*Originally published 3/10/20
Today, as I sit at work, stressed about what kinds of foods will be served at our staff appreciation lunch, and worrying that it will be awkward when I inevitably end up eating the lunch I brought from home instead, I’m reminded of why I do what I do. I’m sure if you’ve ever been on a diet or been trying to eat a particular way, you can relate. Our social functions make it really difficult to be healthy- there’s a lot of pressure to fit in, and not a lot of options when you’re wanting to make good choices.
On the menu today is what you might expect from a function like this…roast beef, white hamburger buns, chips, donuts, and cake. There might be a veggie tray, but other than that, probably not much that I’ll want to eat. So, I’ll heat up the farro, beans, and veggies that I brought from home (which is delicious, I might add!) and enjoy that while everyone else digs in to the provided spread.
But wouldn’t it be nice if I didn’t have to bring my own food? Wouldn’t it be awesome if instead of the chips and donuts there was fruit and a quinoa salad? I dream of living in a world where it’s easy to make healthy choices, and I don’t have to worry about what I’m going to eat at social events. It’s not fun to be the odd person out, but if people don’t start being okay with “fitting out,” nothing will ever change.
This is why I became a health coach. I want people to know that what I’m eating at the party is just as delicious as what they’re eating and will leave me feeling energized rather than sluggish. I want them to know that I’m not feeling deprived when I pass on the cake and donuts, I’m genuinely okay with saying no. What if we were all eating vegetables and fruit and whole grains (real food!) instead of chips and processed white flour and sugar? What if I didn’t have to defend myself and get told to “live a little” when I turn down a cookie on a random Tuesday?
My dream is to help others get to the place I’m at. The place where eating nourishing food is more appealing than eating junk. I’m certainly not perfect, and I can’t say I don’t eat junk food on occasion, but the point is that it’s not my normal. My hope is that the more people I influence, the more people they will influence, and hopefully one day, the ripple effect will ensure that everyone is eating real food again.
My “health” journey started when I graduated from graduate school and took my first full-time athletic training job in Milwaukee. I was living on my own for the first time, and was getting more and more interested in food and how it affects our health. My boss and now good friend/mentor, April, was always talking about food, the food system, organic food, food policy, etc. and she really sparked my curiosity. I started reading about food and watching documentaries and became much more aware of what I was eating on a daily basis.
At the same time, my interest in cooking was starting to peak. I had never lived by myself and was really enjoying being able to cook whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. The more I learned about food and the better cook I became, the more nourishing (and tasty!) my meals became.
Over time, I made the decision to cut out added sugars from my diet based on what I was learning about sugar and how it can adversely affect health. I also chose to stop eating meat. Both of these choices were based on what works best for me (everyone is different, and I know that what works for me won’t work for everyone) and I didn’t do it overnight. I actually found it pretty easy to make those changes – I think mostly because I believed in my reasons for making them, but also because I made the transition gradually. Once I stopped eating so much sugar, I didn’t crave it as much and when I did, I could satisfy a craving with a bite of something or a small treat. Today, I still cut out meat and try to avoid sugar. My body feels best when I eat this way, and I genuinely don’t feel deprived – I eat a lot of really flavorful food!
The more my diet transitioned, and the “cleaner” I ate, the more I noticed how different my eating habits were than those around me. I learned that there was a stigma of being a “healthy eater” and I often felt like my eating habits would be a burden on my family and friends when I was invited over for dinner. Thankfully, I also found that some people really enjoyed learning about why I made the decisions I made, and I really enjoyed teaching them about it.
As I got more and more excited about food, I became a little less excited about athletic training. I was starting to think about what I would do for a career if I didn’t stick with athletic training. I don’t even remember when I first heard about health coaching, but it definitely peaked my interest and sounded like it was right up my alley. A few years ago I got the opportunity to move back to Stevens Point (where I went to college) to be the head athletic trainer at my alma mater. I wasn’t sure if it was the right move for me, but Stevens Point felt like home, and I decided to go for it.
Moving back to Stevens Point turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life – I met my fiancé, Scott, about a month after moving back. Unfortunately, the job wasn’t a great fit. I burned out pretty quickly due to the hours (lots of nights and weekends), I didn’t particularly like managing people, and I just wasn’t passionate about the work any more. My interest in health and talking about food and nutrition was still strong, and I was spending more and more time researching what it would take to become a health coach. Scott and I talked a lot about me leaving my job, and I decided to enroll in the Institute for Integrative Nutrition to start training to be a health coach. Around this time last year, with Scott’s support (he really is the best partner I could ask for) I resigned from my job, and decided to put all of my energy into getting my health coaching business off the ground.
My biggest inspiration for wanting to coach is creating change. I want to see change in our food systems, the way we educate people about nutrition, and what we feed our children. I want it to be normal to eat vegetables every day. I want people to believe me when I say I enjoy eating “healthy” food and to know that you don’t have to eat a dry, flavorless salad every day to be healthy. I don’t want to be anxious about where friends or family want to meet for dinner because there may not be anything I want to eat on the menu. I want to be excited to go to a potlock or a birthday party (or a work lunch like today) rather than being stressed about what I’m going to eat when I’m there. If I can make an impact on the health of even just one person, this will all have been worth it!
If my story interests you, or you’d like more information about how I can help you make changes in your lifestyle, visit bettertodayhealth.org to schedule your free consultation today!