Sharing the walk that they walk02/02/2021 02:15PM ● By Richard Gaw
By Richard L. Gaw
When compared side by side, the distinctive journeys of Kara and Kris Gibbons may be different, but the story of what will soon lead to the formation of their KSquared Health Coaching can be easily found within the delicacy of their dissimilarities.
Inspired by her second grade teacher in Whitinsville, Mass., Kara grew up with the aspiration to be a school teacher, and after she graduated with a teaching degree from Salem State College, she taught kindergarten. After moving a few years later to California, she began a career in special education as a behavioral specialist, working with families with children on the autism spectrum.
In 2002, she met Kris Gibbons, a chemical engineer from Maryland, and in 2005, the couple moved “back East” and settled in Kennett Square, where they eventually purchased a home in the Kennett Borough and had three children.
While Kris commuted more than an hour each way to his new engineering job in Paulsboro, N.J., Kara continued to pursue a career in education, working part-time as a teaching aide at Kennett Middle School. Like most young couples, the Gibbons’ had tethered their lives and their family to the principles of good health and well being, but had done so more out of a general principle than out of a passion to do so.
Then Feb. 7, 2010 came.
On that day, Kara’s sister Robin, herself a mother and behavioral specialist in the prime of her adult life, lost her battle to colon cancer after a two-year fight. She was only 35 years old.
The spark of empowerment
“After Robin’s death, I had two babies at home, and I was struggling with my grief and my health,” Kara said. “During the depths of my grief, one of my best friends came to visit and she looked very happy and healthy. I asked her what she was doing because I was about to call my doctor for medication. She told me that she had recently gotten into clean eating, and that it made all of the difference for her.
“That became my spark, and in that moment, I thought, ‘What can I do to help myself?’”
Over the next several months – between starting a committed schedule of exercise, personal therapy, the healing arts and rewriting her diet – Kara began a journey that would eventually lead to the formation of her career as a persona health coach. She already had a live-in and willing partner; together she and Kris eliminated processed foods, cut back on their intake of sugar, limited their alcohol intake and made the switch to a plant-based diet through the guidance of recipe books, healthy diet magazines and Kris’ home cooking.
“During this difficult time after Robin’s passing, we accepted a lot of changes at the same time, and it was the power of all of those together that gave us a new found clarity and balance,” Kris said. “It became a time not only for us both to support each other, it became the beginning of our new journey together.”
When the Gibbons’ children were old enough to attend school, Kara took a part-time position with Dr. Ricky Haug at Core Family Practice in Kennett Square, and during one of many discussions she had with Dr. Haug, she discussed the idea of pursuing a career as a health coach. It would be the merging of old and new passions, she told him, that would combine her love of teaching with her new-found interest in health education.
With Dr. Haug’s encouragement, Kara enrolled in a nine-month accelerated online training program at the New York-based Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN), the world’s largest and most respected nutrition and health coaching school.
In 2019, she began her career as a health coach, and now works primarily with women of many professions – business owners, nurses, teachers and educators among them – who wish to improve their approach to food, realize the benefits of regular exercise, and strengthen their feeling of self-worth in all areas of their life.
“I just felt that every experience I ever had before – teaching kindergarten in Massachusetts, nurturing those families in California and my education at IIN -- had guided me to the point where I am now, telling people to love themselves, respect themselves and make themselves a priority,” she said. “With Robin as my inspiration, I am also able to teach colon health awareness as part of encouraging people to take control of their health.”
While the breadth of the sessions she has with her clients range greatly, Kara always starts with a meditation exercise, followed by the question she asks: “What have you done to honor yourself lately?”
“It’s amazing to give someone a compliment, and to see their face light up,” she said. “What I try to do is to have the clients say those things to themselves. I have them write it down. I have them record it in their on voices and play it back to themselves. I see their confidence in them grow as well as the respect they have for who they are.”
‘I’m passionate about the small changes we can make’
Over time, Kris realized that he was maintining a career that he began in 1999 not out of any great love for the oil industry, but out of obligation. There was nothing sustainable or environmentally conscious about it, and in direct and amazing contrast, he saw his wife helping people rediscover the beauty in themselves.
He told Kara that is where his passion truly was, and that he wanted to be a part of what she was doing.
On a vacation in Maine last fall, Kara asked Kris if he wanted to quit his job, and if so, when. He answered “yes,” and pinpointed the date he would leave: October 2021.
Three weeks later, Kris received notice that his job would soon be eliminated in December of 2020, part of a mass layoff due to COVID-19. In an odd way, the pandemic launched him into a new life, but his plans had already been synergized in the form of a goal, a commitment to the world and himself. Using the techniques she learned at IIN, Kara is training Kris in the science of health coaching. He already has a client of his own.
KSquared Health Coaching is set to go live this spring.
“I am passionate about the small changes we can make in our day to day lives that will lead to huge results over time,” Kris wrote on the company’s mission statement. “As someone who has recently made a significant career move, I hope to bring a unique perspective in how changing your mindset and routine can bring so much more joy and fulfillment to your life.”
Kris and Kara Gibbons have committed as a family to living a healthy and happy life, and through life changes of their own, are about to embark on a path to share their ideas with others.
“An effective health coach gives the client the space to lead themselves to their goals,” Kris said. “While I love food and nutrition, exercise and meditation, I have to fight the urge to share it with a client. Just because I’m passionate about something doesn’t mean that it is always going to work for someone else. My only purpose is to listen and to help guide.
“The bedrock of KSquared Health Coaching is mirrored off of the progress of the life that we live, and the gift of being able to share some of the walk that we walk.”
To learn more about KSquared Health Coaching, email [email protected], phone 484-947-9024, or visit on Facebook at @ksquaredhealthcoaching or Instagram at @ksquared2.healthcoaching or at their new website www.ksquaredhealthcoaching.com, launching soon.
To learn more about colorectal cancer causes, risk factors and prevention, visit the American Cancer Society website at www.cancer.org.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].