WHO IS ANGELA O'BRIEN?
Hi there. I'm Angela. I'm a mom of two beautiful, healthy kids, Theresa and Steven, who are my world, my reason for becoming a health coach in the first place (more about that later). I am also happily married for fifteen years now to my wonderful husband, Matthew, who served in the U.S. Coast Guard for eleven of them and is now a veteran.
After being passed around every few years during his time in the service, we decided to come back home to Eugene and give our kids the opportunity to build lasting relationships and spend more time with family we didn't see much of while living the military life. It's great to see how much this city has evolved, but we do miss our friends and extended family we left behind in our moves.
It all started with A.D.H.D. At the age of seven years old, our first grade daughter was diagnosed with "Combination Clinical Attention Deficit, Hyperactivity Disorder." This was the psychologists way of saying sometimes she was ADHD and sometimes just ADD. We knew it before first grade. She showed signs in kindergarten but her teacher didn't want to "label her" so she refused to fill out the questionnaire, especially since there were only a few more months left in the school year. Nevermind the fact that because she didn't have an IEP or 504 plan, she was getting into trouble for things she couldn't help. She would bring home a discipline slip from school at least every couple of weeks for not listening to her teacher, disrupting the class, speaking over others, talking over her teacher, and touching other kids. By the time she was out of kindergarten, she had brought home eight discipline slips, even though she was a good kid who just couldn't control her brain.
Once it was confirmed, of course the first recommended thing was medication.....Adderall to be exact. and before the diagnosis, my husband insisted I do some research into her condition before putting her on meds. You see, he too was diagnosed with ADHD at a young age and put on Ritalin until he was an adult. He remembered his bad experiences with the medication and how it made him feel. He did not want that for his little girl. So, I did a bit of digging and found controversial information on the subject and spoke to her new therapist about it. When i mentioned to her that we had not put our daughter on meds, at least not just yet, she was overjoyed that a parent was seeking alternative options to treat this condition. She said she is not allowed to just give that as an option because, according to her training and the FDA, that is not a method that has been proven to work, but she knew it did because she did it with her own child. So she gave me two books to read.......The Autism and ADHD Diet, by Barry Silberberg and The ADHD Book, by Dr. William Sears. She claimed that these two books helped her make the changes needed to reverse his diagnosis. So I took them both home and started reading and couldn't put them down. I was reading so much shocking information and felt sick to my stomach that I was taught to believe otherwise. I finished both books within that week and immediately started the process to "make my child feel normal again."
When we got the diagnosis, we immediately setup a meeting to create her 504 plan. Her therapist felt an IEP would leave the school wanting to place her into a Special Needs class and knew how important it was for Theresa to be with those she already knew, as she made this transition, so having a 504 plan was the best fit for her.
We also sat down with Theresa and talked to her about how she was feeling. She said she wanted her brain to stop "running a million miles a minute" and to be able to focus in school and be a good student; one her teacher would like having in her class, instead of constantly sending her to the office or putting her in time out. She knew she needed help and was willing to do whatever she could to make get it.
Luckily for us, Theresa already had been a fan of some fruits and veggies so trying to get her to eat them wasn't difficult. The hard part was keeping some of her favorites away, like soda, candy, chips, TV dinners, her favorite pizza, and so much more. We had found healthier versions, but while her taste buds were happy, her brain was not. There are so many chemicals found in most of the items you find at the store, and some of those chemicals were no longer being put into her system and her brain was pissed off and would cause her to act out screaming for her Oreos, Cheetos, or hot dogs. This went on for about a month (withdrawl period) and often times after throwing a tantrum and crying it out, she would come back, give me a hug, and apologize for the way her "brain was behaving."
By the end of the school year, her teacher raved about how much of an improvement Theresa had made since her diagnosis. She had told me how Theresa was always quick to ask about treats and snacks in school before eating them and would share her story with her peers in hopes that they too would pay more attention to what they ate. She had told us that she would be teaching second grade the next year and looked forward to having Theresa again, but we had to break the news to her that we were transferring, so she would not be back. She asked for our address so she could send Theresa a card telling her how proud she was of how much she had changed, as well as a letter for her new teacher. Theresa was so excited when she read it that they became pen pals for a while. It took about two years for her symptoms to go away and I am happy to say that she is now an artist, story and song writer, gymnast, fashion designer, jewelry maker, and environmentalist too. I couldn't be more proud of the young lady Theresa has become and how helpful she was in "fixing her brain."
While Theresa was improving with these new changes, our son was not having it. Steven had just turned three around the time the changes were being made and he rebelled. Unlike his sister, he did not understand why he couldn't have his favorite snacks and his mac & cheese, pizza, or chicken nuggets for lunch everyday anymore, and don't even get me started on his addiction to Pediasure he had been drinking since he was six months old. My husband and I both vowed that we would not let the same thing happen to him, so we made sure he would never have to experience what his sister did. But of course, it was a big fight with him. He didn't even want the substitutes because they tasted different than what he was used to.
For the next about six months, Steven would throw tantrums every time he didn't get what he wanted and I actually always made sure to go to the store while he was with a sitter or waited until my husband got home from work to go to the store, so I wouldn't have to deal with his behavior there. He had the same pediatrician as his sister, so while he was concerned that he wasn't eating regularly, he applauded me for not giving in to his demands like so many other parents do. While my son too was thin, the doctor wasn't worried too much about his weight, but more for his development. He fluctuated in weight during this time, but never dropped too low to be in danger. After those first six months though, he started accepting the food he was given, and while he hardly ever finished his plate, he did eat a little bit of everything. Today, he is just as concerned about what he eats as his sister. He is also a science and math geek, does Jui Jitsu, and loves Star Wars and Minecraft. He is also a big fan of sharks and tornados (but thankfully, not Sharknado) and his books of choice are science-related. He is still a total mama's boy too and always thanks me for keeping him healthy. :)
Having learned all I had about ADHD and how the foods we eat and the chemicals we expose ourselves and our children to, I decided to dig into learning about other common medical, behavioral, and social conditions. Around that time, my husband's grandmother was diagnosed with Stage 4 Colon Cancer. She was given a six month notice as she opted not to fight it. I read a book called Detoxify or Die, by Sherry Rogers that taught me more about how chemical exposure slowly kills us, leading us to get sick often, and need more and more man-made drugs. Having read it, I know we can't completely eliminate our risks to toxins, but what we do on a regular basis can lower our risks of getting sick in the first place. I knew what I had learned wasn't going to help my husband's grandmother, but I knew it would help for future knowledge or just help to prevent in the first place. Since then, I have read almost fifty books so far in less than four years on various subjects and am constantly scouring sales for used reference guides. Dr Sears has over forty books himself and I have read at least half. It's all I ever read anymore. Some of them also helped my husband get off his medications after twelve years of dependency for anxiety and depression, on top of the many years he was on Ritalin as a child, and he will never go back. All of us are happier, healthier, and pharma free for three years now and we share our experiences with others.
Since beginning my research five years ago, I have learned so much about ADHD and autism, allergies, heart disease, fibromyalgia, diabetes, cancer ,and so much more. I am constantly reading these books and learning more about the history, causes, and treatments for so many of them. I even learned that "genetics" is not as much of a cause as "lifestyle habits." Many people do not know that they can treat a cold or get rid of allergies with food, or that they can fight diabetes with food. Herbs and spices play a major role in healing from illness as well.
Shortly after my wellness journey began to help our daughter, I started looking into how I could help myself as well. Having known all I had began to learn, I started wondering what I could do for my own constant pain from scoliosis and bursitis. I had been needing physical therapy weekly and taking muscle relaxers and pain medications for almost ten years. Once I learned about the power of proper nutrition and regular exercise, I started noticing a difference within a month and was completely off medications, and even therapy after six months. My back has never felt better. Then i knew I was onto something. I was on a mission to change the lives of other families and especially children and their health. Since Dr Sears had his own certification program, and had been a huge part of the transition and experiences we had overcome, I felt honored to learn more from him and decided to attend the Dr. Sears. Wellness Institute and learn about the L.E.A.N. program and how it benefits not just families and kids, but people of all ages. I even had the pleasure of getting to talk to Dr Sears himself recently while he was in town to talk about healthy pregnancy and babies at the Bellies, Birth, and Babies Expo. It was such a great honor to meet the man who started it all for me.
Everyone has a dream job. There is that saying "If you love what you do, you'll never work a day in your life." That is what my dream is. I didn't become a health coach to rake in the cash. There are many marketing strategies and webinars that teach health coaches how to make six to seven figures a year. I'm not about that. I got into this business to help people learn about the importance of eating healthy, being active, and living a healthy lifestyle. One thing I have noticed, not just for me and my family, but for others I have consulted, is that those who care more about their health also care more about the health of others as well as our environment, and with the direction we are headed as the human race and with our beloved wildlife being threatened, it is important that our children grow up caring enough to do something before it's too late.
I am inspired by a teacher in New York named Stephen Ritz, who owns "Green Bronx Machine." He has always cared about kids in his community (the Bronx) and where they are headed in life. He wants them to grow up honor students, earning scholarships, and caring about their health, community, and world. He has transformed so many kids by teaching them about the importance of eating nutritious foods and growing your own food and how it impacts your life and your health.
Green Bronx Machine: national health and wellness center at PS 55 | Stephen Ritz | TEDxManhattan
Like Stephen, I too want to see kids thrive in health, school, and life and do more for our community and our environment. I am happy to teach kids about why it's important to eat healthy and be active and to use their imagination (which saddens me to say our children are lacking today with increased technology use). I want to be able to teach them about different foods (both good and bad) and teach them to grow their own food, like Stephen. I want to be able to go to all of the schools in the community and provide lessons regularly to keep them active and informed or even to teach an after-school program for kids to be able to attend and learn with more time than given to them during school hours. I even have access to these year-round indoor gardens he speaks of in his video.
My dream is to be able to teach the entire community and provide services to everyone in need at no cost. Currently, I offer free lessons to kids, schools, and other organizations about kids. I also offer free lectures to parents who want to learn more about me, my education, experience, and paid services. But, like Stephen and his Green Bronx Machine, with the help of those in the community and contributors elsewhere, I would like to make this happen for everyone, regardless of their financial means, current lifestyle, age, and more. I want to be able to help everyone who wants it without having to sell them a service. And one day I hope to make that happen for me.