Q: 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 empower 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. Some health insurance plans even cover health coaching now.

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 empower you to create a happy, healthy life in a way that is flexible, fun and rewarding to you!

Q: What makes you qualified to help me ditch my cravings and eat a healthier diet?

In addition to my nutrition education, I was lucky to have a healthy 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 to me at the time, 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 mainstream.

As a kid I felt so deprived of sugar and junk-food that “all the other kids were eating”. 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… little did I know then I was allergic to dairy and gluten, no wonder I got an ulcer!

Q: What type of diet do you recommend?

Bioindividuality, every BODY is different, everything in moderation (even moderation!)

First let me define the word diet: “the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats.” I don’t believe in dieting: “to restrict oneself to small amounts or special kinds of food in order to lose weight”.

There is no one-size-fits-all diet. Bioindividuality means that every BODY is different. What types of food might be great for one person might not be great for another, and vice versa. I speak from experience on this…

My husband Kirk and I were vegetarian/vegan for more than 30-years. But everything in moderation. Recently we discovered we were both vitamin and mineral deficient. We were particularly low in protein, iron, B-vitamins (B-12 is only found in animal protein), and some key trace minerals. So we’ve added a bit of wild caught fish and organic, free-range meats back into our diet, along with supplements to help boost our numbers back up.

It’s important for vegetarians and vegans to get regular blood tests and check protein, vitamin, and mineral levels. My once thinning hair has started growing thicker again, to the point where my braid is now twice as thick as it was a year ago. That speaks volumes to me.

While I still believe in eating a predominantly plant-based diet, bioindividuality prevails. Every body is also different at different times of your life. After being vegetarian for 30+ years (me) and 45+ years (Kirk) we both feel physically healthier and have more energy having a bit of animal protein in our diets now. That being said, we strive to eat as sustainably and humanely as possible.

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

Colds or bronchitis were my “normal” every winter until I found Chinese Medicine (TCM)

Yep, I can totally relate… 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. I had pneumonia-induced-asthma and 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.

On my mom’s advice (cuz Moms know best!), I saw an acupuncturist for my “asthma” and after about eight needle sessions plus drinking some nasty-tasting but very effective Chinese herbal teas, my lungs cleared up entirely. I was grateful to be able to throw the inhaler away. Plus I no longer caught the chronic colds that had turned into bronchitis my entire life. And if I did catch a rare cold, it wouldn’t move into my chest anymore. I was impressed and started getting regular acupuncture “tune-ups” to help keep me healthier. To this day, 25+ years later, I only catch a cold about every 3-4 years.

Keeping your immune system in tip-top shape takes more than just acupuncture and Chinese herbs however. Overall health starts in your gut, since 60-80% of your immune system resides in your gut. If your gut microbiome is out of whack, your immune system likely is too.

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

Chronic digestion issues tormented me until I found out I had Celiac disease…

While I can’t say what’s causing your digestive issues, gluten sensitivity and Celiac disease are two very common causes. So I was no longer catching colds, 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 with Celiac years before me, so I was already aware of the disease and knew how to make gluten-free food when she came over. But I never imagined that Celiac was what my digestive issues were all about. My girlfriend was a great resource in teaching me how to live gluten-free. I’ve now been gluten-free for over 20 years and have helped many Celiac friends and clients make the transition to gluten-free living.

Of course not all digestion issues are related to Celiac Disease or gluten-intolerance. So we’ll also take a look at GMO’s, food allergies, and other food sensitivities like artificial coloring and flavoring that could be causing digestive distress. Balancing the gut microbiome is key to healthy digestion and overall health.

In fact, research shows that as much as 50% of the population over age fifty don’t produce enough stomach acid. If this is your case, you won’t be able to properly digest your food, or to separate the vitamins and minerals from the proteins. This can lead to malabsorption of nutrients. So even if you think you are eating a healthy diet (like we were when we were vegetarian/vegan), you may not be getting all the nutrients you need in your diet. This may sound gross, but if you can see undigested food in your stool, you likely don’t produce enough stomach acid. And low stomach acid has been linked to IBS, GERD, acid reflux, and other digestive issues.

In a twist of irony, many people who are diagnosed with IBS, GERD, or acid reflux are told they have too much stomach acid and are prescribed to take antacids like Tums. This can actually exacerbate the problem, as the real issue can be too little stomach acid, and now you’re reducing it even further. If this sounds like you, seek out a Naturopath or a Functional Medicine MD who may be able to treat you holistically and figure out what’s really going on. Taking antacids are usually a bandaid for a bigger issue.

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

Chronic edema and itchy skin issues plagued me until I was diagnosed with food allergies…

After cutting out gluten, I was thrilled to not have digestive issues anymore, but I still had ongoing chronic itching skin (shins/torso) and edema in my legs that no doctor (traditional nor alternative) could seem to cure. Then my Naturopath ran some more 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 suppressing my immune system every time I ate them.

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? At the time, I had been vegetarian for almost 20 years, so making the switch to become vegan wasn’t too difficult for me.

While I can’t say what’s causing your edema or itchy skin, a food elimination diet is a great place to start. 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 suspected Candida and stayed completely off sugar for about 6-months, while also taking Candida detox supplements. I’m now gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, and (mostly) sugar-free – and have never felt healthier in my life.

Q: I eat healthy and work out but can’t seem to lose that 5-10 pounds muffin-top!?

I hear you! Ditto for me until I changed my diet and cut out sugar…

So I was eating healthy (vegan/gluten-free) and working out regularly, but still had those extra 10 pounds that I couldn’t ever 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 Hawaii 25+ years ago, my preferred treats for night passages were red vines and pop-tarts. Yikes!

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 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 or sugar.) However, when I realized how much better my body felt not eating those things, it has been SO worth it to me. Feeling GREAT long-term— feels so much better 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. What I gain in health is so much more than what I give up. Once you start to eat real, whole foods, your taste buds become desensitized to salt and sugar, and EVERYTHING tastes so much better and much sweeter than you’d ever imagine.

And as I said before, everything in moderation… we practice the 90/10 principal. 90% of the time we eat clean and healthy, 10% of the time we eat WTF we want to! Gotta have treats in life and dining. And I’ve learned how to modify many unhealthy treats to make them much healthier and still taste great! Check out my GF recipes here.

Q: 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 is good at diagnosis and traditionally aims to fix what’s broken. Alternative medicine stresses prevention as well as finding the root-cause and repair. Functional medicine aims to treat the whole person, not just the parts and pieces. “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, or whole person. Check out some cutting edge M.D.s who are healing the WHOLE body:

Personally I think Western medicine is great tool for diagnostics, and there are many other complimentary healing modalities including acupuncture, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurvedic wellness, chiropractic, herbalism, homeopathy, naturopathy, and more that can heal just as well or better, at a fraction of the cost, and without taking pills that line the pockets of big pharma, with potentially deadly side-effects.

Q: I’m always stressed and life 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…

You might not believe it, but Happiness is a choice. Research shows that only 50% of your happiness quotient is hereditary. That means the other half is up to you…You can view your glass as half-empty, or you can view your glass as half-full. Your choice.

My mom would always tell my siblings 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. Just check out this amazing study on the effects of positive and negative thoughts on water.

Kirk 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 strive to be more like that. Regular meditation and yoga practice helps to calm my monkey-mind and bring more peace and happiness to my life. Of course my life has certainly had bumps in the road (from a boat fire in the night, to a hurricane, to Kirk’s stroke just to name a few.) And there are sure to be more bumps along the way. But that’s LIFE. And if you consciously choose happiness and laughter even when the chips are down, I have found that the bumps aren’t quite so big, or they are easier to handle. Learn to make lemonade when life gives you lemons. It will help you stay refreshed.