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Ever since our first cohort of coaches graduated from our AIP Certified Coach Practitioner Training Program, we’ve been watching with pride and excitement as they bring the AIP to the traditional healthcare landscape. Our AIP Certified Coach Spotlight features give you a look at what it means to be an AIP coach, and what you can expect when working with one as part of your healthcare team.
In our first spotlight feature, we’re chatting with Christina Tidwell who is both a Registered Nurse and a Holistic Health Coach. Christina graduated from our program in winter 2017 and has a unique perspective on the ways the conventional and alternative healthcare systems can work in tandem.
How did you become involved in the healthcare field in the beginning?
I was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease, adult-onset Still’s disease, when I was 18 years old which was a confusing and scary time. (Read more about my story here.) One day I went to see the nurse practitioner at my rheumatologist’s office and after listening to my whole story, the one I’d told a million times, she looked at me and said, “Wow, you’ve been through a lot, how are you doing with all of this?” It stopped me dead in my tracks because this was the first person, out of the dozens of practitioners over the past year, who had actually looked at me as a person, not as a diagnosis, and asked this really simple question that brought me to tears.
From there she began to ask me how my medications were working for me, and how we might alter them to better fit my needs and reduce side effects rather than saying, “This is just how it’s done”. She never rushed me out of my appointments and listened to how my disease was affecting all parts of my life. She opened my eyes to the idea that I was the one that had control, and by modifying my diet and lifestyle I could learn how to live a life not ruled by my disease. Whaaaat? Oh man did I take this idea and run! Because of this influence, I became a Registered Nurse with the goal of helping guide others through their illness journeys. I’ve since gone on to study nutrition, become an AIP Certified Coach and run my own practice, Live Well with Christina.
You are both an RN and a Health Coach. In what ways do these two careers compliment each other and help you serve your clients?
I’m trained as a critical care nurse and have also worked in long-term patient rehabilitation so I’ve gotten amazing experience working with people throughout the entire illness experience. These skills and training are vital to the work I do now because I have a deep understanding of anatomy and physiology, and what is actually happening in the body when we are in a disease state. It also helps to be really well versed about all of the diagnoses, medications and procedures my clients have so I can help answer questions, coordinate care and bring all of the pieces of the puzzle together. I believe effective treatment of autoimmune disease involves bringing together the best of conventional medicine and a more holistic approach with attention to diet, digestive health, stress, relationships and our environment.
I still work shifts as a cardiac RN to keep my critical care skills up! If I’m being really honest, when I’m at the hospital it’s like I’m working in a different world where the focus is on symptom management rather than getting to the root causes of what’s going on in the body. In this system, it’s easier to just prescribe a pill than to spend time investigating underlying causes of disease which can be complex and multifaceted.
When I work as a holistic health coach, I look at all areas of clients’ lives to see where things are out of balance and together we explore ways to get back to health through diet and lifestyle modifications. I feel like I can make a much bigger impact with my health coaching clients and continually work to change the way chronic disease is managed in our conventional health care system. This is my ultimate passion and we have some work to do but we are making great headway!
What prompted you to use your skill set and training to specifically focus on serving the autoimmune disease population?
My own experience with autoimmune disease definitely led me down the path of helping others in the autoimmune community. Like many of you, I went through years of suffering and trial and error on my own, knowing there was more I could do to improve my energy, reduce digestive symptoms, and get to the root cause of why my body began to attack its own tissues. My goal is to use all of my experience and advanced training so others don’t have to suffer on their own looking for answers. I really do feel it’s my life’s purpose.
I’ve developed my Live Well program based on the latest research specifically to serve those with autoimmune disease. I guide my clients to incorporate healthy, whole foods into their diet in a way that works for them and helps them improve digestion and gut health, boost energy levels, gain an understanding of the possible root causes of physical and emotional imbalance, and feel empowered to create a care team to support them and their unique needs for the rest of their life.
Also, having worked as an RN for several years I have seen the many ways in which those with autoimmune disease aren’t receiving this whole-person care in our medical system and why autoimmune health coaches are absolutely essential to fill in the gaps and facilitate sustainable, transformational healing!
You recently became an AIP Certified Coach. Were their aspects of the program that you feel were particularly beneficial?
When I picked up Mickey and Angie’s book, The Autoimmune Wellness Handbook, a few years ago it was a really big “aha” moment. As I was reading, I kept finding myself nodding and saying “YES!” out loud which is not normal book reading behavior for me :). It was as though I’d finally found my community of people who were also advocating for an alternative approach to autoimmune disease. The steps outlined in the book and the science behind the approach were so spot on to what I had personally been practicing for years and I couldn’t wait to get involved and become an AIP Certified Coach.
The most beneficial aspect of the program was diving deep into the science behind the AIP so I have a really strong foundation for the dietary/lifestyle recommendations that I give my clients. This gives me a lot of confidence as a practitioner. Also, having a community of like-minded coaches has been an invaluable resource. When you are doing something different and pioneering a new way of caring for those with autoimmune disease having a supportive community to draw on is huge.
What kinds of plans do you currently have for your practice? Anything exciting coming up?
Yes! In addition to private autoimmune health coaching I am creating a 6-week online group program so my Live Well coaching program is accessible to more people! It covers the 5 main pillars of living well with autoimmune disease and features exclusive guest experts in the field sharing their knowledge. If you’re feeling overwhelmed about conflicting evidence out there about autoimmune disease and are looking for a step-by-step guide to making dietary and lifestyle shifts that will lead to massive transformation, this is perfect for you. I’ll be in there doing live coaching as well so we can get to know each other! I’m planning on launching it in the next few months, so click here to register interest and I will send you all the info when it’s live.
Can you share an autoimmune client success story?
There have been so many over the past few years! I will share a recent testimonial from my client Teresa who is a 60-year-old woman with rheumatoid arthritis. Teresa came to me with a new autoimmune diagnosis, debilitating joint pain, digestive issues and a lot of stress and overwhelm about what she should be eating and doing to help her body heal:
“The biggest tangible change I have noticed since beginning the program has been that my rheumatoid arthritis flare has subsided dramatically. I think both the drugs (from my doctor) and the dietary changes Christina guided me through have contributed to that. Also I have been able to expand the foods that I eat, which has felt very liberating, especially when going out with family and friends. I feel much more confident about choices that I make since working with Christina.
Since I was already doing an elimination diet, Christina guided me through the steps of being able to reintroduce foods. She sent me a copy of the ‘Autoimmune Manifesto’ which I keep up in my kitchen. It has gems like ‘trust your intuition, start simple, and food is your friend.’ With the plethora of conflicting information available, I have found this “Manifesto” calming and very helpful. This is just one of many resources that Christina shared with me.” – Teresa
I also just got this update from Teresa who was able to get back to her passion, running, in a much more mindful way than before:
“By the way, I ran the Resolution Run 5K in Magnuson Park on January 1st and had a new post-rheumatoid arthritis record: under 10 minute/mile and I came in first in my age group!”
As you can see Teresa is a real badass! And an awesome example of what is possible when we take a whole-body approach to autoimmune disease rather than just relying on one tool in the tool kit. I’ve worked with many clients who have Hashimoto’s, arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and even one with Still’s like myself and have witnessed powerful, whole body healing stories!
Where can our readers find you or learn about working with you?
I’m excited to offer free 30-minute consultations for all of you lovely AIP readers! This community is so very important to me and I want you all to know that you have support and a resource in me. Living with a chronic disease isn’t easy, but I want to assure you that no matter where you are, it’s possible to live a vibrant life not ruled by your disease and to never, ever, ever give up hope.
If you are in the midst of illness or trauma right now, and you feel like your body is revolting against you and it all feels hard and hopeless, I see you and I know your pain. I am here to support you, to give you a guide and something to hold on to as you make your way through this journey. You can click the link here to book your free session with me. I would be honored to hear your story,
I’m really passionate about writing about my experience and sharing quick and easy diet and lifestyle tips (nothing fancy for this nurse!) over on my blog and as a gift I’d love to give you guys my super simple AIP batch cooking meal plan you can download here. If you’re new to AIP or looking for some guidance, it’s a great place to start.