allison donovanThroughout my studies at The Institute of Integrative Nutrition (IIN) in 2013, I still was not sure what I was going to “do” with my training. I knew I would be certified as a Holistic Health Coach, but would I actually become a Health Coach. I had moved from New York City to Greensboro, North Carolina not long before and had not met many people in the health and wellness community in my new town. I was actually starting to wonder if there was a health and wellness community to meet! That’s when I decided to check the IIN directory for Health Coaches in my area, and I found and met Allison Donovan. She was so kind to meet me for coffee and talk to me about her experience at IIN, her health coaching business and what it was like to be a Health Coach in Greensboro.

I left our meeting with a newfound confidence about the future and hoping to collaborate with Allison to make a difference in our community. Sadly, the next time we spoke, she had found out she had to move for her husband’s job. ☹ It was a major bummer. Luckily, she’s back and we are excited to have the chance to work together again.

I wanted to feature Allison on LivLight, because she is an amazing Health Coach to her clients, but most importantly, because she was able to basically cure herself of an autoimmune disease through changes in her own diet. It is astonishing and something we should all consider. As Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

“I was overcome by daily headaches and a burning pain across my face and jaw (can we say “stress”?). Doctors couldn’t give me an answer and numerous physicians tried to prescribe anti-depressants, accusing me of just ‘being a mom of preschoolers’ (don’t get me started on that). I refused to take this as my answer and kept searching for relief.” -Allison Donovan, Integrative Health Coach

Allison further explains her story and road to a cure in our interview below, so make sure to read on! As always, I asked Allison about a day in the life of her eating and here’s what she told me…

Breakfast: Pasture Raised Egg fried in coconut oil with sautéed greens and half an avocado OR a smoothie if I’m short on time.

Lunch: Leftovers! favorite being cauliflower rice taco bowl with veggies, cilantro and grass-fed beef taco meat

Dinner: Something simple like Pasture Raised meat, sweet potato and asparagus. I love one pan meals that I can prep early in the day, throw in the oven in the evening and clean up quickly. This means more time with the family!

Snacks: veggies with almond butter, smoothies, avocado

Allison recently led a 5-day Sugar Detox for an awesome local yoga studio here in Greensboro ( and let me be her guinea pig the week before. It was amazing and I look forward to writing about my experience in a future post. Stay tuned! In the meantime, click here for the Radiance Smoothie recipe and please read on for my interview with Allison to learn more about her as a Holistic Health Coach, her Sugar Detox plan and how you can try it for yourself whether you live near or far!

Interview with Allison Donovan, Integrative Health Coach

For our readers who are unfamiliar with Hollistic Health Coaching, would you briefly explain what it is and how it works? 

As a Holistic (or Integrative) Health Coach, I act as a guide and mentor to those who desire a healthier lifestyle. When I work with a client, together, we evaluate their individual health goals and create a roadmap to wellness. A Holistic Health Coach will help you set goals in many areas of your life, though food is a part of this, so is stress and time management, healthy relationships, exercise, and sleep!

How did you decide to become a Holistic Health Coach and why did you choose The Institute of Integrative Nutrition (IIN)?

My love for people and health is really what fueled my desire to become a health coach. Health Coaching takes all my passions and puts them into a career! As a Psychology and Exercise Physiology double-major, my interests have always circled around people, health and wellness. After my first child was born, I knew that for me to go back to work, I needed to follow my passion rather than sit behind a computer working in ‘corporate America’.  This realization led me to  diligently research nutrition degrees and wellness programs across the country. I believed, even then, that there was so much more to health than the food we put into our bodies or the ‘diet’ we follow. I wanted a program that would train me to look at all areas of life and take into account our individualities. This led me to The Institute of Integrative Nutrition. At IIN, I was exposed to hundreds of different “dietary theories” while learning motivational and coaching techniques that actually change people’s behavior. The program was built around the theme of  ‘bio-individuality’, meaning that nutrition and wellness isn’t ‘one size fits all’. Every person is unique and our roads to wellness will all look a little different – different foods, individual goals and unique concerns. This approach to nutrition is what attracted me to the Health Coaching Program at The Institute of Integrative Nutrition.

What services do you provide, how often do you meet with clients and will you work with people from anywhere via FaceTime or phone?

My love for people and for authentic relationship makes my favorite service individual coaching. I love working individually with people, over the course of 3 to 6 months. It takes time to truly change a behavior and create new habits, so working with people consistently over a few months gives the best results. I have had clients from all over and have found that with today’s technology, distance doesn’t have to be a factor – phone and FaceTime are always an option! I also offer several different group programs that are appealing to those who are looking for a more affordable or more targeted program. These include my 5 Day Sugar Detox, Day 31, and a program I created with Radiance Yoga Greensboro called “30 Days to Radiance”. You can learn more about these programs on my website. (

Why do most clients want to work with you as a Health Coach (i.e. weight loss, meal planning, general health, learning about healthy eating)?

I see a wide range of clients – they all have very unique wellness goals, which is why Integrative Health Coaching is so appealing to them. Some have very general goals like ‘meal planning’, ‘feeding their families better’, and ‘exposure to healthier foods’ while others come to me after experiencing a major shift in health. Whether they’ve recently been diagnosed with new food intolerances or auto-immune issues, many new clients are reaching out in distress. People often, after a medical diagnosis, find themselves overwhelmed by the information on the internet and want some professional guidance on how to use food and lifestyle to improve their health.

Can you tell us a little bit about your Sugar Detox Plan and why you chose sugar to eliminate? 

In my personal journey to better health, I’ve found that processed sugars are my bodies worst enemy. Their ability to affect the brain chemistry makes them more of a drug than a food group, creating a physical and emotional dependence that is (almost impossible) to conquer! Sugar leaves me feeling fatigued, irritable and achey. Processed sugars disrupt my sleep and give me the absolute worst mood swings. As I began to make a conscious effort to cut down on my sugars, I noticed that added sugar is hiding EVERYWHERE – organic breads, salad dressings, marinades, high quality spice rubs, and many processed “health foods”. This was eye opening to me, that even as a health conscious, whole food eating, health coach, I was still consuming over the recommended amount of added sugar. Omitting processed sugar made such a drastic difference in my personal health, that I really wanted to offer guidance and support through an affordable and attainable 5 Day program. So, the 5 Day Sugar Detox was born!

The 5 Day Sugar Detox is built around the idea of blasting your body with nutrients, while eliminating processed sugars. It is designed to loosen sugars grip on your mind and body, while creating sustainable and simple habits! I’ve partnered with a local Greensboro Yoga Studio, Radiance Yoga, to make this program even more powerful! The combination of guidance, accountability, and movement make this program attainable and rewarding. Throughout the 5 Day Sugar detox you’re encouraged to consume a power-packed smoothie for breakfast and lunch, enjoy a healthy snack in the late afternoon and a nutritious, simple dinner each night. By the end of the 5 days together, sugar will have loosened its hold on your body (and mind) and you will have gained sustainable habits to carry with you.

The program includes:
•    3 high quality, food-based smoothie add-ins (Catie’s GlutenFree Greens, Catie’s Vitamin C Plus, and Tera’s Grass Fed Whey Vanilla Bourbon Protein Powder). These supplements provide super concentrated, whole food based nutrients that are hard to get in our standard diet. For example, just one tablespoon of the greens is equal to about 7 servings of green vegetables! And awesome news, you’re receiving full sized containers of these products, which means they will last you well past the 5 Day Sugar Detox, helping you continue your healthy habits into the future.
•    10 Meal Recipes (5 Vegan + 5 Paleo Inspired), Smoothie Recipes, and Healthy Snack Ideas
•    Opening and closing group sessions to learn about what sugar does to your body, where it is hiding and how to make sustainable change in your daily life
•    5 days unlimited yoga at Radiance Yoga Greensboro
•    Unlimited email support and advice from Allison Donovan
•    Access to a private Facebook group for 10 days – providing additional recipes, support, and accountability.
The cost of the program is $190 (for current Radiance Yoga members, $150)

If you don’t live in Greensboro, don’t fear, I’m still able to offer this program to you! We can ship the products, deliver the materials in a PDF format, waive the yoga fee and still have you included in our accountability group! Don’t let distance be what keeps you from changing your body and health! ($150 for out of town, non-yoga participants).

We just finished our first 5 Day Sugar Detox on September 30th and had such an awesome response we’re already gearing up for our next one! Our next 5 Day Sugar Detox will be from November 7th – 11th. Don’t let all that Halloween Candy spoil your health! For LivLight readers, sign up before October 31st (the dreaded sugar holiday) and you’ll receive an Early Bird Rate – $165 (non-members) and $130 (members/non-yoga participants).

Tell us about your experience using food to overcome illness… 

Health, nutrition and wellness have come easy and been interesting to me! However, about two years ago, shortly after the birth of my second child and a move to a new city, I was overcome by daily headaches and a burning pain across my face and jaw (can we say “stress” ?). Doctors couldn’t give me an answer and numerous physicians tried to prescribe anti-depressants, accusing me of just ‘being a mom of preschoolers’ (don’t get me started on that). I refused to take this as my answer and kept searching for relief. I worked hard to use food as my medicine, researching nutrition and following ‘diets’ such as Paleo, Autoimmune Paleo, Anti-inflammatory, and vegetable juicing all in hopes of finding relief!  I’m sure these nutritional changes helped in someway, but as time went on, my health issues continued to grow…suddenly I couldn’t fall asleep or stay asleep at night…my energy plummeted (to the point where I had to nap every single day)…irritability set in unlike anything I’d ever experienced…I lost a tolerance to things that shouldn’t be a bother…my hands tingled and my toes fell asleep during workout classes…I couldn’t run the way I once did…the list goes on.  After many failed Doctor visits, I found a wonderful clinician who diagnosed my headaches as a symptom of  TMJD (caused by night time clenching). He completed all types of blood tests and came up with a  list of health concerns that my weary body was battling. Together, we created a plan to balance hormones, treat chronic infection, and heal my body. For the first time, I really understood that food wasn’t the only answer to feeling my best. This challenging experience enabled me to create my “Thrive with Five” approach to coaching. I believe health can’t be attained through nutrition alone, instead one must evaluate and focus on other areas of life too – relationships, stress and time management, sleep and movement!

After nearly 18 months of focusing on my own health, I’ve learned more than any educational program could ever teach me.  I know what it is like to live everyday in pain. I’ve spent many nights tossing and turning, overwhelmed by the daunting stress of  chronic pain. Though this journey has been challenging, I’m so thankful for my experience. Not only has it humbled me, but it helps me be a better coach. I now know the weight of pain, illness, poor nutrition, and stress! I’ve learned more, through my personal experience, than any course could ever teach. By putting my coaching skills to practice in my own life, I have found ways to decrease stress, manage pain, increase energy and live a fulfilling, fun, and radiant life. These struggles will, most likely continue to be a part of my life journey, but I am so grateful for the lessons I’ve learned and passions I’ve gained!

As for specific diets, I tend to lean towards a paleo lifestyle, but I prefer to stay away from the “black and white” terms of diets. I’ve found I feel my best when I stick with clean, whole foods – with lots of organic vegetables, berries, pasture raised meets, wild-caught fish, and soups made from homemade bone broths.

What do you like to do to stay fit and how often do you do some type of fitness?

I was a pole vaulter in college (and before that a gymnast and a soccer player), needless to say fitness and nutrition have always been a part of my life. However, I do think that after years of competitive sport, I now really value fluidity and flexibility in my workouts. I prefer to switch up my daily workout routines and really don’t like people screaming at me to run faster or lift more (eeek).

Right now I’m almost 30 weeks pregnant, so my fitness looks a little bit different. I currently love good long walks, gentle yoga and the occasional weight training session. This is my 3rd pregnancy and it has really made me pay attention to my body in a different way. I’ve had to be much gentler this go around, which sometimes makes me feel lazy. I’m trying to respect my body and listen to what it (and baby) needs – sometimes that means nothing more than a walk around the block with my dog. When I’m not pregnant I love a heart pumping power yoga class, a good run and a solid weight session.

Favorite workout ever: 
Hilliard Studio Method in Charlotte, NC

We know working, being a mom and guiding others can become all-consuming.  How do you incorporate self-care into your daily or weekly routine?

I try to wake up before my kids for a little ‘me time’ to pray and prepare for the day. Even if it’s 15 minutes, I feel so much better when I start my day this way. I’m also crazy about my evening routine of “peaceful momma tea” with a tbsp of Vital Proteins Collagen – swear it makes me sleep better!