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Initial Impressions of IIN | Why I’m Studying Health Coaching

“A Health Coach is a supportive mentor and wellness authority who works with clients to help them feel their best through food and lifestyle changes. Instead of prescribing one diet or way of exercising, Health Coaches tailor individualized wellness programs to meet their clients’ needs.”
~ The Institute for Integrative Nutrition

A couple of weeks ago, I started a program in pursuit of a Holistic Health Coach certification. This is through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) and is a year-long program focused on teaching me how to help other people realize lifestyle goals that include health, nutrition, happiness, change, and balance.

I often find that I learn better when I share that information, when I teach other people, so one way I plan to utilize this space (in addition to personal stories and other topics) is to share my reflections on what I’m learning and to invite discussion around these topics.

Eight years ago, I completed a yoga teaching certification. I knew when I started that program that it was more for my own personal growth and deepening my own yoga practice than it was about truly aspiring to be a teacher, and I’ve gained so many benefits from that decision and commitment ever since.

This is a little bit different, in that I’ve long considered the idea of (and even have felt called to) becoming a coach and guide for people who want to improve their own lives by making small changes that truly add up over time.

I fully intend to practice what I learn in this process, even if I’m not sure what that looks like just yet. Meanwhile, today I finished the first section in fundamentals and core principles.

In this section, I learned how IIN approaches health, health coaching, and what wellness truly means. I was introduced to a number of food and lifestyle plans and was provided with resources for over 100 different types of diets. My perspective isn’t to ascribe to any specific diet or food plan, but to integrate pieces of different approaches based on our own lifestyles, priorities, and goals.

Why am I doing this, anyway?

I chose to pursue this because I want a better understanding of health, nutrition, and the integration of small changes into our lives to make significant changes. Above all that, above simply learning about these principles, I want to help empower people (you) and inspire people (also you) to live healthy and meaningful lives.

To make whatever changes — big or small — they (you) want to make in order to get your life on your path. It was through working with my own health coach that I saw these types of changes in my life, and the idea of paying that forward by becoming a coach myself, it sparks a serious fire in my soul.

Here are a few of the changes and discoveries I was able to make over the past 10 months:

Weight loss: I lost 15 pounds (two jeans sizes!) in a way that never felt restrictive, and I’ve kept it off.

Daily self-care: I integrated daily practices such as new ways of journaling, meditation, and affirmations that help set the tone for the day and nip nerves and stressors in the bud.

Anxiety management: this is perhaps one of the most significant ones for me, and to be honest, it probably warrants an entire post. The short version is this: I went from taking anti-anxiety meds a couple of times per month for anxiety that either interfered with my ability to do my job or staving off a full-on panic attack, to having only taken one in the past year (that one was preemptive before air travel, not reactionary at all). The best part about this? This wasn’t even a focus or a goal of mine, but an unintended secondary effect of making other positive, healthy changes. Medicating twice a month wasn’t something I wanted or felt the need to change, but after about six months or so of this program, I realized I hadn’t even thought about the meds at all. More on that later, I have a lot more on this topic I want to explore and learn before I really get into it.

Life skills: I learned to set personal boundaries and establish clear priorities and in doing so, I learned to better communicate and express myself. This one is ongoing, of course.

So, that’s why I want to be a health coach. I want to help other people find this balance, shed the layers of the things that hold us back, and fully express our healthy hearts and souls to the world around us.

All that being said, here are my reflections so far. These are impressions* in my own words, based on the information I’ve studied.

The Healthcare Shift, Alternative Practices, & Addictive Foods

To be honest, I think our current state of healthcare is pretty fucked. It focuses on the treatment of diseases rather than preventing them in the first place (of course it does, healthcare is a for-profit business industry that stops making money when we’re too healthy to need the services!). I think Western/conventional medicine is brilliant for crisis/emergency care, but I think we’re incredibly deficient in knowledge, practice, and resources around alternative and preventative medicine that help restore us from the inside. Let me reiterate: I fully believe there is a place for both conventional and alternative medicine in our world; I just believe that we are far too focused on treating symptoms than we are repairing root causes.

I think it’s both exciting and also disruptive to assert the idea that we can fundamentally change the state of health and wellness as we know it in our culture. I think making these changes in my life and encouraging others to do the same in theirs, along with all of the other health coaches, medical professionals, and individuals in this world who are committed to the same thing, well — I think we’re going to have a pretty big impact.

The first section also covered some introductory material on food addiction, reflective of yet another industry that is intent on keeping themselves in business by keeping us stocked with their products. It’s a pretty basic concept, the idea that if it comes in a box or has a bar code on it, you should carefully consider putting it in your body.

Let me be clear: I order pizza and put potato chips on my sandwiches and you will pry the Duke’s Mayonnaise jar out of my cold dead hands, but the more and more I become aware of what actually fuels my body and what’s going to keep me healthier for longer, I know I have to make new and better decisions about what the majority of my diet is going to consist of.

My goal here is to start to shift these unconscious habits and hold myself accountable when I make excuses about cravings and convenience, and to help you do the same. No judgment, no unrealistic expectations. Just this idea that if we start to fill our lives and our diets with the really, really good stuff, we’ll slowly but surely stop missing (and craving) the stuff that doesn’t truly fuel us.

I’ll try these so you don’t have to.

One idea I had about this whole process, is that I’ll be exposed to over 100 different dietary theories, some of which I’m familiar with (Paleo, Whole30, keto, etc) and many of which I’m not.

It’s crossed my mind that in an effort to do more than just read about them but rather truly understand and experience them, I’m going to pick 10 or so that I can try and test over the course of this year-long program.

Personally, I’m drawn to a Paleo-ish diet, though I’ve never fully committed to it, and I’ve always wanted to try a Whole30 for the full month. I have yet to outline how I want to approach these theories and which ones I want to try, but I fully intend to try a few and write about my experiences here. Let me know if there’s anything in particular you’re curious about or would like to see me explore! Bonus points if you want to do it together :)

*Insert obvious disclaimer here that these are opinions, that I’m studying new material, and that we’re each responsible for our own decisions about how we treat our bodies and our wellness.

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