Wellness coaching is a burgeoning field, making headlines in both healthcare publications as well as mainstream media. But what do wellness coaches do? I'd like to take you through some of my coaching conversations to give you more of a feeling for what we do and - sometimes more importantly - what we don't do. (No names are used to preserve anonymity) 

Last week, I was speaking with a client who has been trying to incorporate more frequent meditation into her daily routine (let's call this Goal #1). We were working together to figure out ways for her to be successful, and she was feeling frustrated that other priorities had gotten in the way of her practice. She was telling me that she had gotten distracted by another goal (we will call this Goal #2) which didn't even go well for her! As she was attempting Goal #2, she felt frazzled and frustrated, as well as anxious that Goal #1 was getting ignored. As I was hearing her, I thought to myself, "She should just meditate BEFORE she starts her other goals - then she can be in a calmer and more ready place! I'm a genius!" But I bit my tongue. As I reflected what I was hearing, and reminded her of the positive experiences she had mentioned in previous sessions regarding her practice, she came to the same conclusion as I just had. The important thing is that SHE came to the realization on her own; I had simply reflected back what she had already told me and she was able to see the forest for the trees. 

One of a wellness coach's most important jobs is just to listen. We listen actively, synthesizing and reflecting your words back so you are able to see the forward momentum you are already making. By allowing you to come to your own conclusions, you determine the direction of your wellness.

Questions? Comments? I'd love to hear from you! 

To your wellness,
[email protected]

I want to stop eating so many sweets.
I don't want to sit on my couch every night.
I need to stop being negative towards my spouse.
I have to stop snacking at midnight when I can't sleep.

Today I was inspired by a teleclass given by Dr. Liana Lianov when she mentioned approach goals vs. avoid goals. An avoid goal is something you're trying to stop doing, like eating late at night or fussing at your spouse. While on the surface it sounds like a goal, it actually doesn't create positivity and self-efficacy (a feeling of ability and encouragement created by past successes that pushes you to continue to pursue future goals). How can we turn these goals into approach goals - goals that have a positive spin and a tangible action to pursue? Let's take a look at how to change the examples above:

Avoid: I want to stop eating so many sweets.
Approach: I will eat three servings of fruit per day, one at each meal. (Notice it's will and not want to

Avoid: I don't want to sit on my couch every night.
Approach: I will do lunges during each commercial break of my TV shows.

Avoid: I need to stop being negative toward my spouse.
Approach: I will find at least one thing every day to praise my spouse about.

Avoid: I have to stop snacking at midnight when I can't sleep.
Approach: When I wake a night, I will either listen to a guided meditation track on my phone or read a boring book.

You can see that these are about changing not only the tone but also making it an active goal. Not doing something is not action-oriented; avoid goals don't give us something measurable to work towards. Instead, approach goals give us something that we can check off or physically do. They create a sense of success that spurs us to continue with the goal. They also have the interesting effect of helping us stop doing what we were trying to avoid in the first place! For example, by looking at the good things our spouse does for us, we can see that maybe they really aren't so bad after all, which might curb our negativity toward them.

Have you ever transformed an avoid goal into an approach goal? What was the outcome? If you need help doing that, feel free to drop me a line at [email protected].

Have a wellful holiday season!

“She’s an impostor! Off with her head!” The other swimmers in the pool rushed after me, throwing goggles and fins as they chased away the impostor swimmer in their midst.

No, that didn’t really happen. But that’s a little bit of what I felt like would happen if I actually called myself a swimmer. Let’s back up. About ten years ago at the behest of a couple of chiropractors, I decided to take up swimming. I wanted to strengthen my back and limit the impact that land-based activities would have on my scoliosis. In graduate school, I took private swimming lessons with a fantastic coach named Angela. As I learned the mechanics (and she sweetly suggested that I needed to get my butt in the pool and practice more often), I started swimming 4-5 times per week. I continued through my move to LA as much as I could with a job where I worked many evenings, took a brief hiatus while we lived in Spain, and then returned when we moved to SF. I even joined a master’s swimming team, doing 2000-2400 yards three times a week and a mile once a week on my own.

I enjoyed swimming and what it did for my body, as well as the camaraderie of the master’s program and Aquafit classes. But when small talk with friends or acquaintances turned to exercise, I always felt like I had to couch it in terms that downplayed my dedication to swimming: “Oh, I swim for fitness.” “I only learned it in grad school to help with my back.” “I try to get in the pool as much as I can.” “I’m a swimmer” was never in that repertoire. Why not? Well, I hadn’t grown up swimming other than for fun in backyard pools; I didn’t swim in high school on a team; I didn’t compete in college. To me, these were the definitions of a swimmer. I didn’t meet those criteria, so therefore I couldn’t lay claim. I was worried that I would be found out and marched to the front of the pool to shamefully admit to having used a term that only applied to them, and not to me.

It was the master’s swimming program and my hard work that finally allowed me to admit to myself that I was a swimmer and I would likely swim as my primary exercise for the rest of my life. The endurance and speed that I gained with a coach and a group of swimmers (go slow/medium group!) were the tipping point to where I could finally state that I was a swimmer. I swim! I’m a swimmer! I swim a really long distance! Go, me! While having a kiddo has certainly changed the amount of time I can devote to the pool, I still am able to wear that definition with pride. I’m a swimmer.

Has there ever been a time where you felt like an impostor, for instance in school or in a new job? Were you able to see yourself in a different light or did self-doubt continue to plague you? I’d love to hear your story!

Have a wellful day,
Coach Amanda
[email protected]

I’m excited to be dusting off my laptop and writing again! Thanks for giving this a read. Is this a post about pirates? Well, not quite. But maybe I’ll throw an “Arr, Matey” in from time to time.

I’m 20 months in to learning how to be a parent, and with a toddler in tow, life is very different. As the kiddo grows and becomes more independent, I’m finding that I have some breathing room to concentrate on myself as a person and not just as a mom. While working with a coach colleague of mine (thanks, Kathryn!), I’ve tried to create some manageable goals to strive for to affect some meaningful change in my life. One facet that I struggle with is exercise at home. Sign me up for a gym membership and a class and I’ll be there every time. But taking a half hour or five minutes or even one minute to do something physical at home, and I’ll always find something else that’s more pressing. Sound familiar?

So, my goal for the last 9 months has been to work two planks into my routine on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. How hard can that be? I have a floor and a body and 60 seconds. Easy peasey. Except that there are dishes to be put in the dishwasher and a toddler climbing on top of me screaming in my ear and adding 20 pounds, and wouldn’t it be nice to go outside on a walk? So the planks don’t get done. I put a reminder on my phone, but I ignore it. And then my back starts to hurt and I know that if I had just done the planks, that it would feel stronger and I might not be in pain. Arr, matey, that’s certainly frustrating. Sound familiar?

You may remember a past post about SMART goals. Creating goals that are Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Time-bound can help you achieve what you set out to do. My missing piece was setting a particular time of day. Our schedule is never the same two days in a row, with the exception of lunch and nap, so I would keep putting off doing them until eventually it was bedtime. I wasn’t setting a particular time to actually fit them in. So, I finally said that I would do two planks as soon as I put her down for her nap, even if she wasn’t asleep yet. Before checking my phone, before putting the lunch dishes away, before finishing my uneaten lunch. What happened? Well, I started doing more planks! It wasn’t perfect, and sometimes I forgot or decided not to do them. But by in large, I was able to make them more of a habit in my afternoon, and my back felt the improvement.

Have you ever felt the pull of procrastination, even when you really wanted to accomplish your goal? Were you able to schedule those goals or did they always lie just out of reach? I’d love to hear your experience. Ahoy, matey!

Glad to be back,
Coach Amanda
[email protected]

I'm typically a fast-paced person. I talk fast, I walk fast, I do my work fast, and I am quick to make decisions (for better or for worse!). This huge life change, however, has given me pause to consider life in the slow lane.

Some of this consideration is mandatory: I can no longer keep up with the other swimmers on my team. The extra weight means I can't walk as fast or as long. Bouncing up out of a chair, well, let's just say that is long-gone. 

The other part is being mindful of the changes that the slower pace brings to my life. I appreciate the time in the water and how my body feels, even if I'm not racing alongside my teammate. The days when I'm not winded after walking up a San Francisco hill are treasured. And the pause after standing up but before taking a first step away from the chair gives me a second to sense my body and what it will need as I begin moving. I know what my body can and cannot handle at each point of my pregnancy, and I don't push myself to do more than I can. Why wouldn't I allow myself the luxury of limits when I'm not growing a baby? I tend to push myself, and then pay the price of that ambition, whether it be through catching a cold or feeling burnt out from work. Being mindful during this time of mandatory and self-imposed boundaries gives me a sense of how to work within my physical and mental constraints after my body becomes mine again (if it ever really does...).

What boundaries do you set for yourself, either mandatory or chosen? How do they help you to be the best you can be? I'd love to hear about them: [email protected].

Have a wellful day!
Coach Amanda

Every summer for a couple of months, the pool has certain days and times that it is set to the long course. Instead of a 50-yard lap, it's a 100-yard lap. Over the last two years, I did the long course exactly once - the last day it was set in 2013. I wasn't sure if I had the endurance to actually swim that far without stopping. I looked enviously at those who easily took on the challenge. When I finally make the plunge (pun intended), it was awesome! I loved being able to get into a rhythm without having to stop and turn back around. It wasn't as overwhelming as I made it out to be in my head. I was looking forward to the long course again for 2014.

Flash forward to 2014, and the long course is back up - and I'm 34 weeks pregnant. Can I do it? The same trepidation arises. I haven't been swimming with my Master's class as I can't keep up with their workouts, but I definitely say hi on a regular basis. I go to see them as they are getting ready to start their workout, right after I had finished mine in the only short course lane available.

Me: "I'm not sure about swimming the long course. I just got out of the shallow end and I'm pretty beat."
Others: "You can always hang on to the lane line!"
"Just take the end lane, the wall is right there."
"Go slow, you'll be fine."
"You won't have any problems."
"Try a kickboard first to get comfortable."
"I can't believe you're still swimming! That is so great."

So, I take their advice and encouragement to heart. The lane line is right there. The wall is about four feet away. I can always get out and hop in the short lane. Ok, I'm ready! I get in, and it's no problem at all! I use their strategies not only to help with what could very well be roadblocks to my success, but also as motivators that I really could do it. I appreciate their support and know that they are rooting for me to meet my goal.

Have you ever turned to your support network for help? What was successful? Did you utilize any advice or strategies that they suggested? And did it help you to meet your goal? I'd love to hear from you: [email protected].

Coach Amanda

We recently moved, and our kitchen is great. We have more counter space and cabinet space, as well as overall square footage for a table and storage. Nevertheless, with all of this space, I find myself cleaning it more, not because I have to, but because I want to. I want to have a clean kitchen. I wipe down the counters daily, scrub out the sink, and make sure that the stove is sparkling. The floors - well, you probably wouldn't want to eat off of them, but they are generally spot-free. Why did this change from our teeny, tiny, seemingly easier-to-clean kitchen in our previous apartment?

I'm not what you would call a clean freak. I don't get excited about different spray cleaners or debate the merits of microfiber versus cotton cloths. But something about having manageable space has actually changed my habits and style. My environment is affecting my actions.

Has this ever happened to you? Instead of groggily searching for workout gear at 6 am, you have a special drawer with outfits already put together. You keep your spices well within reach of your stove so that your healthful dishes turn out deliciously. Your stationary bike or treadmill is not, in fact, covered in clothes but instead is oiled and ready to be used! How our environment is set up can affect our ability to change, and is one major tool we can use to support a new habit.

I hope that my motivation continues with my new kitchen, and I think it will. The excitement of leaving it neat and tidy is self-perpetuating, increasing my confidence that it is manageable and rewarding. What one thing could you change about your environment (short of moving!) that would support a goal you are trying to achieve? I'd love to hear your ideas at [email protected]

Have a wellful day!

PS - The kitchen pictured is not ours! :)

I stopped blogging a few months ago when, well, I just couldn’t do it. I felt sick, nauseated, and energy-less. All.of.the.time. And it lasted for three months. What happened? How did I start feeling better?

Well, I started my second trimester. Ha. I know, I know, for many of you, this is not news. But wow, talk about a life change. My thoughts went from communicating with others to what was happening inside my body. I focused not on my business but on passing each day with new techniques to manage the nausea. I was pulled away from what had recently been so important to something even more important - my health and my growing baby’s health. 

Has this ever happened to you?

You start a new diet when suddenly a family member gets sick and you survive on hospital food and take out. An exercise routine is no longer routine when you move to a new city and don’t have access to a gym. Your own health changes and you find that your previous strategies for managing stress no longer work. What to do?

Assessment of the stages of change is an important factor here. If you have just begun to make something a habit and are working through the hiccups, you are in action. If a habit has been in place for 6 months or more and it’s your routine, then you are in maintenance. In either case, with an upheaval, you might work backwards to find where you are. In a new city, what are your options for gyms? Doing some research in the preparation stage might be in order. Have your priorities shifted? Is exercise or your new diet still ranked as high? Maybe it’s time to work through some thinking and feeling time in contemplation. 

The important thing to know is that you don’t have to think of goal accomplishment as all or nothing. If you are even thinking about your current situation, then you are in the process of making change, just in an early stage. Talking it out with a friend or finding a coach can help you get back on track towards your healthy goal. 

I knew that there was a time limit to the nausea, and I kept my goal of getting back into the pool and swimming with my Master’s class again in the forefront of my mind to get me through those three months. Ok, ok, so my workouts aren’t as strenuous as they were before! I know that I have to listen to my body and not push it. As soon as I felt up to it, I dove back in, and it felt great. I’m lucky to have a swimming coach that will tailor a workout to my needs. 

Have you ever felt stalled in your health goals because of unforeseen circumstances? What did you do to get back on track? Did you end up taking a different path than you originally took? I’d love to hear your story: [email protected].

Thanks for reading!


Have you ever given up something voluntarily? For three weeks I dedicated myself to eliminating caffeine, alcohol, sugar, wheat, eggs and dairy, all common dietary allergens. It seemed a big  undertaking, but I decided to give it a try. What happened? I felt better. I mean really better. My body felt like it didn't have to try quite so hard. Like I had given it a respite from the day to day toils and troubles that went on as the blood cascaded through my veins and the digestive juices ground up what I've given them. It rested and recuperated, and it was given time to repair and restore. My colleague told me that in Indian culture, it's quite common to fast, whether it be full abstinence from food and water, or fasting from something in particular. Fasting allows the body to recharge what it might have lost through the taxing process of living.

But it was hard. Really hard. Despite how good I felt, I'm so glad that there was a time limit. After three weeks, I had a glass of wine or a little dessert, not every day, but from time to time. I haven't yet reintroduced coffee, but I had some green tea. Eliminating so many foods isn't something I want to do every day. But isn't this how most "diets" work? Don't these plans dictate what we put in our mouths from this day forward? Then who the heck wants to diet? And there the conundrum lies.

What this has taught me is the power listening to my body. Without a sense of what I'm eating, I might introduce one small vice, maybe dessert. Then maybe an extra drink when I'm out with friends. Little pebbles become bigger rocks - a small bite of dessert becomes the whole piece of cake. Pizza as a treat becomes more regular - and my stomach pays for it. By noticing just how good I feel when I eat what my body needs, I can make more informed choices - or not. I can choose to usually eat when I'm hungry, stop when I'm full, and give myself the richness that nutrient-dense food can supply, but I can also choose the piece of chocolate mousse pie to share with friends. And I did.

I remember so vividly what a colleague, mentor, and friend expressed to me one day regarding her desire, frustration, and eventual success around losing weight. She said, "One day I realized that I had to stop talking about losing weight and start doing something about it." (I wonder if she'll read this and remember saying that!) It struck me so forcefully, even before I knew I wanted to be a wellness coach, that actually doing something is the hardest part. She so strongly wanted the change to happen, but the motivation to action hadn't taken hold yet. In the post below by Marc and Angel Hack Life about choices that keep us more miserable than happy, the fourth choice is, "Changing nothing and expecting different results." How many times do we lament that something isn't working, but don't do what is necessary to change it? The serenity prayer asks for, "the courage to change the things I can." What can you do, today, that would be a courageous step on the path towards better wellness?

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