It’s Her Turn; A Delayed Destiny

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Photo by Jennifer Marquez for Hola Iowa
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By Christina Fernández-Morrow, Hola Iowa

Aracely Cerón de Calderón is having a moment. She has raised three college graduates, made a home in Des Moines, and has just completed her certification to be a health and nutrition coach.  “I was motivated by my own health journey that started 5 years ago. I had a hormonal imbalance that affected me in a very drastic way. I fell into a state of depression and anxiety. I overcame it by making changes in my diet, physical activity and lowering my stress levels,” says Calderón. “I had no energy. I was tired all the time. My body was inflamed. All of this increased my stress and affected not only my physical well-being, but emotional and spiritual as well.” Her menopause symptoms were cutting into her quality of life. Having fled El Salvador in 2005 for a more peaceful life where her family could thrive, she was no stranger to facing challenges head-on. She started small, incorporating more whole foods and vitamins into her diet. She began walking daily, even when all she could handle was a few minutes a day. When she began to feel better, she shared advice with others who had similar health concerns. “As I recovered, I had the idea of sharing my results with others in the community, especially those who need baby steps to get started. You can have significant results in overall health by making small changes. For example, replacing ultra-processed foods with whole grains and eliminating sugary beverages.”

Over time, Calderón added daily meditation to her day. The breathing and slowing down helped her have clarity throughout the day and helped keep her focused on making better health decisions. But she knew there was more she could do. “I spent a year researching programs and schools with curriculums that matched my needs and what I wanted to do. I found the Institute of Integrated Nutrition in New York.” She enrolled in their health coaching program and spent a year taking online courses taught by physicians, dieticians, and nutritionists. Her evenings were dedicated to homework, projects, and exams. Learning from experts elevated her confidence, taught her new methods and tools to expand her knowledge when assessing client needs and designing personalized health improvement plans. “No two humans are alike. What works for one may not work for another. We have to get to know our bodies, listen to what they are asking of us. I have some clients who don’t know how being dehydrated impacts their day. They feel tired, get headaches. They take pills for the pain, but it doesn’t stop. I ask how much water they drink. It sounds simple but it has a huge impact on our daily lives.” 

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Photo by Jennifer Marquez / Hola Iowa

Calderón was so eager to share what she was learning, she began soliciting clients as soon as she got her first certificate, even as she was still enrolled in courses. “In El Salvador I was training to be a teacher but with our move to the US and raising my kids, that was put on hold. A career was always in the back of my mind. I knew I had to return to education. I am reinventing myself. I will be 52 years old and I said, ‘This is my moment.’ This profession is so important to me because using what I learn to help transform other people to live healthier lives has become my passion.” This was clear in the excitement in her voice as she described learning about building a colorful plate to address nutrients, and how to use bio-individuality to honor our body’s uniqueness. She began informing family and friends about her new focus and offering them ideas for healthier lives. Those conversations led to her first clients and her business has grown from there through word of mouth. “I have clients who do different types of diets and have positive results for a short time but then they go back to old habits, feeling more frustrated and overwhelmed by not achieving their desired goals. It causes greater stress. I want to help people achieve their goals in sustainable ways.”

She is developing her business, Plena Vida with the help of her three children who help with business administration, marketing, graphic design, and technology. Her goal is to grow her one-on-one clientele, lead in-person and online seminars and workshops, and become a trusted health and nutrition coach in the community. In the long-term, she hopes to write a book. “Access can be difficult, so I want to make my programs available to more people,” says Calderón. “I want to help my community reach their health goals through integrative nutrition.” Integrative nutrition looks at environment, career, relationships, spirituality, social life, finances, education, and physical health when determining what’s best for your health and diet to provide individualized coaching. That philosophy is what led to naming her business. Plena Vida means a full life; to feel balanced emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and physically. “Sometimes we feel like our life’s purpose is over when we turn 50, especially women. I want them to know they still have time to live full lives. If you paused your life before meeting your goals or have some you have been working on and feel like you’ll never reach them, maybe it’s time to ask yourself the same question I did. How do I want to feel? If you want to feel whole, it doesn’t matter your age. If it’s your time to reinvent yourself, do it!”

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