Frequently Asked Questions
This is a great question, because honestly – there are a lot of different people with wildly varied credentials (or no credentials at all) calling themselves “health coaches” nowadays. In fact, for years I avoided using that term entirely. For better or for worse, however, that’s the best descriptor of what I am and what I do. So rather than trying to define an entire industry, why don’t I tell you what this means to me?
To be a functional practitioner means to look for and address imbalances before they evolve to disease states. And for my clients that have been diagnosed with diseases, it means unraveling the specific imbalances that led their bodies down that path.
It means understanding that, although there are a lot of great templates out there, no one-size-fits-all protocol is going to be exactly right for each person.
It means being able to order functional tests for you, look at your test results, and interpret them with the context of your entire health history in mind, not just treat you as a math problem (or any kind of problem really).
It means looking holistically at each area of your life and how they all impact your physical health, while supporting you to make the changes that need to be made at a pace that works for your life and personality.
It means working as a part of your healthcare team, sharing information and being clear about my scope of practice.
- Ordering functional lab tests like blood, saliva, urine, hair, or stool testing and interpreting them based on your health history and symptoms
- Coaching you on the behavior and mindset changes needed to support better health
- Helping you determine which type of dietary template is most appropriate for your needs and goals
- Helping you determine appropriate exercise type and levels for your needs and goals
- Creating supplement protocols to address imbalances we find in our work together or to support specific short-term needs (like travel or vaccinations)
- Helping you advocate for yourself within the conventional healthcare system, including understanding what tests to ask for based on your history and symptoms
Ordering diagnostic tests like imaging, or scopes (although there are a few diagnostic tests that overlap with functional tests, like blood and stool testing)
Diagnosing you with any type of disease, illness or syndrome (although I may direct you to your medical doctor if I see anything that could be diagnostic on your labwork)
Treating disease of any sort (I work to address underlying imbalances which may or may not result in a reduction of your disease symptoms)
Treating any type of mental health disorder including eating disorders (I have, however, worked very successfully with people who have completed therapeutic treatment for eating disorders, and with those who are concurrently in therapy for other mental health challenges, and in fact focusing on nutrition can greatly improve outcomes of mental health therapy!)
Advising you to start or stop taking any medications
I started getting interested in fitness with some 1970s yoga book my mom had, that I found when I was a kid!
When I was 16 two incredibly impactful things happened: I went to culinary school, and a mentor of mine started taking me to the gym with her. In school I focused a lot on learning how to cook for special diets, and it’s probably where I really became a foodie.
My love of the gym, bodybuilding, and all things MUSCLES (said in Terry Crew’s voice from that Old Spice commercial) started that year and has never waned. I joke to my husband that the gym is my one true love. (Sorry Babe!)
My interest in nutritional therapy actually started when I was 18 and got cancer – Google wasn’t a thing yet, so I went to the library, consulted Dewey Decimal himself, and read all of the books they had on nutrition & cancer.
In my 20s, I worked for a chiropractor who did clinical nutrition in his office, and that’s where I started learning about functional lab testing and supplements.
I started my formal nutrition training in 2012 with the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, followed by the Nutritional Therapy Association and Functional Diagnostic Nutrition. I also have additional certifications in the Autoimmune Paleo Protocol Diet, Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, Stress & Hormones, Functional Blood Chemistry Analysis, Neurotransmitters, Mold & Methylation, and Coaching Skills.
Technically I’m probably a hybrid coach/consultant/strategist. But for our purposes here, I’ll explain how I work with 1:1 clients! I approach every client as a new and unique case because – guess what – they are!
I start by gathering all the information I can about your health history and current challenges. Then we meet and review everything together, get clear about your intentions, and set long-term and short-term goals. I also make sure I understand what type of accountability and coaching works best for you, because just like your nutrition needs, the way you need to be supported is not the same as everyone else!
Our subsequent coaching calls are called “Strategy Sessions”, because we deal with whatever is happening and determine next steps together. Sometimes you know exactly what to do next, and you just need accountability – someone to check and make sure you actually did it! Sometimes you didn’t do the thing and we need to break down the reason(s) why – was it not the right action after all? Or did the same ol’ obstacles come up to stop you from working towards your goal? Was it logistical? Or more of a mindset issue? Was there maybe some self-sabotage involved? This is where the coaching comes in.
It’s great to have someone to just tell you what to do to be healthy, but chances are you already know all the “right things”. So some of our work together is implementation and customization, and some of it is evaluation – are those “right things” actually right for YOU?
Overall I believe that you are the ultimate expert on your body. I’m here to be a guide and offer information you may not have. Sometimes there’s a trust issue you need to restore with your body, sometimes you just need someone who believes that you can reach your health goals. Either way I’m here to stand beside you, not talk down to you. Any coach that shames you for any part of your relationship to food or your body has no business in this industry.
I believe in (and teach) curiosity over judgement, compassion over shame, and baby steps over giant upheaval. Slow and steady wins the race and I want you to win.
Personally I attempt to eat food that is as unprocessed as possible. I consider myself to be an ethical omnivore, meaning I try – as much as possible – to support small-scale, humane, regenerative meat farming practices.
I think we should avoid food that makes us feel crappy, and food that makes us feel good. That’s kind of it, in a nutshell!
Unfortunately, unless you are willing to eat some fish, shellfish, and/ or eggs – we would not be a good match to work together. I know there are a lot of vegan coaches out there, it just doesn’t fit with my philosophy and training.
If you are looking to transition away from a vegan diet into eating animal products again, I have extensive experience with this, as well as a ton of compassion for anyone who does this, so I would be more than happy to guide you through this process.
Yes! I love working with people with chronic illness. My years of being sick before my ulcerative colitis diagnosis in 2014 has uniquely qualified me to help others who are dealing with long-term health issues.
Yes! Conventional blood tests aren’t the only way to see what’s going on under the hood. And while understanding the difference between lab ranges and functional ranges can be pretty impactful, I can also definitely help by ordering completely different functional tests, as well as helping you understand what dietary or environmental factors could be causing you to feel like crap!
Yes! In fact we can look together at what nutrients your medications might be depleting and ensure that your nutrition protocol addresses that, while not including any nutrients or herbs that might interfere with your medications’ effectiveness.
One clinical observation: the clients that I’ve had that are on anti-inflammatory steroid drugs long-term tend to not be able to feel dietary changes as quickly or clearly as my other clients. This doesn’t mean that it’s not important for them to focus on nutrition, but the drugs tend to mask a lot of symptoms so it can just be harder to measure progress at times.
I *can* and *do* create meal plans, and here’s why I don’t generally lead with that fact. For most people, meal plans are unrealistic. Compliance with a strict plan can lead to feelings of deprivation, and ultimately binging/ self-sabotage. I instead like to frame this part of our work together as using a “template”. I curate a collection of recipes for you that fit with your goals, dietary restrictions and preferences, and you can use those to get inspired to incorporate similar meals into your routine. In reality, we may not always have every single ingredient on hand for a recipe, so I feel it’s a much more useful skill to understand how to improvise and stick to certain principles in the kitchen, rather than trying to emulate a “perfect plan”. Less Mozart, more Coltrane.
Very rarely. The situations where something like this might be helpful could include exposure to mold or other environmental toxins, or if someone has recently gone through a very intense medication regime, ie: chemotherapy. There are other, case-by-case situations, where I might suggest a short-term detox-focused protocol.
What I’ve seen in my almost-2-decades in the health and fitness industry is that a lot of people use an annual or seasonal “detox” to justify ingesting a lot of questionable food and alcohol the rest of the year. I put it in the same category as crash dieting. And it often involves a lot of guilt and shame – as if their habits or their bodies are “dirty” and needs “cleansing”.
For most people, taking a bunch of herbs or nutrients that are designed to “push” a detox reaction – without focusing on the basics – it’s going to backfire and could cause more issues than you started with
If we instead focus on sustainable healthy habits that allow for balance, basic “detoxifying” processes like getting adequate sleep, hydration, having regular, daily bowel movements, and sweating regularly through appropriate exercise – we tend to not need those harsh detox protocols OR if we do decide to utilize them they actually work instead of making us feel worse.
Absolutely. Especially with chronic illness, bodies don’t always respond to traditional weight-loss efforts. I actually think it’s imperative to have goals that span multiple outcomes. Areas that my clients often end up setting goals include:
- Increased energy
- Reduction of pain
- Reduced GI symptoms
- Reduced headaches
- Confidence in their ability to interpret their bodies’ signals
- Confidence in the kitchen
- Increase in amount or intensity of physical activity
- Improved relationship to food
- Emotional stability
- Clearer thinking
- Better sleep
And so many more. We can work together to create the goals and milestones that make the most sense for YOU.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Celiac, Crohn’s and Colitis), Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Diabetes (Type I and Type II), Rheumatoid Arthritis, Mold toxicity, Chronic Fatigue, Chronic Pain, Migraines, Joint Pain, Ankylosing Spondylitis, Parasites and Bacterial infections of the gut, PCOS, Infertility, Hashimoto’s, Non-celiac Gluten intolerance, Histamine intolerance, Food Allergies, Psoriasis, Eczema
I think vaccination is a deeply personal choice for everyone, and I have clients who I’ve helped navigate through everything from advocating for a custom childhood vaccine schedule for their babies, to going through COVID-19 unvaccinated.
A close relative of mine has suffered from post-polio syndrome since she was a child, and I know that a lot of the “long-COVID” patients could have a similar fate. I’ve been watching the different long-term effects of this virus on people who were apparently healthy, with no pre-existing conditions, and I don’t think it’s something we should trifle with. Personally, I wouldn’t want to be the cause of anyone experiencing that, so I am fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as part of my holistic plan to protect myself and the people I love.
There is an incredible amount of misinformation out there, and while my dad likes to remind me that there were anti-vaxxers in the Polio era, they didn’t have Fox News. Or Facebook. So, a large part of my mission is to encourage people to understand the bias in these media sources and webs of algorithms that they’re caught in, understand what makes a good scientific study, and how to think critically about these matters.
I do not take insurance but I’ve had clients use HSA and FSA funds in the past to get reimbursed. I can create a superbill for you if that’s helpful, but because diagnosis and therefore diagnosis coding is out of my scope, the insurance company may or may not accept it.
If you want to go that route, you will need to work with your insurance company and your primary doctor to determine the steps to take, as every plan is different.
Because each client is different, there’s no way for me to know what supplements and labs to include until we start working together. These are always a separate expense.
I try to do as much as I can with diet and lifestyle changes FIRST, before we throw a bunch of supplements in the mix, but they are an important part of nutritional therapy. Every case is different, but you will want to plan on budgeting some amount of money towards supplements each month.
No! I do have a food journal app that I use with clients, because I can’t make recommendations unless I know what’s already happening. But if seeing the calories and macronutrient numbers is triggering for you, I can turn that part off. You will need to track your food and symptoms for us to work together, but estimates are fine.