My name is Carlotta Mendes but I go by “Leti”. I’m a mom of two grown children, a son and a daughter and I’ve been married to my best friend for 30 years.
The Journey Begins
My health journey has been a rather bumpy one for much of my life. I was adopted when I was about 1.5 years old and suffered malnutrition from being in an orphanage for some time and scientific data tells us that this does have lasting effects into adulthood. The major problems started when I was in my teens and the following list is all that I have dealt with since:
- Plantar fasciitis (in both heels at the same time)
- Psoriatic Arthritis
- Uterine fibroids
- Degenerative disc disease
- Autoimmune liver disease aka AIH
Despite my struggles over the years, I was able to conquer and even thrive at times. I attribute it to my favorite form of exercise, which is running, an old high school favorite. I had picked it up again after my son was born back in 1996 and ran 3-5 miles at a time at most.
However, when I moved to Florida and experienced year-round beautiful weather I was able to kick it up a notch and started training for and running half marathons with my BFF. My husband and I would run the Gasparilla Distance Classic in Tampa, each year together until 2016. In the winter of 2015-2016, I had finally accomplished one of my top goals: to run a half marathon 3 months in a row. I was finally in the best shape of my life! I ran, lifted weights, and ate healthily.
I was not prepared for the changes that were coming. By the time I finished that third half marathon, in February of 2016, I was starting to have new symptoms that led to a 3 year downward spiral of my health.
At first, it started with a torn disk in my lower back and herniated disc’s in my neck, likely from overtraining, according to the doctors. Within months, I was then diagnosed with uveitis, psoriatic arthritis, and then had a hysterectomy. The following 18 months I had problems with my liver enzymes which led to the diagnosis of autoimmune liver disease, known as AIH.
Treatment for many of the above problems often included some form of steroids, either by mouth or injection which led to a diagnosis of osteoporosis, and of course weight gain. When I running the half marathons I weighed 123 lbs, but between the steroids, no longer running, having a hysterectomy, and having depression from going through all of the above, by 2018 I had ballooned up to 175 lbs. I was no longer in shape, eating poorly, and feeling horrible inside and about the outside.
This is why I have chosen to work with especially with clients that struggle with chronic health conditions because I understand the struggle to simply want to “feel better”!
Not Just A Coach, Not Just A Nurse
What sets me apart from most other “health coaches”, aside from my personal health struggles, is the education that I bring to to the table. I proudly hold a BSN, which is a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing from the prestigious University of Scranton. This means I put 4 years into schooling, not simply a six-month course about coaching and nutrition.
I have been a nurse for about 15 years. I have worked as an ICU nurse, hospice nurse, home health, and case management nurse. The part of nursing that I have most enjoyed is educating my patients and their families over the years.
I have always stood by the saying that “knowledge is power”. Hence, if you give patients the information, the education the power, then they can better care for themselves and make more informed decisions, knowing what the consequences are if they choose not to eat right, follow up with the doctor, take their medication, or exercise.
In the medical community, you may have heard us throw around the word “compliant”. We use this word in reference to a patient that follows the guidance and directions of medical professions. Patients very easily get labeled as “non-compliant” if they do not take their medications or follow the directions, but I have found that when a patient has a full understanding of their condition and consequences of not properly caring for themselves then they tend to be a lot more compliant.
HERE is where the major problem is when you visit the doctor many times your appointment is only 15 minutes long and the doctor does not have the time to explain fully to their patients all that they need to know to increase the likelihood of compliance. In my experience, it has fallen on nurses.
Two Roads Merge
Time For Change
Having had these really hard years with my health, it was becoming apparent to me that my work schedule, which was mainly overnights and at times as long as 18 hours, was putting an additional strain on my health. This is truly where my personal and professional experience began to merge, which led me down the incredible path of becoming a health counselor.
In early 2019 an opportunity presented itself to me and I jumped on it as I felt it was handed to me by some higher power because the time was nothing less than godly. I was presented with the opportunity to get trained and earn a certificate as a Clinical Health Coach and to become an educator of the Diabetes Education Empowerment Program (also known as the DEEP program) at a local clinic. It offered steady daytime hours, and a chance to help the vulnerable population, those with diabetes and prediabetes in particular.
I worked and studied how to effectively coach, healthy living and nutrition, I combined my nursing theory of viewing the client from a holistic standpoint, and more importantly my own experience as a chronically ill patient together. This enabled me to connect on such a deep level with my client at the clinic that my clients and I enjoyed successes within months. Their numbers improved and I followed suit. I did not want to be a fraud so what I told my client to do, I did and I started having health improvements.
Incredibly at this time my husband who was also going through his own health trials was now struggling with his A1c (a laboratory test that indicates blood sugar and diabetes control). He was soon diagnosed with diabetes but as I was learning about how to get diabetes controlled with diet, I was teaching him and changing how I was preparing the meals in our home. This proved to be a game-changer for him because even though he had crossed the line with his A1C into diabetic levels (6.7), the changes and education at home got his numbers lowered and he did not have to start medications. And up to this day, he has remained controlled with diet and exercise.
The success at work, home, and personally made me fall in love with this new phase of my career. I was so inspired that I sought additional education with the Institute for Integrative Nutrition so that I could learn more so that I could offer my clients optimal care and knowledge but I would be lying if I denied that I personally haven’t benefitted greatly. Professionally, I felt like I was finally doing what I always wanted to do and it was the very reason I became a nurse, which was:
- to have the time to focus on teaching rather than medicating
- to teach people the connection between eating and living healthy to minimizing the effects of symptoms rather than relying on medications to treat symptoms.
- to be able to teach people the connection between the “pillars of health” and that when there is imbalance how it can exacerbate any underlying conditions.
- to teach people to better listen to their bodies and trust their instincts.
My success at the clinic led to an average of 80-75% of the 200+ clients that I cared for to have an improvement in the A1C’s, just by coaching, guiding, teaching, and supporting those clients to healthier habits. Many of them along the way lost weight, due to the change in diet. The practitioners that I worked with, in time sent other clients with different problems such as:
- high cholesterol
- high blood pressure
- autoimmune/inflammatory disorders
- gut problems
Now I enjoy being my own boss and not being overwhelmed by 10 hour days and trying to fit 20+ clients into 4 days. I myself due to the balance in my “pillars of health” have enjoyed, less pain, weight loss, less stress, less anxiety, and an increase in family time, creativity, and joy. My goal is to get anyone who becomes my client to a similar place. It is vital for me to: