Like 16 million other Americans, I have depression, though it wasn’t until 2016 that I knew that. While I had spent most of my life experiencing days and even weeks in a row feeling extremely down, sad, and blue, I didn’t understand that I was dealing with a mental health issue that could be treated, and I had zero knowledge of the critical role that food choices and the “Primal Laws” would play in helping to prevent my symptoms of depression.
In my mid-20s I started working out regularly, not because I’d ever struggled with weight, but because I was terrified that my metabolism would finally fail me and I’d end up overweight. I had heard the warning my whole life that my metabolism would quit in my 20s and that my ‘being thin’ luck would run out (not to mention the envy I had over Madonna’s Pilates arms). I was sitting in a meeting one day at work, my elbows on the table, when my hand rested on my bicep and I felt mush instead of solid muscle. Gasp!
I joined a huge fitness center with an expensive initiation fee and a high monthly membership price. To ensure I got my money’s worth, I told myself that I had to show up there at least three times a week to “play” for 20 minutes. It didn’t matter if I lifted weights, attended a class, walked on the treadmill or splashed around in the pool, I just had to show up to play. It didn’t take long for the play time to evolve into a full-fledged 60-to-120 minute workout six days a week. I was hooked on workouts because of how they made me feel. I felt energized and happy. My moods lifted. My stress levels at work decreased.
As I worked out in the mornings before work, I started going to bed earlier at night to ensure I could get up at 4am. Getting adequate sleep added to the mental health benefits I was starting to see, in addition to helping to improve my overall physical health. I was traveling for work at the time and would head back to the hotel long before my co-workers, to get what I called my “personality sleep.” For years, workouts and sleep were pivotal in my life, and I thought I had this living a healthy lifestyle thing under control.
Fast-forward to 2014. I was working as a manager in a supply chain role, when my vice president kicked the entire foundation of who I was at my core out from under me. I had prided myself on being a hard driving, disciplined go-getter who worked long hours and expected the best out of my team and from others around me. His comments were intended to point out how I was perceived by others. He suggested that I work on my “soft skills.” The upheaval that I experienced from his comments was hurtful, painful, and confusing. My immediate reaction was that he was a jerk. I thought that he wanted me to be someone that I am not. I did not understand that I could still be me, just improved. I questioned who I was, how I became that way, how I could possibly be any different. I liked my job and my paycheck, so after ruminating in my self-pity for a while, I started doing some research and learned about mindset.
There is so much more involved with learning and applying mindset than there is with going to the gym and getting good sleep. Mindset is an area I like to think of as practice. I practice having a healthy mindset every day. While I don’t feel I will ever have complete mastery over mindset, I can choose to approach each day and each circumstance with a positive mindset. When a challenging situation arises or a flood of negative thoughts crosses my mind, I now know that I can consider what’s going on and look for a way to reframe those thoughts, finding a different way to see what’s happening. I can ask myself if the way I’m seeing the situation is the only way, or could I be wrong about what I’m thinking, the way I’m seeing it. I consider if there is another version of the story that I could be telling myself instead.
Once I started seeing the benefits that the tools I was learning were having in my life, I wanted to share my knowledge to help others. I wanted to coach, but had no idea where to start and my insecurities started creeping back in. Who would want to hear what I have to say? I found a book about how to know if coaching is for you and I was hooked. Yep, this is what I need to be doing. I completed a holistic coaching certification and got busy starting my coaching business while working full time in Supply Chain Management.
In 2019, I listened to Mark Sisson of Mark’s Daily Apple and Primal Health Coach Institute being interviewed on a podcast. There was something in Mark’s interview that prompted me to look into Primal Health Coaching. I learned that they offered a coaching certification program and signed up for their Health Coaching Success Virtual Masterclass, and then into the certification course. I scheduled out the full program to ensure that I completed as quickly as I could.
When I began the course, I noticed that I was still holding on to some old narratives, specifically about fats being bad. When I was in high school the non-fat-everything craze was in full force. Sodas and candy were labeled as being “fat free,”—I thought that meant healthy. If I ate a package or two of Starburst and a bottle of Coke, I thought I was making good choices. It was interesting to me how tightly my brain was holding on to these old narratives about fat being bad, even though I had long given up the daily candy and soda habit.
PHCI taught me about how eating primally could ease symptoms of or prevent depression, cancer, diabetes, dementia, Alzheimer’s, and inflammatory issues such as allergies and rheumatoid arthritis. There were many other benefits, however these were the ones that caught my attention as diseases that have had a direct effect on my family, and that I was either dealing with or had concerns about being prone to. Once I started understanding the science behind how our bodies access and burn fuel based on what we’re putting in the tank, and saw how food can be a direct contributor to feeling good or feeling bad, I decided to make some changes to food choices to see if I actually saw and felt a difference. Boy, did I see and feel a difference.
The difference that I felt from eliminating sugar from my diet was quick. I had been a life-long sugar addict! My thinking was more clear, my moods were stable and balanced, I was not tired or fatigued, I didn’t have brain fog, my belly and face trimmed down quickly, my clothes fit better (I had started to think my dryer was shrinking my pants), my body didn’t feel as achy, and I simply was not craving sugar.
After completing the Primal Health Coach certification program and passing my test, I still hadn’t found clarity on my niche. I was coaching but didn’t have a solid approach on what sort of coach I was or wanted to be. The pieces were all there and fully aligned with my personal story, but I didn’t see it until I was preparing to be interviewed for a podcast where I was asked to tell my story about dealing with depression. I looked at all of the tidbits I’d jotted down and thought it would make a great blog post for my website. While writing the blog, clarity hit me like a ton of bricks. Eureka! I’d found my niche! My signature program, “Kicking Depression’s Ass,” combines four pillars: Food, Movement, Mindset, and Sleep, the four key areas that have changed my world and have helped decrease my symptoms of depression.
Realizing that the four pillars are useful for improving any inflammatory issue, not just depression, I launched a 4-week online program, “Start with 5: The 5-Minute Daily Mind & Body Boost.” The program is entirely self-paced with weekly group coaching calls and a private Facebook group for support and encouragement. “Start with 5” includes videos, written lessons, audio lessons, daily bonus material, and a 5-minute action to take each day to boost your health. I believe it should be easy to be healthy, and “Start with 5” is a great way to make simple changes to get your physical and mental health on track. I recommend this program for anyone looking to lose weight, improve symptoms of diabetes, autoimmune disease, or if they’re looking to learn natural ways to be healthy.
Completing the Primal Health Coach program changed not just my physical and mental health, but helped to structure my business into a model that provides easy-to-implement changes and long-lasting benefits to my clients. I am proud to be a Certified Primal Health Coach and part of the Primal Health Coach Institute community of coaches.
— Glenda Sparrow