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Natural Awakenings Naples and Fort Myers

Local Health Coaches Provide Lifestyle Education and Enrichment

Jul 01, 2014 10:21AM ● By Linda Sechrist

Terry Foster

Savvy physicians such as Dr. Mark Hyman, author of the 10-Day Blood Sugar Detox Solution, have found a new way to help patients achieve their health goals—referring them to a trained health and wellness coach. Well ahead of the latest trend in fitness and wellness, Hyman personally trained a group of coaches to guide and support patients through his program to balance metabolism and reverse metabolic syndrome, a silent epidemic from which 55 million Americans unknowingly suffer.

According to Margaret Moore, founder of Well Coaches, the only health and wellness coaching certification program endorsed by the American College of Sports Medicine, physician referral to coaches is still at an early stage. She also advises that the concept is becoming increasingly popular with the public even though most programs operate on a fee-for-service basis, and few managed healthcare companies reimburse members for coaching fees unless they are physician prescribed or involve a registered nurse health coach. Some health insurers, such as Humana and Cigna, offer the services of their own health coaches to members in order to bridge the gap between provider recommendations for lifestyle changes and patient implementation.

Locally, the concept of wellness coaching is still in its infancy, with individuals such as Terry Foster, owner of The Skinny Pantry, and Eric Eccles, owner of E2Fitness Academy, doing their best to educate the general public and their clients regarding the many benefits of health and wellness coaching.

Foster is a certified health and nutritional counselor, as well as a dietary educator with 20 years of experience in the medical/dental field. She opened her store after losing 75 pounds and realizing increased energy and improved health by following a low-carbohydrate, gluten-free diet. “I became a good role model and inspiration for others who wanted to do the same. I was already educating my customers, so health counseling was a natural step,” says Foster, who works closely with the Complete Health Improvement Program (CHIP), an affordable lifestyle enrichment program designed to reduce disease risk factors through the adoption of better health habits and appropriate lifestyle modification.

Foster helps individuals with health challenges such as excessive weight gain, diabetes and high blood pressure. She collaborates with local dieticians, nutritionists, physicians and nurse practitioners directly and indirectly. “If a customer is told by their doctor to lower their cholesterol, I work with them to achieve that goal. I also refer out to local health practitioners,” advises Foster, who favors the approach of functional medicine, which focuses on the root cause of health problems rather than the temporary relief of symptoms.

Health coaches are as likely to have discussions with clients about the benefits of keeping a food diary and how to shop for real rather than processed food as they are to give instructions on how to read labels to avoid unhealthy ingredients. They might even encourage and help locate suitable cooking classes. “A heath coach gives a client all the tools they need and encourages as well as empowers them to do what they have to do,” notes Foster, who is also the branch manager for the Gluten Intolerance Group of Southwest Florida.

Estero resident Eric Eccles, author of A Lifestyle Worth Living, is a certified holistic fitness practitioner. He trained with John Spencer Ellis, founder of the Spencer Institute,

Eric Eccles
Eric Eccles
which offers certification programs in life coaching, education and nutrition coaching, as well as sports psychology and wellness training. The Spencer Institute is the coaching career training and certifying division of the National Exercise & Sports Trainers Association.

“My 24 years of experience in the fitness and wellness industry has prepared me well for any discussion with a client concerning the connection between nutrition and health,” says Eccles. “In a nutshell, everyone I work with is basically clueless about not only the right foods to eat, but also the proper combining of them. The largest chapter in my book is devoted to the basics of nutrition, because we are what we eat.”

Eccles especially enjoys helping clients work their way out of their prescription medications: “The most challenging circumstances that I’ve had to work with involved a client who was on 21 different medications; I was so amazed that I lined up the bottles and took a photo. I’m more direct now than I was when I first started out. For example, when a client mentions that their doctor wants to increase their blood pressure medicine, I suggest that they try learning breathing techniques to reduce their blood pressure instead,” comments Eccles, who concurs with CHIP’s foundation statement that 75 percent of more of Western diseases are lifestyle-related.

All lifestyle diseases, such as heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, excessive weight gain, fatigue and constipation, are connected to our processed diet, lack of exercise, increased levels of stress and overuse of cigarettes, alcohol, caffeine and sugar—which means that they can be reversed. Health coaching can provide the one-on-one education, motivation, encouragement and accountability to make the ultimate goal achievable, one successful building block at a time.

The Skinny Pantry, 14261 S. Tamiami Trail, Ste. 17, Fort Myers. 239-935-5093.

Eric Eccles, 239-398-9123. and

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