Joleen (Bernardy) Allen has been involved with healthcare for the past 15 years, or so.
She has worked as an LPN, and even started pursuing her RN, which is a natural progression in the nursing profession.
Along the way, Allen noticed her interests in healthcare were leading her down a different path.
Right after high school, the Wabasso graduate and daughter of Bean and Nori Bernardy went to college at SDSU in Brookings where she took generals with no academic path chosen.
Then, personal interests led her to Southwest State University (now SMSU) in Marshall.
“From there I went on to get my LPN,” Allen said. “I just about got done with my RN, because most LPNs tend to go on to get their RN.
“But it was right then that I discovered a movie on Netflix called ‘Food Matters’ of all things.”
This movie, and others like it, such as “Food, Inc.,” and the “Future of Food,” had a real impact on Allen.
“I found myself just obsessed with this whole nutrition/mood thing, and how food and what we choose to eat impacts our physical, mental, emotional and even spiritual health,” she said. “As I looked at where I was going with my RN and what I was drawn to, I realized I needed to be on a different path.
“Nothing against nurses; in fact I still am a nurse. It’s just that how food impacts us really drew me in.”
Joleen knew she wanted to remain in healthcare. It was that desire to help people and interact with people one-on-one that drew her into nursing in the first place.
Joleen left her RN training and found a one-year program at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.
The program helps its students focus on holistic ways of approaching healthcare not as a nurse, but as a “health coach.”
“Nutrition isn’t really a focus in medical and nursing schools,” Allen said. “Com-ing out of this program, I’m not a nutritionist in the classical sense, but I know a lot, lot more about how food impacts our overall health.”
Allen now has taken what she learned at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and has opened her own business in Morton – Harmony Health Coaching.
As a “health coach” the first thing Allen does is to stress that her clients need to stay with their doctors and stay on their meds.
“Then we really start to dig into what they are eating,” she said. “I have people do food journals and really get honest with themselves.
“I spend an hour with them at each meeting.”
She meets with each client twice per month and utilizes Skype and FaceTime for those clients who are tech savvy.
Page 2 of 3 - “At the end of each session, I give them three things they need to do and they know they can do,” Allen said. “That’s why I call this coaching rather than counseling. It’s because they say, ‘I know I have to do this.’ And I reenforce that.
“We don’t overwhelm them and say “no more doughnuts, no more coffee’ – we do baby steps.”
She calls this method “crowding out.” It allows for that doughnut in the morning, but rather than reaching for a second one, the client reaches for a banana or an apple. She said slowly changing eating habits, exercise habits and lifestyle choices over time is much more sustainable than going cold turkey.
“Another thing I really work with my clients on is reading ingredient labels on foods they buy and have them steer away from certain things,” Allen said.
“There are some really good foods, some real gems, even in the small grocery stores we have around here with no ‘health food’ sections, but it takes time to read the label to see what you’re eating,” she said.
Sometimes food isn’t the problem. Allen said she has a few clients who actually eat better than she does.
“They’re eating all the right things,” Allen said, “but there still is a problem. It might be they have a spouse who is gone at work for weeks at time, or they have a very stressful job they don't like. Maybe they are struggling with spirituality, or they just have a very high-stress life. Because this is a holistic program we work on balance. We still stress the food and eating right, but we can take a look at other areas of life and what we need to do to bring their bodies and lives in balance.”
Allen said there is a lot more to health than eating more apples and drinking more water.
“You can eat all the good, healthy food you want, but if your life is out of balance in other areas it might not make a difference,” she said. “So many people are looking for a quick and easy fix to their problems. We have all these fad diets in magazines, or popping a pill. And knowing what to eat sometimes is confusing, because there is so much conflicting information out there. I work with them to learn that it is not as confusing or complicated as they would believe.”
Another area she looks at with clients is supplements.
“I’d like to say we will eat enough fruits and vegetables,” Allen said, “but you just can’t. Quite frankly, the soil is depleted and foods don’t have the same nutritional values they once had, and when you cook fruits and vegetables, you are cooking the vitamins and nutrients out of the food.”
Page 3 of 3 - Allen said she is very happy with the path she is on and says she can see she is making a real difference in health and quality of life of her clients. In fact, she's thinking about expanding to include classes, such as yoga.
“What we put into our bodies, the attitudes we have and how we move has a great impact on our overall health and wellbeing,” Allen said. “I’m so excited to be able to be working in my own business helping people improve the quality of their lives.”
Allen operates her business at 440 West 2nd Street in Morton. She can be reached at (507) 430-2570 or at email@example.com.