Beyond the Body Coaching
with Joie Monaco
Aside from being a certified Health and Life Coach, I am a wife and a mom to two sweet, sassy girls. As a Montana native I love to be outdoors camping or hiking, or even just finding adventure on a backroad to nowhere. I love to cook and bake (cleaning, well, not so much). My childhood included spending time at my grandparent's wheat farm and from there sprouted a love of cultivating my own backyard garden. When I can, I try to find time for a good bool (or 10!) My vision as a health coach is to help women discover what it means to truly love what they see in the mirror. But that's not exactly how it started out for me....
As a kid, I grew up in the '80s era of 'fat phobia.' My mom, having been overweight most of her life, was on a constant crusade for better health and weight loss. I learned early on how to count calories and fat grams, and learned all the horror stories about what happens if you are overweight. Although there were positive intentions behind all of these lessons, I didn't realize it as a child.
My dad, on the other hand, was the complete opposite. Being raised on a farm, he would work sun up to sun down. There were many times when I would go for days without seeing him. For dad, self care was a luxury and eating often fell into the self care category. To him, the mark of a a hard worker and provider was to work until you collapsed into a starving, cranky, exhausted heap, leaving little room for care for anyone or anything other than your own basic needs. My beliefs around health intersected at 'don't be overweight' and 'eating is a luxyry.' I bet you can just imagine where that led...
In high school as I became intrigued by health and wellness. I began working out and learning more about nutrition and it's effects on the body. As most high school girls do, I became more conscious about my appearance. I wasn't necessarily overweight but I wasn't thin either. I also wasn't athletic, overly smart or the slightest bit extroverted. While I had amazing friends, I didn't feel exceptional at anything. Until my first diet, that it. As I began to explore caloric restriction, I did indeed lose weight. The more I restricted, the more weight I lost and the more attention I received. I began to workout and also found a love for running. I was so busy in school activities and studying that I was home less and less for mealtime. When I was, I found ways to make it look like I had eaten when I hadn't. My restrictions took on the guise of becoming vegetarian, then vegan, until it finally turned into full blown anorexia. I was living abroad in Japan the summer before my senior year, and that's when the eating disorder took a turn for the worst. I came home almost unrecognizable and at that point, there was no denying that I needed help. I spent the next 6 years in recovery working with doctors, nutritionists, and therapists, sometimes twice a day. Recovery was full of successes and relapses, time and time again.
The turning point came when I was hospitalized shortly before my 21st birthday. My mom came to me in the hospital and asked me with tears in her eyes, "What if this is the time you don't come home?" I knew I had to change. Even though I wasn't strong enough to do it for myself, I had to do it for my parents. So the next few years brought steady recovery, but I still didn't have all the coping mechanisms place to deal with stress and life. I began to binge eat and eventually doubled my weight in less than a year. I was devastated and felt so out of control, just as I had with the anorexia. Except this time the 'fat stigma' that came with compounded the shame and isolation. Just as before, I turned to exercise to get me through. Before long, exercise became less of a savior and more of a penance. Exercise bulimia developed and I spent countless hours exercising to punish my binges and also in anticipation of possibly overindulging in any future meals. As my body began to break down from stress and overuse, I knew it was time to make another mindset shift. It was time to make my health and body a priority.
During this time, I had begun college and eventually decided on a degree in Psychology. I also spent a few years in college working for a weight loss management doctor and saw how the medical industry addressed weight loss: pills and restrictive diets. I knew I wanted to help more women learn how to successfully navigate themselves in a society that constantly bombards us with negative self image and diet culture. In college, I studied all I could about mental health, nutrition and eating disorders and eventually developed a resource guide for the local community on eating disorders providers, practitioners and resources. I have spent the last 20 years working in the healthcare field. I have watched as patients become sicker and sicker, and at alarmingly younger ages. It's very evident that a paradigm shift needs to happen in our culture, and it needs to happen fast.
I know first hand that diets don't work. Shaming people because you're not comfortable with their size (in either direction) doesn't work. Stereotyping people based on appearance doesn't work. So what does work? Learning to listen to and respect your body. We are all here, created in our own unique way to serve our highest purpose here on earth. And let me tell you, my pants size has nothing to do with it. And yours doesn't either. When we stop associating health with weight, we begin the delicate process of listening to the body's wisdom and intuition. We begin to heal our own relationship with food and find what movement fulfills our body and soul. We can finally begin to love ourselves, beyond the body, from the inside out. So let's step out together and dance to the beautiful music of life!