"I want to live to be 100!": A Conversation with Karen Boudreaux, Massage Therapist and Health Coach
Before we had even got seated to fully hunker down into our conversation, Karen had let me know that her goal was to live to 100 years old. And not a bed-ridden, fragile 100 years. A robust 100 years old. She decided upon this goal when she saw Covington's oldest man on a Fourth of July float. He was 103 years old. A robust 103 years old. She looked at him and said "THAT! That is what I want." She sees taking care of her body holistically (hence the title of her business- Holistic Life Approach) as the key to reaching that goal.
And Karen is well on her way. She's lived a full, blessed life, she tells me- she began her interest in health while training to be a nurse at Charity Hospital when she was straight out of high school, which she says gave her the foundations to understanding the human body. She has three children, Jason, Jim and Aubrey, and a granddaughter. She managed resorts in Belize for nine years, where she fell even deeper in love with nature and became interested in Mayan herbal healing remedies, which she works to combine with her practice today. She worked a licensed massage therapist, and has had her own private health coaching practice for the last five years.
We spoke in her beautiful private practice in downtown Covington, which Karen says reflects her aesthetic sensibilities. The space's walls are a soothing dark green and dark maroon. The front door is bordered with stained glass windows, which cast a beautiful, yellowish light on the space, making it feel like its permanently sunset. Dark wood side tables, local art along the walls, and light, soothing music filled the rooms. This space, combined with Karen's welcoming presence, immediately put me at ease.
We discussed the challenges of being an advocate for natural, unprocessed, nutritious foods in a state that has the least healthy diet in the country, according to a study conducted by 24/7 Wall Street. When I asked her what the biggest challenge in being a wellness professional in an environment that doesn't prioritize nutrition, she answered quickly; tradition. She explained how in a state like Louisiana, locals are much less likely to leave their hometowns, and even when they do, they tend to return eventually, as she did. This strong emphasis on home and tradition plays itself out in many ways, and arguably the strongest way is through food. Gumbo, red beans and rice, pralines, grits. All of these things mean family, and even when faced with extreme rates of diabetes, obesity and heart disease, cutting these foods out of their life is not only a diet change, it's a heartbreaking loss. Not to mention the rates of poverty that much of Louisiana has faced (Louisiana has the 3rd highest rate of poverty in the country, barely outranking Mississippi) and the food deserts that plague the state, the access to healthy, affordable foods is limited, while access to cheap, sugary, processed foods is plentiful. This fondness for tradition sometimes fuels her clients misunderstandings of the fundamentals of health, and oftentimes if they are not coached into sustainable healthy practices, they'll eventually return "home" to their former eating habits.
For her clients wanting to change their habits without having to overhaul their entire lifestyle, she promotes the OptaVia 5&1 program. The program's main pillar is encouraging its clients to eat 6 small meals a day to promote their metabolism, and not keep them hungry. The program provides prepackaged meals for its clients, with a special emphasis on on-the-go snacks to ensure that one's life does not have to revolve around their diet and their food choices. Their website echoes many of Karen's sentiments: "We know that the easier healthy habits are to form, the more sustainable they become and that leads to lifelong transformation." But she doesn't advocate that her clients live off this food forever. Because she recognizes the importance of understanding the importance of healthy eating, and the difficulty that comes along with completely switching your lifestyle in a matter of days or weeks, she sees OptaVia as a soft entry into that world. She also sees it as a way of showing yourself (and your body) a simple truth- that when you eat good food, you feel better. Once you begin to recognize this change in yourself, eating healthier becomes an easier choice, Karen says.
Karen's message is simple- living a full life is good. Living a healthy life is good. These two simple principles will help her reach her goal of reaching a vibrant 100, and will help her instill this message in her clients as well.
I'd like to say a big thank you to Karen for being so welcoming and open about her journey with health, and making my first interview so easy!
If you're interested in Karen's health coaching or massage therapy services, visit her website www.holisticlifeapproach.com or give her a call at 985-276-8119.