‘Take back your health’: Certified functional medicine health coach helps entrepreneurial women

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Elizabeth DiCristofano works through a session with client Kelly Ponticelli. (Photo by Anna Skinner)

By Haley Miller 

After experiencing chronic stress, health problems and burnout in the corporate world, Elizabeth DiCristofano decided to prioritize wellness not only for herself, but for other female entrepreneurs as well.

This year, DiCristofano became a certified functional medicine health coach. She primarily works with entrepreneurial women ages 40 to 60 to help them improve their overall wellness.

“These are women who are taking care of not only their own businesses, being in a higher executive role, but also being a mother, being a caretaker,” said DiCristofano, a Westfield resident. “It causes havoc on their body.”

DiCristofano offers a six-week program of individualized coaching sessions to help women create a plan to manage chronic stress and heighten their sense of wellness.

“The biggest thing for me, and I think for them, is not just the physical results, it’s the ‘aha moment’ that, ‘I can do this,’” DiCristofano said. “I don’t need to rely on others to take care of my own health.”

DiCristofano said she helps women approach wellbeing holistically. For example, In sessions, she reviews the client’s sleep, diet and lifestyle habits to find where stress and health problems may arise. She said the key to success is making small, achievable goals, which can be as simple as developing and adhering to a morning routine.

“If you’re rushing out the door to go to work, maybe a protein shake,” DiCristofano said. “Start there. Start small. Start where we could implement, not add.”

DiCristofano uses a 1-10 scale called the Wheel of Life to track different aspects of her clients’ progress and set goals for desirable behaviors in the future. She said fluctuations and setbacks from week to week are normal.

“We all know things happen in our lives,” DiCristofano said. “You were at an eight or a seven last week and this week you’re at a five. It’s OK. Let’s see what happened and how we can get through this together.”

Kelly Ponticelli, 42, a longtime friend turned client, said during their sessions DiCristofano helped her recognize her pain and trauma. Ponticelli faced recurrent pregnancy loss and has dealt with autoimmune disease throughout her life.

“She’s very nurturing and supportive, and she’s a good listener,” Ponticelli said. “She saw things clearly as an outsider but was also very supportive of the choices that I’ve made and the journey that I’ve gone through.”

DiCristofano said the role of a health coach is never to judge or prescribe. Instead, it’s to be a listener and accountability partner.

“We have so many questions that are unanswered or questions that we don’t know to ask,” DiCristofano said. “Whether it’s functional medicine or conventional, either way, we need to have somebody who understands and who could be there for us to help guide us through challenges.”

In the future, DiCristofano said she will provide services for corporate wellness and continue taking clients personally. She said coaching other women has contributed to her own wellness.

“It’s a journey that I went through as well, along with them,” DiCristofano said. “It’s a growth of helping other women understand that not only is it never too late to take back your health but that they are worth it.”

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Elizabeth DiCristofano uses a 1-10 scale called the Wheel of Life to track aspects of her clients’ progress. (Photo courtesy of Elizaebth DiCristofano)

 Holistic approach 

Functional medicine health coach Elizabeth DiCristofano said clients often come to her with many different symptoms, such as hair loss, weight gain or headaches. She said taking a holistic approach to health helps clients identify a root cause off issues.

“We are holistic beings,” DiCristofano said. “When one thing is out of whack, your whole system is out of whack.”

Kelly Ponticelli, a former client of DiCristofano, said the holistic method to wellness helped her take back control of her health. As an individual with an autoimmune disease, she said she has needed to learn her triggers and how to put herself first during sessions with DiCristofano.

“Liz helped me realize that the choices I’m making are affecting everything about me – mental, physical and emotional,” Ponticelli said.