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Fig. 1 / Alki Beach, Seattle, 21'

I've been interested in natural health and nutrition for as long as I can remember. There's a photo of me as a 5 yr old sleeping with an upside-down human body book in my hands. My favorite Berenstein Bears book was the one where they go to the doctor and Papa Bear is instructed to swap his sweets for carrot sticks. I remember putting "healthy" lunches together with my little brother. We'd pick one food from each food group and put one in each divider on our plates -- imagine a slice of wonderbread, a few carrotsticks, an apple, string cheese, and some peanuts. As I got older and watched my mom go on her own journey of discovering she had Celiac, I experimented with my diet just for fun. Tried veganism for a few days :) Once I got to college I had chosen nutrition as a major. I fell in love with human anatomy and physiology classes the major required, but I started getting the sense that focusing solely on nutrition wasn't for me.

I wanted to zoom out and see the whole picture of the body and the lifestyle and mindset. I started interviewing professionals in my circle, like physical therapists, trainers, registered dietitians, functional medicine doctors, chiropractors, and health coaches. Learning about functional medicine and health coaching ultimately set me on the path I'm on now, though it's morphed a lot since. All the while, I grew up with many family members and close friends who suffered from chronic illness. At the core of all of their stories were doctors who simply could not properly diagnose or treat them correctly or effectively, as a result making their conditions worse. I had a few hospital episodes of my own that left me scared of and frustrated with the medical system.

A theme I noticed was that the system gives a diagnosis as if putting a label on the disease is the answer, and gives treatment as if band-aid solutions like pills are the only option. Essentially they're treating the disease but never fulling curing it -- keeping patients well enough to trust the system but sick enough to keep needing it, all the while establishing a belief in the patient that this condition is just a part of who they are, there's something wrong with them, and they just have to accept that. It became clear to me that this perspective is entirely void of concepts like healing, integrated systems, the mind-body-spirit connection, alignment with nature, lifestyle habits, and behavior change psychology -- and  the system is money-centric rather than person-focused.

Rant aside, the anger and sadness I felt for my loved ones struggling within the system eventually morphed into a passion for alternative, holistic care. I knew I wanted to work one-on one with people so I could invest lovingly into their lives, while helping them heal the root causes of disease and be one of the rare practitioners willing to commit to untangling the mystery of a complicatedly unwell body. After I switched to studying Applied Health Science in college, I was able to choose courses like exercise physiology, chronic disease and exercise, mind-body-spirit, community health, medical terminology, all in addition to some nutrition courses. Each class was absolutely captivating to me, and yet was only the beginning of the expansive knowledge I'd later pursue (for fun!).

After college, I enrolled in the Functional Medicine Coaching Academy. This year-long program qualified me to be a health coach and set me up to dive into a person's psychology, strengths, habits, and walk with them through the stages of change with accountability until celebrating that they've met their goals. By the time I was certified, I had already had my first baby, Eden. That journey through pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum ultimately set me onto a more specific vocational path. My eyes were opened to the insufficient, outdated, invasive, dishonoring, unnatural, problem-creating prenatal / maternal "care" in the medical system. I'm so grateful that I was able to choose a natural, self-led route and have my baby in the comfort & safety of my own home.

ABIGAIL HANNA WELLNESS

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