Foodie, Infertility and the Reinvention of Audrey Dickinson
Creating community has always been at the very heart of FloLab; getting people out of a lonely rut of working from home or alone in cafes and bringing them together to create a supportive, positive and open community which is always there for you to tap into.
This project is an opportunity for us to showcase the friends and founders of FloLab, and give you a flavour of who we are and what we're all about.
Part One of this blog series is a summary of a cosy chat between FloLab founder Emma Smillie and nutritional therapist Audrey Dickinson, of Nourish and Flourish Nutrition. Audrey shares how she transformed her life and career following years of unexplained fertility issues, divorce from her husband and having to re-think her career in the food industry. A moving and inspiring account of her personal reinvention!
Audrey will be giving a workshop on How to Achieve Hormone Health Harmony at FloLab on April 26th.
Q. Where are you from and how did you come to be living in the Hague?
I'm from Scotland and came to Holland with my ex-husband. We had been living and travelling abroad for many years and we decided to come back towards Europe, closer to my family, closer to the European mentality, because I had lived the last two years in far east Russia which was quite difficult.
Q. Wow! What was it like living in far east Russia?
Do you know what? Here's the thing, they didn't come across as being very friendly. I can tell you a funny story to explain. We were living in an apartment block amongst local people but none of the neighbours ever smiled or even looked at us. There was this one lady who used to sit outside everyday eating sunflower seeds and she'd crack the shell open with her teeth and then spit that bit out. Every morning as I left my apartment I would see her, wave and say “good morning” but she would never respond. Until after a year and a half, she waved at me one morning! That day I was delighted, it felt like a little victory and I thought ‘Ive cracked it!”.
I really like a culture with an open face, that you feel has an energy that you can connect with. That's not the case in Russia and I really found that hard. I tried to learn the language but I wasn't successful. I became quite involved in the expat community there which wasn't huge. So I really wanted to come back as well, I think, just for work opportunities for me.
Q. How do you find living in the Hague?
This will be my 9th year in the Hague and I find life here very easy. Sometimes I think it's too easy! It can be a bit of a bubble because everything's so accessible and so safe. I really enjoy it but sometimes I miss my own culture. Dutch culture is a lot more serious than Scottish culture but I absolutely love the environment I live in here in the Hague. It's so green, with lots of nature and I love cycling everywhere. If I could take those things and merge them with the things I love about Scotland that would be my ideal world. For many years I've been in my head with the dilemma, should I go back home? should I stay? But actually, I do love my life here.
Q. What do you do for a career?
I’ve actually been really lucky in my career, for 13 years I worked in the food industry. In every country I've lived in, I was able to work in that industry. I've met so many people from professional chefs to home cooks who taught me something about food and that's been really lovely.
I was always fascinated by food, and I think it wasn't until I started to live in Sri Lanka that I was really exposed to the Ayurvedic principle. And how they use that as their medicine to heal the body in a natural way. I remember visiting a spice garden and seeing exactly how the spices are grown. In Scotland we would never see that, that really fascinated me.
After years of working in kitchens, I was starting to feel a lot of pain and because I'm small, for one - plus everything in Holland is so tall I was constantly reaching for everything. My pain developed into carpal tunnel syndrome, which travelled up into my shoulder. I was coming home from work every day in pain feeling pretty miserable. I knew that I still wanted to be working in the food industry, I just wasn't sure how to make it work. Either I wanted to become a Michelin star chef working in fine dining establishments or I wanted to understand how does food impact the body? How does the body use these nutrients? That totally fascinated me. From a biochemical side of things.
Q. How did you decide which path to take?
I went in to work in [a] restaurant, volunteering for six months and had the most amazing time. Learning from people who were like half my age and had such amazing inspiration and creative ideas. But! They were half my age. And they had the energy but for me, I was really giving all my energy and physical ability to work for the day, but I was just exhausted. So at that point, I thought, "right, I'm going to study nutritional science and therapeutics" and I did that for almost four years.
I graduated and was qualified in January 2018, since then I have been getting out there and meeting people, running lots of workshops on my favourite topics such as Hormone Harmony and Fermented Food Goodness and offering clients one to one sessions and weight loss programmes. Its been going really well and I've been enjoying getting out there and helping people.
Fertility issues are another thing that pushed me to nutritional therapy. Because I went through many years of that. It was such a hard time in my life, flying back and forth from Russia to the Netherlands for treatments. When I think of how taxing the jet lag and the stress must have been on my body it was really hard but no one really at the time ever spoke to me about nutrition. They never spoke to me about how that would be another area to look at.
We were always told by the doctors it was an unexplained infertility. There was never, ever, ever anything found, so I think that was another thing that made me think, I need to go and share this with other people. Because, yes, there are many reasons why someone can't have a child. But, when you look at that whole holistic lifestyle spectrum, nutrition is a really important part of that.
So, that is another thing that really made me think, right. Yeah. We need to get this message out. I need to support other men and women; I need to let them see what is actually going on inside of their body because of what they're eating.
Q. How do you feel now that you have achieved what you wanted and transformed your life and career?
It gives me real tingles right through my body, actually! Sometimes I’ve got to pinch myself, that this is me now. When I think back to when I was traveling around the world, I was at that time following my husband's jobs. So I was actually someone who was really good at adapting to my environment. Wherever I was, I could find something to do. It was always to do with food, whether it was a small catering business I had or a job. But, yeah, you're following your husband, so you're almost following their dream in a way and not your own, without you actually knowing that the whole time.
So to think about myself back then, it was an amazing experience, I'd never change it but to land back in Holland and find yourself divorced was quite hard. I kept thinking “should I go home? What should I do?” But I was so determined that this may actually be a sign for me. It felt like my opportunity to find my passion and purpose, which really charged me forward.
That really was just an amazing feeling, actually, once I graduated and thought, right, here I am. I've been revamped into this new person. And I'm ready to go and share my message about health because some people in this world really suffer from many inflammatory problems which I can really help them with.
Q. Tell me about your current workspace, what do you like and dislike about where you currently work?
I mostly work from home which I love. I love welcoming clients into my home. I like to create an atmosphere that's very calm so that my clients feel relaxed and settled. That's really important when I'm doing my consultations, that they can be themselves and there's no stress involved. I also do my cooking workshops from here, the only downside is I am limited in space.
Q. What attracted you to the FloLab community and how has being part of the community impacted your life?
It really caught my attention immediately on Facebook. When I saw there was a wellness co-working group coming together being mindful of the way that you work on the same wavelength really attracted me.
Since then, I love coming to the FloLab meetups. I just love that we're all on the same wavelength, many of us at the beginning of our new businesses and that we really help each other. I've always come away every week with a new tip. Like a new thing that I didn't know for the business or for example when I really needed a good accountant then boom! I was connected to one. I love that exchange of information.
To find out more about Audrey and her work, visit www.nourishenflourish.com.
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