Ever heard the saying, “If you keep having the same problem, you’re the problem?” Yep. That’s true. Wherever I go, there I am. I’m a health coach but I’m also human. Just when I think I’ve figured everything out, another episode of Groundhog Day starts in a familiar fog of deja’ vu. It’s not easy to live and learn at the same time.
Training to be a health coach has opened my eyes to a whole new way (new to me, not necessarily anyone else) of dealing with the darker aspects of myself. I used to assume that healing requires insight to the root cause of an issue. But I’ve learned that understanding why something is wrong doesn’t change what is wrong. Explanations don’t produce change. We can spend a lot of money to have a doctor tell us what’s wrong. We can spend even more to have a therapist tell us why it’s wrong.
Or we can let go of the cause and work on the solution.
Let me share a wee-bit-too personal story of how health coaching worked for me.
In the fall of 2015, I fell into a post-marathon funk. I hadn’t actually run a marathon, but a finish line had been crossed. My book was finally sent to the publisher. And during the three years it had taken me to finish it, I had gone through a divorce, moved with my four children, remarried and inherited three stepchildren. After many intense struggles, highs and lows, my life down-shifted from chaos into peace overnight.
But I don’t do peace very well. Survival mode is motivating, albeit stressful. With no more fires to fight, I was at a loss for what to do next. There was no “normal” to get back to—too much had changed. So I enrolled in a health coaching certification program, hoping that furthering my education would help me figure out what came next.
What came next was winter–both actual and proverbial. Despite the fact that nothing was wrong—everything was actually right!—I felt stagnant and depressed. I’d go days without leaving the house. I slept too little, drank too much and forgot to work out. My sense of self and self-esteem seemed out of reach.
The health-coaching program proved to be a lifeline. In learning how to help others caught in their own spirals of descent, I was given the tools to help myself. And it was unlike any intervention I might have predicted. I had assumed that since there was nothing wrong in my life, the problem must be me. Crap . . . wherever I go, there I am.
But there was something wrong in my life. Looking at it from a holistic view helped me to see living in survival mode had allowed me to neglect other areas of my life. When survival mode ended, I was dazed and confused because I thrive on community and connection. Without those, I stop thriving. Health and happiness are inextricably linked, and require balance in all facets of life–not just the areas we prefer to focus on at the expense of the others. The epiphany came with an activity called the Wellness Wheel. There are 12 domains, each represented by a spoke in the wheel. I rated my satisfaction in each domain. It was immediately obvious why I wasn’t rolling steady through life like I should be. My wheel had a flat.
But the good news is that it was just a flat–not a fatal flaw in my character or mental health. The darkness was simply a lack of light. Awareness led to action. I visualized what my ideal and balanced life would look like. Each week, I set SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely). Baby steps propelled me from my (dis)comfort zone. Soon it was spring—both real and proverbial.
Had I stuck with the assumption there was something wrong with me, the shame and guilt of my pathetic state would have perpetuated the cycle in which I was stuck. This is the beauty of health coaching. We don’t focus on what has brought you down. We focus on what will bring you up. The negative circumstances holding you back don’t matter nearly as much as the strengths and values that will move you forward. Healthy habits and happy feelings are far more rewarding than doom and gloom. Eventually the bad behaviors get “crowded out.” Balance is the most powerful anti-depressant.
Health coaching strives to solve problems so that they stay solved. Because life is full of curve balls. Accepting responsibility for your own wellness allows you to take corrective action instead of waiting around for rescue. There is always something you can do to improve today. And every something you do adds up to an even better tomorrow.
I’m a health coach, and I’m human. Groundhog Day episodes are part of my struggle. But when I find myself stuck in repeat mode, I need only to remember that there is nothing wrong with me that I can’t handle. I’ve simply put too much emphasis in one area of my life at the expense of the others. Darkness is a lack of light! Actions that restore balance turn on the light. Challenge accepted. Game on . . .
Interested in health coaching? Read more about working with me . . .
Colleen Kachmann is a health coach, writer, teacher, yogi, mother of 4 (+3 bonus stepkids), and personal chef. She has a B.S. in education from Indiana University, and a master of science in health coaching from International Health Coach University. She also successfully completed the Women’s Functional & Integrative Medicine Professional Training Program through the Women’s Integrative Medicine Institute. Buy her book on Amazon. Find her on Twitter Pinterest Instagram YouTube Facebook
Read 5 Questions with Colleen Kachmann in Fort Wayne Business People.
Colleen Kachmann is a Fort Wayne native, proponent of healthy living, mom of four and now she can add author to her growing list of roles. She earned her B.S. in Biology and Chemistry Education from Indiana University. After teaching for five years at a local high school, she decided to stay home with her four children. She worked part time as a wellness instructor in yoga, group exercise and personal training for the next fifteen years. Her writing career began in 2010 with a blog called Waking Up Vegan, which evolved into a book, Life Off the Label. She is also certified as an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach.
Q1: What inspired you to write a book?
Transitioning to a vegan diet while parenting four children taught me that there are no right answers. A sense of humor and an open mind are key. The physical and social impact of our food and lifestyle choices can’t be managed with a rigid set of rules. I wanted to be healthy and happy—not rigid and “right.” As I peeled back the vegan and perfect-parent labels, I found beauty in the contradictions and complications. Once I embraced them and stopped fighting, Life Off the Label was born.
Q2: Can you tell us about the book? What should readers expect?
The premise of the book is that it’s not normal to be healthy anymore. We’ve been taught there is better living through chemistry, and that health and happiness are conveniently sold in products, pills and pastimes. I bought into these notions for years, so the book is filled with funny stories of my own misadventures and the scientific reasons it’s so easy to go wrong.
Life Off the Label details my efforts to live and be well, only to discover that I wasn’t and I am not alone. Seventy percent of Americans are overweight and take at least one medication. I did not want to be a statistic, so I deconstructed the habits and beliefs that limited my potential. What I discovered changed my life and I hope it can change my readers’ lives too.
Q3: There are many weight loss/healthy lifestyle books on the market.
What makes yours different?
Normal life in our culture is stressful and exhausting. Life Off the Label explores the reasons we feel so depleted of energy, money, and time. It does not offer a quick fix. Examining the foods, products, and beliefs that are trapping us is the key to freedom. Life Off the Label is the path to freedom—freedom from ignorance, brainwashing and misleading marketing. This lifestyle does not demand more time, money or energy, rather it returns them.
Q4: What advice would you give to others looking to improve their health?
A high-quality life isn’t fueled by low-quality food and sleep or stress. If life really is about the journey, then we have to stop running in circles. Most of us are aware of the bad habits that lead to disorders and disease. What each of us must discover are the healthy habits that lead to happiness.
Q5: What do you like to do in your spare time?
I spend a lot of time with my family. Our gathering place is the kitchen, where we prepare meals, laugh about life, share stories, songs and videos, and plan new adventures.
For more information, visit Colleen’s website, lifeoffthelabel.com. Here you will find recipes, a blog full of lifestyle advice, a self-assessment quiz, and more.
Photo by Steve Vorderman
Dr. Kachmann continues his interview with me for Mind, Body & Spirit on Comcast 57. We discuss why I chose to call the book Life Off the Label, food laws and public policy, and what GMOs are and why we need to avoid them.
If you missed part 1, here’s a link. https://youtu.be/Hrip1kXP7W4
Dr. Rudy Kachmann and I discuss the first 50 pages of my book, Life Off the Label. He encouraged me to write the book four years ago. We discuss the writing process and delve into food addiction, Big Food, why we are fat and why exercise is not the cure. This is a fabulous discussion with my father-in-law.
Click here to watch Part 2. https://youtu.be/Hrip1kXP7W4
Nature Vs. Nurture
In the past 20 years, genetic research has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that genes do not determine our health destiny. The nature versus nurture debate is over. Lifestyle and eating habits are both the cause and the cure of disease.
But no one wants to believe that because it implies that the people suffering from chronic ailments or diseases are responsible for their illnesses. We can’t blame people for getting sick (except smokers who get lung cancer, of course). It’s no one’s fault they have allergies, suffer from depression, struggle with weight, or God forbid, get cancer. So we collectively continue to wait with hopes that medical research will produce the antidote for those with unfortunate and faulty DNA–neglecting the overwhelming truth that we can and must nurture our nature. We race for the cure, raise awareness for early detection and anguish over the cost of healthcare. Meanwhile, our health is going from bad to worse.
We know that plants cannot thrive in low quality soil. If two identical tomato seeds are planted, one in fertile compost and bright sunlight, and the other in shallow top soil next to a toxic dump, the result is of no surprise. One plant will be hearty and bear abundant fruit. The other will have stunted growth, diseased leaves and small and deformed fruit–assuming it grows at all. We don’t blame failure to thrive on a plant’s DNA. We know that nutrients are necessary if we want healthy and robust plants.
The same is true for humans. Seven in ten of us are overweight, on medication and suffering from at least one chronic ailment. We’re like sickly plants that are failing to thrive. Many ailments and diseases tend to run in families, just like specific pests and fungal rots plague susceptible species of plants. But it’s a fatal error to search our DNA for the cause. Consider that in 1940, one in four women with the BRCA gene got breast cancer. Three in four women didn’t get the disease. So the gene doesn’t cause the cancer. But in 2013, a whopping 85 percent of women with the BRCA gene get breast cancer. Yet the gene has not changed. Our lifestyles and food supply, however, have.
Genes do not cause disease or create wellness. They simply make both possible. In the last 20 years, we’ve learned that a short list of controllable behaviors determine our medical fate (smoking, food choices and exercise). Those willing to accept responsibility for their habits can opt out of the Russian Roulette. Taking responsibility begins with a return to age-old wisdom:
- You are what you eat.
- Food is medicine.
- Laughter is the best medicine.
- An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
- The cure is worse than the disease.
- Sound body. Sound mind.
- There is no sweet without sweat.
- The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
- Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.
- There’s none so blind as those who refuse to see.
We must stop listening to the mass-marketing messages that barrage us 24/7. They are designed to sell addictive foods and products–not guide us to health and happiness. Wellness happens naturally. Unlearn to learn. Cooking at home doesn’t require a culinary arts degree. A home with a kitchen and maybe a cookbook will suffice. Don’t believe it takes a masters in nutrition to know how to eat healthy. Just eat more vegetables and fruit and less sugar, meat, milk and chemically-enhanced artificial junk food. Exercise doesn’t require expensive equipment or a personal trainer. Comfortable movement and the desire to feel good in your own body is all it takes. You don’t need a therapist to guide you to inner peace–just a few friends that make you laugh. Genetic testing won’t identify what’s wrong. Just start living right. Let your instincts guide you to replace bad habits with new ones that will sustain your health. When wellness is the intention, it’s not nearly as complicated as we’ve been led to believe.
Don’t blame nature. Nurture it. The quality and quantity of your life will expand.
Just relax. One won’t kill you . . .
Kid Food Kills
It was once socially acceptable to smoke. More than half of Americans did. Public smoking is now shunned with nasty comments and dirty looks. And if a whiff of smoke enters the vicinity of a child, confrontations are justifiable.
Despite the obvious, (has anyone ever lit a cigarette and thought, “this feels super healthy?”) it took one hundred years for truth to trump addiction. In 1944, the American Cancer Society’s official stance was still, “no definite evidence exists between smoking and lung cancer.” (Sick smokers didn’t count as evidence, I guess.) When the whistle was blown on Big Tobacco, an array of deceitful tactics were revealed. Cigarettes had been chemically altered to make them more addictive. Industry insiders had wormed their way into government appointments to ensure public policies did not impede sales. Non-profit research committees (funded by the tobacco companies) were exposed as fraudulent.
In hindsight, the truth was obvious, albeit inconvenient.
People who start smoking at an early age begin to get cancer in their mid to late 40s. It peaks in the late 70s. If you smoke, you know the risks. No one wants you to get cancer, but if you do, you earned it. Many smokers are betting the odds. If they can entertain their addiction and still live an average length of life, who cares what they die of? Life has a 100 percent mortality rate regardless of good behavior.
Unhealthy eating catches up with us even faster than smoking. Our kids are not expected to live as long as the generation of smokers before us. And aside from death, a bad diet reduces our quality of life. Many kids are already overweight and unable to be as active as they should be. They suffer from allergies, asthma, ADHD, diabetes or other disorders. Low energy levels, depression and anxiety are common. It has become normal for children to go to the doctor as often as their grandparents.
Childhood onset of chronic conditions is a new thing. Many of us graduated high school feeling like rock stars despite bad eating habits. We didn’t have peanut free zones or carry epi-pins in our bags. We grew up with the notion that kids can eat whatever they want and get away with it (as long as they are somewhat active). But these days, kids are suffering from grown up afflictions and take as much medication as the elderly.
There is plenty of blame to go around for this modern malaise. But the two most common scapegoats have little and nothing to do with it. We have not become a nation of lazy people lacking willpower. And our DNA has not changed in a single generation. The problem is external, not internal–perpetrated upon us by the profit models of Big Business.
Fun Fact: In 1985, Philip Morris purchased General Mills for $5.6 billion. R. J. Reynolds bought Nabisco for $4.9 billion. In 1988, Phillip Morris also acquired Kraft foods for $13.1 billion. Big Tobacco strategies are alive and well behind the brands of Big Food.
Our food supply has been chemically altered in the same ways that cigarettes are. Strawberry Go-Gurts contain no strawberries; Trix Cereal‘s fruity puffs contain no fruit. Kraft Mac & Cheese contains no cheese. Flavor technologies and the power of suggestion manipulate the mind into believing we’re tasting ingredients that aren’t there. The lack of fiber and nutrients generates an insatiable hunger for sustenance that can’t be satisfied with more of the same. We’re eating chemicals that damage our organs, wreak havoc in our bowels, screw with our mood and stimulate the pleasure centers of our brain (creating addiction).
You can’t legally smoke before the age of 18. But I’ve seen people put soda pop in baby bottles. Toddlers are given food that adults won’t eat. You see it all the time. When “kid treats” are served, weight and health-conscious grownups decline. Cake is for kids. We know it’s probably cheap and overly sweet anyway (no one splurges on quality food that will be wasted on children).
Our kids are routinely offered foods that we’d never allow our pets to eat.
We take our children through the drive-thru and give them carte blanche, yet order the salad and lemon water for ourselves. We settle for coffee and fruit at meetings while our kids stuff themselves with doughnuts and chocolate milk. We go to nice restaurants and order a “clean” meal, but let our kids order junk from the kid menu. Why do we eat differently? Because adults are feeling the effects of a lifetime of bad food. Most middle-aged people are overweight, diabetic (or pre-diabetic) and suffering from gastrointestinal distress, immune disorders and other health problems. We’ve learned from experience that kid food makes adults fat and sick.
But have we really learned?
As parents, we know we have to teach our kids to do things they don’t want to do. It takes about 18 years to instill a lifetime of values that will help our children thrive as adults. We drive them to and from activities that foster the rewards of hard work. They must do homework, help with chores and sit still in church. We help them set goals, hold them accountable and reward them for their efforts.
Too often, those rewards include movie popcorn and Starbucks lattes. Maybe a pizza party for them and their friends. For sure, dessert is earned by swallowing a few bites of vegetables.
We use bad food to bribe our kids to do everything. Seriously. They won’t even sit on Santa’s lap without the obligatory sugary sweet hot chocolate, candy canes and gingerbread cookies. We make them hot dogs, chicken nuggets and butter noodles because that’s what they want and that’s what’s easy. Fast food fundraisers, concessions and candy sales support their school activities. Ice cream socials, Muffins with Moms and Doughnuts with Dads lure them to family and community gatherings. The PTA sells popcorn and cookies. We might remind them to eat fruit and offer them vegetables, but they get far more bad food than good.
We might as well tell our children it’s okay to smoke. Processed foods are just as harmful and addictive. Sugar causes diabetes and is eight times more addictive than cocaine. Lunchmeat causes cancer. Artificial flavors and seasonings aggravate allergies and asthma. Food coloring is made with petroleum, which is why all of Europe has banned them.
What’s wrong in America?
We are raising a generation of addicts. We’re giving our kids the very foods we’re trying to avoid. We might as well be lighting their cigarettes and giving them money for drugs.
Some of us have a sense that this is a problem. But we’re on the wrong side of socially acceptable. In group settings, we feel obligated to feign polite gratitude as our children fill themselves with poison. Because someone was kind enough to stop at the grocery and pick up whatever processed crap will make the kids happy. As though offering cheap and processed foods is an act of love and servitude, or that the cumulative effects of bad food make anyone happy.
The definitions of love, servitude and happiness have been hijacked. Big Food has inserted their products into every corner of our lives, and they are making a killing on us. Literally. Subway sponsors the Olympics, Burger King provides playgrounds and McDonalds passes out pedometers. General Mills has health educators collecting Box Tops. Market Day has school boards advertising their packaged products. Kids love their food, these corporations want to serve us and it’s happiness for all if we just work together.
Just as public health officials once debated lung cancer while smoking cigarettes, rising disease rates are discussed at events catered by the very foods responsible. In hindsight, the truth will be obvious, albeit inconvenient.
We have been completely brainwashed. Big box stores, filled with acres of packages labeled “all natural” and “no artificial ingredients,” only sell real food in the produce department (sorry, but fried veggie sticks in green packages don’t qualify). And just because they’ve removed the trans fat from the Oreo and replaced it with another shelf-stable synthetic doesn’t mean that it’s safe! Conscientious consumers that buy brands because they promise “No HFCS” need to ask themselves what new fake ingredient has replaced it. It’s a life and death game of whack-a-mole. Flavor engineers have simply gone back to the lab, made a few tweaks and Voila! Customers are satisfied.
But we’re not healthy. Look around and see for yourself.
We blindly trust that processed products are safe for two reasons: our government has approved them for sale and everyone eats them (there is safety in numbers). Well, cigarettes are for sale despite the billions of people that have died as a direct result of smoking. Heck, full page ads for cigarrettes are showing up in magazines again . . . right next to ads for your favorite brand of food. We must realize that processed food is a product like any other on the market. Despite the promises of convenience, health benefits, flavor and “all natural,” your favorite brands are marketed by corporations with only one goal: profit. And they will promise whatever customers need to believe in order to make the sale.
Food makers spend billions of dollars every year to bypass our natural instincts to feed our children a nutritious diet. Children are very vulnerable to marketing messages (evidently, grown ups are too). These evocative appeals foster eating habits and create customers for life. In contrast, fewer than 100 commercials air each year promoting fruits and vegetables. This pathetic attempt to promote healthy eating is even less effective than government attempts to discourage smoking.
This is a cultural war. And the health of our children is the battlefield. It is our responsibility to make changes in our home and then start promoting changes outside of it. Yes, that takes work–but thats our job as parents. We need to spend just as much time teaching our kids how and what to eat as we do helping them with their math or shuffling them to and from activities. Food is more important, as math skills and foot drills only matter if you are alive and well.
If the thought of someone giving your child a cigarette and encouraging them to smoke makes you mad, good. Let that same anger inspire you to protect you child when someone hands them a “treat” that isn’t.
Start with Halloween. The zombies are en route with truckloads of candy to sell. Your children are the target market.
Please share this. We need to to fight back.
Treat or trick?