This week, I am thrilled to present the Health Leadership Award to an exceptional 2012 graduate of the Health Coach Training Program, Rachael Pontillo. When her personal health transformation led her to realize the connection between inner and outer beauty, Rachael took a chance, followed her passion and has since established a flourishing health coaching practice. She is an amazing example of how to “dive in” when opportunity calls, and I could not be more excited by her success.
More Than Skin-Deep
I was already a holistic aesthetician and wrote regularly about natural skincare “from the inside out and outside in” when I enrolled at IIN. Simultaneously, I was making serious diet and lifestyle changes to lose excess weight I had gained after my second pregnancy (I was up to 200 pounds.) Once I switched to a plant-based diet, among other changes, I quickly began to lose weight. As a happy little side effect, my acne (which I had been dealing with since age 10) cleared up completely. I was able to stop using expensive acne prescriptions and switch 100% to all-natural skincare products. Once I witnessed the connection between nutrition and beauty on my own skin, I knew I needed to start educating others about the gut-brain-skin connection.
Despite my personal transformation, I did not feel I had the authority to write and educate about nutrition without having had any formal education. Nutrition was mentioned in my aesthetics training, but is not within the scope of an aesthetician’s license. When I discovered IIN, the curriculum and the students’ passion resonated with me, so I decided to take the leap and enroll - even though I had no intention of working as a Health Coach at a time. Little did I know how soon that would change!
The Health Coach Training Program perfectly coincided with what I needed to hear and learn at that specific time on my journey. However, I had not joined the program with the intention of taking on clients, so when I started asking people to help me practice health histories, I was not prepared that they would want to sign up to work with me! However, I decided to trust my gut and the encouragement of my own Health Coach, who assured me that I had her support and the support of the school. I began to take clients fairly early on, and they saw dramatic changes very quickly. This made me realize that health coaching was not only a viable career option, but it is also much needed. Empowering people with knowledge, supporting them, and holding them accountable, was making a far greater difference in people’s lives than a skin treatment could. So while I do still work in skincare, my primary focus has switched to health coaching.
A Sense of Purpose
For me, my biggest overall accomplishment was finding out what I’m supposed to do with my time on this planet—I finally know what I want to be when I grow up! This program taught me how I could use my existing talents and professional experience to create solutions to fulfill a very real need. While my company existed before I began the program, it did not have a specific direction. Because of IIN, I was able to center my company’s overall business plan and focus.
Since enrolling at IIN, I have been asked to write more regularly for several magazines, and my journey has been featured on some fantastic websites like Holistic Vanity and Spa Week Daily. I was also invited to speak at the Association of Holistic Skin Care Practitioners Fifth Annual Conference, where I teach other holistic skincare practitioners how to incorporate nutrition and health coaching into their businesses. In addition, I’ve been asked to teach natural skincare, nutrition and wellness classes at several locations in the Philadelphia area, and have made some incredible local connections. Last but not least, I not only met my own weight loss, health and wellness goals - I was able to surpass them!
Advice for Future Health Leaders
My biggest advice is not to wait until you think the time is perfect. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have all the answers, a perfect business plan, or have identified your target market. A lot of that comes with doing the work and going through a fair amount of trial and error. You will find a way to use your unique talents to either fill an existing need or, better yet, create new solutions for needs that have yet to be addressed. It’s okay if you think you’re not ready. It’s okay if you feel fear or doubt. Use the support from the program and our peers. It’s all good—just keep at it and ask for help from those who want to see you succeed.
Connect with Rachael