This month, I am honored to bring you another amazing edition of the Changemaker Q&A series, featuring Lisa Bryan of Downshiftology. I was introduced to Lisa completely by chance during the closing party at this year’s WDS by a fellow attendee. I was standing in line for food, and had a great conversation with two of the people standing in line with me; it turned out that as I was talking about the work that’s going on with Rebel Yogi, Chad thought to introduce me to Lisa, who he had just met that weekend. In a word: serendipity.
It turns out that Lisa and I have quite a bit in common, and as I heard more about her story, I knew that I wanted to feature her for this series. The work she is doing is SO necessary, and so inspiring. I am seriously looking forward to following along as she brings Downshiftology to life, because I know that we can all gain real benefit from her work.
Take it away, Lisa!
1. What is the world changing work that you are bringing into existence? (Tell us a bit about what your work means to you and why you think it’s important for the world.)
My passion is to help busy women “take it down a notch” in our overloaded world. To simplify both their food and lifestyle choices for improved health and greater happiness.
I believe there’s a silent health epidemic among women today. We’re smart, educated and driven… but also working long hours, enduring high-stress, sacrificing sleep and making poor food choices. We look at sleep as a luxury and stress as a necessary part of life. We’ve forgotten how to prioritize self-care or sadly, feel guilty when we do.
And the statistics are staggering. Of those with autoimmune disease, more than 75% are women. That’s a whole lot of us! And that number does not include other general health issues such as depression, infertility and skin disorders. As science and research increases in the field of genetics, microbiome, hormones and immunity – we learn more about potential triggers of disease. I won’t deep dive into geeky science talk, but remember this one important fact: just because you have a gene for a disease (a predisposition), it does not necessarily mean you will get it.
Why is this great news? Because many times our triggers are related to diet, environment and lifestyle. Things we can control! And that’s why I’m so darn passionate about Downshiftology!
2. What was the moment or situation that made you realize your previous work and lifestyle was unsustainable? And, how did you find your way back to balance out of those challenges?
Starting at the age of 35, I received my first autoimmune diagnosis (Celiac). Within two years, I received three more autoimmune diagnoses (Hashimotos, Psoriasis and Endometriosis). At the time, I was heading up marketing for a biotech company and had high-stress, long hours and a horrible commute. In short, I was completely burned out!
But for far too long I wanted to blame my genes. I kept telling myself that my body was somehow a little mis-wired and that I wasn’t really that stressed-out. I minimized all the internal red warning lights that were flashing.
But soon, the lights became too bright to ignore. So I remember telling myself, with 100% certainty, that I would leave my job within the year to take some much needed time off.
And instantly, that one internal declaration altered me profoundly. I Immediately felt the enormous weight lift from my shoulders. The incessant jaw cracking I had been doing for the last year stopped. And I slept the best I had in months that night.
I should also mention that at the time, I had been battling scalp psoriasis for two years. Yet after making this internal declaration (and with making no other dietary changes) my psoriasis had virtually disappeared within 3 weeks! That was the first light-bulb moment that my body and brain were inextricably connected. And that my mental stress was affecting me physically.
But two months after my light-bulb moment came the real kicker – I was unexpectedly let-go from my job. Talk about the universe giving me a nudge!
So being newly unemployed, I had free time on my hands to figure out my next path. That’s when I felt magnetically pulled to leave the corporate world behind and start Downshiftology. To help other women restart their lives for improved health and happiness.
3. What are you doing differently now – how are you maintaining a balanced place moving forward?
I quickly learned after starting Downshiftology that I could replicate my burn-out pretty darn easily if I wasn’t careful. Even though I was now a passionate entrepreneur (and no longer a corporate warrior), my biggest challenge was me.
As a type-A, driven personality, I tend to push myself hard to succeed. And even though I had been eating a healthy, paleo-based diet for more than a year, I needed to do more. I needed to make self-care priority #1.
For me, self-care includes things like exercise, getting outside, meditating and traveling. It’s my time to completely disconnect from technology and gain clarity. But to ensure it doesn’t fall through the cracks, I now schedule my exercise and meditation on my calendar, just as I would a business meeting.
Travel and adventure are also big for me – I’m a heart-driven explorer and seeker. And this was one area that was massively compromised in my former life. But I’m happy to let you know I’ll be spending a few months in Southeast Asia later this year! I’m super excited. So watch the blog for some fun, crazy and global-paleo adventure posts in the near future!
4. If you could give your past self one piece of advice or guidance, what would it be? Or, if you wouldn’t change anything, why not?
Gosh, I would definitely say to not be so hard on myself. To be more kind and gentle. And to not worry about perception and perfection. Life is short. Embrace simplicity and live your one amazing life doing things that make your heart sing. Because life is way more fun when you’re healthy and happy!
Hi Lisa, I just finished reading your stories. Your recipes use a lot of nightshades and diary. Aren’t you suppose to not eat those when you have psoriasis? Are you using a biologic? I am too. I’d just like to see if I can make dietary changes and stop using my injections.
I can’t speak for Lisa, but here’s my basic understanding.
The evidence that avoiding nightshades can help prevent psoriasis is anecdotal. Scientific studies have yet to show a clear connection between eating nightshades and worsening outbreaks. If tomatoes or other nightshades seem to make your condition worse, eliminate them one by one, and keep a food diary to note changes.
When it comes to dairy and psoriasis, it’s important to avoid foods that can trigger inflammation. Inflammation and the immune system response can lead to a flare-up.
So if dairy and/or nightshades lead to inflammation in YOUR body, it’s best to avoid them. My guess is that Lisa creates her recipes for a larger audience who can then pick and choose between them, knowing what their individual triggers are and what to avoid.
I hope that you’re able to find a healing diet that really works for you (it can take some real time and dedicated effort, but it’s so worth it!)