Trish Marma, Health & Wellness Coach
Trish Marma, Health & Wellness Coach

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) Stroke kills more than 130,000 Americans each year—that’s 1 out of every 20 deaths.  In addition to that, about 185,00 strokes—nearly 1 of 4—are in people who have had a previous stroke. In 2009, 34% of people hospitalized for stroke were less than 65 years old.




Stroke.  It’s not something I thought could ever happen to me.


At least, not in my 40’s!


I don’t smoke.  I don’t have high cholesterol. I only drink on occasion.


I’m a Nurse.  I went to one of the top Nursing schools in the country.  We learned about these things.


Graphic showing the difference between ischemic stroke and hemorrhagic strokeHemorrhagic stroke and Ischemic stroke.  


Two kinds.  We learned about two kinds.


We learned about TIAs too.  Transient Ischemic Attacks.  Mini-strokes.


I didn’t pay as much attention to them, after all, they’re “mini” strokes.  Transient means “temporary”.  So “temporary mini strokes” couldn’t be all that bad, right?


Just like our belief that the miniature candies we give out at Halloween, or “mini-eclairs” are better for us, because, well, they’re smaller and sometimes smaller IS better…right?


Mini eclairs and a white mug on a wooden backdrop


A little of something isn’t bad for us, is it?


Is it?


Let me rephrase it another way.  Would you say that a “little cancer” is not that bad?  Or that a “little heart attack” is no big deal?


Sure, there are certain things you can live with: A “little weight gain”, a “little white lie”, a “little sample” of a new product you might want to buy.


But when it comes to disease, there’s all or nothing.


You either have it or you don’t.


You either want it or you don’t?  Is that even a question?


Let me rephrase that.  You don’t ever want it.  Sometimes, though, you don’t get an option.


There’s no such thing as a “little” disease because a “little” of any disease is a lie we tell ourselves.  A “little” of any disease is sometimes the lie that we tell others because a little of something somehow sounds better.


I was 45 when I had my TIAs.  Two of them.  Plural.






I didn’t know it at the time but–wait! What did I know at the time?


I knew that street signs didn’t make sense.  I knew that I was driving an SUV going 70mph down the highway when it happened.  I knew that my 7-year-old was strapped in his car seat in the back.  I knew my husband was in Europe. I knew that spoken words made sense and written words didn’t.  I knew that when I parked my car near I was by a place where you eat things and a place that you buy things and that the place where you buy things had big red balls outside.  I knew enough to be scared.


What I didn’t know was what was happening to me…


In January of 2011, I woke up to the fact that I was unhappy.  But it was more than just unhappiness.  I WAS MISERABLE!


That misery manifested itself in many aspects of my life, but when it came to changing, I honestly did not know where to begin!  The most outwardly obvious signs were my appearance.


It’s not that I believed that how you look on the outside is the most important thing, it’s that how I looked on the outside was a manifestation of how I felt on the inside.  I’d stopped caring about myself for many reasons and for many years, but I was just waking up to the facts.


I wanted to regain who I was and it seemed my appearance was the easiest to overcome.


I’m not talking a new hairstyle or wardrobe here, though in retrospect that might’ve been cheaper.


I wanted to lose weight and look like I did before I had children.  I had my first child at 25.  I’ve also had 5 children.


You know that saying, “Go big or go home?”  Yeah, that’s what I was thinking–I was ready for a MAJOR OVERHAUL!


So I threw 20 years of Nursing experience and education right out the window and decided to sign on to consuming a 1200 calorie diet while exercising twice per day.


I cringe every time I write that sentence, but I can’t ignore it or sweep it under the carpet because SO MANY PEOPLE in the Fitness Industry promote that.  If there’s only ONE FACT that you take away from this article today, it’s that a 1200 calorie diet (or anything less), when combined with LIFE (never mind exercise) are detrimental to your HEALTH!


What the hell was I thinking?!


While the caloric intake alone was enough cause for concern, I didn’t think about the other ways I could be affecting my body.  In addition to poor macronutrient intake, there was the issue of poor micronutrient intake.


Most of the time, people don’t consider what they put in their mouths beyond, “Is this going to make me fat?”  or “Does this taste good?”


Am I wrong?


How often do you hear people talk about how micronutrients affect their brain and nervous system function, their heart health, immune system, gut, or reproductive health?


Probably never and yet, it wasn’t just the ridiculously low amount of calories that damaged my health, it was limiting the types of foods I was eating that produced such profound, negative effects!


  So what caused my TIAs?Graphic showing blood vessels in the brain

Iron deficiency

Vitamin B12 deficiency

You may already know that Iron is what helps your body produce healthy red blood cells and that those red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body, however, did you know that “Vitamin B12 deficiency may lead to nerve damage.?”  This can {also} cause tingling and numbness in your hands and feet, muscle weakness, and loss of reflexes. You may feel unsteady, lose your balance, and have trouble walking. Severe vitamin B12 deficiency can cause neurological problems, such as confusion, dementia, depression, and memory loss.”


While my TIAs were separate, profoundly frightening and temporary events, the effects of my B12 and iron deficiencies were much longer lasting.  Although I spent six months weaning myself off medications and rehabilitating my health through sound nutritional practices, I still have lingering effects regarding my balance and coordination which affect me to this day–particularly when it comes to hiking or skiing with my family and my thinking sometimes feels “fuzzy” when I’m emotional, overtired or hungry.


It’s a lesson I learned the hard way.


I didn’t compete in a Bikini Competition the year I had my TIAs, though that was one of the goals of the BootCamp I signed up for.  In retrospect, I think about the women who, like me, subjected their bodies to a potentially damaging regimen in order to step on stage.  What separated my experience from theirs?  In what ways were their bodies affected?


My goal since that time has always been to compete while preserving the integrity of my health and that is my goal again this year as I once again prepare to take the stage.


For my fellow competitors and for those thinking about competing, I have this advice:  Your health and safety should ALWAYS come first!


If you’re planning to compete, at a minimum, make sure that you understand what your objectives are and hire a coach that focuses on the importance of Nutrition, not just dropping a certain amount of weight or working out a crazy amount (or both)


Also, be sure to:


  • Obtain baseline lab values such as Iron (also known as Hgb/Hct), B12, Vitamin D, Thyroid and hormone levels as necessary
  • Take a multivitamin with Iron and B-Complex Vitamins, as well as joint supplements which contain D3
  • Eat a wide variety of foods to ensure your nutritional health
  • Ask questions


I consider myself lucky


Although I knew enough to know that what I was doing was putting myself at risk, I was naive in assuming that the twelve-week standard bikini prep time wasn’t long enough to do any damage.


I told myself that twelve weeks was only a “little” part of a year.


What I didn’t count on were the other life and health events that also contributed to my TIAs.  Want to learn more about how I turned my life around after TIAs?


Five children sitting on grass in jeans and white t-shirts

My children. Taken in June 2011, five months before my first mini-stroke.

You can read more about my story—-> here.












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