It might seem a stretch to go from sailing half-way around the world on a ship the length of almost two football fields, to helping people make better lifestyle choices, but stick with me while I take you on my journey to being here to help you today.
I was seven years old when I was kicked out of swimming class for being too disruptive. Yes. Seven! You see, my father had decided it was time for me to learn to swim. After three lessons the instructor told my Mom to not bring me back. Did the Instructor realize I was shy? No. I had been thrust into a totally foreign situation with total strangers. I didn’t want to be there and I couldn’t have cared less about learning how to swim.
Eventually my father taught me how to swim by teaching me skills in a non-threatening manner through one-on-one games in the water. By age ten I was ready to learn in a group setting and I quickly moved through intermediate and advanced swim classes at the YWCA. By age twelve I had swum my first non-stop mile, and I was snorkeling with my father in the ocean. I was so fascinated by the incredible life I saw underwater that I took a water safety instructor course and a SCUBA diving course in college. I am now an avid SCUBA diver. All of this was made possible because my father took the time to figure out what I needed to succeed. Sometimes a slight shift in focus is all it takes to help someone experience profound growth.
Like many military veterans, when I left active duty Navy I felt a profound emptiness in my professional life. I was searching for a profession that would allow me to engage in meaningful work. It took me twenty years to figure out what that would be, and I knew it instantly, when I learned about the role that nutrition and physical activity played in chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Most of my father’s family had struggled with obesity and type 2 diabetes and it occurred to me that if I could help people learn how to change their lifestyle, they could not only avoid many debilitating diseases, but they could move toward the other end of the spectrum and actually live vibrant, healthy lives, instead. I truly believe that with evidence-based information and the right kind of tools and support, those searching for a way to incorporate healthy choices into their lives will be able to do so. I know from first-hand experience that there is no one-size-fits-all system that will work for everyone.
I already mentioned that I served in the Navy. Both professions actually have a lot in common. First of all, just getting into the Navy and assigned to a ship was no small undertaking. When I joined the NROTC at the University of Missouri in 1976, women were not even allowed to serve aboard ships. Despite the skeptics, I acted like I belonged there. I was determined to sail the high seas. My patience and persistence paid off because in 1978 the law changed, and by 1980 I had graduated at the top of my NROTC class and received orders to my first ship. After sailing throughout the Pacific and Indian Oceans, and working in every surface warfare department aboard two ships, I transitioned into the Navy Reserve to pursue my next adventure: software development in California’s burgeoning high tech industry. Throughout my Navy and software careers I worked closely with my colleagues to set goals, and chart appropriate courses of action to reach those goals. Although my focus was always on accomplishing my assigned mission or project targets, I succeeded by helping those around me succeed. Together, we figured out what we needed, and we worked together to make it happen. Sometimes that meant teaching someone a new skill. Sometimes that meant stepping out of the way so they could hone their skills. Empowering people to learn and grow is what I have always done, and now I realize that it is what I was put on this earth to do.