How to Be Your Own Health Advocate with Chelsea Williams
How to Be Your Own Health Advocate with Chelsea Williams
In this episode of the Feel Good Effect, we’re talking with Chelsea Williams on how to be your own health advocate by really tuning in, figuring out what works for you, and then prioritizing and amplifying that.
Chelsea has lived with thyroid disease for most of her life, originally with hyperthyroidism (severely overactive thyroid disease) and now with hypothyroidism (underactive).
Right after she finished with undergrad, Chelsea experienced a series of “thyroid storms”, during which health is really difficult to manage under the condition.
Simultaneously, she was working for a pharmaceutical company where she worked with patients with Multiple Sclerosis and Crohn’s Disease.
Here, she had an awakening about the healthcare industry and food and she was seeking a holistic method to manage her condition.
Chelsea started as a graphic designer, and her That’s Chelsea platform originated with the intent of showcasing her art.
But after some time, she started to feel a passion for talking more about health and wellness.
When Chelsea looked for resources on managing thyroid conditions in a more natural way, she didn’t see anyone who looked like her who was talking about these things.
She started using That’s Chelsea as a place to share the products that worked for her, her daily life, and being a woman in this space.
A thyroid disease diagnosis
Chelsea was diagnosed with thyroid disease at an early age.
She was always a good student, but in seventh grade, she struggled to focus and her grades were slipping.
At the same time, her parents observed her lose weight, her hair thinning, eyes bulging, and she noticed heart palpitations.
After several doctor visits, Chelsea and her family were referred to an endocrinologist who then diagnosed her.
For many, this type of concern can go unnoticed or be misattributed to aging; it’s important to see a practitioner if you’re feeling “off”.
Chelsea promotes using both natural and medical care in a complementary way.
Chelsea was a student-athlete, putting herself through college with basketball, but she didn’t change her diet until later.
When she made a change, she started by shifting her groceries to being more organic and local products, trying to eat more culturally appropriate foods, letting go of foods that didn’t make her feel good.
Later, she became fully plant-based, the only one in her family and group of friends.
Being the only one eating this way in her social circle and not seeing anyone online who looked like her, Chelsea felt out of place and wondered if this was something Black people do.
After leaving the pharmaceutical company, Chelsea began working for an institutional review board as a contractor reviewing cancer therapy trials. At that time, she knew she wanted to switch to wellness, so she pursued a Master’s degree in public health and nutrition.
She wanted to learn more, be more informed, and be able to provide resources to herself and her family who didn’t have access.
Championing through loneliness
Being the only one eating this way, Chelsea felt a sense of loneliness.
To combat loneliness, you have to have the spirit to push through.
Sometimes, communities that look supportive can be very harmful and not provide accurate information.
It’s important to work with a doctor or a nutritionist, rather than relying on the information from a wellness community.
And it’s a mindset shift, reminding yourself what you’re doing it for.
We have to champion through it.
The more you talk about it and people see your success, eventually, your tribe will find you.
When people see that you’re consistent and committed, respect follows.
Be your own best advocate.
You know what’s best for you.
You have to stand up for yourself.
Finding your own truth before finding community.
When Chelsea first started, she didn’t live in a food oasis (a food oasis being the opposite of a food desert).
Yet, women who did live in a food oasis, with a plethora of food options, frequently made comments that she wasn’t doing it well enough.
Bombarded with these messages, it was hard to find her inner voice.
Sometimes, a community won’t know you, your access to food, your schedule, your health conditions, your stress level, how active you are, or your family history.
And despite this, there will be opinions spewed.
If you go into a community like this without being secure in your own inner voice, you can be easily swayed.
It’s important to do work alone to build up that strength and mindset.
Chelsea recommends keeping a health and wellness journal to foster insight into what works for you (including skin care products, certain foods, vitamins, etc.).
We get busy and it’s easy to forget, so a journal can serve as a compass for wellness rituals.
On the other side, a journal can help pinpoint what might be causing a breakout or problems with digestion.
A wellness-focused journal
This isn’t for calorie counting.
This is to think about how many colors you are eating, if you’re eating something fresh every day (prioritizing food that is fresh, then frozen, then canned), etc.
Every day, write down what you ate and use a star method: based on how you felt, give yourself 1-5 stars.
Then, try to model your days off of the five-star days.
It’s not a judgment or shameful to have a one-star day, but an opportunity for reflection on how that day made you feel and whether you want to feel that way all the time.
A changing definition of wellness
In this article from Beauty Independent, Chelsea covers a number of topics (contracts restricting political speech, virtue signaling, unfollowing people, and equal pay) in addition to changes in the wellness digital ecosystem.
In this digital world of online health and wellness posts, how can we create a non-judgmental, inclusive, and welcoming space?
We need more women of color in all ages and all skin types.
For example, this is something Chelsea notices in Glossier’s marketing, which includes women with acne, hyperpigmentation, grey hair, fine lines, and wrinkles, rosacea, etc.
Sometimes what we see online is not reflective of the real world.
There is, unfortunately, a lot of elitism in the wellness space.
If we are truly about public health and wellness for all, it has to be inclusive.
There shouldn’t be a shame for not having access or for asking questions.
Another problem in the wellness space is colorism, which is what underlies the reason light-skinned black women are seen in marketing more than darker-skinned (because many companies don’t even have that shade range!).
When that happens, it’s not truly or accurately representing black women; it only gives a voice and access to quality products to light-skinned women.
Wellness should be for everyone.
What is the wellness space?
Chelsea perceives wellness as wellbeing, outside of conventional healthcare, it’s how she feels every day.
Rachelle Robinette wrote an article on turning wellness into a luxury good, and how that has changed the meaning and accessibility of wellness.
Somehow, the health and fitness industry and the fashion industry came together and birthed wellness.
Wellness is now coinciding with chicness
Wellness was a way for Chelsea to feel good and cope with what’s going on in the everyday world, to have better digestion, to feel energized, to feel healthy- it was protective mental and physical health.
Self-preservation is so important in a world with so many things going on.
To show up as our best selves every day and conquer the world so that we can fulfill our purpose.
But now, it’s about who can get the best $500 facial or who can talk to the top doctors; it’s very ego-driven.
In her Master’s program, Chelsea had some training at the President’s Council for Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition.
She felt like the mission aligned with what she wanted to do, inspiring people to make conscious decisions toward a healthier lifestyle.
But the definition of wellness has gotten lost, turning into a brag-show.
The “wellness” industry has gotten off track, and it’s important to have this discussion about what it is, who it serves, and for what purpose.
Building her brand
After recently moving from D.C to L.A., Chelsea is now working on her ebook, always wanting to put out useful information, called Your Plate Matters.
The book is a little bit of beauty and food with vegan recipes (but for all!).
She is hoping to create inspiring merchandise to go with it, too.
Chelsea is focused on serving people and making information accessible on @yourplatematters on Instagram with a website coming soon
On what it really means to be healthy:
A state of being. It’s a 360 “how do I want to show up in the world?”, and wellness is “what are the steps I’m taking to get there?”. A holistic perspective of a state of health.
Chelsea has a Master’s Degree in Public Health and Nutrition and is a certified communicator in public health through the National Public Health Information Coalition. Chelsea is also a plant-based public health nutritionist, media contributor, and wellness writer based in L.A. Chelsea’s story also includes her own health struggle and how she learned to heal herself and to be her own health advocate.
Connect with Chelsea on her site thatschelsea.com
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