Q+As with 2 health coaches who’ve healed from chronic illness!

Last week we were joined on The Pillow Fort facebook fan page by Ashley Williams and Erin Lindstrom, 2 health coaches who’ve both healed from chronic illness for a little Q+A session.

Ashley Williams and Erin Lindstrom They’ve joined forces to create a unique coaching programme, Happy, Healthy + Healing, which tackles chronic health problems with both diet and mindset. Interested? Registration closes 23rd August 2014! If you miss that though, they’re both fantastic health coaches in their own right, so check out what they currently offer: Ashley Williams and Erin Lindstrom.

Onto the questions…

Had an anonymous question on tumblr which I think is quite good!

“Would you explain the word choice of “heal” over something like “treat”?”

Erin: Hmm this is a good one! For me, “treat” makes me think of medications, of masking the signs and symptoms– which can be totally helpful but it’s not really addressing the issue, it’s more of a cover up or bandaid.

Healing, on the other hand, makes me think of a more loving approach where you look at the whole picture to get a sense of what’s really going on, what’s causing the pain (or other symptom), how can we eliminate it all together (or as much as possible). Healing is about helping your body work as well as possible without causing any more damage.

I look forward to hearing Ashley’s response to this because we immediately agreed on the word “healing”– I wonder if it’s for the same reasons?

Ashley: Yes! Ditto to what Erin said. I think of “treat” as like…a topical treatment for acne. It might make the outward symptoms go away (which is awesome). But it doesn’t necessarily heal the root problem (inflammation, hormones, food sensitivities, stress, etc).

For me also “healing” is an active word. You get “treated” by a doctor, who sits you down and tells you what to do. Healing is an ongoing process of evaluation and addressing different areas of your life that all connect to cause whatever issues you have. Untangling that web is where healing begins.

health coach chronic illness

Stacy: Hi Ashley and Erin! I’ll get the ball rolling. If I were to do only one thing diet/mindset-wise to help improve my health, what would you recommend that be?

Erin: Hi Stacy! I LOVE this question. For me, it’s all come down to choosing to be kind to yourself, every day.

First, by “making the choice” you are taking responsibility for your actions and sending signals to the universe (not to sound too woo-woo or anything) that you are in control. I know many times whether it’s symptoms of a chronic illness or depression, it can feel like we are victims of our symptoms so doing this is a simple way to claim some of our power back.

As far as what “being kind” means, that’s up to each person to interpret. For me, being kind means feeding my body food that fuels it, implementing some self-care routines (super simple stuff like dry brushing, using a tongue scraper, or if I’m feeling fancy and like heading out, a mani/pedi), and paying attention to my thoughts and went they go to a negative place, bringing them back to the positive.

Making kindness to yourself a daily practice– even if it’s a TINY little thing you do or think, can be the catalyst for a huge shift.

There’s no need to make a huge a list of things you have to do every day to have “succeeded”. Instead, I would suggest focusing on doing one tiny thing for yourself everyday. As you keep moving forward, you become more consistent and that kindness becomes the norm.

Here is a blog post I wrote about the power of kindness with one of my favorite tips to help remind us to be more kind to ourselves: http://bit.ly/PVGO5z

Ashley: Love this, Erin! Stacy, from a diet perspective – there are a few really easy ways to start.

First I’d say…work out “crowding out” processed foods by slowly working in more plant foods. That doesn’t mean you have to stop eating your favorite things or go on a diet (!!!) it just means slowly working in more nutritionally dense foods. As you get more and more comfortable with the healthier options, it becomes easier to make them your new go to, everyday food choices.

If you’re dealing with “low spoons” I’d suggest trying fruit/veg smoothies. Super quick easy way to get your fruit and veg in without having to do a lot of prep. Soups and stews are also another quick way to get in lot’s of veg and protein without having to do a ton of work. Just throw everything in a pot and let it simmer.

As far as any healing diet goes though – we need to start with the gut. Our gut has more neurons than the brain and is the root of everything from our emotions to our immune system. I wrote a blog with some super simple ways to start healing your digestion here: http://bit.ly/1kMsbN2 Thanks for your question!!


Chrissy: Hey girls!  Which plant-based foods would you say are best for fighting chronic fatigue? Also, do you have any good tips for beating insomnia? Huge thanks in advance, xxx

Ashley: Hey Chrissy! For chronic fatigue it’s really important to include more energizing foods into your diet. Think anything green. Which doesn’t have to mean eating boring salads all the time. Green smoothies (Kris Carr has a ton of great recipes on her site) and adding greens to stir fry’s and soups are all easy ways to up your energy level.

Do you tend to crave sugar? That’s a nasty one that definitely isn’t helping your energy levels. Adding in things like green tea and miso soup can help you with cutting sugar cravings AND give you an energy boost AND helps your gut.

I have a bunch more thoughts on this, but don’t want to overwhelm you! lol

For insomnia what is your nighttime routine like? What are some things you find super calming that you can do in the hour or two before bed?

If you’re having issues with constantly racing thoughts – my first suggestion would be to try acupuncture. I didn’t sleep for about 6 months and then started seeing an acupuncturist and she completely knocked me out!

A free alternative (minus the needles) would be to try EFT aka tapping. It looks super crazy, but really does work. I use it whenever I have an occasional flare up of pain. Here’s a fun video you can try:


Paula: I get really sick from methotrexate which is treating my rheumatoid arthritis !? Nothing I do helps stop being sick the same day ot dat after and even two days after can u suggest any alternatives for getting vital stuff in me without taking vitamins or more tablets as I’m often left feeling quite raw and rundown

Erin: Hi Paula! Are there certain foods that you seem to do better with than others with the methotrexate? How about liquids vs. solids?

I bet Ashley has some tips on coping with the arthritis and nausea! It’s still early here in the US but she’ll be jointing us shortly  Thanks for your Q

Ashley: Hey Paula have you tried ginger for nausea? It’s also an anti-inflammatory which could help your arthritis pain (there’ve been lots of studies showing great results with this).

Let us know if liquids are easier for you than solids and then I can give you more specific recommendations.

Paula: Liquids deffo !

Erin: Have you tried smoothies or green juice Pula? They can be a great way to sneak in a ton of nutrients without overwhelming your gut! I love this infographic from Kris Carr:


Michelle: How would you suggest to start changing your lifestyle? I’m unable to get out and about to exercise due to my illness, so I often find eating is a comfort. It’s a vicious cycle. Any suggestions?

Erin: Hey Michelle! I totally hear you re: eating is a comfort. The fact that you are aware of that is huge and means you can do something about it 🙂

Are you familiar with Danielle LaPorte‘s work at all? She talks all about identifying your “core desired feelings” (how you want to feel each day). One of the exercises she suggests, is to get really clear on what your CDFs are. For example, one of mine is “whole”. Next, you sort of define what that means to you. So, for me, to feel whole means to feel inspired, aware, awake, and engaged. Next you make a list of all of the activities that you can do to feel this way. So, to feel “whole” i can, do read some of my favorite author’s work that makes me feel inspired and powerful, I can meditate to get that feeling of awareness and connection, I can decide to put my phone down for an hour and really pay attention to the people I’m with, etc.

Perhaps you can think about what things bring you comfort! First, what does that really mean to you and then what are some things you can do to have that experience that don’t necessarily involve food? Maybe picking up your favorite book, calling a friend, popping into your favorite positive + supportive Facebook group 😉 etc. If you need a reminder, go ahead and tape your list of things to the fridge, then if you sort of mindlessly wander in that direction you can ask yourself if you’re hungry or if you’re seeking comfort and then move forward.

I haven’t tried this myself (yet!) but I also have heard that using tapping/EFT can be very useful. I was just recommended a book on this, let me see if I can find the title 🙂

Ashley: I’m a total comfort eater too Michelle. I know whenever I would have a flare up all I wanted was potato chips and chocolate. So maybe for you – starting with the food piece isn’t the way to go (although there are companies you can order fresh veg boxes and pre-made healthy meals, if that seems like an affordable option).

I think tackling the mindset stuff like Erin mentioned would be huge for you. That’ll allow you to slowly work on creating other behaviors that can comfort you when you’re not feeling well.

If you’re not able to leave the house to exercise – there are lot’s of youtube videos and amazon videos for workouts you can do at home. This site is entirely for people with chronic pain – so that might be a great place to start: www.fibromyalgia-fitness.com

Erin: Got it! This is the book– not exactly on topic but I bet there are great techniques that can be used around mindful eating! The Tapping Solution for Weight Loss & Body Confidence: A Woman’s Guide to Stressing Less, Weighing Less, and Loving More


Fenella: I am wheelchair bound and can’t get out to do any exercise. I have crps and functional neurological disorder. Is there anything you could recommend?

Ashley: Hi Fenella, um first of all is that you skydiving??? It makes my stomach drop just looking at it!!

I’m not incredibly familiar with either issue you’re dealing with, but from what I’ve read CRPS is another name for RSD, no? You might not like this answer…but I know acupuncture can do wonders for RSD and other conditions effecting the nerves in the body. I personally am deathly afraid of needles, but when receiving acupuncture – its an entirely different experience and sensation. The needles are small and thin and are barely even going past the surface of your skin. I would highly, highly recommend seeking someone out that comes with good reviews. It can absolutely change your health. It did for me after having chronic pain since the age of 3.

As far as food goes (I’m probably sounding like a broken record at this point) adding in fruits and vegetables along with lean proteins is the way to go. Processed foods (anything with ingredients you can’t pronounce) are definitely going to trigger you. Also if you’re able to buy more organic produce would be ideal, you’ll want to avoid pesticides as much as possible – as that can also aggravate your symptoms.

Erin and I have a friend that recovered from RSD (again I’m assuming that at CRPS are similar..) using alternative methods. I interviewed her a while ago. She has some great fun suggestions for small things you can do to bring a little more sparkle to your life!

Fenella: Hi Ashley Williams. Yes, that is me skydiving, I did a while back when my symptoms were relatively minor. IT WAS AMAZING! CRPS is the new name for RSD so they are exactly the same. I will definitely give acupuncture a go. Thanks for your suggestions and help. Xx

Erin: Thats so awesome!! Sky diving is definitely on my bucket list!!  Let us know how the acupuncture goes!! xx

Ashley: Fenella – awesome. Glad you’re willing to try acupuncture. It really is the thing that initiated the changes in my health. Can’t wait to hear how it goes.


Want even more Ashley and Erin? You can check out their joint coaching programme, Happy, Healthy + Healing, or see what they offer individually: Ashley Williams of Greenlight Holistic Healing and Erin Lindstrom.