Today I am sharing with you an interview I held with my Beachbody and Health Coach friend, Elizabeth Gudrais. She is such an inspiration to many, including me, and I know she will help inspire you all too!
Check out her social media pages here: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Pinterest
What is your job?
I am a fitness and wellness coach affiliated with Beachbody. At the most basic level, I am here to support people in using the company’s fitness and nutrition products: fitness programs such as PiYo, TurboFire, P90X, Insanity, Core de Force, and many others, and nutrition plans like the 21 Day Fix. I am here to help them through these programs and answer any questions they may have about our programs or supplements.
As coaches, each of us builds a unique business and brand; new customers trying a Beachbody program for the first time can choose the coach they want to work with based on the coach’s personality and the focus of his/her business. In my business, Living Vibrantly (www.livingvibrantly.net), I focus on helping women feel their best, claim their power, and discover their potential through exercise and nutrition. If we don’t feel well on a daily basis, it’s hard to find energy for work we are passionate about. It saddens me that many of us don’t even know how good we CAN feel in our bodies if we treat them right.
What do you like most about doing this kind of work?
The people!!!! All my life I’ve enjoyed meeting new people and getting to know them… their stories, their perspectives, how they view the world. It is a challenge taking that a step further and figuring out how to motivate people who may not respond to the same things that motivate me. But it’s a challenge I love and it definitely keeps each day interesting! I find it so incredible that with social media I can meet people from all over the world and we can come together and encourage one another in our online groups. The sense of community is so energizing and uplifting.
How did you get started in your personal healthy living journey?
I did not always have the perspective I have now, of loving and accepting my body (or at least working toward that daily). When I was younger, I really struggled with not liking my appearance. I was self-critical every time I looked in the mirror. Since I thought I needed to lose weight, I would skip meals and deprive myself of food. Then I would be starving hungry and I’d binge. I was stuck in a vicious cycle and it was miserable.
Breaking the cycle was not quick or simple. It started with a decision that I didn’t want to keep on living that way. It was so scary for me to eat three meals a day, and snacks in between. To eat when I was hungry and stop when I was full was completely foreign to me, but slowly I learned to make peace with the fear of gaining weight. That was the first step of a long journey. Along the way, therapy and Overeaters Anonymous (12 step meetings for food addiction) were immensely helpful for me.
Around the same time, I discovered yoga, which also helped immensely. Previously I had used exercise as punishment or at least as a way to keep my body under control. Yoga was something different: a type of movement that was more about the internal experience, and the mental and emotional benefits. For several years, the only exercise I did (other than walking) was yoga, and it really transformed my relationship with food and my body. Through all of the time I took for self-care and healing, I came to understand the emotions that were driving me to eat, and I developed better ways to cope (although I’m not perfect and there are still days when my desire to numb out drives me toward the candy dish or my old habit of skipping meals). These past experiences help me guide my clients through their own issues with food and body image.
What has been your biggest struggle in your own journey?
Depression and anxiety. Healthy habits (primarily nutrition, but also exercise, getting adequate sleep, and reducing stress) have helped a lot, but anxiety is still with me on an almost-daily basis (just not as severe as it once was), and depression still strikes sometimes without warning or explanation. At this point it’s a fact of life for me. I learned long ago, during the years when my lows were much lower, to keep going through the motions because it’s way worse if you don’t. (It’s been awhile since I lacked the energy to do even that, but I know it does happen and I’ve experienced it, so I know that even going through the motions sometimes isn’t possible for everyone in the depths of depression.) So I’ll always still get up and show up for work, but depression sometimes causes me to doubt my own abilities and isolate myself from other people, which, as you can imagine, isn’t good for my business, nor does it help me to feel less depressed. I’ve had to work on reaching out to friends to talk instead of isolating when this happens. Still, I believe that having these conditions makes me more sensitive to others who struggle with them.
Is there an event or something that happened to you that has made you more, or less, determined to live a healthier life?
My husband and I have been going through fertility treatment in one way or another for the past three years, and in 2014 I had a surgery related to this. It was supposed to be a straightforward procedure but I ended up having major complications and nearly dying. I was in the hospital for three weeks and on dialysis for three months because my kidneys weren’t working. I was incredibly sick and just physically weak. I had to learn to walk again after being bedridden. I lost 25 pounds and I’m only 5’5″! I was relatively young when it happened, so my body bounced back in most ways, but it took a lot of work and a lot of patience. Getting my daily workout in became a matter of fighting for my recovery. Cooking healthy meals became a matter of giving my body what it needed to regain strength. That experience changed the way I understood the purpose of fitness and nutrition. I had already started to care less about appearance and more about the health impact and the way these behaviors made me feel, but the experience of illness and recovery completed that shift. I will also say that the experience made me much more aware of savoring each moment and each day. I stress less and when I indulge, I don’t entertain guilt afterwards!
How do you stay motivated and encouraged each day to continue in your journey?
Honestly, it all comes back to the people. I love my team and I love the Beachbody community. They make it fun to show up each day and share about my workout or share recipes and trade nutrition tips. In addition to that, at this point many elements of healthy living have become habits that I do almost automatically: working out, prepping and packing a healthy lunch and snacks, drinking enough water and getting enough sleep.
There’s always room for improvement, and right now I’m working on getting better at detaching from upsetting news or interpersonal conflict. My goal isn’t to stop caring (I believe we need to stay engaged in our communities just as we do in relationships), but rather to be able to take a break and come back to it with a fresh perspective and renewed energy.
I think it’s important to always keep growing, evolving, and reflecting. This is part of the path I try to guide my clients on, in addition to supporting them in setting up those basic healthy habits so self-care becomes a given.
What is one thing that’s happened in your journey, or career as a health coach, that has made you a stronger person?
I’m still dealing with the biggest challenge I have faced so far, and that is infertility. It’s been the biggest lesson in recognizing and admitting that some things are beyond my control. After many twists and turns, spurts of hope followed by disappointment, it’s still not clear whether we will be able to bear children or whether our family will be completed through adoption. As we cope with this seemingly boundless uncertainty, I’ve tried to do my best to share openly about our journey and our struggles, knowing that there are many people out there dealing with infertility. The stigma that’s attached to it compounds how difficult it is to go through; not only is it heartbreaking and often medically/physically painful and draining, but then on top of that people feel like they can’t reach out to others for support because it’s a taboo subject to talk about. I have sometimes felt fear that people won’t want to work with me because I haven’t successfully “solved the problem” by becoming pregnant, but through sharing my vulnerability, imperfections, and fears I’ve connected with so many people I never would have met otherwise, because something I posted spoke to them. It’s really remarkable, and it’s been so worth it.
How do you suggest others get started in their own healthy living journeys?
Well, obviously I am hugely partial to working with a coach and plugging into a community! If what you’ve read here has spoken to you, please reach out to me! You can find my contact info on my website. But beyond that, Beachbody has an enormous network of coaches, with just about every possible focus, interest, and style you could imagine—and of course you can look beyond our programs as well, to different types of health coaching. A coach can help you get clear about your goals and get realistic about how to fit them into your life. It’s almost not even about the coach; it’s you that does the work, not the coach. But knowing you’ll be checking in daily or weekly with a coach or a supportive group can be an incredible source of motivation and, from what I’ve seen, can provide that push to nudge people out of inertia.
What is the biggest piece of advice you have for them?
Don’t be afraid to invest in yourself! Sure, there are lots of free options for healthy living… going for walks, following videos you find on YouTube, looking up recipes on the internet. Those options may work great for you—but if they’re not working for you, get honest with yourself about whether they ever will. Don’t underestimate the power of putting some skin in the game. Many people take something more seriously once they’ve spent money on it. They don’t want to have wasted the money, so they make sure to follow through on the investment.
You could say I have an ulterior motive here because my programs cost money, but I also have an online wellness community where I spend a decent amount of time supporting people without them ever making a purchase. I believe Beachbody has the best workout videos—hands down—as well high-quality supplements and simple, powerful nutrition programs. That’s why I work with this company. But I believe the group support is the magic that pulls it all together and makes it so effective. The bottom line is that, although I’ve heard many people doubt the value of the services coaches provide, I absolutely think group programs and the services of a coach are worth investing in. They were one of the things that made the biggest difference for me, which was what made me want to start this business in the first place.
If you want to follow her on social media, here are her pages again: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Pinterest
Thank you so much, Elizabeth, for allowing me to interview you and post this here! I hope it reaches many people and helps them feel inspired and motivated to live a healthy life.