Let Food and Inspiration Be Thy Medicine
By Becca Edwards
Photography by Christian Lee
If you ask Betty Melkon how many careers she has had, she—like a true Southern woman—will grin and begin her story with “Well…” All told, she’s been a teaching administrator, a lobbyist and meeting planner for superintendents and principals, worked in securities, banking and real estate, owned a business called At Your Service, and is now a certified health coach and yoga instructor. Her across-the-board resume has nothing to do with her being flighty or lacking vision. In fact, Betty might be one of the clearest headed people you will ever meet. Her career path speaks well to anyone who knows the value of making ends meet, and bespeaks her resiliency to pursue her ultimate passion: helping people see food as medicine.
“When I was choosing a career, there were three choices—teach, be a secretary or get married,” Betty said. So, she chose to earn her undergraduate degree in teaching at USC and her Masters of Education (MED) at Clemson. Since then, she has continued to be a mentor by sharing her real-life experiences.
“Thirty years ago, I was living in Columbia. I was a basket case at the time. I had gone through my first divorce and a custody battle that didn’t go my way. I was a size 16. I had health issues like acid reflux, sinus-allergy problems and I couldn’t sleep. I had a stressful job. I was a complete mess,” Betty said. Also, at this time, she was diagnosed with uterine cancer. She knew it was time for a change. “I was talking to a couple of women and they said, ‘You don’t need surgery if you follow what we are doing.’ They introduced me to macrobiotics and in two years the cancer was gone,” she added.
During that period, Betty studied at the Kripalu Center and Kushi Institute. In 2011-2012, she became certified at the 200-level in yoga from Jiva Yoga Center on Hilton Head Island and as a health coach from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. “When I decided to earn my certifications I thought, ‘OK, I’m not sure where this is headed but I know I’m following my true passion,’” she said.
To look at Betty you wouldn’t guess her age. At 67, she is living proof anti-aging doesn’t necessarily come in a pill or in a bottle—it comes from eating nutrient-dense food and enjoying gratitude-enriched people. “When it comes to health, so many people are undernourished emotionally and nutritionally and overfed with sugar and stress. When I’m helping someone I talk about healthy relationships, and I try to simplify things by giving them the ABCs of nutrition. Also, when I’m teaching yoga, I focus on the breath and holding poses so people can find ease and proper alignment,” she said.
Whether you are one of her wellness clients, or one of her yoga students, or simply a friend or acquaintance, you can’t help but be struck by Betty’s natural beauty and radiance. She will admit with her signature smile that she is not a “purist” but she is very mindful about what she puts not only on her plate, but also in her life. “I don’t put anything processed in my mouth. I make my own cleaning products, I wear cotton, and I control what goes into my ears. I don’t turn on the news anymore. Instead I listen to music, read uplifting things, and surround myself with only people who are positive and fun,” Betty said.
Betty believes the biggest health risk people face today is mild levels of inflammation, and she is on a mission to remedy this. “My love of people and my desire to help them is what drives me. If God can help me do one more thing in this last stage of my life, it will be to share my experiences and my knowledge of food every day. I wake up every morning excited about who I can help.”
Two sisters: one in Florence and one in Florida. Once a week all three FaceTime each other over a glass of wine, laugh and play catch up.
Betty’s favorite vacation spot is: “Italy, but not the big cities like Milan or Venice, but the countryside close to the water. The food is so fresh and the people are so friendly and playful—they spend hours at a meal laughing and conversing and that’s the way we should do it.”
A Good Betty-ism: “Breathe—bring ox-y-gen to the cells!”