By Jessica David, Buzzworthy Blogs

My journey to health has been an interesting one. When my husband served in the U.S. Navy, we spent three years in Italy, where I learned about farmers markets and making meals from scratch. I was 31 when we were given orders to move to Southern California. We moved back to the United States in May 2008, and four months later, I gave birth to our son. In the months leading up to the birth of our son, I disregarded everything I had learned while abroad and ate a lot of fast food (very little of this overseas). I developed high blood pressure in the last trimester, and was induced at 39 weeks and four days.

I know the food choices I’ve made throughout my life have had a direct impact on my health. Unfortunately, medical professionals did not tell me to eat foods closest to their natural state, nor did they show me how to read labels and understand ingredients. Since I spent a lot of time in doctors’ offices over the years, there were plenty of opportunities for them to educate me. But I didn’t know what questions to ask. It wasn’t until after my son was born that I started to advocate for my own wellness. I believe that everything happens for a reason. We were meant to move to Southern California so that I could turn my health around.

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I’ve dealt with a lifetime of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, which was reversed when I started to eat more fruits and vegetables daily. Before I changed my health, I ate corn, broccoli, bananas, and strawberries (only with white processed sugar on top) and maybe one of each once a week! Nowadays I aim to eat at least five different fruits and five different vegetables a day. I owe this change in lifestyle to the months following the birth of my son and the relationships I made with holistic-minded parents.

These relationships encouraged me to ask questions, seek answers, do my own research, advocate for my own wellness, and reach out and build community with others who were dealing with similar situations. My goal was to nurse my son for 12 months, but I was diagnosed with thrush and struggled a lot. I persevered and never used formula. We made it to month 39 before he weaned.

In late 2012, we moved to Ridgecrest, Calif., which is a food desert and also an isolated community 90 miles away from the next larger city. I went from having access to farmers markets nearly every day of the week and three health-food stores within a 10-mile radius to fast food restaurants on every corner and only one small health-food shop. Thankfully, we do have in-season, organic produce delivered twice a week via a farm-share co-op. I plan to supplement by growing my own produce later this year with a Tower Garden and by building a community of aeroponic gardeners in my town. Just recently, I found out about a community garden that feeds families in financial need. The vegetables are all organic and non-GMO, and I will be blogging about my experiences. I’m excited to be part of this garden, as it fits my desire to connect people to resources.

I really like the Sears Wellness Institute approach, led by doctors Bill and Jim Sears. If you’re a parent, you know the power of the Internet and about searching for answers in the early morning hours. I found AskDrSears.com to be extremely helpful because it directed me to breast-feeding support and attachment-parenting resources. I learned about Dr. Bill Sears’s nutrition philosophy and so it was I began considering becoming a certified health coach with the Sears Wellness Institute as early as 2009 – but it didn’t become a reality until 2012.

While preparing for my certification, I incorporated the changes Dr. Sears recommended. I started by giving up high-fructose corn syrup in 2009. This was also the year that I started my blog! Fast forward five years, and now I can educate others on reading and understanding product labels and eating real food.

Maybe you’re a lot further into your wellness journey than I am, or maybe you’re just starting out. Whatever your situation, we can link arms and build community by sharing knowledge and resources. As we age, we may need to modify our healthy-living habits, so finding like-minded individuals to stand in our corner is essential to our wellness, and it also fulfills our most basic need: human connection.

I’d like to leave you with some encouraging words: Baby steps, when meaningful, can create everlasting change in your wellness journey. I know it must seem like a huge undertaking to change the path you’ve been on to something unfamiliar, but I know that taking small steps can lead to progress. Keep an open mind and stay in it for the long haul; you will reap the benefits of your invested time. Think about it this way: You’re advocating for your own wellness. Partner with your health professionals; always do your own research; and start where you are!

Jessica David is a Certified Health Coach from the Sears Wellness Institute. Jessica provides nutrition tips via her blog, coaching website, Facebook page, and various media in print and online covering a plethora of wellness topics. Jessica feels that, through encouragement, we can impart education with lasting results. She advocates for families to eat more fruits and vegetables. Outside of encouraging others in their wellness journeys, she is an active contributor to Handcrafted Honey Bee, Extended Hands Worldwide Ministries, and Church Without Walls Outreach Ministries. She lives in Ridgecrest, Calif., with her husband and their son.

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