Here's the Short version of who I am. . .
- I love to Laugh.
- I'm a little Sassy, and a lot Silly.
- I've always loved the Water (lake, ocean, river, pond); I have come to love the Mountains.
- I Commit 100%.
- I might Give-In, I rarely Give-Up.
- I live Well, even with UC (Ulcerative Colitis).
- I am a Certified Nutrition Consultant (NC) & Natural Chef
- I Thrive & Delight in helping others (especially IBDers) live healthier, happier lives.
My Longer Story is here. . .
I grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan in Racine, Wisconsin, about a 5 minute walk to the Wind Point Lighthouse which is still one of my favorite places. I am the youngest of 4 children and my paternal grandmother was my best childhood friend.
One of the best, and possibly worst decisions my parents ever made was introducing me to swimming. At first, I hated the water. After I got used to it, I loved it. To this day, it's hard to get me out of a pool, a lake, the ocean. The sound of water calms me. The feel of it soothes me. The smell of sea air relaxes me.
My mom and grandmothers gave me my foundation in cooking (until the past 5 years I didn't realize they also gave me my foundation in nutrition). I spent many summer days helping in my grandmother's garden, pulling carrots straight from the ground, wiping off just enough dirt (because she always said, "A little dirt's good for ya!), before taking a big bite. I used to load her little red wagon with zucchinis the size of small watermelons and cart them around the neighborhood selling them for 25 cents.
My favorite summer-time memory, though, was picking flats of fresh strawberries in the local farmer's field with my family. We ate nearly as many berries as we gathered and the farmer would threaten to weigh us on his scales as we licked the juice from our fingers. Those berries would be frozen, made into jams to be eaten during harsh Wisconsin winters, and of course, eaten fresh from the bowl, in a pie, or spooned over freshly baked shortcakes and topped with cream whipped moments before.
It was these times that set the connection between land, food, nourishment, and love in my mind. And every time I taste a vine-ripened tomato, a freshly picked strawberry, or plucked-from-the-earth carrot I am transported to my mother's and grandmothers' homes.
I graduated from college with a journalism degree and began my career in Washington, D.C. For eight years I lived in a whirlwind of work, friends, travel, and social engagements - both simple and grand. My mom likes to say that as a young child I was her healthiest. But my Senior year of high school found me sick with Chicken Pox (my date for spring formal didn't believe I was sick until he saw the pox himself), and within the first year of living in D.C. I had my first bout of viral meningitis - I would end up getting this malady 4 more times over the next 10 years - plus, a number of stomach problems/illnesses that were never named.
In 1996, I married my love. He was not the "brown-haired, blue-eyed, preppy tennis player" sort I envisioned as my ideal guy. No, when I met my "Mr. Right" he was red-haired with a big bushy beard, greenish-brown eyes and a zest for deserts and mountain living.
Within a year of our wedding John and I quit our D.C. jobs and moved to the mountains of Lake Tahoe, California. I was intrigued and intimidated. I'd never traveled, let alone lived, west of the Mason-Dixon line. What did I know about mountains and high altitude? Nothing. But, I learned. And I came to love "my mountains" - hiking, backpacking, panning for gold in the rivers, picnicking by a babbling brook, and kayaking on Lake Tahoe (I had my water again). And I learned to respect and live harmoniously with brown bear, coyotes, and mountain lions.
But just as I was getting into my mountain-living groove my health took a turn. I ended up with a few more bouts of stomach illness reminiscent of what I'd experienced in D.C. But these bouts were worse and they lasted longer. I was spending more and more time in the bathroom until I was finally spending my nights sleeping on the bathroom floor because it was easier than going back-and-forth to bed every 20-30 minutes. I was losing weight at an alarming rate and flushing my energy (and my life) down the toilet. I'd had to quit my freelance writing job because I had become unreliable and unable to meet deadlines - how could I when I was living in the bathroom or sleeping from exhaustion.
I was not keen on seeing doctors, I had seen a few gastroenterologists over the years and was always told the same thing: "Reduce your stress." When we moved to Tahoe I was about as un-stressed as I'd been in 10 years. So, I soldiered on the best I could. I learned to always carry Imodium with me along with a change of clothes, and plenty of water to keep me hydrated.
Upon returning from a trip to the Caribbean that had been nothing but a "pain in the butt" I found myself having a colonoscopy and receiving my first diagnosis of Microscopic Colitis (MC). Three months later when my symptoms progressed to include bloody diarrhea and severe abdominal cramps the diagnosis was changed to Ulcerative Colitis (UC).
My father and grandmother both had the same illness (it was now called an autoimmune disease) and while I was scared and a bit angry, I was also grateful I hadn't ended up in the hospital and that there were some new medications that might be able to help.
Over the next few years my life changed, and not for the better. I simply did not have the energy I'd once had. I was scared to eat because it made me sick. I was scared not to eat because it made me feel worse. I was leery of leaving my house in case I should have an "accident," which meant I stopped working, meeting friends, traveling. . . in all honestly, I pretty much stopped living. With the medication I'd been given I had stopped losing weight, but now I was perpetually underweight, the diarrhea had not yet abated, my immune system stunk, and I would catch every cold, flu, or illness that came within 100 feet of me (I would end up back in the hospital with mycoplasma pneumonia plus one more case of meningitis).
There were days I felt defeated and unable to soldier on. I grew depressed and felt helpless. These were still the days before the Internet was much more than AOL and AltaVista, so support from other IBDers was scarce.
A dear friend living in Arizona offered to introduce me to his Energy Healer friend. Being a Catholic from Wisconsin I was pretty dubious of this, but I was so sick and tired that I decided I didn't have anything to lose. That was the first trip I'd taken since being really live-on-the-bathroom-floor sick and I can tell you I was N-E-R-V-O-U-S! About the car trip, the energy healer, being away from home, pooping in my pants (this happened to me in a grocery store and it took me months to go back!), Everything! But, all-in-all it went okay. I even learned how to go to the bathroom on the side of a highway (pull off the road as far as you can, then open the front and back doors on the passenger side of the car and use them like a bathroom stall - not perfect, but in a bind you'll do what you have to.) Needless to say, my experience with the energy healer (who was really a Reiki Master) went well. I came away from our three sessions with each other feeling calmer both in my mind and my gut, hungry (which was new), and tired (I slept very well and woke with energy I hadn't had in years).
It went so well that I have since earned my Level 1, Level 2, and my Usui Reiki Master certifications.
For a few more years I survived. I put on my brave face when I had to. Many family and friends knew I was ill, but few of them really knew just how sick I was or how bad things could be for me. But John and I knew. We lived it, every day, together, for better or worse. We relished the "better" days and sucked as much marrow out of them as we could.
But even John couldn't, and can't, really know what it is like to live with an illness like Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Only those of us who have it know just how bad it can be - physically and emotionally. It sucks up your energy and takes away your dignity.
We lived in Tahoe for 5 years. Next, we moved to the panhandle of Florida so I could be near more of that water I love so much, hoping the sea air and lower altitude might help my body (and mind) recuperate and spring back to life. Instead, I ran into another health issue. I was diagnosed with an Acoustic Neuroma - a benign brain tumor that was growing on my balance nerve. Even though it wasn't cancerous, I needed to have it removed so it wouldn't grow larger and eventually compress my brain stem (that can kill you). We spent months seeing doctors, researching treatments, and finally deciding on a treatment option.
In between all this our neighborhood was hit by hurricane Ivan, a category 4/5 hurricane, which made us realize we were not "hurricane people." After fixing up the house and treating my tumor we moved back to the mountains, this time to Colorado.
We were in a new city, my brain tumor had been treated (we would now monitor it for 5 years to make sure the treatment worked), and my gut was still problematic. As we settled into our 105 year old house in the Old Colorado City neighborhood of Colorado Springs I got to know our neighbors and our new community. In many ways, it makes me think of growing up in Wisconsin.
While the Springs is a city of more than 600,000 people, our Westside neighborhood feels more like the small community neighborhood I grew up in. Neighbors not only know your name but we get together to socialize, shop, and eat together. Some of the ladies took me around town to introduce me to the organic, Mexican, and Asian food shops.
By this time the internet was bigger and more prolific in our every-day lives and I was not only participating in, but also acting as moderator for two IBD support groups. In 2006 I wrote and published my first book, Living with IBD & IBS: A Personal Journey of Success. From 2007-2015 I wrote an IBD blog for the Health Central Network. I wrote about my efforts of learning to live a better life with a chronic disease and about my dabbling in eating better foods to help calm my gut. In all the years since my diagnosis I'd been told by doctors and others that food made no difference to the illness. But in my gut (no pun intended) I felt it did.
In 2009 I had myself tested for Celiac disease - thankfully the result was negative. I stopped eating all gluten anyway. Within a couple of weeks I felt a bit better. In the spring of 2010 we traveled to Spain where I ate bread (gluten) for the first time in a year. Within the week I felt dizzy much of the time and my gut was off more than usual. I wasn't sure if it was the bread, the brain tumor, or the stress of travel. When we returned home I stopped eating all gluten (American bread just isn't good enough to eat and have it make me sick). Within a week the dizzy feeling subsided and my gut settled.
The summer of 2010 found me any my husband building our first greenhouse in our backyard. We now grow flowers, herbs, and lettuces year-round. From sprouting seeds to compost to pest control, it's all organic. I am, literally, cultivating my interest in the connection between food and health in my own back yard (and hopefully channeling my grandmother a little, too). This was now my impetus for wanting to learn more about eating to improve my health.
I began to look into Natural Chef programs where I could learn to cook cleaner, healthier, whole foods - much like what my mother and grandmothers cooked - to support my immune system better and allow my body to heal and thrive. Colorado is filled with wonderful food offerings from farm-to-table cooking to farmer's markets, vineyards, and a proliferation of backyard chicken coops.
But after years of working in corporate jobs and being too sick to care I felt disconnected and unsure how or where to begin to learn if changing my eating habits could possibly improve my health.
I was accepted into the Bauman College Natural Chef program and temporarily moved to Boulder in the spring of 2011. For six months I learned how to cook and eat for health. After I received my Natural Chef certification I went home and embarked on my own healing diet following the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) as explained in the book, Breaking the Vicious Cycle by Elaine Gottschall.
In the two years I followed the SCD I realized, first-hand, what a profound effect changing my "Eating Lifestyle" was having on my health. It was a tough journey but worth all the effort and time. With each month I felt better as my gut healed, my energy increased, my weight returned to normal, and I began to engage in life again. By 2013, I was successfully eating salads without being sick for two or three days afterwards (if you have IBD you know what I'm talking about!). By 2014 I was off nearly all the UC medication I'd been taking for 16 years.
About six months into my own healing program, I went back to Bauman College and enrolled in their Nutrition Consultant program to further my education of nutrition and it effects on our health. Two years later I graduated with honors and began Elizabeth Roberts Nutrition.
Today my life is pretty much my own, no longer run by UC and where the next bathroom is located or how much pain I have or energy I don't have. In addition to dietary changes I've also made some big lifestyle changes as part of my personal treatment plan. Yoga and Qigong (chi-gong) are an integral part of my days/weeks. In addition to helping me slow down and relax these two practices also help me manage mild anxiety and chronically tight muscles. I control as much emotional and physical stress as possible, which means that as much as I can, I try not to allow the fast-paced world we live in control me, my time, or my head-space. Instead, I work at choosing how and with whom I socialize and work, as well as how I expend my time and energy.
I am now devoted to helping fellow IBDers; those living with other Autoimmune illnesses; IBS; and, with anyone who wants to learn how to make better nutrition and lifestyle choices to improve their health and their life.
I come to you not only as a Nutrition Consultant & Natural Chef but also as someone with the personal understanding of how it feels, physically and emotionally, to be ill and unwell. But, I also come to you with the ability to help you discover and implement your new "Eating Lifestyle."
If you are ready to begin your journey to better health, Fill-out the form and I'll be in touch to set-up our first chat.