Running a business when you have a chronic illness

Health Coach with Chronic Illness
I initially became a health coach because I was really, really sick.


I want to share a personal story with you today, one I don’t often talk about publicly. It’s the story of a chronic health condition I struggle with. How over the last few years I’ve had to juggle my health with running my expanding business as a health coach.


You may have heard this story already – my body shut down after I ran a marathon in 2006. I’d been training for months and “carb loading” – common nutritional advice for people who run marathons. It turned out that as I was munching on peanut butter toast and pasta I was sabotaging my immune system. After the marathon, I was a complete wreck – I couldn’t run a single mile, let alone 26.2. I experienced a deep state of fatigue on a daily basis, so much so that I didn’t even recognize myself. Like so many others, I visited doctor after doctor, only to be told that I was fine. They said that my test results were “normal.”


Fortunately, I found a practitioner who tested me for gluten intolerance. With her help, I transitioned off gluten and started feeling better.


For years I believed that gluten was the issue, and I avoided it. But the truth is that for the last few years I’ve been having strange, seemingly unconnected symptoms. I had to stop going to my favorite spin class because I just couldn’t keep up. I was having a hard time catching my breath even when I wasn’t exercising.  My belly was bloated beyond recognition. I looked pregnant, and struggled to hide the bloat with flowy shirts and loose pants.  One day I woke up with a head to toe rash. I knew something was really wrong.


Now, I know that I have histamine intolerance. It’s a relatively unknown genetic condition, and in the past 5 years I’ve been able to put the pieces together and recognize that this is the condition I have. There’s no cure, and the best way to manage it is by eating a low-histamine diet. It also means that many of the foods that are healthiest for most people aren’t a good option for me. I’ve had to re-learn how to eat, cook and prep food, and fortunately I feel much better.


I am so grateful I’ve had the resources to dig in and research what’s been going on with my body.


But, I would be lying if I said the last 5 years had been easy. It’s been a true challenge to keep up with a demanding health coach business, a growing toddler, and not always feeling at my best while doing it.


I made a conscious choice to shift my business when I realized that I needed to prioritize my self-care. In order for me to show up as a good health coach, mom, wife, family member and friend, my own health had to get a significant chunk of my time and attention.


In fact, I wrote earlier this year about how business owners often need more self-care because of the demands of running a business. This is a topic that comes up over and over again in my conversations with my clients and colleagues. In truth, so many people tell me they just feel wiped out after starting their health coaching practice.


It doesn’t have to be this way.


As business owners, we can find ways to do a better job of balancing our needs with the needs of our clients and business. And I’ll be honest – I don’t think there IS such a thing as true balance. But rather it’s about paying attention and recognizing when we’re stretched too thin.


There were three things I shifted that have really supported my ability to run my business and still take care of myself.


First, I stopped offering 6-month private health coaching programs.


I found that the 6-month program felt overwhelming to me, and it wasn’t getting great results for my clients. It was also really challenging for me to schedule enough downtime for myself. The 6-month program required me to commit to such a long chunk of time with my clients.


Instead, I switched to a 3-month health coaching program, and I found that I was much more engaged. I was meeting with clients weekly, and my clients were getting great results. I realized it was a win-win situation. Now, I enroll clients into my 3-month coaching program a couple of times a year. I have more of the unscheduled time I need to stay at the top of my game.


Second, I block out self-care time in my calendar.


This is something that I’ve been hearing about for years, but I never did it. Now, I make sure that I limit the time I work every day, and I protect most of my weekend hours. I make time to workout every day and try to have lunch with friends weekly. I even block out monthly “thinking and planning” days to give myself space to relax, catch up, and spend a day reading. These are all critical components of my self-development as a health coach. On the weekends, I do as much prep as I can for meals for the week. This includes meal planning, shopping, and spending some time prepping food for the week. I find myself doing so many of the things I’ve suggested to my clients. And I realize that these simple strategies really do work.


Third, I don’t try to go it alone.


Working for yourself is isolating, there’s just no way around it. I believe it’s critical to surround yourself with other business owners who are supportive of your efforts. People who really understand what you’re going through. I’m a big fan of Mastermind groups that allow you to meet regularly with other business owners and get feedback on your business. I also believe that we health coaches need to support each other, especially as our industry isn’t fully in the mainstream yet. We’re getting there, but I think we should get there together. If you’re not sure where you can connect with other coaches, I’d love for you to join the free Facebook group I run online – Health Coach Uprising. Just click this link and request to join the group.


I’m not sharing this story to get sympathy, but because I know how many people in the health and wellness field have their own health challenges. I hope that by sharing the shifts I made that you’ll be able to apply some of these changes to your own life so you can feel a little more balanced. I’d love to hear your thoughts about this, and whether this is something you’ve experienced.


Sending all my best,



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