Health Coaching

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Screen shot 2014-02-04 at 5.46.16 PMMeet Vanessa, my second client!  Vanessa approached me in late August through my blog.  She commented that she would love the help that a health coach could offer, but found her options very limited, because she lived in YUKON TERRITORY, Canada.  Holy Moly!  I was impressed with Vanessa from the start, because anyone working to get her health on track from such a remote corner of our planet is already showing remarkable dedication.  Having one client under my belt I knew that the people I wanted to work with needed that level of motivation, so I contacted Vanessa and we started her new journey on September 1.

Vanessa is in her early 40's and at the time we began working with each other, she had a diagnosis of Psoriasis.  She had already been utilizing AIP to help heal her skin with alot of success, but she wanted to see further improvements and dig into specifically what foods or other factors were causing her symptoms.  Since Vanessa was already dialed in with diet, we spent the first part of her program focused on finding new resources to help her, like podcasts, products, books, and blogs.  We also talked about other potential conditions that could be affecting her.  For instance, Vanessa suffered alot with extremely cold extremities and the frigid temps of the Yukon were not helping.  I explained Raynaud's Disease to Vanessa and encouraged her to talk with her doctor about whether or not that could be the problem.  Later we did get a confirmation for Vanessa, so she is no longer in the dark about why she was experiencing such cold fingers and toes.

In the middle of our work together, Vanessa and her family made a major move, which was in large part up to her to organize, as her husband has a demanding work life that often takes him away from home.  We redirected our energies and worked on stress management and practical diet tips to help stay AIP during such an enormous transition.  In that process we discovered that stress is a major factor in Psoriasis flares for her, so we began making weekly goals for implementing new stress management techniques.  She has completely turned around her sleep, getting much more and much deeper rest, in addition to adding journaling, walking, and meditation to her routine.

In late December we began planning for Vanessa to see new doc's (her move meant that she could better access practitioners from many fields) and get some deeper testing conducted.  Although she had made lots of progress, we knew that something was keeping the journey from progressing.  We talked about questions to ask and possible tests to pursue, especially in relation to Vanessa's professional background.  It turned out our hunch was correct and recently we found out she is positive for Lyme Disease.  Now we are learning together what that means and what to expect from the treatment process, which is going much faster for her because so many of the diet and lifestyle adjustments required are already in Vanessa's arsenal thanks to her hard work since September.

Here are Vanessa's thoughts on the program:

Angie was able to help me work toward my goals by speaking the same “language,” of AIP and eating for your healing and health.  This is not an easy endeavor, nor one that garners a ton of support from friends, colleagues or even close family members.  It can end up being a very lonely place and leave you second-guessing yourself many times.  Having Angie on my team gives me my “community of support.”  The biggest tangible change I have noticed since beginning the program has been that I don’t live in fear every single day of my life anymore.  I now have an understanding that I do have the ability to make a profound change in my health.  The most significant overall change I have noticed has been that everyday isn’t just a blur of various symptoms overlapping themselves leading to an inability to differentiate one thing from another.   Many of my symptoms have been relieved altogether.  In addition, now I can easily explain some symptoms that before would just leave me feeling bewildered and not knowing what to do about them.  I would describe Angie as 100% understanding.  When you are sick, especially with diseases that might not yet have a name, to have someone truly understand what you are going through is everything.  I would also describe her as brave, compassionate, intelligent, highly motivating and possessing a wicked sense of humor.  Everything you’d want in a health coach!

I was very scared of reaching a place where I had gone as far as I could go based on what I knew, and not know what my next move should be.  Sure enough, during our months working together, I did reach a place in my journey where it became obvious that something was holding me back from further healing.  Had Angie not been working along with me, I’m not sure I would have had the confidence to truly trust those suspicions and take the next logical step to dig a little deeper (and to continue to keep doing so).  I’m still in the middle of my journey and have a long way to go, but for the first time ever, I finally feel like I could actually reach my goal and I know I owe the motivation to keep working towards this goal to Angie.  She has helped make this sustainable for me.

It has honestly been a privilege to work with Vanessa and I consider myself a very lucky health coach that she chose me as her guide on the journey.  Her tenacity for this entire process is inspiring.  Even during a major move, with two little boys and the holidays to manage, she did not throw in the towel.  I am so excited to be with her as we finally reach the roots of her health struggle and appreciative of the learning opportunity that she has given me by allowing me to support her through this next phase of her walk to wellness.

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Screen shot 2014-02-03 at 8.10.42 PMMeet Ashley, my very first client!  Ashley approached me through my Facebook page last June & basically said, "I need some help.  Will you coach me?"  I was just getting ready to begin my health coaching program and I knew the opportunity to have some "guinea pig" clients would be a great way for me to learn and grow in my new profession.  I made sure Ashley was okay with being my experiment and after we were certain we'd be a good match, we started Ashley's new journey on July 1.

Ashley is in her early 40's and at the time we began working, she had a diagnosis of Hashimoto's and IBS.  Her life was being dominated by the IBS, so she wanted to do whatever it took to improve those symptoms.  She also wanted to concentrate on learning the Autoimmune Protocol in order to better control her Hashi's.  The big hurdle . . . Ashley didn't cook at all!  Her confidence about taking on this lifestyle was really low, since she  was so uncertain about the restrictive, home-prepared diet.  I was up for the challenge, but a little nervous about how I was going to help someone who lived on the other side of the country learn to cook!!

We jumped in with both feet and slowly, one step at a time, I guided Ashley through the adaptation process into full AIP and helped her learn to grocery shop, adjust recipes, and plan and prep her menus.  Fears over cooking are a thing of the past.  I also encouraged Ashley to go deeper with her GI doc, as I suspected her IBS was really Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth.  We talked about what questions to take to him and what the testing and treatment process would be like.  The results came back positive and now, following treatment, Ashley is mostly "IBS" symptom free for the first time in 17 years!  We also recently went through the process of selecting a new doc to help her monitor her thyroid health (she's going to go see one of the rockstar thyroid docs!) and discovered that her Hashi's antibodies are coming down and that she is no longer getting any gluten exposure!

A normal coaching program is three to six months, but Ashley and I have decided that we'll continue to work together on a part-time basis.  Although she is light-years ahead of how she felt six months ago, we want to go further.  Our focus now is on the lifestyle aspects of the Paleo approach, like stress management and sleep hygiene.  We are also digging deeper into root causes of some of her health struggles.

Here are Ashley's thoughts on the program:

Angie was able to help me work toward my goals by doing weekly calls with me and contacting me in between to make sure I was doing ok.  She is an amazing support system and helped me learn what I needed to learn, from AIP to literally how to cook.  She was patient and kind through the whole process.  The biggest tangible change I have noticed since beginning the program has been my health.   Angie helped me discover I had SIBO (confirmed by a doctor) and through medication and diet, I was able to kick it.  AIP is giving me my life back and I am so thankful to Angie for that.  The most significant overall change I have noticed has been confidence.  Angie not only taught me how I should be eating, but also taught me how to cook.  After a few weeks, it did not even feel like an effort.  I have the confidence in myself to prepare healthy foods and nourish my body.  Angie is AMAZING!  There are actually not enough words to describe her.  She genuinely cares about you and your health.  She can not only help guide you through your doctor visits to get to the bottom of your health concerns, but also teach you how to heal yourself with diet.  I am thankful for her each and every day.

I am so honored that Ashley asked me to go on this journey with her.  She has been so committed over a very long period and that dedication has really impressed me.  (She stuck in there through two job changes AND the holidays, so you know this is a real lifestyle change for her!)  I am so grateful to her for giving me a shot and trusting a newbie health coach with her most precious resource . . . her health.

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As many of you know, I started a one year program to become a Certified Health Coach in July.  I made the decision to become a Health Coach, because my experience looking for help with my autoimmune diseases was so confusing and, most of all, lonely.  I had many, many dark days and dead-ends in my search to heal.  My breakthrough came when I received a clear diagnosis of Celiac Disease and learned that it was primarily a disease of malnourishment.

As I slowly resolved my health issues through nutritional and lifestyle approaches, it became increasingly clear to me that our world, as a whole, is malnourished.  In the U.S. that problem is becoming ever more difficult to ignore.  For instance, our medical system is clearly under great strain from patients with myriads of diet and lifestyle related diseases.  Our doctors, even those with the best of intentions, are unable to keep up with the needs of their patients.  There are even some that feel the problem is getting big enough to affect our national security.  The military organization, Mission:  Readiness, reported in 2012 that military recruitment is now impacted by our nation's poor health, with 1 in 4 young Americans too unfit or overweight to join the service.  I believe the health care field will be forced to change over the coming years under this strain.  A model that includes more and more parahealth professionals to assist doctors in coaching their patients through the dietary and lifestyle changes necessary for better management, and even reversal, of their diseases, will be more appropriate.  My hope is that my training will allow me to be a part of the solution to this malnourishment . . . an answer to my country's health crisis.

That malnourishment starts in our stomachs, but it reaches all the way to our souls.  I encounter people in my every day life and through my Facebook page all the time that are truly battling the emotional side of this crisis of malnourishment.  I know exactly what that feels like and devote alot of my blog platform to addressing that side of healing.  My hope is that my journey has uniquely equipped me to meet people at that lonely, confusing place and be their partner on the path to wellness . . . a path I want to illuminate "in a whole new light."

As of today, I am pre-certified and can begin to actively work with clients as I launch into the last half of the course.  I've learned so much from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition on nutrition, lifestyle, and coaching and I am excited to use the final months of my program to refine this knowledge and begin honing my skills as a coach.

Over the last several months I have worked with three special folks, my "guinea pigs," in my efforts to learn what a great Health Coach needs to offer.  It has been an awesome hands-on experience.  I'm not sure any of them realize it, but they have taught me so much about working with people as they transform their health, much more than I have taught them.  Over the next three days (and with their permission of course) I am going to be sharing their stories here on the blog.  I am so excited to introduce my audience to my "test" clients.  On Friday I'll be sharing some feedback from other people I have had the chance to work with on a shorter term basis.  I hope you'll be back to read about their accomplishments and cheer them all on as they tackle autoimmunity and other health issues.

Again, I want to say thank you to all of you, my readers.  You have been incredible encouraging me toward this career.  I can't really express how excited I am to begin.  No, I really can't express it . . . 'cause it makes me all weepy and giggly and embarrassingly dorky.  😉

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Guess what people?  I finally figured out what I want to be when I grow-up.  It's been an interesting journey for me and I've tried my hand at lots of different gigs.  You know I like me a list, so here's a list:Things I've Done For Money

  • Fry Cook (I literally fried things in a restaurant)
  • Cashier (in a tiny grocery store)
  • Nanny (on a ranch in the middle of nowhere)
  • Assistant to English Professor (oh work study jobs)
  • Au-Pair (I got to live in Holland!)
  • Front Desk Clerk (multiple hotels, very bad uniforms)
  • Telemarketer (it is exactly the nightmare you are imagining)
  • Sawmill Secretary (I weighed timber loads on trucking scales and talked about 2x4's)
  • Abercrombie & Fitch Sales Person (made it for one shift, then literally ran away)
  • Truck Dispatcher (for real, I talked with truckers over a radio)
  • Freight Sales Person (I was abysmal at selling anything)
  • Import Logistics Assistant (need to move something from China to Houston on a ship?)
  • Grant Writer (I helped win an ALOT of money)
  • Finance Assistant (ironically, I am not a math whiz, but I am organized)

Now that you guys just about have my complete resume, you know I am not exaggerating when I say I've done alot of different gigs.  There were so many with so many crazy scenarios and interesting characters, I've honestly considered writing a book about it.  I needed all those jobs though, there was something I enjoyed at all of them (except telemarketing, which was hell with phones and fluorescent lighting and Abercrombie which was hell with cologne and more cologne) and I learned one valuable lesson over and over.  "This is not what I want to do with the rest of my life."

This spring my husband and I began to think about how we could adjust our life so that I could explore my next steps, so that I could figure out how I truly wanted to spend my valuable time.  Last month I transitioned to a job with a schedule that better fit my goals and since then I've thought alot about what I said in this post.  I wrote about how I've had to adapt my life goals due to autoimmunity and said this, " . . . I want to take [all my time] and use it to learn everything I can about managing and healing autoimmunity through nutritional approaches and lifestyle changes and then I want to spread the word.  I tricked illness by making it my passion."

I said to myself, "Self, duh!"  I'm going to become a health coach!  I have enrolled in a one year program and I start next week.  I am so excited and I feel like something inside of me just . . . CLICKED.  Over the last year many, many of you have reached out asking me for help on how to use food to heal or manage health problems.  Sometimes you just needed a kind, understanding ear and some encouragement as you've worked to find the nutrition template that was right for you.  The more of those interactions I had, the more I was certain I should take this step.  Autoimmunity prodded me toward incredible personal growth and all of you became recruiters to my new career aspiration.  Thanks for recruiting me through your trust in me with your struggles and encouragement that what I am putting out to this community is valued.  You should all add "Recruiter" to your resumes.