Three months ago I interviewed RiverDell Resident Linda Chagachbanian for an article titled, "Can One Conversation Change Your life?"
At the time she had just launched her own nutritional/holistic consultation business called "MY HEALTHY HAPPINESS." Amazingly, in the brief span of time since we last spoke, this incredibly astute cancer survivor, educator and mother, has found her way into the lives of people who have already begun to benefit from her wisdom.
"I love that I've already been able to help people accomplish things they didn't think they could ever do, with just some small, carefully considered lifestyle changes," Chagachbanian says, smiling. "What I like best about being a holistic/nutritional counselor is how each client has their own unique needs and requires their own individualized approach."
For someone who stared down cancer with such unflinching ferocity, rather than appearing drained or damaged from the struggle, Chagachbanian quite literally glows with energy and health. It's inspiring, to say the least.
Her expertise in dietary supplements and nutrition goes well beyond the usual "lose the carbs" credo of many fitness instructors (which she also happens to be). Instead, having studied at the prestigious Institute of Integrative Nutrition in New York City, her consultancy brings a far more flexible "whole body and lifestyle" approach to weight loss and health that is specifically created around the circumstances of the individual.
"Just the other day I went grocery shopping with a client," Chagachbanian reports. "This particular gentleman experiences residual brain injury from the effects of an accident he experienced as a teenager."
Now a middle-aged man, he has been primarily been reliant on family for most of his meals. "We toured the supermarket together," Chagachbanian recalls, "looking for healthy, easy-to make meals and snacks he can enjoy while being more self-reliant."
In the case of a client whose life has been limited for a long time by boundaries established by a serious injury, Linda Chagachbanian realized two of the greatest tools she could give him would be knowledge and self-confidence.
"Now he's going out, looking healthy, looking forward towards a more open, healthier life that includes more activities and greater freedom." Chagachbanian beams with delight over the man's achievement, evidence of the kind of heartfelt compassion and pragmatic problem-solving she doles out along with nutritional advice.
MY HEALTHY HAPPINESS operates out of a cozy, private office in Gold's Gym in Paramus, where Chagachbanian is also a fitness instructor. The office reflects her style; businesslike and clutter-free but still warm and friendly.
For those clients who may be a bit "gym-phobic," a visit with Chagachbanian is not going to ruffle any feathers. Although her office is located on gym premises, it is situated just a few steps from the main entrance. While some of her clients are members of the gym in need of a nutritional tune-up, others come with very specific issues to address.
"Some are moms who want to lose a few pounds, get themselves healthy and feed their family nice, quick tasty meals," Chagachbanian says. "They don't want to have to diet; to shop and prepare two separate meals for themselves and for their families....and I teach them that there's no reason they should have to!"
"I have one client," she continues, "who was quite literally living on over-the-counter antacids. I suggested something as simple as putting sliced lemon in water. That's a natural way to neutralize the acid. We made some very small shifts in her diet and habits, now things are better for her."
Chagachbanian generally sees clients twice a month and stays in touch with questions and offers suggestions via email. The goal is make a program for the individual that fosters better health, but is still manageable and realistic enough to incorporate into the day-to-day lives of her clients.
For a woman who in 2008 was herself diagnosed with a serious form of breast cancer, Linda Chagachbanian has a busy and interesting future ahead. Coming up this fall she will be teaching health and nutrition at Paramus Community School.
In addition she applied for and was accepted to a very exclusive conference for nutritional professionals in Costa Rica. Only 100 of the 700 applicants who applied were given this amazing opportunity to further their craft, and happily, Chagachbanian is one of them.
Her intention is to learn as much as she can, and then to share it.
Before concluding our interview she offers me a taste of some quinoa (pronounced "Kin-Wah") salad she happens to have handy. I leave her office with a little cup full of the light, delicious, protein-packed grain, grateful to have learned something new and healthy (and delicious!) which I can incorporate into my life.