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Meet Trailblazer Amber Stevens

Today we’d like to introduce you to Amber Stevens.

Amber, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Mine is a journey of curiosity and discovery. It’s been a wild, meandering ride! Growing up, I knew little about health, the body and nutrition. My parents were from Texas, so we enjoyed some great southern foods – usually fried. I loved candy bars and soda. Velveeta and Miracle Whip were fridge staples and fish came out of a can. I loved it all. My mom went through many diets and we went with her. Sometimes we had big salads, sometimes soup, sometimes grapefruit. Food (not necessarily health) was always a focus.

At 14, I was diagnosed hypoglycemic after I fainted. My blood sugar was 23 (normal is around 70). My doctor told me to avoid sugar or eat it with meat. I was a teenager, so I opted for the second choice and continued drinking my large soda, but now with chicken nuggets. I wasn’t healthy but I was thin. I was active, in sports and activities and burned large amounts of calories. But I still fainted, often.

When I turned 22, I moved to Seattle and my eyes were opened to a world of strange and lovely foods and something called “organic”. This sparked that curiosity in me (isn’t all food organic?) and I had to know more. I dove into nutrition and began to understand how food is critical to our health. At this time, I was using my B.A. Degree to work in Journalism and was eating plenty of fast food and drinking tons of caffeine (it is Seattle after all). This had to change. I immediately cut out one ingredient: High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). That made all the difference. I didn’t drink soda; I avoided fast food; and I found HFCS hidden in many other foods in my kitchen (ketchup and crackers to name two) which I no longer ate. That one, small shift in eating and focus dramatically shifted my health. I figured out how to manage my blood sugar and ended my fainting spells!

Still I worked in the corporate world for a long time, always feeling drawn to health and wellness. I began looking for that “right something” that made me feel whole and enthusiastic. In my search, I saw a magazine with a kayaker on the cover and the title read “massage saved me in the water”. I was a kayaker, so this sparked my interest. Up to this point, I had enjoyed a “luxurious” massage from time to time, but I never considered that it could be more than a fun day at the spa.

I started reading about massage and its amazing benefits and toured local massage schools. When I entered Colorado School of Healing Arts, my heart sang: “this is the place for you”. One year later, I was a certified and licensed massage therapist and I opened my practice in Arvada. That was 12 years ago!

Providing deeply therapeutic massage (and receiving regular massage) has been an amazing source of gratitude and appreciation for the body, and the mind/body connection. We are amazing creatures, capable of so much, and I am honored to support people in their healing.

Massage therapy is hard on my body too though, so four years ago, I completed my certification as an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, bringing my personal love and interest in nutrition to my practice. I quickly realized that I did not want to be in the dieting game. Watching friends and loved ones struggle through diets (and struggling myself at one time) made me think “there has to be a better way”.

This is when I discovered mindfulness. I began studies in Mindful Eating and am now a Mindful-Based Eating (MB-Eat) instructor. Eating mindfully breaks the dieting cycle and connects us to our bodies. Learning to be mindful was a challenge though. It made me face many inner struggles with compassion and love.

My inner struggles revealed something shocking: “I am not healthy.” Here I was, a massage therapist and health coach and my adrenals were fatigued, I was diagnosed with IBS, and with Vasovagal Syncope (after fainting late at night, four times in a row). Mindfulness revealed how much I was burying my emotions, eating mindlessly, and flooding my system with cortisol from high levels of stress.

I did not want this to be me. I started meditating to reduce stress, stopped doing cross-fit (that was too intense for my body) and researched the effects of emotions on our body, mind and diet. I no longer faint; I’m no longer convinced that I have IBS,  and I’m a healthy weight. I wrote about that experience and what I learned in my book, Food, Feelings and Freedom: The End to Emotional Eating released earlier this year.

Today, I feel strong, energized, capable and joyful. All the things “healthy”. Because I am healthy, I can help others to be healthy and am loving every minute of the journey!

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
At first, it was a bumpy, oily sometimes hidden road. Today, it feels more like a highway, ready to merge into an interstate. Both can be scary and challenging, but exciting too.

The struggles in my health came from my original lack of knowledge, few examples of “being healthy” while growing up, and my inability to ask for help. I didn’t reach out and connect with people who could help. I began to feel healthy when I found “my tribe”; people who moved their bodies, ate lovely, nutritious foods and were excited to try new things.

My advice for women is simple – ask for help. Seek out others who can support you and want you to succeed. That could be a close friend, a co-worker, an exercise buddy, or health coach (like me). Also – listen to your body. What is right for one person may not be right for you. Listen mindfully, with love and be gentle to yourself. Stop self-criticism and show gratitude for all your body does for you every day. This will shift your mind, and your body will follow!

As a small business owner, my struggles relate to the challenge of “doing it all”. I am the accountant, the receptionist, the therapist, the marketer, the social media manager, the janitor and more. Again, at first, I tried to do it alone. I thought, “I’m a smart woman, I got this.” Now, I have a full network of people I can go to with questions or just to vent. If you are starting out, in your own business, seek out support and resources!

Surround yourself with other business owners, ideally women who are further along in their success; women you can learn from and grow with. Use the free resources available online and in small business organizations. Connect,connect, connect. Going it alone is hard and not fun. But it can be a bit easier if you have support and take one step, one major task at a time. Being a small business owner has been the most fulfilling and demanding career choice I have ever made. I would not change a thing.

Another struggle is being a mompreneur. I have two young boys and it is a challenge to balance work time with family time. It is difficult at times, to focus on work when I want to play with the kids or go on a big adventure. I still struggle a bit with balance, but over time, it has become easier. My advice: set some non-negotiables – things that you won’t let work take control over. It could be phones off by 7p, or set days off where work is not allowed, for example. Come up with your list and stick to it. Create boundaries around your working self and your personal self and hold strong. It makes all the difference!

We’d love to hear more about your work.
What I do is to help people overcome their physical and emotional pain. I do this through massage therapy and health coaching.

My massage work is truly therapeutic in nature; I work to bring your muscles and tissues back into full function while easing tension, reducing stress, and aligning the body. To do this, I use all the “tools’ – Swedish, neuromuscular, deep tissue, and sports techniques. I’ve further completed studies in neuroscience (in regards to pain and performance), lymphatic drainage, prenatal massage and Myofascial release. I pull from my tools in an integrative approach to entice a response and release from your body.

Along with the therapeutic work, I also offer prenatal and postpartum massage and CBD massage (which is therapeutic with CBD oil enhancing the experience). I use the BodySystem cushions to allow prenatal women to lie face down during their massage! It’s the best, especially in the third trimester.

My health coaching work helps women to understand “why” they eat. So I call myself the Food Relationship Coach. Just like we have relationships with people. We have relationships with food. In fact, it’s one of the earliest relationships, where we are born and we seek out nourishment! Many women do not know they’re in a bad relationship though, or they know it, but aren’t sure how to get out. When we have unbalanced or disordered relationships with food, we feel unhealthy, with physical, mental and emotional pain. Food influences all – good or bad. This pain can lead to emotional eating, where we eat to cope, hide, procrastinate, escape. But emotional eating furthers the cycle of pain; it critiques, not cures.

I help women to break their cycle, to overcome poor eating and lifestyle habits. I do this through guided meditation, inner wisdom exercises, mindful eating lessons, nutrition lessons, life assessments, ongoing support and much more. My goal is for women to recognize their food relationships, end their self-judgment and to live with joy!

My book (Food, Feelings and Freedom: The End to Emotional Eating) is a major support in overcoming disordered eating. And guess what – you have emotions (I hope), so you are likely an emotional eater, which is not bad, unless it controls your life and health. Recognizing how chemicals (neurotransmitters and hormones), learned behaviors and our gut have a direct influence on our eating choices is powerful. Once you have knowledge of what is happening in your body, you can make thoughtful choices to eat for you (without a strict diet).

I also provide Amare wellness products to support gut/brain health. Understanding the microbiome and our bacteria’s influence on health has been a game-changer in my practice. Everything from feeling depressed or happy, to having inflammation in our joints, or serious diseases starts in our gut. Balancing the microbiome is critical and Amare products make that process easier.

What sets me apart? I am deeply committed to your well-being. I’m consistently looking for ways to better support my clients. That may be something as simple as sending a message to check in on your progress, or as advanced as getting certified in a new technique. I want you to feel your best!

I make my own lotions to provide non-toxic, skin-nourishing ingredients and I add products (only the ones I research and trust) to my practice when they can serve my client’s needs.

Recently, I started a free online community on Facebook, called “Food Positive”. Women can join to learn my knowledge with food relationships and practicing self-compassion. This is where women come together to build one another up. I want us to rise up as a community and say “I am worthy of health and happiness”. Food Positive makes the magic happen.

Finally, I can provide a combination of massage, health coaching and mindfulness in the same session! Talk about a full mind/body transformation, that’s unique to my practice. I am so proud of my work: work that influences, head to toe and inside out.

So much of the media coverage is focused on the challenges facing women today, but what about the opportunities? Do you feel there are any opportunities that women are particularly well positioned for?
I think there are many opportunities for women who are willing to take risks, accept challenges and have a sense of humor about things.

When I started my first career path, in news, it was in a number 12 market in Seattle (that’s a big deal). I was the only woman working in videography/editing and was very young. But I worked hard and proved every day that I belonged. When I realized it was time to make a change, I did my research, asked smart people a ton of questions, and took steps to move forward. Now, I own my own business; I work five times as hard; and I find opportunities revealing themselves to me every day.

I arrived at this point because I saw an opportunity to do what I love and be with my family and I took it. Opportunities are always calling. It’s fear that shuts them down and gets in the way. If you can find your way to remove the fear, or face it and move anyway, then opportunity awaits.

Pricing:

  • Individual services range from $79 to $130
  • Full Programs start at $399
  • Body Boost Quickstart (coaching and massage) $187 (value of $270)

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Cache Stevens

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