Working With A Health Coach

Last week, I finally did something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time.

I met with a health coach.

I met Marissa Vicario, Certified Holistic Health and Wellness Coach and owner of Marissa’s Well-Being and Health, earlier this year Fitness Magazine’s FitBlog NYC event, and I’ve been following her on social media ever since. (Read her story here!) I love her approach to wellness and have always enjoyed reading her tips for a well-balanced lifestyle; mainly that there’s more to nutrition than “what to eat” and “what not to eat”. Wellness truly is a lifestyle!

After I wrote a post about my struggles with fueling while training for endurance events and my goal to focus more on “real” foods, Marissa reached out to me and said something that really resonated with me..that even though I already know what I should be eating, she could help hold me accountable give me tips for making it work with my life. This hit close to home because I’ve been feeling like I really need to make a change, but I simply haven’t been trying hard enough or putting in much of an effort to make that change. I don’t know a lot about cooking and I have a really tight budget, so I kept using those two reasons (among others) to justify why I haven’t been eating so well.

Marissa let me know she would be willing to work with me for a few months in exchange for blogging about my experience, which I’m extremely excited about!

So, we finally set up an appointment to meet in person. Before I arrived I filled out a form detailing my concerns, goals, the types of foods I typically eat now, the types of foods I ate as a kid (that was a tough one!), and a few other health-related questions.

During my first appointment, we discussed my day-to-day activities and what I want to achieve over the next few months. Being totally, completely honest, here are a few things I want to work on:

  • Cooking….using the actual STOVE and OVEN. (Gasp!) Learn new recipes that are quick and and inexpensive.
  • Eat proper meals while still being respectful of my budget.
  • Avoid processed foods. Put more of a focus on incorporating whole, “real” foods. Make healthy eating feel more natural (and sustainable).
  • Lose weight. I just don’t feel like an athlete right now. I know “you can’t out train a bad diet”, and I feel like that’s my problem right now. I exercise often, but I need to fuel my body properly. There’s a fine line when it comes to fueling yourself throughout marathon training while still maintaining or losing weight. How can I expect my body to perform the way I’d like it to when I don’t treat it like I should?

Marissa gave me this adorable little notebook to use as a food log for a couple weeks:

MWAH journal

She’s already won my heart…I LOVE writing in notebooks. I’m that person who still uses a paper calendar. I don’t think I’ll ever use my iPhone’s calendar for scheduling.

All I have to do is write what I eat…I don’t need to change anything or aim for a certain number of calories, I just need to track everything that goes into my mouth. With that being said, I did get a few homework assignments based on our discussion about cooking and making it work with my long commute, workout schedule, and workday away from home:

  • Get a steaming basket. When I get home late and want the easiest option available, steam some vegetables or salmon. All you have to do is throw everything in the basket for a few minutes – can’t get much simpler!
  • Experiment with making lunch my “big meal”.  I’m an evening exerciser, so by the time I get home it’s almost bedtime. Try swapping the traditional big dinner with a bigger lunch and a smaller dinner.
  • Try a green smoothie. Since I have a 45 minute to an hour car ride (BEFORE I get to the train, ugh), I’m going to try making a type of homemade green juice that I can drink in the car. The recipe she gave me includes vegetables and fruits, and should give me a good boost to start my day. (Bonus: it can be made at night, so I can still get those precious extra minutes of sleep in the morning!)
  • Prepare breakfast at night. Along with the juice, she gave me a recipe for a hot breakfast cereal that uses steel cut oats, quinoa, dried fruit, and some spices. It’s meant to be made at night and then reheated the next morning. It sounds so delicious and I can’t wait to try it!
  • Take a simple ingredient like quinoa and try creating simple meals on your own.

It’s been about a week and so far I’ve experimented with adding different vegetables and spices to quinoa, per Marissa’s suggestion. Frozen veggies have become a staple in my freezer – boiling the quinoa and then letting them thaw in the pot is super simple and doesn’t take long at all!

What I’ve learned so far:

  • Holy crap do I eat a lot of sugar! Now, this week has been a little unique because we’ve been doing a bit of celebrating. Celebrating that has involved champagne (which I otherwise never drink) and sweets. I’m so thankful for my generous friends who have come to celebrate Brendan and my engagement and I have no problem indulging a little bit (who can say no to oreo ice cream cake?). But I have noticed that I’ve generally been eating way more sugary foods than I thought. No bueno.
  • Going off that last bullet point…I don’t eat what I think I eat. When I wrote out my list of typical foods, I included salads and chicken and fruit and other healthy-sounding items…which wasn’t a lie…but I’m noticing that I snack on less-than-healthy items more often than not. It’s usually when other people bring those items into my reach. For example, someone brought donuts to our office last week. I haven’t had a donut in years! But I didn’t bring breakfast that morning and I didn’t really have the money to spend on a NYC breakfast, so I had one. At a staff meeting, we had mini-cupcakes to celebrate a birthday.  When I don’t bring food from home or don’t have the money for snacks, I eat stuff like that…which is fine every once in awhile…just not this much! This food journal is really showing me that I’m reaching for the sweets way too often. And most of them aren’t even worth it!
  • I don’t eat on a proper schedule. Sometimes I wait way too long in between meals. Somedays I skip meals and just snack consistently.
  • I always thought I was fairly healthy but when I see it all on paper, I’m just not. Yikes! Very eye-opening.

I can already say that the few suggestions Marissa gave me in our first meeting have been immensely helpful! I’m truly looking forward to working with her over the next few months.

Have you ever worked with a health coach? What’s your favorite easy recipe?

I’m a writer currently living in New Jersey and blogging about running, fitness, wellness, and motivation. I want every reader to laugh and feel empowered, balanced, and motivated! Subscribe by email to get 1-2 newsletters a month with post updates, my favorite articles, running playlists and more!


  1. October 21, 2013 / 11:19 pm

    What a fun experience!! I am working hard at finding the right balance for my nutrition too. I’m a big MyFitnessPal girl though when I’m trying to track. I’m having a hard time eating enough before workouts, and I can’t shake having a large evening meal. Trying to hash that all out too. And doing it on a budget isn’t easy!!!!! You’re not kidding!!

    • October 25, 2013 / 5:11 pm

      I’ve tried MyFitnessPal but I never keep up with it. I don’t like trying to select the exact right item every time, I’d rather just write it down, haha. Let me know if you figure out any tips for budgeting!

  2. October 22, 2013 / 12:42 am

    This is so great!! You have already learned so much!!! I can’t wait to see/hear your experiences the next couple of months!
    I have never worked with a coach but would love too. A lot more for timing of meals/snacks. If I am eating too much or too little!!??

    • October 25, 2013 / 5:14 pm

      It’s been great – it’s nice to have someone to tell me what to do, haha!

  3. GB
    October 22, 2013 / 8:23 am

    Her Instagrams always make me hungry!

    • October 25, 2013 / 5:14 pm


  4. October 22, 2013 / 10:11 am

    What a cool opportunity! I’m looking forward to hear what you’ve learned. I’ve been playing around with the idea of visiting an RD too.

    • October 25, 2013 / 5:15 pm

      I think that health coaches are different than RDs; for my goals, I wanted a health coach. But I definitely think either would be great!

  5. October 22, 2013 / 11:10 am

    I love this, Kara! I think it’s also really important that people understand that these are recommendations I’ve given that are unique to YOU! Everyone is different and there is no one way of doing anything! I’m looking forward to continuing our work together! xox

    • October 25, 2013 / 5:18 pm

      Definitely – and that’s what I love most about it! :) So excited to move forward!

  6. October 22, 2013 / 12:10 pm

    Have you used She makes a lot of easy recipes and made it SO much easier when I was learning how to cook healthy, real food!

    • October 25, 2013 / 5:19 pm

      I haven’t, but now I will! Thank you for the suggestion!

  7. October 22, 2013 / 8:02 pm

    this is super interesting and I am glad you get to work with her. I have always wanted a health coach of some kind

    • October 25, 2013 / 5:19 pm

      So far, so good! I say go for it…they can teach you a lot!

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