Integrative Nutrition Blog

How Social Worker Samantha Elkrief Found the Courage to Pursue Health Coaching Full-Time

January 18, 2015

Happy National Health Coach Week! To celebrate, we’re featuring inspiring stories of Health Coaches who are doing amazing work in their homes, workplaces, schools, and communities. We’re rounding out the celebration with Samantha Elkrief, Class of 2014! She’s taking over our Instagram account today – follow along here to see what she’s up to!

For Samantha Elkrief, Class of 2014, helping people was always her calling. With a graduate degree in social work from Columbia University, Samantha worked with people from all backgrounds with issues ranging from unemployment to divorce. 

It was her own health journey that directed Samantha towards health coaching and ultimately Integrative Nutrition. After a long and painful experience with IBS, chronic cutaneous yeast, and many infections that doctors failed to manage, Samantha healed her issues through diet and lifestyle change with the help of a naturopath. She now makes it her life’s work to help others feel their best! 

Read more about how she gained confidence to launch her own practice and why she loves her work.

On imagining her life without fear: Prior to Integrative Nutrition, I was working as a social worker for a non-profit. I was the school director for a vocational training program in culinary arts for homeless veterans. I had been hearing about Integrative Nutrition for over a decade! But I hadn't really given myself the chance to explore other career options besides social work. I had my five-year plan and wouldn't stray.

I ran into the program again after doing an exercise about imagining my life without fear. When I saw my vision for myself and my life, it led me to Integrative Nutrition.

On combining social work and health coaching: I think coaching and social work complement each other beautifully. What I like about health coaching is that I get to share myself and my story and also give love freely. As a social worker, you are required to set a lot of boundaries. As a Health Coach, I feel like I get to blend my life and my work. I'm sure I'll draw different boundaries the more I learn, but for now, I really love how open I can be and the way I can connect with my clients.

I also think that the primary food piece of health coaching and social work are very similar. I appreciate that I've had a lot of training in active listening and motivational interviewing prior to health coaching. I also appreciate that I've been lucky enough to work with lots of different clients over the years as a social worker. All that experience has given me a lot of practice and confidence that helps me in my business.

On working as a health educator: I work with teenagers and their families at Harlem Children’s Zone. The goal of the program is to give young people the information they need to prevent chronic diseases like diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart disease. Harlem has higher rates of all these chronic diseases. I also work with parents to help them achieve their health goals and to create a healthy home environment that reinforces what we are teaching their children.

I really love what I do there. Just yesterday I was checking in with one of the students whose goal was to start eating breakfast every morning. (You would be surprised how many of the students don't eat anything until 3 or 4pm!) She has been eating breakfast and noticed how much her mood and energy has improved. Her first period teacher even mentioned that she was less grouchy and way more approachable. In the student’s words, she can now "put up with anything" in the mornings. It's small things, but it makes a huge difference in their quality of life.

On finding confidence and community: Integrative Nutrition and some really special and supportive people in my life helped me find the courage to leave my full-time job as a school director/social worker to pursue coaching and cooking full-time! The school also connected me to a community I never knew existed. I always thought I was the only one dealing with health issues that doctors couldn't fix. The school community really made me feel like a part of something larger. Once I enrolled in school I also committed to teaching monthly cooking classes, which has been so much fun. I also started my own business making and selling natural deodorants.

On making a difference: It is just beautiful to see my clients grow into themselves. I also love seeing my clients gain confidence in their ability to prepare food for themselves. Getting back into the kitchen after a long time is not easy. I really admire them for all they do. Teaching cooking classes is also so fun. Sometimes I worry that I don't have anything valuable to share, but within a few minutes of the class someone will get excited about learning a new way to do something. I just love making a difference in people’s lives.

Connect with Samantha

On her website

On Facebook

On Twitter

On Instagram

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