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For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled with body image. I have a vivid memory of my ballet teacher puling me aside after class one day to ask “Jenny, do you like chocolate?” Which was her way of saying I was too heavy and should watch what I eat. Seriously? I was eight years old! For the record, I wasn’t even an overweight kid, I just wasn’t as dainty and lithe as the other aspiring ballerinas in my class. Pretty average. Nonetheless, it was enough to prompt the hyper-awareness of the size of my thighs and years of comparing myself to other girls.
Fast forward a few years to high school, and the dieting roller coaster was in full swing! At 14 years old I was signed by a modeling agency who told me that at 5’7” and 130lbs I needed to lose 10 lbs, and after a few rounds of the Cabbage Soup Diet plus countless hours of the Cindy Crawford workout video, I did. But boy, the struggle was real! There’s no way my body wanted to be that thin, and so the pounds packed back on. And on, and on! By the time I graduated high school I weighed 180lbs, and was miserable.
My first year of university only made things worse (hello freshman fifteen!!) and I finished the year at my heaviest weight ever. I felt disgusting, dumpy, and depressed. So that summer I made the decision to do something about it! I joined Weight Watchers (cuz that’s what you did in the late nineties!) and it actually freakin’ worked! I lost nearly 50lbs before returning to school in the fall, and took great pleasure in the positive comments and attention I received! And truthfully, I really learned a lot about food and nutrition through the WW program. Every food gets a Points value, and if you stay in within your daily allotted Points, you would lose weight. It’s essentially calorie counting, so you learn to pay attention to portion sizes, and which foods will give you more bang for your buck, ie. a giant plate of veggies and a chicken breast will be fewer points than one “healthy” bran muffin. So you start to make better choices.
This system worked really well….until it didn’t. Counting, measuring, and weighing every morsel of food you eat becomes tedious and obsessive. And forget trying to count points if you’re out for dinner or at a friend’s place. So naturally, I started to gain some weight back, because as soon as I got “off track”, it would show up on the scale. Heaven forbid I ate 30 points instead of my allotted 26 (or whatever it was!). Present day Health Coach me is like: “Duh, you were restricting your calories so much, your metabolism grinded to a halt, and so of course you gained weight when you started to eat more!” But at the time, I pretty much threw my hands up in the air and gave up!
I’ll spare you the rest of the ups and downs of my twenties (and there were plenty!) and get to the point. My whole relationship with food changed around 2012 when I discovered the Paleo diet. It just made so much sense to me! Eat real food that hasn’t been processed to death. Yes, there are some restrictions like no grains/dairy/legumes/sugar, but the fact that I could eat real, super delicious food, and didn’t have to count grams of fat, calories, or points – SOLD. No more measuring out half a cup of All-bran, with half a banana and skim milk (only 4 points!) or getting out my food scale to ensure my slice of cheese only weighed one ounce! It was food freedom!!
Here’s the best part. Not only did I lose weight, I noticed all kinds of other improvements in my health. My skin looked better, I felt less bloated and gassy all the time, and my asthma and seasonal allergies seemed to improve. This was HUGE for me, because as a professional singer, having constant phlegm issues was causing all kinds of vocal problems. Thus began my nerdy fascination with nutrition, and all the incredible ways that food is medicine. I’ve been a nutrition book/blog/podcast junkie ever since!
So I always had this thought at the back of my mind, that IF I were to pursue a side hustle in addition to singing, that it would be something related to food and nutrition. I mulled this over for at least a couple of years. As far as I knew, the only courses out there were for Holistic Nutritionist certification, and while that sounded intriguing to me, I just couldn’t dedicate the time and money it would involve. Not if I wanted to keep pursuing my singing career. But then I started to see the term “Health Coach” pop up everywhere, and I thought “Wait, what? What’s a Health Coach? Can I do that?” I happen to stumble upon Nutraphoria School of Holistic Nutrition, which offered a 1 year, Health Coaching certification, all done online, AND comes with an option to continue your studies for another year and earn your Holistic Nutritionist designation (which I still might do, eventually). So I signed up and loved it! I was able to work at my own pace, and finished in exactly one year. I registered with the Canadian Health Coach Alliance, and can now use these fancy letters beside my name, RHNC (Registered Health & Nutrition Coach).
So, what exactly IS a Health Coach?
First of all, I’ll tell you what we DON’T do. Health Coaches do not claim to diagnose, treat, or cure illnesses. We don’t judge, blame, or disrespect any aspect of our client’s experiences, beliefs, or values. Like any type of coach, a health coach is someone who can help guide, educate, motivate, inspire, and provide accountability. We can help you form healthy habits and implement positive changes that will contribute to improving your overall health and happiness. Health Coaches are becoming recognized as valuable assets in the world of preventative medicine, and for good reason. Obesity rates are at an all- time high, as are diabetes, chronic fatigue, hormonal imbalances, heart disease, anxiety, depression, and inflammation. The main causes? Food and lifestyle. In fact, 1 in 2 North Americans will develop a diet-related disease, and 1 in 3 will develop diabetes. These are preventable and treatable conditions! And unfortunately, our medical doctors do not receive much in the way of nutrition education, nor do they have the time to work with patients individually in this area. This is why health and nutrition coaches are so desperately needed! We can take the time to assess your individual needs from a holistic standpoint, meaning we take all aspects of lifestyle into consideration, not just what’s on your plate. Our sleep patterns, stress levels, movement, emotions, habits, and mindset are all pieces of the puzzle, and a health and nutrition coach will help you figure out the right balance FOR YOU!!
If you’re wondering whether working with a Health Coach would be right for you, I’m happy to have a chat about it! I offer a free, 20 minute introductory call, just send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll schedule a time to talk!
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