Becoming a Coach, Part 3: Support, Survival, and Kale

Welcome back for the last in my series telling the story of how I survived spinal rock bottom and became a health and nutrition coach. In this post I’ll reveal the key things that kept me on a healing path and a timesaver recipe that you can transform into multiple meals all week long: LA Style Pinto Bean Salad “Concentrate.”

Keep fighting for health despite pain and setback.

For the months after surgery I did everything I could to regain my mobility; I walked, I did my physical therapy diligently, I ate well, and drank plenty of water. I tried to get off the narcotics as quickly as possible, and obsessively rationed half-cut doses to make sure I didn’t become what so many who suffer from back pain struggle with; addicted to pills. I was determined to heal, and return to my life.  There were still so many “bad” days, and there were still a lot of tears. I’d try to go to something social/normal, or my boyfriend and I would lust after a really cool festival out of town (Santa Barbara Annual Fermentation Festival, I’m looking at you, you sexy pickle making mistress…) but even if I was in the passenger seat with the head rest all the way flat, I’d end up losing multiple days to pain making up for my attempts at a normal life. Being able to drive seemed like a far-off unattainable goal. But even on those really bad days I kept walking, despite if it took all my energy for the day I’d go on at least a 20-minute walk.

Get personal and professional support.

Spine Doc was impressed with my progress. He’s admitted to me several times that he can’t take credit for my healing, he humbly states that he started the process, but my commitment to physical activity and a healthy lifestyle is the real reason the surgery is going to work in the long run. The last time I saw him he explained that in about 5-10 years my vertebrae will finish fusing, and it’s very possible that the back and leg pain will then disappear. I think I started crying when he told me this, for mixed reasons, but primarily because the idea of being able to dance (my first love), pick up a child, or maybe run/trot to make a changing traffic light seems like hitting the jackpot.

I also had my own health coach. Every two weeks we would check in via Skype, and through her example I learned how to be a better coach. We traded recipes, talked about meal planning, I shared where I was struggling physically and emotionally, and she gave me the support I needed to make decisions that allowed me to reach my goals.

Keep busy. Stay engaged mentally.

Spine Doc ended up refusing to let me go back to work at the originally agreed upon time, and extended my disability status by several more months, which I was not very happy about. Did I watch some Netflix while stuck in bed? I sure did. But I read a ton, as well. And I became certified as a Health Coach through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition program. I even took online and hybrid classes at my local community college as I started to fear that I might need to make a career change due to my mobility restrictions. There’s nothing like a test on macronutrients that gets your head out of the “pain trap.” As I started to return to my science roots, which I had studied years ago in college, I realized that I loved talking about food and science together. I loved helping my “practice clients” from my health coaching program reach their health and wellness goals. You can read about their stories here. And when at the end of 2013 Spine Doc made is very clear that I was never going to be able to sit at a desk for an 8-hour day, let alone return to my previously typical 14-hour work day, I was psychologically, intellectually and emotionally ready to make a change. Thus I headed the calling; I became a small business owner, serving the creative professionals of Los Angeles and beyond with all their health coaching needs, running my business from a spine-friendly standing desk that my boyfriend built from a brilliant Ikea hack.

The Result

The obligatory "After" photo. April, 2014. Happy and healthy.

The obligatory "After" photo. April, 2014. Happy and healthy.

Each month I notice an improvement. I can now drive to West Hollywood and back (8 miles one way!), in LA traffic, while signing along to Adele at the top of my lungs. I got into and started a Masters in Science program in Nutrition and Integrative Health, which will enable me to expand upon my Health Coaching training with hard science (yes, please) and help me become licensed as a Nutritionist. I can now meet with several coaching clients in a row, and I know how to release pressure in my spine so that the sitting doesn’t hurt me. I’m even working with an amazing Pilates trainer who has created a spine-safe baby routine for me. The fight isn’t over, and I still need to lie down in the middle of the day often, but I’ve definitely come out on the other end of this year feeling like the hero of my healing story. This has been such a transformative experience, and all of it has prepared me to help you become the hero of your own story, because we all work our butts off and deserve a quality of life that comes from great health.

Now that I can chop and dice with the best of them, and now that I’m back at work, I love creating timesaver recipes that can evolve throughout the week. I created this salad “concentrate” because I wanted something that I could use on rice or quinoa, over greens, or even in tacos. Inspired by the flavors of Los Angeles, enjoy my Pinto Bean Salad Concentrate and additional meal transformations.

LA-Style Pinto Bean Salad “Concentrate”


1, 15 oz. can Pinto Beans (Or 2 Cups Cooked Beans) Rinsed and Drained

1 Bunch Lacinato Kale, Chiffonade Chopped

½ Red Onion, Chopped

½ Cup Cilantro, Diced

2 tsp. Olive Oil (can also sub or add Flaxseed Oil for Omega-3 benefits)

Juice of 1 Lime

1 tsp. Garlic Powder

Sea Salt and Pepper to taste

Serving Options:

Serve over brown rice, add avocado slices when serving.

Serve over lettuce, add avocado when serving.

Serve warm (heat in sauce pan for 3 minutes) on corn tortillas. Top with radish and salsa.


Clean, and de-rib the kale, then stack the leaves and roll them into a tight flute-like shape. To chiffonade cut, slice across the rolled leaves ¼ inch ribbons, and once all kale is sliced, slice once along the length of the kale. Place kale, cilantro, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic powder in a bowl and mix well with your hands. Let stand for several minutes while you drain and rinse the beans, and then add everything together. Keeps for several days in the fridge, and you can use on top of the listed serving options for meal variety.

Thank you so much, Dear Reader, for sticking it out for this spiny tale.  This coming month’s blog posts will feature multiple helpful cooking ideas, recipes, sleep and stress management techniques and other fun helpful health and nutrition tips that you can use to be the hero of your journey to health. If you haven’t yet, please follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. And if you’re ready to get the support you need and deserve, sign up right here for a free Health Coaching Consultation today and let’s make you feel like a hero.