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My Story – Kathy Rivera

10-year-old-me-at-the-beach

Many people know me as Kathy, Kat, Gata, or Tiny Warrior, but discovering my passion & purpose was a journey. I’m a child of immigrant parents, I grew up eating delicious Salvadorian food and American food like Big Macs & Whoppers. Being immigrants to the United States, my family did what they thought was right and safe — assimilate to the American culture and diet leading my family to suffer from many cardiovascular diseases. No fault to them, you don’t know what you don’t know. I can’t imagine coming to foreign country not knowing the language or the culture. I’d probably would’ve done the same thing at such a young age.

As health conditions spread throughout my family, no one ever discussed them or addressed them, accepting the diagnoses and being left disempowered and leaving their health in the hands of a doctor and pills as a bandage. All the women in my family always talked about being “gorda” and needing some miracle diet to make them skinny. They would drink the “magic green tea”, the one that had you running to the toilet all day. Yea, you can imagine the horror. All I knew, I didn’t want to have to suffer, being “gorda”, feeling helpless, and being on diets and diet. This made an imprint in my life that made me hate everything that wasn’t remotely healthy (read skinny). How could I stay skinny (because skinny means healthy)? How could I prevent developing some type of cardiovascular disease and not worry about diets? Sadly, because of all the fat body shaming I developed an eating disorder, anorexia. I’d convinced myself this was the solution. I ate little to nothing, and no fault to my parents, they didn’t know about eating disorders, so they wouldn’t have recognized the signs to help me. Coming from immigrant parents, eating disorders weren’t something we were familiar with. I had no clue I was harming my body for wanting to stay skinny. I don’t recall how long it lasted, but it wasn’t until later in life I learned I had an eating disorder. Thankfully, I did overcome it and have never experienced it again.

THE END! I figured it all out and I’ve been the healthiest I’ve ever been, right? Not really, like I said, it’s been a journey. It wasn’t until I became a mother that I began to question things about what I was putting in body and how I was treating it. For most of my young adult life I was still learning about health and wellness, trying to figure out food, diets, the new magic pills, and believing in a lot the misinformation. I thought I was doing well for my family and I, but there was so much unlearning, learning, retraining, and self-love that needed to happen.

In my mid 20’s, I began my career in healthcare in cardiovascular specialty. Completely fascinated by everything I was learning, it sparked my curiosity to do my own research on health and the connection to our cardiovascular system. I questioned where my food came from? What was in my food? And why I felt discomfort when I ate certain foods? If I was feeling discomfort, how was this effecting my daughter? I couldn’t be the only one experiencing this. What was I doing to my family’s health? Working in a Vascular practice and hearing our patient’s stories completely changed how I saw my family’s health, this was the catalyst to my own health and wellness journey, transitioning into being vegetarian, working out, and I found yoga during this time.

Little did I know, this would shape my passion and dream into what is Tiny Warrior Wellness.