Leah Segedie a.k.a. Bookieboo
Leah Segedie’s Official Bio
Leah Segedie is the founder of the Mamavation® community, ShiftCon Social Media Conference, food activist and social media consultant. Through the Mamavation community, she teaches “digital moms” healthy living practices to combat disease in their home. The community members of Mamavation have lost over 3,500 lbs. Leah is also a very passionate food activist. She organizes trending twitter parties monthly to educate the public about the food supply and other issues impacting public health. She also organizes blogging efforts through her network and hosts the ShiftCon Social Media Conference where green and wellness bloggers gather annually. And brands love to work with Leah because she has over 10,000 bloggers in the Bookieboo Network to create wellness related campaigns with.
Leah has been recognized for several feats in her professional and personal life such as being named “Mom of the Year” by Shape Magazine, being named the 4th most Influential Mom Blogger by Cision Media, Top 10 Woman Changing School Nutrition, compared to Lady Gaga for her unique social media tactics in The Huffington Post, and Favorite Weight Loss Blog by Fitness Magazine. Her story, communities and work have also been featured in the following publications: CNN, ABC, NBC, The O’Reiley factor, Chicago Tribune, Christian Science Monitor, The Talk, Yahoo, Ladies Home Journal, Fitness Magazine, Shape Magazine, The Huffington Post, Women’s Day, Fitness RX, International Business Times, Babble, etc.
Leah has a Masters in Communication Management from the University of Southern California. She was also Commencement Speaker during her 2001 Graduation Ceremony at the University of Southern California when she received her Bachelor’s of Arts in Communication. She lives in Simi Valley with her husband and three young children. Leah Segedie can be reached on twitter as @bookieboo or emailed at leahsegedie(at)bookieboo(dot)com.
Why Mamavation? The Very Beginning of My Story
Months after my husband and I celebrated our first pregnancy, I found out my father had Mesothelioma, which is a rare form of lung cancer derived from exposure to asbestos. So instead of celebrating life, I was forced to confront one of the saddest parts of life–the slow death of a loved one. Mesothelioma is one of those forms of cancer that have a very low survival rate. Basically, once they find it, it’s over. He was given six months to live and I vowed to be there almost everyday of it caring for him, which I did while I was pregnant, and he vowed to see his first grandchild born.
My father fought his cancer hard with conventional treatments. He wanted to be there to see his first grandchild and survive for my mom. But after looking back at it, I wish he hadn’t of sought treatment. In my opinion, it made him weaker and stole time from him…time that could have been spent doing happy things. So I understand when people say they don’t want conventional cancer treatments because I’ve seen the very ugly side of it. I’ve had an eating disorder since about 1st grade and as I took care of my father, my eating disorder kicked into high gear. I held things together for everyone, but ate my feelings so I didn’t have to feel them. During the pregnancy, I gained about 65 lbs.
In my father’s weakened state he did manage to see his first grandchild. In fact, he was at the birth on my left side seated by my head with his oxygen machine and a look of concern and excitement. He couldn’t see anything, but my mother, mother-in-law and husband could. I actually don’t embarrass easily, so this was fine by me to let my family experience the moment together. It was a gift I gave everyone…one of the last gifts I could give everyone as a family.
About three months after the baby was born, my father died and I was at his side when it happened. I remember screaming and crying when it happened because I felt like someone had just ripped my heart out of my chest. And because he died of Mesothelioma, the coroner had to come and take his body away for an autopsy, which is not a pretty sight. Then there was a funeral and a ton of family drama and when I came up to breathe, I realized that I was a mother now and I had to stop mourning. I had to be there for my baby. It’s not like I wasn’t already there for him, I was…I just wasn’t able to enjoy him as a normal mother would because of the circumstances. And that was when the world came crashing down on me. I started to look into the mirror and I was over 250 lbs. and a size 22. The weight didn’t magically disappear like I thought it would after I gave birth. I was so heavy, in fact, that I was having trouble walking. I have a genetic hip condition called hip dysplasia and when I’m at a certain weight, my hips basically give out on me and make it painful to walk. So I was extremely overweight, depressed, grieving, caring for a newborn, and unsure of what the future was going to bring.
And that’s when it happened….my Epiphany. I looked into my baby’s eyes and asked myself what kind of future I wanted for my son. And the one thing that screamed inside my soul was health. I wanted him to be healthy. I didn’t want him to be extremely overweight and sad and depressed like I was. I wanted something different for him. And I knew instinctively that I had to change my ways in order to give him a better life, because he was going to copy everything I did. I needed to be a good role model. So after I cried my eyes out, I went to the refrigerator and threw away all the diet soda. At the time, I didn’t realize that diet soda actually makes you fatter, but something just told me that giving up soda would be a good first step. My next promise to myself was to give up McDonalds. You see, fast food was a daily thing for me. I didn’t enjoy cooking so the drive-thru was something my husband and I relied on frequently. And finally, I got up off my ass and went for a walk around the block. It wasn’t that far, but it was painful. And with every step, I told myself that I could do anything for my child…and I did.
My Weight Loss Journey
It all started with walking. After walking for about five minutes, my hips would warm up and the pain would go away and that allowed me to go further and further. Those small steps allowed me to lose five pounds in one week. I’ll never forget weighing myself on the scale naked and dancing in my bathroom. I hadn’t felt that accomplished in a very long time. It was small, but I didn’t care. It was something. And it was a breakthrough and just the lift I needed to keep going. The next week, I did the same thing and lost more weight. It wasn’t as much, but that didn’t matter. And again the next week. Months later, walking became a bit easy for me and I went into the cabinet and dusted off a Tae Bo DVD that someone had given me forever ago. I put it in and tried one of the workouts. I barely made it to the half way mark but I really enjoyed the movements and the feeling of accomplishment it gave me. And I got a kick out of (pardon the pun) Billy Blanks giving me encouragement. Weeks turned into months and months turned into years. I worked out inside my home about 6 days per week. I never stopped. There were several times that I stumbled, but I picked myself up because this change was a long term goal. The small stumbles didn’t matter. I was in it for the long haul. I was determined to become healthier for my child, which was a strength I had never had before. There wasn’t anything I couldn’t have done for him. I had tapped into this intense form of determination that comes instinctively after becoming a mom. It’s a fierce, loving and never ending passion for a child that allows you to work miracles for them. It’s that mother lion inside all of us.
And my diet changed a great deal too. At first, I was all about “calorie in calorie out” to lose weight, but then that stopped working. I ending up figuring out through trial and error that my body was very sensitive to high glycemic foods like bread, pasta, rice and desserts. So I ate a ton more fruits and vegetables and lean proteins. And I basically gave up dessert all together unless it was fruit and I stopped drinking anything other than milk, coffee, water and tea. I also limited my alcohol to once per month. But it wasn’t all drudgery. After a couple of months, I started really enjoying my new diet. I started to develop a taste for food in it’s natural state. My taste buds literally changed. I started enjoying cooking and playing around in the kitchen. I didn’t miss the fast food at all. And the idea of drinking soda and eating fast food again made me nauseous.
Not only did I change what I was eating, but I started reading every label. Before food was all about taste and convenience to me, now I started paying attention to what it was made of. And I started going down the supermarket aisles looking to see if there was ONE thing that didn’t have 64 ingredients that I couldn’t pronounce without a chemistry degree. And that was hard to find, which was disappointing. And I thought, no wonder…things HAD to start changing.
A New Life and Passion
Two years later, I had lost over 100 lbs. My resting heart rate was about 60 beats per minute and I was feeling amazing. The depression and sadness was gone. I didn’t feel hopeless anymore at all. And I was at a point in my life that I wanted to give back. I had learned so much through my health journey that I wanted to help other women that struggled. And it wasn’t just women that I was concerned with, I wanted to help moms so in turn I could help an entire family. So with about $20 I started up my first social media community. It started off as a hobby, but it grew very quickly. I was written up in several magazines like Ladies Home Journal, Shape & Fitness Magazine about my weight loss story and inspiring health-based community. Thousands of women all across the United States joined me in my quest to role model healthy behavior for their families. And then Mamavation was born shortly thereafter as a way for me to dive deeper into health topics. Over the years, we’ve assisted women lose over 3,500 lbs. through support, encouragement & professional direction from Dietitians and Personal Trainers associated with the site.
And then I had another Epiphany.
I realized that there was more to health than just weight loss. Weight loss was only part of the picture. I started thinking about all the relatives I had that had died of cancer: my father, uncle, aunt, and several family friends. Most of them were relatively thin and they had still died. In fact, most of the people that I knew that died younger than the average American were NOT particularly overweight at all. So I started researching cancer and carcinogens and was shocked to discover so many different exposures to toxins in our everyday lives. And cancer wasn’t the only issue. There were more recent issues such as early puberty in girls, metabolic diseases in young children, antibiotic resistant bacteria, and an increase in Autism, allergies, ADHD & ashthma. In fact, there were so many chronic diseases increasing since I was a young girl, I was shocked. And I was thinking WTF is going on? And because my own son was diagnosed with Autism years ago, I was paying close attention to what was different in all the consumer products we take for granted. And that is when I stumbled across a video of a woman named Robyn O’Brien who asked me to consider how our food has changed since I was born.
Later that week, I read in the LA Times that Prop. 37 made the ballot, which was an initiative to label GMOs in California. And I knew I had to help. I had a background in politics, fundraising and creating strategic communication campaigns online…and I had an entire army of bloggers in my network that I used to create social media campaigns with. This could be the most important social media campaign of my life. So I contacted the campaign and donated hundreds of hours of my time. Over two short months, I helped them organize 650 other mom bloggers across the country to ask their communities if they wanted a right to know if their food was genetically modified or not. The answer from everyone was YES! We were written up in the LA Times as the best use of social media by a campaign initiative EVAH. And that made me feel really good because I had worked my ass off helping them organize twitter parties, facebook parties and blog posts all over the internet totaling just over 600 million impressions. And then the results came back extremely close…but we lost.
But really, we didn’t lose. The opposition had spent over $40 Million dollars telling everyone all over the country there was something called a GMO in their food but they weren’t going to label it. Thanks guys! Just like when you tell a toddler not to touch the red button, they want to touch the red button. You tell million of Americans there is something called a GMO in their food but they aren’t allowed to know where it is, they want to know where it is. I swear the people who write these communication plans for the biotech industry are smoking crack or have never bothered to take a simple psychology class because they keep operating as if transparency is important for everyone…but them.
After helping out with the Washington & Oregon proposition, I realized that blogger who were affiliated with the food movement needed to meet up annually. So I then started up the ShiftCon Social Media Conference as a way for online influencers to further the issues of the food movement and environmental causes affecting the health of families. ShiftCon is a way for bloggers and other influencers to learn more about wellness and environmental issues, grow their platforms so their voices become stronger, and meet with brands that are providing us with safer food and safer consumer products. ShiftCon will be in it’s third year this year in New Orleans. And time has gone by really fast. But I see this as just the beginning of the work I want to do to make people in the U.S. healthier. Disease prevention is my thing.
Random Facts About Me
- I love cats, but my husband is allergic to them. To be with him I had to give up my beloved black cat who could fetch and play dead just like a dog. If I come to your house and you have a cat, I’ll spend most of my time petting your feline. If my husband dies first, I’ll become a crazy cat lady.
- I’m a technology vampire. I suck the life out of anything with a cord attached. Every time I get a new computer, it’s broken within 4-6 months. Thank GAWD my husband is an Information Technology professional. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to have this career.
- My mother is my nanny. After my father died, she moved up to the city where I lived and helps me with the kids every day. I couldn’t do this without her.
- I was “born in the caul” otherwise known as a “caulbearer,” which means when I was born the amniotic sac never broke. The nurse midwife that delivered me broke the sac herself. This is of special significance to some cultures meaning I have special leadership or psychic abilities. But in medieval times I also could have been burned at the stake or killed and had my skin sold as a relic. Thank GAWD they don’t do that today. My middle son was also born this way.
- If I don’t work out once at least every three days, I’m the biggest bitch EVAH. Physical activity really helps me with my mood and I love it. My favorite activities are Taebo, kickboxing, hiking in nature and weight training.
- When I graduated with my Bachelors at the University of Southern California, I was the speaker for my major. Yes, me. That was only the beginning of my public speaking career.
- One year my son got a coupon from McDonalds after improving in math in his public school, so every year I go to their shareholder meeting demanding they stop marketing to young children in schools.
- I’m as white as a ghost and have about a million freckles. I used to hate them and now I love every single one of them.
- In 2015, the American Association of Pediatrics kicked Monsanto out as a sponsor after having a meeting with me.
- My nickname in high school was “firecrotch” because my girlfriend saw me naked once and noticed the curtains matched the drapes and told EVERYONE. That nickname was hard to forget.
- My oldest son has Autism and my youngest son has food allergies to wheat, dairy, treenuts and peanuts. Thus I understand many of the issues plaguing mothers today and have a unique perspective to help support.
- I love run-on sentences and using …