Healthy To A Hundred: Shannyn McCauley of Empower Coaching On 5 Things You Need To Live A Long, Healthy, & Happy Life
An Interview With Savio P. Clemente
A healthy diet. Changing my diet changed my life. Fruits and vegetables provide us with so many crucial nutrients like vitamins, minerals, phytochemcials, fiber, and antioxidants. All of these nutrients help our body maintain proper function, control inflammation, and prevent cell damage. Hundreds of studies have shown that diets high in fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains give the best health outcomes.
The term Blue Zones has been used to describe places where people live long and healthy lives. What exactly does it take to live a long and healthy life? What is the science and the secret behind longevity and life extension? In this series, we are talking to medical experts, wellness experts, and longevity experts to share “5 Things You Need To Live A Long, Healthy, & Happy Life”. As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Shannyn McCauley of Empower Coaching.
Shannyn is a certified health coach and licensed practical nurse, who has struggled with chronic illness her entire life. After reaching her breaking point, she took her health into her own hands, and was able to reduce all of her symptoms. She now coaches others in reducing their symptoms so they too can get back to living a life they love.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?
Absolutely! I grew up as an only child in a fairly rural area of Pennsylvania. I dabbled in lots of activities including Girl Scouts, gymnastics, basketball, and marching band, but I struggled with asthma and we moved a lot, so eventually quit all the physical activities I was in. I was largely an introvert who preferred reading or listening to music anyway, so I didn’t really consider it a loss. I always did well in school with minimal effort so my parents thought I should go to college. A college education is so engrained in our society as the next step, so I went but I wasn’t happy there. I didn’t know what to major in, as I didn’t really have any passions, and it was hard to make friends or do homework since I had to work full time to help pay for the courses. I did eventually finish my degree but it wasn’t until I went to nursing school that I found a subject I really loved. I have been a licensed nurse now for 7 years and recently obtained a certification in health coaching as well.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
After I graduated nursing school, I went overseas for 3 weeks to Ghana. I wanted to help others and get some unique experience before I started applying for nursing jobs. I spent my time volunteering in a medical clinic and worked with some children at an orphanage. It was a completely different environment than what I was used to and it was an amazing experience. I got to meet other volunteers from all over the world, and interact with tons of locals. They were so happy and kind to me, a complete stranger. In the U.S. I find that many people ignore each other and are only focused on themselves. But these people were welcoming and warm, happy to share what they had and enjoying life everyday. They didn’t concern themselves with the fact that they didn’t have plumbing or had to operate their business out of a metal shipping container. They had their friends, their families, and a passion for life. We take a lot for granted here, which I think is something everyone knows, but to really feel and experience how much, it’s a real slap in the face to be honest.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My husband is an amazing person and supports me in every way. I am so happy to have met him and that he is willing to put up with my craziness. I couldn’t have started my business without him.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of our interview about health and longevity. To begin, can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the fields of health, wellness, and longevity? In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?
I first got interested in health and wellness about 10 years ago. I was struggling with chronic illness and not finding a lot of help in the traditional system of American healthcare. At the time, I was working as a nurse’s assistant in a nursing home and found myself learning from not only the nurses I worked with, but also the patients. I thought health and medicine was an interesting subject and considered going back to school. I had a patient, (who we call residents), at the time who really enjoyed scratching off lottery tickets. When he knew I was working, he would ring his call bell and ask me to help him scratch the tickets. This resident would always say “someday I’ll win the million and we can split it.” He was very much like a grandpa and always wanted to know if “us girls” (the staff) were happy. Although mostly bedridden due to his illness, he would occasionally want to get up and use the bathroom. One day, he asked me to help him do this but as I was walking him across the room, his legs gave out. Without thinking, I tried to stop him from falling, which resulted in him falling somewhat on me instead of the floor, ripping my arm from the socket. It was the most excruciating thing I had ever felt. It all happened so fast, I just remember screaming and then being in the urgent care office. I didn’t have insurance so I never went to the hospital. The urgent care doctor popped my shoulder back in, gave me tramadol, and sent me on my way.
I suffered with pain from that injury for 2 years. I couldn’t work as a nurse’s assistant anymore because I was no longer physically capable. I decided to go to nursing school because it seemed being a nurse was less physically demanding, in the way of lifting at least. Two years after I first injured myself, I finally got health insurance and immediately went to see a doctor about my pain. An MRI and a number of other tests revealed I had permanent damage: arthritis, a build up of scar tissue in my shoulder joint from a torn rotator cuff that didn’t heal properly, and thoracic nerve damage. They enrolled me in physical therapy where the therapist told me I would never lift more than 5 pounds with that arm again. I felt very defeated for a long time and continued to have pain 24/7. I felt like no one cared that I was suffering and very little was done to help me. I spent years visiting different doctors and being given different pills. Not a single doctor ever asked what my diet was like (which was the key I would later discover). I learned a lot about the basics of health and medicine in nursing school, and I continued learning after I graduated. I spoke with many of my patients about their experiences, talked to their doctors, read books, and I started noticing some very important things. I think I have a unique perspective because of my dual experiences, both working in the healthcare industry, and then using it as a patient.
Seekers throughout history have traveled great distances and embarked on mythical quests in search of the “elixir of life,” a mythical potion said to cure all diseases and give eternal youth. Has your search for health, vitality, and longevity taken you on any interesting paths or journeys? We’d love to hear the story.
I have read so many interesting books and watched many intriguing documentaries along my journey. There is so much information out there if only we would look. And what I discovered is honestly very simple. Proper diet and exercise is so important for our health and longevity. At some point in my research, I stumbled onto a documentary called Food Inc. If you haven’t seen it, the movie is centered around America’s corporate food model and the death of local, family farms. I won’t go into too many details, but the movie convinced me I should try a plant based diet, purely for ethical reasons, as I always considered myself an animal lover. As it would happen though, that was the first step in my life doing a complete 180. After a few weeks, I noticed I was taking significantly less tramadol than I had been the last few years. This led me to watch another documentary called Forks Over Knives, which discusses the health benefits of a plant based diet. Instead of feeling inspired by it though, I felt angry. No doctor had ever told me that eating a certain way could reduce inflammation and control pain. I was furious that I had been suffering the whole time when the solution was so simple. In a matter of just a few weeks I had noticed a difference and after 2 months, I wasn’t taking any pain medication at all.
Based on your research or experience, can you please share your “5 Things You Need To Live A Long & Healthy Life”? (Please share a story or an example for each)
- A healthy diet. Changing my diet changed my life. Fruits and vegetables provide us with so many crucial nutrients like vitamins, minerals, phytochemcials, fiber, and antioxidants. All of these nutrients help our body maintain proper function, control inflammation, and prevent cell damage. Hundreds of studies have shown that diets high in fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains give the best health outcomes.
- Find physical activity you enjoy. Exercise is another important piece in living a healthy life. It isn’t just about muscle strength and endurance, but also improves bone density, reducing the risk of fracture as we age. Those who are physically fit are more able to enjoy their later years, and are less likely to need mobility devices. I once had a resident with dementia who was very hard to control, thanks to the fact that she could move like a teenager. She had grown up as a dancer, and was still dancing (and running from the staff!) in her 70’s.
- Destress. The world is complicated place and it’s only gotten worse. It seems there is a never ending stream of things to stress about and many of us live lives filled with anxiety. This can cause or exacerbate a number of health problems so it is an important feeling to get under control. If you struggle with stress or anxiety, consider talking with someone, or making some changes in your life.
- Find a pet/ family/ friends who support you. Not only can having support help with stress, but it also provides us with an overall wellness boost. Humans are social creatures and interacting positively with others can actually improve your health. Our bodies release oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins which can reduce pain, increase happiness, reduce stress, and even boost your immune system. Spending time outside with friends, petting your dog, or sharing a meal with family can all cause the release of these chemicals.
- Sleep. Adults need 7–9 hours of sleep a night. I have met so many people who do not meet this requirement and they are suffering for it. I once was myself. After sleeping a total of 2 hours a night for a week straight, due to one of my chronic conditions, I was on the cusp of a nervous breakdown. Our bodies need sleep to heal, rest, and recover. A lack of sleep can cause hormone imbalances, irritability, and exacerbate many health conditions.
Can you suggest a few things needed to live a life filled with happiness, joy, and meaning?
I think finding the person you are meant to be with, and finding a passion in your work, can lead to a much happier life. When you have someone there for you, who understands and supports you, it can make a huge difference in how you feel about life. And while most of us have to work, it doesn’t have to be a miserable experience. I once read that over 50% of people are unhappy at work. It can be hard to change that, depending on your circumstances, but if it’s possible, try to find something you have a passion for and make that into a career.
Some argue that longevity is genetic, while others say that living a long life is simply a choice. What are your thoughts on this nature vs. nurture debate? Which is more important?
Science tells that that it is much more about lifestyle choices than genetics. Just as one example, studies done by the World Health Organization show that up to 50% of cancer cases are preventable. Our choices have a huge impact on our health. The food we put in our body, the exercise we choose to do or not do, and other choices, such as smoking or drinking alcohol, all affect how our body changes and ages. I’ve worked with hundreds of patients and the ones who lived healthier lifestyles almost always had better outcomes than those who didn’t, regardless of family history.
Life sometimes takes us on paths that are challenging. How have you managed to bounce back from setbacks in order to cultivate physical, mental, and emotional health?
I was definitely at a low point when I was suffering from pain due to my injury. I have also long struggled with restless leg syndrome. It can be hard when you keep seeing doctors and are being dismissed. I’ve met many people fed up with the healthcare system who are stuck in depression about their situation, which I completely understand. For me, there just came a point where I said to myself- this is some real sh** and if no one is going to help me, I guess I have to help myself. You just reach a breaking point and something has to change.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
I’m not sure who said it but a quote I like is “We have just one life. One. Why aren’t we running like we’re on fire towards our wildest dreams?” If I kept sitting around, wishing things were different, nothing was ever going to change. I was going to keep living in pain, age in pain, and die in pain. I didn’t want that to be my life. I had to do something for myself if no one was going to help me. And now that I have healed myself, I try to share what I have learned and help others like me.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I think I would just keep doing what I’m doing. I try to educate people on the importance of adding more plants to your diet, getting enough exercise, and making other healthy lifestyle choices. I truly believe that lifestyle medicine is the only way foreword when it comes to improving the health outcomes of the American people.
What is the best way for our readers to continue to follow your work online?
You can follow me on Instagram @healthcoachshannyn or on Facebook @healthcoachshannyn. I also run a discord server for chronically ill people to find support and people who understand what they are going through.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.
About The Interviewer: Savio P. Clemente coaches cancer survivors to overcome the confusion and gain the clarity needed to get busy living in mind, body, and spirit. He inspires health and wellness seekers to find meaning in the “why” and to cultivate resilience in their mindset. Savio is a Board Certified wellness coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), stage 3 cancer survivor, podcaster, writer, and founder of The Human Resolve LLC.
Savio pens a weekly newsletter at thehumanresolve.com where he delves into secrets from living smarter to feeding your “three brains” — head 🧠, heart 💓, and gut 🤰 — in hopes of connecting the dots to those sticky parts in our nature that matter.
He has been featured on Fox News, and has collaborated with Authority Magazine, Thrive Global, Food Network, WW, and Bloomberg. His mission is to offer clients, listeners, and viewers alike tangible takeaways in living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle.
Savio lives in the suburbs of Westchester County, New York and continues to follow his boundless curiosity. He hopes to one day live out a childhood fantasy and explore outer space.