Climbing the corporate ladder as an accountant at a law firm in her 20s, filled with an unstoppable zest for life, Nadia Sinclair never gave nutrition much thought. Why would she? She was young and healthy. She'd zap the energy dips with a chocolate bar along her subway stops in Toronto on her way home from work. By her late 20s she dubbed herself "an M&M Meat Shops queen," finding the quickest ways to fire dinner into the oven in her busy world.
So when, at age 32, doctors diagnosed her with rheumatoid arthritis she knew enough was enough. It was time to change her ways.
"I remember when I got the diagnosis I had decided I was going to be fit by 40," Sinclair, a Bradford, ON resident says. "This won't be my condition when I'm older. "I was 32 years old. I didn't think I should feel aches and pains. Even if I was 62 years old I didn't want any part of it."
In 2009 she started frequenting her doctor when the pain in her joints started intensifying. Tests confirmed rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease that causes painful, swollen joints and fatigue. "I remember thinking 'I can't check out like this!' Sinclair says. "It didn't happen suddenly. Life has a way of being busy and you feel a little pain her and there and you slough it off." Reflecting back, she says her illness came as a consequence of eating a typical North American diet, "terrible food choices" and stress.
"Compared to most people, what I would eat was healthier, but it wasn't clean. I ate lot of things like canned corn, which is GMO (genetically modified). "I remember I'd get on the subway and every stop I would buy a chocolate bar. Every time I'd feel my energy go down I would use the chocolate bar to give me energy. It felt good. It tasted good. I never realized what it was doing to my body. I was climbing the corporate ladder. I was young and vibrant and invincible." "Sometimes I would be sitting at a computer for hours. At age 24 I was on a conversion team at the law firm. That was a big thing for me, but you do a lot of long days. "I believe we should be able to strive for our very best in whatever we do, but our health doesn't have to suffer.
"We all have passions inside of us that we were created to fulfill, but we can't do that if our health is declining." A lot of people feel tired and sluggish and are in pain and most people will say that it's because they're getting older, but "I don't buy into that," Sinclair says.
The proof is in how healthy she feels today at age 39, pain free and much healthier than she did a few years ago.
Frequent visits to her physician brought little resolve to her condition and she was left with two choices: "Do I just keep taking these medications to manage the symptoms? Or do I change my lifestyle?" She chose the latter after arriving at a place in her life where she just couldn't take the pain anymore, she says. Not only was she "better than any meteorologist" in predicting the weather based on her joint pain, but she was plagued with headaches – once for 19 days straight, and that was enough.
Her secret? Eat real food, and definitely cut out the sugars which are feeding the inflammation. "Lifestyle choices are very powerful. It was a battle for me. I was addicted to sugar, but I chose to focus on what I can do instead of the problem."
"I'm a Christian. I remember I'd been praying for a miracle. I decided I was going to stop praying for a miracle and pray for an answer. Intuitively the answer gave me strength and courage. Spiritually it gave me the strength to say the miracle is in your choice each day when you pick up something and put it in your mouth you are choosing whether or not you want that miracle. I try to live my life to the best of my ability, choosing that miracle."
For Sinclair food became an easy, tangible way to connect that choice. Getting back to basics, much like in her youth growing up on a farm in Jamaica, was the direction she would choose. Eat whole foods, lots of vegetables and fruits and only organic foods, she says. She even started her own business, Northern Organics, delivering fresh fruit and vegetables into homes.
She uses a Vitamix ™ blender to pack in a lot of veggies into meals like spaghetti sauces, always with a focus on getting the maximum nutrients in the meals for her family – her seven-year-old son and two-year-old twins and her husband. She bakes using only coconut sugar, apple sauce or bananas to sweeten foods. Steering clear of sugars and processed snack foods was one of the biggest challenges for her – especially when those foods were peering at her from the cupboard, testing her self-control.
"It was hard because my husband would bring junk food in and I would pick at it and then feel the pain. At first I didn't want him to buy any junk food, but then I realized he's a grown man and my choices don't have to be his choices."
So she gave him a dedicated cupboard just above the fridge where he could store his own goodies. "I went to my husband and said 'I seriously need your help. Me eating this stuff will be the difference between me living a decent quality of life or not, or me living longer."