Even before becoming health coaches, the two of us have always been passionate about living an active lifestyle. Based on what we were taught, being active would allow us to lead a healthy life. Right? Wrong! Individually, and long before we met and were married in our 40s, fitness had been a big part of both our lives and certainly an aspect that drew us to each other. Since we were teenagers we have been leading others to be healthy through being active. The interest to educate and share was innate to us but we did not know that this desire to teach, educate and empower would lead us where we are today.
John’s father was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1997 and died in 2010. He and John’s mother suffered a great deal during those 13 years. He underwent radiation, surgeries, and chemo, but at no point did any of his medical team ever say anything about nutrition and how food could help. Family watched helplessly as his once vibrant, active body quickly weakened and his once sharp-witted mind left days before his body surrendered. Although everyone was sad, his fate was accepted. After all, this was cancer. There was nothing we could do. Or so we thought. Mary-Ellen had also seen family members and family friends suffer from, or succumb to, chronic disease. In looking back now with what we know today and thanks to people like Dr. T. Colin Campbell, most, if not all was preventable and largely lifestyle-related.
In March 2013 we travelled to a world famous yoga retreat centre in Costa Rica. This was a personal & health awakening for John, in particular. While he certainly looked the part of health with his trim and muscular physique, he soon realized how much better he could feel on the inside. In only a week of eating a whole food, plant-based (WFPB) diet he was experiencing a new level of health. Incredulously, numerous problems that he thought were “normal” (snoring, asthma, sore joints, constipation, poor complexion, etc.) disappeared or were drastically reduced. For Mary-Ellen having already been a vegetarian for a number of years, (more for her deep love of animals) she noticed a subtle change in overall energy, complexion, leanness, and mental health.
It was a serendipitous visit to Mary-Ellen’s chiropractor in June of 2013 that set us on a more purposeful path. As we sat waiting for an appointment, the documentary Forks Over Knives (FOK) was playing in the waiting room. FOK was basically our awakening. We purchased the documentary and watched it that night. Like many people, watching FOK for the first time was emotional for us. We felt shocked, incredulous, anger, “Why hadn’t anyone told us before?!”, and finally, EMPOWERED!
Our enthusiasm for sharing the message of FOK wasn’t originally intended to become a business. In the summer of 2013 we began sharing copies of FOK with family, friends, and fitness class members. As we continued to educate ourselves and even just pay more attention to our immediate surroundings, we could see clearly that we are in a chronic disease healthcare crisis and knew intuitively that there was good reason that we could create a career out of doing what we love to do – educate and empower.
August 2014 we drove 9 hours from our home in New Brunswick, Canada to upstate New York to attend Plant-Stock at the Esselstyn family farm. We remember booking it months before with sheer giddiness that we were going to this event to meet Dr. T. Colin Campbell – so cool! Meeting Dr. Campbell, Dr. Esselstyn., Dr. Lisle, Dr. Barnard, Rip, Ann & Jane Esselstyn, and other esteemed speakers was amazing. The people we met were upbeat, curious, happy, and we all had a common interest and excitement in learning together. We left that weekend with a solidified commitment to spreading this message for the rest of our lives.
Since that time we have completed more continuing education, including the Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate Program which provided us with a strong foundation for our coaching and for our own personal health. We have a deep thirst to constantly learn as much as we can. It does not even feel like work (most days). We are grateful to benefit from having the best sources of information from the pioneers – especially Dr. Campbell. We coach people to make sustainable lifestyle behavior changes by first helping them change their beliefs underlying the behavior, based upon new frames of reference.
Sharing wasn’t always well received. We naively expected everyone to welcome the message. Many did, but we were confused and even hurt by the absolute refusal of others (especially family members). It was through the insightful and humorous teachings of Dr. Doug Lisle that we learned another approach: Not everyone is interested in better health if it means changing their behaviors even though they are not well and seem unhappy about it.
We’re following Dr. Wayne Dyer’s advice for living our lives: “Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell others.” There are already many examples of how this blows us away almost every day as we continue on this path of serving others. We get excited and feel a deep sense of reward in seeing that wondrous and astonished expression from people as they tell us how much better they feel. They simply radiate. Mission accomplished!
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