Health Coach Ali Shapiro: How to Be the Boss of Your Health Choices

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The following guest post was written by my friend, Ali Shapiro. I hope her thoughts empower you to take ownership of your health and take on a new “Boss” mindset. Enjoy!

Twelve years ago, after years of unsuccessfully trying to lose weight and use medications for acne, allergies, depression and Irritable Bowel Syndrome, I enrolled in a holistic health school and found Functional Medicine.

Over the next couple of years, I resolved symptoms I thought were life sentences. I traded medication for a whole foods, gluten-free diet. I redefined healthy as feeling alive, not just free of disease. I began to understand that, at the age of 13, after being diagnosed with cancer, I unconsciously lowered the bar on expectations for my body.

Patient Reports Fading Enthusiasm For Health

My mindset shift transformed from following the U.S. medical system to seeing conventional medicine as only one choice of many.

I wanted to spread the joyful news! I left my corporate job as my health coaching practice took off.

YES! I’m on my way…

Well. Halfway there…

Despite knowing the power of healthy eating, I still struggled with sugar. As an emotional eater for over a decade, it remained as my crutch.

Yet the more confident I became in being my own boss, the more I became Boss of my sugar habit.

I noticed this same fascinating inner transformation occurring with my clients. As they became in control of their experience of food, our sessions shifted to where else in their life they wanted to take charge.

What was happening?

The Diagnosis

Einstein said if he had an hour to save the world, he’d spend more time accurately defining the problem than solving it.

I enrolled to get a Masters degree in coaching from the University of Pennsylvania. I wanted to crack the code on this unfolding.

I discovered there are deep, hidden costs to seeing doctors and the medical system, as an oligarchy over your body.

The price of relying on the outside world? Your self-trust. Specifically, your intuition.

By intuition, I mean the biological, emotional and soul patterns that make you, you. This includes everything from blood sugar and digestive health to how you perpetuate stress in your life, to where you find deep meaning.

Root Cause

This external orientation to life creates what I call the “Good Girl” mindset (men have it too).

This mindset starts unassumingly. You go on your first diet as a teenager. You experience severe mood swings and painful periods in high school. You’re offered a diet or birth control. Both are insufficient answers.

Neither approach makes you feel completely better. You go on another diet or live with mood swings. You distrust your body, not the expert. Dependency on something outside yourself deepens.

You’re the proverbial fish in water. Calories in, calories out and medication are the way. Not a way.

Years go by. Because you never got to the root of symptoms, battling food and feeling awful become normalized. “I’m craving gummy bears” turn into “I can’t control myself around food!” and “I’m feeling moody” turns into “I’ve always struggled with depression.”

The Profound Side-Effect

You believe the original symptom is who you are and not a symptom.

As a result, Dr. Robert Kegan, a brilliant adult development educator at Harvard says in his book In Over our Heads, that the Good Girl mindset believes, “the fundamental and most trustworthy source of knowledge is outside oneself. This leads to feeling a strong dependency and our wish for approval.”

Your fish bowl is now an ocean.

The water is now unquestioned beliefs about good and bad foods and a diagnosis. Because this is a mindset, clear lines of good and bad lifestyle choices (i.e. from how to exercise to how to parent) are also drawn.

The Good Girl mindset questions itself. Psychologically, it can’t separate intuition from all the diet gurus or doctors.

Clients often first ask me, “What’s wrong with me that I can’t fix this?”

There’s nothing weak or wrong about them.

The accurate diagnosis is a mental focus on being “good” versus trusting their bodies and experience to define good.

This Good Girl mindset is also the root of “bad” habits. My clients think their habits aren’t logical. But they make logical sense when you’re sense of self is defined in relation to someone else’s approval or answers.

On a daily basis, the “Good Girl” mindset is in control when you don’t:

  • Ask for organic meat to avoid appearing high-maintenance.
  • Choose what your body needs at a business lunch because it appears unhealthy since it’s not a salad.
  • Say “no” to dessert, even though you’re not craving it, because you don’t want to appear on a diet.

For my clients and myself, this “good girl” mindset was going through a transformation. As we trusted our internal experience, we experienced profoundly better outcomes.

Definitions of good changed as our mindsets did.

Getting out of this ocean is the problem and the solution. Because as my favorite Swedish saying says, “Only dead fish go with the flow.”

The Prescription

Build what I call a Boss mindset.

A Boss mindset is internally focused. It’s concerns are your biology, emotions, and callings. It’s not control over the body, but cooperation. A boss is only as effective as her team!

In my practice, I coach clients to diagnose their good girl gridlock, or the beliefs that drive their all-or-nothing, stress and private eating.

Unlike traditional cognitive therapy, most self-help approaches, or my least favorite, positive thinking – cognitive reframing alone won’t change these beliefs.

You also need better questions.

Thinking positive and saying, “Tomorrow is a new day. I’m worthy of exquisite self-care” after a binge is true. But chances are, you don’t believe that. Self-trust erodes in these moments.

A Boss mindset might ask, “did I get enough fat in at lunch?”, or “what better “tools” than food exist when I’m stressed?”

The Payoff

A Boss mindset defines positivity as being fiercely curious and compassionate to know they aren’t wrong, just on the wrong track. For them. And they trust tomorrow can be different because they know their right track, which reinforces self-trust.

The Boss mindset dominos to redefining life success on its terms.

For me, that led to leading not just the financial security of the corporate world, but what that prestigious job said about me to others. This confidence then lead to trusting my curiosity towards a very different educational path (with substantial student loans!) than my peers.

Client examples include:

  • Being confident they’re still socially conscious by eating meat (grass-fed!) after being a life long vegetarian.
  • Pitching work collaborations and projects that light them up creatively.
  • Going back to school in their 40s because they found a new career that matches the woman they’ve become.

It’s not just new choices. It’s also losing the self-consciousness of “what will they think?” around these choices, so they actually happen.

When you’re the Boss, you don’t just see above of the ocean. You see the beauty of new horizons. You’ll be in awe of your potential. And now you trust yourself. To find your way.

Ali Shapiro is a health coach, host of the Insatiable podcast, and founder of Truce with Food, a coaching method she developed during her graduate work at the University of Pennsylvania. She’s been featured nationally in Yahoo, Redbook, Cosmo, the Wall Street Journal and in Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Magazine and was a regular contributor to the NBC 10! Show.

Ali is offering readers $100 off her course, Truce with Food – enter the code: listinsider!

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