1. What does a Nutrition & Lifestyle Coach do?
I work with clients who generally want to do more than lose weight, although that’s often the primary motivator. They know that it’s more than just following a meal plan and exercising hard for a short time. They want to understand how to eat well. What does healthy eating really mean? How can they make permanent, long-lasting changes to their day-in,day-out routines so once they lose the weight it stays off.
As a nutrition and lifestyle coach, I educate them on whole-food, plant-focused eating, figuring out how to work exercise into their daily routine. This includes things like sharing recipes, figuring out what kind of exercise they like and will actually do. I use a combination of one-on-one and group sessions to help my clients figure all of this out. We then work on the mindset and beliefs that will keep them where they want to be. My clients are women who have been on the weight-loss roller coaster for years. They’ve gained and lost the same 20-50 pounds (or more) again and again. They’re sick of it and ready to put in the work to create a new lifestyle that will solve all of their weight and health issues.
2. What made you decide to become a coach and how long have you been coaching?
I’ve been obsessed with fitness and nutrition my entire life. I think it goes back to watching my mom struggle with her weight. She always had 30+ pounds to lose, she beat herself up about it and she tried all kinds of ways to lose the weight. She failed again and again. But when I went to college, the only degree that had anything to do with fitness or wellness was a teaching degree to graduate to become a gym teacher. Definitely not what I wanted to do. About 10 years after graduating with a liberal arts degree, I quit my cubicle job and did some international traveling.
Following that, I felt like the whole world was open as far as a career choice. In 2003 I completed a Personal Trainer Certification through the American Council on Exercise and started working in a gym training clients. I quickly learned that my clients weren’t coming to see me just for a workout. Most of them were women and they wanted to fix “the everything.” They began with exercise and hiring a Personal Trainer because it seemed logical. When you spend an hour with someone 3 times a week, they ask lots of questions and you have many conversations that have nothing to do with working out. They would ask about old injuries, weight loss, nutrition, how to manage stress, what foods should they buy to be healthier? As I gained experience, I realized that I could help people much more if I broadened what I was offering them, take it beyond just the workout. In 2007 I completed a Master of Science degree in Exercise Science and Health Promotion, 200 hours of Yoga Teacher training, and a Nutrition training program that allowed me to help clients with meal plans, stress management, and exercise…the whole package.
3. Do you have an area you specialize in?
I specialize in working with women over 40 and in whole-food, plant-based nutrition. For almost my entire career I’ve been working with women 40+ and I love them. They have been through a lot…raising families, building careers. They’ve got a perspective on the ups and downs of life. They have also struggled with balancing all of life with their weight and their body image. They recognize that they can’t do this alone and they need and want help, which makes them very coachable.
We work together to create the healthy lifestyle they want. I don’t have a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all answer for them. And they don’t want that. They want to figure out how to make this work in their individual lives. It’s a fantastic partnership. I teach the lessons, they incorporate them into their lives. Whole-food, plant-based eating is the secret to life, health, weight control, and happiness in my opinion.
4. What is the biggest obstacle you have overcome in your personal life?
This is going to sound cliche, but I really believe in the whole, “it’s not an obstacle, it’s an opportunity,” mindset. So, no particular obstacle springs to mind.
Probably the most challenging time of my life was owning a brick-n-mortar business. As my personal training/lifestyle coaching career was blooming, I decided to open AlaskaFit, a Personal Training Studio that specialized in helping people with nutrition and fitness. Telling people what we were was a challenge. Are you a gym? Well yes, but not only a gym. Do you do personal training? Well yes, but not one-on-one, we work with groups from 4-20 people. And you had to work with our nutrition coaches. I was focused on getting results for my clients. I didn’t want people just coming to my gym for years and seeing no changes. But sometimes, that’s all people wanted…to come to a gym where they liked the atmosphere, get their workout done, and go home. I took it as my personal failure when they didn’t transform their health or their bodies. Realizing I can’t make someone do what’s in their best interest has been a huge struggle for me. I’ve gotten better at letting go of the outcome and realizing people are responsible for their own results. I provide all of the tools, support, encouragement, and education, but it’s up to you to make the change. Making the decision to close down AlaskaFit was huge for me. I had created something I loved, but I wasn’t doing what I loved anymore. My life became all about marketing, finding clients, and managing the business. I had lost the connection with my clients. I wasn’t having fun anymore.
5. How would you describe your coaching style?
Encouraging is the one word I use to describe my coaching style. I have never understood how yelling at someone, making them feel bad about themselves, or embarrassed about their health or their body creates change. In my experience, all it does is frustrate and discourage. For me, clients don’t ever fail. There is ALWAYS something to be learned from making mistakes. I also know that the largest, most long-lasting changes come from the micro, seemingly insignificant changes we make every day. We seldom recognize, much less celebrate these things, but it’s these things that create the lasting change we’re all looking for. I love finding something to celebrate with my clients. I love when they have the “a-ha” moment of “wow, I’ve been doing this for weeks, I’ve made the change.” When people are more positive and feel confident, continuing to make a change is easy. When they feel like a failure, they are caught in fear and they stay stuck where they are.
6. Do you offer online coaching?
Yes. Since closing AlaskaFit two years ago, I’ve been figuring out the best way to work with women to create lasting change. I’ve tried a few different programs and systems and now have figured out how my clients can get their best results. I have a short-term program called, *”My 7-Day Transformation System,” which is a microcosm of my longer-term program.
What I love about My 7-Day Transformation System is it’s the perfect place to start. It’s 7 days and you can re-do the 7 days each week, continuing to progress at your own pace. It introduces you to understanding that your emotions and mindset are an integral part of your success and show you how to start working to make changes.
Most short-term programs focus only on fitness and a meal plan. My 7-Day Transformation System brings in all of the aspects of living a healthy life, teaches you step-by-step how to get started and make lasting changes. For women who want more help, I have The Women’s Wellness Academy 6-Month Transformation Program. In this program, we work together digging into all of the emotions surrounding eating, body image, and weight. There is an entire curriculum with homework and ways to work on you, plus group support and one-on-one coaching with me. It’s the complete program I’ve been wanting to create since I started working in this business 17 years ago. For women who are not sure if they’re ready to commit to either of those options, I have The Women’s Wellness Academy private Facebook group. I appear there live almost every day, answering questions, sharing recipes, resources, exercise information, and helping as many women as I can to transform their lives and their health.
7. What would you say you enjoy most about coaching?
Interacting with my clients. This was what I missed most about having AlaskaFit. I loved my staff and working with them, but I missed getting to really know my clients, supporting them, celebrating their victories great and small. There is nothing as wonderful as watching someone go from “I hate my body, I can’t do this, I’m a failure, I’m stupid,” to “Wow! I did it!” Sometimes I think I’m more excited about my clients’ success than they are. Coaching allows me to share all of the knowledge I’ve accumulated to enlighten others. Giving someone else control over their life and their health is wildly empowering. When your physical body is aligned with your self-image, there is literally nothing you can’t do. Watching someone who seems defeated move to a confident, strong being is a gift like no other.
8. Where did you receive your training?
I started in 2003 with a Personal Training Certification from The American Council on Exercise. I studied for the exam while I was in New York (where I grew up) and started working at a gym there, but took the test here in Anchorage. In 2007 I completed my MSc. in Exercise Science and Health Promotion via an online course that was a partnership between the National Academy of Sports Medicine and California University of Pennsylvania. A confusing name…the University is located in a town called California, PA. I was living and working at gyms here in Anchorage and didn’t want to leave to pursue my degree. I completed 200 hours of Yoga teacher training here in Anchorage as well. My nutrition certification was completed out-of-state, but I was living here. In addition, I have held certifications to teach multiple classes, ranging from water aerobics (I taught as an Adjunct Faculty member at UAA) to Spinning.
9. What would you say is the biggest obstacle you have helped a client overcome?
Helping clients get out of their own way is the biggest obstacle. Changing mindset from “I suck!!” to “I can do this!” is the one thing that all of my success stories have in common. One of my early clients was an 18-year old whose earliest memory was of throwing up because she ate too much as a 3-year old.
When I met her, she was in college and had plans to go to law school, but knew her weight was a hindrance to everything she did. She was tired all the time, she couldn’t do the fun outdoor activities her friends were doing. She knew there was a better life out there for her. Watching her go from beating herself up for her failures to losing the weight, overhauling her lifestyle, and achieving her goals was amazing. Helping her realize that sometimes the scale doesn’t change, but our bodies are making powerful changes was thrilling.
Another success that springs to mind is a woman who was in her early 60s. Her self-talk was brutal. The scale dictated her mood every day. It took about 6 months of coaching, understanding, and encouragement to get her to throw away the scale and appreciate who she really is. I’ll never forget the day she came in and told us about it. She was radiant. She looked lighter and happier.
* This is a special link taking you directly to Ginny’s My 7-Day Transformation System.
Ginny Grabowski, MSc helps busy women over 40 get off the weight-loss roller coaster, feel confident and sexy, and transform their body and mind. You can join her in her private Facebook group The Women’s Wellness Academy, where she answers members’ questions about everything from fitness to nutrition and plant-based eating.