Ali Shapiro

Ali Shapiro

Ali Shapiro is a health coach and co-host of the Insatiable podcast. She’s been featured in Yahoo!, Redbook, Cosmopolitan, the Wall Street Journal, CrazySexyWellness, Tiny Buddha, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and Philadelphia magazine. For four years, she was a regular contributor to the NBC 10! Show. If you’re accomplished in life but struggle with food, discover the #1 blindspot around healthy weight loss here.

 
April 20 2016

The Calling I Found Inside My “Fat” Pants

Ali Shapiro

Thirteen years ago, I was 23 and barefoot on the exam room scale. The nurse’s manicured nails flicked the weight marker forward as if the 30 pounds I had gained since college were being ticked along a timeline reaching my present-day life.

In my memory, that moment stretched long enough to consider my predicament. My job required constant travel. I ate out a lot. Peek in my purse and depending on whether I was being healthy or not, you’d find a Larabar or gummy bears.

But 30 pounds?

The nurse stepped out. I waited for the doctor to arrive with lab results (my thyroid had to be the culprit!). My medical file beckoned from behind the door, too thick a stack for a young adult. I flipped through it: Asthma, acne, depression, acne (again!), allergies and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and, the big one, cancer.

At 13, while exercising on my Dad’s NordicTrack, I took my pulse. A lump in my neck. I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease and spent the next nine months in treatments.

With the exception of cancer, all of my ailments were still alive and well.

Yet, I was not.

Until then, I had measured my “health” only in relation to cancer. When I had it, I was “unhealthy.” Cured, I was “healthy.”

And while I was fortunate to not have cancer, my health was still a work in progress.

I tucked my file back as the doctor arrived. The verdict? “Your thyroid is fine!” As for my weight gain? She prescribed a low-calorie salmon salad and sent me off with her favorite recipe.

I was even more lost.

Yet, this breaking point was my turning point.

My Journey to Self-Diagnose

Doubting Western medicine, I ventured out to find my own answers. I enrolled in the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. There, I found Functional Medicine.

Functional medicine is an emerging field focused on root causes of symptoms. In that world, I didn’t have five different diagnoses. I had one root cause: being imbalanced.

My definitions of good and bad foods were based on what I read in magazines, not an individualized approach.

My asthma, allergies, and acne dissolved when I discovered a new definition of healthy foods. I even lost 15 pounds as a side effect.

My weight loss occurred because I learned my metabolic type. By adding in carbs like quinoa and rice and healthy fats, my sugar cravings went down while my energy went up.

In my quest to find better answers, I discovered I’d been asking the wrong questions. “How good can my health be?” worked better than “What’s my next diet?”

A Calling Comes

The idea of my own health coaching practice was born. I started seeing clients after I clocked out of my corporate job. As clients experienced breakthroughs, I made the leap to entrepreneurship.

Despite knowing the power of healthy eating, the stress of starting a business meant my gummy bears roamed back in the evenings.

Yet the more confident I became in being my own boss, the more I became the boss of my sugar habit. Sugar wasn’t my problem. It was the solution to feeling overwhelmed. I came to see exercise not as punishment, but necessary to keep me focused. I made sure to step out of my comfort zone daily. I accepted setbacks are when you learn the most.

The resiliency I developed was emotional healing from cancer I hadn’t known I needed. Over time, my remaining IBS and depression cleared up. I lost another 15 pounds.

I noticed this same fascinating pattern with clients. As they became bosses of their health, they were empowered elsewhere in their life.

What was happening?

My curiosity led me to the University of Pennsylvania’s master’s program in coaching.

Studying, while continuing to see clients, I discovered the reason we often feel out of control around food. It’s a vicious cycle: We don’t trust ourselves to make good choices. We then lose control. Eat poorly. And trust ourselves even less.

The Ultimate Health Goal: Life on Your Terms

I coach clients in developing what I call a Boss mindset, all to regain self-trust. This mindset is focused on working with the body—from its physiology to the emotional callings pulling at your soul.

My programs are built around food and coaching experiments. Clients who say, “I’ve always needed six mini-meals, I’m just a snacker,” discover they often aren’t eating right for their body. And with the right portion of fats, carbs, and proteins, they feel satisfied with three meals a day.

This discovery process allows clients to access what’s true for them. Equally important, they learn why they eat badly and how to transform their choices. Healthy eating becomes natural because they’re working with their bodies and life, not fighting them.