1979: I started dancing at the age of 4, and was very quickly intrigued by the human body, curious about how our bodies moved, how our muscles looked, how our bones were ‘hidden’ inside, and how we could build our bodies to either help or hinder our movement.
1981: I couldn’t have been more than 5 or 6 years old when I started doing back exercises, breathing exercises, and body scans with my Dad in our living room. He had injured his back when he was young and followed the exercises on a record from the YMCA. Although this was my first introduction into relaxation exercises, it took me years to really learn the skill (and power) of relaxation.
1986: At age 11, I gave myself my first headache so my Mom would have to stay home from work to look after me. I remember laying on the couch, shocked that, after 30 minutes of trying to give myself a headache, I ended up with a headache. I also remember thinking, ‘Wow, if I could give myself a headache just by intently focusing on it, what other power did our brains have?”
1987: I pulled my hamstring while on stage in a dance competition. The pain was excruciating but it was the first time I learned that breathing mindfully could help to manage pain. I also learned that when you have an injury, you’re forced to use and strengthen other parts of your body in order to compensate. It was the first time I was introduced to massage therapy and physiotherapy.
1989: At about 14, my curiosity expanded to nutrition and how the food we ate could impact our weight. My interest was rooted in my own concern about the weight I had gained since I entered high school, where I was eating way too many of the huge chocolate chip muffins from the school cafeteria!
Around this time, I also had to stop dancing (thanks to a temporary knee injury known as Osgood Schlatter’s Disease, which is linked to muscles that grow faster than the bones). I took even more of an interest in how our bones and muscles grow and support our bodies, and in the body’s ability to heal.
1990: I received my first Exercise Physiology textbook, which helped me better understand the science, physiology, and anatomy of our bodies. One of the appendices in the textbook included a list of foods and the calories they contained per gram, which exacerbated my obsession with calorie counting.
At this time in my life, I was eating diet foods (with processed ingredients and artificial sweeteners), working out to make up for extra calories, analyzing food labels (but not realizing I should have been more concerned about quality, not quantity), reading fitness magazines and believing anything that promised 6 pack abs and skinny thighs as quickly as possible.
Around this time, I started getting migraines.
1991: At 16, shortly after I joined a gym, I was asked to become an aerobics instructor. I started teaching high and low impact classes, and step classes, and absolutely loved that I could use my dance background and obsession with posture to design classes and teach others how to move their bodies. I was obsessed (sounds like I have a lot of obsessions, I know!) with cardio back then, thinking it was the key to losing weight. I also started running, in addition to dancing, mostly as a way to burn more calories.
1992: I broke both wrists at once. Seriously! I was bike riding down a hill, the brakes failed, and I ended up going wrists first into a guardrail. These were the first broken bones I’d ever had so of course, I was interested in how and where they broke (I thought x-rays were so cool), and how quickly I could heal. They were surprised at how fast my bones were healing and so my first cast was taken off at 3 weeks (much too early). The 2nd cast was taken off at 6 weeks.
1993: Although I was awarded Most Promising Performer at our annual dance competition, I set my dance ‘career’ aside to attend UBC and study Sciences with the intention of opening a facility in Vancouver that offered fitness, physiotherapy, nutrition, and other health, wellness, and sports medicine-related services.
I also became a Personal Trainer and coached various running groups.
On the outside, I might have looked strong, but on the inside, I wasn’t healthy. How do I know? Because I was also battling chronic migraines.
1997: Upon the recommendation of one of my oldest friends, I visited a Naturopath as a last attempt to address my migraines, which were knocking me out for 6 days a month.
At this point, I had spent about 7 years trying to get rid of my migraines seeing every expert from head to toe – massage therapists, chiropractors, acupuncturists, reflexologists, neurologists, physiotherapists – nothing worked. It was suggested I take prescription drugs, and although I took over the counter drugs at certain points (which often caused eczema), I didn’t want to rely on medication. I wanted the problem fixed. My last resort was to take a natural approach – and it changed everything.
On the first visit to my naturopath and nutritionist, my blood was taken via an HLB test. The results are what you see below on the left.
The white you see in the left image represents toxins (free radicals). Simply put, more toxins = more migraines. That’s all I needed to see. My blood was the tangible starting point I needed to shift my thinking about my health. My new goal was no longer to have a 6 pack or reach a certain number on the scale. My goal was to have clean blood.
Only 6 weeks later, after some significant but manageable changes to my diet and a lot of education, my blood was vibrant red and I was 100% migraine free (image on right), in addition to many other unexpected benefits like increased energy, amazing sleep, no sugar cravings, no digestive issues, no aches and pains, no eczema, just to name a few. I was proof of what Hippocrates and Edison knew centuries ago – that “food is medicine”.
My view on how to get healthy and stay free of disease completely changed, which completely changed my life. It was at this point that I came to the conclusion that:
“We will all be in better shape when we care more about our insides than our outsides.”
1998: I was hit by a car while crossing a crosswalk. It was a hit and run. I had the right of way. I was told that if I’d been a foot ahead, I would have been dead. Broke multiple bones and was off work for 5 1/2 months.
During my recovery, I was seeing experts regularly – massage, chiropractic, physiotherapy, acupuncture – and thanks to my physiotherapist who used Pilates principles in my exercises, I realized the full potential of how to use Pilates to strengthen the body, prevent lower back pain, and prevent injury. (Learn how ignoring my intuition almost killed me.)
1999: I started to create The Cheat Principle.
2001: I received my first Nutrition Certification as a Health and Wellness Specialist.
I received a 2nd Personal Training Certification, worked with a Corporate Wellness company and taught various fitness classes, including BodyFlow which is a blend of yoga/tai chi/pilates, and strength training classes using exercise balls and bands.
2002: I ran my first marathon as a way to celebrate a 4 year anniversary that I survived my car accident in 1998.
2003: I ran my second (and last) marathon only because I wanted to beat my time from the year before!
2013: At the age of 39, I froze my eggs, not because I couldn’t have kids, but because I wanted the option. I learned a tremendous amount about fertility, the impact of nutrition, sleep, and stress on fertility, the equal role of men and women in fertility, the unbelievable number of women and couples who have had miscarriages or their own struggles, and that delivering a healthy baby is truly a miracle.
2014: I finally became a Pilates instructor after years of taking Pilates, years of considering becoming an instructor, and years of understanding how effective it can be to build a strong body and prevent injury.
2015: I found out my thyroid was out of balance. It was recommended that I take medication for hypothyroidism (low thyroid). As someone who had already experienced the positive impacts of natural medicine, and who believed in our own ability to (often) heal ourselves, I made the decision to pass on the medication, and instead, focused on reducing various types of stress in my body.
2016: I became a Healthy Weight Loss Coach.
2017: I became a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and opened Nicole Porter Wellness. I started to develop The Hidden Stress Framework.
I completed my first official course in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction.
2018: I had a miscarriage, unexpectedly learning that, at 42, I could still get pregnant, but also learning that low thyroid and fertility are highly connected. I was on a mission to get my thyroid back to normal and so I did, without medication, by focusing on sleep.
2019: I became a Registered Nutritional Therapist.
I had a cheilectomy on my right big toe, due to arthritis throughout the toe joint – from overuse, not stretching, and imbalance which was exacerbated by the accident in 1998.
2020: I got a 2nd degree burn on my right thigh from boiling hot water, increasing my interest in the body’s largest organ, the skin. It was my second 2nd degree burn, but because I had an infection and allergic reactions to the bandages, this one did not heal quickly. I still have a scar on my right thigh.
As a society, we’ve been trained to evaluate our progress and level of health by a number on the scale, a number on a watch, or a number on the size of our clothes. But just because you look healthy doesn’t mean you are healthy. In fact, a lot of healthy looking people can be sick on the inside. It’s time for us to start paying attention and listening to our bodies so we can get a sense of how our insides are functioning – because when the insides are functioning, the outside will naturally follow.
Studies show that at any given time, 80% of the population is on a diet. But this physical, mental, and emotional rollercoaster can mess with our insides – with our hormones, our brains, with every cell in our body. It can cause chronic imbalance, which can lead to chronic stress, which can not just contribute to weight gain, but also chronic disease. We need to realize that in order to lose weight, our bodies (our insides) need to be healthy. Weight loss is an inside job.
Even though food is medicine and physical activity benefits our bodies and minds, a perfect diet and exercise program aren’t the only factors involved in optimizing your physical and mental health. Because if you’re putting your body under other forms of stress, you can still leave yourself vulnerable to poor health – weight gain, fatigue, anxiety, poor digestion, poor sleep, low energy, inflammation, lack of focus, and even more serious disease. Reaching and maintaining optimal health is not just about food and fitness – it’s about understanding, managing, and overcoming The Top 10 Hidden Stressors that are keeping you from feeling your best – every single day.
Health can be a complicated and intimidating topic, but having little or no knowledge of it can leave you feeling disempowered and relying on solutions you may not understand. At Nicole Porter Wellness, the goal is to simplify complicated health information so you can better understand your body, stop relying on fads and trends that may have long-term health implications, learn to trust what your body is telling you, and be better equipped to make informed decisions for yourself and your family.
I share my story because I want people to understand what they’re doing to their insides before they go to extremes to ‘fix’ the outsides. I would like to think that if they knew what was happening inside, and if they knew how to listen to their bodies, they would make different choices.
I want people to understand that if they fix the inside, the outside will follow, removing the need for extreme diet and exercise programs, medication, and the likelihood of chronic diseases – from eczema to hormone imbalance to cancer.
I want people to feel empowered with accurate and reliable information so they can make the best decisions for themselves and their families. I want them to listen to their bodies more than they listen to trends. And I want them to have faith that the body is often capable of healing itself…we just need to give it a chance.