Cheryl Coon Talks Raw Food

“Wherever you are right now, I’ll meet you there.”
After 21 years of corporate work, Cheryl Coon is a current massage therapy student at Wellspring. Her work experience is in retail operations as well as financial planning and analysis. She is also a raw food chef and writer. She will be giving an overview about raw living food at the upcoming Wellspring Health Fair. She recently sat down and talked with Wellspring Life about her journey to a healthier lifestyle.

Cheryl is originally from Missouri, but in 1988 she moved to NYC where she discovered lots of new foods, ethnic, and fresher varieties. She was a vegetarian on and off for about 10 years. Despite this, she says her lifestyle was unhealthy mentally, physically, and emotionally from 2000 to 2008.

“In 2007, I saw Alissa Cohen do a “live foods” demonstration on a talk show, became very interested, and tried some things for a few months. I did well, but lost track and went back to old ways,” she says.

In 2008, Cheryl learned she was pre-diabetic from her doctor. She was given 30 days to turn her numbers around. She went back to raw foods to avoid taking medicines. That same year she had knee surgery. The following year, she contacted a graduate of Alissa Cohen, who worked with her to change her pantry, creating an eating plan, and find the necessary equipment to ease her into the process of changing her eating habits. From 2008 to 2010, she worked through the ups and downs that come with changing your lifestyle.

In 2010, Cheryl joined Title Boxing Club and “loved every minute of it!” That was the same year she fully committed to healthy eating and exercise, shedding 50 pounds and keeping it off.

In the fall of 2011, Cheryl attended all three levels of Alissa Cohen’s Living on Live Food Certification Program in Kittery, ME, becoming a Chef, Instructor, and Teacher. This was her introduction to raw foods. The following year, she got an opportunity to work at Living Light Culinary Institute in Fort Bragg, CA. She was able to take some classes, and became immersed in the raw food culture, developing a deeper interest along the way.

This year, she attended the Matthew Kenney Academy in Santa Monica, CA and completed the Fundamentals of Raw Cuisine program.

WL: Was it difficult for you to transition to a raw food diet?

CC: Yes and no. Difficult because I love Mexican cuisine, cheese, bread, and pasta; easy because the food was delicious and I felt 200 times better. My skin and hair were healthy and clear. Once I understood the basics like the equipment and types of ingredients to have on hand the rest was pretty simple. Boredom was the initial struggle because early on I tended to eat the same things. Taking the classes has really broadened my tastes… When I was in California or Australia or Bali it was super easy to stay with my preferred eating but I still struggle with it because sometimes I am surrounded by old loves. When I do stray I am not nearly as satisfied as when I stick to my living foods diet.

WL: What other benefits have you experienced from the raw food diet? What do you eat in a typical day?

CC: I have fun preparing and sharing the food and its benefits. The food is beautiful. I think it is fun that you can make Swiss cheese out of cashews and coconut meat. In a typical day, I have a green smoothie in the morning (kale, ginger, lemon, apples, celery, romaine, water); lunch is a really good salad with beets, zucchini, arugula, and peppers, kale (anything green, crunchy, and yummy). Dinner could be another green smoothie or flax crackers and cashew cheese, or zucchini noodles with pesto or marinara sauce.

WL: How much exercise do you get on a regular day?

CC: 45 minutes to an hour doing kickboxing, Crossfit, or walking.

WL: Do you track your calories? If so, roughly how many calories do you eat on a daily basis?

CC: I don’t track my calories.

WL: Do you feel there are spiritual benefits to a raw food diet and lifestyle?

CC: Absolutely, from having a clearer mind, not being sluggish, and feeling happier overall. It improves my ability to make better life decisions.

WL: Are there any foods or aspects of a less healthful lifestyle that you miss? If so, how do you deal with this?

CC: Yes, I miss hanging out and grazing with friends. I’m less likely to go out if eating is the main goal. I’ve brought an entire meal or green smoothie to a restaurant.

WL: What inspires you to continue in a raw lifestyle?

CC: It’s fun and creative, and the food is so tasty!

WL: Do you take any supplements? Why or why not?

CC: No, I don’t take pills. Hoping to get everything I need from what I eat.

WL: How do you feel about the raw food movement as a whole?

CC: I prefer to call it live or living food. The purpose is to keep the nutrients and enzymes intact. The moment you cook/heat/boil foods it changes the structure of it. It’s less about eating uncooked dead food than about catching the food while it is still living and as nutrient dense as possible.

WL: What advice would you give to someone just starting out with raw foods?

CC: Give yourself a break. Either go for it and try it all at once, or ease into it. Find replacements for your favorite foods. Find people who are already living the lifestyle for guidance and support.

If you want to reach out to Cheryl about raw living food, contact her at cherylc6427@gmail.com or at 913-674-9205. Her motto is, “Wherever you are right now, I’ll meet you there.”


Spotlight on Wellspring Graduates: Deana Finical

Deanna is originally from Garnett, KS. She lived on a farm in rural Coffey county for 32 years before moving to Kansas City to study massage therapy. She graduated from Wellspring in 2011, passing the National Certification Exam shortly after. She is licensed in the state of Missouri and the city of Overland Park, KS. Deanna recently took some time to share her experiences as a massage therapist with Wellspring Life.

WL: What led you to become a Massage Therapist?

DF: In the early 90’s, I was diagnosed with a disease that the medical profession told me was not treatable. I began a quest to get my health back on track and found many ways to correct my body’s imbalance through natural healing. When faced with being single after 32 years of marriage, I needed to find a career to support myself. I wanted one that I could be passionate about and where I could help others learn more about helping their bodies to heal. Massage therapy was an even better choice than I had anticipated.

WL: What was your favorite aspect of life at Wellspring?

DF: I loved receiving bodywork 3 times a week! I always learned just as much from receiving a massage as I did giving a massage. I liked the small class sizes and that much of the staff are massage therapists.

WL: Where do you work and how long have you been there?

DF: After passing my National Certification, I took a job (the next day) with New Life Massage. The owner was one of our speakers during our business class at Wellspring. He critiqued our resumes and then after class asked me to call him for a job. I have worked for him for almost 2 years and do corporate chair massage. One of the corporations that I work at is Burns and McDonnell, just down the street from Wellspring. I passed it every day on my way to school, never imagining that someday I would work there. I also do chair massage at Quintiles, Cerner, Honeywell and the Nazarene Global Ministry Center.

WL: What do you love most about your work?

DF: I see clients in their workplace so they are usually stressed when they come in for the massage. Sometimes they come in about ready to scream but they always leave relaxed, calm, and appreciative. Clients trust me to help them feel better and there is no greater reward for me.

WL: What do you find most challenging?

DF: My biggest challenge is taking care of my own body. I am trying to build my clientele which means working as much as possible and doing as many massages as requested. It is challenging to make time to take care of myself while I am busy taking care of others, but it is a must if you want to stay in this industry.

WL: How do you stay current with trends in your industry?

DF: I take CE classes from Wellspring, online from ABMP and locally in KC. I still learn from other therapists, too, whenever I receive a massage.

WL: What expectations of your work did you have when you started that turned out to be false/true?

DF: I think most of us going into the field think we will earn a lot more money than we do. I didn't know until halfway through school that I couldn't do massage 40 hours a week. 15 to 20 hours a week is my limit as it is for most therapists. So, if you think you will get rich doing massage that is false. It takes years to build a clientele whether you work for yourself or for someone else. The expectation that I had that that people want to feel better and take better care of their bodies turned out to be very true. There are so many people today that are looking for ways to be healthier and massage therapy is such a benefit for everyone. You just have to find ways to reach those people and keep them as clients.

WL: What advice would you give to current Wellspring students preparing to enter your field?

DF: Keep your options open. I never planned on doing corporate chair massage, but I love it! I wanted to start my own business right away but I am glad that I worked in the field before I did. Every day is a learning experience. You will learn just as much working in the field as you did in school.

Always give the massage that you would expect yourself. Listen to what your client is telling you. Nothing will chase your clients away quicker than to do nothing that they asked you to.

Be honest. If you don’t know about a certain medical problem that they have mentioned, tell them you need to refresh your memory on that one.

Educate your clients. They want to feel better all the time, not just when you give them a massage. Tell them what they can do in between massages to keep those muscles in great shape.

Above all, be confident. It will show in your work and your clients will trust you.

Deanna Finical is currently transitioning her website from www.onegalandatable.com to www.take5massagekc.com. She can be reached by email at dmassagegal@gmail.com

New Life Massage’s website is www.newlifemassagekc.com


You're Invited to the Wellspring Annual Health Fair!

Please Join Us for our Annual Health Fair and Open House

When: Friday, June 28 11 a.m. - 7 p.m.

Where: 9140 Ward Parkway, KC MO (at the corner of 92nd and Ward Parkway)

Tour the school and learn about community classes and continuing education. Hear from guest speakers. Experience and share in our philosophy of health and wellness. All are welcome!   

Enjoy complementary: 

  • Chair Massage
  • Fitness Assessment
  • Refreshments
  • Mini-Workshops
  • Health Screening


Spotlight on Wellspring Graduates: Julia K. Thomas

"Massage therapy is a deeply beautiful work to perform."

Julia K. Thomas is originally from Trenton, MO. She grew up on a farm in northern Missouri, where her family still lives and works the land. She moved to the Kansas City area in 1991 after attending MU in Columbia, MO. She became a real estate agent in 1995. She enrolled at Wellspring in 2007 after being exposed to the bodywork of John Barnes Myofascial Release Institute.

“I was intrigued and vowed to learn how to do the work,” says Julia. “While I enjoyed real estate, it is a grueling way to make a living and I found very little time to myself. “

Halfway through her massage program, Julia started her massage practice by renting space in Prairie Village, KS (which was unregulated at the time). She graduated from Wellspring in 2008 and went on to pass that National Certification Exam, becoming a Licensed Massage Therapist. She recently shared her experiences and insights as a massage therapist with in an interview with Wellspring Life.

WL: What was your favorite aspect of life at Wellspring?

JT: The enthusiasm of the instructors and getting daily bodywork.

WL: Where do you work and how long have you been there?

JT: Upon graduation, I moved to a space in Overland Park, and then to Leawood. My client base has grown to the degree that I needed to hire other therapists in order to meet the demand. I found a space in Roeland Park, which I built out to have four therapy rooms and a lobby. I hired three therapists in the firsts three months and have grown steadily since then. I now employ between 6 and 8 therapists at any given time.

WL: What do you love most about your work?

JT: What I love the most about being a massage therapist, is that nearly every person who comes to see me is there because they genuinely want to be. In my previous career of being a real estate agent, there was so much tension and stress in the job. In massage therapy there is a lack of stress, a peace that overcomes both client and therapist. People tell me that seeing me is their favorite time of their routines. I love being able to have an entire network of people I know and keep up with while “working”. Confucius says, “Find work you love and you will never work a day in your life.” That is mostly how I feel while doing massage. It can be somewhat grueling at times, and when my body isn’t feeling the greatest it can be hard. For the most part, I love the work.

WL: What do you find most challenging?

JT: The most challenging part of being a massage therapist for me is getting clients to see the importance of maintaining regular massage work for their continued optimal health. I find a lot of people come until the pain is minimized and then they simply cease their care until the pain again becomes unmanageable. This yo-yo makes sustaining a healthy body difficult, and it makes it difficult for massage therapists to sustain a career that has steady income. There is a constant process of building clientele. Also, as a business owner there is a constant need to market and find new clients.

WL: How do you stay current with trends in your industry?

JT: In order to stay current with massage trends, I read my massage magazines from AMTA as well as a subscription massage magazine. I also read blogs and network with other massage therapy studio owners.

WL: What expectations did you have of your work when you started that turned out to be true/false?

JT: I believe most people who enter into massage therapy have some preconceived notions about what the work will be like. I thought I would be doing a lot more massages every day and week than I actually can or am willing to do. I feel like I have worked a rigorous full time week if I do 15 to 20 hours of massage per week. In talking to most other therapists, I have found most people also cannot do much more than 20 hours. It is far more difficult physically and emotionally than I would have imagined it to be.

WL: What advice would you give to current Wellspring students preparing to enter your field?

JT: I sometimes come into the business class [at the Wellspring campus] to field questions from current students, and the question of what advice I have often comes up. Several things come to mind:

Get a website. Never quit marketing yourself and asking for business, even if you work for a spa or studio, drive business to yourself at that location and make sure you are staying busy. The quickest way to burnout is to not have money for your bills. This skill will pay off regardless of your path.

Get regular massage from as many people as you can. Give regular massages to massage therapists and ask for honest feedback.  NEVER stop learning and growing and listen intently to feedback from clients and therapists. Anytime someone does a massage technique that you like, try to copy it and introduce it into your technique.

Never forget who you are in the room for. The client on the table is paying a premium for your undivided attention, and they deserve it. Give them the same massage you would like to be receiving. In your mind, honor them and give them the very best you have to offer. If you find yourself clock watching, you either are doing to many massages, or you are not invested in your work. This is an indication that you need to rest more, meditate, pray, or whatever ritual helps center you and bring you back. The second your heart is not in the work, you have broken the necessary connection between you and the client. Staying focused also helps you in the work. Massage therapy is a deeply beautiful work to perform, and for me can be a spiritual experience when I am Connected.

Julia Thomas maintains a website at www.ImagineWholeness.com and can be reached via email at Julia@imaginewholeness.com.