On Becoming a Health Coach
Nutrition, exercise and wellness have not always been a priority for me. Cooking has been a passion since I was old enough to cook with my Mom, but understanding the physical benefits of eating a beautiful, colorful palate is something I did not learn until later in life.
When I was in college, I was terribly unkind to my body (and myself, in general). My first 2-ish years were spent trying to figure out who I was on my own, going out all the time, skipping meals (and classes) and not ever taking time to care for myself. My friend used to joke that I survived off of coffee and sour patch kids. Which, to be honest, wasn’t inaccurate.
I have said this before, and will continue to. Our personal relationship with food is incredibly complex. That relationship to food can be intricate, messy, fuzzy and at times make you feel not so great about yourself. I lived that for a couple of years and it was so isolating. I was in a relationship my third year in college with someone, and I remember he told me that he couldn’t love me more than I loved myself. That was a very eye opening statement, made at my lowest low, and I heard it loud and clear.
The next day I began a gentle journey of taking better care of me. I pulled out my old Mari Winsor Pilates DVDs. Began to utilize the food available to me where I was living- eating 3 meals each day that included some fruits and veggies. Caffeine was limited to just the morning during the week and I stopped going out on school nights. Which, was a different form of isolation, but for self-preservation it was worth it. I lost some friends and gained some new ones. I focused on becoming the real me- the version of myself I wanted but always felt was just out of reach.
While the relationship I was in ran its course and ended, I will always be grateful for the healing it brought to my life. When I met Michael in NYC the summer of 2003, I was ready to create a life with someone. I worked so hard at school my final year, moved out on my own (which was the best decision for me) and graduated from college. We got engaged shortly after and the wedding preparation began.
My mom and I joined a very small, women only gym together. I had never worked out consistently before. So, our 3-4 times a week workouts were new and so much fun. We would workout together and then go home and I would make us smoothies. Little did I know this was laying the foundation of two wellness pillars I prioritize 16 years later.
When we were married in 2005, my love of cooking flourished. I prepared us meals at home most nights and LOVED it! Most of the recipes made were found in my monthly Cooking Light magazine or by watching Food Network. I played in the kitchen and had the best time. Our first 5 years were like that: home cooked meals, we bought a treadmill to do at-home workouts and we woke up at 5:00 AM together to drink coffee. Now, 5 AM would be sleeping in- ha!
These little habits did not come overnight. They had been woven in slowly over years and we built on them as we found we needed new or different things.
We had Evan in 2010 and little Edie in 2013. Shortly after Edie was born, we learned that two people in our immediate family (one on my side and one on Michael’s) had cancer. Both were thankfully found in very early stages, but within two weeks of each other, we decided to dig deeper into our lifestyle.
We know that cancer is very prevalent on both sides of our family and are thankful that both are fully recovered. They healed and are well now. We are beyond grateful. But, that was the catalyst for me. I began my journey to becoming a health coach after that. My mission was to do everything I could to help our family and any person that I work with live a long, happy, healthy life. A thriving life not a life surviving.
As I researched diet, lifestyle and impacts to health, Institute for Integrative Nutrition kept popping up. I began my Instagram page to begin to share this journey with those around me and an alumni from the school reached out to me to ask if I had thought about becoming a health coach. It felt very serendipitous. I enrolled in October 2014, and never looked back.
I learned more in that year about varying nutritional theories, stress management, prioritizing sleep, self-care and how you can truly use food as medicine to change your internal environment and possibly improve your cancer risk factors. If you want to learn more, here is the curriculum guide. Our lifestyle became more about proactively taking care of ourselves and less about the reactive response to issues that popped up.
I began cooking differently when I was in school- even cutting out meat for a number of years after our factory farming module. There was so much to learn and I couldn’t wait to begin to work with people to help them in their own journey to feeling better. People enroll in IIN for so many different reasons, but for me, it started with needing to feel more educated and empowered in the choices I made within our family.
That passion now transfers over to the work that I do with the clients and businesses that I work with. I feel lucky to get to ask questions, listen and create programs to help individuals achieve their short and longer term goals. It is a career where the learning never stops. I even applied at a local college to take Nutrition courses!
My approach to wellness is very deeply rooted in putting as many good things into your body as you can. Knowing that for every push, you need a pull. For every growing or foundational food, you need playful one’s too. Wellness is about finding your groove in that gray area. And, recognizing that there isn’t an end destination. This is a journey you will walk for life.
My last bit on this is that it is never too late to want to take care of yourself. If you have a “why” you can achieve anything! Starting is usually the hardest part of any new challenge. I love that when clients work with me, they are never alone on their walk. I cheer them on, push them outside their lines of comfort and watch them spread their wings and fly.
20 years ago, I had no idea who I was or what impact I wanted to make on the world. Now, nearing 40, I am crystal clear on my purpose. Family first, always. And, spending my time away from family supporting people in becoming the version of themselves that they dream about. Oh, and in my spare time you can find me in the kitchen. Usually cooking in my robe with a large matcha latte in hand.
If you have questions about being a health coach, working with a health coach or anything in between, I am here.
I’m exploring enrolling in IIN. Your approach and story really resonate with me, and your career and presence are so impressive! If you ever have time for an introductory conversation, I’d love to hear more about your experience at IIN. I’m just beginning my journey but couldn’t help but reach out when I read your blog, saw your recommended books, and even saw that you met Robin Arzon and Kristen McGee is a fan! Would love to connect if you have time. Best wishes for a great 2022.
Siobhan Sheils (from Washington, DC and also a mom of 2)
Good morning and happy new year! Thank you so much for your note and apologies for the delayed response time. I would love to help answer any questions that you may have! My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Email me anything you are curious about and I will get back to you as soon as I can! Take care, BB