It was the July of 2018, I was a chaplain to a group of High School Volunteers in Lourdes, France and I was about to enter into the Baths near the Grotto. As I stood there at the edge of the pool I made a quick prayer to Our Lady. I offered up all of who I was which, at the time, was a lot. I weighed 308 lbs., which was about 35 lbs. heavier than I had been when I arrived at my parish three years earlier. It still wasn’t the heaviest I had been in my life, having peaked at 321 lbs. back in 2010. In my prayer to Our Lady I included my health and my struggle with weight gain. I had dieted and exercised in the past and even seen a nutritionist before, but I was never able to stick with what was suggested to me. In the spring time I had spoken to a priest friend about the need to get my nutritional health under control and seek out professional help. Just before I entered the bath I promised Our Lady that when I returned to Connecticut from Lourdes, I would seek out a nutritionist.
After drying myself off, I emerged from the men’s bathhouse to find teens from my group talking to two young adults from Long Island. One of these was Jackie Mulligan. During my service in Lourdes, I spoke with a French doctor who was a volunteer also and talked to him about my desire to correct my eating habits and lifestyle to live healthier. He suggested finding a nutritionist when I got home. Later that week, on one of the last nights there, I (literally) ran into Jackie again and had a conversation with her about her time there and the pilgrimage she was on. “What do you do for work?” I pried—“I am a Holisitic Nutritionist!” She told me. “Not only do I work with people on better food choices, but we work together to make lifestyle changes to help them build stronger connections to themselves, their health and their faith through wellness at every level: physical, emotional and spiritual.” An answer to my prayers! I shared with her my struggles with weight gain and eating habits. “When we both get back to the USA, I would love to work with you on that!” She assured me.
Beginning in September I met with Jackie every two weeks for four months over the phone to change my diet and lifestyle habits to help me to live a healthier life. By no means was it easy! I was drinking way too much coffee and needed to cut back and that first week was tough. However, as I eliminated inflammatory foods, drank water throughout the day more consistently, set a regular sleep schedule, and stopped “screen time” on my phone and the computer an hour before bed each night, I began to notice some huge differences in my energy level and before long I began to notice differences in my body composition. I was losing weight and went down four notches on my belt! I now weigh 243 lbs. and feel great!
Working with Jackie has been a joy. She provides me with constant encouragement and give me the “tough love” when necessary. Jackie is consistently available to answer questions along the way and provide inspiration to push through plateaus. She has a lovely sense of humor and is always looking to adjust with me to fit my needs for each time we connect. I can’t recommend Jackie enough! Working with her has literally been an answer to my prayers!
-Fr. Andy Vill