As a Holistic Health Coach, I believe that every single person in the health and wellness space, no matter how different their beliefs may be, is working towards a collective goal: to help others get and stay well. Every health advocate wants to inspire others to make healthy lifestyle changes, or see clients reach their most desired health goals – and we all have different ways of sharing our passions and knowledge to do exactly that. I believe we're all in this together and that the more we work together and share the wellth, the more people we will be able to reach and help, and the better off our world will be!
Because of this, I created a Women in Wellness Interview Series to share the different perspectives of five women that I find inspiring. Each of these women help others live healthy lives in different ways. My hope is that their stories and advice will resonate with you and maybe even spark some healthy lifestyle changes in your own life!
Rachael Charbonneau is a Health Coach who also studied at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition! She is a yoga teacher and blogger for wholisticbelly.com, where she posts delicious recipes and health tips. Learn more about Rachael and her story below!
Amanda: Tell me about your journey: How did you get started and how did you know you wanted to be a Health Coach?
Rachael: I have had digestive issues basically since out of the womb, so I've been told. I was a cesarian section baby and when I was 6 weeks old, I had pneumonia and was pumped full of antibiotics. Between 60-80% of your immune system is in your gut, so that definitely had a big impact on me. As I got older, it was just the norm or me to get sick. My mom used to have to bring me to the doctor and they would put me on bland diets of rice, toast, bananas - just to stuff me up. It was always kind of a joke between me and my girlfriends - they would say, "oh, Rachael's stomach is bad," it was just normal.
I've also battled really bad acne off and on since I was a teenager. Of course in your teenage years this is pretty normal, but I definitely had it worse than most. Around the time I got to college, I started to think "maybe this isn't normal," and I eliminated dairy from my diet. I didn't see a doctor or anything I just decided to do it. That was the first thought into food possibly affecting my acne. I remember asking one of the many dermatologists I saw if my diet had anything to do with it and he said 'no.' But I just had this weird feeling that it did. Plus I'd been getting sick my whole life and had stomach issues... the light bulb was going off. When I took dairy out, that helped my stomach a lot.
In college, I ended up doing a study abroad program in Italy for 5 months. Funny enough, this was the only time in my life that I had zero stomach OR skin issues. Totally clear skin and totally fine stomach - and I ate whatever the heck I wanted! When I got back, things got a lot worse. I was very conscious of what I ate. I always read labels and tried to eat as many veggies as I could because I had this feeling that food had something to do with my issues.
After college, I moved to California and around that time my grandmother passed away from cancer. One week after her funeral, my uncle was given less than a year to live due to cancer. He was very young. He tried to fight his cancer through his lifestyle choices. He tried to boost his immune system through nutrition and stress reduction, which was really cool for me because he was doing all the things I was reading about. I remember coming home to my parents in college and telling them about how all our food is genetically modified and my parents just brushed it off. Once my uncle started changing his life, my family started listening and finally got on the bandwagon. My uncle actually suggested that I eliminate gluten from my diet because he knew that I had really bad stomach issues. I did it and within 2 weeks, 90% of my stomach issues cleared up and my skin also cleared up for the most part. Through talking with my uncle and watching his journey, I became even more conscious of what I was putting into my body
Around this same time, I moved out on my boyfriend of 3 years that I had moved around the country with and went off birth control for the first time in 8 years. A few weeks later, my uncle passed away. I kind of ran away from myself a little bit and fell a little bit into a depression. My stomach and skin got really bad again even though I was eating really well. My parents came to visit me and we went out to eat in Malibu, and I put a few drops of malted vinegar on my food. I didn't realize that malted vinegar had wheat in it. A little while later I was keeled over in pain, and it was the worst my stomach ever felt. At this point my parents told me it was probably time to see a doctor. So, I went to a Naturopathic Doctor and she helped me go through my first real elimination diet. We also did a lot of work to balance my hormones and manage stress. Through working with her, I realized that it was more than just the food on my plate that was affecting my body.
At this point, I had such a strong interest in health and wasn't sure what to do with it. My friends were calling me and asking me for advice and I knew I wanted to do something with my passion. Then I found the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. I didn't know if I wanted to be a Health Coach or not, I just said yes and signed up for the program. Within a month I knew that this was what I wanted to do!
Amanda: When did you decide you wanted to become a yoga teacher?
Rachael: Originally, I started doing yoga in college because my doctor recommended it to me for my back pain. I was taking classes here and there, but wasn't very dedicated to the practice. I came back to it again when I moved to California as I was going through rough times. After my uncle passed away, I went to class a lot. I fell in love with it; it was my escape and I felt a strong spiritual connection with it. I have a dance background and I loved the fluidity of it.
Anger management problems run in my family; I'm a very calm person, but I really attribute that to yoga. At the end of last year, I came to a point where I just fell so in love with my body and so in Iove with the practice. I am a healing kind of a person, and I know this about myself and I knew that the next part of my journey was to share this practice with others. I started my teacher training in January of last year at YogaLoft in Manhattan Beach, CA.