tell my clients not to do. I just didn’t realize it at the time.

I left Equinox at the end of 2017 to travel for a few months.  That experience was incredible, but much too involved to be included in this post, which is already reaching novel-length. When I returned from my travels, I was recruited to another gym. I started as a trainer there in May 2018.

I was ever so slowly building a client base at my new gym, but wasn’t loving my manager, co-workers, or the space in general. In August, I started housesitting after my dad and I got into a ridiculous blow-out fight and he kicked me out of the house.  It was a stressful time, but nothing like what was to come.

In October 2018, my life flipped upside down.  My mom’s brain tumor had returned with a vengeance. The drugs that had kept it at bay were no longer working. I started attending doctors appointments and sleeping on the couch next to my mom who lived in the recliner in their living room (it had been replaced since my stint with mono). My sister and I started interviewing helpers and we bought a safe for her medication.

Despite our best efforts, my mom took a tumble down the stairs in our house. She broke her leg, cracked a rib, and had a nasty head contusion. When she was taken out of our house that day, she never returned.

My mom had surgery and spent a week in the hospital. That same week, my dad started immunotherapy because he was diagnosed with lymphoma. My sister sat with my dad while he received his infusion, I sat with my mom in her hospital room; and after a few hours we would swap.

Left: my dad getting immunotherapy at the cancer center at Stanford vs. my mom at the main hospital at the same time.
Right: holding my mom’s hand

My mom was transferred to a skilled nursing facility while they waited for her swelling to go down so they could perform another surgery on her leg. While there, her leg got infected and she was readmitted to the hospital early at my insistence. She spent the entire month of November in the hospital. My sister would visit during the day while I worked, and I would spend every night there on a cot in her hospital room.

I was surviving on vending machines, cafeteria food, and drive-thrus. I wasn’t working out at all. I was barely sleeping.  I was in survival mode.

My mom was transferred to in-home hospice in December 2018. We moved her into my sister’s one-bedroom condo. I slept on the pullout couch in the living room or an air mattress in my sister’s bedroom.

In January 2019, we transferred my mom to a hospice facility because her care became too much for us to handle and the home health aides were unreliable – showing up late or sometimes not at all. 

Left: My sister and I with my mom on Christmas 2018
Right: My mom at my sister’s condo, 2018

I spent 5-7 nights a week sleeping on a rollaway bed in my mom’s room at the hospice home and any time I wasn’t at work, I was there with my mom.  Her brain tumor had progressed such that it eliminated her short term memory – she often didn’t recognize where she was or who she was with (besides her sisters, my dad, and my sister and I). We eventually hired a nurse to stay with her in her hospice room at night.

Even though we finally had physical help, the emotional toll was growing; I was losing my mom little by little. On May 3, 2019, my mom passed away. A mental load of having to handle her accounts, properties, and legal affairs was added to the emotional chaos and intense grief. The following 10 months are a blur, highlighted only by travels that did double duty as escapes and healing modalities.

We all know what happened in 2020 … the pandemic, lockdowns, “new normal”, a stressful time for everyone.

The pandemic caused issues in my professional life and resulted in pivoting to online operations, as it did for most companies. Ultimately though, and oddly enough, the pandemic did wonders for my health. I was able to prioritize my workouts and had the time (and incentive) to cook almost all my own food. From April 2020 until April 2021, I was able to lose all of the weight that I had gained in the previous 18 months.

Transformation photos: side and front view of my progress from April 2020 to April 2021.

In May 2021, I moved out of my pandemic apartment and into a rental house, a mold-riddled rental house. After moving into the house, I started feeling exhausted.  I chalked it up to the heat and over training, so I backed off my workouts and cranked up the air conditioning, but things got worse.

I was easily sleeping 10-11 hours at night and waking up so tired that by noon I would need a nap.  I’m not talking about a 20 minute cat nap either; I mean a 3-6 hour snooze fest. Sometimes, if I did not have afternoon clients, these “naps” would roll right through bedtime into the next morning. I would wake up stiff and sore even when I didn’t workout; anytime I stayed still for any amount of time, I would stiffen up again.  Eventually, it got to the point where I felt like I had been hit by a train all the time.  I started gaining weight again even though I was eating well and working out.

My doctor brushed me off, telling me that my labs were normal and that I just needed to lose more weight. She also suggested that my symptoms may be psychological and grief related, not physical. I knew something was physically wrong though.

I started working with a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner, who ran functional lab tests so that we could get to the bottom of my “mystery” symptoms of fatigue, stiffness, muscle and joint pain, and weight gain.  

And we definitely found the bottom – completely bottomed out levels of everything. Cortisol, low. Progesterone, undetectable. Estrogen, low. Testosterone, low. Calcium, low. Magnesium, low. Sodium, low. Potassium, scary low. You get the picture.

We also found h. Pylori, candida, and an overgrowth of both normal and opportunistic gut bacteria. 

And of course, the straw that broke the camel’s back, off the chart levels of mold.

In October of 2021, I moved out of that rental house and back in with my dad. I started a replenishing protocol to rebuild my body so that I could eventually detox the mold.

But, I wasn’t getting any better.  In fact, I was getting worse!  I backed off on the protocol, and tried to incorporate things more slowly but my body couldn’t handle anything.

In December 2021, we replaced the carpet in my bedroom with wood flooring and when they removed the baseboards, I saw black mold growing on the wall behind my bed and the drywall was soft and wet. That’s why I wasn’t getting any better – more mold.

We opened up the wall and it turns out that when they installed the air conditioning unit in 2016, they had not sealed the vent properly, so for 5 years, every time it rained, water leaked into the wall of my bedroom.

After we remediated the mold, I restarted the replenishing protocol and my body responded better to it, though I did have to go very, very slow. After almost a year on the replenishing protocol, I started my first round of mold detox. I lasted for 3 months before I had to stop due to digestive issues and toxin overload – my body could not handle the amount of mold (and other things) that was being disturbed by the mold detox protocol.

I then spent 3 months working on my drainage pathways – liver and lymph support – along with continuing the replenishing protocol. In April 2023, I started an h. Pylori protocol (3 months) and followed that up with a 2 month protocol break.  

While going through the functional lab testing process and seeing how different it is than medical lab work, I was inspired to get certified as a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner myself so that I could help other women in their 30s and 40s identify the root causes of their “mystery symptoms”.  I completed that certification in May 2023, and started taking clients in July 2023.

In September 2023, I started the second round of mold detoxing, and so far, so good. I’m working on eating enough, rebalancing my minerals, keeping my drainage pathways open, regulating my nervous system and slowly but surely losing some of the safety weight I put on during/after mold exposure in 2021.

Left: Georgetown, Texas April 2023
Right: Yellowstone, WY August 2023

And that brings us to today, and the end of this much longer than anticipated introductory blog post. If you made it to the end, thank you for reading!

And again, welcome. It’s great to have you here. <3