What is a Holistic Health and Nutrition Coach?

A Health Coach is a wellness professional who guides people in making healthy life choices…

Holistic Health and Nutrition Coaches educate and support clients to achieve their health goals through lifestyle and behavior adjustments.

As more and more awareness is given to preventative care, health coaching is seen as a vital aspect of creating healthy lifestyle changes. Health Coaches are becoming recognized as essential and integral parts of people’s health and wellbeing.

I believe in a holistic approach to health and wellness, which means that I look at the big picture: how all parts of your life affect your health as a whole. Does stress at your job or in your relationship cause you to overeat? Does lack of sleep or low energy prevent you from exercising? My approach is not to dwell on calories, carbs, fats, and proteins. It is not to create lists of restrictions or good and bad foods. Instead, I help clients to create a happy, healthy life in a way that is flexible, fun and rewarding.

What makes you qualified to help me live a happier, healthier life?

In addition to my training at IIN, I was lucky to have a healthy, nutritious start to life…

My dad was a seasonal park ranger who had me hiking among the Rocky Mountain wildflowers by age three, and whitewater rafting the Salmon River by age eight.

My mom introduced me to nutrition, holistic health and alternative medicine as I was growing up. She raised us on fairly healthy food: green salads every night, lots of fruits and veggies, home-made whole wheat bread, and whole wheat spaghetti (my girlfriends hated slumber-parties because we had “brown” spaghetti!) But we also lived in cattle-ranching Wyoming, and ate beef almost every night of the week (at least it was grass-fed). We rarely had sugar in our house, and embarrassingly my mom gave out peanuts, raisins, or apples instead of candy at Halloween. She was also an early adopter of herbal remedies and owned her own herb store for a while, so I was exposed to herbal remedies long before they became more mainstream.

So once I was in college, even though I took Nutrition 101, I ate whatever junk food I could get my hands on — one year subsisting almost entirely on ramen noodles and mac-n-cheese from a box. Yikes, that makes me sick just to think about now…

My diet first took a change for the better on Earth Day during my last year of college, when I walked past a booth on animal welfare. They were showing the documentary based on “Diet for a Small Planet”, and I was appalled by what I was seeing on the screen. I’d always been an animal-lover, and never realized just how our mass-produced meat was being raised. From that day on, I decided that an animal didn’t need to die just for me to survive, and I became a vegetarian – but my diet was still loaded with a lot of chips and other vegetarian junk-food. A few years after college I met my husband—who was also a vegetarian—however luckily he ate much healthier than I did and encouraged me to cut out the junk food.

I always catch the latest cold, and spend all winter feeling sick, what can I do?

I caught colds and bronchitis every year too until I tried acupuncture and Chinese herbs…

On my first wedding anniversary I caught a nasty cold. It progressed into pneumonia and I was really sick and in bed for several weeks in the middle of summer (that was no fun!) After I recovered, it was still very difficult for me to breathe, especially when I exercised. The doctors told me that my lungs were permanently scarred, and I had pneumonia-induced-asthma, and that I would have to be on an inhaler for the rest of my life. Well, as a healthy, active person that did not sit well with me at all. So I decided to look for alternative solutions and my mom recommended that I try acupuncture.

On my mom’s advice, I saw an acupuncturist for my “asthma” and after about eight sessions plus drinking some nasty-tasting but very effective Chinese herbal teas, my lungs cleared up entirely and I was able to throw the inhaler away. Not only that, but the chronic colds that had plagued me and turned into bronchitis my whole life didn’t seem to move into my chest anymore. I was impressed and started getting regular acupuncture “tune-ups” to help keep me healthier.

I have chronic stomach and digestive issues that no one can figure out, any ideas?

I suffered from chronic digestion issues too until I found out I had Celiac disease…

I wasn’t catching colds any more, which was great. But a few years later, I started having lots of stomachaches and digestive issues. On the recommendation of a friend, I saw a Naturopath who diagnosed me with Celiac disease. One of my girlfriends had been diagnosed years before me, so I was already aware of the disease and made gluten-free food when she came over, but I never imagined that Celiac was what my digestive issues were all about. My friend was a great resource in teaching me how to live gluten-free. I’ve now been gluten-free for almost 15 years and have helped several other Celiac friends make the transition to living gluten-free as well.

I have chronic edema (water retention) and itchy skin, what should I do?

I also had chronic edema and itchy skin issues until I was diagnosed with food allergies…

After cutting out gluten, I was thrilled to not have digestive issues anymore, but I had ongoing chronic itching skin (shins/torso) and edema in my legs that no doctor (traditional nor alternative) could seem to cure. My Naturopath ran some tests and determined that I was allergic to dairy and eggs. She impressed upon me that I really needed to cut out ALL dairy and eggs, which were affecting my immune system.

How ironic that I’d never cared for dairy or eggs at all growing up, and it was a constant battle for my mom to get me to drink my milk! I now know that my body was telling me those things weren’t good for me as a kid, but who knew about food allergies back then? I had already been vegetarian for almost 20 years, so making the switch to become vegan wasn’t too difficult for me.

Eliminating dairy and eggs helped with a few other issues, but still didn’t cure my itchy-skin/edema entirely. Finally when I started studying nutrition at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, I learned more about the downsides of sugar. So I did an experiment and cut sugar out of my diet entirely. Amazingly, after several weeks of being off sugar, my itching skin and edema cleared up. I’m now gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, and (mostly) sugar-free – and have never felt healthier in my life.

I eat healthy and work out, how can I lose my muffin-top or last 5-10 pounds?

I had the same problem until I changed my diet and cut out sugar…

I was eating healthy (vegan/gluten-free) and working out regularly, but always had those extra 10 pounds that I couldn’t get rid of. One of the unexpected benefits of my cutting-out sugar experiment, was dropping those pesky 10 pounds almost instantly. Believe me, I used to LOVE sugar— Cap’n’ Crunch Berry was my favorite breakfast cereal in college and my favorite pick-me-up “treats” were Jolly Ranchers and Haribo gummy bears. When we sailed our boat to Maui, my preferred snack foods were red vines and pop-tarts.

Before being diagnosed with Celiac, I used to hold fabulous holiday cookie parties where my girlfriends and I would make hundreds of Christmas cookies, heavily loaded with sugary frostings and decoration toppings. I still have a hard time not eating sugar – but after dropping 10 pounds and knowing how wonderfully energetic my body feels when I eliminate sugar, and how all of my chronic symptoms just disappear when I stay off of sugar (and how they come back when I don’t), it’s totally worth it to me to eliminate sugar from my diet.

Going gluten-free and dairy-free were equally hard for me at first (cheese is still the hardest thing for me to live without, even more so than gluten) but when I realized how much better my body felt not eating those things, it has been totally worth it to me to feel GREAT long-term—rather than living for the short burst of deliciousness on the taste buds, followed by feeling like crap for days afterwards. For me it’s about the short-term sacrifices being worth the long-term rewards. And they aren’t even really sacrifices because once your taste buds become desensitized to sugar, EVERYTHING tastes so much better and much sweeter than you’d ever imagine. Once you start to eat real, whole foods, everything just tastes better.

What’s your take on alternative medicine vs. traditional Western medicine?

I believe that all forms of medicine have a place in helping to heal our bodies.…

Western medicine traditionally aims to fix what’s broken, while alternative medicine stresses prevention as well as repair. Functional medicine aims to treat the whole person, not just the parts and pieces. As the old song goes, “the knee bone’s connected to the leg bone…” Unfortunately in the modern age of seeing specialists for everything, few doctors have really been looking at the bigger picture—the whole body. Check out the blogs and websites of some cutting edge MDs who are doing just that: Dr. Tieraona Low Dog; Dr. Mark Hyman; Dr. Alejandro Junger, Dr. Daphne Miller, and Dr. Lissa Rankin.

I’m really stressed and everything seems to be going sideways for me, can you help?

Stress can really effect your health. My glass is half-full but I didn’t always see it that way…

I believe that happiness is a choice. You can view your glass as half-empty, or you can view your glass as half-full. My mom would always tell my brothers, sister and me to “think positively”, and we would scoff and roll our eyes. As a freshman in college I remember being really worried about passing my first finals, and my mom saying, “Just think positively and everything will turn out alright.” Ha! Well, of course you cannot pass an exam by positive thinking alone, but it sure doesn’t hurt.

My husband has also been a huge influence in my happy outlook on life. He’s one of those people who always sees the good in everyone, and I’ve strived to be more like that. Regular meditation helps to calm my monkey-mind and bring more peace and happiness to my life. Of course my life still has bumps in the road, and there are sure to be more along the way. But if you consciously choose happiness and laughter even when the chips are down, I have found that the bumps aren’t quite so big.