The word “coach” conjures up scary memories of mean and pushy Middle School coaches for most of us. But, that is not how it is supposed to be. Meet Rita Patatian, certified health coach.
“Health coaching is looking at health and nutrition through a completely different lens, in a more holistic and balanced manner. It is completely driven by the client, not the coach” she explained, when I asked her what a health coach was. “But you have to acknowledge that it takes time and you will have your ups and downs”, a statement that mirrors her own journey.
What makes her story unique is that Rita didn’t start with wanting to lose weight. Or even simply wanting to be healthier. She wanted to understand how her outwardly healthy mother, who had no vices, aside from being slightly overweight, was suddenly diagnosed with breast and lung cancer. Her mom’s surgeon at the time suggested she read How Not To Die by Michael Greger. Needless to say, the book’s title put her off for some time. When she finally did pick up the book, she was hooked. The book’s premise is simple, you are what you eat. And what you eat can help you prevent and even reverse many common diseases.
The book made sense to her, but she wasn’t completely sold on how much it would affect her health. She started making small changes at first. Instead of eating junk-food four times a week, it became three. And over the months, these small tweaks started adding up. She felt better in every way, physically and mentally. Her energy levels were better than they had every been her entire life. She is no gym-rat, but does enjoy working out a few times a week or practicing yoga to stay fit.
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Coincidently, she met a friend who was working on becoming a certified Integrative Nutrition Health coach. Rita enrolled right away, she knew she had found her calling. Integrative Nutrition is a holistic approach towards health. What you eat is considered secondary food, and your relationships, career, activity levels and spirituality are primary foods. Everything is interconnected. Your boss yelling at you might trigger a pretzel binge session, or a stressful relationship might have you reaching for ice-cream. Or maybe everyone at your new job is health conscious, so you start taking apples and carrot sticks to work. The system that Rita teaches you is so much more than going paleo, keto or substituting kale for everything that you know is bad.
Rita can help you find ways to deal with these challenges. After an initial free consultation with a client to determine their goals, lifestyle habits and personality traits, she begins to tailor a program that is highly individualized. She doesn’t send you off on your merry way, but instead, she stays involved. For instance, Rita can come check your pantry at home and show you how to make better food choices. Supermarket tours are another great way to learn how to read food labels, understand ingredients and buy the foods that are good for you and aligned with your health-goals.
The program takes 6-months to complete. A client learns, not just what to eat but how to navigate through life with health as a priority. Sleep, for example is just as important as what you consume and is often overlooked. Rita’s advice is to give yourself enough time to wind down. All the extra light exposure from our devices, TVs and lightbulbs in the evening is the main reason so many of us are finding it harder to sleep well at night, if at all. But she insists that with small, but consistent, changes we can all get to where we want to be. She suggests that reading a book or meditating might be a good place to start for a relaxing evening ritual.
She is also all about flexibility. Rita doesn’t give you a list of foods that you can eat and foods you can’t. Instead, she helps you identify the goals that work for you and then helps you get there. And part of getting there is understanding that you can and will fail. You will eat that slice of cake at your friend’s birthday. And it is OK.
I asked Rita if there was a single change that all of us could make right now, what should it be? She didn’t hesitate for a second before saying “drink more water.” Her laugh gave away that she understood how hard that can be. She told me to drink first thing in the morning and that keeping her water bottles by her bedside helped her change her habits. She also offers different ways of infusing your water on her website. It is all about these easy changes that transform into a new routine which, in turn, becomes a lifestyle.
The best thing about Rita is that she will get you to the finish line. She gives you easy, concrete, practical and actionable things to do. Then she holds you accountable for your actions, good or bad, and helps you maintain this sustainable attitude.