Six months ago, I was hired at Project Angel Heart to help build a cutting-edge program and bring food as medicine to healthcare in Colorado in a bigger way. Through the Meals for Care Transitions program, my job is to work with health care providers to deliver medically modified, made-from-scratch meals to patients as part of their treatment in managing chronic disease.
As I look back on the path that led me to this organization, I know that there was a bigger purpose and cause that brought me to this role. For many years, I struggled with maintaining a healthy lifestyle. As a busy professional, I faced high levels of stress, a hectic travel schedule, and many nights of eating out at restaurants. And food (particularly double cheeseburgers and fries) was the tool I turned to for stress, sadness, celebrations, and comfort.
I had a few stretches of eating healthy and exercising but, over and over, I found myself gaining the weight back and then some. After many years of gaining and losing weight, there was one key component that I kept missing as I tried different diets.
It was not until I tapped into my ”why” that I was able to completely transform my health, and more importantly, maintain these changes for over three years. When we are trying to make change, we often start with the “how” instead of really connecting to our purpose for creating this change. Finding my why meant understanding why getting healthy was actually meaningful and important in my life.
So how did I actually make this happen? Two years ago, I was lucky enough to work with a friend who was starting a health and executive coaching company called Connected Executive Coaching. Using Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle (below) as a foundation, she helped me connect to my reason for making change.
My “why” was to have the energy and longevity to be a good mother to my children. Once I was connected to this meaning and the emotion behind it, it no longer felt like a struggle to learn and implement how to be healthier. It just became part of who I was.
I not only saw the physical benefits of this health transformation but the emotional benefits, as well. I saw food as a tool to bring me well-being rather than a vice that had some sort of control over me.
I wanted to help others on this journey and also make a more global impact on how we, as a society, nourish ourselves. I began teaching fitness classes and loved seeing the change in other people.
After the attacks on Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, I attended the vigil held in Denver. I stood there and promised myself that I would choose a career that would make a substantial impact on the well-being of others. The very next day, the job posting at Project Angel Heart showed up on my LinkedIn newsfeed and the rest is history. Now every day is dedicated to incorporating food as medicine into our health care system in Colorado.
I inherently believe and have experienced that food is medicine. I believe we can address rising healthcare costs and rising levels of chronic disease while improving the well-being of each person by including food as an important component in our physical and mental health.
And when I have any doubt about making this happen, I know I can always connect back to my why. My why gives me a greater purpose, a cause worth fighting for, and the vision for a healthy future.
Leslie Scotland-Stewart is the Director of Business Development for Project Angel Heart’s Meals for Care Transitions program. She worked in sales and marketing for a variety of Fortune 500 companies before deciding to focus her career on health and wellness. After helping build a startup company that helps executives become healthier leaders, she joined Project Angel Heart in a business development role. She has a passion for all things health, including nutrition, exercise, and mindfulness. Leslie has her MBA from the University of Denver and teaches fitness classes on the side. She loves spending time with her family, going to the zoo, hiking, or doing anything that will keep the family active. She also loves to travel and is always in pursuit of the most delicious coffee and dark chocolate!