Stride Stories: Eat, Breathe & Move— Amy Welker's move from accounting to nutritional coaching

Stride: What do you do for work?

Amy: I had a full-time corporate accounting job, but I decided to leave that and pursue part-time accounting, while building my nutritional coaching business.

Stride: Why did you quit your corporate job last fall?

Amy: I couldn’t develop my nutrition business while I was working full-time, but what really kicked me out the door was losing about $5,000 worth of benefits in 2015.

Stride: Which benefits did you lose?

Amy: I lost 9 days of PTO and had to pay more for healthcare. They wanted more of my time and wanted to pay me less. AND they did it sneakily, saying, “We’re bringing our benefits in-line with our competitors.” The most surprising part was that none of my coworkers said anything! I thought why are people putting up with this? My theory is that most people try to keep quiet because they have mortgages and kids and car loans – they have so much debt they can’t rock the boat. Well, I don’t have any debt, kids, mortgage, or car payment, so it was easier for me to say I’m out of here! If I’m going to deal with that kind of uncertainty, I should deal with it working for myself. I was done giving my most productive hours – all of my energy – to them.

Stride: When you quit, how did you make it work financially?

Amy: I still had two bookkeeping clients. My goal was for those two clients to cover the rent, and right away they did. I also worked (as a contractor) at my corporate job for an additional week. Now, I have a temporary but full-time accounting gig… I should be able to fund my year with earnings from the next two months.

Stride: How did you get interested in nutrition?

Amy: About 15-years-ago, I started having low energy levels – I was literally falling asleep everyday at work. One day, someone caught me sitting up at my desk, sleeping. So I found this nutrition class in my neighborhood, and she told me I wasn’t eating enough. The idea of eating too little hadn’t occurred to me, since we only hear how we’re eating too much. She helped me eat a better breakfast and designed an overall eating plan. Now, I stay awake all day… it’s completely different [laughs].

Stride: How did the nutrition coaching business concept come to you?

Amy: I started reading different books on nutrition and listening to a million podcasts. I found a nutrition coaching program that combined nutritional science, psychology, and spirituality. It really resonated with me, because when you’re not eating right, it’s not just that you’re making bad decisions. You may have self-worth, anxiety, or other issues.

Stride: When did it become real that you are a nutrition coach?

Amy: Someone asked me, “What do you do?” at an event and I said, “I help exhausted, overworked professionals get their energy back, rather than watch life go by from the couch.” We get up, go to work, and come home… we’re too tired to do anything but watch TV. We drink coffee to wake up and wine to put us to sleep – it becomes this hamster wheel that takes a lot to pull yourself out of. My goal is to teach people how to eat for energy.

Stride: Was there a psychological barrier to going out on your own?

Amy: Yes, I grew up with working class parents. I was the first and only person in my family to get a college degree and professional job. I was brought up with this idea – you go to college, get a 9-5, and contribute to your 401K. Then you retire. I bought into that for a really long time and it served me well. I saved money by living within my means, which gave me greater flexibility to go out on my own. That said, what I’m doing is still really scary [laughs].

Stride: Scarier than staying at your 9-5?

Amy: No. I think there’s this illusion of security in the corporate world. People assume they won’t get laid off, or their company won’t be bought or fold. 2008 was a clear example that corporate security is an illusion. Everyone needs to plant it in their heads that they’re an entrepreneur – you don’t have a company looking out for you – you must develop yourself and embrace a mindset that you’re always looking for a job – whether it’s a promotion, raise, or an opportunity outside of the company that you’re in.

Stride: What has been the hardest part of your self-employment transition?

Amy: Since I haven’t been in the nutritional space for the last 20 years, it’s hard for me to claim that I’m an expert in this area. I have a ton of practical experience and education, but since I’m not a registered dietician or certified nutritionist, I’m having a hard time putting myself out there as an expert. This is a very common feeling when starting something new, and I just try to remember: I may not be the expert in the world, but I’m the expert in the room.

Stride: What’s your biggest health concern for America?

Amy: Lifestyle diseases – high cholesterol, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes. These are 90% based on lifestyle choices – what you put in your body and how much you move. If you're eating crappy food and sitting on the couch all day, you're not going to have the energy to do what you want, your cholesterol will rise, you’ll go to the doctor, and they’ll give you medication. All that does is push your cholesterol down, it doesn’t do anything to alleviate the cause of your rising cholesterol. People want the easy fix, they don’t want to hear they need to cook every meal if they want to get off their medication.

Look… you age, you deteriorate, and you die. I’m not going to fight that process, but I’m going to do my best to delay it by how I eat. My website is called I think eating the right way, meditating to reduce your stress, and moving your body are the keys that lead to a healthier life.

I heard a good thing yesterday: you can have a bad day, you just can’t have a bad week. Adding simple habits to eat, breathe, and move better can help you have better weeks.