Tracy Roblin, of Mays Landing, tries to make sure her 4-year-old daughter, Kaitlyn, eats healthy, but her daughter will refuse to eat certain things depending on how they look.

Since Kaitlyn started attending the Garden State Academy Preschool of the Arts in Galloway Township and learning from health coach Linda Pecchia, \she has been more open to eating healthier foods and wants to recreate the healthy snacks she makes at school at home, her mother said.

"She tries so many more things now that they do this stuff at school. She is a fussy eater, and when they do this stuff at school, it opens up her horizons trying new things like hummus. I tried it on her before. She would never eat it," said Roblin, who added her daughter made hummus at school one day with Pecchia. "I guess being around other kids and the teacher and all that stuff, then, she wants to do it at home. It's a bigger influence than just constantly hearing it from mom.

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Health coaching is a rapidly growing field, where the practitioners can be part motivational speaker, part nutritionist and part personal trainer.

The doctor will set the goal or the agenda for what a patient needs to do to be healthy, but the health coach is the person who will come with a specific program for individuals to help them achieve their goals. The health coach will help change the individual's lifestyle or behaviors to more healthy ones.

Health coaches see their roles as trying to keep people from developing chronic medical conditions in the first place, or helping those that have such conditions to manage them better.

Pecchia, of Margate, works at the preschool and also operates her own separate business, called Vida Sana, where she deals with adults.

"I educate and support (adults) into making positive, healthy choices and sustainable lifestyle behavior adjustments. It's not a one-stop shop to really be healthy. You have to learn how to live that kind of life," said Pecchia, 35, who has a six-month program where she meets with a client every other week. "Some want to just lose weight. Some want to learn how to cook healthy or balance crazy work schedules with family. It all depends on each client. Through Garden State, I have health workshops for free for parents on different topics here at the school."

Judy Mendelsohn, of Margate, heard from her doctor that she needed to lose weight to lessen or avoid future health problems.

Her doctor's earlier warnings hadn't produced significant change, so two years ago, he recommended Mendelsohn try using health coach Nancy Zeltner, the owner operator of Nancy Zeltner Health Coaching in Linwood.

Mendelsohn lost 40 pounds that she gained over a 17-year period of time.

"I had kind of given up the thought that I was ever going to look like who I was supposed to be anymore," said 67-year-old Mendelsohn, who is now retired, a vegetarian and walks about four miles daily. "She made me believe that I could do whatever it is that I wanted to do."

Mendelsohn has recommended Zeltner to friends who might have similar problems.

Zeltner helps people deal with a variety of issues, including: stress, sleep issues, weight loss and lack of energy. She also helps them deal with a variety of chronic issues, including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, type 2 or pre-diabetes. Zeltner gives clients the tools that allow them to act as advocates for themselves. She usually receives referrals from doctors for people with chronic problems.

"My goal is to help (clients) confront challenges such as managing and maintaining weight-loss and chronic issues - all of which can lead to less pain and lower medical bills overall," Zeltner said.

Zeltner celebrates her third year as a health coach in January. She spent a year training with the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York, where she received her health coach certification. Zeltner spent a second year obtaining advanced training and graduated with a certificate of completion of the Immersion Program.

"It's really nice to teach people the skills and change their habits ahead of time before issues occur," Zeltner said.

Dan Kaufman, a licensed practical nurse, is also a health coach. He works in the AtlantiCare Special Care Center. Kaufman has been a nurse for more than 20 years and a health coach for the past five. Kaufman works with people with diabetes, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

While clients may share the same goals, there is no one way for helping people achieve their aims.

"People learn in different ways and require different kinds of care," said Kaufman.

Kaufman works with Dr. Ines Digenio, medical director of the AtlantiCare Special Care Center, which has locations in Atlantic City and Galloway Township. At the special care center, health coaches support patients and help them navigate the system.

"The health coach is not going to do it for them. The health coach will help the patient manage their own care," Digenio said.

Digenio said she has worked on the continents of South America and Africa where a similar concept is used called health promoters. Doctors alone cannot manage all the different environments, barriers and concerns that patients bring with them, Digenio said.

"The health coach will help the patient navigate all the complications," said Digenio, who added a doctor will say cut carbohydrates, but the health coach will translate what that means if the person eats mostly rice, potatoes, pasta or bread. "If you remember that saying - give a man a fish, and you will feed him for a day, but when you teach him how to fish, you feed him for a lifetime. That is what the health coach is doing, helping the patient to learn, to teach them how to fish instead of giving them the fish."

Contact Vincent Jackson:


For more information contact

Linda Pecchia,

Nancy Zeltner

Dan Kaufman, AtlantiCare Access Center,


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