What inspires a health coaching journey? In this episode, Sandi is joined by Alessandra Miele, who shares her journey from running a Yoga studio to becoming a health coach. So many people who discover functional medicine and health coaching do so after a health diagnosis or another life event. Allesandra shares what inspired her, and discusses what it’s like to be a student at FMCA. Listen along!
- What inspired Alessandra to become a health coach?
- What it was like to enroll in FMCA’s Health Coach Certification Program
- How Dr. Sydney Baker, who could be considered the grandfather of functional medicine, helped Alessandra and her son.
- Why Health Coaches are so valued by physicians.
Meet the Guest
FMCA Graduate and Certified Health Coach
Alessandra Miele is an FMCA graduate and self-employed health and wellness coach. Her passion is supporting parents of children with Autism during their journey with biomedical interventions, lifestyle and dietary changes, and helping their child reach their full healing potential.
Sandi: Okay. Welcome, everybody. I am so excited to have as my guest today Alessandra Miele. She has an incredible background, and she’s going to share about her background and how she decided to become a health coach. So, welcome, Alessandra.
Alessandra: Thank you so much for having me, Sandi. I’m so excited for today.
Sandi: So, let’s begin by talking about your background. You ran yoga and Pilates studios. So, can you talk about that and what you were doing, and then that decision to shift, to pivot, to go into health coaching?
Alessandra: Sure. I was an immigration paralegal for some years and then fell in love with the practice of yoga. And through the practice, became really close friends with one of my teachers, and she and I together decided to leave. She was a dietician by trade, and I was a paralegal. We decided to leave our careers and open a studio together in Downtown Boston. And we started just the two of us teaching all the classes, checking the students of the class, creating our own website, the whole soup to nuts, just ourselves.
And then we, over the years, really grew into a big operation. We’re able to hire about 20 some odd instructors and front desk staff, and she and I taught still a little bit but ran mostly of the business aspect of the studio for 15 years.
And then the pandemic had to shift gears a bit. We decided to close the doors after all that time for some different opportunities. I personally had gone through some changes a few years prior to that. My older son was made a recovery from autism through biomedical treatments under the care of Dr. Sidney Baker, who’s a very dear friend of mine. And going through that process of assisting and witnessing his miracle, I always knew that in the back of my mind, my dream would be to assist other families going through that same process.
So, when the decision to close the studio took place, I just knew what was next for me. And I had heard about the Functional Medicine Academy training, Functional Medicine Coaching Academy training, and I just never had the actual time to undertake it while I was running the studio. So, I registered right away. And that’s what started my journey with functional medicine was the recovery of my son, and that’s how I got the coaching.
Sandi: And your journey is so similar to what we hear from others who choose to become functional medicine health coaches. They often do make a career shift, and they are often inspired to become a coach because they or a loved one has experienced the incredible power of functional medicine. And for you, how fortunate for you and your son to work with Dr. Sidney Baker. For those of you who don’t know him, he is, I would say, not the father of functional medicine. We usually attribute that to Dr. Jeffrey Bland. He is the grandfather of functional medicine. He was the one who inspired Dr. Bland, Dr. Hyman. He’s been a mentor to Dr. Mark Hyman. So, what was it like working with him?
Alessandra: It gives me the chills, just chills of joy just to think about Dr. Baker. I call him Sid because we’re close, but what was most amazing with collaborating with him was that he acted as my coach. So, when my son was going through the detoxification processes, he had to go through both via medication, supplements, and we had to change quite a bit of our lifestyle when it came to diet. Dr. Baker was the one that assisted me with all the steps and taking one at a time or what have you. And it was just so wonderful to have someone by my side when times were tough, when change was really hard to make.
And what was beautiful about working with him is that he always reminded me of my strengths. He always told me why I had what it took, that all it…it started with love and repetition, and that I have the perseverance and perspective to keep going, to trust the process. And he talked to me every day for the first month of treatment. And over the course of time, I can safely say he taught me to think like he does, and then I could coach myself and the rest of my family because I had to be the one, kind of, spearheading the changes and organizing the meal planning, the grocery shopping, the updating to Dr. Baker of what was going on symptomatically. So, I was in charge, and he gave me the tools to not lose faith and to keep going. So, I’m forever grateful. He changed me forever.
Sandi: Well, that gives me chills. What an incredibly powerful story. Inspirational. And he, like so many doctors who are in functional medicine, are actually using the coach approach. They’re creating this therapeutic alliance and they’re just intuitively acting as coaches. In fact, we often see many doctors becoming health coaches. So, you had the foundation of health coaching before you even trained to be a health coach. And I love what you said that he was emphasizing your strengths. And how rare is that? Because usually doctors focus on what’s wrong with you, what’s wrong with the patient, what’s wrong with the family, and he is saying what’s right with you, what are your strengths. And of course, as you know, that’s a key feature of becoming a health coach is focusing on strength.
So, you chose to enroll and study to become a health coach. What was that like for you?
Alessandra: I couldn’t believe how much I fit into the course, meaning the different interests that I have as a person that loves mind-to-body practices, loves to study about nutrition and to eat right and clean, and understands your state of mind and how your thoughts can manifest and make you feel great or worse than you already are. It just felt like the course material was really, like, almost designed for me. So, that part I loved. I loved everything that we went in-depth with that I could just keep on studying, to be honest with you.
And then I love the connection with the other students in my cohort. They all, like myself, had a miracle story to share that was either about themselves or someone close to them that they witnessed, and that was the catalyst for them to undertake the course. So, I felt like this true connection with these people, and it doesn’t matter where they are in the country, because we were so close.
And I totally changed as a person. I think I grew a lot in all aspects, and I understood how valuable the skills that I already had going into the course are and how that can be applied going forward. I just felt like I really belonged.
Sandi: And feeling like you belong is such a key component of wellness. In fact, loneliness, feeling isolated, feeling like you don’t belong is an independent risk factor for chronic disease development. So, having that community is just crucial. And so I had the opportunity to meet you at the IFM’s International Conference, Institute for Functional Medicine. And just a feeling like we’re not just isolated as health coaches but really are integrated with the whole functional medicine community of doctors and other practitioners.
Alessandra: It was amazing to experience the conference. It was really… I just love being a student. My love for learning is my biggest strength. And what was really special was how valued health coaches are by these physicians. They really are appreciated and their work is really valued. And, you know, to witness it firsthand just felt really good.
Sandi: Now that you are a health coach, what are your plans? What does the future hold? What would you like to do with your training as a health coach?
Alessandra: What doesn’t the future hold?
Sandi: I love that.
Alessandra: Well, I want to really put myself out there to some functional medicine doctors that are working, doing biomedical treatments with children. I don’t want to limit myself to that, but I know my heart is there, so I want to start there. And I’m also going to continue my education in parallel. And I enrolled into the Institute of Functional and Integrative Nutrition, and I plan on getting those credentials in the next couple years to continue to learn and also to have a certain level of autonomy when it comes to some aspects of the coaching and helping clients make nutrition changes.
I’m also a very passionate meditator, so I’m also taking the first step of the certification through the Institute of Mind-Body Medicine later in the fall just to, kind of, aid in the things I already do and learn some more and connect to some more wonderful people.
Sandi: That is great to hear, a love of learning. It sounds like that’s definitely a top strength of yours as it is mine. And learning from Dr. James Gordon, I’ve gone to a lot of his training workshops, and he runs the Center for Mind-Body Medicine, which you just referred to, and the Institute… the Functional Nutrition that is also run by two women that we work closely with at FMCA. And so many people do choose to go on for additional training or come with that training already, and then they want to expand their skillset. So, what in terms of… If you had a dream position, what would that look like?
Alessandra: Wow. I love that you’re asking me that. The answer is not hard. I would love to collaborate as a team with one or more functional medicine physicians that help families go through biomedical treatments for their children and really be a team with him or her even from when they first meet with the patients, hopefully being part of those meetings and being able to help that family hit the ground running with the changes they need to make and be with them step by step. Ultimately, I think I’d like to work for myself doing that. I mean, that would really be a dream come true.
Sandi: Well, it starts with a dream and just like I started with that dream for founding FMCA. Do you have people coming to you, families of children just say, “Yeah, you know, I want to work with a health coach,” or do you find that people are really in need of that type of support?
Alessandra: So much, so much. I’ve many families coming to me. I’ve helped a few already even before undertaking the course. And another reason why I did want to have the certification is because people feel that you can help them a little more, and they are willing to listen a little more if you have formalized some of this knowledge. So, absolutely. Just even giving families a ray of hope that healing is possible when everybody else just gives them diagnoses and tells them there’s nothing they can do, and I know first hand that’s not the truth.
Sandi: Hope is so important. In fact, that’s for character strength, and it’s been studied for all kinds of chronic conditions, debilitating conditions, and having hope is healing. So, it’s very, very important. And you made such a good point about the legitimacy of what you’re doing. When you have that certification as a health coach, many people will be called upon by friends, neighbors, relatives, “Oh, you know, they helped me,” or they find that they’re naturally drawn as a helper and wanting to serve. But the credibility comes from the certification and also the right kind of training because nobody wants to just get advice but wants to have a conversation where they are in charge and they can make those decisions about what is best for them. And so that’s one of the things that we emphasize that’s so important about the role of a health coach. So, what… Go ahead.
Alessandra: Oh, that reminds me, and I wanted to share it earlier. I don’t want to run out of time before I say it. When my son was finally all better, I, of course, thanked Dr. Baker for healing him and he said, “I didn’t do the healing. You did all the healing. I’m just the doctor that made some suggestions.” So, it brings me back to the point of what you just said.
Sandi: So beautiful. He really was the one who just started it all and in terms of the philosophy of functional medicine. And so functional medicine, health coaching or health coaching in general, where do you see it going as a profession?
Alessandra: I think that there’s such tremendous healing, true healing that can take place through lifestyle changes, that once we continue to expose people to witness more and more of that, I think that there’ll be such a demand for health coaches. I don’t think we’ll be able to keep up. I am really hopeful, and I know it’s in the pipeline, that insurance companies will recognize the value of our services because honestly speaking often enough, that’s what limits some people from having access to such amazing service. So, once that’s in place, I don’t think there’s any… The sky’s the limit really.
Sandi: I could not agree more. So, tell me about your son. First of all, how old was he when he started with Dr. Baker? And what’s he doing now?
Alessandra: He was three years old, and I won’t go on into much detail, but he was very symptomatic. He was pretty deep on the spectrum. He had limited speech, but we are a bilingual home, so for a while, we thought that maybe… I speak Italian to my kids. We thought that maybe his delay in speaking was due to that, but he had some aggressive behavior and a hard time even sitting still. So, that’s what we started with. And he was three. And that’s when we started treatment with Dr. Baker. And it took about 18 months, I think, close to two years to be totally done, finished with any medications or changes. And at first, the symptoms really aggravated while he was healing, which was the challenge. And that’s when the coaching from Dr. Baker really came in. The healing crisis, the Herxheimer of when a brain inflammation on a little boy can be kind of pretty frightening, right?
And then he started to begin to speak more and more and then to become interested in puzzles. And within a couple of months, he was only three and a half and he was doing puzzles for eight-year-olds. And then fast forward to now, he’s turning nine next week. And a few months ago, he was just determined to be a gifted learner at school. So, he’s in a gifted program because he’s kind of a couple years ahead of the game when it comes to academics. He has been symptom-free since he was five, and he doesn’t even know he was ever sick.
Sandi: Wow. What an incredible story of hope, of dedication, of strength, and working with a functional medicine doctor and health coach. because he was a health coach as well, and he was teaching you and supporting you. So, this has been just an inspirational conversation. Alessandra, where can people find you?
Alessandra: They can find me on my website, which is mindbodytampabay.com, and I’m excited to share not only my experience but what I’ve learned formalizing my skills through the certification as a functional medicine health coach. And I just hope to spread the good word of hope and that healing is possible and to be of aid with that.
Sandi: Absolutely. Well, thank you for sharing your journey, for sharing your son’s inspirational story. Thank you for finding FMCA and studying to become a health coach. And I just can’t wait to hear about the wonderful work that you are going to be doing. Thousands of lives will be improved because you made that decision to become a health coach.
Alessandra: Thank you, Sandi, for today, for allowing me to share my story and to connect with you, but mostly thank you for founding FMCA so that I could have this opportunity to spread the good. Thank you.
Sandi: Thank you. That means a lot. Well, we hope to talk to you again. Thank you so much.
Alessandra: I hope so too. Thank you, Sandi.