The IIN community is comprised of over 100,000 unique individuals from all over the world, but we all share similar stories of what IIN means to us and how it changed our lives. No matter the circumstances that brought us here, we’ve learned the journey toward health isn’t linear but rather filled with ups and downs that challenge us to grow into people who are capable of sparking real change in ourselves and others. In this series, you’ll hear from IIN students and graduates who share their inspiring stories about how IIN transformed their health, from physical to spiritual health and everything in between. These stories have the power to unite us in continuing our mission to spread the ripple effect of health and happiness, one Health Coach at a time.
Elena Pezzo is an IIN admissions representative, Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, and certified holistic fitness, health, and healing practitioner. On a daily basis, she helps clients create a completely personalized “roadmap to health” that suits their unique body, lifestyle, preferences, and goals. Elena pioneered a successful plant-based, fast-casual restaurant in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, called Green Bar & Kitchen, fulfilling a goal of bringing plant-based food to the masses. She was raised in a household where positive affirmations were the norm and aims to carry powerful energy and spread joy anywhere she can. She is an empowerment junkie, IntenSati groupie, and proud dog mom to a pup named Louie.
How did your health journey begin?
“I tragically lost my mother three years after losing my father. At age 33, I was suddenly orphaned and became quite depressed. My mother lived a holistic lifestyle, and she was actually the one who discovered IIN and pushed me to attend. But I was caught up in the grind of corporate America and kept putting it on the back burner. Ironically, I worked for Equinox, where my job was to help other people get healthier through fitness, yet I was the unhealthiest of them all due to my poor diet and bad lifestyle choices.”
What made you finally take the leap?
“One day, it just hit me, and I finally made a decision to take control of my life – I just knew IIN was going to give me answers. And it did. I found like-minded individuals who had the same passion as me: They wanted to create a healthier life for themselves, the world, and their families! Yahoo! I knew from that first moment I took my seat in class – my life was about to change. (I was in the last live class that was held in NYC.)”
How did you use your IIN education when you graduated?
“What a journey it’s been (and continues to be)! I rediscovered myself and fell in love with life! I left Equinox and New York and moved to South Florida. I started working at a hotel, The Standard, and I am proud to say I built a very successful health coaching practice. Life was great. I was teaching IntenSati, health coaching, and helping people make positive changes in their lives. I finally really felt at peace.”
What was the pivotal moment in your health journey?
“I received a phone call on June 11, 2011, that would again change my life. My brother, Anthony, had suffered a stroke. He wasn’t found until 24 hours later, had suffered an anoxic encephalopathy brain injury, and was in a coma – the result of a lack of oxygen to the brain.
A team of doctors sat me and my sister-in-law down and advised we pull the plug; they said my brother would never be anything but a vegetable. I was devastated. I had already lost both my parents, and now my brother?
There was something deep inside me, calling to me, so I refused to accept the doctors’ prognosis! I called up my inner strength and my IIN knowledge and started using many forms of healing modalities on Anthony, from aromatherapy to nutritional support. I demanded omega-3 fish oil be administered into his feeding tube.
Four months passed, and we visited five different hospitals and countless doctors and specialists. They all kept saying the same thing: There is no hope and he will never get better.
Anthony finally came out of the coma in October and started to slowly speak! But the hospital was feeding him dead, processed food. Nothing to wake up his cells! Daily I fought with doctors, pleading with them to give him proper supplementation. They didn't approve his supplements and told me I was wasting my money and time. But I did it, anyway! The formula I determined was best included E3Live, coenzyme Q10, omega-3 fish oil, and green smoothies packed with superfoods. I never gave up on the power of nutrition!
Through tremendous amounts of touch, love, positive affirmations, and visualizations, constant verbal and moral support, as well as supplements, my brother Anthony started fully communicating that December – after six full months in the hospital – and has been blessed with consistent healing since. His memory and cognition are fine, and he now recognizes the need for important diet and lifestyle routines, including nutritious food, stress reduction, and exercise. We have been blessed with a miracle!”
How did your own health transform in addition to your brother’s health?
“The miraculous transformation with Anthony only further solidified my desire to fulfill my mission to help heal others. I decided to open a health food truck – superfoods to supercharge your life!
Without the IIN inspiration, I would never have been able to start this new adventure! We called it the ZENERGY truck – providing superfood smoothies, snacks (such as kale chips), and vegan and gluten-free desserts.
The truck was used as an educational instrument to teach people how easy it is to eat healthier, make simpler lifestyle choices, and how much fun and tasty it can be to eat and live healthily! As the truck gained popularity, we figured the best thing to do would be to open up a brick-and-mortar building, and so the Green Bar & Kitchen in South Florida was born. We sold last year to a restaurant group so South Floridians can continue to get delicious and healthy food.
There’s also a silver lining – a love story! Through this process of taking care of my brother, I was reunited with my brother’s best friend and old high school classmate, Charles. I've known him since I was five years old and actually had the biggest crush on him! We reunited over what we thought was Anthony’s deathbed. Charles backed me up on the food truck idea and handled operations. He later became a plant-based chef and took the food truck and restaurant to a new level, winning accolades throughout South Florida for his phenomenal plant-based food. And this hunk became my husband!”
Health transformation will not look the same from one person to the next, and that’s what IIN is all about – encouraging you to dig deep to figure out who you truly are and what makes you truly happy, fulfilled, and healthy! Our Health Coach Training Program has transformed the lives of over 100,000 people, and YOU could be next! Learn more about what makes our innovative curriculum so life changing by downloading our free Curriculum Guide today.