Becoming an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach at 50: Linda’s Story
With her kids growing up, after decades of practicing Massage Therapy and teaching Pilates, Linda felt she was ready for the next challenge. Having witnessed the power of nutrition and wellness on herself and her clients, she got certified to share that transformative knowledge.
Tell us a little about your background…
I grew up in Wilmette, Illinois. I have a sister, a brother, and seven stepsiblings. My parents were divorced when I was eight years old, and both remarried. My family now: I am married and have three children: twin boys who are 22 years old and college seniors (one at the University of Miami in Florida, the other at DePaul in Chicago), and a daughter who is 12 years old and in seventh grade at Lincoln Elementary in Chicago. My husband, Richard, is a Chiropractic physician and Functional Medicine doctor.
I also attended University of Miami and graduated in 1984 with a degree in Elementary and Early Childhood Education. I taught Learning Disabled children for three years in Coconut Grove, Florida. During my last year as a teacher, I attended Educating Hands Massage School and met my husband just after I sat for my Florida License exam. We moved to Chicago in 1994—since it’s where I grew up, it was like coming home for me. Together, Rich and I opened our own clinic, Arrandt Health Care, in the Lincoln Park community and ran it for 22 years. I also received my Pilates Certification in 2003 from Power Pilates in New York City, and teach Pilates part-time at Club Pilates in Lincoln Park.
A year and a half ago, Rich and I moved Arrandt Health Care over to the Balance Health and Wellness facility, located just up the street in the Lincoln Park area of Chicago. The Balance philosophy is that through multi-disciplinary care, the team approach and services help clients to return to a state of balance, relieving their discomfort, restoring their functionality, and helping them sustain wellbeing in body and mind. Joining forces with Balance has been great. Balance has everything under one roof and offers so many more services than we were able to have on our own, including Chiropractic, Naturopathy, Physical Therapy, Acupuncture, Biofeedback, Neuro-feedback, Pilates, Massage, and Integrative Nutrition Health Coaching. I love the environment and am able to utilize my multiple skillsets there.
When did you start to think about making a change?
I started to think about making a professional change when my boys were in high school and more self-sufficient, and my daughter was equally occupied between school and nine hours of gymnastics a week. This allowed me the time to furthering myself professionally. I have been a practicing Massage Therapist and Pilates instructor for 25 and 14 years respectively. My husband and I partner to help our patients heal their symptoms, pain, and inflammation. The majority of our patients were getting therapy along with changing their diets and seeing direct results. Since I was counseling people for lifestyle change during sessions, becoming a health coach seemed like a great fit for me.
We noticed that once we had addressed and resolved underlying problems—through improved nutrition, manual therapy, supplementation, and lifestyle changes—patients noticed the removal or lessening of longstanding pain, along with weight loss. We watched how the patients who followed through with dietary and lifestyle changes not only lost weight, but healed through better nutrition. Those patients did not need as much manual therapy or manipulation. As a Massage Therapist, I even felt patients’ muscle tissue loosen and change over time right under my hands through good nutrition. It’s really not a mystery.
The culmination of the “aha” moment was when I saw and felt my own personal change in health and weight loss following an Intestinal Permeability Program—also known as a Leaky Gut program—and a year later I did a five-week Candida program. These programs helped heal my joint pain, skin irritations, brain fog, hormonal problems, thyroid issues, excess bloat and weight issues, among others.
What is your next act?
I began my new career direction almost five years ago on the beach at my sister’s house on the Jersey Shore. I signed up for school at The Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) in New York City on my 50th birthday. I went back to school to become an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and received my certification a year later.
I am extremely passionate about helping people and feel blessed to have been led to this career. I also received certification through an additional Health Coach training program through the Dr. Sears Wellness Institute and am certified to teach their life stage programs—Family Health, Pregnancy, and Prime Time Health for adults and seniors.
I fully believe that health care reform needs to begin in our own kitchens. I can attest to this from watching patients and clients make appropriate changes as well as see it in my own personal transformation and that of my family. My son did our 5-Week Candida program as a sophomore in high school, lost 35 pounds, cleared up his skin as well as knee and joint pain. His testimony can be found on my website.
I can also see and feel the transformation through food, lifestyle change, functional-movement and from a tissue/muscular perspective under my hands as a therapist. I think the majority of our food should be prepared at home, so we know what goes into it. I think it’s important for people to get tested for food sensitivities so they can learn what they need to remove from their diet to feel their best. It’s not all about weight loss. While working with clients and patients, my husband and I often put them on modified elimination diets. When people begin to add foods back, they can feel the effects directly when focusing on one food at a time.
The majority of my clients are women, over forty, dealing with hormonal imbalances and battling excess weight. They are stressed out, tired, overweight, and want to have more energy. Most clients come to me with a laundry list of symptoms that they have tried to heal for years. Many clients already exercise regularly and already eat pretty well. They have gone from doctor to doctor and diet to diet to try to lose weight and heal their pain and symptoms. They are smart, educated, and have read and tried many different dietary programs.
I do not have a cookie cutter approach with clients. We begin by discussing their health history with a discovery session. It is an organic, highly individualized process. I have found that clients who commit to a three- to six-month program get the best results. Changing long-standing habits takes time. There are several success stories posted on my website as well as some videos. I do work with men and teens as well, but they do not make up the majority of my practice. I also work with clients by phone or Skype. Many clients actually prefer working this way even though they live locally, as they don’t have to commute to my office, and we can still keep to regular scheduled calls while they (or I) are traveling.
Last year I took a The Roll Model / Yoga Tune Up course. I use this method to teach clients to do self-massage and I absolutely love the work. I use it with my Pilates clients and my husband uses it with patients as well. I use the balls for my own regular self-care and find that they work great when I use them with regularity (as with any tool, if it sits in the corner, what’s it worth?). This training complements the other work I do, as self-care is the foundation of the most important aspects of the health coaching work I do. Here’s a video of me demonstrating this method.
You also work with groups?
Yes. While I really enjoy working with private clients, I feel that there is a large need for group programs. Having support from a community of like-minded individuals is an important aspect in getting healthy—so you don’t feel so alone. This community model was important for me when I lost weight in the ‘80s. There is comfort in knowing that there are others going through the very same thing as you.
I launched an online group program called, “Eight Weeks to A Healthier You.” It allows people to go at their own pace. They can listen to the live call or on their own time frame. I have made the price affordable for people at $289 for an 8-week group class, whether locally or online. I believe that having group accountability and support is key. This is why my clients and husband’s patients who do our detox programs are so successful.
My 8-Week program is not a detox, but a lifestyle program. My private clients get the very same material within their 3- or 6-month program and pay me $1150-$2400. However, with one-to-one coaching, we get to dig deeper. We work on underlying issues, both mentally and in the gut, that stop people from changing and moving forward. This process goes way beyond counting calories and tracking exercise to move clients beyond a long-held mindset that has kept them stuck in old patterns.
Again, my 3- and 6-month program looks different for each person as it unfolds during the time we work together. Also, I only accept two to three new qualifying clients per month as I spend a lot of my time and focus on the people who are committed in time and finances and believe in the process. I am generally a warm and friendly person, but I am also a tough coach who gets results.
Why did you choose this next act?
I have a background as an Elementary School Teacher and have always had a love of teaching, so educating people on simple, small steps to get healthier is a great fit for me. I chose this path because both my husband and I live this as a lifestyle. Might I add, not perfectly either. I am not the Yogi who has arrived on the mountaintop. I struggle with the same issues as many of my clients. I do indulge and give into cravings at times.
In my past I was forty pounds overweight and it was painful to live in that body. I lacked confidence and felt self-conscious and fat. I did a weight loss success story in New Body Magazine in the mid ‘80s and at the time I created a community of support to help me reach my goals. When I look back at that time, I felt so proud of myself and loved the new body I worked so hard to get. I thought that I would be a great coach to help others with my own experience.
For me today, I choose to do a detox program with each changing season. By detoxing my body, I find it helps me clean out my intestines and liver, get off of sugar cravings and to feel great in my body. After my seasonal detoxes, my muscles and joints feel great, my energy soars, and my clothing fits so much better. I wanted to share the excitement of feeling great in your body with other people. My goal is to help people lose weight, lose pain, feel vibrant, energetic, and wildly alive.
How hard was it to take the plunge?
It was easy for me; I had a lot of support. The coursework was all online and amounted to 6-10 hours a week of work. I felt ready to use my brain and learn. I knew a few friends who had used Health Coaches or had a friend who was a coach, so I got some names and numbers of the ones who went to the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN), the school that I was considering signing up for and would end up attending. It seemed like a good fit for me when I spoke to some graduates. I also spoke at length to the enrollment office about what to expect. My husband was supportive, so I signed up to begin when the kids returned to school that fall.
What challenges did you encounter?
The juggle of having three kids in three schools was a challenge. My twin boys, Jake and Zack were in their junior year in two different high schools and my daughter, Sydney was in second grade. Running a household, along with work, and now school, was a challenge, but I was so excited to hear the next lecture for the program that I would listen while cooking, folding clothing, or traveling in the car using my iPad. When a lecture was really important, I would watch again when time allowed and then sit to take notes. I found I was able to keep up with the workload required as it was online and I could go at my own pace.
Were there times when you thought about giving up?
I can’t say that I wanted to give up, but I just wanted more time to be able to focus on the path. I thought about stopping and re-enrolling when my mom became ill, but kept it up and graduated on time. Luckily, we were able to hire a caregiver for my mom and she recovered and got her independence back. I was proud of myself for finishing on time.
I began my private practice while I was still in school. I was lucky to work along with my husband and be able to work with many of the patients in our practice.
My passion to help others overcome health and weight challenges was my real driving force to keep going. Also, I felt a strong desire to help my own family with the knowledge I was gaining. When I began working with clients during school, the work felt so natural and rewarding. It felt amazing to see the magic that happens for people when they start to implement changes, feel better, get more energy, and lose weight. I believe that this work is my life’s calling.
Have your kids embraced your and your husband’s lifestyle as well?
Yes and no! My kids have a great understanding of how nutrition affects their body and brain. My daughter probably eats the most like my husband and me. All of the kids clean up their diet when their immune system is off. They eliminate, sugar, dairy, and wheat until they are better. The boys eat a pretty typical college diet, but they know the benefits of good nutrition and clean up their diet when they have to function their best for school, such as during finals. They do not eat gluten free in general—although Zack has said that he’d do the program again when he comes home this summer, with my support. My daughter is very mindful of what she eats before important tests and her gymnastics meets.
What did you learn about yourself through this process?
I learned how capable I am and how it is okay not to do it all or do it perfectly. Some things have to give, like a clean house or a workout. I learned that my intuition when I work one on one with a client is much better than a scripted program. I also learned that I have valuable wisdom and knowledge that really works to help people with goals and lifestyle changes. I see the proof firsthand watching clients transform.
Looking back, is there anything you’d have done differently?
I don’t think I’d do much differently, as I was led to this work through everything in my past and everything that I have learned about my own body throughout the years. In my past, being 40 pounds heavier than I am today was painful. After the weight loss success story, in the mid to late ‘80s, I moved to the city and gained all of the weight I lost back, and then some. I didn’t lose the weight overnight; I lost the weight in increments over time. I kept resetting my body weight through harsh amounts of exercise and watching my calories through a lowfat diet.
Now, I have kept the weight off through personal lifestyle change and eating the right fats in my diet. I no longer burn out my adrenals through crazy amounts of exercise. I eat a varied diet consisting of lean organic protein, a wide array of colorful vegetables and fruit and small amounts of carbohydrates such as brown rice and rice cakes. I also eat plenty of good fats, such as olives, olive and avocado oil, avocado, macadamia nuts, etc.
What I’ve learned about the body as a Massage therapist and Pilates Instructor has helped me become a better health coach. I’ve learned so much from my clients/patients in practicing with my husband.
How do you collaborate with your husband and the other practitioners at Balance?
My husband and I have worked together on patient care for years. He helps people figure out the puzzle of their chronic conditions through his practice of Functional Medicine. He may order blood, saliva, or stool testing. Once he has the data, we work together with supplementation and I work with patients on lifestyle and emotional awareness to help implement change.
The best part of working at Balance Health and Wellness for my husband and I is the philosophy of multidisciplinary care under one roof. The practitioners coordinate patient care based on individual patient need. For many of our patients, it is a one-stop shop.
Last week, one of my clients received an adjustment, saw me for care, and had acupuncture. She walked out feeling on top of the world. I have also worked along with the Physical Therapist and have seen healing through the corrective exercises, dietary changes, and massage.
I saw the coordination of care work first hand as my daughter was ready to quit gymnastics with a back and knee injury. Through getting adjusted, having regular physical therapy sessions, massage, and a change in diet, she healed. The one thing that may not have been thought about was the timing of the injury. It happened right around Halloween. What kind of diet do most kids have that during that time period? They eat a lot of excess sugar and junk food. She was so inflamed by the excess sugar that it landed in her muscles and joints. She is a testament to success of the group approach as she did not quit her sport due to pain, persevered, and did the regular exercises, took supplements, improved her eating, especially good fats, and in turn has been steadily improving throughout each of her competitions.
What advice do you have for women seeking reinvention in midlife?
Go for it! Take the time to invest in yourself and find your passion. It’s much easier to wake up in the morning and be excited about your day. For me, I find a great satisfaction in helping people go from wishing and dreaming about making changes in their health and weight to actually accomplishing and sustaining it, once and for all!
What advice do you have for those interested in becoming Integrative Health Coaches?
I loved both of the schools that I attended and both of them gave me very different skills that I implement in my practice. My advice is to go online to learn about each school and decide which curriculum is the best fit for you. Also, seek out other coaches who did the programs and get as much information that you can before making your final decision.
It is a rewarding career, however you will encounter clients who are gung ho at first, but can’t get out of their own way, no matter how hard you try to help them. The best way to find clients is, first and foremost, to walk the talk of what you teach. Align yourself with doctors and fitness centers, and do speaking engagements in the community.
It is important to figure out your target market. Make sure you work on your own health issues. It is easier to be of help to others through sharing your own health story. Once you sign up for school, the program will let you know when it is time to begin working with clients.
At first work for free, then begin to charge for your time. Look to other coaches as mentors, but develop your own style of coaching. Remember to set boundaries with clients and keep in mind that you are a business owner and not doing this as a hobby. Know that what you have to share is valuable and that you deserve to get paid for your knowledge.
What resources do you recommend?
I enjoyed both Health Coach training programs. I would recommend them both highly.
The Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) was very different from The Dr. Sears Wellness Institute. I suppose it depends on the person. Dr. Sears is a science-based approach that teaches life stage programs in preparation for pregnancy and throughout the childbearing years, family health and primetime health. IIN teaches over 100 unique dietary theories and concepts that I am forever grateful to have learned and to be using to help my clients. I also thought about attending the Eating and Psychology Institute, and may in the future as I love learning and being a student. This school teaches more about the emotional aspects of food and why we eat.
I am a member of the American Association of Drugless Practitioners (AADP) and The International Association for Health Coaches. There are also programs that you can enroll in to further your education, where you can use credits from the IIN program toward a Bachelor or Master’s degree. One is through the Goddard College. I have a resource page on my website that can help you on your path.
What about resources on the business end?
I was lucky to find Victor Wykore of Kore Creatives International for web design. I found him when I came across one of the sites he designed for a college student who was a public speaker empowering kids. I really think he did a fantastic job on my site and we work really well together.
As far as branding, it has been a metamorphosis for me. I wasn’t sure whether to use my own name or not. I originally formed an LLC (limited liability corporation) and called it Partnering for Your Health. I secured the web domain, paid a designer to make a logo for me, and spent a lot of time and money on it. I chose this name because I partner with patients to change habits and I partner with my husband to help patients on their wellness path. But when I was discussing my future business development with my sister, she thought it sounded too clinical.
I have a passion for cooking simple, healthy soups and salads, and teach meal preparation methods, so together with my son Zack who did one of the programs successfully, we came up with Simple + Well. My next step was to get branded. I really liked the Balance Logo, so I hired the graphic artist that did their branding. I was lucky to have secured the time to work with her as she is not currently doing graphic design.
What’s next for you?
I am currently working on growing my Health Coach practice and give lectures in the community, however I still get pretty nervous. I feel that I have a lot to share with people to help them heal and lose weight. I feel so inspired when I make a difference in their lives. I intend to do a public speaking course next year called “The Art of Public Speaking.” I am also considering going back to school to get a Master’s Degree in Nutrition, however I have not made a commitment at this time.