I’ve been asked what led me into health coaching because it seems so different from other work I have done. For me it is all a matter of following my heart.  In the mid 80’s and early 90’s my heart inspired me to accompany suffering people in war-torn countries; now that same heart has called me to respond to the unnecessary suffering caused by confusing health and nutrition information in a land of plenty.

Kathy in Chichicastenango, Guatemala 1993

In Guatemala from 91-96 I lived in a rural area among people who had little material wealth and little access to western medicines. What they did have was a deep understanding of the natural world. The elders of the communities I visited could brew a tea from the bark of a specific tree and help a diabetic regulate his blood sugar. Others ground flowers from another bush to treat skin rashes and lesions.

In 1995, my last year of working in Guatemala, I became involved in a medicinal plant project which began by gathering the elders from various communities to share their knowledge with one another and with community health promoters. Knowledge is power – affordable traditional remedies combined with education about simple, everyday things that people could do to prevent disease went a long way to serve people who no doctor, hospital or regimen of western medicine would ever reach.

I found myself fascinated by all I was learning; I often went to bed at night reading my copy of Where There is No Doctor. I was witnessing a very powerful transformation – I watched people take charge of their own health by incorporating new habits and practices into their lives. Nutrition played a vital role, but what seemed even more potent was people recognizing that they themselves had the power to change a lot of variables that could create a positive outcome for themselves and their family members’ health and well-being.

When I returned to the U.S. I found that people often feel very disconnected from knowledge of the natural world and that same kind of control over their health. While fantastic health care is available to those who can afford it, the health care system offers precious little education on disease prevention and easy, affordable actions to support one’s own healing. In Guatemala, while helping resource-poor communities with little access to western health care to expand their tools to stay healthy, I had no idea I was on the cutting edge of health care. Imagine what a different state the health of U.S. citizens would be in if people and communities had the simple knowledge on how to prevent disease. People might not miss as much work; they might avoid expensive hospital stays and young people wouldn’t be sentenced to formerly “adult diseases” like type II diabetes, gout and heart disease.

Nutrition is one of the easiest things to modify to bring about remarkable health benefits. I began noticing in my own diet how certain foods made me feel better than others. When I sought to deepen my knowledge in this area, I learned that most academic dietitian programs are closely tied to the USDA’s (U.S. Department of Agriculture) nutrition standards. When these standards were updated in December 2010 – they told us to “eat less,” without giving a clear picture of what to eat and what to avoid. The USDA has a dual role – it is responsible for promoting U.S. agriculture and setting U.S. nutrition guidelines. Unfortunately for us consumers, the USDA does a much better job of the former, leaving the public with lots of nutritional questions and contradictions.

In trying to find an independent source on nutrition knowledge, I found the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, where I completed a year-long program in 2009 and became a certified health coach recognized by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners.

I now work with individuals investigating how they are nourished – not only by food but by the circumstances of their lives. As I watch people incorporate new practices and healthier choices, I am seeing some remarkable changes including, weight loss, more energy, better sleep and a surge of creativity around making life choices. Mostly I encourage people to follow their hearts in everything they do and to create a life full of the sustenance that truly makes their heart sing!

If you are looking for support in feeling better, truly following your bliss, or if you just want to cut down on medical expenses through making better everyday choices, you may want to talk with me about scheduling a health history consultation. And if you are thinking of a career change – talk to me to learn more about the Institute for Integrative Nutrition training program.