Tell us a little about yourself
I’m a dual citizen of the United States and New Zealand. I’ve been in New Zealand for 10 years now which is pretty significant. My husband is a dual citizen and he spent a lot of time here growing up. We always knew that we would spend part of our married life in New Zealand. We have one child, Atticus, who is going to be 10 soon and a cat named Lilith who came with us from the U.S. and will be 15 this year.
Significant to my life as well as my family, work, and personal wellness is how grounding I find nature, movement, and food. I was in my late twenties when I lost my sister to suicide and shortly after, both parents to cancer, so I’ve dealt with a good bit of loss in my life. There have been other times in my life where there were so many things that were out of my control and I consistently found myself grounding to nature, movement and food...a hike, a roll on the ground, or making something yummy to eat.
How did you discover and get into wellness coaching? Why did you choose it?
At university I actually thought I was going to be a maths teacher and I was two classes away from completing my degree before deciding it was not what I wanted to do at all! It just didn’t feel right. A few consistent happy things throughout university though were dancing and fitness so I ended up changing my major to Lifestyle Management and minor to Modern Dance. Lifestyle Management was a mix of health promotion, nutrition, and exercise physiology. It was satisfying because it was all related to the body mixed with a tiny bit of math.
I then started out as an intern for the university’s employee wellness program. It involved employees coming for an annual wellness assessment. This involved collecting objective data such as blood pressure, cholesterol, body composition, etc. I was quite good at sitting down with an employee post assessment and going over the results in a way that was non-threatening and combined the objective data with a subjective, collaborative conversation in a way that gave them a sense of ownership. I think that experience made me realise I was interested in and had a gift for helping someone meet themselves where they are and find the right path for them.
The intuitive eating stuff was born from a frustration around the way I was trying to help people, which was grounded in science but not actually very helpful. It wasn’t getting to the core of the issues people were having with food which involved their eating behaviours, relationship with food, and relationship with their body. I did a bit of research and found the intuitive eating method, attended training and started to incorporate and teach intuitive eating at the university and it was well received.
I have also worked as a personal trainer and Pilates instructor both in the U.S. and New Zealand. In NZ I have worked with postnatal clients, taught Pilates for Xtend Barre Wellington, and taught movement workshops at O2 Exercise. I have recently completed a fresh personal training certification and am now an ACE Certified Personal Trainer. So drawing from all of my experiences I combine my passion for wellness with my skills as a Personal Trainer, Life Coach, Pilates Instructor, and Intuitive Eating Coach in my Wellness Coaching.
I am not even really sure if I chose wellness coaching or if it chose me. It just naturally evolved from a combination of my attention and intention over the years...all my gifts, skills, interests, and experiences coming together to make me a viable skilled helper for anyone wanting to improve their health.
What is your most memorable coaching experience?
Currently, on Friday’s I have a really great long-time friend who has evolved into a regular virtual client. She loves having me hold space for her and having someone she trusts with a standing appointment every week. It's been so satisfying because with the rapport we have there is so much freedom with how our discussions evolve, anywhere from relationships, to professional development, to her own movement practice, or what’s on her menu for the week. Our time meanders through her life path and I am there to support without trying to control. It's an hour a week where she can talk about what is most relevant within her wellness journey on that given day and we work together to gently bring her back to what grounds her and her core values when life has created distraction otherwise.
I also have a young client who is dealing with some real challenges in life which serves as a reminder to me how powerful it can be just to be with someone. I think sometimes we feel we have to fix things and control them and throw a thousand systems and processes and tools at them when sometimes it is just about being the backdrop so that someone can even hear their own internal voice long enough to calm down.
Really I feel like all my coaching experiences have been memorable, whether it was working with my mom during her breast cancer journey, a quirky bar owner who changed his perspective about stretching, a lawyer who was so excited to do a Pilates roll-up for the first time, a mature woman who was so happy to have somewhere to go during her day where she felt cared for, a postnatal client who felt her lower abdominals engage for the first time in months, a post-weight loss surgery client who had a transformative moment when he realized the surgery did not fix the void in his life he had been filling with food, and a young woman who was so excited about taking initiative to plan and prepare her own lunches for the work week she couldn’t wait to show me her new lunch bag. Every one of these clients has made me smile or cry.
Why do you think people do or don’t choose wellness coaching?
I think someone probably doesn't choose it because their personal well-being is not a priority at this point in their life for whatever reason. Essentially, they are not in the actionable or even contemplative stage of change. Additionally, they may not choose it because they do not know what it is or perceive it to be authoritative rather than collaborative. Also they could already be self-directed with their wellness and simply do not feel they need a coach.
I think someone would choose it if they had a sense of what it could be, perhaps if they had worked with a personal trainer or wellness coach in the past. They may also choose wellness coaching because they have identified they want to improve their health but are overwhelmed or not sure where to start. Someone could also choose coaching because they want to go deeper on their wellness journey and simply enjoy the collaborative process and the support of a professional.
I believe more people would choose wellness coaching if they knew how helpful it could be. For example, say someone went to their doctor and is told their blood sugar is too high. The client is left with objective information and likely a bit of fear or overwhelm without a good way to decompress the information. A healthy coaching process provides support and the environment to strategize with the purpose of taking action to induce change. It then provides a place for reflection, making adjustments, and repeating. It’s a grounding place to return to and reorganize your thoughts, feelings, and ideas so you can keep momentum going related to your health and well-being.
In addition, helpful coaching can help diffuse panic, making it less likely for someone to go into black and white thinking where they either shut down or overreact. For example, a conversation would go something like this, “Okay, we have this objective data. Firstly, how do you feel about it? What are your core values in relation to this? Do you feel it’s an accurate representation of the big picture or just a snapshot? What would you like to do about it? What do you perceive the barriers to be? What part of it do you need help with?” The client is then able to be responsive rather than reactive about next steps.
I believe wellness happens in shades of grey, and working with a wellness coach is a good way to diffuse this all or nothing, black and white thinking, which pops up a lot in life. The area of wellbeing is no different because it deals with habits, emotions, self-talk, etc. It’s easy to create an adversarial relationship with things where you have standards that are all or nothing. It’s not realistic, it's not life, it’s not honouring those ebbs and flows in your own energy and all that.
Being shown empathy, kindness and honesty when trying to do something new or make a change is also what makes coaching helpful. For example, I remember sometimes someone would come to me still smoking. I would just straight up ask them “Is this something you are interested in changing right now?” Because if the answer is no then that needs to be honoured.” I started to notice that sometimes even just having someone ask them from a non-confrontational angle was enough to plant the seed for them to start contemplating change. Being honest and kind and asking “Do you have any interest in changing this or is it not your focus, because I’m sure we can find a place you are interested in starting that’s genuine to you right now?” is a much more respectful and collaborative way to start a conversation because ultimately everyone is responsible for their own well-being.
We are so happy to have Jill as part of our team of practitioners and know you will enjoy her friendly and approachable nature. If you would like to improve your health and experience a session with Jill, she offers free, 45-minute taster sessions and is here at the centre on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 AM - 1 PM. You may book online at healwithjill.com/bookings Below are what some of her clients have to say about working with her and an image linking to her free ebook GROW Simple Wellness.
“Jill is an incredible professional who has helped me with my wellness-related goals. She listens to my needs and concerns, then guides my thinking to accomplish my goals. She is so good at bringing the focus back to my core values. I deeply appreciate her common-sense approach to wellness.”
--Louise, Masters of Teacher Education Director
"I have known Jill as both a colleague and consumer for several years. When I first met Jill I was impressed with her kindness and willingness to listen. She holds a wealth of information related to physical, mental and emotional health that is well thought out and readily incorporated into providing non-judgmental guidance. She is both analytical and personable, with a sense of humor that she utilizes well. Personally, she has made a major difference in how I view my physical health, my body, eating and exercise. I am much healthier, fit, confident and self-accepting as a result of her interventions."
--Larry, Clinical Psychologist
“Jill has such an intelligent and empathetic approach to her coaching. She is always flexible and intuitive, tailoring every session for a very personal experience. I am constantly telling friends and family what a difference her coaching has made for me.”
--C Kerr, Mum