health journey

A Recent Diagnosis and a Journey Upward | Osteoporosis Awareness | Guest Blogpost by Daniella Dayoub-Forrest

As many of you know, what I appreciate and value most from the women I photograph is not only their courage to step out in front of the camera, but their willingness to share their stories to encourage, educate, and empower other women on a variety of subjects. Whether it’s physical health, body image, diversity, entrepreneurship, motherhood, or leadership, the voice that women have to share their stories is something I am privileged to be a part of as a photographer and writer.

A few months ago I had the honor of meeting and photographing Daniella Dayoub-Forrest, a health, fitness, and nutrition coach and owner of DFitLife, based here in the Bay Area. You can imagine my surprise that, given her background in fitness, a social media post she shared recently revealed her diagnosis with osteoporosis. I was curious to see if she’d be willing to share a bit more about her story and she graciously agreed to shed light on not only her own personal journey with this diagnosis, but also her her journey as a woman navigating and growing through many of the body-image challenges we as women commonly encounter today.

I hope Daniella’s post below helps you or someone you may know of. You can follow Daniella’s journey through her blog www.baredbones.net . Spread the word on something that will help improve women’s health everywhere!

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Here I sit, 42 years old, and seemingly at the peak of my health. 

I own my own health coaching business and personal training studio.  I have a thriving 8 year old daughter.  I am married to the most amazing man.  I eat my veggies and try not to overdo the wine.  I have a fabulous group of girlfriends.  Both of my parents are aging healthfully.  And I honestly like my own body when I look in the mirror. 

Basically, I have it all.  Except strong bones.  

The above paragraph sounds like I'm braggadocious.  But no.  I spent most of my life from my teen years through part of my thirties being the harshest critic of myself.  Nothing I did was smart enough.  Nothing I ate was healthy enough.  I wasn't skinny enough, or pretty enough. 

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Enough for what?! Who knows. 

But that self-criticism and need to be perfect manifested into an eating disorder.  And while outwardly I looked just like the picture of health I was selling to my clients, on the inside, my skeleton was starting to disappear.  

At 29 years old, I was attempting to snowboard (having been a skier my whole life), and struggling to say the least.  My boyfriend was really good, and I wanted desperately to ramp up to his abilities.  But as I was just getting my bearings, I caught a little air down a slope, and as my feet landed back down on the snow, my left lower leg shattered.  I knew instantly that it was a severe break.  When we finally got to the hospital, the X-rays revealed that I had indeed shattered my distal tibia like glass, and broken the adjacent fibula as well.  All from a very slight impact.  

That break took me 3 months to heal, which was much faster than the doctors thought.  But it was the alarm that finally alerted me to the fact that I was indeed in the early stages of osteoporosis.  Back then, bone density in the lower range was categorized as "osteopenia," but that term has fallen from the medical vernacular.  Now, however, I not only have low bone density, but have full-blown osteoporosis. 

Why?  Well, so many reasons, really:  

  • My first year of life was riddled with X-rays due to being born with severe hip-dysplasia.  (maybe an early warning sign of weaker bones)

  • I was raised in the 80's when most of us were told to avoid fatty foods.  You cannot absorb bone-building minerals without fat. 

  • In my teens, I developed anorexia and got down to a low of 92 pounds.  I only ate the bare minimum; calories, not nutrition being my focus.

  • I am a small woman, even at a heavier weight.  At 5'3" and an ectomorphic body type, I likely never had a chance to have truly dense bones. 

When I learned about my bone density issues, I made it my mission to fix the problem.  I did exhaustive research, and found that the medical advise I was getting to take a calcium supplement and lift some weights was just NOT enough. 

Over the next several years, I built my bones back up out of the red zone.  Even with having conceived and breast fed a baby (both calcium leaching activities), I still was in a better place with my skeletal health.  I started counseling other women on the basic things they could do to increase bone density besides the outdated suggestions of their doctors.  These included:  

  • Do impact activities with good form often (weight lifting, hiking with a pack, running, etc.)

  • Eat a nutrient dense diet with plenty of healthy fats

  • Take a multimineral supplement that includes magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, and trace minerals

  • Get plenty of vitamin D from both outdoors and supplementally

  • Take a vitamin K2 supplement to make sure the body is properly metabolizing and utilizing calcium stores

  • Don't drink alcohol in excess, and do not smoke

In fact, I had started to help so many women that I decided to put together a workshop.  I really wanted to get the word out to as many people as possible.  I spent 6 months doing research on all aspects of bone health.  I started putting together slides that would encompass three days of learning for my clients.  In fact, I had organized the information in such a way that each person could fine tune their own bone building program. 

It was really coming together into something great!  While doing my research, I came across my old DXA scans.  I thought it would be a great idea to tell about my own personal journey to add validity for my audience.  So, I contacted my doctor, and asked him to order a new set of scans to really pull it all together.  

It had been 6 years since I'd had a check up, and was due.  Just a few weeks prior, I had fallen really hard at my studio while boxing with a client.  Running sideways, and full stroke, my dog tripped me, and I had hit the floor straight on my hip.  While it hurt, I had no fear of having actually broken anything.  This made me think, "Hey, I bet my bone scan is going to be great!"  Then I got the results.  According to the scan, I had lost 11% of my bone density in the last 6 years.  I cried.  I cried so hard.  

I felt scared, surprised, incredulous, and mostly just felt like a fraud!  Who the hell was I to be telling other women what to do, when I couldn't even fix myself?!  After my husband hugged me and calmed me down, I started organizing my thoughts and my plans.  I realized that I'd become complacent, and maybe even cocky.  I had stopped lifting really heavy, and had done lighter workouts lately.  I had stopped running mostly, and was doing way too many SoulCycle classes.  My weight had been decreasing into the low 100's and my cycles has mostly ceased.  I was having a few too many glasses of wine through the week.  Etc, etc, etc.  

So, I begin anew.  I got a weight vest and use it when hiking/walking.  I started lifting really heavy again!  I have ordered blood work to check my thyroid and inflammatory markers.  I am actively gaining weight until my cycle comes back, and will make sure to stay there.  I started a new blog, to air my thoughts, and hopefully reach others with the same struggle.  

But mostly, what this latest scan has taught me is that it will be a lifelong commitment.  I cannot, ever, drop the ball on this.  I must stay vigilant.  But I have faith.  The science shows I can fix this, and I can stay fracture free my whole life. 

But it starts now!

A Health Journey: Cool Books That Advise Making Your Own Junk Food

"Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food."
-Michael Pollan
Food Rules

For the past month and a half, as many of you know, I have been working with a trainer in an effort to be more intentional about getting stronger, being challenged to break away from exercises that are too easy, and overall to just be more intentional about my overall health.

Fifteen sessions later, I am thankful and happy to say I am already feeling and seeing the results. Has it been easy? No, but it's definitely been worth it. Just the fact that more weight-lifting has been incorporated into my workout routine is in and of itself a huge accomplishment as I was always the person to default to sticking with the lightest weights that required the least amount of effort. Am I all beefed up like Schwarzenegger or Popeye? No and I have no desire to be because, truthfully, I kinda like having a neck. However, there's something rewarding about taking the weights up a notch and knowing it's also a great preventative method for us women, especially when it comes to risks of osteoporosis.

Food-Rules-by-Michael-Pollan

Logging everything I eat (including the occasional cookie or cup of ice cream) has also been tremendously helpful as it's made me more conscious about what I am putting into my body, if I'm eating out of boredom or stress, and if I am consuming a healthy amount of water on a daily basis. There's something eye opening about writing things out and looking back at it and a food journal is no different. If anything, it's simply made me more aware.

In a recent health workshop I attending, I was given a fantastic book called "Food Rules" by Michael Pollan. Is it chock full of bland and boring recipes? No. Is it saying to eat a salad for the rest of your life. Thankfully, heck no. (Because trust me, I'm a not a huge fan of that method either. I love me my hamburgers with fries once in a while, thank you very much.)

Rather, this book outlines a ton of simple and fun tips on how to make better decisions with what you buy at the grocery store, easy ways to remember what foods to avoid and why, and best of all, it's written by a regular journalist who simply saw the need for people to have simple and understandable guidelines on how to eat healthier in a world full of fad diets and confusing health advice.

Simply put, it's good. Go get it and read it. Your health will thank you.

Happy Wednesday!

A Health Journey - That Freakin' Pull-Up

Yesterday was my first time working through an exercise routine my trainer assigned to me on the days I wasn't training with her. Today on the list was back, core, and bicep exercises. And to my horror, the routine involved pull-ups.

Excuse me? I need to fire my trainer. 

No, just kidding, my trainer is fabulous, but STILL!



I haven't seen a pull-up bar since the 8th grade. That's, like, 20 years ago. Immediately my memory flashed back to a the embarrassment of being the dorky kid who had to get boosted up to the bar because I was too short to reach it...and then was basically left holding on and hanging there like a string bean because I can't do a pull up to save my life. In front of everyone in the class. With a teacher telling me to just try and do one.

I will never make a friendship bracelet for that darn pull-up bar.

However, thankfully, the routine allowed me to use the assisted pull up machine which meant I could leverage the machine in such a way where I was boosted up from the bottom with each pull-up. Basically, the machine was made for beginners like me slowly trying to build up strength.

I can't even begin to tell you how tempting it was just to skip that exercise on the list. I'm so good at making excuses for myself, it's not even funny. Because really, no one would know, not my friends, my husband, my family, no one at the gym, not even my trainer, right?

However.....dun-dun-dun......I would know.

I would know what I skipped. I would know I let a lame excuse get in the way. I would know I actually took one step backwards from a a challenge that could grow and test me.

I would know. And if I dug down deep, truthfully, I wasn't ok with it. Didn't I take on this health challenge for a reason?

Maybe it was the "Eye of the Tiger" song running through my head. Maybe it was a split second of dork-gone-wild as I imagined myself running up those steps in Philly. Whatever it was, up on the machine I went, 3 reps of 12 as instructed....and done.

Again, not my favorite machine, but it's a health journey, so one day at a time.

Happy Tuesday!