Ashley Williams is ushering in a new generation of wellness beyond green smoothies and juice. After her own early diagnosis with chronic illness she navigated her way to recovery through holistic treatment and diet. Ashley attributes her healing in part to tracking (“that’s how you see what is causing the problems and what is working”) and is a Chronic Wellness warrior at heart. Enjoy.
Ashley and Lindsay talk holistic healing through diet.
Digestion: A Foundation for Healing
Q: Tell us a little about yourself and your philosophy on healing.
Sure! I first began experiencing chronic pain in my legs when I was in preschool, which of course the Doctor’s wrote of as being growing pains (I’m only 5.0’ tall..so….). When I was 9 or 10, I developed severe tension headaches and then around 14 I saw an endocrinologist that formally diagnosed me with Rheumatoid Arthritis. Being in pain all the time was just normal to me. It got to the point where I only really noticed the pain when it flared up so badly that I could barely walk or I’d have to lay in a dark room to deal with a migraine. Fast forward to my mid-twenties and I was living in NYC, working in the music industry and my pain was so severe and constant that I’d have to call in sick to work or ice down my neck at my desk. I wasn’t sleeping, I popped my jaw out of place from grinding my teeth, and I was having a lot of anxiety. This is when I started going to acupuncture (even though I’m scared of needles) and got interested in using food as medicine. Luckily now I’m almost never in pain. When I do have a flare up I have the tools to deal with it right away!
Q: Tell us about your path to creating your business and your vision
There’s no short answer for this, but I knew that I wanted to do more than handle concert ticket requests and read contracts for the rest of my life. Two years ago I was laid off from my job (about two weeks before I was planning to give my notice. What’s up SEVERANCE!!). I started Nannying for a high profile family, traveling, and getting to see how the “other half” lives, while I figured out what I wanted to do. Somewhere around that time I found The Academy of Healing Nutrition, which certifies people to be Health Coaches and uses principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda (traditional Indian medicine), macrobiotics and a longevity diet. I completely freaked out when I found them, because it was everything that I was interested in and everything I wanted to share with other people!
Q: What is your philosophy on healing or overcoming health challenges.
I believe that knowledge is power. Without getting too deep into the political and economic issues involved in the U.S. healthcare system…a lot of money has been spent to make people feel like their Doctor knows all and a magic pill (with all sorts of crazy side effects) is the only path to health. When we give people information from all sides – Western and Eastern; modern and ancient, we empower them to take their health into their own hands.
Q: How have you used adversity in your life to fuel your commitment to balance and wellness?
A few years ago I was so physically and emotionally unwell. I was having anxiety attacks in my sleep and would start having “Monday morning dread” on Saturdays. Like I mentioned, I actually popped my jaw out of place from grinding them and barely slept for about 6 months.
I know how bad it can be and now that I’ve climbed out and onto the other side – I KNOW I’m not willing to go back! I’ve got so many To Dos! I want to travel, I want to start riding horses again, I want to run a 5K, I want to volunteer at an orphanage in Africa, become a great photographer and a trained yoga teacher.
Sometimes eating and drinking some rather odd things seems daunting, but the alternative…eating and feeling like crap again is just not an option.
Q: How do you stay healthy, resilient and vibrant?
I drink lot’s of good quality teas. Green tea, Tulsi tea, He Shou Wu, Longevity tea from Dragon Herbs as well as Chinese mushroom teas like Reishi and Chaga. Another huge thing is Zinc. It boosts the immune system and will nip an oncoming cold in the bud. I’ve had skin problems since I was pretty young, but consistently using Zinc is one of the only things I’ve found to really keep things clear!
Q: What tips do you recommend for your clients dealing with / healing from illness?
There are a ton! Start adding real foods to your diet (nothing from a box!). Keep moving. Even if you start with teeny tiny movements, it’s important to keep the joints and muscles flexible. There are lot’s of yoga and stretching videos that you can find online for free and on youtube. Some are specifically geared towards people who are chronically ill. Work on reducing inflammation and exposure to chemicals (both in food and in your environment). I’m also a huge fan of acupuncture and EFT (aka tapping).
Q: If there was only one thing a person could find the energy and resources to make a priority what would it be?
Work on your digestion. Take a good quality probiotic and incorporate probiotic foods and drinks into your diet. (Examples: raw sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, Kombucha, Kefir) You cannot heal the rest of your body until your digestive system is working correctly. None of the good stuff you consume will be able to do its job if it’s not being absorbed and sent to the right place. Amazingly, we actually have hundreds of millions of neurons (brain cells) in our stomach and we need to support them in being able to do their work!
Q: What is your favorite inspirational quote for healing?
I love quotes, can I do two? First is one from Louise Hay which I read the night I decided to quit the music industry:
“Give yourself the green light to go forward and joyously embrace the new.”
The other is from Eleanor Roosevelt:
“Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes.”
From a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, a lot of chronic health issues come from stuck qi or unresolved emotions that cause pain and stagnation in the body, so that quote means a lot to me – as someone who doesn’t always like speaking up for themselves.
Ashley Williams, HHC, moved to NYC in 2006. She’s way closer to 30 than she looks. She spends her time hanging out with other people’s kids, getting out the vote and using a friend’s Netflix account. She loves people who take MASSIVE action – not just for themselves but for the betterment of the world. She has a crazy one-eyed dog and could exist entirely on hummus. Oh and she used to be in pain all the time, but then she healed herself.
Spoiler alert: you. can. too.