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. IIN’s commitment to making the world a healthier and happier place 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.
Mary Dierker, a 2016 graduate, owned a thriving food business for 35 years before making the shift to become a Health Coach. Here, she shares her story of why she enrolled at IIN, discusses her target market of women who deserve to be heard and seen, and explains why she finds this work so powerful.
What was the catalyst that led you to enroll at IIN?
For nearly 35 years, I owned and operated an extraordinarily successful scratch bakery and restaurant in Central Illinois. I was seeing more food sensitivities, and often my customers would come to me for health advice. My interest in food was really the catalyst for bonding with people, including customers who I still see and maintain close friendships with even today.
In 2014, I was getting ready to retire my business because I knew it was time to end it. Around the same time, my husband, Chris, who I’ve been married to for 37 years, decided he was going to run a 100-mile trail run at age 60! Chris and I have quite different food personalities – he eats to survive while I live to eat. When he gets tired, he’ll forget to eat!
During his training, I was responsible for making sure he stayed nourished. To provide variety, we adapted a three-pillar philosophy – food for fuel, food for recovery, and food for fun. To take some pressure off myself to cook every meal and make sure he was seeing other people during his training, I instituted a Sunday night potluck with friends – but not just any friends. The prerequisites were that everyone had to be over 50 years old with no children living at home and at least one ingredient of their dish had to be locally sourced. This potluck offered my husband much-needed comradery that was stimulating to him and introduced new textures, aromas, and colors in the food.
This experience flipped a switch in me – I knew there was something here that needed to be explored. At the time, someone recommended business coaching as a potential next career for me, but it didn’t resonate with me because it didn’t include food and health aspects. Health coaching was relatively new and it caught my interest. In 2015, I signed up for the course, and in the same week that IIN started, an offer was made on my business property – it was very serendipitous timing.
What made your IIN experience and education so transformative?
It was so transformative for two main reasons. First, IIN gave me the tools I needed to pursue a career in taking care of others and enabling them to experience love and joy through improving their well-being. Second, I feel my purpose is to be an ambassador for unconditional love through food, and IIN’s concept of “food changes everything” is exactly what my work embodies.
When I owned the bakery, everything was made from scratch and with love. In the later years, I started to see my customers using food to mask their unhappiness and even projecting their feelings onto me by saying, “You obviously don’t eat what you make.” This mind-set shift of customers was striking, and I honestly felt like I was contributing to that mind-set, which took away the passion I had felt for years.
IIN gave me a broader perspective on how I already ate and took care of myself and enabled me to turn it into my personal brand. As an aging adult who started her fitness routine in earnest after age 50, I want to share what I know with everyone!
Perspectives on Nutrition and Health Coaching
How are you using your IIN education?
Since becoming a Health Coach, I strive to live by example. I consider myself an authentically transparent person with joy for others to see and feel. I work one-on-one with clients and have lots of scheduling flexibility.
My primary target market is working with aging women:
- Empty nesters
- May have aging parents
- Unsure if they can retire yet
- May be divorced or widowed
- May feel unattractive and uncomfortable
- May feel loneliness and loss
My main goal is to help them rekindle a zest for life and unpack the many things I mentioned by empowering them to reconnect with themselves, their bodies, and their health. The current marketplace does not encourage these women to rediscover themselves. They need an unconditional, judgment-free friend who can help them find vibrancy in their lives.
Over the years, I’ve grown my brand recognition and pursued my 200-hour yoga certification. Right before COVID-19 hit, we bought a travel trailer to volunteer at endurance runs across the country. I had already determined how I would structure my work while on the road, so I was set up when we cancelled those plans and had to stay home. I launched an online, four-week course of encouragement, which focuses on your relationship with food, cravings, movement, and how to best structure your day to set yourself up for success.
Today, I’ve even begun branding my lifestyle philosophy, The Coreview Way, which helps people connect with their infinite view of health, aging with grace, and living a healthy lifestyle even while adventuring! I offer a private Facebook group for those in the course as well as send a weekly newsletter, Toolbox Tuesday, to a dedicated list of people as a personal note of encouragement, plus a quirky “Friendly Friday” Facebook video for fun.
Working with local businesses, such as real estate firms, I help employers and employees implement healthier lifestyle choices in the workplace. Expanding my services into the workplace is an opportunity as businesses come out of COVID to redefine their workplace culture into one that better blends work and everyday life of the workforce. This is a new extension of my services that I am extremely excited about. A proposal has been accepted by a specialty healthcare practice team that will chart this new direction.
What does being a Health Coach mean to you?
I refer to myself as a wellness strategist because I assist and provide guidance for my clients to create their long-term health strategies. I want to empower my clients to recognize that it’s their strategy, not mine. I see myself as an ambassador that guides others to feel there is more yet to come and that they have infinite potential. I like to say, “This is a one-time use body,” so why not take care of it the best you can? Reframing clients’ mind-sets to how exciting it can be to tap into that potential is much of what being a coach means to me.
Nutrition, Healthcare, and Equity in the Wellness Field
How do you think Health Coaches can help transform healthcare/the healthcare experience?
There are two primary healthcare providers in my local Midwest area, and the biggest one is run by the mission-driven Sisters of the Third Order, a Franciscan ministry. Yet when approaching my personal primary care physician, who is wonderful and incredibly supportive of what I do, the healthcare system simply doesn’t allow for her to connect my services with potential individuals who could benefit.
There also aren’t many functional medicine doctors, and for the few practicing, they may already have their own Health Coach in their practice, so it’s difficult to get your foot in the door for work. Health Coaches partnering with doctors is a great idea and would be greatly beneficial for patients, but because of the barrier in my geographic location, my perspective on how Health Coaches can transform healthcare is a bit different.
I had one fantastic experience with a local dentist who paid me to work with his employees over four weeks – we met once a week on Zoom – and it was successful! His plan was to eventually expand this program to his patients and even integrate the fee into their appointments so it could be billed through insurance, but unfortunately COVID disrupted those plans.
In general, the burden of effort is almost always on the client, not the doctor or healthcare professional. It’s up to the client to make better choices, follow through, and keep advocating for themselves. When you work with a client who has underlying health conditions and is regularly seeing their physician, it’s your role as a strategist to encourage them to speak to their doctor about the work they’re doing. Hopefully this continued awareness of health coaching will eventually break through to this healthcare system and systems across the country.
Moving forward, my work is more focused on developing relationships with smaller practitioners instead of huge healthcare systems. My mission will always be to provide guidance for my clients to shift from outdated habits to life-altering habits to be the best version of themselves as they live longer.
Commitment to Making a Positive Impact
Tell us about an impactful “spreading the ripple effect” experience – whether with a client, friend, family member, or even a stranger.
Ripple effect: the phenomenon that occurs when you affect positive change in one person and they share it with someone else, and so on
About a year and a half ago, Doug contacted me about personal yoga instruction. Prior to seeing me, he had lost over 100 pounds after leaving an investment brokerage. But Doug had lost his connection with his course of direction. Returning to the Midwest, he had a desire to discover purpose and passion but did not know how. Doug was like many others – stuck!
Soon after, Doug hired me as a Health Coach in my six-month package. During the six months, he found success with intermittent fasting and lost another 70 pounds, came to the realization he had the power to live the life he designed, found purpose by creating a food co-op producing jobs while meeting the needs in a small rural town, reconnected and healed relationships with his children and aging parents, finally understood that life is a process and a journey, and learned he is always going to be “figuring it out.”
That’s a lot in six months! Doug is a testament that when you’re open to opportunity and ready for change, amazing things can happen! Yesterday, Doug was a client. Today, Doug is a thriving, healthy friend.
As an integrative wellness strategist, Mary draws inspiration from her family, the outdoors, and time in the kitchen. Rewired from a career as a full-time sugar peddler, Mary thrives working as a health and wellness strategist, yoga guide, meditation ambassador, and advocate for personal and professional well-being. Mary resides in Peoria, Illinois, with her husband, Chris, and her loving black lab named Madi. As an integrative wellness strategist, Mary works one-on-one with individual clients and small companies for worksite wellness programs. Most recently, Mary launched The Coreview Way, an online program teaching exceptional living for aging with health, hoping to be an inspiration for others to discover the path between their forks and feet by becoming the best version of themselves for a life filled with zest and fulfillment.