Voices of IIN is our newest content series, where we’ll talk with IIN students, graduates, and staff members who make up our diverse, vibrant, and passionate community. IIN’s commitment to making the world a healthier and happier place 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.
Ethan Schiff is an integrative Health Coach and the founder of Optimized Health, based in Los Angeles. After years of yo-yo dieting and realizing none of it was sustainable, he began studying nutrition, fitness, and habit development, with the goal of developing a more sustainable approach to weight loss and general health. Using this approach (now the Optimized Health SIMMER Method), he lost 130 pounds and became passionate about nutrition, fitness, and habit development in the process. His endless enthusiasm and genuine passion led him to create Optimized Health, where his goal of using the approach that worked for him now helps others, whether they are trying to lose weight, get fit, or simply live their best, healthiest, and most fulfilled lives. Learn more at OptimizedHealthCoaching.com.
What was your relationship to health prior to enrolling at IIN? Share a bit about your journey.
I went on my first “diet” in middle school and spent a decade yo-yo dieting and trying popular weight-loss programs. I ultimately reached my heaviest (312 pounds) after dieting for 10 years. At that point, I realized I needed to shift my approach. Instead of trying to plug myself into a blanket, one-size-fits-all diet with lists of “good” and “bad” foods, I needed to examine how health fit into my life, and what systems were realistic and sustainable. After shifting my mindset with this focus, I ended up losing 130 pounds, which I have been able to keep off for years.
What was the catalyst that led you to enroll at IIN?
After losing 130 pounds, I wanted to find a way to help others but wasn’t sure what that next step might be. I saw a friend of a friend post on Instagram about IIN, and immediately after I checked it out, I enrolled. That friend of a friend ended up being the first coach I brought on to my team at Optimized Health (my health coaching business), and we now work together every day!
What made your IIN experience and education so transformative?
It was powerful to realize there was a large community of people who were passionate about health in a similar way to me. Everybody had different backgrounds that brought them to pursue health coaching, but ultimately we all had similar missions, which I thought was incredible. Plus, the material I learned at IIN helped solidify the many things I had experienced in my personal health and wellness journey.
Perspectives on Nutrition and Health Coaching
How are you using your IIN education?
I now own Optimized Health, an integrative health coaching company comprised of four Health Coaches, all of whom are IIN graduates. We work with clients of all different backgrounds, ages, and genders, with all different health goals that are personalized to their own lives.
I began the company by working for free with my mother-in-law, who ended up losing 60 pounds and reversing her diabetes! From there, a friend of hers reached out, and the referrals have continued to snowball as clients have enjoyed consistent success. This has helped us reach more and more people as our business grows.
Why do you feel Health Coaches are so needed today?
Health Coaches are often the missing connection that is so badly needed to improve people’s health on a daily basis. Without them, people are left with a combination of an annual 8- to 10-minute doctor’s visit, endless nutrition misinformation and confusion they read online or hear from friends, and no sense of realistic steps to both create and solidify new habits that make sense for their actual lives and schedules. Our health coaching work is focused on every single client having extreme amounts of personalization, to make every person win, regardless of their starting point.
Why did you decide to create a group coaching business?
I decided to create a group coaching business because I genuinely felt that if the goal is to help as many people as possible, the combination of proper systems and like-minded people can achieve that more effectively than doing it on my own.
I am not the type of person who is obsessed with personal glory and instead love the energy and passion of a team helping each other. I’m so grateful for Maddy, Katie, and Peyton, the incredible coaches I get to work with every day who make up the Optimized Health team with me.
Their passion gives me inspiration, and vice versa. It is a win-win for all of us, but most importantly, an even bigger win for our clients.
How do you communicate that health looks different and feels different for everyone (IIN’s concept of bio-individuality)? How do you apply bio-individuality in your own life?
Bio-individuality: the unique IIN concept 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
Bio-individuality is a critical component of our coaching. We pride ourselves on going over the top in value, and in a world that is often watered down with generic services and products, we aim to consistently surprise our client community with just how personalized our coaching is.
We create and send health plans every single week to our clients, specific to their upcoming week, that are completely customized based on their actual schedule, lifestyle, and feedback we receive in client sessions. This allows every person’s unique body and biology to be combined with their work and personal schedules to set them up for success in real time.
Nutrition, Healthcare, and Equity in the Wellness Field
Wellness marketing is often gendered and portrays society’s (unrealistic) ideals. What has your experience been thus far in the wellness industry as a man who is a Health Coach as well as a certified personal trainer?
As for the health, wellness, and fitness industry as a whole, I am definitely a strong advocate of people approaching their wellness and fitness or workout routines by doing the exact opposite of what society has told them they should be focusing on, for a well-rounded and balanced health structure across their lives.
Beyond fitness, though, I have found that leading by example and being completely transparent, vulnerable, and honest is the way to go. Almost every single time I open up without shame or concern for what someone might think or assume about me, the response is someone else saying they relate to it, which becomes an opportunity for them to also open up in a way they might not have otherwise.
Where do you see gaps in wellness for men or those who identify as men that Health Coaches could potentially fill?
There are many gender-specific stereotypes and assumptions made in the wellness world that are just crazy to me. Generally speaking, so many people think men should be doing bicep curls and eating steak, and women should be doing yoga and eating salad.
Closing those gaps and assumptions is the opportunity. I see the power of a good Health Coach to be able to unpack assumptions and expectations that a person has put on themselves, or that society has put on them, so they can evaluate the landscape of their health and life with a clean slate and renewed energy.
How do you think Health Coaches can help transform healthcare/the healthcare experience to help make “health for all” a reality?
Health for all: the concept that embodies what is required and what it would mean for all people to achieve health, from equitable access to health resources to finding the foods, movement, environment, career, relationships, and lifestyle that work for the individual and beyond to experiencing inclusivity and safety in one’s community and fully embracing one’s authentic self
2020 and everything that happened with COVID-19 was the first time in my life when our health both individually and collectively was an open, public topic of conversation rather than a personal thing to hide or feel shame in wanting to navigate. That was eye-opening for me.
From answering the question “How are you?” to friends going out to a family-style dinner and deciding what to order to walking into a new group fitness class for the first time, anything relating to health is often so vulnerable that people don’t know how to navigate the arena of health in a public setting.
The hope is that society at large, government, private and public organizations, the modern workplace, and humans as a whole begin to support the collective investment in health. I hope we begin investing in health environments and systems all over, but especially in areas that do not typically have access to the same quality of food and activities that are found in other places.
What opportunities do you have to bring “health for all” into your work?
I am passionate that access to a Health Coach should not only be for the wealthy or most privileged. The Optimized Health team is proud to offer reasonable prices for our coaching, even though I believe we go completely over the top in the value of what we offer.
Beyond pricing, we offer two public Pay-What-You-Want group fitness classes on Zoom every week. One is a 45-minute HIIT class and the other is a 60-minute Yoga Sculpt class. Both are open to clients as well as anybody around the world. People send payment via Venmo after class if they’d like, but it is not required.
We also regularly host workshops and activities, like virtual 5k or 10k runs and wellness or fitness challenges just for the sake of promoting health, regardless of discretionary income.
Personal Goals for Social Impact
Tell me about an impactful “spreading the ripple effect” experience – whether it was with a client, friend, family member, or even a stranger.
Ripple effect: the phenomenon that occurs when you affect positive change in one person and they share it with someone else, and so on
My very first paying client was named Andrew, and he reached out after seeing the results of the 60-pound transformation my mother-in-law had achieved. We began working together for what we thought would be a few months but ended up being a year and a half! I am so proud of our progress, where he completely revamped his approach to nutrition, fitness, and hydration and is now set with a sustainable lifestyle. We also became close friends through the process and will be forever. He has referred many clients to Optimized Health, and we are finalizing a collaboration now with his partner, who is a physical therapist. He will always be part of our community on so many levels.
This is just one of many examples of clients turning into lifelong friends or developing a true bond with us through the deeply transformative work we do every day with people. The clients ultimately grow and learn, but they often do not realize that their progress is just as much a source of inspiration to the coaches as it is to themselves.
The coach-client relationship can be a beautiful full-circle connection, and I can’t wait to continue developing those relationships and working passionately to help people live their best, healthiest, and most energized lives every single day.