Who Am I? How I Got Here.
I’m Kate Smith, a functional nutrition and lifestyle practitioner and owner and founder of Essentially Healthy with Kate Smith. I’m based in Monument, Colorado, where I live with my husband Brad and our two kids. I teach people a new perspective; to see patterns, make connections and love their bodies creatively so they can heal and realize their own potential to change the world for good.
It all began in 1st grade when I would whip through worksheets and ask for the next. At the end of the year, the teacher told my parents that I had gone through all the 1st and 2nd grade work in one year. This validated my suspicion that I wasn’t like other kids. In fact, princesses and fantasylands were not my gig. I preferred talking to adults, who also liked talking with me. Like a sponge, I soaked up more details and tidbits and the more I could find, the more satisfied I’d be and then I’d condense them all down and find someone who would listen to my “speal.” It was clear to me, even as a kid that I was called to teach. I even wrote it in my little “school memories” book when I was 5. You know the kind your mom had to keep report cards and stuff?
So…I was propelled into 3rd grade, from 1st. All my friends, people I’d done the last few years with, weren’t in my class anymore. I became more and more anxious about going to school. I’d get there and after about 2 hours would feel nauseous and think I was going to be sick. I ended up in the nurse’s office and my mom would come pick me up. 9 days in the first quarter of 3rd grade! A whole bunch of tests later, all they could tell me was that I had “a nervous stomach.” Enter Maalox every morning for a year, at least. Total placebo. I covered it up. So, for the next 15ish years, I tried to speak and act like I was “all that” to prove I was good to go. Then, it hit me again, like a ton of bricks when I was an active duty Air Force officer and at a very selective school in Las Vegas. I would have to get up and leave lectures because my hands would shake, I’d get sweaty and feel nauseous again. Enter next quick fix…it must be the coffee so I’ll give that up. That worked in my head for a few more years. After 10 years active duty as an intelligence officer, I felt like I had “sold my soul” because my superiors were wanting me to go down a path that didn’t feel like it fit. This led me to believe, once again, that staying silent about how I truly felt was a requirement of success. So, I left.
The accumulation of issues began to rear its ugly head after I gave birth to my first child, resulting in Post-Partum Depression/Anxiety. Then when my husband was deployed to Afghanistan in 2013, as the one “left behind,” I became the sole caregiver for 2 kids, a role that was new to me. During that six months, home alone with the kids, some inner sense said it was time to clean up our diet. I decided to transition to mostly organic and/or locally grown food. I was experiencing my own digestive distresses that now I realize were due to long term “abuse” of my digestive system, the stress I was under, and speculating whether my husband was going to make it home alive or not.
That experience transformed my life. It was a turning point. I started taking note of how I felt and then investigating what to do about it. After being met with a myriad of symptoms (fatigue, sleeplessness, digestive upset, skin rashes, and mood swings) and being told by doctors that it was “just stress” or “all in my head,” I promptly went on a mission, looking for whatever I could do to support my own health. Friends close to me watched me make the changes and started inquiring about them. I’m a good researcher, so I began doing it for them too.
When my husband returned from his deployment, we had a lot of post-deployment stressors to work through. I went into overdrive. I was caregiver for the kids for 6 months while he was gone, and then I was caregiver for him when he got back. It was about a year total and at the time, I was not good at self-care. I didn’t recognize it then, but later when I could finally breathe I noticed more effects on my own health. I was tired all the time, couldn’t think straight and was diagnosed with a skin condition called rosacea. I started really wondering what was going on with me. The current medical model left me without answers and more frustration. By design, I am an analyst and a teacher, so I decided it was time to become my own medical detective. In addition to what the kids and I had already embarked on earlier, I decided to try a gluten free lifestyle to see if that made a difference. My cognitive ability returned to a normal state, but I still had the other symptoms continuing. Then it was time to relocate again and that carries its own stressors every time, and more so as a parent as kids get older.
On our drive across the country to our new location, my digestive symptoms worsened. It got to the point where I would be concerned about knowing where the closest bathroom was. It was MY body, and I knew something wasn’t right with it. When we got to our new location, I asked for some lab tests and everything was “normal,” so again I was told there wasn’t anything wrong with me. Thus, I took matters into my own hands and embarked upon grain-free living for a season. I noticed such a dramatic improvement that I recognized food really could be medicine!
Less than a year later, in 2016, my daughter had some severe struggles with anxiety, to the point where she lost too much weight. She had a bout with a stomach bug which was the tipping point for her. She dropped so much weight and was deathly afraid to eat or drink because she didn’t want to throw up again - this is called emetophobia. I silently cried when we did her bedtime routine because she was so incredibly thin and I didn’t know what to do. We had to get help, and did, from a wonderful doctor at an Army hospital who specialized in adolescent medicine. He gave me a book about how to help her at home with patience and real food. It was crucial we tackle this or she was going to risk developmental delays or be taken away from us to an inpatient program. Watching my daughter suffer was so incredibly hard, I won’t lie. There were days when I would sit with her for hours at the table to get her to eat a plate of food. Just helping her eat the foods she liked. But…it worked! She began to put on weight, her body began growing like it was supposed to, and the anxiety lessened. Now, 5 years later, she’s a healthy, strong, thriving teenager.
That was the springboard for me. I’ve always been an educator, just in lots of different, atypical situations. I realized that passion for teaching was taking a specific vector. Today, as a functional nutrition and lifestyle practitioner, I’ve taken the idea of food as tailored medicine from my family to a clinical practice, guiding clients through my programs and services. I remain determined to bring each person the opportunity to take their health into their own hands, gaining more ownership over their daily choices in relation to their well-being.
It takes a special kind of person to ask, “What’s going on in there? Why is that happening?” I’m grateful to be able to help people find healing as a sort of food and lifestyle private investigator. Additionally, it’s a joy for me to embrace who I am… no matter what, and meet people in the season they are in and the struggles of their journey that brought them to the point of seeking help.
Let’s keep the conversation going. Find me on Facebook, Instagram or subscribe. Peace.