Amy Denson is a retired professional athlete and currently a nutritional therapy practitioner specializing in thyroid health. She is also the founder of the thyroid PACK where she offers one on one coaching and mentorship on thyroid issues.
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Guest conversation with Amy Denson
About Amy Denson
Amy is a retired professional athlete and currently a nutritional therapy practitioner specializing in thyroid health. She was diagnosed with her second autoimmune disorder in 2016. She went from playing professional basketball all over the world to battling professional fatigue, and not recognizing herself in the mirror at all. From her rock bottom moment, she felt a notch that told her, there had to be a better way. And she relied on her mindset built within her athletic career to pave the way to feeling like herself again. She strives to support women in advocating for their health, getting their energy back and feeling like themselves again. Join me as she shares her story and please share your takeaways.
I played college basketball at Arizona State. We had a young group and got to grow up together. We did some really cool things. We made the NCAA tournament and went as far as the Sweet 16 for the first time in school history. I lived out my dream there. And then I had the opportunity to go play overseas and play professionally. I was so obsessed with basketball. It was the only option for me. I played in Puerto Rico, Spain, Romania, Poland and Australia. I played for about eight years, and it was amazing. I love traveling. I love food. So it was awesome just to really eat my way around the world, see the world, meet people and get paid especially as a woman. I got paid as a professional to do what I loved. And that was a very unique opportunity.
And if any young women are out there, there are opportunities to go professional. I don’t think a lot of us know that.And if any young women are out there, there are opportunities to go professional. I don't think a lot of us know that –Amy Denson Click To Tweet
I always had an inkling I would retire around 30. At that point, I had been playing for eight years straight. And I was emotionally and mentally tired. I had played for about four years, year round at that point, and I still was playing well, but I was tired. I was still playing really well, but I never wanted to be the hanger on. And I wanted to retire my way. So I retired at age 30, I came back to the United States, and I knew retirement was going to be hard. But I did not know how hard it was going to be. Like you can never know what that’s going to be like. So it was just a huge transition for me, coming back to the US, which I loved, but living in one place. I was used to living out of a suitcase with a laptop, and I was totally fine with that. I was in a pretty serious relationship with my now husband. And we were trying to figure it out together. So I couldn’t get a job. Because nobody recognized me playing overseas for so long. People thought I had an eight -year gap from college to my first job. So that was really defeating. And not having that title. And to be able to say, ‘Hi, I’m Amy and I’m a professional basketball player.’ I went through a huge identity crisis. And as hard as that is, like most things, it humbled me to my knees, and it made me really have to reevaluate, well, is my identity what I do? Or is my identity, who I am? And who is that?
So I spent about three years floating around trying to figure out, what, me and my husband are both going to do. Where are we going to land? And we were both really spontaneous. If either of us had an opportunity, we’re like, ‘Yeah, let’s go, let’s go’, to just support each other. And we’re always up for new things. I did a few things here and there. And then I landed a spot coaching a small demon college. And I thought, ‘Well, duh, this is where I’m supposed to be since it’s basketball. I felt like I was a really good mentor/coach mostly because I was heavily recruited in high school. So I knew that angle. I played at a really a very competitive top university. So I knew that angle, the pressure and the perspective of that. I got to play professional, so I knew that angle as well. So I felt like I can relate to them and also be able to tell them what it takes to fulfill their dreams if they wanted to continue to play on. And I loved it a lot. I love the young women, and there’s just such a vital age to be around. But unfortunately, I was around some pretty toxic adults. And it was a situation that I couldn’t fix. It was one of the first times I really had to come to head with the fact that somebody just didn’t like me because they just didn’t like me, and I couldn’t fix it. It drove me absolutely nuts. I just couldn’t stop spinning. I couldn’t stop trying to make it right in my head. I felt like I was left out of a lot of decisions. I felt like I was trying so hard to be and I didn’t realize the stress that I was kind of accumulating with that.
My rock-bottom moment
And how did I deal with that stress? Well, I worked out harder and then I started to gain weight. So I ate less and you know my workouts were very intense, because that’s the only way I knew how to work out. Then I just started to kind of just feel worse. I had creeping symptoms along the way. And then I started to experience hair loss. I was kind of an emotional roller coaster. I know I’m an emotional person, but I felt a little bit more out of control. And I just fell off. It just kept creeping up. One day, I call it my rock bottom moment where we had hosted some friends for a weekend and I put on the face. Then, as soon as that door closed, I just started bawling to my husband and I said I literally don’t feel like myself. I just don’t recognize myself. At the time I was super puffy. So I literally didn’t recognize myself in the mirror. At 33 years old, I thought I was aging really quickly. It just didn’t make a lot of sense to me. So in that moment I ended up quitting that job with no plan B. But as soon as I did, a lot of stress was released from my body.
Speak your truth
I had a part in that and that was a really hard lesson for me to learn because I didn’t speak my truth in that job. I didn’t stand up for myself as I should have. I stayed too long in that job. And lesson learned, I will never be in a situation where my stress is physically manifesting itself. I started to have bouts of insomnia. I went to the dentist because my jaw was hurting so bad. And he’s like, ‘Well, do you grind your teeth?’ And I’m like, ‘No.’ And he’s like, ‘Well, you’re grinding your teeth and that’s a sign of stress. So I was like, Okay, ‘I’m doing this to myself. At this point, I need to leave a situation and do something about it.
So, I just went from doctor to doctor and I was diagnosed with my second autoimmune disease, which is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. It’s an autoimmune disease that affects the thyroid. A lot of times, it kind of goes hand in hand with hypothyroidism, which I have as well. I was told there’s really nothing you can do. And I said, ‘Go. Well, what is it?’ And they’re like, ‘well, it’s when your body thinks that your thyroid is a foreign invader, and it’s attacking it.’ And I’m like, okay, so how do we stop it? And they’re like, ‘Well, we really don’t. We just let it run its course until your thyroid doesn’t work anymore. And then we will start supplementing with hormones.’ And so I’m like, ‘Well, what about my hair loss? Because obviously as a woman, it’s very sensitive to feel like I’m losing a physical part of myself.
I ended up going to a dermatologist. I was just always on Google. So I thought, Oh, maybe a dermatologist can help with hair loss. And she told me, I was prematurely balding at 33. I just kept coming up against all of these walls. Nothing was spoken to me about diet, nothing was spoken to me about lifestyle. And the medication was very basic. And it really wasn’t what I needed. I did not take any at the time. So when I had that rock bottom moment, I knew in my gut, that this could not be or this would not be the way I chose to live the rest of my life. I could not live the way I live, just Monday to Friday, praying to get to Friday, resting for two days. Being so sad on Sunday, because I had to do it all over again. And the depletion in energy was just so significant, which I know now is chronic fatigue.
At night, I would be stressed. So I would have some wine to wind down. I couldn’t sleep and it was just a repetitive cycle that I know a lot of us are in. Whether you have thyroid, whether you have autoimmune. It’s the nine to five grind. And we tend to get in that rut so easily. Where we’re just living for the weekends. And then it’s like on the weekends, you’re like, ‘do I really want to do anything, because that’s my downtime. That’s my rest time. That’s my restorative time.’ So if I do something, I’m going to be taking even more from my battery, which I don’t have a lot right now. And I did not want to live my life negotiating through my symptoms.
We are missing empathy
In that moment, I started to do my own research. I found the most wonderful naturopath who has supported me for the last two and a half years. And with her help and support, I started to feel better. And just recently, I was certified as a nutritional therapy practitioner. So I can help women who are in this rut. Having their rock bottom moments, who are going to their doctor telling them their symptoms, telling them they’re stressed, telling them they’re tired and being dismissed, because everybody’s tired, and everybody’s stressed. And you know what, all you got to do is eat less and workout more. And I think really what we’re missing overall is empathy. We’re missing the piece of ‘I see you and I’m here for you and we’re going to figure it out’. So that’s me starting to take control of my life, my journey. And now that I feel better and a lot of times when we feel better, it perpetuates into so many other areas of our lives. This is my big motivation to pass this torch, and help other women because I wasted, I don’t want to say I wasted, but I went through two extra years of feeling like crap when I think it was unnecessary. So that’s my story.
The beautiful part out of all the pain
Sitting here today, I’ve never felt more stable in my own body. And so to those two years, it is just almost like an out of body experience when I think about it. Because I felt just so disconnected. And also still going through a lot of the identity stuff. I heard or read this, the other day, ‘you’re going to go through a lot of similar situations, and until you properly deal with it, that same type of thing, you’re going to come running against it every single time’. And I really think that, that lesson in people not liking me, or really trying to just adapt to fit in. It was a real smack in the face, because it was a really long duration of doing that. But I also think it was my opportunity to be like, ‘This is enough’. And that is a beautiful part that came out of that. Even amongst all of the pain really.
Knowing our worth
Who knows what their perspective is? The biggest lesson for me is that I did not. I am a super successful professional. I’m pretty outgoing, extroverted when I’m around people. I love people I really love. This is my jam though I like the serious. I like the one on one, I like that a lot. But I didn’t recognize nor feel grounded in my worth. And that’s what was projecting. So I was projecting me not even being or feeling worthy enough to know who I am or my self- worth. And I feel like I put out that energy. And that was an easy target. And that for me is what I’ve. I mean, it’s always something that I’m working on. And I think a lot of us are. Especially in this world where we’re online, and social media and you’re trying to run a business and you’re trying to, obviously, for you and I both I want to be genuine, I want to be me. And then you also go up like battling against like saying the wrong thing, and bla bla, all those types of things. So I really think that a lot of that comes down to knowing who we are. And knowing our worth.
I was doing an interview, and it was not really about my business at all. It was really about me as an athlete. And one of the memories that I had on his question was I grew up in a really small town. And there is an NAIA college there. And at the time, for years and years, the men’s basketball program has been amazing. The coach is a Hall of Famer. And he was always so supportive of me. I would be at summer camps with maybe one other girl, and there would be 100 boys. I was young, so he’s like, ‘Oh, were you like trying to prove Beauvoir’ and I was like, ‘No’ I wasn’t trying to prove anything. I went out there and I wanted to, take the first shot. I wanted to make sure I hit the other guy first. I wanted to set my presence there. It was never about proving anything. Women’s basketball needs to be as prevalent as this. I want you to respect me as a competitor, because I was young. I’ve always had that underdog mentality because I grew up playing with the boys. And the only reason they ever picked me up is because I was taller than all of them. I always went into it knowing I’d basically have to throw the first punch. And I was going to let you know that I was here. I had that mentality passed when I was still young. I just wanted to play. Having the opportunity to play overseas, I made decent money. I didn’t make anything near what a man would.
We don’t make anything near what a man would make in that same position, same league. The first frustrating thing about that is that we’re putting in the same time effort, if not more. It’s an ongoing struggle. It’s an ongoing fight to be recognized. And it’s so annoying.
But at the same time as annoying as that is, I’m so grateful for the opportunity that I had. I’m so, so grateful I was able to make money and be able to live out my dream. And it was so amazing over in Europe and Australia. Women’s basketball is supported. It’s really supported. I played in a lot of smaller communities, which was even better. They have a lot of hometown pride. The women’s game is very much family oriented. So we had a lot of kids around, and you can make real impact to the community and all of the good things came with that.
Being intentional about gratitude
We go through hard things. And not all are hard things, some are extreme. A lot of times extreme change comes through extreme circumstances. A lot of times I deal with a lot of clients really wanting to have weight loss as the number one thing. Which is great. That’s amazing. The way I look at health, small changes over time, it takes time. And so very rarely does that extreme change stick. That’s why I think it’s so important. And I know everybody’s probably heard of this all the time now, if you follow any coaches, but we have to be intentional about being in a state of gratitude at some point in our day. Because when we are in an extreme situation, when we were locked down on our homes, when people are losing their jobs or getting sick, it really forced us into some sort of gratitude for some part of our life. And if not, hopefully now you are getting some sort of normalcy back, let’s have some gratitude for that. And so if we don’t take some time to be intentional about what we are grateful for today. It’s so easy to get back into that rut. It’s so, so easy. And I think it’s important to understand we can be grateful for where we’re at, but we can also desire more. And those can live in the same space. If that’s not where you’re at right now. That’s okay. We can always find something to be grateful for and then let’s set up a plan to get used that whatever you’re desiring, whether it’s health, money, time, freedom, whatever that looks like. So I think, yeah, it’s human nature, unfortunately, to go right back to the things that we said we would never do. That’s okay, that’s human nature. But we’ve got to have awareness around that. We’ve got to slap some gratitude with it and really be grateful. And then figure out what that more looks like for you.
If we don’t take some time to be intentional about what we are grateful for today, it’s so easy to get back into that rut. And I think it’s important to understand we can be grateful for where we’re at, but we can also desire more. And those can live in the same space
– Amy Denson
Take little risks
It’s tiny steps of courage, or you can look at it as taking risks to build courage, probably a little bit of risk taking. And once you take a first little step into something that feels uncomfortable, and you figure out that it is probably not as bad as you thought, it’s going to be because a lot of times we assume everything is going and I do this, I assume the worst absolute worst case. And then I build it up. So if we can just push past that. Because a lot of us were worried about the unknown. Start taking little risks. You’re going to start building courage. I think that if we can just start taking steps and see what’s on the other side of those risks. Opportunity starts to come before you and the things that you probably weren’t, couldn’t anticipate, weren’t aware that they were even out there. I started my own business and it took me a whole half a year to tell anybody without downplaying it as a side hustle. I have all these stories in my head. I’m not a business person, I don’t know how to make money. What does a business owner do? What does that mean? – all of these things and not wanting to tell people I started my own business.
So there is a lot of mindset around what we deserve money wise. What we deserve relationship wise, friendship wise, career wise, impact wise. And we always tend to put up our own limitations and that’s okay. It’s a mechanism of safety our brain is trying to help us with but we have to be aware of what’s helping us safety wise, and what’s holding us back? And what is on the other side of one little risk what is on the other side of 70 out of your comfort zone just a little bit? Because once we start to get in a rhythm of doing that, doors start to open. You start to meet people. so that’s an example of different opportunities coming out of one for my big scary decision but I couldn’t not if I wanted to help the women I want to help.
Things that play with our confidence
It’s ironic that we’re in the United States; the most tech advanced that we’ve ever been. Appliance wise, everything and we are the sickest we have ever been as a nation. There is a huge gap. And it makes me fearful for where we are going, the trends we are going and what we have just experienced over the last two years. Our health is everything. The strength of our bodies to fight off anything is everything. I feel like just having a different perspective on health. It’s just the basics. But especially with women to get out of the fad diet stuff. To get out of the societal pressure stuff that we all have in our heads that this is how you’re supposed to age. You had a baby, you should be bounced back by now, or you should be this, you should be that. Oh, you’re a professional athlete, I probably should look a certain way or I should probably have that same body. All of these things play with our confidence that we all go through. So, I want there to be a drastic change in our health. But I want it to be done in the right way. And especially with women, we have a lot of hormone stuff going on with our thyroid, with autoimmune. There are different ways we have to approach our bodies when we are in that state. And by state I mean a high stress state. And what we have been told is losing 10 pounds in two weeks. Three shakes a day with a piece of meat at the end of the day. We’ve got to get away from chasing a result and putting our bodies through it in the meantime.
Our health is everything. The strength of our bodies to fight off anything is everything
Let us chase some energy
I talked about this a lot in my rock bottom moment. Yes, I had some weight to lose, but I didn’t. That was not on the top of my list. I wanted to feel like myself, and I wanted energy to live my life the way I wanted to live my life. Those were my two things. And the way I coach my clients is we are going to chase energy. And we’re going to let weight loss be a byproduct of that energy. Because then we take the focus off of the number. And we put the emphasis on how we feel. Because we can do and I love me some blood work, we can do all the blood work, we can take all the tests. But we also need to combine those results with how you’re feeling, which I also think is lacking right now in our medical field, we’re taking the tests, and we’re not doing the full tests. And we’re giving one number and saying, Well, this is normal, so you’re fine. Well, how are you feeling I don’t feel fine. So let’s shift our perspective. Let’s chase some energy. Let’s chase you feeling good in your skin. Let’s chase you being able to chase your babies around. Now be outside with all of those things that matter.
Know your gifts
Weight loss is a great goal to have. But we are so caught up in it, that it takes us on an emotional roller coaster, along with our fluctuations, which are totally normal as women. And so that is my mission. And that is my challenge. I know enough of us don’t have the confidence that we should. I look at you and I can say all of these wonderful things about you and how I feel. Like how you make me feel. But if you don’t believe that, it doesn’t matter. And we need more of us to know our gifts, to know ourselves. To know how we want to impact the world, how we want to lead ourselves. Because I think if we get into all of that and work through some stuff. We are not only going to be leading by example. So people are going to be coming up to you like ‘what are you doing?’ Weight loss or not. They’re going to ask you what are you doing. Because your energy is changing, your vibe is changing. The way you speak to yourself is changing, to the way that you speak to others. And then I think also it’s going to bridge the gap for women supporting more women. Because I think that needs to change. I’ve told myself the story for so long, that I’m just a guy’s girl. I just have a hard time having friendships with women. I guess. Women don’t get me. More of it had to do with me and my confidence. More of it had to do with me and my self-worth. It had nothing to do with the other women.I know enough of us don't have the confidence that we should. I look at you and I can say all of these wonderful things about you and how I feel. Like how you make me feel. But if you don't believe that, it doesn't matter. –Amy Denson Click To Tweet
How to get in touch with Amy Denson
Right now I’m just on Instagram @thethyroidpack and so the pack coaching is my business. PACK stands for Purpose, Accountability, Consistency and Knowledge. And also just a pack mentality, because I love teamwork. And I think, especially with women, we can do some powerful things in numbers. Just dm me @thethyroidpack. The Website is coming. And right now I’m just offering one on one coaching. And in 2022, I may or may not be hosting a retreat for women. So details will be coming. Because I love the idea of the magic that can be created in a container that’s in person, and with the right group of women that are intentional about their growth.
It’s okay to be vulnerable
It’s really rejuvenating especially when you’re willing to get a little vulnerable. You’re going to get a lot out of it. And that’s what I hope to continue to do in platforms like this too. I don’t have any shame talking about my issues of people not liking me or my issues with me thinking that I’m just not fit to be, around other women or anything like that. I think the more vulnerable we are the more relatable we are. And that’s really what it’s all about.
Note to 16-year-old self
You are perfect the way you are. And you do not have to spend so much time trying to adapt to and with others to fit in. Enjoy the process, and don’t rush it.
The more vulnerable we are, the more relatable we are
Thank you so much for stopping in, with so much love,
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