Building Healthy Bones with Irma Jennings
Our bones are crucial for optimal health and longevity, yet we don’t spend nearly enough time learning about how they affect our overall wellbeing, and how to support them. Irma Jennings, a 2004 graduate of the Health Coach Training Program, claims her bones are the strongest they’ve ever been, at age 60! Her first career was financing infrastructure for roads, bridges, tunnels, and schools, building infrastructure for our cities and states. Now as a Holistic Bone Coach, she works on the infrastructure of her clients: their bones.
Irma, who lives in New Hope, PA, enrolled at Integrative Nutrition as a result of her own health issues. Now she has a thriving practice, Food For Healthy Bones, helping others build strong bones through eating well and living a healthy lifestyle. This interview highlights Irma’s work, and the unique niche market she has created for herself.
What led you to explore the Health Coach Training Program?
My own health and personal issues led me to enroll: migraines, digestive issues, an unhappy marriage and my own diagnosis of osteopenia, the pre-curser to osteoporosis. I went to school, hired myself as my own coach, continued educating myself, and can now report my health and my bones are the best ever, at 60 years young!
Which parts of the curriculum influenced you the most?
Joshua Rosenthal’s idea of "take what I've learned and run with it" and the "go forth and multiply" approach. Other influential teachers include Paul Pitchford, Annemarie Colbin, John Douillard, Marc David, Deepak Chopra, Debbie Ford, and Andrea Beaman. Also, all my fellow IINers who share the same platform as agents of change.
What are you doing now?
I offer an online 5-week Optimal Bone Health Program: The First Step Solution. My clients are from coast-to-coast and as far away as Australia. I teach all about calcium and mineral-rich foods, exercises, and lifestyle for strong healthy bones well into our 90's.
What makes your practice unique?
No one offers such a detailed bone-building food program online with coaching support for those interested in maintaining strong bones. Clients have three ways of working with me in my program: recorded modules only, modules with weekly coaching support, and for those that desire deeper integration, my 6 month and one year program. Together we get to the underlining problem of the "why" their bones are crumpling and "why" their infrastructure no longer supports them. They gain insights they could not have imagined.
Do clients typically come to you after they've been diagnosed with osteoporosis, or for any bone issues in general?
The clients that find me have been diagnosed with the first step of osteoporosis; which is osteopenia. Clients also come to me who have a family history of osteoporosis (such as a grandma with a dowagers hump, or a grandpa in a wheel chair). More and more women and men are being diagnosed with osteopenia around the age of 45. Parents come to me who want to assist their children in building their bone bank account. Bones bank accounts are built in the first 25-30 years of life depending on gender.
What is the connection between primary food and bone health? How do you help clients rebuild their internal infrastructure?
My clients so often live in fear. Fear that they'll be another "broken hip" statistic. Baby boomers (born between 1946-1964) are 77 million strong. We're a huge demographic that's being addressed through the countless TV ads with the only solution being big pharmacy. This feeds the fear, which is often deeply buried, or hovering just below the breath. In my 6-month program we delve into this crumpling aspect of fear as I help my clients see fear not as a "default" but as an entry to a solution. Primary foods are key; strong relationship with self, partners, family members and friends. Their environment plays a role as well. I knew living in New York City for 40 years fed my ego, my drive for success in my previous career, for excitement and culture, but clearly it did not feed my bones.
What is the pool of clientele like in your field of work?
The number reported in studies, books and blogs is this: worldwide there are 200 million people diagnosed with osteoporosis, and millions more with osteopenia. Having my program on the Internet allows my program to reach a larger audience.
Are there any foods, drinks or supplements you typically recommend (or advise against) for optimal bone health?
I don't focus on supplements. There are so many confusing reports on supplements. Calcium supplements are a hot topic right now with studies pointing to heart disease as calcium is deposited in unwanted areas other than the bones; the arteries.
My focus is on the foods that have the 18 vitamins and minerals the bones need. Examples of these are calcium-rich foods such as kale, collards, quinoa, almonds, sea veggies, bone stocks (cooked 12 hours), and fermented foods such as natto, a Japansese food, for vitamin K. Drinks include mineral-rich herbal tea infusions (that are brewed over eight hours).
What sort of success do your clients typically enjoy?
A client came to me with a diagnosis of osteoporosis. Her marriage and her bones were not strong; her internal infrastructure was crumbling. We worked on her food, her marriage and her thought process. Today her marriage is strong, her bones are better, her attitude is extraordinary and her focus is clear and playful.
What do you love about your work?
I love my clients, as well as the ease of tapping into the Internet for my online program. I adore the work I do, as I am my own client. When I help myself, I help others by teaching what works. I also love testing the foods and recipes, and building my healthy bone community. I thoroughly enjoy offering my educational piece where I interview experts in the field of GMO's, grass-fed, and grass-finished, to give a few examples.
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