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!
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.
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!