MEET HEATHER HARTMAN
Hi! My name is Heather and I am a certified Holistic Health + Nutrition Coach.
I suffered from debilitating gut issues for over twenty years. For the first thirteen years I thought my experience was normal. It wasn’t 2012, after an elimination of gluten, sugar, and dairy during Lent that I realized how wrong I was. I spent the next eight years trying everything under the sun to heal myself, only to be cured after a 45-minute session in August 2020.
I grew up with very health focused parents, who set a great foundation for me health-wise. We were taught that soda and fast food were poison, we weren't allowed sweets, and were raised on mostly plant based, Mediterranean style dishes. Both of my parents come from huge families that didn’t emphasize nutrition. Comparing my parents to the rest of our family was a great reminder of what my life would be like if I made similar food choices.
That being said, my earliest memories of discomfort began in high school. I may have had issues before then, but I don’t have memories of how my body felt prior to high school. There were so many days I would eat breakfast and arrive at school with a completely extended stomach. I looked pregnant. I also had very irregular and unpredictable bowel movements - I never knew what the day would be like. These symptoms lasted until 2020.
At the time, I was told I was possibly lactose intolerant, but wasn’t provided any solutions. There wasn’t a conversation around eliminating dairy products - it was more, “deal with it and be prepared”.
In college my stomach issues got worse. I always felt sick and was hyper aware of the gurgling going on in there. Towards the end of college I began working as a behavioral therapist for children with Autism. A few of my students experienced transformational results with a gluten and casein free diet. I grew up knowing which foods to stay away from to “look” a certain way, but this was the first time I realized food could be used as a tool to heal!
Instead of getting my Masters, I decided to attend The Culinary Institute of America, Greystone to learn the science behind food so I could create options for people like my students. I fully enjoyed myself while living in Napa - I was surrounded by the best restaurants in the world, so I tried everything. My stomach always hurt and I was fatigued, but so were all of my classmates. I was normal!
After graduation I began cooking at a restaurant in San Francisco. This is where things took a turn for the worst, fast. I was in my early twenties, but felt like a very sick person within a couple of months of working there. I began to suffer from joint pain, limb, feet and hand numbness, brain fog, a declining memory and constant fatigue. There were times I could barely open my hands or walk because of pain - I thought I had arthritis.
For Lent that year I abstained from gluten, dairy and refined sugar. Eliminating foods for Lent wasn’t new for me, but removing each of these at the same time was. This was so difficult while working in a pastry kitchen, but I did it. At the end of those forty days many of my “body” symptoms dissipated - my skin was no longer itchy, my joint pain was gone, etc. I still had stomach issues, but I felt cured, for the most part.
I realized working in a pastry kitchen was poisoning me, and I was probably poisoning others. I needed to get back to my original goal of helping people. I left restaurants and opened my personal cheffing business! For the next seven years I worked on growing my business, while also working a full time job - a few years as a behavioral therapist at a very fancy private school in SF, as well as the real industry in SF - tech!
My side hustle was to cook for people with dietary restrictions. I was obsessed with researching the nutrition and science behind ingredients. As I got more clients, I began to test their protocols on me. I tried being gluten free, dairy free, no beans/legumes (I still do this), strict paleo, AIP, food combining, intermittent fasting, OMAD, raw food, no fruit (not even a date!), only green vegetables, NO sugary vegetables, salt/oil/sugar free, only bone broth, etc. I did SO MANY juice cleanses. Once, a former roommate convinced me to take senna tea to “get out whatever was in my stomach”.
Not only did none of these work, but I became extremely controlling about food. I needed to pick the restaurant or analyze the menu beforehand (which made socializing unbearable). I judged everyone who didn’t eat as “perfect” as me (really, I was so jealous of them). There were times I felt so hopeless that I overindulged and ate everything, then paid for it for days. I always wore loose clothing because my stomach was so unpredictable.
Things got worse when I moved to Colorado in 2017. I was in a relationship, so now my partner had to deal with my discomfort. Every time I ate I felt sick and bloated. I didn’t want to get close to him and I hated being touched. This was not what I wanted for my future.
The summer of 2020 I remember eating a bite of watermelon, only to grow a rock hard extended stomach and needing to stay next to the bathroom for 24-hours. I cried every day - I felt hopeless. I was barely eating anything… I couldn’t even eat watermelon! During this time I tried a week long water fast. This was the first time in years that my stomach didn’t hurt… but this obviously wasn’t sustainable. More feelings of hopelessness.
I then began seeing an acupuncturist to help with my gut issues. She let me know that IBS was very tricky to cure because it wasn’t just the food we eat - it could be a combination of things and differs from person to person. For example, stress and trapped trauma. This was something I had heard before, but wasn’t ready to address.
I then got tested for celiac and other allergies by a gastroenterologist. Everything came out normal! I made an appointment to get a colonoscopy to see if there was something more serious causing my symptoms. During the month waiting for the appointment I had a voice telling me to get Reiki.
My intuition has always been strong, but this was something I wasn’t ready to face. When my acupuncturist told me IBS could be caused by trapped trauma I knew this was probably the case, as this was the only area I hadn’t addressed. I grew up in a very chaotic household, and knew I had deep generational issues that needed to be released. I made an appointment with my Reiki healer, who I hadn’t seen in about two years, with the intention of clearing any past trauma that was trapped in my gut.
After a 45-minute reiki session, I was completely healed. For the next few weeks I expected to feel or look a certain way after eating, but didn’t - I was cured of decades of discomfort. A few weeks later, my colonoscopy results came out clean.
I think all of this happened to me for a bigger reason. I was so lucky to work as a behavioral therapist for a combined eight years as it taught me I had the power to heal. Growing up with healthy parents, in a huge family, gave me a deep passion and pretty good foundation for food. The years of debilitating gut issues and detective work taught me how to read labels, that we are all bioindividual and pushed me to explore so many other areas of health.
Now, I have a healthy mix of traditional medical approaches and natural alternatives. I believe we should question everything - health is not one size fits all. I now eat all food groups, but am very conscious of food quality and staying away from anything I can't pronounce.
In 2020 I graduated from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition to merge my previous experience as a behavioral therapist for students with special needs, with my years of professional and personal experience around food and wellness to help women heal themselves!