Voices of IIN is our newest content series, where we’ll talk with IIN students, graduates, and staff members who make up our diverse, vibrant, and passionate community ‒ from all over the world! IIN’s commitment to improving health and happiness is what brings us all together, and we aim to celebrate this commitment by sharing the unique stories and backgrounds of IIN change makers. Through this series, we hope to continue working toward creating a more inclusive wellness community, where all feel welcome to create a healthier life.
Isabel Cristancho is originally from Colombia and currently living in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. She shares her story with us below. To learn more, check out her Instagram page: @conamorsanas.
We’d love to learn more about you – why did you decide to come to IIN?
I decided to become an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach because I wanted to learn more about nourishment in a holistic manner. I found the institute and I immediately fell in love.
Five years ago, in the middle of getting my degree, I went to California to take a break from Colombia. I was younger, and I felt that I needed to find myself. I wished to get out of my comfort zone and to disconnect from everyone in order to truly connect with who I am. While I was there, I started to eat my emotions. I was vulnerable and wanted to feel good, so eating was my source of feeling good. After six months, I returned to Colombia ‒ only to face others saying repeatedly that I gained weight (when in reality, I didn’t gain that much). This really affected my body image and my self-esteem. Before this experience, I was always an active person, I loved to exercise! But when I started to hear those comments, exercising became a punishment for eating.
Fast forward to two years ago: I decided to move to the United States to live with my then fiancé, reluctantly fearing that I would gain weight again. I felt overwhelmed at all these changes because I’d left behind my family, my life, my career, my country, and returned to the place where I’d gained weight. My biggest concern wasn´t my new life or my new marriage but gaining weight again. At this moment, I realized I was experiencing an eating disorder.
I felt guilty about everything I ate and wasn´t compassionate with my body at all. I began to look for professional help, researching eating disorders and the psychology behind them. Thus started my healing process with love, compassion, and acceptance. When I was overcoming my situation, I was in a transition in my life where I wanted to keep learning about how to connect with my body and my emotions. That´s when IIN arrived in my life to teach me about wellness, nutrition, and health.
Perspectives on Nutrition and Health Coaching
How are you using your IIN education?
Everything that I do today stems from a connection with IIN. The program taught me how to nourish not only my body but my soul too. It was the cherry on top of my healing process. I started to focus on primary food, which is all the things affecting your health that are not on your plate, by attending to the needs of my body and becoming aware of my emotions.
Do you know other Health Coaches practicing in your country? Is the term Health Coach well known?
The term Health Coach in my country, Colombia, is not that well known yet, but it's getting popular. I profoundly believe that Health Coaches are going to become necessary in the healthcare industry and in leading healthy lifestyles.
What does being a Health Coach mean to you?
Being a Health Coach is about being supportive, providing guidance, and most important, listening to people who want to change. It means accompanying and empowering individual wellness transformation. We help clients develop progress toward personal wellness goals by building self-awareness of feelings, mindsets, and behaviors and exploring areas of life that might be out of balance.
What is your answer when someone asks you if a Health Coach is a nutritionist?
We are not nutritionists; we help clients figure out how make health work for them on a daily basis ‒ we don´t prescribe, and we don´t recommend a specific diet. We guide and motivate clients to experiment with different eating styles and what kind of foods make them feel good.
How do you apply bio-individuality in your own life?
Bio-Individuality: This unique IIN concept means that we’re all different and must embrace our uniqueness to best take care of our health, from the food we eat to the environments we thrive in and everything in between.
Bio-individuality is the most important factor that you need to take care of. I applied bio-individuality by listening to my body and respecting my unique needs and exploring what works for me.
Before IIN, I was trying to follow a “diet,” but I was disconnected from my own needs. Now I explore how my body reacts and feels with certain kinds of food. Food must be about the individual´s needs, not about following a general diet. It's about being compassionate with ourselves and enjoying our food choices.
Nutrition, Healthcare and Equity in the Wellness World
If we traveled to your country, what would we find in terms of food, wellness practices, etc.?
In Colombia, you can find the freshest organic fruits and vegetables everywhere. Street vendors walk up and down the sides of roads, offering a collection of mouthwatering fruits handpicked that morning. If you want an avocado for lunch, you can go right out on the corner and buy the best avocados for you to eat that very day.
We have a lot of variety because we don’t have seasons, and our weather is tropical, so you can find the most succulent fruits and exquisite vegetables.
In terms of wellness practices, Colombians enjoy dancing to stay active. We dance everywhere. It is almost like our meditation! We like to stay active, and also, we love to do the caminatas, which means hiking or walking in nature.
How do you think Health Coaches can help transform healthcare/the healthcare experience to help make “health for all” a reality?
“Health for All”: The concept embodies what is required and what it would mean for all people to achieve health, from equitable access to health resources to finding the foods, movement, environment, career, relationships, and lifestyle that work for the individual, and beyond to experiencing inclusivity and safety in one’s community and fully embracing one’s authentic self.
As Health Coaches, we help clients to increase their confidence and believe that the body has the ability to take care itself, which is important to consider in the larger context of healthcare and medicine.
Personal Goals for Social Impact
What is your “why”?
“Why”: This refers to one’s purpose and the reason(s) behind their chosen work.
I´ve always had a calling to help people in many different ways. I have directed my experiences and training to help others who have gone through similar circumstances. I knew I wasn´t the only person who has been struggling with food and emotional eating. That´s why I chose IIN to become an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach.
I created my social media page, Conamorsanas, which means, “with love heals.” I want to support Latin women who have been through the same situation as myself. I want to inspire others to have a good relationship with food, exercise, and their emotions. This is why I’m also finishing my emotional eating course with IIN, and I’m getting my certificate as a personal trainer.
If you wanted your audience from your country to know one thing about health coaching, what would it be?
As Colombians, we are creative, and we have the motivation to grow and be better. Everything is in our hands to help our community to grow in term of our wellness. In Colombia, there are many resources that we need to take advantage of, like the abundance of organic food produced by hardworking farmers. By developing the proper mindset and gaining resilience and understanding of yourself in terms of health and wellness, it is well worth it to have this kind of guidance in your life. A holistic Health Coach can help you bridge the gap in a total transformation in mind, body, and soul.