This story is going to feed your soul and your belly, so buckle up and get ready to meet one of the most driven young women who I’ve known in years. She’s the kind of gal who not only makes you look at your own life and ask yourself if you’re living it the right way, the healthy way, the whole way; but she also inspires you to make sure that answer is a resounding “Yes!” Interviewing her for this story is actually a big blessing as we nearly lost Alexa two years ago to a sudden illness that she was given a 1% chance of recover from, and we are all better off thanks to her survival and the lessons she learned from it that she now teaches to people around the world.
I met Alexa Rose Carlin four years ago when she was one of my summer interns. Even then she was a powerhouse: she was running her own business, a leader on her college campus and she had big plans to change the world for the better. Her passion and drive was so apparent that InStyle Magazine, who we worked with while she was interning for me, saw how special she was and hired her as an intern at their esteemed publication the following year. I spent many a free moment talking with her about entrepreneurship, motivation and life, and always left our conversations thinking, “I wish I was like her when I was younger, and I hope if I have a daughter she’s as amazing as Alexa”. I’m not exaggerating, she’s that awesome.
Fast forward to 2013. Alexa is back in Florida at college when on January 26th an event happens that changes her life forever. She goes into septic shock and in a bid to save her life doctors put her in a medically induced coma for six days. During her hospitalization the illness ravaged her body – so much so that her parents were told it was likely she would not survive. When she woke up in the ICU days later with tubes filling her body, unable to speak and unable to breathe on her own, two things became apparent to Alexa: First, that she only had control of her mind, her body was no longer hers. Second: that the only thing she was sure of was that it was not her time to die yet. And so she used her mind to help heal her body and fight the deadly illness from the inside, out.
As she has later told me and tells those lucky to hear her speak and share her story, from her hospital bed she began to envision that her mind was filled with a pink, healthy light while the rest of her body was dark black and rotting away. Alexa began to visualize herself pushing that pink light through her body, from her throat to her lungs to her toes, bringing not just the light, but health, to her entire body.
Alexa survived sepsis and there is no doubt that her mind played a large role in her healing process. Today Alexa is an entrepreneur, author, speaker, holistic health coach, the founder of Hello Perfect (a nonprofit that promotes self esteem in women in girls through wellness education) and a walking testament to the power of your mind, of self-motivation and of true determination. This isn’t to say that her life is back to normal or peachy keen 24/7. Her health trauma left her with permanent physical effects including a compromised immune system, and left an indelible mark on her soul, but neither of those things define her or hold her back.
Now let’s talk to Alexa herself…
I recently had a digital sit down with Alexa to talk about how her health crisis changed her life, and also dig into one of her latest endeavors, a cookbook (yes, this gal even wrote a cookbook) which delivers simple, vegan, gluten-free, delicious recipes to those who want to make a wellness a priority in their life, without spending hours trying to wrap their heads around it. These recipes were an answer to her post-sepsis body’s new needs and her own self’s deeper respect for the sacred physical space we all are gifted but we don’t always love and honor.
Get to know Alexa here in this quick interview, and after you’re done I’ve included some links that fully share her story including a video of her story that is sure to move you!
Finally, I’ve included my favorite recipe or hers that is one of our own most-dished up here at home – a home that houses a full-fledged carnivore who can’t get enough of it. Yes, eating healthy can be delicious.
I know I told it in my words, but can you share your own take on the story of your “Great Life Transformation” as well as the health crisis that followed?
In January 2013, during my senior year of college at the University of Florida, I developed sepsis, which is when a bacteria gets into the bloodstream and starts killing all of your organs within hours. 1 out of every 3 people who develop sepsis die. My body went into septic shock and I was induced into a medical coma that lasted for 6 days. I spent a total of 10 days in the intensive care unit at Shands Hospital.
A few months after I was discharged from the hospital, while I was living in NYC after graduating college, I got really sick again. Another deadly bacteria was growing in my body. Unknowingly I was living with a compromised immune system and digestive issues from all of the antibiotics that were pumping into my body while I was in the ICU. I was rushed in to get a colonoscopy and was diagnosed with a digestive disease. After this I also developed post-traumatic stress disorder. I quickly became extremely ill again. I was seeing numerous doctors in NYC and when one doctor told me I should go gluten and dairy free, I listened.
I wanted to learn more about the holistic path of healing so I decided to enroll in the Institute of Integrative Nutrition in October 2013, where I ended up getting my health coach certification. In January 2014, I was still very ill and suffering from extreme PTSD so I decided to move back home to South Florida to have the support of my family. I continued seeing doctors and every doctor just prescribed me more medicine and more medicine. Finally after the 25th doctor I was so fed up and I decided that I was going to heal myself through nutrition and the mind. I went completely vegan and gluten-free, started juicing every day, took wheat grass shots every day, and adopted positive thinking habits and a meditation practice. After a couple of months, I healed my body and have never looked back!
How has your near death experience and health crisis changed the way you look at life? Has it also changed the way you look at work?
Before I was induced into a medical coma, I was living life through the motions of reality. I couldn’t wait to graduate college and move to New York City. Then when I was in the ICU, I was scared I wouldn’t make it to NYC and the question that continuously popped in my head was, “Did I Live?” Did I live my life to the fullest each day while I had the chance? Did I smile, laugh, and make a positive impact in someone’s life every day? The answer was no, because I was letting negativity take control of me and I was just waiting to live my life once I moved to NYC.
My health crisis helped me appreciate each breath I take… since my breath was taken away from me. In each breath, we have a moment. This moment determines how we live our life. Are we going to let one moment ruin an entire day?
Also, while in the ICU I realized that what I used to stress about (school work, tests, parties, Hello Perfect work) doesn’t really matter when you are laying in a bed with doctors telling your mom you have 24 hours to live. Those things don’t matter as much as we make them matter and this realization has helped me tremendously in my career. You have to believe in yourself and trust the journey. You can’t let yourself stress over things that are not in your control and you have to know that it isn’t about how much you accomplish in your life but rather how many lives you positively impacted on your journey towards accomplishing those goals.
It’s one thing to give people advice online or even while speaking, but it takes a special kind of drive and passion to write a book. What pushed you to do this and share your recipes and stories on paper?
When I began using food as medicine, I found it very difficult to find recipes that suited my needs. Even when I was just gluten and dairy free while living in NYC, every recipe I found online required 20+ ingredients and I just couldn’t afford to buy that many ingredients for one recipe. (I was a college grad living in Midtown Manhattan) So once I decided to go completely vegan and gluten-free, I needed a way to make this diet a positive change in my life, even when it seemed negative at the time.
I began experimenting with cooking. I hated cooking too, but I knew I had to make this change in order to heal my body and looking at it in a negative way wouldn’t help me heal any faster so I decided to make it fun. I became a foodie on Instagram, posting all my recipe pictures and loved using cooking as a creative outlet.
With each new successful recipe I made, I wrote them down in a journal, to keep for later use. People began asking me for my recipes and a few people told me I should write a book. Once the idea was put in my head I began working on it. I knew there must be other people struggling like I was, whether it be with a digestive disease, weight loss, or just to add some easy plant-based meals into their diet, and that’s why I wrote my cookbook. My recipes are simple to make and don’t require tons of ingredients or tons of time! The Simple Gluten-Free Vegan Cookbook is for anyone who is ready to eat nutritious meals that are healthy for your mind, body and spirit.
What has been the most rewarding part of this book launch journey?
The entire journey has been amazing but I’d say the most rewarding part is when someone comes up to after I give one of my talks, and asks me to sign their book to someone in their family who is struggling with the same thing. To know that my book is making a difference in others lives is the most rewarding part of this whole journey.
Which of your recipes are your favorites?
Hmm… I love them all! I think it’s a tie between my Palm Cakes and Thai Almond Superfood Slaw!
[Note from Sabina: the Slaw is all caps AMAZING and I’m linking to the recipe down below. If you want to impress your friends at summer parties this summer add this to your menu!]
Can you share one change to your eating habits or lifestyle you made that makes you think, “Wow, that is really making a positive impact on my life!”
Happiness. When I choose to be happy, my body is healthy. When I let negativity enter my mind, my body begins to get sick again. I have found there to be a direct correlation between my happiness and my health.
If you could give advice to someone who is just starting to dip their toe into their own health and wellness journey, what would it be?
Be patient. That’s the best advice I can offer anyone who is ready to adopt healthier habits or use food as medicine. Patience is key! And remember, health is a journey, not a destination!
Want a dose of Alexa’s powerful motivation in your life? Here are a few ways you can make that happen:
- First: print this recipe out and make it a summer meal staple. It’s that good.
- Sign up for her free Monday Morning Motivation emails: Sign up for free here!
- Watch her live Morning Motivation chats on Periscope: Follow her via Alexa Rose Carlin there or watch them play via her Twitter account.
- Order her cookbook – Snag it on Amazon and let me know which recipes are your favorite!