Actress, model, dancer, yogi, author entrepreneur and mother—yep, that’s Jesse Golden for you! However, after being diagnosed at the age of 29 with Rheumatoid Arthritis, a condition which the body’s immune system causes pain and swelling in joints, she had to make changes to her nutrition and physical activity to improve her quality of life. Now she’s helping others do the same.
Golden grew up in Chicago, Illinois—learning about the intricacies of ballet at her mom’s dance studio.
“My mom had a dance studio that I was basically raised in. Dance was my life,” Golden tells me.
As a teenager she was already 5’10”—making her taller than most ballerinas. That didn’t stop her from pursuing a professional dance career.
I have always admired the self-discipline of ballet dancers. What they do is not easy but it looks absolutely beautiful.
One of the dancers from Miami City Ballet once said, “That’s the challenge – hiding the pain behind the beauty. You have to maintain your body as an instrument; otherwise, everything starts to fall apart.”
It’s exactly what Golden was trained to do as well.
“I was trained to make pain look graceful,” says Golden.
The life lessons she learnt from ballet laid the foundation for the rest of her life. There were a lot of things happening at home and dance became a way for her to positively channel her emotions.
“I didn’t grow up in like a perfect family and dance was really a way for me to release whatever emotions I was going through and transmute different energy.”
Golden’s mother remarried several times. There was alcohol and drug abuse in the family.
“I always felt like I was the parent so I had a lot on my plate to keep everybody. I was mentoring and trying to keep everybody calm and trying to get everybody to get along.”
Amongst all of the turbulence happening at home, Golden could still turn to ballet.
“Dance literally saved my life for the emotional stuff that I was going through as a child.”
Dancing and all that was happening at home was too much for her to manage. So, at the age of 17 she packed her bags and traveled to Florida and worked at her aunt’s furniture store.
Her aunt saw that she had so much more potential.
As Golden and I sit and converse she tells me, “She actually dragged me to a modelling search.”
I listen in as she tells me more. “I had done modelling—child modelling in Chicago—but I actually hated it. I think because my schedule was already so full with dance. I just thought, it’s another thing that’s not going to allow me to be a kid.”
What you need to keep in mind is that during the ‘90s modeling search contests were huge. Golden officially began her professional modeling career at 18. The pay was good and so was the freedom—the freedom to do whatever she wanted to do.
But there was one problem.
“I didn’t like the idea that I was being judged on the way that I looked,” she confesses to me. However, growing up as a dancer made her bulletproof to criticism.
It was during her modeling career that she met a handsome Hawaiian gentleman. The two had a bunch of mutual friends and were quickly drawn to each other.
“I got pregnant unexpectedly but he was so ecstatic about it. I was 25 so I wasn’t necessarily young.”
Golden raised her son Kaleo as a single mother.
“Kaleo and I made the best team,” she says. “I was willing to do whatever it took to give him the best life possible.”
When she turned 29 she started started noticing that she was always tired and rundown even after sleeping for 12 hours. “It started with feeling like I had the flu, I would get the fever and I would be exhausted.”
Her hands and legs started also started to swell up. She went from doctor to doctor, but nobody could figure out what was wrong with her. Golden went many months not knowing the cause of her symptoms until she was given the diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA).
Other symptoms of RA include:
- Pain and stiffness lasting more than 30 minutes in the morning or after sitting
- Weight loss
- Rheumatoid nodules or lumps beneath the skin mainly in the hands, elbows or ankles.
In our conversation she tells me the experience of being diagnosed with RA as humbling. “ I always was going, going, going. All of a sudden I was forced to sit still with myself and my own thoughts.”
Each year 1.3 million Americans are diagnosed with RA. Women are at a 4% risk whilst men are at a 2% risk of developing the condition. It generally starts in the ages of 30 and 60 however, RA can strike at any age.
The cause of RA is still unknown but what is known from scientific studies is that multiple risk factors could contribute, such as:
- Lifestyle (e.g. smoking).
While there is no cure, the condition can be managed to allow people to regain their independence and quality of life. Golden started making changes to her diet which included removing:
- Nightshade vegetables (e.g. tomatoes and potatoes)
Spirituality was also a huge component to her wellness.
“The philosophies of yoga and being kind to myself and changing the inner dialogue and allowing myself to rest and listening to those signals, all of these things were big changes for me.”
Although she was unwell, she still took opportunities to work. She starred in the movie Land of the Lost with Will Ferrell playing the lead role. Her driving force to keep working—her son.
“My son is the driving force for pretty much everything that I do, just wanting to be able to give him the quality of life that he deserves.”
Golden chose to see all the challenges she went through as opportunities for growth and exploration. “I’ve chosen to look at it as a blessing because it’s forced me and helped me grow in areas that I would have never done otherwise,” says Golden.
One of her major accomplishments was writing her own book—The Golden Secrets to Optimal Health. There are four major health and wellbeing tips from her book which include:
- REPLACING NEGATIVE THOUGHTS WITH POSITIVE ONES
When you have a negative and unhelpful thought, combat that with two positives. The human brain is built for negativity as a survival mechanism. By actively training yourself to see positivity, you allow yourself to see more of the wonderful things in your life.
- BEING IN NATURE
A 2010 study published in the journal Environmental Health and Preventative Medicine, found that being surrounded by nature acted as a natural way to buffer the effects of stress.
In her book, Golden describes meditation as a way to “tune in” to yourself and the present moment. “If we just quiet our brain, we can hear what it’s trying to tell us,” she says.
- LOOKING BEYOND YOUR EYELASHES
This was a life lesson that her grandmother taught her about. It means looking beyond yourself—your self-loathing, illness and challenges—and look to see what other people need so that you can be a blessing in their life.
Another important aspect for good health are supportive networks.
The relationships that she had seen and been a part of growing up did not make her jaded or discouraged about true love. Today Golden is in the best romantic relationship of her life—she had to go through a lot to be in the new relationship she is in today.
A common worry amongst those in their 20s and early 30s is the fear of being single forever. There’s a quote that the former American football player turned motivational speaker Inky Johnson once said—“Sometimes your prayers aren’t answered because you’re worth more than you’re asking for.”
For Golden, she believes you can only be in fear or love, you can’t be in both.
As we continue conversing, Golden shares the story of how she was able to be in the best romantic relationship of her life.
“I actually had an epiphany right before I got into this relationship and it was that I was completely content being alone. And I was completely content that I have my child, I have amazing people in my life that I love and adore and my cup is full. And then one night, I had this overwhelming sense of fear that crept in and I was like, my God, I don’t want to be alone for the rest of my life. That’s horrible. I want to share my life with somebody and da-da-da.
So it wasn’t out of a sense of need, it was like I am so excited to share what I have already in my life with somebody else and then that’s when he actually came into my life.
It’s all the what ifs, that’s when you got to retrain your brain and acknowledge it and then let us pass and then replace it with I am going to find the love of my life that deserves my love and whatever it is that you want to say and live in that space.
And that’s when you’re going to attract that person.”
If you have difficulty believing in yourself and your own potential, Golden has some advice:
“What would you tell your best friend? What advice would you give your best friend?” And then give yourself the same courtesy and tell that to yourself or your inner child.”
Having said that, if Golden was in a room with her 18-year-old self the advice she would give her is:
“Take every opportunity that comes your way.”
While we can’t change the cards we have been dealt in life, we can use what we already have and further nourish that to live a meaningful, purposeful and impactful life. Now that is living the “Golden” life!
Want to learn more about levelling up your health? You can pick up a copy of Jesse’s book ‘The Golden Secrets to Optimal Health’ on Amazon.
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