Ashley E. Bailey has always had a passion when it came to health and wellness. For a long time she toyed around with the idea of turning into a career before she found practicality driving her in a different direction. Having received her personal training certification in college only to put it aside for a career in marketing and public relations, Ashley found her desire to turn her love of health into a project of its own unfolding in a new way: through blogging, coaching, and, perhaps more than anything, inspiring.
While maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle has always been high on her list of priorities, Ashley found herself facing a tough nutritional challenge in her 20’s, when the development of different food allergies left her scrambling to figure out what foods worked for her body, and which she should steer clear of.
“First it was gluten, then it was dairy,” says Ashley. “I just kept discovering different autoimmune conditions and allergies, like eggs and soy. So the first part of my 20’s was really just about me trying to figure out what food allergies I had exactly, and trying to manage that.”
Confused by the changes that she was seeing in her body, Ashley began experimenting with a variety of different diets in an effort to see what left her feeling best.
“If there was a diet, I tried it,” she says. “You name it: paleo, raw, macrobiotic. I tried it all in the name of feeling good.”
As Ashley became consumed with trying to find the diet that worked best for her body, her experimentation quickly turned to obsession. It wasn’t long before she found herself struggling with orthorexia, an eating disorder which is characterized by a systematic avoidance of any and all foods that one deems to be unhealthy.
“At my lowest, I weighed 93 pounds,” says Ashley. “And I’m 5’4, so it was extremely unhealthy. I wasn’t getting the nutrients that I needed, and this went on for years before I came to terms with what was happening.”
Unfortunately, even after recognizing that she had to address the problem — she likens orthorexia to any other addiction, like alcoholism — Ashley found herself slipping into another struggle. Stressed by the need to gain weight and feeling a loss of control over her eating, Ashley developed anorexia in her efforts to overcome the orthorexia, a condition which she has since managed to overcome.
THE BODHI LIFE
From the onset of her nutritional journey, Ashley wanted to share the ins and outs of her experiences and her health discoveries, including everything from gluten-free recipes and yoga tips to lifestyle posts and stories of her road trips and moves across the U.S. All of these passions came to exist together on her blog, which she called The Bodhi Life.
“I came across the bodhi philosophy, which basically means living in a way that is bringing you closer to nature, which will then bring you closer to enlightenment. And that really resonated with me because I feel like our society is so far removed from our natural elements, and I want to do everything that I can to live as close to nature as possible. Eating foods that haven’t been processed, moving in a way that our ancestors did, lifting things, walking, moving, and meditating, and having a healthy social circle; those are all big elements of health I try to put a big emphasis on.”
As she worked on her blog, though, Ashley couldn’t help but feel a certain duality in her life, despite taking an extremely candid and transparent approach to her posts, in which she rarely shied away from sharing her struggles with orthorexia. That duality, though, came from the fact that she found herself seeking to inspire and advise readers to live healthier lifestyles while simultaneously failing to practice what she was preaching in her own day-to-day life.
“Sometimes I’ll have someone ask why I’m doing this or that, and it’s strange because I would never recommend what I’m doing to them,” she says about the struggle of helping readers while trying to manage her own habits. “So it makes me take a step back and reassess what I’m doing.”
TAKING UP COACHING
The Bodhi Life, which Ashley only recently stopped updating after moving over to her new blog, Aebailey.com, eventually became more than just an outlet for Ashley to chronicle her successes and struggles in the world of health and a refreshingly honest source of inspiration to readers; it ultimately paved the way for Ashley to begin taking on personalized coaching.
“It just kind of happened organically because people would reach out to me, and I thought that I could help people by more than just sharing my story,” she says. “So I have also developed customized nutrition plans for people. It’s growing, and it’s something I would love to make my full-time role one day.”
WhileAshley is not presently certified in nutritional counseling and works solely based on her own experience, she finds herself working with 1-2 clients a month who have been drawn to her journey and have entrusted her with their diets.
And in the process of working with her clients, Ashley finds herself benefiting, as well.
“Coaching people helps me a lot because it helps me teach myself balance as I’m teaching somebody else that.”
FINDING BALANCE IN DIET AND FITNESS
For Ashley, finding the right diet remains a process of trial and error, a process she has come to accept with all of its hiccups and potential setbacks. The key has been developing a system and sticking to it.
“The biggest thing for me is keeping a journal,” she says. “And I don’t mean a food journal but just an actual journal. Because without a doubt, my issues flare when I’m stressed out, which will cause me to analyze what I’m doing and make tweaks in my diet, and read what new information. This can go on for weeks, maybe months, and then all I’ve done is usually repeat the past and fill my head with useless information. Because you already know whether your body likes a piece of salmon, or whether it would rather have a plate of beans and rice. So sometimes I just get to a point where I get off all of it — I won’t read any articles, I leave any Facebook groups that I may have joined, and I just focus on myself. I do a lot of meditating, I do a lot of yoga, and then I just kind of go back to the drawing board.”
For Ashley, that means putting together a chart of the foods that she knows make her feel good, the ones that she knows don’t, and the ones that she is on the fence with; a list that she says rarely seems to change, only confirming her notion that we’re each capable of figuring out what works for our bodies if we just take the time to figure it out logically.
“I also really believe that there is a science to it,” she says. “I’m blood type O and I match very well with blood type O recommendations. And that’s why when I work with people, I take their blood type, and I even ask about where they’re from; are they from Asia, Africa? I think it’s all related. And the first thing I ask everyone is, “How stressed are you? What are your cortisol levels?” Because that’s always going to be a factor.”
Science aside, though, Ashley has no doubt that one of the biggest keys to finding what works for you is also the simplest: intuition.
“Just trust yourself,” she says confidently. “You always, always know.”