Why did you leave the big city of Chicago for the small mountain town of Sun Valley, Idaho?
We loved living in Chicago – lots of family and friends and a great support group. Being in a large metropolitan area offered fantastic career opportunities for both my husband, Jeff, and me.
However, I started to feel like life was in the fast lane, especially as our kids were getting older. We lived in a large but excellent school district; parents had high expectations of their kids, and kids were under constant pressure to get ahead. Competition started when the kids were toddlers, with parents signing their kids up for private golf coaches in the hopes that they would then make the team in high school. Of course, all this was aimed at getting them into an Ivy League school and then on to Wall Street or some big law firm.
Then, one day my husband and I went to a movie called “The Race to Nowhere,” which is about the relentless, high expectations of our children, which can lead to serious medical conditions. Fourth graders were interviewed and discussed their ulcers and many hours of homework. I broke into tears at the end when I learned that the film was dedicated to a young girl who had taken her life as a result of the constant pressure. When the movie ended and the lights came up, Jeff turned to me, and his eyes told me that he had been affected deeply. He said, “Let’s move to Sun Valley, Idaho”.
Why Sun Valley?
Sun Valley had been a very special place for us for quite some time before we pondered the decision to move. Jeff’s parents spend about a month every year here, and we have been regular visitors since 1995. We always feel a deep sense of peace here, and we love how our kids spend so much time in nature.
I don’t think that you need to move to a small or Western town to experience happiness or wellness. In fact, to quote the title of one of my favorite books by Jon Kabat-Zihn, Wherever You Go, There You Are, happiness and peace come from within. I do believe that happiness and wellness can be developed and enhanced through a connection with nature. That nature doesn’t have to be the rugged mountains, it can be anywhere. You can look up at the sky and contemplate the majesty of our Earth. You can experience the miracle of life by growing some plants in a pot. It was actually in Chicago when our family really got into gardening. Take a look at this fun photo-journey of our self-created farm paradise right in the middle of Chicagoland.
What is it about nature that you feel can be particularly healing?
Nature reminds us that we are all connected. Nature allows us to be in our bodies and live a little from the heart (to give our over-taxed minds a break). A connection with nature is of the greatest importance given how technology-driven our society has become. Too much screen-time can lead to inactivity and mindless eating. It can also disturb sleep patterns if we expose ourselves too late at night. “Nature deficit disorder” was first referenced by Richard Louv in his 2005 book, Last Child in the Woods. He proposes that human beings, especially children, are spending less time outdoors, resulting in a wide range of behavioral problems. I think nature actually allows us to be human beings instead of just human-doings.
When did you first get interested in wellness?
When I was a kid, my sister and I would go with my Dad to work at the Chicago Medical School. We visited the gross anatomy lab and checked out all the books on pathology with the same interest that you see in people mesmerized by the stories from the Guiness Book of World Records. We were grossed out by– and engrossed in– the cases of rickets (caused by lack of vitamin D), scurvy (caused by a lack of vitamin C) and pellegra (caused by a lack of vitamin B). I learned early in life how important the food you eat affects how you feel. I was hooked on nutrition early on but didn’t embrace it professionally until after my kids were born.
What was it about having kids that changed your career direction?
When my daughter Elena was born in 2000, I was at the height of a successful career as a management consultant. I loved solving problems for my clients, and I had risen to the top of my firm. When I was pregnant with Alexander, born in 2003, I had to pull two “all-nighters” in a single week with my pregnant belly bumping up against the desk. Despite how much I loved my career, I love my kids more. So I took a few years at home to focus solely on them. Then, one day I was talking with my Dad as we sat on a park bench watching Elena and Alexander play with another child in the sandbox. My Dad and I were talking about the latest research studies in the nutrition journals. He said, “You know, they say that one out of three kids born in 2000 will develop diabetes if they continue to eat the Standard American Diet.” I looked at those three darling kids playing and thought to myself, one out of three!!?? I decided then and there to dedicate myself to solving the problem of nutritionally related disease in this country, which accounts for approximately 80% of all disease.
Since starting Nurture in 2008, I have helped tens of thousands of people in their journeys to better health. For those number crunchers out there, follow this link to find all the data you will need to understand the results I have personally enabled.
What is difference about the way that you approach wellness?
After getting my Certification in Nutritional Counseling (CNC), I started a non-profit organization Nurture to focus on the low-income population, which is disproportionally affected by nutritionally related disease. While working with these wonderful families, I learned that there are some really important keys to making wellness education stick. For one thing, you need to make it easy. These families are often trying to hold down multiple jobs and just don’t have a lot of time, so it is all about keeping it simple and breaking everything down into small steps. I also learned that a key to getting participation is to make it fun. I never want to come across as the food police! I love to use games and activities to bring lessons to life for people. I want people to look forward to learning more about wellness. I also love to incorporate nature whenever possible, with time outdoors or incorporating gardening.
Why did you decide to write Mountain Mantras?
I wrote Mountain Mantras: Wellness and Life Lessons from the Slopes to help more people. My teaching at Nurture allowed me to reach only a certain amount of people, and everyone in our nation could benefit from actionable tools and techniques to live a happier and healthier life. But Mountain Mantras goes beyond wellness. It is my vehicle to integrate all of the various experiences and learning opportunities under a single framework. In the six Mountain Mantras, I bring into play lessons from my days in management consulting and even childhood and young adult stories. The book also has an important leadership flair in terms of how to be more successful in everything you do by creating a vision, setting goals, and learning from failure. I wrote the book using the metaphor of skiing (and my humbling attempts to learn to ski as an adult) as a way to create a memoir feel that would also engage the reader in a very personal way. Most books on wellness are not very personal, storytelling based, or humorous. My hope is to reach more people with wellness messages without them even realizing that they are reading a book on wellness!
Why did you decide to write Give It A Go, Eat a Rainbow?
In my work with Nurture, one of our most popular programs is called “Rainbow Days” (typically done in a school setting), where we assign children a color and get them excited to eat fruits and veggies in that color. The children become “ambassadors” for that color and really embrace eating fruits and veggies. I had been looking for a book or leave-behind resource that would reinforce the learning from these powerful days. No book on the market hit the spot, so I decided to write one myself. This video tells you more, including who I involved and why. It is a really exciting project!
What do people know you for?
Early on in life, I pushed myself too hard and took myself way too seriously. Now I hope that people can view me as
the imperfect perfectionist,
not being the food police, and
being serious about not taking myself too seriously.
You can probably get a sense of what I’m talking about by watching this video.
People also know me as being passionate. My personal mission is to help individuals and organizations that are struggling with balance in life, especially with respect to health related concerns. These concerns might include balanced nutrition, stress management, and energy levels. My current focus in helping others is through my book and speaking engagements, crafted to pass on information, inspiration and tools and techniques for increased productivity, energy, life balance and success.