Not a diet, but a change in lifestyle: A profile of Nicole Zimmerman

Allison Mueller

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Living with celiac disease has given Junior Nicole Zimmerman the drive to become healthier. (Photo by Emma Masiulewicz)

Dana Scott/Winonan

Junior Nicole Zimmerman, a nursing major at Winona State University, was struggling with her health in college. She was having problems with migraines, weight gain and overall not feeling her best.

In January 2015 she found out she has celiac disease. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease in which the small intestine is hypersensitive to gluten. The diagnosis motivated her to make a lifestyle change to improve her quality of living.

However, Zimmerman admitted she was really upset to find out about having celiac disease.

“I can’t have bread,” Zimmerman recalls thinking. “Or carbs or sweets ever again.”

Soon, Zimmerman acknowledged that having celiac disease would be a good thing, in terms of leading a healthier lifestyle.

“Gluten was weighing down my life,” she said.

She became motivated to be healthier and make wiser food decisions.

“I try really hard to eat things that are naturally gluten free instead of made gluten free,” Zimmerman said.

She said this change in lifestyle has helped her learn how to be a better cook. She tries to get a lot of protein because she has become very active. Zimmerman said she eats more fruit, vegetables and protein, since she has become more active. She also is not afraid of healthy fats and watches out for added sugars.

In addition to eating healthier and avoiding gluten, Zimmerman has become more active, working out five times a week and getting 15,000 steps in every day.

Zimmerman said she enjoys going to the gym and working out because she now has higher energy levels and can focus better on her school work.

She started her weight loss journey the first semester of her sophomore year at Winona State. However, she could never keep the weight off. Later she found out it could have been caused by having celiac disease.

Zimmerman said she has received a lot of support from family and friends. She always goes to the gym with her best friend, who is also trying to eat clean. Zimmerman’s mother has also been on her own weight loss journey and has been very supportive.

She is glad that having celiac disease sparked this lifestyle change.

“It impacts more than just your stomach,” she explained. “It impacts your whole body and has made me feel better as a person in general.”

Zimmerman shares advice for those with celiac disease.

“Your world is not over,” she said. “Your life is not over. Pinterest has the best recipes. It’s going to make you feel better.”

She also said there are resources around Winona, including a registered dietitian on campus. Hy-Vee also has a dietitian, and college students can receive a free consultation.

Zimmerman also provides tips for eating in the cafeteria on campus.

“Always go to the egg line and the salad bar and try to mix it up,” she said.

Zimmerman also advises eating fresh fruits and vegetables as well as chicken that is not breaded.

Once she found out she had celiac disease, Zimmerman said she was finally ready to make a permanent change in her life.

“It’s not a diet,” Zimmerman stated. “It’s my lifestyle.’

For more tips from Zimmerman on how to live a healthy lifestyle, follow her fitness Instragram account: bestnicoleicanbe.