My Story

Jennifer Caryn Brand Nutrition, Los Angeles

Here are 8 things about me that shaped who I am the most (in my opinion), and are the reasons why my mission is to serve.

1)    I was born with Poland Syndrome, a congenital defect. I do not have a pectoralis major muscle on the right side of my chest. That means I don’t have much of a right breast. Naturally it’s about 1/2 or less the size of my left, and my chest, where the muscle would be, is concave. I’ve had (to date) 5 reconstructive surgeries to create a look of symmetry, beginning at age 14. While it’s not obvious now, I grew up VERY self conscious, and very aware of what I always felt was a deformity. Yes, this affected my self-esteem and body image, and I’m sure has been a huge contributing factor to my struggles with disordered eating habits.

2) I was raped when I was in high school by an acquaintance. Not super ready to elaborate on this one yet.

3)    When I was 16, I was in a car accident that put me in the hospital for 12 days. I went through the windshield with my face, and broke my left femur in half. In the ER that night, a strong, compassionate, and brilliant physician made sure a plastic surgeon stitched up my face before anything else was done, including getting my leg put back together. My facial scars have faded and you’d never know they were there unless I pointed them out. My leg healed too. It’s amazing how the body can heal physically. What doesn’t heal as well is the emotional trauma. PTSD, OCD, anxiety and depression are struggles I’ve had since then, and also I’m sure have contributed to my disordered eating habits.

4)    I’m a science geek. I first realized I wanted to do something in the field when I was in 8th grade. I remember listening to my science teacher talk, and thought to myself, I want to be a scientist! When I was about 18 I became interested in nutrition. With my need to feel in control of anything in the face of PTSD, OCD, anxiety and depression, in all honesty, I thought that if I knew how my body worked, I could control it, and essentially bypass the biochemistry with some sort of self developed hacks to beat my body into submission. Controlling what you put in your mouth is pretty easy to do (for me at least) when your world seems out of control, and you desperately need something, anything to take charge of.

5)    Thinking I could control the biochemistry of my body was one of the biggest downfalls of my life (you can’t outsmart biochemistry). In 2016 I had what I thought was the flu. By day 3-4 it seemed to be getting worse, so I went to urgent care. The doctor looked at me, and my recent health history (I had some labs done in the few months prior) and started inquiring about my eating habits. As the words came out of my mouth, I heard it. I had been starving myself. I didn’t have the flu I was starving. The doctor didn’t hospitalize me because he could tell that I legitimately wasn’t aware of what was happening, and that I did want to change the situation. This is why I don’t believe in dietary restriction unless it’s absolutely necessary for health reasons. More often than not, it isn’t necessary, contrary to popular belief.

6)    About those labs I mentioned. I’ve struggled with GI issues since the early 2000s. After I eat, my first main meal of the day, I need to be by a bathroom. This has happened pretty much every day since about 2002. I’ve spent so much time on the toilet that I had hemorrhoid surgery about 6-7 years ago. The horrible procedure where they need to remove internal ones. The pain was severe. SEVERE. And the problem was, no one (including me at the time) addressed the underlying cause of why this was happening in the first place, so the issue continued and the hemorrhoids came back. I started seeing a conventional GI doc in 2016. He was great, but was not able to help me. The labs, procedures and recommendations did not address my root cause issues. I’m still floored that the GI doc didn’t recognize what was happening. Since then, I’ve worked my gut issues from a functional perspective, and while I’m still not ‘normal’, I’m able to live my life more than I have in years. Whatever your health issue is, I’m sure you can relate. It can control your life. What I’ve learned is that it doesn’t have to.

7)    My father was diagnosed with psoriasis at age 6. At age 35 he developed psoriatic arthritis. Today he’s 70. He has taken the conventional medicine route all these years. There has been no exploration of root causes or triggers, just the prescription of medications to help him deal with symptoms. The medications have caused additional symptoms for which more medications have been prescribed. It’s unclear at this stage what is the result of the disease, and what is being caused by medications he’s taking. He is beginning to explore alternative modalities. It frustrates me to no end that natural interventions like diet and nutrient supplements are considered alternative. When did diet, and vitamins and minerals become an alternative to our health? They are the fuel that literally makes our bodies function. It’s implied that we don’t need to bother with them or that they aren’t important and should be brushed aside to make way for pharmaceuticals (pretty convenient for big pharma). There is so much that can be done to halt and even sometimes reverse autoimmune processes IF we look for root causes and address them with NATURAL means.

8) I got married at age 26, and was divorced by age 28. The guy I was dating proposed, my younger brother was married, my younger cousin who is like a sister to me was married, and I thought I was supposed to be married before I was 30. It was an emotionally abusive relationship, and intimacy stopped basically the night we were married. Within a year and a half, I discovered he was having an affair. That was actually the kick in the ass I needed to leave, so while it was devastating, it needed to happen.

We’ve all struggled with issues (health and life in general), have watched loved ones struggle, and have had to navigate our own paths to find resolution. That resolution sometimes just means accepting what is. Not everything can be ‘fixed.’

I can’t change the way I was born, undo my car accident, my marriage (divorce helped ;)), the rape, or change the path my dad has been on for the past few decades.

Through my journey, I’ve had help and support along the way from family, friends, and professionals.

I need to point out that no one could help me until I wanted to be helped. I had to be ready for it. It gets to a point where there is no longer a choice. That point came for me when I ended up in urgent care, starving. I guess you could say I wasn’t ready for it. The universe was kind enough to hit me over the head with a brick (obviously more than once) until I paid attention. I’m lucky. It could all have been much worse.

Moving forward in the right direction is a lifelong effort, isn’t it?

How do I do it? I remind myself that everyone has something that makes them different. Some ‘somethings’ are visible and some are not, and to be honest, some days still just suck.

Instead of hiding my differences and shying away from situations where they might be recognized, I realize they are strengths and make me unique.

Allowing the vulnerability of my insecurities and my scars (visible and hidden ones) to be seen by others, turned them into my strengths, and gives me the confidence I need to move forward.

There is no roadmap, and the path to healing takes patience, persistence, and consistency. Everyone is unique, and as you’ve likely realized, this is why one-size-fits-all plans don’t work.

Because I understand how difficult this is, my mission is to help you sift through the confusion and misinformation, and teach you what I know to help you improve your health and heal.

<3

Jennifer

P.S. My story was featured in January 2019 in Voyagela.com, “LA’s Most Inspiring Stories.” Click here to read my interview.