On September 9, 2004, my father tragically passed away from a massive heart attack. It was on my 16th birthday. I was a junior in high school, and I had just earned my driver's permit that afternoon before the phone rang. My mom had to tell me the devastating news while I was sitting with my best friend in my basement.
After screaming, crying and denial, I immediately played the strong role and called family members to alert them while we rushed to the hospital. I am not sure why I took on such a heavy role instead of doing what a normal teenager would do and take a back seat.
Within two months of my father's death I gained about 12 pounds, which is very noticeable on someone who is 5 feet 3 inches tall. My clothes didn't fit and I felt awful, embarrassed and anxious in my skin. Despite the facade I put on, I lost motivation to do anything other than go to school and watch TV and eat alone in my dark basement. I still maintained honor roll and still had so many friends, but I was empty inside.
Eventually, I discovered spinning at my local gym and combined that exercise with a restrictive – if not dangerous – diet to drop the 12 pounds and then some. My self-esteem sky-rocketed from countless compliments and my slimmer figure. I wish I knew at that moment that self-love isn't a byproduct of weight loss.
However, in college I became a yo-yo dieter – always chasing the next fad diet or quick fix. I gained 30 pounds over those four years and did not love the girl looking back at me in the mirror. Excessive drinking, all-you-can-eat buffets, and late-night pizza were my kryptonite. College and studying abroad in Australia were the best experiences of my life, but I was depressed and anxious from my weight gain and used food to self-soothe. It was a vicious cycle.
After I graduated, I realized I had to take control of my life. I was miserable, irritable, and ashamed of how I looked. How did I do this to myself? If anyone knew the importance of health based on life experiences it was surely me. I immediately began working toward better health, both mentally and physically. It was a long road ahead.
I also knew I wanted to get into the Health and Wellness field, I just didn't realize how long it would take for me to get there. I spent years in Entertainment Marketing and PR before realizing I needed to find a greater and more impactful purpose. I was driven to help people.
In January 2017, I found the Institute for Integrative Nutrition® and haven't looked back. I am currently a Certified Holistic Health and Wellness Coach and Founder of Balance By Beth™. Ever since I was young, I've always been a social butterfly with a penchant for understanding people. During my transformation, I naturally helped friends, family and colleagues develop sustainable habits to live healthier lifestyles and understood what they needed in terms of accountability because I could empathize with how difficult it was.
No one should have to suffer the loss of a loved one due to heart disease. I have committed my life to empowering others to become the best versions of themselves. I guide my clients to improve their health, achieve their goals, develop habits to live a balanced lifestyle, and ultimately find self-love. I urge you to take action to prevent and control your risk factors, too.
In early September 2014, I hosted a memorial celebration to remember my dad, Robin Heller, 10 years after his passing. A group of my family members and friends participated in the Boston Heart Walk and a FUNraiser charity event where I raised thousands of dollars for the American Heart Association, thanks to the kindness of family and friends.
Two years later in 2016, I hosted another FUNraiser, a charity ride at SoulCycle Chestnut Hill, an indoor cycling studio in Massachusetts where I worked. Again, I was determined to raise thousands of dollars for AHA and achieved my goal in less than a month. The support of my family and friends during these fundraising efforts was overwhelming, and AHA made it so effortless to create a fundraising page online. Today, I am still so humbled by the outpouring of love, donations, kind messages and encouragement. There will definitely be more fundraising in the future as my family continues to celebrate my father's legacy.
As I reflect on the past 13 years, honor my dad's memory and celebrate my own 29 years of life, I am confident that my dad would be proud of my strength, perseverance, and personal and professional growth. I have found self-love. I strive for progress over perfection, and my ultimate goal is to be better than I was yesterday.
I am proud of my fight and my story. I am now the best version of myself.
If you would like to reach out to Beth Heller about her story, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit her online at balancexbeth.com