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In the beginning, I never set out to pursue this project. This project found me.

 

I didn’t set out to change people’s views on health and wellbeing. I only started because I needed to change life around for myself.

 

My own personal pursuit to better health delivered my own heart-driven fate to make a difference in other people’s lives.

 

My Quest

I am an occupational therapist, integrative wellness practitoner and proud mum from Brisbane, Australia. I have a big vision and a strong desire to make a difference.

At age 31 I came to a crossroads in my life. I was forced to change the way I lived.

After years of physical and emotional struggles, and a host of stressful experiences in a short space of time, I found myself in a dark and isolating place in my life. My body had abandoned me, my mind was a murky mess of fear and confusion, and I had lost my inner spark. My joy had begun to fade. 

In one particular moment of fear, with my heart pounding in my chest and body weakened by years of chronic health issues, I decided I wanted to turn life around, once and for all. My mission became clear and I embarked on my own soul-driven quest to reclaim my body, get back my life and awaken the joy within. This is how my quest found me.

 


In the later part of 2012, I found myself at a very challenging point in my life, struggling with a multitude of health problems and juggling a young family. After years of dealing with fatigue,  digestive & hormonal issues, chronic anxiety and pain, I was staring down the barrel of being diagnosed with a life limiting chronic illness, or worst still, an irreversible autoimmune condition.

My body was under attack and chronically inflamed. My immune system, digestion, nervous system and mental health were suffering.  My immune system was in such a state of high-alert, I had even developed an allergy to the sun.

After an acute flare up of my symptoms following a particular stressful period of my life, and juggling the challenges of two small children, I found myself struggling to get out of bed each day.

After several months of going in and out of doctor’s offices and failing to get better, I started to look for alternative options to heal my body, and get back my life. I had two beautiful children to look after, and a life of opportunity ahead of me. I was desperate to get better.

I spent week after week researching extensively, diving deep into the science and pawing through the literature. I began to realise that almost all that we are taught about health, nutrition, digestive conditions, mental wellbeing, managing chronic illness and helping our bodily systems to restore function, is based on limited information, and doesn’t give us a full picture.

Determined to find out more I signed up to further my own study in Nutritional Medicine & integrative lifestyle approaches and began to explore the deeper concepts underpinning healing and recovery.

I started developing a holistic base of education, research and frameworks, and started applying these principles to my own life and health.

I began designing my own fitness and wellbeing program, combining it with my holistic occupational therapy background and diverse clinical experience. I started to put it into play, piece by piece, step by step; amalgamating my findings into the fabric of my daily life. It literally transformed my world.

I overhauled my diet, adopted a nutrient-dense, whole foods eating lifestyle, and loaded up on local fresh organic produce, healthy greens, vegetables and small amounts of pasture fed meat, fresh fish or organic poultry, every day. I got stuck into all the good fats, adding them to my cooking whenever I could, enjoying the brain boosting, body healing benefits of pasture fed organic clarified butter (Ghee), organic flaxseed oil, virgin olive oil and unrefined coconut oil.

I completely removed refined sugars, flours, gluten and processed packaged foods from my diet. This was hard to do at first, but so worth the relief. In the beginning I even had to follow a strict autoimmune protocol, removing egg, nuts, grains, seeds, and shellfish. I am able to tolerate small amounts of these now, as my body continues to heal.

My health started to improve, but my journey did not stop there. I needed to take it further, so I did.

I learnt all there was to learn about caring for my mind, my body and my emotional & spiritual health, and spent the next 12 months, integrating this knowledge into my own life. I sought out an integrated medical approach to restoring health and wellbeing, saw a nutritionist, and adopted the advice of some of the best holistic healers and practitioners in the field.  I started to notice improvements within a few months, and with time I could literally ‘feel’ my bodily systems reintegrating, my brain rewiring, and my body reprogramming.

I took up yoga, meditation, acupuncture and a daily mindfulness practice.  I saw a spiritual healer, reconnected with my heart-mind, restored my creative focus and spent time doing the things I loved; the stuff that gave me meaning, purpose and joy, and reignited my inner spark. The things I had taught my patients to do for so long in my years practising as a therapist, but which I had forgotten to do myself.

I continued to search the literature, overturning every peer reviewed journal article and book I could find on nutrition, digestive health, mind-body science, functional medicine, meditation, and whole-body approaches to health and wellbeing. I continued to implement these approaches into my own life.

It worked. My life changed, and my health improved, not just a little bit, but dramatically.

My blood test results were finally clear, my inflammatory biomarkers returned to normal, my liver function detox pathways were improving and all my clinical signs and symptoms started to settle. I no longer reacted to the sun. Niggling health issues that I had suffered with for so long (sinus, digestive complaints, severe abdominal pain, heart palpitations, neck pain, migraine, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, pins and needles) went away.

My body was healing and I was recovering from symptoms that had plagued me since my late teenage years. I was in my thirties and felt better than I had in my twenties.

Instead of plonking myself on the coach in front of the TV at the end of each day,  I had energy, vitality and a vibrant outlook on life. My anxiety lifted, and my mindset, mental clarity and emotional wellbeing shifted to whole new level.

For most of my young adult life, I didn’t know what it was like to feel well. Now, I not only feel well, I feel amazing! I still have days where things get out of balance, and my health starts to buckle, but I know now what my body and mind needs, to get it back in balance and return to vibrant health.

Astounded by my results, I became convinced that current mainstream health beliefs often don’t give us the full picture when it comes to treating chronic health issues, illness and disease.

Inspired by my journey I set out to create my own integrated Wellness Model for health and wellbeing.

Infusing my holistic mind-set with my own therapeutic experience and self-discoveries, I set about developing a unique, integrative lifestyle approach that encompassed all facets of the wellbeing spectrum. 

My WHOLE LIFE wellbeing framework is uniquely designed to help restore health and healing, reignite  people’s vitality & zest for life and re-engage them in the activities and experiences that give meaning, purpose and joy. And I’m ready to share it with the world.

I have created my online space, the Mind Body Living Centre and my unique integrated wellness model to support my quest to educate people, initiate change and inspire others to be crusaders of their own health & life-fulfilment. 

May you find a deep inner peace, enjoy a healthy body and mind, and experience life in all its fullness and richness.

In vibrant whole health,

Much love

JESS SEPARATE IMG_4559

Jess Leggatt005

The night that everything changed…

The years leading up to my breakdown – breakthrough moment, were deeply challenging. I spent several years wrestling with a number of health issues, trying to stay on top of my daily anxieties and fears and hide my very personal inner struggles, as best as I knew how. But late one night, during a very challenging Tipping Point in my life, I jolted awake, heart pounding in my chest and a crystal clear realisation that I needed to change life around for myself. I needed to find a different way to live.

Since my late teenage years I would have bouts of pain, fatigue and days of feeling exhausted. There were times when I felt like I was just getting by, but never truly feeling well.

Growing up I was known as the ‘sensitive one’. I was a self-confessed perfectionist with a strong willful spirit to push myself to my limits. I longed to achieve and succeed at anything I put my hand at, even at the cost of my health. From as early as I can remember I had a very familiar and unhealthy relationship with a high wired nervous system and symptoms of anxiety were a familiar guest of mine.

Having always had a just get on with it attitude and a strong ambitious desire to move forward and lean into life, I did just that, I just got on with it. Only the people close to me really knew what was going on.  I was always very conscious of putting on a brave face; internalising my problems and hiding behind my bubbly personality, my constant busy-ness, and my outward achievements.

But, I think there comes a time in everyone’s journey when the big tests of life seem to come all at once, and you are finally thrown that curve ball you just can’t dodge. The one that bowls you clean over, and forces you to sit up and listen, and start taking notice. Either that or fall off the edge.

It’s what I call, a crisis point. The point in your life where you are forced to stop wrestling with life, and start rebuilding yourself, from the inside out. This came after the birth of my second baby.

 

This is my personal account of the lead up to the night I realised I was trapped, and how I freed myself to find a better way to live.

In the years leading up to my beautiful second daughter’s birth, and the 18 months that followed, I was thrown the proverbial curve ball…or two… in a very short space of time.

After surviving an exhausting 12 months in a high pressure management role whilst pregnant with my first child (with 24 hour morning sickness that lasted all of my pregnancy… argh…!), the wheels started to fall off the wagon, just a little. 

The birth of our first born daughter was an amazing highlight and a heart warming reward after a difficult 12 months, and me and my family enjoyed a beautiful year of bliss. But, our little blissful rest was short lived as things got murky again, and the inevitable ups and downs of life unfolded.

Not longer after falling pregnant with my second child, I entered into what I like to call my life-changing Tipping Point. In very quick succession, over a short amount of time me and my family experienced some very traumatic losses in our life. Within the space of 18 months we lost two close family members very dear to us, witnessed traumatic touch and go life emergencies with those we love, and were facing the prospect of complete financial ruin.

In a very short space of time we were forced to say goodbye to two very special people in our life. My husband’s Uncle, who had been suffering from a very aggressive form of cancer, was finally laid to rest, peacefully passing away with his family by his side. Not too long after this, we also lost my husband’ step father, from a very sudden and unexpectant heart attack. This was an extremely difficult time for us. Both men were too young to pass away and it was heart breaking to have to say goodbye to two very special people in our life.

It was during this time that we also lost our successful business. After 7 long hard-working years of running our business, and building a healthy financial reserve, we lost it all, under some very ugly circumstances. Gone.With one foul swoop, our world turned completely upside down. We were staring down the barrel of the worst possible financial scenario and started selling off our assets just to survive. At one stage, after several months of dealing with legal fees and going in and out of lawyers offices, we were facing the prospect of losing our house, our cars and our freedom. This carried on for over half a year, before things eventually sorted themselves out. I was heavily pregnant at the time with my second baby, exhausted and an emotional train wreck. It was one of the worst experiences of my life.

We had lost so much in such a short space of time. As you can imagine, the physical, mental and emotional upheaval eventually took its toll on my heavily pregnant and exhausted body.

After nine months of carrying my second child, looking after a bouncing toddler and dealing with the trials and challenges of my inner and outer life, I gave birth to my second beautiful healthy daughter. Life seemed to brighten for a short while as we celebrated new life and joy into our family. But, 6-weeks later, I was tested again.

Not long after giving birth to my baby girl, the final straw came to me in the most unexpectant circumstances. After a routine phonecall to my Mum to check in with how my sister was progressing with her pregnancy, I was facing the shock of hearing she had just been raced to hospital in an ambulance. My sister (who happens to be my best friend!) and her baby son were fighting for their life in a traumatic birthing emergency. Through sheer miracles, after being born with no heart beat and no sign of life, my little nephew was able to be resuscitated and after several attempts from some quick thinking doctors, was brought back to life (and is growing up as cheeky as ever). My sister also fully recovered from the ordeal with no ill effects. But, at the time, I was facing the almost unbearable prospect of losing my darling sister, my best friend, and her little baby son. I was once again facing the fragility and impermanence of physical life, and it literally scared me half to death. After enduring the shock of this traumatic experience, on the backdrop of our financial crisis and our very sad personal losses, I was pushed into a state of perpetual and debilitating grief. The trauma and shock  to my nervous system started to really take its toll. After fighting so hard for so long to keep it all together, my body finally crashed.

I was left deflated both physically and mentally; my immune and digestive system started to fail, and I had broken down into a complete emotional wreck. I had a new born baby and an energetic toddler to look after, and no way of knowing how to get out of bed each day. Anxiety really took its hold and I started isolating myself; putting on a brave face whenever I could, for the sake of my babies and those who were concerned about me. I lost an incredible amount of weight (I dropped down to 54kg, which I hadn’t been since I was 15 years old) and my clothes no longer fitted. Things got pretty bad for a while, and life started to spiral out of control. I had never felt so scared, isolated and defeated in all my life.

But, during the hardest week of my whole break down experience, I had one of the most life-changing self-realisation awakening experiences of my life. Things were about to change in the most unexpectant ways.  

After getting up to breastfeed my 8 month old baby one  night and then falling back to sleep I woke up again with a fright, jolting upright in bed. My heart was pounding in my chest, and I couldn’t breathe. There was fear gripping my heart and I knew I wanted things to be different. I didn’t want to suffer like this anymore. I was at my crossroads. I tackled the big questions.

  Do I keep spiralling down, or do I reach out and start making things different for myself?

  Do I keep paddling madly underneath, suffering in silence and missing out on the beauty and joy of life? 

  Or do I find another way, a better way?

  Do I give up hope for a better future, or do I rise up, take a new breath of fresh air and find a new way forward? 

 I realised that night, that I had to find a new way to live. A better way forward. I was desperate to get better. I was desperate to get my life back.

So, slowly and surely, I began to design a wellness program for myself; and started trying it on for size. It literally turned my life around!

I started small. Baby steps. I tried to remember what I had taught my patients as a therapist. I started to read, learn, and sink my teeth into the knowledge of those who had been through the same thing as me, but had found a better way forward.

I started to do things differently, one day at a time. I chose little things, and put them into play, step by step.

I learn’t how to meditate, I joined a yoga class, I ate better, drank more water, got outdoors, connected with nature, moved my body, breathed deeply and sought psychological support to help get my mind and body back in sync.

I worked out what foods agreed with me and gave me health and vitality, and what foods left me deflated, agitated and tired. I overhauled my diet.

I started to reconnect with what mattered to me, thinking about the things that nurtured my creativity, stirred my inner desires, uplifted my spirit and made me excited about stuff.  I made time for myself to do the things I loved. Things that gave me meaning and purpose and drive.

I researched, inquired, and sought out new scientific discoveries, and traditional old age methods to enhance health & reprogram my physical, mental, spiritual & emotional welbeing. I put them into play in my own life.

I got help, sought out integrated medical care and looked into a functional medicine approach to help support my system & heal my body.

I changed my thinking, opened my mind, connected to my spirit essence and dreamt of the possibility of a life that was balanced, vibrant & flexible.

I learn’t to let go, to forgive, to cultivate compassion and kindness in my heart, and to nurture myself emotionally, spiritually & mentally. I asked for support.

I reached out, started to talk about what was going on for me, nurtured my loving relationships and learnt how to expose my vulnerability. I started to truly care for myself. This was new for me, but I did it anyway, I acknowledged the guilt, surrendered the resistence and gave myself the kindness and compassion, my body and mind so desperately needed. It worked.

Gradually, bit by bit my body started to gain energy & new vitality, my mind found stillness and peace, and my heart had a renewed sense of wholeness and oneness with the things that mattered in my life. I could think clearly, my pain receded, and I started to experience life in a whole new way. Things started to get easier, better. Finally, I had clarity.

Eventually we began to recover financially from our losses and things started to unravel. Life started to pump with new hope and vitality and my husband picked up work again. Our family rebuilt itself and started to heal, and I started to thrive once more. Our baby girls were happy and settled, and life started to shine with new vibrancy.

‘Whole-life wellbeing’ was becoming my new experience, and life started to unfold with more ease, joy and centredness. Finally, I had traction.

I’m back into life,  and, oh so better! Actually, I have never felt more physically, emotionally, and mentally energised and vibrant in all my years! I still have to work on some things; this is the journey of life, and yes, I am continually reminded that whole life wellness is a lifelong pursuit. But I now have the tools and resources to hit my reset button, and get things back on track quickly and with ease.

I am on my whole life wellbeing path and feeling more balanced, vibrant and wholesome, than ever before.

Yes, my journey to wellness has been a bumpy one, a path full of trial and error, endless research and loads of personal triumphs and challenges, but I am truly grateful. Because helping others find the strategies that will positively change their health and happiness, and live more enriched, satisfying lives, has become my life and heart’s work. 

 

The most life-changing lesson that I have learnt on this colourful journey of mine is,

“Let what you are experiencing, be your greatest teacher;

Let who you are; your inner essence, lead you down your own path to greater health & vibrant living”.

 

May your path to greater health and life fulfilment be enriched by your experiences here with me. I look forward to connecting with you.

Blessings and gratitude for a vibrant wholesome life,

Much love

JESS SEPARATE IMG_4559

Holistic Lifestyle Coach | Occupational Therapist | Founder of Mind Body Living