I’ve learned that inner peace is not experienced when you buy a designer bag, plan your dream wedding, purchase your first home or travel around the world. Inner peace can’t be bought, borrowed or taken from you. Inner peace comes from putting yourself first. It comes from consistently investing your time and energy into making yourself the happiest and healthiest version of you.

Our bodies are designed to maintain the status quo. This works well when your status quo is good—when you’re healthy and taking care of yourself. It’s not so great if your body’s normal is unhealthy, overweight or stressed, and you’re so used to it that you’ve forgotten what it’s like to feel truly healthy. Unfortunately, this results in many people with lifestyles and bodies they really aren’t at home in.

I know that feeling. I’ve always been a driven person, so focused on my goals that I was used to running on autopilot – working, exercising, sneaking in time with loved ones, passing out and repeating it the next day. I didn’t always take care of my body or fuel it like I should.

It took being diagnosed with Celiac Disease, along with several major food allergies, to save my relationship with food. Prior to my diagnosis, my diet consisted of a bagel for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and pizza or mac n cheese for dinner! At first, the desire to fill my stomach and satisfy addictive cravings superseded my well-being and I overindulged in bland tasting, unhealthy gluten-free bread, cookies, pasta, pizza and anything else I could get my hands on. It’s no surprise that my health didn’t improve much.

Something had to change. I decided to train for my first half marathon and slowly began eating clean. It didn’t take long to notice a drastic difference in my energy level and mental clarity. Around the same time, I also began taking various fitness classes to cross-train and challenge myself. As I shifted my eating habits and workout routine, others noticed the change and wanted in. Before I knew it, I’d inadvertently become a health and wellness guru for family, friends and co-workers.

Amidst a divorce in 2015, I realized at my lowest of lows that my priorities in life were out of whack – I cared more about “doing and having it all” than my mental health and happiness. I made a career change and with it came the perk of no longer having to work weekends or additional jobs to supplement my income. It was my first time having a day (yet alone two consecutive days) off since graduating high school in 2006. My mind and body did not know what to do with this time.

I felt lost and immersed myself in any form of self-help that I could find. Books, acupuncture, therapy, energy work, yoga and writing saved my life. Throughout my trials and tribulations, I began to share my journey with others on social media to support anyone going through something similar. I experienced depression, isolation and hopelessness firsthand and wanted to impart things that helped me to anyone willing to read/listen; especially for those who feel alone. I even wrote a children’s book focusing on how adults can help kids overcome feelings of loneliness and disconnection.

Along with writing, I began coaching others who wanted to make health, lifestyle, and/or career changes. I found it to be so invigorating and fulfilling that I immediately signed up for a certification course and became a holistic health coach. Coaching places an emphasis on the here and now, rather than analyzing the past. As I work with my clients each week, I listen to their dreams and desires and help them formulate three, attainable goals to complete before our next session – all of which align with the overarching, big changes they are looking to make in their lives. By gradually incorporating various foods, rituals and habits their lives begin to shift in a major way.

Many times, we believe that earning a degree, splurging on a pair of shoes or saving a certain amount of money will make us feel qualified, relevant or successful. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve done and DO all of these things at times but very well know that the validation that comes along with them is a facade. True happiness comes from self-love, first and foremost. It comes from putting yourself first. Inner peace comes from letting go of the past, no longer limiting ourselves with our expectations and accepting (and loving) ourselves for who we are right now. I feel so privileged to help others begin the journey toward inner peace and true health, to watch as they start to feel better than they ever felt possible — inside and out.