My name is Sarah Kay Hoffman.
I am A Gutsy Girl now, but I was not always this way.
Here is my story:
I grew up in a small town in southern Minnesota, about an hour from the Iowa border. I had an amazing childhood, and I have a family (mother, father and brother) that I wouldn’t trade for the world.
Physically, there is nothing major that stands out to me from my early childhood, except for the fact that I was always tired. I was the child who would be sleeping on the couch at family gatherings (I have a huge extended family – mostly boys – which rocks by the way) while the rest of the cousins were running around into the wee hours. My Godfather, Jack, used to always say, “Sleepin’ again?!”
In junior high I was a gymnast; in high school an ice hockey goalie. I was good, not great, at both. Back then, I ran a 14-minute mile. I enjoyed “sport,” but being physically active was a chore. It always drained me of my energy too much, and thus, I was never highly athletic.
Once college came, things took a turn and headed south. Early in my freshman year, I got very ill. I got the flu and tonsillitis so badly that I was out for nearly two weeks. I couldn’t get myself to the doctor or answer Mother’s calls or anything. I eventually found myself in urgent care, took a round of antibiotics and life continued on.
At this point in my life, the vicious cycle really began. That first year of college I lived alone in a dorm room. In hind sight, I am so thankful for that. I struggled for the first major time in my life with digestive issues. Most days, my dorm room would smell of rotten eggs so badly that even I became depressed living in it. I would alternate between bloat/gas and everything running straight through me. I also gained 10-15 pounds that year, and I struggled with a whole host of other things.
After my freshman year, I went home for the summer and went on Weight Watchers. I was eating low calorie, low fat foods like they were going out of style. I was sure I had found my “cure” – my “release.” After all, I lost all the weight I had gained, and I returned to my sophomore year hearing, “Wow, you’re so skinny.”
Throughout my sophomore and junior year of college, I continued on the yo-yo road and an unhealthy lifestyle. Simultaneously, my gut began to get worse. I was sick more and more often. I had tonsillitis, pharyngitis or strep throat chronically during my junior year. I was always at the hospital. I was, literally, on antibiotics every single month. My doctors decided a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy was necessary.
By the time my tonsils and adenoids came out (the summer before my senior year of college), they were rotted. The surgeon told my mom that there were so many scars and infections that I barely had either one of them anymore. It took me awhile to recover, but once I did, I was sure I had found my “cure” – my “release.”
Turns out that just because you fix one thing, doesn’t mean the underlying issues go away. In fact, in many ways I got worse.
It was only a couple weeks after my surgery when I drove back to Minneapolis to live a new “healthier lifestyle.” On the drive up, I noticed my tongue started feeling “off.” I called my mom and told her, “It feels like something is pulling my tongue and scraping it against my teeth.”
I began to see doctors and more doctors for this newly-developed mouth problem. They had no idea, since everything looked completely normal. Without having any clue, they put me on Nystatin, which is an antibiotic to clear thrush. It didn’t get better. In fact, it got worse – much worse. Several months later, while at the dentist, they mentioned, “Perhaps you simply have an intolerance to food.”
I gave up hope that any doctor or dentist could help my mouth.
And yet, I never forgot what that dentist said.
Life continued. My senior year of college ended. I was offered a job right out of college with a division of News Corporation in Los Angeles, California. I moved in August, 2005.
At this point, my tonsils and adenoids were gone, but I was a mess. I was stressed 24/7. I was broke. I missed home. I hated LA. I ate. And then I didn’t eat. I worked out. And then I didn’t work out. I was miserable in my corporate suit and nylon hose each day. My stomach pain was horrendous. Sometimes the bathroom wasn’t close enough; others, I could only wish a bathroom break would hit. All along, my mouth was on fire; talking was a chore. And all of this, I never let anyone see.
I “met” Ryan (my husband) in December of 2005. I moved back to Minnesota in 2006. I struggled all along, but I was happy by then so fixing myself didn’t seem as imminent any longer. I would learn later in life (at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition) that healthy relationships like the one I had found with Ryan can make all the difference in healing or a lack thereof).
Something in me caused me to take on a 21-day detox in January of 2007. From January 1 – January 21, I did the first “detox” I had ever done in my life.
- On days 1- 18, I was on autopilot.
- On day 19, I felt worse than ever before.
- On day 21, every single “problem” I ever had was gone.
- On day 22, post detox, I went back to my “old life.”
- On day 23, I was back to misery.
I knew then that there must be more to everything going on inside my body.
A few short months after that, Ryan and I moved back to California – together. Almost as soon as we moved, I began digging into the mess that was, and I started a journey that would actually begin to change my life.
From 2007 through 2009 I:
- saw an allergist who confirmed via scratch tests that I was not “allergic” to anything
- attempted to work with that allergist on food intolerance, but was unsuccessful because she had no clue on elimination diets
- went to a GI specialist who ordered an endoscopy and colonoscopy
- through the colonoscopy it was determined that I have Proctitis, which is a form of Colitis that affects the lowest part of the colon -> the rectum
- took the GI’s advice that “food didn’t matter,” but suppositories and medication would help
- quickly realized that suppositories and medication didn’t help, in fact they made me worse so I QUIT all Colitis suppositories and medications forever
In 2009, I found a nutritionist and I worked with her for several months. She gave me a lot of great tips, thoughts and ideas, but my stomach was still a mess. After a few months of working with her, I stumbled upon the GAPS Diet. I brought it to her attention. She said it made sense, so we completely changed our direction.
Finally, it was the direction that would begin my real healing journey forever. (I stopped working with her shortly after because I was rapidly healing and she was moving.)
My world got turned upside down at that point. I became obsessed with healing myself via food and lifestyle vs. drugs and medication. I became obsessed with the gut and the entire digestive system. I became obsessed with knowing everything possible so I could heal myself for good this time.
I had another endoscopy in late spring of 2010. I was not really consuming gluten at the time and even still, the endoscopy showed that I still had severe inflammation in my upper digestive system. This told me that it wasn’t just the Colitis and lowest part affected, but everything. It scared me, so I got even more serious.
On June 20, 2010, I gave up gluten for good.
In 2011 I began studying at The Institute for Integrative Nutrition. I already knew so much about the digestive system, but I didn’t know enough about how the “lifestyle” component could help (or hurt) me. I was confident that a holistic school would show me the path.
And it did.
I graduated from the school in 2012, and began working as a Holistic Health Coach (and a damn good one at that -> I know what I’m talking about and I am the face of everyone I work with, not just another nutritionist, doctor or blogger spewing information they once heard).
I have helped hundreds of women through various group programs, 1-on-1 programs and through The Gutsy Girl’s Bible: an approach to healing the gut.
In July of 2013, I embraced 101 days of intense gut healing.
I don’t claim “gluten free,” or “dairy free” or “Paleo” or anything else (even though most of those I 100% am).
I am the founder and CEO of A Loving Spoon nut butters.
I march to the beat of my own
I take absolutely no medications. I have an insane amount of energy. I am up by 5 or 6 am every single day. I workout hard. My mouth is typically only minimally irritated, if irritated at all. I have not had a flare up since prior to my 101 days.
It has been a very long journey, and I know I’m in it for the long haul.
It is my PASSION to spread every single little bit of knowledge I have and have lived to women and people everywhere. If I can cut misery out of someone’s life in a fraction of the time it took me to finally get it, then this journey certainly has been worth it.
I will be Gutsy forever.
This is finally the place to my journey where the story begins.
When gravel roads are all you’ve ever known, you learn to find beauty in the dust.
Love your guts,