Stefanie Michele is an Intuitive Eating Counselor and Body Image Coach who helps people overcome binge eating, disordered eating, and body image issues through 1:1 and group coaching programs. In this feature, Stefanie shares insights in her journey to health coaching with great self-care advice to achieve a healthier, happier lifestyle.
I got a certification in integrative health coaching from IIN back in 2015. At the time, I was interested in a nutritional approach to improving symptoms of anxiety and chronic Lyme disease, which I was dealing with after the birth of my second daughter. However, this focus quickly morphed into an obsession with health and wellness called Orthorexia, which was really another channel for my long-standing eating disorder (I had suffered with anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating since I was fifteen years old.) In 2018, I left the wellness industry altogether to focus on my own healing. I spent a year allowing all foods and healing my body image, and by 2020 I was no longer dealing with my ED, and my anxiety had improved. It wasn't a far jump to getting certified in Intuitive Eating Counseling and Coaching to help others heal from binge eating behaviors and body image issues. I am also in training to become a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner (SEP) to help people regulate their nervous systems, which can also underlie eating disorders.
I work with people to stop patterns of binge eating and restricting food; to learn to become "normal eaters" so they can live a fuller life. Body image is usually a big part of our work together - I help deconstruct limiting beliefs, improve self-talk, fight weight stigma and oppression, and find self-acceptance. I also address symptoms of depression and anxiety through a somatic and nervous system regulation lens.
I find that attaching to nutrition as the end-all-and-be-all of health is a common mistake that many people make. We adopt all sorts of rules and box ourselves into lifestyles that may not really work for us. I also see people overeating and then using restriction to "make up" for this, which then fuels the next binge. Demonizing food and being afraid of our food is not useful to making helpful choices around it.
Give yourself permission to say “No” more often -- less plans, less obligations, less "doing." It's okay to rest and restore, and in fact we need it to be creative, connected, and calm.
Give yourself permission to enjoy food! We so often eat to numb out or to avoid weight gain, and we've lost touch with the inherent pleasure of it.
Start learning about nervous system regulation, especially if you deal with anxiety, depression, and/or eating disorders. This is often a game-changer.
I go to bed early and wake up early. I love waking up and having an hour to myself before the rest of the house wakes up. I think, where we can manage it, this quiet hour is a part of taking care of ourselves (whether that's in the morning or at night).
When I'm stressed, I go to my room and curl up in my bed for 15 minutes. It resets me. However, this can admittedly be difficult with little kids running around, but I've been known to do it anyway!
And finally, saying “No” or "I'm not sure yet, can I get back to you?" instead of rushing to a “YES” that you can't get out of. Keeping my schedule on the lighter side is a freedom I can't explain. Covid helped me understand the impact of too many activities and I promised myself never to go back to burnout mode.