Hi! I’m Marcelle and I am a Paleo foodie and an avid investor in personal growth. I was born to be in the water, I’m a lifelong musical performer and a huge football fanatic. I am a recovering perfectionist and love wandering all over this big, beautiful earth. I believe laughter and food are the world’s best medicines. I am a fighter.
It’s difficult for me to remember a time when I was healthy and free of pain. Most of my childhood and adolescent years were plagued by pain and illness, and yet I always pushed myself. I was never one to let anything get in my way of achieving what I wanted or what was expected of me. Sometimes when I look back on all of the ways I pushed myself growing up, I am stunned by how much I did amidst all of the pain and sufferings that I endured. And then I remember that I’m a warrior. I see obstacles as opportunities for growth, stepping-stones to getting where I want to go and not as reasons to give up. I have always been a fighter and this has been the underlying force throughout my entire transformation.
I want to share with you a little glimpse into what my health history looks like. I started getting migraines when I was about 8 years old and by the time I was 11 they had become classified as chronic because I would get them on an almost daily basis. By the time I was 14, I had started experiencing, what I didn’t know at the time to be, rather severe digestive disturbances (bloating, abdominal cramping, gas, and constipation). I was diagnosed with TMJ disorder and was having significant jaw pain and experiencing lockjaw on occasion. At 15 I began mental health treatment for depression, which meant anti-depressants and regular talk therapy. When I was 16 I had surgery to remove a large mass on one of my ovaries. I was put on birth control pills in hopes that it would prevent the painful ovarian cyst ruptures I was experiencing. The doctors told me it would help combat my intense PMS symptoms and maybe even help with my migraines. Before I finished high school I had my first colonoscopy because the constipation I was experiencing had started to become unbearable. (Such a fun test to do, especially when it comes back as “inconclusive”.) When I graduated from high school at 17 I was on countless medications and “treatments” causing a myriad of side effects and not actually helping me to feel any better. I had tried every preventative medication for migraines that the doctors knew of and nothing helped. Blood tests, X-rays, a head CT, and even an MRI, I had done it all.
I am a fighter, though, so I didn’t let any of this slow me down. I finished high school as a valedictorian with plenty of awards and other accomplishments to decorate my resume. I was accepted to the University of Southern California and enrolled as a freshman at 17 with high hopes and a daunting 4 years of engineering curriculum and part-time jobs ahead of me. I did my best to make the most of this experience. I pushed myself hard, slept little, ate like crap, studied my butt off and tried to squeeze in a little fun between the episodes of pain and depression. I had resigned myself to the idea that this was what the rest of my life would look like if I were going to be successful and financially independent. Fun fact, USC’s motto is “Fight On” – starting to see a theme here.
I graduated from USC with my B.S. in Civil Engineering and decided to join the US Navy as a Civil Engineer Corps officer. Every time I am asked why I joined the Navy I feel a mix of emotions because there were so many reasons. Ultimately, I felt a strong call to service and I was driven by the honor of being able to use my life for a larger purpose. Two weeks after receiving my diploma in Los Angeles, I was in Newport, RI at my first day of Naval Officer Candidate School. The training is 12 weeks and it was the most physically, mentally, and emotionally grueling challenge I had ever experienced, up to this point in my life. But I’m a fighter, so I used every ounce of strength, discipline, and willpower I had to push through and finish. I earned my commission as an officer in the US Navy in August 2010, graduating in the top third of my class. Recurring life-theme: Achieve, no matter the cost.
Well, this time, the cost was much larger than I anticipated. There is not an ounce of my being that regrets my decision to join the Navy and the experiences that it gave me. I learned so much about myself during this time, which I would not have ever learned without being put in those circumstances. I learned my body and my mind’s limits are much higher than I could have ever imagined. I learned that I am capable of things I didn’t think possible and that overcoming challenges is all within my power (mind over matter). I learned what it means to dig deep and then keep digging deeper. I learned about the power of teamwork and community as a survival tactic. I learned that discipline, attention to details, problem-solving, structure, and personal accountability are all things that I excel at. And then I learned a very hard lesson about health and priorities. My health went spiraling out of control, beyond anything I had already experienced. This taught me that my health is not to be taken for granted; it must be a priority because, without it, I have nothing.
I had hit rock bottom. When I appeared to have everything together on the outside, my life was falling apart on the inside. This is very difficult to share because I have associated so much shame with my experience because I felt like a failure. I believed that what I did or didn’t achieve was a direct reflection of my worth. But I know you need to hear the darkest parts of my story so that you can see how brightly the light shines for me now.
“The night is darkest just before the dawn.”
During my secondary training, I nearly lost the will to live. Pain plagued me 24 hours a day, I was exhausted to the point of tears, it became an immense struggle just to get out of bed and put on my uniform. I did everything I could to hide the tears and the struggle from my comrades and my superiors. I felt like I was letting everyone down. It was too much. I voluntarily admitted myself to a psychiatric hospital because I didn’t feel safe alone, I was in so much pain that I was finally ready to give up on myself.
I didn’t realize it at the time; this was the moment when everything changed and when my transformation began. It would take years before I would be able to see this, but this was the pivotal moment of my life. I chose, once again, to keep fighting.
At the hospital was the first time I really heard the Serenity Prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.” I wrote it down and used it as a gentle reminder of how to fight for my life. I knew I could not keep fighting the things I had no control over and that I needed to focus my energies on what I did have control over. I knew my health was something I could change, even if I didn’t know how just yet.
“Sometimes when we’re in the darkest places we find the brightest light.”
I kept searching for answers and shortly after my stay at the hospital a rheumatologist diagnosed me with fibromyalgia. I didn’t really know what this meant, medically speaking, but I knew I was going to use the information to help myself. I didn’t see it as a death sentence; I saw it as another clue to guide me in my search for better health. The next few years were a series of ups and downs as I transitioned out of the Navy, moved around the country and into my next phase of life. I struggled with finding purpose and meaning in my life. I was perpetually exhausted and typically slept anywhere from 10 to 15 hours a day. I received another diagnosis, this time it was hypothyroidism, and I experimented with more medications, treatments, and therapies to try to find relief from the pain and fatigue. I tried Botox treatments for migraines, I experimented with different elimination diets, and I tried acupuncture, massage, and physical therapy. I started incorporating exercise as a form of therapy and even did a sprint triathlon to prove to myself that I was strong and that I was capable of surmounting these obstacles. Fighting on!
It felt like I was hitting my head against a brick wall. Nothing changes if nothing changes, right? Subconsciously, I knew it was time to make some big changes. I removed myself from an unfulfilling relationship and moved across the country and back in with my parents. I knew I was going to need their support and they were there for me every step of the way. While I wasn’t feeling better physically, I began to feel better emotionally and felt a weight beginning to lift. I started working for myself doing a job that gave me great time flexibility and allowed me to keep taking care of my health as my number one priority. My brother introduced me to the GAPS Diet (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) and I figured, what the heck, I’ve tried everything else!
In the fall of 2013, I followed the GAPS Introduction Diet for about 1 month and began to feel like things were shifting. The migraines seemed to decrease in frequency and I just had this good “gut” feeling about it. This led me into the office of a chiropractor with a strong background in holistic and nutritional therapy. He helped me by identifying a number of food sensitivities including all grains, dairy, and legumes. He suggested I follow a Paleo diet and see how I felt. We worked together using some functional medicine tests results as guidance, natural supplements, chiropractic adjustments and real food nutrition to begin reversing my plague of illnesses and pain. I discovered I was in pretty severe adrenal fatigue, my hormones were all out of whack, and that I had a very leaky gut. I also had some Candida yeast overgrowth and some intestinal fungus overgrowth.
For the first time in my entire life, I finally felt like there was a light at the end of the tunnel. I began to feel better within a couple of weeks! It almost felt like it was too good to be true. In fact, if I’m honest, I was feeling pretty skeptical, like when is the other shoe going to drop? I made drastic changes to my diet, focusing on real, whole foods of animal proteins, fresh vegetables, and fruits. I began to clean up a number of lifestyle habits including my sleep hygiene, eating more mindfully, and reducing my toxin load. Having someone to coach me through this process and these lifestyle changes was critical because it gave me support, a place to go with questions, and someone to guide me when I started to go astray.
I saw my life transform before my eyes. Slowly and over time, I regained my health in a way that I had never dreamed of. Within 6 months I became essentially migraine-free, my fibromyalgia symptoms were disappearing, my digestion improved and the IBS symptoms became less severe, I felt like I had more energy than ever and the weight that I had gained during the last few years melted off. I remember celebrating when I had gone 30 days in a row without a migraine. This hadn’t happened since I was about 8 or 9 years old!
The next 3 years I continued following this holistic path to healing and have become a person I hardly recognize, in the best way possible. I have been able to safely transition off all medications and pain pills. I’ve found my new “medicines” in good food, lots of laughter, community, living mindfully, and loving fully. I am essentially pain-free, more energized and full of life and happier than I have ever been. I have learned how to be acutely in-tune with my body, listening to what it needs and using it as my guide to my own personalized healthcare. I feel in control of my health and my life, I am no longer plagued by the worry of being in pain at any given moment. I feel whole and I feel free!
Through this whole transformation, I have learned (and am still learning) so much about using nutrition and lifestyle habits for health and wellness. I’ve spent countless hours having fun in the kitchen experimenting with using real foods and educating myself with as much information about nutrition and holistic health as I can get my hands on. I get so fired up about sharing the power of good nutrition and eating real food! I feel absolutely inspired by how I was able to change the course of my health and I know that it is my purpose to share it with as many people as I can.
I enrolled in the Institute of Transformational Nutrition (ITN) and became a Certified Transformational Nutrition Coach so that I can be a guide for others as they undergo their health transformation. I want you to believe that the course of your health is in your own hands. I believe that we can use nutrition as both the best offense and defense in our personal healthcare. By reducing our toxin load (obstacles to good health) and increasing our nutrient load (ingredients for good health) we can all truly thrive. We all deserve to eat good food and experience great health. It is my mission to provide you with the tools, knowledge, and accountability to help you transform your nutrition so you can live the life you deserve!
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” – Hippocrates
Marcelle Phene is a Certified Transformational Nutrition Coach (CTNC) through the Institute of Transformational Nutrition (ITN). ITN is a recognized institution of the National Association of Nutrition Professionals (NANP). Marcelle also holds a Bachelors of Science in Civil Engineering from the University of Southern California.
Do you want to learn more about serving others by becoming a Health Coach? Check out the Institute of Transformational Nutrition!
When Marcelle isn’t coaching clients she loves traveling to new places, singing with friends, swimming in any body of water, watching football, and eating really good food!