Integrative Nutrition Blog

How I Found Success Through 3 Simple Statements

September 18, 2013

Hi there, I’m Michelle Pfennighaus, IIN Class of 2009 and founder of Find Your Balance.  There's a lot of info out there about healthy living, but I'll boil it down and tell you what's most important. Now doesn't that make things easier? Connect with me at FindYourBalanceHealth.com, Facebook, or Twitter.

It became almost a mantra in my first year as a health coach: “Feel the fear and do it anyway.” That was something Joshua had said often during my time at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. And it never resonated so deeply with me as it did just before my first teleseminar about sugar addiction. Or just before appearing on TV to promote my business.

I was feeling the fear, all right. I felt like a total fake, for starters. Me? A health coach? Who would believe anything I had to say? Who would possibly take me seriously? I had worked in advertising for the past decade, for heaven’s sake!

But that mantra was so direct. Feel the fear. Yes. And do it anyway? Eek. Ok. Here I go.

Time after time, it propelled me forward. One successful event led to another, and another. Soon I wasn’t feeling fear.

I was feeling confidence.

Did learning about hundreds of nutrition theories give me confidence? I guess a little. Did famous nutrition speakers give me the courage to succeed? Not really. Instead, it was this one sentence I heard over and over again from Joshua that pushed me out of my comfort zone and into a new career. I was off and running!

Of course, as any health coach knows, there are a million directions you can go with your new career. You can work with private clients, run group programs, write a book, open a wellness center, sell healthy products...the list is endless. And as my career got off the ground, I found myself voraciously chasing every idea that popped into my head.

I was waking up before the sun to teach early yoga classes, meeting with health coaching clients all day, spending my “downtime” blogging and working on my website, and teaching workshops and classes until well after dinner. At the same time, my husband and I had decided to start a family. Yet I had no idea how I could possibly spare 9 months to be pregnant.

Finally, the irony hit me! I was burned out I was from helping others live a healthy, balanced life.

And then that I remembered something else Joshua had always said:

“Life is a long time.”

Those words brought such sweet relief. Yes, I could become a mother. Yes, I could have a successful health coaching practice. Yes, I could teach yoga. I could even do a million other things! But no, I could not do it all at once.

In fact, the more things I tried to do at the same time, the less successful I was at each.

With that, the pace of my life and career suddenly became sustainable. I scaled back my workload dramatically and made space for what was important. It felt scary, but I knew this would ensure the long-term success of my health coaching practice.

And then, I got pregnant.

During my pregnancy I went from eating a fairly strict vegan diet to “Oh-my-goodness-give-me-a-steak-right-now.” The cravings were beyond intense! And for a perfectionist like me, it was really hard to give myself a break and admit that maybe, just maybe, my body needed meat. Maybe I needed to relax around food a little bit.

It made me remember another lesson I learned at IIN: food is not religion. It’s OK to change the food you eat, change your views, experiment, and be less strict. It’s OK to be vegan for awhile, then become a meat eater, and later...who knows? Maybe I’ll go macrobiotic! But the point is, I felt in my bones exactly what Joshua had always said. Different people need different food, and what we need may change at different points in our lives.

At this point in my life, I needed a steak. Like, now.

Happily, I had a super healthy pregnancy and breastfeeding experience and was able to bring newfound flexibility to my health coaching practice. I’ve found my niche working with a lot of women who, like me, are dealing with bodies in transition (their own, and their kids’ as they grow up.)

If you want to know the truth, my success as a health coach has never hinged on what I know about vitamins and minerals. Nope. I could be an encyclopedia of nutrition knowledge, but without the larger lessons I learned at IIN, I never would have made it this far.

That’s pretty amazing stuff.

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