After a debilitating celiac condition caused Liz Voosen’s professional dance career to become untenable both physically and emotionally, she found her proverbial light at the end of the tunnel through the GAPS protocol. Now, Liz specializes in supporting her clients with their own digestive issues as a practicing Nutritional Therapy Practitioner. Liz’s interview inspires us to get clarity on what it is we want, and to schedule travel time into our own calendars to reap the rewards of becoming entrepreneurs.
What inspired you to become a holistic entrepreneur?
My own health journey inspired me to become a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner. I was diagnosed with celiac disease when I was 32. At the time, I had an active two year old and a blossoming dance career with increasing performance opportunities and I was teaching more and more classes. Everything looked good from the outside, but I was an exhausted mess.
I had been pushing through fatigue, nausea and anxiety for over a decade. The addition of a toddler was more than I could manage. There was no more napping all afternoon before a show and carefully monitoring my energy and meal times. I developed all-over body pain. My anxiety increased as I felt worse and worse during performances and classes. I began cancelling the most difficult shows that needed lots of stamina. Honestly, the experience was confusing and depressing. I had what I wanted – a great family, a job I loved, yet I couldn’t enjoy any of it the way I thought I would.
Luckily (in my eyes), around this time a family member was diagnosed with celiac disease. It runs in families, and this person suggested I get tested, and maybe that would explain my health issues. Indeed, the test showed I had celiac and I went gluten free the next day. After so many years being sick, it was a relief to have a name for my health issues and to have such as “simple fix” to keep it in check.
In short, while the gf diet helped at first, I still felt sick. I was forced to quit my job because my energy continued to plummet. My anxiety worsened. I started developing, or noticing, multiple food allergies. And I was as skinny as ever.
I went for acupuncture, took Chinese herbs, saw functional medicine doctors, talked to therapists, did yoga at home (because I was too tired and sick to go out), and watched way too much daytime tv. But honestly, none of it helped much. I was just trying everything in hopes something would help.
Then one day, in an online forum for celiacs, someone mentioned the GAPS diet. It was basically unheard of then. This was before Facebook and the entire world being online! I was intrigued and figured I’d give it a try.
Just a month after changing my diet radically, I felt So Much Better. After just two months, I was off the couch – not all the time – but an additional 15 hours or so each week. What to do with all that free time???
I had been interested in food and health since I worked at a restaurant as a teenager and began to connect the dots between what we eat and how we feel. I think some of it was an intuitive sense from the celiac. I had been into “natural” and “healthy” foods for a long time, and knew my way around the local health food store.
But to have – BANG – such an amazing turnaround in my health, especially after doing things “right” for so long, just with a dietary change…well, I wanted to know more! And I wanted to share my story with other folks who were struggling, and share with them the HOPE of a better life and the dietary changes to achieve it.
A few weeks later I signed up for nutrition classes with the Nutritional Therapy Association and have never looked back!
Tell us about your business.
I own a private nutrition practice in Los Angeles, CA. I opened immediately upon graduating from the NTA and have been in business 5 years. I love that I can set my own hours and work for myself.
I specialize in nutrition for digestive issues. This includes autoimmune diseases, and I see a lot of clients with celiac disease, Hashimoto’s, Crohn’s, etc. Being a Certified GAPS Practitioner is a big draw for many of my clients, especially for the parents of kids with autism. I also get a handful of folks who want to lose weight.
Because of my location – I’m in Hollywood, the heart of the entertainment industry – an increasing number of my clients are actors who need to gain/lose weight for a role. I really value my NTA education here, because I am able to help them do this in the healthiest way possible, and at the end of our time together, they are back to a stable weight and feeling even better than when they came in the first time – because we used real foods, quality supplements, and they got a great education about how the human body works and why properly-prepared nutrient-dense foods matter.
How would you describe your current business model?
I work 1 on 1 with clients in person 95% of the time. I also work with distance clients via phone, and my current clients sometimes phone in as well.
My clients pay by the hour/appointment. I’ve never done packages or memberships.
I’m in the process of setting up online coursework. Check back with me later on this!
Is there a certain strategy you’ve found most effective in growing your audience?
Word of mouth from other clients is what has worked best!
I have several professionals (mostly in the psychotherapy realm) who refer clients to me. I’m also listed as a Certified GAPS Practitioner online and that brings in clients as well. And I’m on some other online practitioner listings – like a local one for celiac disease. And I’m a Weston A Price chapter leader, which keeps me in touch with local folks interested in real food and natural health; some of them have become clients over the years.
I haven’t tried much in the way of traditional marketing. I think about it, but never get around to it. Life is busy!
What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced in running your business?
The biggest challenge I face is when my health goes south, as it sometimes does. It may be just for a day, but I’ve had several instances where I’ve had health problems for weeks at a time, and one 4 month period that was really awful and I went through multiple medical tests (and in the end the doctors found nothing).
These periods are hard to deal with as a solo practitioner. I can’t give my client load that day to a colleague. In the five years I’ve been in business, I think I cancelled one client. Let’s just say it can be stressful at times like these!
Another challenge is that as a solo practitioner, I work alone and don’t have input from colleagues nearby. My online NTA community is super important to me for this reason!
And lastly, running a business is a family affair for me. My husband did my website and can help with tech issues. My mom is retired and takes the kids to activities, and helps a lot with grocery shopping, errands, and cooking. There’s no way I could work, take care of my kids, cook healthy gf meals from scratch, and see my husband for anything other than dishes if everyone weren’t pitching in where they could.
How have you overcome these challenges?
For the health issues, I just keep going. I haven’t found a better solution yet.
What were some of the first mistakes you made that you would tell a new holistic entrepreneur to avoid?
Have faith in yourself, stay calm, you can do it!! Also, be really clear on what you want.
What has been the best piece of advice you’ve received as an entrepreneur?
I grew up with two entrepreneur parents. The dinner table every night was a discussion of how their day went, which clients and projects were working out well, and where there was trouble and how it would be dealt with.
During my high school years, my mom brought her business to the house, and ran it out of a spare room on the second floor, so I had years of eavesdropping on her phone calls. And since this was pre-internet, there were lots of phone calls. It was pretty hard to avoid not picking up how to run a business and work with clients!
What is your morning routine?
Get up, check email and Facebook, check my schedule for the day, shower, eat breakfast by 9. Feed the dogs, return client emails and calls. Then my day really starts, and each day is different. Thank goodness for Google calendar to keep everything straight!
What is your favorite indulgence?
Um, not food! I think my favorite indulgence is learning and playing guitar with my husband. We have so much fun in the evenings sharing this and spending time together. We had our first few shows recently and people seem to really like us. You can see us on Facebook if you search RanchDogTheBand.
Most exotic thing you’ve ever eaten?
Chicken feet? That hardly seems exotic among nutritionists!
Most memorable place you’ve ever visited?
I’ve travelled a lot in the US and Europe. I love to camp and be out in the forest or desert or mountains. In the last decade, I’ve travelled all over the US in my van conversion. It’s got a kitchen J J So I can take my gluten free self anywhere and still have something to eat!
Since I’m typing this on the 4th of July, Mount Rushmore is what’s coming to mind as memorable!
Last book you read?
I am currently reading Justin Morgan Had a Horse and Meet Thomas Jefferson with my daughter 🙂 I read a LOT of kids literature.
For me, I am part way through The Whole Soy Story by Kaayla Daniels, which has been out for a while, and since my son is allergic to soy, I figured I should get around to reading it. The last book I finished was Everybody Writes by Ann Handley, because I want to improve my online writing and marketing.
For fun reading, which I usually get around to only when I am on the couch sick with the flu, I like to read mysteries. But I didn’t get sick this past winter, so I haven’t done any just-for-fun reading lately!
If you could only have one kind of food for the rest of your life, it would be…
Strawberries? Carrots? I think just one food for the rest of my life would get boring.
What is your go-to breakfast?
Carrot-ginger soup with a side of turkey and sauerkraut.
What do you love most about being an entrepreneur?
I love the control I get over my business and my life.
For example, the kids and I go camping/travel about one week out of six. I could never do that with a regular job. Even so, I am still available via phone/email most places we go.
I also love that my kids get to see me at my job. Like when I was growing up, they get to hear all the phone calls, see all the prep work I do – heck, just see All The Work that goes into having a job and caring deeply about it.
Liz Voosen is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner based out of Los Angeles, California. You can find out more about Liz by visiting her site, http://lizvoosenwellness.com