Hello & Welcome!
I’m a doctor of Molecular Toxicology & Nutritional Biochemistry (PhD, University of Toronto), an Integrative Nutrition Expert and Optimal Living Coach (IIN graduate). [Translation: I’m a functional nutrition ninja, a self-care activist and a biohacker]. I created Living Rhea to empower people to unlock their healthiest potential by guiding them to paint a picture of their best self, redesign their daily routine, identify and remove inflammatory triggers, and resolve biochemical inefficiencies in the body and mind. As a conqueror of chronic disease and proponent for clean, holistic living, I’m committed to educating and supporting changemakers and communities in aligning health with their missions. I’m a contributor to the Huffington Post and Mind Body Green and I’m also the Founder of Global Smoothie Day and the Co-Founder of Camp Reset, a digital detox summer camp for adults. And I’m still going strong…
My Personal Healing Journey
Life wasn’t always centred around health.
As a kid, I loved to play, explore, socialize, take risks, memorize books, collect stickers, and learn new things. Food came secondary, but I did love it, or what I thought of as “it”.
Growing up in a very small, remote French Canadian town in Northern Ontario, Canada as an East Indian Family wasn’t the easiest when it came to our native cuisine. Food staples had to be purchased well in advance from the big city (Toronto!) and stored for months in our pantry. Fresh produce was available, but lacked in diversity. Often we would resort to frozen or canned foods, along with dried legumes for our meals. And when we camped, 4 months out of the year, we mostly lived (or barely existed?) on packaged foods, or what I now refer to as, “packaged poo-ds”.
At a young age, I began complaining to my parents about having a “sore tummy”. My stomach often felt weak and bloated, and I was experiencing frequent bouts of gut irritability and abdominal pain.
Although we seeked medical attention, there was little that could be done given my symptoms, besides the prescription of pain killers, laxatives and the like.
Fast-forward to my early teens. With stomach pain still affecting me, I began complaining about lower back pain. Although being deeply loved by my parents (thank you, thank you, thank you), they took my complaining lightly, and assumed it was tied to my extremely active lifestyle. I now see where they were coming from, as it’s not easy thinking of your children as being ill, or worse, knowing that you may have inadvertently contributed to that illness.
Soon after, I experienced my very first of several chronic back spasms at 15 years old. I was sore, and by this time, I had limited mobility. These spasms, followed by periods of extreme chronic pain, which spread throughout my body, came and went for the next 12 years, and they always over-extended their visit. Before I knew it, digestion had shut down, inflammation was at a high, but somehow, I was still smiling. 🙂 I blame it on love, as it was something that was always present in my life. For that I am grateful.
Forward again to 2005. Me: An uber-achiever. I began my PhD in Molecular Toxicology and Nutritional Biochemistry at the University of Toronto. My thesis in the area of preventive health. Although I was not yet called to examine my own life, I was very curious about the role of the Western Diet in chronic pain and metabolic disease. And so I began to investigate the toxic effects of our Western diet, focusing on refined sugars and heavy metals, and the protective role of micronutrients (B vitamins, antioxidants) against toxicity in the liver.
The more I researched and shared, the more I stepped into my role as a leader and authority. I felt more empowered as a human being, and this would serve me well during my next pain episode. Tied with commitments of 24/7 graduate work, home search, love life, and exploring a new city, my stress was at an all time high and my diet was poor. I didn’t know it though, as I was quite disconnected from my body, and from nutrition. Internally, this manifested as painful abdominal cramps, digestive upset, chronic constipation, and externally, I was as tender as could be from head to toe, with limited mobility in my hips, glutes and lower back.
I was a mess, and for the first time, I was motivated to clean it up.
My scientific curiosity and investigative personality had finally turned to my own life—to my diet and lifestyle, and I was determined to solve my problem. I began to heavily research the areas of holistic nutrition and self-care, so much so that I even modified my doctoral thesis to more strongly encompass it. The more I learned, the more I applied to my own life, and soon enough, I became my very own test subject.
The notion of actively and purposefully cleansing our bodies from the inside, just as we clean our homes, cars, and work spaces, finally made sense to me. And I was determined to release my inflammation and to revitalize my health. Test #1 (and 2, 3, 4, and 5) involved entering the world of detoxification. It became clear to me that I was fully loaded with toxins, and I felt as though the only way to renew my body and restore my health in a short time was through a gentle but strict flush of sorts, tied to intense physical therapy to strengthen my back and extremities, and a permanent shift in my eating habits and lifestyle choices.
It’s been a long and bumpy journey, but after countless experiments and radical shifts in my diet and knowledge base, I’ve achieved astounding results in both health and happiness. I healed myself naturally, honestly, and evidently, and in the process, developed a deeper sense of purpose and a great passion for sharing my know how, practices, and insights with the world.
My aim is to share my expertise and passion with changemakers and communities to help inspire life redesign from a place of non-negotiable self-care.
When we are more self-aware and connected in mind and body, we make better decisions for ourselves and for others, and collectively, we win.