Fatigue, Illness, Depression – How Tracy Beat It All And Reclaimed Her Life!

Tracy is quite different from most of the clients I work with. She admittedly has never struggled with her weight, and she has always enjoyed being physically active and fit.

At least that was her life until 2 1/2 years ago.

Here’s Tracy’s story…

Life Comes Crashing Down

At the time, Tracy didn’t know what was happening. She just knew that she wasn’t well.

Almost suddenly she went from being full of life and energy, to feeling completely exhausted all the time.

I couldn’t walk up a short flight of stairs without having to rest. I couldn’t make it down the hall at work without stopping to lean against the wall.

For a time, Tracy slept 18 hours per day. Her exercise came to a complete halt and she admits that she began to struggle with depression.

Anyone who knows the real Tracy would describe her as bubbly, social, fun, and always smiling. To hear her talk about feeling such the opposite is a clear indication that something was seriously wrong.

Tracy’s Diagnosis

After 2 months of waiting to shake out of whatever was gripping her health, Tracy was finally diagnosed with advanced cervical spinal stenosis. She finally had a name for her problem, but what did this actually mean?

Spinal stenosis

Cervical spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal in the area of the neck. This puts pressure on the vertebrae and also the nerves that travel within the column.

Symptoms from this condition are not pleasant. It often causes “heavy legs” and an inability to walk quickly or for long distances. It also causes pain and stiffness in the upper part of the body – The neck, shoulders, arms, and hands all become less mobile and fine motor control begins to disintegrate.

If that weren’t enough, the pinching of the nerves can inhibit bladder control and can cause numerous digestive issues.

It’s not a fun condition to experience. Tracy was left wondering how to deal with the news,

Was this going to be my new life?

Her First Attempt To Get Better

Her doctor recommend physiotherapy, but it didn’t seem to offer any improvement, even after several months of treatment.

At the same time, Tracy tried to stay active. She attempted to do some of her normal exercise routine, but ended up suffering from injuries, setbacks, and even more pain.

The whole situation made Tracy feel so helpless,

More depression, more eating, more drinking. It was hard just getting out to socialize, I gave up on me and closed myself off.

Anyone who has dealt with times of depression understands how easy it can be to get caught in a downward spiral. Some unhealthy habits offer a glimpse of “feeling good” even though they aren’t part of a real solution.

ice cream

Emotional eating always feels good in the moment, but then…

That’s the trap of emotional eating – Ice cream tastes great in the moment. Eating a big bowl sure does feel good…until the bowl is empty and feelings of guilt rush in, often making things worse than before. (Try this quiz to find out if you are an emotional eater)

Tracy was caught in a spiral and was going down.

The Turning Point

Tracy talks about a trip she took last summer as her big turning point. She, along with a group of 10 of her friends, rented a houseboat for a week. It should have been a terrific time but Tracy found herself avoiding all sorts of activities out of fear.

I was afraid to do anything because I didn’t know how it would affect my body. My body was so weak on the inside and out, but that’s when I decided I couldn’t and wouldn’t live my life with these limitations.


Even if it’s unfounded, fear can be powerful and crippling.

Not ready to give up on life, Tracy started physiotherapy again and crossed her fingers that she would make progress this time around.

It was a frustrating experience. At first, Tracy could barely manage to push herself for 10 minutes on the elliptical trainer, but she stuck with the process and eventually was able to double it to 20 minutes.

I wasn’t moving fast, but I was able to do something. This was my new fitness level.

While she started to make some exercise progress, Tracy acknowledges that her diet was still out of whack. Indulgent food and alcohol became part of her coping mechanism. These habits were hard ones to break.

Taking Action To Make Change Happen

Last winter Tracy joined my 10/4 Coaching Program with the hopes of rebuilding her diet and reclaiming more of the person she used to be.

Some clients I work with benefit from nutrition education – They simply need to learn what foods to eat and then they can put those lessons into practice.

Others already know what they should be eating, but carrying out that knowledge is the tougher part. This is the camp where Tracy resided.

A big part of the 10/4 Program is preparation. Making time to plan, making time to shop, and making time to prepare food are all crucial for success.

Tracy admits that a commitment to this process was instrumental in her own success.

If you asked me to pick one thing I hate the most, it would be grocery shopping. But, on the program I would go and fill my cart with so many colourful foods – I was set for the week. It was a better experience when I had planned my meals.

Her shopping list changed dramatically once on the 10/4 Program. Gone were all the processed foods and snacks, replaced by the colourful foods she mentioned along with some new ones to try (hello quinoa!)


Tracy’s fridge is much more colourful than it used to be!

Each Sunday Tracy would prepare a couple batch meals for the week. She would freeze some and could use leftovers as grab-and-go lunches all week long. This made it much easier for her to eat well all day without succumbing to the temptation of tasty convenience foods that she was trying to cut out of her diet.

Batch Meals

Freeze ready-to-cook meals, or cook the meal in a large batch and then freeze individual portions.

It’s so awesome to hear Tracy talk about the simple things that made all the difference,

Planning and being organized was my key to success. It took 15 minutes a week but was worth it.  I would research one new recipe and make adjustments so that it fit the [10/4 food] pyrimad. Keeping things simple was best. Eating a lot more vegetables was easy now that I had planned for them, and meals were tasty. I was eating smaller portions and felt more satisfied!

What Happened Next?

As her diet came together during the first week on the 10/4 Program, exercise also got easier. Tracy had worked her way up to exercising 6 times per week, albeit at a lower intensity than she was used to in years past.

After a week on the program I was feeling strong, I was happy my energy was up, and it only got better from then on.

All the water she was drinking (2-3L per day!) was also having a noticeable positive impact:

I noticed a difference in my skin, it appears smoother and fuller more youthful…although that could be my vision going! lol


Down 12.9lbs!

But isn’t the 10/4 Coaching Program all about weight-loss?

Yes, it is built to help people lose weight (and Tracy did – she lost 12.9lbs that she had gained since her illness began!), but it’s really about establishing healthy routines that will spill over into all areas of life.

That’s why I was more excited to hear about other areas of Tracy’s progress, aside from the weight-loss.

She talks about a “brain fog” being lifted after just a few days of restructuring her diet.

My mind was sharper and clearer. Information processing was quick, decision making was easier.

And here’s the most exciting comment she made to me:

I was becoming myself again, happy, relaxed and issues didn’t upset me as much.

Tracy was becoming herself again. Pain was gone. Fear was gone. Energy was restored. Life was coming back.

What We Can Learn From Tracy

Tracy’s story is one of persistence, even in despair. Her story speaks about the human body’s resilience and it’s ability to heal and restore. Specifically though, there are 3 lessons that I think we can all take away from Tracy’s story:

1. Food Is Medicine

I know it’s become a bit of a health cliche, but Hippocrates was right:


Tracy had an interesting observation about this idea:

With the number of doctors I have seen, not one asked me about my nutrition or even suggested looking at the foods I consumed.

This is not intended to be a critique on our doctors – They can’t be expected to be experts in all areas of health and fitness. It’s more a commentary on our own approach to healthy living. Food needs to be the foundation upon which everything else rests.

It’s been said that everything we eat is either moving us away from disease or closer to it. Which way is your diet leading you?

2. Psychology Matters As Mush As Physiology

It’s easy to make rules that work well in theory, but rarely play out in real life. Yes, we should all exercise daily. But, this is actually impossible for some people based on their habits, life situation, mood, and many other factors.

If you are experiencing depression or other feelings of dissatisfaction in life, what’s one thing you could do to make life just a tiny bit better?

Single Step

Tracy started by using the elliptical trainer for 10 minutes per week. Was this exercise really going to make a big difference for her body? Likely not. But this little step gave her confidence that she could make change. It was a springboard that led to further action.

3. We All Need Support

I can’t say it better than Tracy, so I won’t even try:

Over these last years I have felt alone, disappointed and unsupported. In these last four weeks working with others in the [10/4] group I have seen not only a physical change, but a mental change as well. The support of everyone was so important in helping me make these changes.

What changes would you like to make in your own life? Who can you ask to support you?


Often we don’t want to burden others with our problems. But, I’ve seen how likely the opposite is true. When we open up about our needs and our desire to change, most people will feel compelled to not only help, but to take up a challenge of their own.

While Tracy’s spinal condition isn’t something that can be healed completely, she is able to manage it and slow further effects. Best of all, Tracy is able to live the life she wants…healthy and active!

What did you think of Tracy’s story? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Jhilmil Breckenridge - July 1, 2015

Wonderful and inspiring!!

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