REAL WAYS TO LIVE A LIFE YOU LOVE
Today I'm kicking off my 2016 round of interviews with what I believe is some of the most sound advice that you will come across for a happier and healthier new year. Having truly suffered a case of real burnout a few years back, Lizzy decided to take matters into her own hands and find her way back to health without any unnecessary fuss or food funniness! Today she runs her own business helping others to realise that living well can start today and really doesn't need to be anywhere near as complicated or trying as we might think. Time to forget dieting and start living. Come find out more...
Hi Lizzy! Please could you tell me more about what you do and about your blog ‘How We Eat Now’?
Hi Louise! So I’m a health coach. There’s a few different parts to the work I do. I work with women on an individual basis to help them achieve their health goals – the big things including weight loss, sleep and energy. I also run talks and workshops on a whole range of wellness topics for companies and organisations. When I’m not talking about health or writing about health, I teach Forrest Yoga – a strong, healing and totally kickass practice that I love. How We Eat Now is my forum, my soapbox, my love letter to wellness and my poison pen letter to the diet and marketing industry that keeps us all feeling fat and broken. I pretty much let rip.
What led you to this kind of work and how did you arrive at where you are now?
My journey to the wonderful world of wellness really started about ten years ago. As a student I was a very serious rower. I trained about 18 hours a week and ate a fairly appalling diet consisting mostly of porridge, malt loaf and Mr Kipling apple pies. Fairly unsurprisingly I completely burned out, was out of a boat for nine months and was pretty devastated about it. I’d love to say that the experience transformed me but it didn’t. My real turning point came about five years later, when I was working as an advertising copywriter. I was still ill all the time and had spent every year since I quit rowing battling with my weight.
One day I found myself bent over double in the car park outside my office, seeing stars because I was so hungry and had battered myself in the gym. I just thought, ‘Enough’. I don’t know where it came from but I decided I was just going to eat healthy food - as much as I wanted. Within a year or so I’d become the healthiest person I knew and had settled at a natural, happy weight. I became fascinated by the effect of food on the body, so in 2014 I enrolled in the Institute for Integrative Nutrition’s health coach training programme without any motivation other than deepening my own knowledge. Six months in I was sold. I knew that this was what I was going to do. I got my first clients through word of mouth and became a wellness entrepreneur.
What is it that you love most about the work you do and what motivates you on a daily basis?
I’m going to start this by saying that I’ve found running a business challenging. Really challenging at times. Having previously made a living as a writer, the nitty gritty of being a business owner is honestly still something I’m getting to grips with. What pushes me on are the little moments of pure exhilarating wonderful-ness I experience with clients. Coaching is deeply personal work. When someone sends me a card letting me know how much that work has changed them, when they squeeze my hand and simply say ‘Thank you’, it’s all so worth it. Last year I found myself on the dance floor at the wedding of one of my first ever clients. She grabbed me and screamed, ‘Three dress sizes Lizzy! You did this’. Never once in my advertising career did I have an experience that meant so much to me.
What are the biggest challenges that you think people face with food and their health? Can you offer any simple advice to help people make a positive change right away?
For sure the biggest challenge I see is women thinking that losing weight will make them happy. That they’ll be able to love and accept themselves when they’ve lost two stone. That they’ll start doing the things they want to do when they can fit into their skinny jeans again. That they’ll be a better mum, lover, employee, whatever. And it’s just bullshit. It’s a way we hide. When we spend ten years losing and gaining the same two stone (because diets work, then they fail, then a new diet works, then it fails…) we never have to confront the scary business of actually living. Of letting ourselves wholeheartedly experience life, love, art, sport, travel or whatever it is that really lights us up. It’s a distraction, a shame and a waste of a life.
What inevitably happens with my clients is that they lose weight as a by-product of getting healthy (that’s the money shot right there), then realise they never needed to. That they are still the same person. That they can do anything they want with their life and they always could.
So my simple advice is this: Think of that thing you’ve told yourself you’ll do when you’ve lost weight (go swimming with your kids, set a wedding date, book a holiday, quit your job etc.) and just do it now. That – not weight loss – is the doorway to the living the life you want.
I’m intrigued to know if you have any tips for maintaining a good work-life balance and if it’s something that you believe can be achieved?
I might be putting the cat among the pigeons here but I don’t believe in work-life balance. To me, there is just LIFE. Work is a part of life and you must decide how much volume you want it to take up relative to all the other things you want to include. I do this exercise with people in my workshops: list the five most important things in your life in order of priority. Then list those same five things again based on how much time and energy you actually give to them. The extent to which those two lists do not match is likely to be exactly the same as the extent to which you are dissatisfied with your life. Addressing any imbalance starts with re-assigning your time and energy to where it belongs. Not only do you need to look at working smarter in your job (to claw back time and energy) but you need to begin consciously nurturing your relationship to the things that give your life meaning as well.
What’s the one piece of advice you wish you could go back and give your younger self?
Stop flippin’ worrying! God I remember crying for about six months on my run up to leaving uni because I had no idea what I was going to do or how I was going to support myself. What a giant waste of time that was – worrying is rarely anything else. When I look back, I never went hungry, always had a roof over my head and people who cared about me. And my purpose in life slowly revealed itself as I followed what I loved and what interested me. I had nothing to worry about then and I don’t now.
How can we deal with setbacks when trying to improve our wellbeing and lifestyle, what advice would you give people struggling to stay motivated this New Year?
The other day I was giving an evening talk to a group of professionals and someone asked me how to deal with failure. I think your word –‘setbacks’ actually begins to answer her question. To me, there is no failure. Screwing up is essential to our growth. A ‘setback’ can actually fast forward our progress if we take the time to look at what went wrong and make a conscious decision about how to move forward more mindfully. That’s how real change happens. Lots of tiny setbacks knitted together! So I guess my advice would be, when you find yourself inhaling a buffet table or unable to get off the couch, never throw your toys out the pram and label yourself and your health project a failure. Look at the trigger behind that experience, learn from it and decide how to keep moving. There were a lot of buffet accidents on my road to health, I can promise you that!
What does the future hold for How We Eat Now and what is it that you're most excited about in the upcoming months?
Man I wish I knew what the future held, but she plays her cards so close to her chest doesn’t she?! Ha ha. Something interesting that’s come up for me the last year is a shift from seeing myself as a writer to becoming a speaker. I’ve spent the best part of ten years putting my words onto paper yet the process of actually standing up and speaking them has been deeply cathartic. It feels like a coming home. I used to be the loudest, most opinionated kid until teenage angst hit me and I retreated behind my computer. When I speak my legs still shake a little, but the more I let myself go for it, the more exhilarated I feel. So to answer your question, I can see speaking – and therefore corporate wellness – growing to take centre stage in my business.
Thank you to Lizzy for such an insightful and I think very inspiring interview. I certainly know that I'm going to heed her advice right away to just start living and stop waiting to reach the perfect weight or be my perceived perfect self. No more excuses just living, loving, exploring and enjoying life! I hope you too will find motivation in doing just the same.
Catch up with Lizzy over on her website: How We Eat Now. Plus for more sound advice from Lizzy when it comes to dealing with burnout take a look at this article: What Is Burnout And How Can We Avoid It?
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