This post features my interview with Laurie Erdman, holistic health and wellness coach and founder/president Chronic Wellness Coaching LLC.
Q: Please share with us how you landed in this place, doing the work you do?
Ans: After many unhappy years climbing the corporate and law firm career ladders, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. After the initial tail spin and grieving, with a glass half-full approach, I changed my diet and lifestyle and began to enjoy life again (even more than before). Through illness I found my calling – – helping others change their diet and lifestyle in ways that alleviate some or all of the symptoms of many chronic illnesses. My motto is “make wellness a habit” and it derives from my own experience of changing my food, moves and attitude which resulted in a happier, healthier life. Laurie is also an accomplished ceramic artist.
Q: How do you define wellness coaching?
Ans: Wellness encompasses the whole person. From what we eat, to what we think, to how we act. It all affects our state of health and happiness. Starting from that premise, wellness coaching typically begins with changing our relationship with food since diet can have a profound affect on illness. Good nutritional wellness coaching doesn’t start with a list of foods you can’t eat, however. Instead, the goal is achieving sustained and sustainable lifestyle changes. That means we start with slow changes (no yo-yo dieting here) and crowd out the bad with the good. In a coaching session, a client will typically receive two or three suggestions to work on until the next session. Those suggestions can include new foods to introduce, exploring different ways to get exercise, tips on overcoming sugar cravings and managing stress.
Q: What do you estimate is the typical duration of a client engagement?
Ans: Wellness coaching usually lasts from 3 to 6 months depending on the goals and the person’s state of health. By the end of the coaching relationship, the person should have more energy, a healthier approach to meal time, respect for his/her body, and a sense of possibility.
Q: I know that people often ask me if I’m a life coach and although my work with clients often includes what life coaches do, the difference is my own understanding of living with chronic illness and the experience and body of work I’ve developed as a career coach. I’m curious if and how you differentiate from other coaching/resources?
Ans: Like any coaching, wellness coaching is client driven and focused on specific goals. Unlike other types of coaching, the focus on food and nutrition reflect the goals of wellness coaching. They can include losing weight, increasing energy, overcoming fatigue, sleeping better, improving digestion, reducing symptoms of chronic illness and getting more exercise. If needed, a coaching session might include cooking classes or even grocery store tours.
Wellness coaching differs from nutritional counseling or weight loss centers in that it goes beyond the food to address barriers to change. That may mean addressing time management, stress management, relationship issues, self-esteem or career matters. Wellness coaching is a holistic approach that looks at the whole person.
Q: That’s interesting. What benefits would someone get from working with a wellness coach like you?
Ans: I walk my talk. I am on a first name basis with life imbalance, having spent far too many years climbing the career ladder while ignoring my own health. Yet, when I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, I underwent a major paradigm shift and made health and healing my number one priority (losing 40 pounds in the process). During that time, I learned numerous strategies that I share with my clients about eating healthy, getting exercise and finding “me” time, all while still excelling at a career. I know the stones in the road, and love to help others navigate the wellness path.
Q: Whom do you think would benefit most from this coaching?
Ans: Any one who feels that chronic illness is sapping them of life’s energy, whether through fatigue, pain, depression or fear. Wellness coaching can help people with multiple sclerosis, diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, chronic lyme disease, auto-immune conditions, celiac disease, and even heart disease and cancer.
In addition to the traditional medical approaches to these conditions, research is showing us two additional means in which we can manage chronic illness. First, our attitude and approach to illness (is it active or passive?) is a significant factor in disease progression and quality of life. Research also shows that dietary changes can help alleviate and manage the symptoms of chronic illness. I weave this together to give people the tools to feel better, but the tools to feel better, but the strategies to implement these changes in a busy lifestyle.
Ans: I strongly believe in the soulful benefits of a creative outlet. I encourage my clients to discover their inner artist. It opens doorways to the bigger picture of why we are here. For me, I create artistic, yet functional pottery. It was a grounding force as I absorbed the news of my own diagnosis. So my parting thought . . . when life gets too serious, get dirty.