Hi there, I’m so glad you’re here! My name is Sapana Chandra (pronounced “Sup-na Chun-dhra”). I’m a certified health coach, blogger, professional plant-based cook, and author of Plant Power Bowls (Sasquatch Books, April 2019). Over the years, I’ve struggled with numerous health challenges (including chronic migraines), an unhealthy relationship with food, and daily habits holding me back from thriving in life.
I was a pretty healthy child growing up – vibrant, healthy, and full of energy and curiosity. Although I was born in India, I grew up in the Midwest as a vegetarian. Back then, there weren’t many options for vegetarians when dining out so a majority of my family’s meals were made at home by my mother.
When I moved away for graduate school to pursue my Masters in Computer Science on the East Coast, I started living on my own for the first time. Grad school took a big toll on me as I was a full-time student and graduate teaching assistant. That left me with very little time to take care of myself.
Before I knew it, I started opting for convenience — take out, fast food, cheap processed foods (a.k.a pop in the microwave and you’re done in 3 minutes!), and a lot of “healthy” junk food (frozen waffles, “100 calories” packaged snacks, fruit-flavored yogurt).
My diet only grew worse after I graduated and joined the corporate world. Instead of eating cheap fast food, I was now dining at restaurants because I was constantly traveling for work and working long hours.
A Toll on My Health
I knew I was headed for trouble when I experienced my first migraine attack in my early-20s. At the time, I didn’t know this was only one of the many migraines I would experience in my life. Soon I was experiencing them on a regular basis. They were debilitating, excruciating and started taking over my life. I would frequently miss work and cancel plans with friends last minute because of my head. Everything was a trigger — bright lights, loud sounds, scents, traveling, chocolate, the weather, the sun, the cold wind. Living felt like a trigger.
In Search of a Treatment that Worked
Over the next decade, I visited one migraine specialist or neurologist after another, trying one treatment after another, and experiencing one side effect after another. My health took a drastic toll and I started feeling hopeless. “Is this how the rest of my life is going to be?” was a question I often asked myself.
In addition to the migraines, I was sick on a regular basis. It was one incident of strep throat after another, the flu, or another type of illness. I would end up taking a few rounds of antibiotics every year and making frequent visits to my good old PCP. Being sick so often along with my migraines led to a lot of anxiety. My quality of life quickly plummeted.
A few years ago after I moved to the West Coast, I finally decided I had had enough. I was going to try something different this time, outside of a doctor’s office and taking prescription medication. I began changing my eating habits, specifically cutting down on refined sugar and processed foods. I started adding more real whole foods into my diet. It didn’t happen overnight. I cut back on eating out and started teaching myself how to cook meals at home.
As I began making these gradual changes in my life, I started noticing major shifts in my wellbeing. I loved how I was feeling and how much more energy I had. And for the first time in my life, I wasn’t experiencing migraines on a regular basis or falling ill. I had time for….life. MY life! To do all the things I’d always wanted to do. I loved how I was feeling and how much more energy I had.
The biggest turning point in my journey occurred after my father suffered a massive heart attack and went into sudden cardiac arrest. He was rushed into emergency open heart surgery for a quadruple bypass. It was one of the most frightening days of my life, one I’ll never forget.
We never saw it coming and neither do most of the 300k+ people who suffer from sudden cardiac arrest every year, most of who never make it. Every day, I am so grateful that he is alive and doing better after changing his diet and lifestyle.
They say you find your strengths through life’s biggest adversities. What I learned from my own health issues and witnessing the sickness of the most important people in my life is just how precious health really is. And that we usually don’t realize its importance…..until it’s gone. I’ve never taken my health for granted ever since.
One of the most amazing things about being healthy is that it creates so much more space in your life to help others and make a change. Fueled by a new passion for wellness, I decided I needed to share my journey and help others.
I decided to turn wellness into a full-time career. That’s when Real + Vibrant was born.
My motto is simple: eat real (food) + live well + feel vibrant. I believe that these small everyday changes we make actually lead to big results in health and life.
While I am a vegetarian who eats mostly plant-based, I do not advocate any specific type of diet. I believe each and every one of us is unique and so are our dietary needs. What may have worked for me may not work for you. You have your unique characteristics and challenges that require unique solutions for addressing the obstacles you face in your health and wellbeing.
There are no cookie cutter solutions in regaining the power to bring balance in all aspects of your health and life. Real health starts from within, in the smallest of ways…. taking care of ourselves, living in gratitude, waking up feeling refreshed. It requires feeding our body clean foods that are non-toxic and good for us. It also means looking deep into other parts of our lives. You could be eating all the kale and spinach in the world, but it won’t make a significant difference until you address other important aspects of your life that are bringing you down.
Wishing you good health.
Photo Credit: David Em Photography