My Story

I grew up in the Swedish countryside. As a child, I was very much a dork. I didn’t have many friends, and I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin. I was fantasising about the big, exciting world out there. Somewhere, far away, everything would be completely different for me one day…

Lots of snow during my childhood in Sweden. I dreaded it, but ironically the cold became my saviour later on.

Leaving Sweden

I left home at the age of 15, to start my exploration in the “big city” of Gothenburg in Sweden. I started drinking soon after that and kicked off a few years of debacle. The discovery that I could use an external, such as alcohol, to alter my state of mind felt like the greatest gift. Feeling like myself was terrible and I wanted nothing of it!

My high school graduation, the day before I left my home country. I put on a smile for the camera but in fact I was feeling depressed and lost.

My restlessness continued. I left Sweden the very next day after graduating from high school, at age 18. I worked as a yacht stewardess for a while and was based in exotic locations such as New York City, Miami and all over the Caribbean and the Mediterranean.

I found myself with a front row view of the “rich and famous” and the glamorous lifestyle of my fantasies. I was surprised to notice that having all you could wish for externally did not necessarily result in inner happiness…

In my early twenties, I moved to Sydney in Australia to study business at university. Choosing a location as far away from my roots as possible felt like a logical choice, as I was still desperate to reinvent myself into someone else. Someone who was confident, happy and felt good about herself – the opposite of who I was.

Around this time, I quit drinking. I came to the realisation that I could not continue if I wanted to live. To be honest, I was not very excited about the prospect of living but dying was even less appealing.

Without the alcohol to magically transform me any longer, I was just an insecure, dorky countryside girl again. It was excruciating. I did not understand: here I was, in the “prime” of my life in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, hot rugby guys everywhere I looked, and still… I felt complete darkness. I simply could not handle the uncomfortable feelings and turned to food to ease the pain.

Using Food to Self-Medicate

What ensued was an eating bonanza that nearly ruined my life. Food quickly became my top priority in life and my solution for every issue. Stressed about studying? A couple of chocolate bars made me relax. Upset about rejection from a guy? Ben & Jerry’s was there for comfort. Actually, any emotion – good or bad – was a reason to take to food.

My eating had an impact on every area of my life. I had terrible acne, a bloated stomach despite desperately working out at the gym six days a week, and constant diarrhoea.

My mood was all over the place. I could be either ecstatic or completely depressed, and I had periods when I hardly slept at all. I isolated: I would often prefer staying at home watching Grey’s Anatomy with a sugar feast over attending a social event.

That being said, I was hardly a nun. In fact, I was just as destructive with men as I was with food. I was obsessed with the thought of finding happiness through a relationship and was desperately searching for it. My low self-worth resulted in a long string of more or less tumultuous encounters.


It is difficult to find healthy relationships with others, when not having one with yourself.

My binge eating was also expensive, and my mental state was not exactly conducive with sound financial conduct.

I was terribly ashamed of being an adult who sometimes still had to rely on my parents’ support because I could not manage my finances.

But that was nothing compared with the constant fear of realising that I was out of control. The beautiful, exciting life that I had envisioned felt like a joke. I had managed to tick off visiting amazing places and obtaining my business degree, and it looked good on paper. But it was all falling apart very quickly…

After finishing university, I started a career in sales. Just like I had attempted to reinvent myself by moving between different countries, I now tried to pursue happiness through a corporate career. Sales was intoxicating: smashing my targets gave me such a rush. It was also stressful, with a lot of pressure. I dealt with it in the only way that I knew how: by binge eating.

Depressions and “Bipolar Disorder”

Severe depressions had been a part of my life since my early teens. I had times of believing that they were behind me and that I had figured out how to be happy. But the low episodes kept coming back, and to worse degrees. I was now in my mid-twenties, and I was nearing exhaustion. I could not tell myself that everything would be fine any longer because it definitely did not seem that way.

One day, I simply could not take it anymore. I felt like I had no more hope, no more energy to continue – and I did not want to. My thoughts scared me.

I had asked for professional help at different stages before, but never felt heard or seen. I did not trust that there was a medical solution for me, and thought I had to make it on my own. But now, I feared for my life.

I desperately called a psychiatrist and got an immediate appointment. The doctor’s facial expression when I told her about my madness made me feel that the only thing missing for her entertainment was a bag of popcorn.

The doctor talked to me for twenty minutes, told me that I had bipolar disorder and handed me a prescription for it.

Going Downhill on Meds

I started taking the medication. Over the next few months, my world was crashing down. The drugs hardly helped my mood and had horrible side effects: among them weight gain and hair loss.

I was waking up every morning with big chunks of hair spread around me in bed. I was terrified of the medication but at the same time, did not dare to stop taking them. I tried to contact the doctor, and she did not return my calls. I felt like the loneliest person in the world.

I realised that I could not take care of myself any longer. I was not capable of performing a job, and my finances were in ruins after my years of erratic behaviour. I had nothing to my name and I was in a foreign country with no real safety net. I was panicking.

I realised that I had no other choice than to give up on my Australian dream and return to Sweden, to seek refuge at my parents’.

It was a strange situation. On the one hand, it was devastating to lose the life that I had worked so hard for during my six years in Australia. It had been my dream that this was the place where I would create a safe place for myself and finally, find happiness… Sydney was where I had made most of my friends, who meant so much to me. Now I had to leave it all behind.

On the other hand, it was the greatest relief to end the struggle. I had no more energy to get up in the morning and pretend that everything was fine, when I was literally dying.

A Visit to the Psych Ward

I got rid of my household, said my goodbyes, packed my suitcase and flew back to my parents in Sweden. I felt like such a failure: a decade after leaving home with my grand dreams, I was back to square one.

I felt so lonely. Everyone around me seemed to have their lives figured out, and I could not even manage the basics of surviving… I spent a week locked up in an emergency psychiatric ward. Although that might sound like rock bottom, I was relieved to finally being honest about how sick I was.

After release from the hospital, I stayed with my parents. It was a difficult transition since I struggled with hiding my compulsive overeating. My parents did not exactly support my self-destructive behaviour, and it was a tense time.

Family and friends may have the best intentions, but not being understood can hurt…

I was determined to not give up about myself. I could accept that my life might never be the rose-colored version I had imagined growing up. But I would not kill myself. And I would not end up living with my parents, hiding chocolate wrappers like a junkie.

I had a few weeks of rest in the Swedish countryside, while I applied for sales jobs in London, England. At this stage, I had no more illusions about finding nirvana anywhere in the world. All I wanted was a job in a new city, so that I could move on with my life. I got another sales role and moved to London.

Starting Over in London

My new assignment was with a top IT firm, and I felt like I had “made it”. I was so proud of my new business card with the company logo. This was my chance to redeem myself!

However, my excitement was short-lived. After my first prescription drug disaster, I had started taking a new medication to help with my mood and sleep. It definitely helped my sleeping: it knocked me out so much that I felt like a Zombie during the day.

I was struggling to keep up at work. It was a fast-paced environment, and I had a lot to learn in my new role. It felt like my brain was processing everything in slow motion, and all I wanted to do was to crawl under my desk and take a nap. People around me were bright and successful, and I just felt so dumb. I noticed how some colleagues treated me as incompetent, which was extremely hurtful.

My mental health issues had caused a lot of embarrassment over the years, but being treated like I was stupid was on a different level. I have hardly ever felt this humiliated. The worst thing was that I started to believe it myself: it was true that I was not doing a good job. I was basically forced to quit my role, only weeks after I had started.

I believe that I have a Lucky Star, and this is an example of when I have felt its presence in my life. Because around this time, I was headhunted for and offered a similar role in another company. I first declined, as I had decided to give up on my mental abilities and move back with my parents.

But last minute, I had a feeling that I should try just once more. So I decided to stay in London, accepted the offer and started my new role.

Saved by Butter in the Coffee

The turning point came by chance. I was listening to a podcast interview with Dave Asprey, the founder of the Bulletproof Coffee and the Bulletproof Diet. I thought that coffee with butter in it sounded strange and I was sceptical, to put it mildly.

Nevertheless, I was desperate enough to try a cup. At least it couldn’t make things worse. It didn’t – Bulletproof Coffee blew my mind! I felt an unprecedented clarity and aliveness, and a strong sense that this would change my life forever. I dived into researching the Bulletproof Diet and lifestyle and implementing as many elements as fast as I could over the next few weeks.

During my years of overeating, I had for most of the time had an awareness that my eating was not healthy. I desperately wanted to change, but I did not know how. I realised that sugar had terrible effects on me, and I wanted to quit.

This process always turned out to be a nightmare, though. I had to use all my willpower to stay away from the sugar. It often ended in heated arguments with well-meaning people around me who did not understand that sugar was my enemy. The drama was usually followed by yet another binge eat, to comfort myself.

The Bulletproof Diet was a different way to eat altogether, though. I did not have to force anything anymore. The sugar and carb cravings that had haunted me for so many years were gone. I, who could not imagine a life without Lindt’s chocolate balls, now realised that there were even healthy desserts that I preferred over junk food.

The impact of my new eating habits was incredible. My insomnia disappeared, and I could sleep well for the first time in years. My mood swings settled and the depressive feelings lifted. Instead, I discovered a new sense of calm and wellbeing.

My psychiatrist was amazed: she realised that my diagnosed bipolar disorder was incorrect, as I no longer showed any symptoms. I came off my medication and was relieved of its side effects: I dropped my excess weight, and the hair that I had lost started to grow back. I had never felt better. It felt like being reborn to a new, fantastic life!

After all of my years in pain, I was ecstatic about finally making progress. I could not get enough! I set out on a mission to give my recovery my all, to achieve the most optimal health and wellbeing possible.

Finding My Passion

It is funny how the universe works sometimes. Only weeks after I had had my first cup of Bulletproof Coffee and instantly felt that it would change my life, was the Bulletproof Coach training program introduced. I jumped on the chance to participate. There was nothing that felt more important to me than to train to help others to feel better too!

I found myself in New York City a few months later. It was my first time back in the city since my time as a stewardess a decade earlier, and what a different person I was now…

I was in such awe when meeting my guru Dave Asprey, that I forgot to say hi.

I had the best weekend of my life up until that point. It was simply wonderful to find togetherness within the Bulletproof community: other individuals also passionate about improving their health and helping others. I felt such love for them all!

Everything came together in an almost magical way. At the Bulletproof Coach workshop, I made friends with a guy from Hawaii. We shared our best health hacks, and he told me that the most powerful thing that he had ever tried was something called the Wim Hof Method. It was part breathing method, part cold exposure and part focus.

Old Habits of Overeating

At this point, I was amazed by the results only from changing my diet. Thanks to the Bulletproof Diet, I did not have any food cravings any longer. I had once been a slave to junk food, and now felt physically liberated.

Grass-fed meat is part of the Bulletproof Diet. Eating Bulletproof took away my food cravings!

However, all of my years of compulsive overeating had strongly reinforced my behaviour. I had periods of doing great with eating and times when it was a bit rockier. I was still in a stressful sales role, and I found it difficult to deal with the pressure. I often returned to my old habit of overeating as a way to escape and soothe myself.

In a way, this was almost more heartbreaking now after I had found a diet that worked for me. I was scared: what if I was a hopeless case, and could never learn to eat healthy?

Creating My Toolbox

What I now know, is that there is not one single solution that will magically solve all of my issues forever. Instead, there is a toolbox of hacks that I can use to sustain my healthy habits on a daily basis.

The Bulletproof Diet lay the foundation for my healthy eating, through relieving me of the food cravings and making me feel great physically. What I now needed was the resilience to stay on track with my new diet. The Wim Hof Method turned out to be key for this.

Returning to London after the Bulletproof Coach training workshop in New York, I tried out the Wim Hof breathing for the first time. My friend had been right: it was an incredible feeling! I felt euphoric.

I then commenced the cold exposure, through starting each morning with a quick cold shower. At first, I was freaking out. I had always despised the cold, which was one of the reasons to why I had escaped all the way from Sweden to Australia. But I quickly got used to it and carried on.

After a couple of weeks of cold showers, I took the next step by tapping up an ice bath in my bathroom. I was terrified, the sensation was incredibly uncomfortable – but the feeling afterwards was amazing! I felt so alive and refreshed. I was so proud of myself for having faced up to the challenge!

Resilience through Submerging in Ice

My cold exposure exercises had a quick and profound transformative effect. I believe that it was the new habit of starting each day with facing a fear, that trained my resilience. I realised that I was so much stronger than I had thought I was.

Within weeks, I was able to use this strength in the area where I struggled the most: my eating. I experienced the same stress and challenges at work, but now I was able to resist reaching for chocolate to stuff my feelings. It felt like a miracle, and yet it had all happened so naturally!

Just as with the Bulletproof Diet, I wanted to know everything about the Wim Hof Method. I enrolled in a course to become a Wim Hof Method Instructor and flew to Holland to train with the founder Wim Hof in person. We also travelled to Poland in the winter and climbed snowy mountains with as little clothes as possible, in my case a sports bra and shorts. One of the most challenging experiences of my life, but incredibly empowering!

Ice bath at Wim Hof’s centre in Holland.

My Rebirth

Just as my illness had crippled every area of my life, so did my recovery now have an opposite effect. I was flourishing! I was happy, laughing – I even did a stand-up comedy course in London.

My skin was glowing. My hair was growing back, fuller than ever before. I had lost my excess weight and was loving my strong, lean body.

As my mood levelled out, my relationships improved. Not having tantrums turned out to make a great difference. I had a new sense of self-worth, which put an end to my destructive behaviour with men. My dating life radically changed: I learnt to put boundaries and only pursue men who were nice to me.

My new energy and drive had an incredible effect on my career: I aced my sales targets and soon tripled my income, making six figures. I had so recently lost everything, and now I experienced abundance in my entire life! It felt like a dream.

Taking the wrong medication after being misdiagnosed caused hair loss, and for a long time I felt like crying when looking myself in the mirror. A silver lining is that my hair eventually grew out better than ever!

I continued my quest for improving my health and wellbeing. I did not hold back. No matter the cost or effort required: if it made me feel better, I did it.

I went to the Alps to do Asprey’s favourite hack “40 Years of Zen”, which is advanced neurofeedback training. I went to the Bulletproof Conference in Los Angeles. I bought countless gadgets for improving sleep and increasing energy. I even changed my last name to Bjarkan, which is a Viking rune stone meaning “rebirth”. Because that is exactly what it felt like!

I was at the top of my game career wise. Just like I had dreamt about, back in Sydney… Now, I realised that it didn’t matter anymore.

I’d had a burning desire since my first cup of Bulletproof Coffee, and I could not contain it any longer. It felt impossible to now know the effectiveness of simple and natural methods for alleviating suffering, and not share it with others. I wanted to help!

A Nomadic Life with Purpose

I quit my corporate career, packed one suitcase with the essentials and gave away the rest, and started travelling. It will sound cliche, but I think I wanted to finally please that little dorky Swedish schoolgirl who had been dreaming about exciting adventures in the big world.

I had been around the block, for sure, but my unstable mood had always clouded my experiences. It was a great sorrow that I had visited so many beautiful places, without being able to enjoy it fully. I promised myself to now make up for lost time!

Not being held back by food any longer, I now love exploring the world! Here climbing Table Mountain in Cape Town.

I often feel like I need to pinch myself. That is not because there is anything glamorous about my life. Quite the opposite, in fact, since I have a minimalist lifestyle with all of my belongings in one suitcase.

But after all of my years of suffering, heavy medication and hospital visits… I can not tell you how magical it feels to simply wake up in the morning with peace of mind and a desire to make the most out of the day.

I am deeply grateful for this opportunity to live my life, and I am determined to live it to the fullest. That is why I keep travelling the world, to experience and explore as much as possible.

Passing it On

It was only once I stopped abusing food and learnt how to eat well that I was able to succeed in all areas of my life and find happiness. It is now my mission to help others on the same path.

Thank you for reading my story. I would love to hear yours, too! Please feel free to get in touch here.

I’m wishing you a beneficial journey towards being your best version!

Love,

Alexia Bjarkan

 

 

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Love,
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