August 2019 Issue
by Nina Greenplate
Photography by Erin Risius
Having passion for your life’s calling is a tribute to yourself. Wellness advocate and clinical expert, Erin Risius lives her passion every day, helping others achieve the essential balance between a healthy body and mind.
Since 2017, Erin has served as Director of Behavioral Health for Hilton Head Health (H3), an internationally known residential health and wellness retreat center. Her work helps identify and improve her clients’ obstacles to wellness through the psychology of eating and exercise. “I get to experience how people transform their relationship to self-care,” she says. “I witness awakenings.”
Lifestyle management is key! As a Licensed Professional Counselor, specializing in health psychology, Erin is able to provide individual and group therapy to her clients. She helps them unhook from the all-or-nothing mindset trap and to find their middle ground with behaviors for better self care. Her classroom work at H3 focuses on emotional and compulsive overeating, binge eating, weight stigma awareness and mindfulness training.
Of course exercise and food are intricate pieces to achieving good health, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. This is where Erin’s expertise comes in to serve as teacher, coach, motivator, supporter and realist to each individual she counsels. She counsels to help people discover their fitness style and believes the “no pain, no gain” approach is a negative reinforcement that bullies people to get through exercise as a means to an end. She also encourages clients to seek what they are really hungry for. She explains in one example related to the psychology of eating: “Some would rather be with food than be alone. We must find out how to fill that void first.” Erin talks of some clients’ loneliness and disconnect and how depression often accompanies many health and weight issues. The role of food is often residing under the emotional eating umbrella, and Erin’s life-work seeks to bring peace to this unease of spirit.
Though born and raised in Olathe, Kansas, she considers Colorado her home. For 25 years, Boulder was her backdrop, where trail running, mountain biking, and snowshoeing kept her happily entertained. Her parent’s, Larry and Kathy, always encouraged Erin and her siblings to be active. “At 81 years old they still hike the Colorado Rockies twice a week,” she says.
Soccer was her favorite sport. “I lived and breathed soccer from a very young age,” she smiles. “Loved it!” Erin completed her Bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Kinesiology studies the mechanics of body movement. In 2005, she earned her Masters degree in Counseling Psychology from Regis University in Denver.
Following her undergraduate work, Erin opened a fitness consulting business in Louisville, Colorado, called “A Way of Life Fitness.” She taught and consulted on health at every size, primarily medical exercise, post-rehabilitation and fitness empowerment. She opened her first private practice in 2005, counseling those struggling with disordered eating, health conditions and depression.
While maintaining her private practice, Erin felt a need to do even more in her areas of expertise. “I wanted to work with a team,” she says. Erin was able to create a fitness and wellness administration from scratch with the Department of Parks and Recreation in Erie, Colorado. A 64,000 square-foot community center housed her program, Live Healthy, which focused on positive lifestyle management and an overall healthier quality of life. Erin served as their formal Fitness and Wellness Director, and hired, trained, and oversaw professional fitness instructors and personal trainers. She was nominated to receive the 2009 Pinnacle Award for outstanding performance in this role!
From Colorado, Erin’s knowledge was a perfect complement to a woman’s health and wellness retreat in Vermont. Green Mountain at Fox Run was fortunate to have Erin as their program director to supervise their dietitians, behavioral clinicians and fitness staff for more than two years. She spoke on a variety of topics related to emotional eating, mindfulness, and healthy lifestyle management.
The year prior to H3 was spent as CEO of Structure House in Durham, North Carolina. This residential facility treats obesity, compulsive overeating, diabetes, and similar conditions. Erin’s career paths connect into a mission-centered dedication to true wellness.
“The magic happens when the men and women I work with can align with their why, which is their intrinsic motivation for the desire to create a healthier lifestyle,” she says. “It’s this shift in focus from a number on the scale, to the practice of self-care behaviors that enables people to create a long-term healthier relationship to food and their bodies.”
Worldwide: Erin internationally represents the US as an Immersion Wellness Initiative Member of the Global Wellness Institute.
Get it, Girl: Brought the national youth empowerment program, Girls on the Run, to elementary school girls in Boulder.
Knowledge is Power: Erin provides continuing education to physicians, dietitians and therapists on weight stigma awareness and the holistic approach to treating emotional and binge eating.
In session: She counsels private practice clientele in partnership with H3.
What’s the Word: Erin is writing a book on women’s relationships with food.
Ideas Worth Spreading: Erin earned a slot in Ted-x Hilton Head last May. Her talk was entitled “Transforming the Negative Messages that Shape Us.”