Health blogger and former model Gracie Balev, 27, has emerged from a life-changing struggle with Lupus as a self-managed patient and budding entrepreneur eager to share her message of hope and healing with the world.
Today, Gracie is a Holistic Health Coach, Nutritional Therapist, Wellness Writer, Speaker and Director of newly launched wellness company Goodness Gracious Wellness. She is passionate and eager to share her hard-earned wisdom with those who need it most. Her message: no matter what the circumstances, health and happiness are always possible.
Once a seemingly perfect picture of wellness, Gracie admits to taking her fitness efforts too far in recent years, and paying the price with her health. 'I silently struggled with a host of issues, including eating disorders, chronic stress, depression and anxiety, PTSD, and chronic fatigue for far too long, and my body was finally forced to wave the white flag," recalls Gracie. This white flag was Lupus.
'The year following my diagnosis was agonising in every sense. I completely lost myself to the disease before hitting rock bottom with the experience of a mini-stroke. This rock bottom turned out to be a huge catalyst for positive change that I am now deeply grateful for."
Although she was told that her only option would be indefinite treatment by chemotherapeutic and immunosuppressive drugs, Gracie felt certain there was 'another way". A newfound commitment to self-empowerment led to education and determination that informed and inspired a new, holistic way of living and healing through what she simply calls 'Goodness".
'My healing began with a deep commitment to my wellbeing. It became crystal clear that if something in my life didn't serve me, it was my responsibility to release it," attests Gracie. 'Every day, in every possible way, I began to give myself Goodness; that is, the self-healing that comes from self-nourishment. I practiced Goodness in Mind, Body and Spirit and learned along the way that this approach had the potential to change many lives beyond my own. This is why Goodness is my message and my mission today."
Gracie spreads this powerful message through her company Goodness Gracious Wellness which offers Holistic Health Coaching and Nutritional Therapy programs, wellness workshops, presentations, e-books, and endless inspiration through a highly engaging online and social media presence. Whether you have a specific health concern or simply wish to feel less stressed and more balanced, these uniquely holistic and fully customisable offerings are designed to cater to your specific needs and help you feel lighter and brighter long-term.
'More Goodness, More Wellness isn't just a slogan," affirms Gracie. 'I want everyone to know that they are powerful beyond measure in their capacity to access radiant health and sustainable happiness. I'm so excited and honoured to be able to guide others to the Goodness that changed my life forever."
Visit the following links for more information on Gracie's journey and Goodness Gracious Wellness:
Question: What inspired your passion for 'goodness"?
Gracie Balev: My passion for Goodness was born from my personal wellness journey. I experienced a severe deterioration of my health in recent years, from a broad range of issues including Anxiety, a mixture of eating disorders, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia and Lupus. It was the concept of Goodness that illuminated my path to holistic healing, and it was witnessing my transformation through this simple way of life that ignited a burning passion and drive to share it with the world.
Question: How would you describe 'goodness"?
Gracie Balev: Goodness is the feel-great energy that fuels your wellbeing when you choose to nourish your Mind, Body and Spirit. It's the simple yet profound gift of self-nourishment that restores, recalibrates and renews your whole Being to true and lasting Wellness. Any act of self-nourishment is an act of Goodness.
Question: Can you share more information about your struggle with Lupus?
Gracie Balev: I was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus and Fibromyalgia just before Christmas of 2015. This diagnosis was a long time coming – for years, I'd been the girl who was always absent from school, work and social gatherings because I was 'sick again". It was a sort of lingering virus, at least, that's the best explanation doctors could offer me at the time. Now I know there was something more serious developing, which was absolutely fuelled by misguided lifestyle choices in my earlier years. I was starving myself, overexercising, and pushing through an endless fog of chronic stress and fatigue daily, until my body finally waved the white flag and I was completely bedridden.
After the diagnosis, there was a period of at least 6 months where things got a whole lot worse before they started to get any better. My condition deteriorated each day, leaving me immobile, unable to work, struggling to put sentences together, read or write because of the intense brain fog and disorientation, in excruciating amounts of pain, swollen and inflamed, hypersensitive and breaking out in every allergic reaction you could imagine, and quite severely depressed as a result.
Once a very fit and active girl, I suddenly found myself trapped inside an out-of-control body I no longer recognised. My condition continued to worsen until I began to experience seizures among other unsettling neurological symptoms, and finally, a mini-stroke. My diagnosis progressed to Cerebral Lupus, or Central Nervous System (CNS) Lupus, where my brain and central nervous system were under attack and suffering severe inflammation. I was told that indefinite treatment by heavy immunosuppressive and chemotherapeutic drugs would be my only option if I wanted to avoid a full-blown stroke.
Despite everyone near and dear to me urging I follow this medical advice, when the time came to introduce the harder drugs into my treatment plan, I felt a strong sense of unease come over me. My intuition was communicating that this wasn't the true way forward, at least not in my case. While some of my family members could not agree with me, I decided to finally listen to my inner voice and commit to healing myself naturally, from the inside out, no matter how challenging or trying it appeared. I committed to healing my Mind, Body and Spirit through Goodness, and never looked back.
Question: How does Lupus currently affect you on a daily basis?
Gracie Balev: There is no day of my life that is unaffected by Lupus. It's something that I've accepted will stay with me for the rest of my life, but also something I uniquely appreciate as a great source of motivation and inspiration that is available to me for the rest of my life.
Healing my Lupus through Goodness is by no means a linear or finite process. It's an ongoing, day-to-day and often moment-to-moment journey and commitment to self-care and holistic nourishment. The main way I'm affected by my disease is that I am forced to live consciously. If I'm to be well, happy and whole, I'm required to stay mindful of how I think, breathe, walk, talk, eat, move and rest. There was certainly a time I viewed this as an annoyance, an inconvenience, as a burden. I'm so proud and grateful to now recognise the incredible gift that is a life stirred to consciousness.
Question: How do you treat your Lupus?
Gracie Balev: As a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and Holistic Health Coach, I believe that the root cause/s of any illness or malady must be addressed for genuine healing to take place, so I treat my Lupus naturally and very holistically, focusing on the areas of my Being that require a little extra nourishment.
Everyone is different, but for my particular case, I have worked diligently on healing my thought patterns and beliefs around food and my body, correcting various nutritional deficiencies, healing my gut, managing stress, allowing more rest in my days, identifying and respecting my limits for mental, physical and emotional exertion, putting my needs first, and being kinder to myself. There is no single remedy for any single issue, either. Many practices of Goodness that comprise my holistic treatment plan work to soothe various aspects, simultaneously. The practices in my treatment which have been most healing for me include daily yoga, meditation, and adhering to a paleo diet.
It's not always been easy, but navigating my treatment through the lens of Goodness has helped simplify things; every day, I take every opportunity I can to give my Mind, Body and Spirit a little more of the specific Goodness I need to heal, restore and rebalance, recognising that these needs are also everchanging and constantly evolving.
In situations where I might be under more stress than usual, I catch the flu or I'm unexpectedly exposed to toxins, I'm naturally susceptible to experiencing what is known as a Lupus 'flare" – a term used to describe a period of illness marked by increased severity of autoimmune symptoms. When I'm flaring, my treatment plan changes accordingly, and self-care and practices of Goodness, with added attention to nutritional supplements such as Curcumin, proteolytic enzymes and broad-spectrum probiotics, become more imperative. In the early stages of my recovery, flares would last weeks, dictate my ability to work and suppress my entire quality of life. These days, I'm able to get on top of a flare in as little as 24 hours, without the illness claiming control of the way I live. I have also been blessed not to have had the need to resort to pharmaceutical drugs in a year and a half now.
Question: Can you share with us the meaning behind: More Goodness, More Wellness?
Gracie Balev: More Goodness, More Wellness is more than just a slogan - it describes a philosophy and a way of living that grants access to a higher level of wellbeing through the implementation of intentional self-nourishment. Quite simply, the more we grant ourselves the Goodness we need, in Mind, Body and Spirit, the greater Wellness we will experience. It's about discerning and fulfilling our needs so that we can enjoy a newfound sense of health, happiness and wholeness and ultimately access our best life.
Question: How would you describe Goodness Gracious Wellness?
Gracie Balev: Goodness Gracious Wellness is a comprehensive wellness services provider that offers a refreshingly wholesome approach to health and healing through Holistic Health Coaching, Nutritional Therapy, Wellness Workshops and Consulting. Programs are designed and customised to inspire and empower wellness seekers to reclaim lasting control of their health and happiness by practising Goodness of Mind, Body and Spirit.
Question: How can we begin to practice goodness of the mind, body and spirit, today?
Gracie Balev: The first step to practicing Goodness is to tune in to your inner self and ask what nourishment is needed. To put it simply, just listen. Our state of Mind communicates through our thoughts, our Body with various feedback including physical symptoms and energy levels, and our Spirit usually speaks to us through our emotions. A great start for Goodness of Mind is to use positive affirmations in the place of negative thought patterns, e.g. 'I am healing" instead of 'I am sick". For Goodness of Body, try adding an extra serve of veggies in today, try a new form of gentle movement, or grant yourself permission to simply rest. For Goodness of Spirit, try to practice mindfulness in a way that resonates with you, whether that's meditating, journalling, or just spending some time in nature. These are all examples of acts of Goodness that can nourish the elements of Being that are calling for nurture. It all begins with listening.
Question: Do you have a morning routine? Can you share it with us?
Gracie Balev: I love beginning each day with a bit of a Goodness ritual. When I open my eyes in the morning, I like to say, 'Thank you" and list three things that I'm thankful for. This gratitude practice is my way of tuning my mindset and setting a tone of abundance for the day. I then like to drink a big glass of warm water with lemon and apple cider vinegar to rehydrate and boost digestion and detoxification, before meditating for 20-30 minutes. As I come out of a meditative state, I spend a few minutes journalling to express whatever may have come to light in the clarity of meditation before setting my intentions for the day. I specifically will write how I want to feel, what I want to manifest and something I am grateful for. After this, I practice yoga and usually go for a brisk walk before enjoying a green protein smoothie for breakfast.
My full routine takes about an hour, sometimes more if I want to go for a nice long walk. That might seem excessive to some, but it's a non-negotiable part of my lifestyle which fuels my Mind, Body and Spirit with nourishing Goodness right at the start of my day.
Creating a morning routine that fuels you and meets your specific needs is something I encourage all my clients to do – it really does make a huge impact on the trajectory of your day, from productivity, energy, presence, stress levels, happiness and overall Wellness. How you live each day is how you live your life, so starting your days right is paramount to creating to life you desire.
Question: What advice do you have for someone just beginning their holistic approach to life?
Gracie Balev: Be clear on the vision of the life you wish to create and why it matters to you. Spend time connecting with this vision every day, allowing it to inform your decisions and guide you to Goodness. When things seem difficult, return to your vision for affirmation and inspiration.
While you hold this vision in Mind, Body and Spirit, also be conscious that change is not linear, it is a process, and Wellness is, indeed, a journey. So, take it slow, have patience and be gentle on yourself. Seek support as you need it, whether from a coach or practitioner like myself, or friends and family, knowing that this is a sign of strength, not weakness. Embrace setbacks as part of the path and trust that everything unfolds precisely as needed. One small act of Goodness at a time is all the momentum you need.
Interview by Brooke Hunter