Inspire Sante caught up with Holistic Health Coach and Culinary Nutritionist Monique Costello about her journey through persistent pain and how it inspired a new passion.
We’d love to hear how you got started and what led you to the wellness space?
It’s through my own journey past pain that I found my passion for health, wellness and helping others. It all came to a head when I was struck with a major breakdown of my back. It wasn’t an injury so much because there wasn’t an event that happened. Looking back, I can identify so many things that led to my chronic pain years, from eating the wrong foods, stress, lack of sleep, wrong exercises...heck, I turns out I wasn’t really even breathing right! I can now see how my body had been sending me signals for years, I just wasn’t listening.
I went from doctor to therapist looking for answers and nobody had them for me. It was devastating to say the least. Normal life had ended on some levels; I was a physically active individual who went from playing beach volleyball to not even being able to wash my own hair some days. I had two therapists, a chiropractor and a back doctor all managing my ‘recovery’ and I wasn’t getting any better, at all. It’s also interesting that not one person had talked to me about managing pain and inflammation nor the incredibly important role that food and stress play.
I came to the realization that I was truly the only one in charge of my own recovery. My research started with anti-inflammatory foods which I began to incorporate into my diet. Week by week I was able to do more in therapy, which led me to look even closer at my diet. I started to remove toxic foods and saw the weight begin to slowly come down.
It was about that time when I came across the Health Coaching career. The moment I read those two word (Health Coach), my inner flame was ignited and grows stronger every day. Now I'm passionate about helping people heal themselves and feel as good as they can.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Any journey from the path of chronic pain will never be easy. But it is worth it. Being in pain isn’t easy either so you have to ask yourself, which journey do I want?
The absolute most important first step is it make the mindset that you will do what it takes to get better. Nobody can do that for you; no doctor, husband, girlfriend, therapist, parent, friend, acupuncturist…. it’s up to you. That was the first of many challenges and something that took me some time to really fully understand.
We’ve all heard that we need to be in charge of our own health, but I think at the time that phrase didn’t mean anything more to me than making my next appointment. And this is one of the reasons why I got into coaching - to help clients understand what it means to take on that responsibility of advocating for yourself and to then help guide them through the process. I struggled with what to do, who to see, when to call it quits with one modality or doctor and how to even search for the next. Usually I just kept seeing the same physical therapist over and over and over again in hopes that someday there would be a change, but mostly because I didn’t know what else to do.
I didn’t have anyone there to guide me through the process and that is such an important piece. But there is a fine line even with guidance because it does take work, sometimes hard work, and that is the part the client has to be willing to do.
Managing a pain-free life is actually more of a challenge than I ever expected as well, because you can’t go back to the same ways of living, of eating, of negative thinking or of inactivity (or overactivity) the way you did before. That is how you got to that point in the first place. So I help clients learn new routines but it also means managing relationships because as you change, so do your connections with others.
What should we know? What sets you apart for your clients?
Pain is mentally draining.
I know how hard it is when someone says ‘but, you look fine’ or ‘you seem just like normal’.
I’ve been there when someone asks how you’re feeling and then interrupts you to say they have a pain from their trainer pushing them soo hard.
I understand that when you are told you need to ‘manage your pain’, you might as well have told me I need to coordinate the next space voyage.
I know how much it hurts when someone says- ‘are you still dealing with that?”. Um ya, I am. And it STILL hurts!
It’s not all in your head and pain medication is not the answer.
My approach is slow and steady; we are in it for the long haul together. It took me 5 years to get to where I am; I went down the wrong path many times so I can help streamline the process for my clients. It’s an ongoing process. That isn’t to say you carry that chronic pain label with you forever, you trade that in for one that defines your path to healthy.
Even today I’m constantly searching for the right modality for my current body. When I look back to those dark days of pain, the idea of trying yet another new doctor, therapist or healing modality was the last thing I wanted to do. It meant starting from scratch with my pain story, reliving all the things I tried that didn’t work and having to gain trust in someone new as well, not to mention it just takes an enormous amount of energy and stamina to do all that -which I didn’t have because I was using every ounce of it just getting out of bed and getting through the day.
So I’ve been there; I understand where my clients are coming from and approach it from a more holistic viewpoint.
Tell us about your business
I encourage wellness. I consider myself a health educator, working with individuals all over the world through one on one and group coaching programs to help them meet their health goals.
Locally, I teach a Health and Wellness Certification program at Soma Institute and a Culinary Nutrition Certification program along with recreational healthy cooking classes at Kendall College. A few times a year I run Whole Food Cleanse programs to help people jumpstart their goals and to recognize that food is medicine and it can heal you from the inside.
This year I’ll be offering weekend retreats that focuses on cooking, but builds upon all the pillars of health needed for a complete you.
Do you have any last thoughts?
I would say to those dealing with pain that you don’t have to be alone and never give up!
© 2017 Inspire Santé, NFP