When Katie Toth sought treatment for an eating disorder in college, her nutritionist’s lack of compassion disturbed her.
“They essentially told me, ‘Just eat an extra 500 calories a day. … If you don’t eat, you’re going to die.’ That was all they gave me,” she said. “I thought to myself, ‘There has to be a better way. This can’t be normal; there has to be a more positive way.’”
That experience sparked an empathy in her that, nearly a decade later, Toth draws from to transform people’s lives.
Toth is the founder of Rebellious Wellness, a health coaching company that emphasizes fitness, nutrition and mindfulness to help clients achieve better health. Born in Florida, Toth moved to Colorado Springs when she was 5 years old, graduated from Sand Creek High School in 2006 and earned her bachelor’s in health and wellness promotion from UCCS.
The rise of health coaching (and the wellness industry as a whole) represents a growing appetite for the benefits of holistic practices and medicine. Health coaches like Toth are here to guide that.
“We need to know about our own health in order to make better decisions moving forward with nutrition habits, mindfulness, etc., so I’ve been dedicated to learning as much as possible, then helping other people do the same thing to control their health.”
Health coaching is still in its infancy. Not too long ago, there was very little regulation in the industry, even as licensed functional medicine doctors began to refer their patients to health coaches.
“Until recently, anyone could call themselves a health coach, which is a little scary,” Toth said. “Now, there’s a national board certification, through the National Board for Certified Health and Wellness Coaching, and a process that has to occur for you to be an actual health coach.”
Today, Toth coaches three clients full-time and delivers health talks to companies throughout Colorado Springs. She plans to eventually hire certified health coaches to manage her growing clientele, as well as implement wellness programs tailored specifically for businesses.
Toth spoke with the Business Journal about the nuances of the wellness industry, the power of clear communication and the steps everyone can take toward improved wellness.
Tell us about your background and how that led you to the wellness industry.
I got my degree in health and wellness promotion and graduated in 2012. I didn’t know what I wanted to really do with my degree, so I decided to pursue personal training for a little while just to learn about the health industry, which morphed into becoming a trainer at OrangeTheory Fitness, and then working at a couple different Pilates studios. I’ve also worked in the restaurant industry since I was 15, and I worked my way up to bar consultant, bar manager of different restaurants.
Rebellious Wellness has been in my mind since 2017, when I discovered that health coaching was something that was necessary. … It was March of 2019 that I decided I wanted to pursue it. I did it for a couple of months — just with friends to see what my rhythm was — and I scared myself out of doing it. I thought, ‘There’s no way I can make money doing this,’ and so I went back into the restaurant world for consulting.
I restarted [Rebellious Wellness] — really dug into it — in March of this year. I just ended up creating the website for it and all of that, and just made it happen. … I’m currently enrolled in a program called the Functional Medicine Coaching Academy, where I’ll be certified to partner with functional medicine doctors, integrative medicine doctors, to help them with health coaching.
What does a health coach do?
[Health coaching] is really a partnership, someone to walk with you when you’re not feeling yourself, when you’re not feeling healthy, when you know you need to change that. Very often, you don’t have the support system you think you have, and we get into unhealthy patterns, with people and friends in those patterns with us, and it’s a really hard shift to make.
I think, more than anything, it’s a place of empathy that health coaches have to maneuver from and just gather more information, and not take the thread of, ‘OK, you need better nutrition? Here’s the plan for those symptoms that you told me you had,’ or ‘OK, you want bigger biceps? Here’s how this works for your body type.’
[Health coaching] takes into consideration all of the dynamics with your relationship with food, your relationship with exercise, your relationship with your family, your friends, your coworkers, yourself … when moving into a place of wanting to become healthier, not knowing how to get there [can be] really scary and overwhelming.
How exactly do you systematize something as nebulous as wellness?
There’s no quick formula. It doesn’t exist. Anyone that says they can spend 15 minutes talking to someone and know the answer to all their problems is lying. The system is just following the client as they lead the telling of their story, and I think this is where the one-on-one [of health coaching] really shines.
If you visualize a person’s lifestyle as a pie chart and, let’s say, use a scale from one to 10 to evaluate how fulfilled they are in that aspect of their life, whether it’s their family, their finances, meaningful relationships — some of those pie pieces are so small and sad. You can look at those and identify connections, like their relationship with food, whether they’re getting enough sleep. Ultimately, the client has to lead because you can’t make people do what they don’t want to do. Not for long, anyway.
How do you attract clients?
I’ve been in Colorado Springs for a long time, so I have connections that refer me to people who they think could benefit from health coaching. I also give free health talks at companies who are looking to improve the culture of their businesses, and I think that’ll start to generate some interest among the employees.
What’s the plan behind these company health talks?
I am targeting working with executives in companies for the ripple effect of health spreading to the entire company. … I think health and wellness programs for companies would be more effective if executives, managers and leaders of the company have a health and wellness program for their needs as well. I focus on high-performance habits, optimizing time and co-creating better habits for workplace leaders to have better focus and boost productivity.
I don’t believe the work-life balance is a myth anymore. I think it was Simon Sinek who said, ‘Balance is achieved with two opposing forces, and why should work and life be in opposition?’
Can you explain to us your business philosophy in three words?
Communication: Clear is kind. I am always as direct and as clear as I can be with my clients, especially with the questions I ask and the scope of what I’m asking.
Empathy: being genuine. It’s about wanting to know someone’s story without judgment; it’s a non-judgment space, always.
Trust: I think all relationships that have meaning have trust. Especially in the context of a coach-client partnership, trust is really important. Without it, clients won’t open up with the information I need to help them achieve better health.
What advice do you have for anyone looking to improve their health and wellness?
Get curious. Ask questions. I think it’s important that we always consider different options; we’re told that things are black and white, good or bad. That’s just not true. I think because of COVID, we got into this tunnel vision of survival, and now, we need to ask ourselves, ‘What do I need to truly love life, and not just survive?’ Having that growth mindset is really important. nCSBJ