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Kathleen Buchanan is a Certified Nutrition Therapy Practitioner and is continuing her education with NTI to become an MNT. Kathleen is adding nutrition to her existing wellness business, which includes both yoga and personal coaching. Below is our interview with Kathleen.
What made you interested in studying nutrition?
In the 1970s, as the kid of a ‘crunchy’ mom, I longed for Wonder bread and Jif sandwiches instead of the whole wheat and natural peanut butter that were standard at my house. While the neighbor kids had Kool-Aid, Spaghetti-Os, and hot dogs, we had raw milk, alfalfa sprouts, ox tail soup, and lots of veggies. As a teenager with my own money, I ate like my peers – fast food, etc. But those early years stuck with me and I think I never veered too far from a healthy diet, even while vegetarian for 15 years. Fast forward: after having two daughters and the accompanying stresses, I realized something was wrong.
At age 40 I was diagnosed with GERD and Barrett’s esophagus – which, to me was a death sentence. I was terrified. I fell into a western medicine approach for well over two years. At some point my higher brain kicked in and I started asking questions about the meds I was on. I went back to my neglected naturopath and began to wean myself off everything. I made lots of dietary changes, I bulked up my self-care practices (GERD for me was totally stress-related), and dove into yoga teacher training. The place where I did my training also offered coaching certification, as well as a basic 12-week nutrition course. I did both, and the nutrition course just whet my appetite for more! (ps: at my third endoscopy – six years in – the doc said he didn’t think I ever had Barrett’s to begin with and I never had to be scoped again!)
Tell us more about how you’ve incorporated nutrition, coaching and yoga into your wellness practice.
I just moved my business into an office in January, so on a practical level I’m able to hold private, one-on-one yoga sessions in the same space I meet clients for coaching and nutrition. This has proven to be a great way to expose people to the different aspects of my business, and make space for questions.
I find the coaching method to be the most natural and authentic way for me to connect with clients. It allows the client to draw from their own reservoir of strengths, to move them forward towards their goals. I am still trying to find the perfect balance between coach and nutrition counselor; the best mix of ‘motivator’ and ‘expert’. I expect my approach will continue to evolve as I move into the MNT classes and feel a deeper foundation in the nutrition facet of my business. I’ve also come to the realization that I’m a teacher at heart, and this means that I’ll never be happy seeing clients just for the fee. I have to find a way to connect with them and to help effect change in their lives.
In terms of incorporating yoga, I’m more and more drawn to the therapeutic applications of yoga and to other modalities. Slowing down and being present is vital – be it on the mat, or at the dinner table. I bring breathwork into my coaching and nutrition, and I bring nutrition into yoga, and so on.
What are some areas of nutrition that you are particularly drawn to? Why?
I could go on and on here, so I’ll just give you my top three:
1)The microbiome. If I was 20 years younger I’d dive in head first to this study. I find it so incredibly fascinating that we are more ‘other’ than we are human. That the impacts of altering the gut flora can have such far reaching implications all over the body.
2)Epigenetics. What a worm hole of amazing information. Knowing that so much of what we eat, how we live, what we experience, has been impacted by previous generations and is impacting future ones, too, is almost too much to fathom. From a nutrition standpoint knowing that what you eat makes a difference way down at the genetic level is a great nugget of info to offer a client.
3)The enteric nervous system. As someone with a personal and family history of depression and bipolar disorder, learning about the direct connection of gut and brain has been both fascinating and validating. I love how mainstream medicine and mental health is starting to really notice this, and, indeed is calling for a “paradigm shift” in the way we approach mental illness.
You have teenage children. What are some strategies that you use at home to get teenagers to eat healthy?
When we had our girls I was vegetarian and we chose to raise them the same. Big mistake! When the girls were little, my husband was working out of state and I started relying on highly processed fake meat ‘foods’ for convenience. I reevaluated, “what’s ultimately more healthy: this fake bologna with a myriad of chemical ingredients, or a piece of organic chicken?” I made the shift back to quality organic meats for myself, and tried to get my kids on board. Nope. Neither child has embraced it. Big sister is 15 and she loves salmon and some other fish. Little sister (13) doesn’t like what she’s tried, she has decided she’ll start eating meat when she gets into high school. We’ll see. I feel fortunate in that we started them out early with lots of vegetables – both raw and cooked – fruit, quality eggs, and dairy, so I know they’ll always have that.
A few years back I had some struggles with little one as she has a big sweet tooth. It turned into quite a tearful episode, so we decided we needed to focus on our home being a safe, non-judgmental, neutral territory when it came to food rather than potentially piling on more teen girl negative body image stuff. The best I can do is offer them good food, access to good information, and keep them talking about their choices and the repercussions of said choices.
What are your future plans?
I just finished my CNTP classes and plan to take a little break to read some fiction for a change! Then I’ll start the MNT program. I’m also writing curriculum for a group coaching project which will teach and guide up to 10 people through 6 weeks of “cleaning house”: defining ‘detox’, alternatives to home and body products, self-care practices, plus a gentle, beginner-style detox and cleanse.
I was also asked to teach the yoga class at the NANP Conference again this year which is really awesome! And I’m taking the Level 1 Restorative Yoga Training with my yoga hero, Judith Hanson Lasater in San Francisco in July.
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