Carolyn Kaufman was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2009 while she was a Lesley student, and it consumed her. She was racked with constant pain from inflammation as the disease attacked her central nervous system and compromised her immune system.
She returned home to Miami where her symptoms only got worse. Before diagnosis, Carolyn was already struggling with obesity, but her diagnosis propelled her into a depression that made her weight soar to 357 pounds. She felt trapped by the mental, physical, and emotional weight of her situation.
This is when her studies as a holistic psychology major at Lesley provided guidance, prompting her to explore alternative healing practices that addressed both psychological and physical factors to help her manage the disease. Holistic psychology regards health as more than the absence of disease. It’s seen as cultivating beliefs and behaviors that promote wellness.
"I turned to an integrative plan that involved both Eastern and Western medicine. I believe in going to regular doctor visits, scans, and checking my blood work alongside meditation, yoga, and healthy eating," says Carolyn. "My holistic psychology background taught me that there are options outside of medication, so when I started needing a cane, I began to search for alternative paths of treatment. I still take a disease modifying medication, but I use food, exercise, supplements, and stress management to avoid other symptom management medications."
After some trial and error (and a lot of patience), Carolyn reports that she is now living nearly symptom free. Now she urges others to take a similar approach, and to go out and find what works for them, emphasizing that "...You have to really get to know your mind and body. Once you get to know yourself, you'll be able to recognize the signs when something isn't working.
Carolyn learned to manage the inflammation, in part, through changing her lifestyle and by getting at the root of chronic stress that exacerbated the illness. Her whole life, she had coped with stress and weight management issues that she believed were normal.
“This is where I was wrong,” she says. “Stress is a reality of living, but being stressed is another thing. Being stressed is a choice.”
She lost over 145 pounds and went from struggling to walk to world travel, including a five-week journey through Peru where she explored the high-altitude cultural site Machu Picchu. She also went on a meditation retreat on an island in the middle of Lake Titicaca, which is where she discovered the importance of finding peace and found her calling to help people take control of their lives.
Out of this new wave of inspiration came the idea for Without the Weight, a stress management coaching and consulting company through which Carolyn runs workshops, group coaching sessions, and speaking engagements.
“Stress management coaching is an integrative practice that focuses on building the muscle in the brain to help you combat stress,” says Carolyn. “I work with my clients on tangible exercises that help create balance between the mind and body so that people can effectively lose weight and reduce or eliminate symptoms of a chronic illness.”
Reflecting back on her diagnosis in 2009 to where she is today, Carolyn couldn't be more proud of her progress or more motivated to bring strategies for healing and wellness to others.
“I am grateful every day for having a second chance at life,” says Carolyn. “I am deeply passionate about using the tools I've learned about stress management to help people with chronic illness to take care of their bodies in a holistic and supportive way.”
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