Kathy Pennock, Certified Health Coach, Onward Wellness

Kathy Pennock stands beside one of the mottos she teaches her clients at Onward Wellness. Pennock opened her health coaching business in April at 2319 Roosevelt St. in Clinton.

CLINTON – For Kathy Pennock, adding a thought element to weight loss was the key to success. For Jean Wilkin, it was the one-on-one coaching.

Both components make Onward Wellness a different kind of weight-loss program.

Pennock started Onward Wellness in April in the former Odd Fellows building in Lyons. The retired senior human resources director is now a health coach, teaching clients not only healthy eating habits, but healthy life habits.

Pennock has a bachelor’s degree in human resources and organizational management and spent 35 years in HR. In 2016 she earned health coach certification from the American Council on Exercise.

Though Pennock used what she learned as she led workplace wellness teams, that wasn’t the reason she sought certification. “When I was certified, it was really to drive my future as a health coach,” Pennock said.

Pennock is studying with The Life Coach School to move the focus of Onward from weight and health to life as a whole, but for now she primarily does one-on-one coaching for weight loss, she said.

“We have three areas that we work on,” said Pennock. The food element is not concentrated on calorie intake or micro nutrients but on the hunger scale.

The scale ranks hunger from 1-10, according to the Center for Health Promotion & Wellness at MIT Medical, ranging from 1 – hunger causing physical symptoms such as headaches, dizziness or lack of coordination – to 10 – beyond full and physically miserable.

“Most people enjoy their food and eat comfortably when they are between a 3 and a 6 on the hunger scale,” MIT Medical says.

The second part of the program is movement, Pennock said. Rather than creating an exercise program, Onward Wellness encourages clients to continue whatever physical activities they currently enjoy.

“Start where you’re at, and we’ll work from there,” Pennock said.

Thought work is the third element at Onward Wellness. “It’s really the key to success,” Pennock said. “What are we thinking? Why are we thinking that?”

Once clients understand how a thought is hindering them, “We can change it,” Pennock said.

In addition to one-on-one sessions, Pennock coaches partners such as best friends or sisters. She has a pair of co-workers in the program. “It really works well for them,” Pennock said; they can support each other during work hours.

This week Pennock launched group coaching for those who prefer being in a group and for those who want to participate but can’t get a one-on-one spot; Onward Wellness has a waiting list.

Outside of coaching, Pennock provides a meal preparation class the first Saturday of each month, and during the summer Onward’s walking club meets every Saturday morning.

After clients meet their weight-loss goals, they drop out of the one-on-one sessions, but Pennock doesn’t leave them without support. She offers a monthly maintenance program that gives clients up-to-date information and helps them “stay on track.”

Health coaches have been certified for about 10 years, Pennock said, but they aren’t prevalent in the Clinton area. “Most people are like, ‘What is a health coach?’”

People are familiar with personal trainers who focus on exercise and dietitians who focus on healthy eating, Pennock said. A health coach covers both.

The personalized care worked for Jean Wilkin who started with Onward Wellness in May.

“I had lost weight many times previously and regained it,” Wilkin said. “The idea of working one-on-one with someone weekly intrigued me.

“Kathy’s wonderful. She’s so supportive and encouraging and forgiving,” Wilkin said. “[She] kind of teaches you to forgive yourself for your mistakes.”

Wilkin hit her original goal to lose 35 pounds and is trying to shed a few more before moving to the maintenance program.

“I’ve seen so much success and growth working with her,” said Wilkin. The main success is in weight loss, “but also, I’ve become more disciplined ... not only with my food choices, but with my time choices.”

Knowing that Pennock is always there “if you stumble,” helped Wilkin lose the weight. “She’s just got a great way of making you look at things a bit differently,” Wilkin said. “Not beat yourself up.”

Wilkin tried Weight Watchers, she said, and the program worked – until she stopped going. Then she gained the weight back. “Just having the personal one-on-one was huge to me,” Wilkin said. “It’s clearly what I needed.”

Pennock herself rode the weight-loss roller coaster, the health coach said, gaining and losing the same 30 pounds. Pennock found that thought work made the difference for her.

Pennock will demonstrate meal prep and share tips for wellness during the holidays on Shop Small Saturday, Nov. 30. Onward Wellness and Nadi Yoga, who share the building at 2319 Roosevelt St. in Clinton, will host an open house from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.