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Guest blog: An insider to the life of personal trainer + holistic health coach Nicola Rowe

Good morning!

I haven’t blogged anything besides a recipe in a pretty long time so when my friend Nic asked to do a blog collaboration I was excited to do something a little different! Nic is a personal trainer/health coach and is very open about the fact she used to suffer with an eating disorder. Being that I am currently studying my masters degree in Clinical Nutrition and Eating Disorders, I thought this would be a very fitting and interesting collab. We also share very similar opinions in terms of finding a healthy balance in life and enjoying food in a moderate and healthy way (and not restricting!). So we put together a little interview so Nic could share with you guys how she went from having a pretty bad relationship with food to finding the perfect balance…

How do you manage to maintain such a healthy way of living?

Personally I think it’s a combination of getting a balance between many aspects in life, I really don’t think you can be fulfilled if your life is out of balance in so many different aspects. You can eat all the kale in the world, and do as many squats at you like, but if you don’t have people to laugh with, to cuddle or to share your recent successes with there is going to be a real imbalance. So for me it’s just having a real open approach to wholesome nutrition, exercising in the gym, and really making sure I make time for myself as well as having a great social life. It really helps that my work is what I love so I never get the added stress of waking up to something I don’t want to do.

Do you treat yourself to ‘cheat’ meals, or ever have days where you don’t feel like being quite so healthy?

So my approach to ‘cheat meals’ is really something where my views have changed. I 100% agree, if you are training for a body building competition or a certain job and it is your point of focus to be strict with your food and allow that cheat meal, I get it! It’s a sport, yes there are also room for competitors to eat flexibily and enjoy ‘cheats’ everyday, but there are so many different approaches for different individuals, depending on the type of person and discipline. But personally I’ve really allowed myself to find a healthy balance of enjoying foods that I love when and as I want. I really don’t like putting ‘unhealthy’ foods; and by that I mean heavily processed and sugar loaded produce into my body. If I want chocolate, I’ll eat raw chocolate or dark chocolate. If I want cheesecake, DAYUMM I’m having the raw cheesecake. This isn’t an everyday occurrence as they can still be heavily dense but if I want it, yes I’m having it!

Do you use your past difficulties in terms of eating as a way of emphasising with your clients?

Yes, I do. I will never tell clients about my struggles unless I hear or notice that a client is experiencing something similar which could be frustration with weight gain/loss, body image, obsessing about nutrition etc, I find this a point where I can really relate to my client. It actually is a really supportive mechanism from somebody who has been exactly through their struggle and is now on the other side, it offers hope and opportunity of knowing they are in good hands.

How long have you followed a vegan diet for? Do you encourage your clients to follow a more plant based diet?

For about a year and three months! The best internal year and three months may I add too. With my clients I would never force a Vegan diet on anyone, that’s not my style. When I discuss nutrition with clients we always take a look at their current diet. My main aim is to get my clients eating as healthy as possible, having a balanced approach and switching to whole foods wherever possible. Some clients love it and switch straight away and feel awesome, but some clients also need extra time, it can be very new and confusing, so I would just suggest perhaps changing a white toast and marshmallow spread for breakfast to going for wholegrain bread, with a natural peanut butter or refined sugar free jam. It’s just making the little switches that eventually lead to the biggest changes.

Is there anything in particular you do everyday (i.e. taking vitamins, eating certain foods, yoga?)

YOGA IS MY BEST FRIEND! THE GYM IS MY THERAPY AND PEANUT BUTTER IS LIFE! That’s kind of a summary. So yoga is my go to in life, it really channels my energy, answers questions that can’t be answered and just brings me back to a centre point. The one thing I would like to say here though for anyone reading this and not understanding how I get this in yoga, it doesn’t come at the click of a finger. It’s all about synchronising the right inhale and exhale with the movements and actually being in a meditative state doing it.

How did you overcome your eating disorder- what was the turning point?
WOW! It was a ride and a half! I could talk all day about this, but in a long story short it was a series of events. Firstly realising when the doctor gave me a ton of weight gain shakes, I refused to drink them after looking at the ingredients. They were laden with additives, colouring etc. This was when I knew I wanted to make myself better as I knew I didn’t want to ruin my body with these awful ingredients.

The second turning point was when I started to admire these insta girls with thick thighs, and amazing shoulder muscles, I attempted but I didn’t get very far because I wasn’t educated and thought my new tiny frame would be permanent. Wrong I was. The next hurdle was qualifying as a personal trainer, I loved training but was so clueless about it all and I decided to educate myself on how to train properly and knew it was an element in my career I wanted to have.

Upon graduating dance college I knew soon after the industry wasn’t for me, I struggled with not finding I could be 100% me, it wasn’t long after I started my own business, and this was massive for me and taught me how to stand on my own two feet. But the two biggest movements in my life were turning to a Vegan diet and becoming a Holistic Health Coach. When I turned to a Vegan diet I had no idea what to eat. I had to experiment because I was so confused, I then introduced myself to this ‘wholefoods’ kind of life and found this market full of raw chocolate and raw cheesecakes. I wanted to try everything, my favourite foods I discovered could be healthy! This was game changing for me! I found a new love for food again.

Studying to become a health coach was the latter part of my recovery. The course actually helped me finalise my recovery and I guess was like my own personal coach in itself. I learnt about the raw aspect of the importance of how relationships, career, nutrition, mindfulness and exercise were the biggest factors to change your life. If only more people could understand an eating disorder isn’t actually a disorder it would so much clearer to people. People binge because they are lonely, or are broken, they have severe anxiety or they may even be trying to succeed at something for their career, it’s exactly the same as people starve themselves. Something else in their life is incomplete! Food is a control mechanism. There’s something missing and these actions can come out in a variety of ways and for some people it’s a compulsive action with food. Looking back on my transformation points they are all areas I have learnt to heal my life.

Would you be comfortable/confident that you could advise someone with an eating disorder to help them lead a healthier lifestyle?

Of course I would. I know it’s part of my purpose. As a personal trainer and health coach I am now in a position to help people become stronger in all aspects of their life.

What would be the most powerful part of your transformation that you think would inspire others?

Ok, so when I was in a stage of  ‘anorexia’ in a technical term, my hair started to fall out, my menstrual cycle stopped, I was scared of high fat foods but I was also being continually complimented for my ‘thigh gap’ and ability to fit into size 0 jeans, but on the other hand people were also telling me how awful I looked. I constantly had this battle in my mind of what people could see and what I could. It would probably be a fair point to say I saw my body in such a distorted look. I was ALWAYS scared of putting on weight, because people wouldn’t call me skinny anymore, because that’s how they knew me?! My mind was screwed into pieces. I actually stopped myself from seeing people when I started to gain weight because I didn’t want them to know me as the big girl. I look back now and feel sorry the old Nicola that this voice took over her brain, but thankful at the same time because it taught me how to hit rock bottom and climb to the top and how amazing it feels on the other side.

When I made my transformation I can honestly say now, I am a tad fluffy in areas, but I’m strong, I’m healthy, I’m the happiest and most positive I have every been in my life. I feel pretty much invincible haha! My hair is SO long and thick! I have a regular menstrual cycle, and I feel like a women! I know I can put on a dress and I will go in and out like all those women I once thought WOW! My mind is so fresh and super open to life and any opportunity. My visions are clear because I don’t have this overpowering obsession with food! I am now in a position to help others and empower people to become the best versions of themselves.

Ditching the dairy, eating healthy fats, lifting weights and eating raw cakes has been amazing!

You can see my guest blog for Nic on her page