Being a health coach changed my life
Vanessa Henderson's work-life balance was off. She was overweight and, because she was burnt out from long hours on the job, unable to enjoy all the great things that had lured her to the Big Apple.
Two years ago she made a conscious decision to switch things up. The 30-year-old risk manager left Deloitte and opened her own business as a health coach.
Optimize Wellness not only changed her life, she's using it to help improve others.
“I was really good at my job but I was feeling burnt out from work,” she said. “I was travelling all the time, eating late-night dinners, barely exercising and addicted to coffee and sweets. I knew I needed a change. The work-life balance wasn't really balancing out.”
She moved to the United States in 2004 to study risk management and insurance at St John's University.
“I thought New York City was a big, amazing, exciting city with endless activities to explore,” she said. “It was such a contrast to the countryside in Wales where I had just finished studying and also a big contrast to tiny, beautiful Bermuda. I loved the diversity of the people, the culture, the foods. I couldn't wait to explore the Broadway shows, the different neighbourhoods, the museums, the trendy clubs, everything.”
She was thrilled once she was offered a job but then the weight started piling on and she didn't know how to stop it. She skipped meals, worked out, counted calories, followed popular diets and bought into the promises of weight-loss products — all without success.
In 2013, she started part-time classes at New York's Institute of Integrative Nutrition.
“During my time at nutrition school I learnt there was a direct link between the food I chose to put into my body and my health,” Ms Henderson said.
“I started to truly appreciate that the food choices I made were so much more than good or bad. They affected me on deeper levels. I needed to make the right choices in a broad sense — healthy, whole foods rather than processed, artificial junk — but also the right choices for me.
“Once I began to better understand how my body reacts to certain foods and also began to incorporate new, healthy foods and enjoy creative and fun meals I realised — this game just changed!
“I felt energetic, happy, confident, and I was looking better, more radiant and more alive.”
She lost 20lbs and has managed to keep it off. Exercise is now a vital part of her daily routine.
“I also don't eat processed fast foods any more. I look for farm-to-table restaurants and joined a food co-op where I can get locally harvested, organic fruits and vegetables and free-range meat every two weeks.”
The range of dining options in the city also helped, she added.
“There's almost a healthy option on every block here. Whole Foods, Juice Press, Fresh & Co, Dig Inn, and lots of vegan spots are just a few of my favourite places to stop by when I'm on the run. [They have] lots of healthy options and conscious, good food philosophies.
“They are in almost every neighbourhood in the city and also expanding out to Brooklyn. There are also lots of gyms offering specialised classes that meet everyone's interest from Brazilian ju-jitsu to ballet.”
She believes her philosophy for health and wellness is a unique one.
“I focus on feeding your body, mind and soul the right nutrients, so that you can create a healthier, more energetic, lifestyle,” she said.
“That involves looking at all the different areas of your life — in addition to the food on your plate — to help create the plan that will bring you success and boost your confidence. I help high-performing women in their 30s to 50s have more energy, lose weight, live with purpose and reach their health goals, in the form of a 90-day programme. I also implement nutrition, weight loss and wellness protocols into doctors' offices.”
Read more here: optimizewellness.com
Vanessa Henderson’s recommendations for the best things to see and do in New York over the holiday season:
• The Rockefeller Centre Christmas tree lighting. The New York resident says every time she goes it’s magical. “There are so many beautiful lights and flags from different countries,” she said. “They play Christmas tunes and Saks Fifth Avenue has a beautiful snowflake light display across the street. It really gets me in the mood for Christmas.”
• Ice skating in Bryant Park is a great way to get your heart pumping and also fun and festive. “They also play Christmas songs and everyone is having a good time moving their body and exercising, drinking hot chocolate and sitting under the Christmas tree,” the health coach said.
• She described the Radio City Rockettes in one word: amazing.
• Stores like Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s have amazing window displays plus, everyone is in a really good mood and the deals are incredible, Ms Henderson added.