Published:
July 1, 2022
Last Updated:
July 6, 2022

International Voices of IIN: Janis Isaman, on Rewriting Your Own Health Rules

Voices of IIN is our content series where we talk with IIN students, graduates, and staff members who make up our diverse, vibrant, and passionate community ‒ from all over the world! IIN’s commitment to improving health and happiness is what brings us all together, and we aim to celebrate this commitment by sharing the unique stories and backgrounds of IIN change makers. Through this series, we hope to continue working toward creating a more inclusive wellness community, where all feel welcome to create a healthier life.

Janis Isaman, the founder of My Body Couture, helps people feel physically, emotionally, and mentally better in their bodies. She’s got multiple certifications in both fitness and nutrition modalities, including from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, in Yamuna Body Rolling, and in compassionate inquiry. She’s been quoted as a lifestyle expert in Reader’s Digest, Prevention and Women's Health and has been a guest on more than 250 podcasts.

To learn more, check out her website and Instagram page.

Origin Story

What did health and wellness look like for you growing up?

I grew up on a farm ‒ which, unbeknownst to me at that time, set me up for a lifetime of interest in health and wellness. My mom has a university degree in home economics, and she not only cooked everything from scratch but also planned balanced meals.

We grew a lot of food, especially potatoes, in two gardens. I have not-so-fond memories of weeding those gardens, shelling peas, and harvesting produce. I spent a lot of time outside playing, riding my bike, mowing the lawn, and doing chores on the farm.

I know where food comes from and didn’t realize what an important foundation this would be later in my life. Even during the low-carb craze, I retained my love of potatoes, whole grains, and fresh produce of all kinds!

Why did you ultimately decide to come to IIN?

I was working in fashion media, and my passion for health filled the gaps in the inherent lack of wellness at my day job. I’d completed a STOTT PILATES program and was teaching on the side. Most of my private clients had an interest in talking about their eating and dietary choices, and IIN was the perfect choice to learn how to integrate health coaching into a holistic movement practice. I was also interested in meeting like-minded individuals and colleagues and am grateful for the community and connections I formed while in school. I have a lifelong friend I met in the program, and there’s nothing better.

Perspectives on Nutrition and Health Coaching

How are you using your IIN education?

I use it every day, both in my own life and while coaching and working with clients. What I learned from IIN is an approach and a way of thinking that became the underpinning for how I think, work, and behave as well as how I coach clients on health, movement, and wellness. It’s an education that transcends knowledge: It’s about processing information, making choices, and creating sustainable change.

What about your IIN education inspired you most?

The commercial nutrition world is overly complex, and I suffered from confusion, paradox of choice, and perfectionism. I would take on completely unsustainable programs in search of a “result” while disconnecting from my body and my life.

My first health coaching "client” was me; I learned to simplify rather than blindly follow dietary “rules” and learned how to listen to my body and make only the changes that I could truly sustain. I was inspired by the simplicity of Joshua [Rosenthal, the founder of IIN]’s approach ‒ “Life is a long time” and other quotes run through my mind frequently.

Primary food became, and remains, a core operating principle in my life.

What does being a Health Coach mean to you?

People seek health coaching because the systems and approaches in the media, books, and magazines aren’t working for them. Health coaching is a process of seeing the person and their life, desires, and dreams rather than following a prescription that works in a laboratory or assigning a program that was effective for a different person. Health coaching focuses on the human element in addition to incorporating some nutrition theory. It’s often surprising to people because it’s simpler than they typically expect.

How do you apply bio-individuality in your life? Your clients' lives?

Bio-individuality: This unique IIN concept means that we’re all different and must embrace our uniqueness to best take care of our health, from the food we eat to the environments we thrive in and everything in between.

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I work one-on-one with clients. Most of them have noticed that the prescriptive advice, techniques, and tools commonly offered in chain gyms, online program packages, and books or magazines are not beneficial long term. It’s hard to understand why, until we understand bio-individuality.

It may initially take a bit more time to discover what our bio-individuality entails (versus following a trendy diet from the Internet), but the results will be evident when it feels organic and natural and flows with our real life.

Nutrition, Healthcare, and Equity in the Wellness World

If we traveled to your country, what would we find in terms of food, wellness practices, etc.?

Canada is relatively holistic. We have universal healthcare and corporate benefit plans that often cover massage, acupuncture, psychology, etc.

Is wellness accessible to everyone who wants/needs it in your country, or is there still work to do to make it more accessible?

We have universal healthcare, but wellness often is an out-of-pocket expense (or supported via employer benefit plans).

Your work focuses on improving mobility and reducing bodily discomfort through movement. How do you feel this contributes to making wellness more inclusive?

The white, patriarchal, capitalist model of society requires bodies to conform to a specific look. There’s very little conversation about function or feeling and instead a constant barrage and focus on what is flawed and how to “fix” it.

Most of us will respond to the insecurities this system creates by trying the associated solutions: Go to the gym, go on a diet – even if we hate the program, suffer, or even injure or damage ourselves. In addition to being a Health Coach and movement specialist, I’m also a credentialed trauma therapist.

Having agency over our own bodily experience, being attuned to ourselves, hearing options rather than instructions, and getting information that allows us to interpret the messages our bodies are sending us and adjust accordingly all help make wellness more inclusive.

We have a lot of work to do to make accommodations for those in lesser-power societal positions, but we’ve made progress in the past two decades. I’m honored to help people feel more agency and empowerment over their own bodies, which is a key step to a more broadly inclusive culture.

Personal Goals for Social Impact

What is your “why”?

“Why” – This refers to one’s purpose and the reason(s) behind their chosen work.

I love helping people with what I struggled with. I naturally skew toward a heavier body type and lost 40 pounds in my early 20s. I struggled to keep it off and followed every diet and exercise program I could find. All of them were hard; most of them cut me off from my social life, and even more of them made me obsessive about food and exercise.

I’ve now taken significant education programs in holistic nutrition, exercise, and mental health so I can help clients with the tools and techniques I wish had been available to me at that time. I love making a difference in people’s lives in an hour or less, hearing feedback from them and seeing the look of insight in their eyes when they reach a new awareness, achieve a new feeling, and feel freer and more alive.

I do what I do so that other people can be free of the struggle, pain, expense, and challenge of feeling comfortable in their bodies. This frees them up to achieve and accomplish their life goals and missions, and it’s inspiring to me to watch clients navigate the world in new ways and achieve meaning in their lives once they are free of the pain and drama of living in a body that is not comfortable.

If you wanted your audience from your country to know one thing about health coaching, what would it be?

Health coaching will free us from diets and “lifestyle” programs (which are usually just diets with a different name) and help us discover what’s effective, approachable, and doable for each unique person.

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The Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) was founded 30 years ago and has evolved to become the world’s largest and leading online health coaching and nutrition school.

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