I'm A Health Coach: How This Training Shifted My Outlook On Food
For as long as I can remember, understanding what makes my mind, body, and spirit sing—while living in unison with the world around me—has been a constant source of both personal and intellectual curiosity.
This perpetual search for what brings me a sense of inner joy and light has been my guiding star (I like to call it a firefly) throughout the various health-related ebbs and flows I've encountered since childhood. From reproductive and digestive dysfunction to a rather-familiar relationship with anxiety, I've aimed to approach my health through the lens of self-compassion, genuine wonder, and radical transformation.
However, it wasn't until I started studying functional nutrition on my path to becoming a health coach that I discovered its powerful ability to touch every realm in my life. Here are three ways in which functional nutrition has helped me nurture my body, through a 360-degree approach to health.
I embraced the power of food.
A dynamic pillar to functional medicine, functional nutrition embraces food as a tool to support balance and proper physical function, plus help the body stave off future disease.
By looking at my own diet with a more focused, functional approach, I was able to identify what foods were triggering my IBS symptoms and digestive discomfort overall. (In my case, dairy and gluten.) Following an elimination protocol, I lived without these foods for four weeks while filling my diet with anti-inflammatory herbs, spices, healthy fats, low-fructose fruits, and plant-based protein.
To help support my gut, I also turn to a low-FODMAP diet. I made a conscious effort to limit foods that would cause me bloating (think garlic, onion, and legumes) to favor gut-promoting ones like ghee or low-starch vegetables.
After just one month, I found that functional nutrition could help promote and sustain my optimal health from the inside out.
I discovered we each have unique nutrition needs.
By embracing how each person is biochemically unique, functional nutrition focuses on how lifestyle factors, health history, and even genes create an individual's health state. As the epitome of "one size doesn't (ever) fit all," this tailored approach is critically important to thoroughly meet a person's unique needs.
To dig deeper into my own personal needs, I turned to functional lab tests to get a bigger picture regarding my IBS and overall digestive concern. Through the results, I discovered that beyond standard gluten, two other gluten components (glutenin and gluten-cross reactivity) were triggering my sensitivity. This knowledge allowed me to tailor my eating habits accordingly and take direct action toward crafting a unique health protocol for the months (and years) to come.
I learned nutrition is an important facet of self-love.
Most importantly, functional nutrition has given me a thorough, well-established understanding that food is at the heart of this active, dynamic ecosystem I call life. And embracing this sustainable, therapeutic approach has encouraged me to prioritize both my physical and mental health.
As one of the most authentic forms of self-nourishment and self-love, learning about functional nutrition has given me more in-depth knowledge of the power of food. During this journey, I learned to see my IBS experience as an opportunity to dive deeper into my health—discovering not only the underlying factors that were causing me pain but also the unconscious habits that were keeping me from my best self.
Ximena Araya-Fischel, M.A, is a journalist, IIN graduate integrative health coach, E-RYT 500 lead yoga teacher, and 500-Hour certified Pilates instructor from San José, Costa Rica. She received her master's degree in communication and journalism from The University of New Mexico, emphasizing well-being, sustainable fashion, health communication research, and graduating Summa Cum Laude. A former professional dancer, she's earned multiple academic and accredited certifications in performance design, positive psychology, doula training, entrepreneurship, digital marketing, mindfulness, innovation leadership, and integrative health. Her work has appeared at top consulting brands and organizations across Latin American and the US, including Byrdie and Albuquerque The Magazine. She currently lives between Costa Rica and New Mexico.