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Nutritionist

Suz Jeffreys – Stress Management Consultant, Tai Chi Instructor & Certified Nutrition Therapist

Suz Jeffreys – Stress Management Consultant, Tai Chi Instructor & Certified Nutrition Therapist
About Suz Jeffreys

CEO Wellness Founder Suzanne Jeffreys, MS in Education, helps high achievers stress less, power up and create more balance in their lives. Want to look and feel great, work/volunteer smarter, and have plenty of time for family and fun, but not sure how? As an international Speaker, Fitness Professional, Tai Chi Instructor and Certified Nutrition Therapist, Suz teaches the self-care and stress management strategies you need with her signature Harmony of Body & Mind Method. 

Developed over 25 years, this unique system blends moving meditation, ancient Tai Chi principles, and her love of all things fitness, food and nutritional science. Suz offers keynote speaking, health coaching, corporate consulting, live classes and online courses. 

Suz and her husband Bob live in beautiful Estero, Florida. She has 3 kids, 4 stepkids, and 7 grandkids. Quirky facts: Suz loves Thai food, good wine, stand-up paddle boarding, horses, rescue dogs and beautiful beaches! Are you ready to stop trading your health for your lifestyle and impact? Find out more at Suzjeffreys.com or www.TaiChiwithSuz.com.

Connect with Suz: Email | Instagram | Linkedin

Listen Now

Listen to the episode now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or on your favourite podcast platform.

Resources Mentioned

Bank Street College of Education

The Health Sciences Academy

Suz Jeffery’s Personal Website

CEO Wellness Blog

Tai With Suz

The Transcript

**Please note that all of our transcriptions come from rev.com and are 80% accurate. We’re grateful for the robots that make this possible and realize that it’s not a perfect process.

Sam Demma (00:00):
Welcome back to another episode of the High Performing Educator podcast. This is your host and youth speaker, Sam Demma. I’m super excited to share with you today’s interview with Suz Jeffreys. She has an Ms in education and she helps high achievers stress less, power up, and create more balance in their lives; in your life. The reason I was interested in bringing Suza on is because I thought her ideas, her philosophies, her practices, her teaching could help you stress less power up and create more balance in your life.


Sam Demma (01:07):
Want to look and feel great, work and volunteer smarter and have plenty of time for family and fun, but not sure how? Well, as an international speaker fitness, professional and Tai Chi instructor and certified nutritional therapist, Suz teaches the self care and stress management strategies you need with her signature harmony of body and mind method. She has been doing this for over 25 years. She has three kids, four step kids, and seven grandkids. And here are a few quirky facts about our guest here today. She loves Thai food, good wine, stand up paddle boarding, horses, rescue dogs, and beautiful beaches. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I enjoyed recording it. There’s a moment where she literally takes us through a breathing exercise. So get ready, be in a quiet place while you listen today so you can get the full benefit of this interview. I’ll see you on the other side, enjoy. Suz, welcome to the High Performing Educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show all the way from Florida on this beautifully bright morning, both in Pickering and where you’re from. Why don’t you start by introducing yourself and sharing a little bit about how, a little bit behind the reason why you’re so passionate about the work you do in education?


Suz Jeffreys (02:23):
Yeah. Thanks so much, Sam, for having me on, I love your vision. I love your energy and your mission, and it’s just very cool and quite an honor to be interviewed and spend the time together. So for those of you who don’t know me, my name is Suz Jeffreys. I’ve been an educator my whole life. I’ve worked with everything from three year olds who had learning disabilities all the way up through 98 year olds and fitness. And the best thing for me about being an educator is helping people to become more empowered by helping them learn and ask good questions. So whether I’m teaching Tai Chi, which I’ve taught for 27 years, or I’m teaching water aerobics, or I’m teaching stress management techniques now; working with younger, old, it’s just a privilege to help people be empowered to change their own lives with good education.


Sam Demma (03:06):
I love that. And I’m curious to know what led you down this path. You know, it’s funny people all often tell me that was such a great speech. And in my head, I’m thinking to myself, sometimes I give the advice I most need to hear. And I’m curious to know if you had a stressful experience in your life that let you down this path, or if not, what did, was it an educator or a calling? Like, how did you decide this is what you wanted to do?


Suz Jeffreys (03:29):
Such an insightful question, Sam. You’re so young to me that insightful. I love that. Yeah, actually. Yeah. So my original I’ve had several different chapters in work as an educator. I began to be a first grade teacher. I studied in college my last year to be a first grade educator because I studied political science. I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. And I was putting myself through school and I was working full time, just like supporting myself. And I became interested in power and why some people take advantage of others and small groups. You know, I worked as a waitress called waitresses back then in New York city. And some people were nice and some people were not so nice. So that question expanded to why are groups of people kind to each other and not, and why are some groups of people more easily taken advantage of?


Suz Jeffreys (04:14):
And I was looking at first third countries, I was looking at indigenous populations first in the ruling class. And what I really found out Sam, it was kind of a mindblower was that people who couldn’t read or couldn’t ask good questions were the most vulnerable people. Mm. Because if they couldn’t read what was written or understand what was being said, or ask good questions, you know, really questions that would really reveal the answers that were meaningful, then there was so much more vulnerable to being manipulated. So I was like, Hey, all good. I know what I’ll do. I’ll become a first grade teacher and teach young children to love, to read and love, to learn and to love to ask good questions. So that’s really where I started, but then the story continues on from there. Cause I’ve worked with a lot of different people and several different actually as well.


Sam Demma (05:04):
Okay. So when you say that you make me even more curious, what do you mean several different species and, and how did that lead you into Tai Chi and the work you do with, you know, moving the body?


Suz Jeffreys (05:13):
Yeah. Great, great question. So a picture, this, I was a first grade teacher. I had two children was married and then when my two kids were really, really little, we were divorced and that was a very healthy decision for all all included. And the issue was I had like no money. I didn’t have a teaching job yet. I had finished my master’s degree, had a lot of school debt was struggling to find a first grade job in New York did find one. It was great. Cause I went to a great college to get my master’s degree. I had a great student teaching experience, but you know, back then in that year, which was oh, 30 years ago, like the job market was tight. Yeah. So I finally got a job. I was super excited yet. It was very challenging because I didn’t have very much money.


Suz Jeffreys (06:00):
I was paying for child support or childcare. Pardon me for two kids like babysitting for two kids, my child support wasn’t coming in. And I was like stressed the max, I’m kind of a, I can do anything kind of person. Like, let me add it. I’ll take it on. And yet I was super stressed out and overwhelmed and, and I, there was this one class. I could take my kids to where I bartered with the, the martial arts school in town. And I had no money for lessons, but my, my youngest really, really, really wanted to be in, in martial arts since he was like two. So I made him wait until he was four, but my youngest and my eldest seven and four took them to the community, martial arts school, all about building camaraderie and teamwork and supporting each other. It was a great school and cheering with all the parents on the side.


Suz Jeffreys (06:45):
But one day I was trying to hide tears while everybody else was cheering because I just hit rock bottom. That day. I’ve been struggling at that point for two years to support my children and to work hard. And I loved teaching, but I was working way too many hours with my teaching job. Plus also my part-time tutoring gig. I had started on the side to bring in more income. And honestly my kids were in daycare a lot more than I liked. And that day everything kind of came crashing down because the one treat I could afford for my kids and I saved up all week was to take them after clung Fu class on Fridays to get a slice of pizza. Mm. Back then remember like 30 years ago, 25 years ago pizza was a dollar, a slice and I would save up $2.


Suz Jeffreys (07:30):
They, they could each have one slice. I didn’t have any, we had ice water. That was it. But that was the big deal that day though. I didn’t have the $2 Sam. I did not have $2. And I felt like such a failure. And my biggest disappointment was that I was gonna disappoint my kids and I didn’t wanna do that. So I was trying to hold back, tears, sitting on this hard feature. Everybody’s like cheering. I’m just really trying not to cry. I’m literally praying for a sign. Cause I’m like, God, I can’t do this anymore. I’m working like a hundred hours a week. My kids are in daycare too much. Nothing is changing. I’m trying everything. I need a sign. What should I do differently right at that moment? And this is nuts right at that moment. I hear this soft music walking down the hall from the classroom, just down the hall.


Suz Jeffreys (08:17):
So I’m curious, I get up and I follow it. And I peek in the door and there’s all these people moving together in this beautiful, slow motion flow to this beautiful music was just mesmerizing. And I was peeking in the teacher, saw me, which I was like, ah, didn’t wanna interrupt them. And she’s like, come in. So I go in and pretty soon I start flowing with them and class went on for maybe five more minutes and I felt different. I began to breathe again. I felt my shoulders just sink and drop evident. They’ve been way up here. I was so stressed out. Mm. And I was just fascinated that I, I found out it was called TA Chi and it was all an ancient martial art to help to for self defense, but also distress less and balance better. And I was, oh, I was like, oh my gosh. That was amazing. And that moment my kids came running in. God’s honest to, they come running and mommy, mommy, guess what? Our best friends wanna take us all out for pizza? Can we go with them tonight?


Sam Demma (09:24):
Wow.


Suz Jeffreys (09:26):
Got it. That was my sign. Yeah. So I arranged with the school to bar with my Tachi lessons. And, and then honestly, in a couple weeks, everything began to shift in my life. I’ve things started to flow more easily. I was struggling less. I was feeling more centered. And honestly, even my kids told me, like, it was more fun again. They’re like, mommy, you’re smiling again. And that almost broke my heart because I didn’t even know. I hadn’t been smiling. I had no clue. Then within a couple of weeks, my tutoring business took off money was coming in. It’s like everything changed. And I took that as a sign Sam and I decided I was supposed to share this ancient TA Chi series of principles that helped create more balance in life with everyone. So I committed to a five year program to become a certified Tai Chi instructor. And I’ve been teaching in Taichi ever since,


Sam Demma (10:19):
Even to different species.


Suz Jeffreys (10:21):
Yes. Well, that’s where that comes in. So few years later I have, I get remarried. I have another child and I had the opportunity to leave my first grade job, which I love, but I was ready to have more time with my kids, still tutoring and had low spare. I loved horses as a child. And then I saw this flyer at my vet’s office for a horse rescue. They needed some extra money and they needed some extra hands. I’m like, ah, I love horses. Maybe I can help. I have a little extra money now. So I got involved with this organization and pretty soon I adopted one of the horses. Nice. And she was very traumatized. She’d been very abused. And I was looking for someone who could help train her to help her be calm and safe. Also, excuse me, to be rideable one day. So I found this horse whisper. If you ever heard that term, it’s like horse whisper named Bob Jeffries. And I couldn’t believe it. I went to watch him work with this one horse who again, not my horse. I was checking out first.


Sam Demma (11:20):
Yeah.


Suz Jeffreys (11:21):
And without touching this horse in about 10 minutes, he had this frantic terrified horse calm and centered, and he never touched the horse. Mm. It was all Tai Chi. Now, Bob didn’t know that at the time it was all flowing with energy and shifting energy and being very ground and centered and breathing now as a horse whisper, he had no idea. He was actually implementing ancient TA Chi principles, but the horse responded. I saw it and I’m like, okay, I’m supposed to do that work. So for 15 years I became a horse whisper. I became the centered riding instructor. And I went from teaching children in the classroom to teaching horses and people to bring out the best in each other.


Sam Demma (12:02):
I love that. That’s such a phenomenal story. And like what a, what a way to see the sign, you know at a moment, your life where you needed it the most. And it makes me think about the hun, the hundreds of people who might be stressed out in their life right now. Like if there’s an educator listening, who’s in the exact same shoes you were in, you know, maybe super stressed out, working so many hours per week to make sure their kids feel safe and, and healthy during this crazy time in the world. Like, what do you think their first steps should be? Like, what would you advise them to do? What would you advise your younger self to do maybe, you know, a week before you saw the signs?


Suz Jeffreys (12:41):
Yeah. So first of all, I wanna say, thank you to everyone. Who’s an educator. It’s the work that we do to serve can often be underestimated by others. Yeah. And often go unappreciated. And in those moments, it’s so important to remember why we do this work. Whether you teach first grade, like I did, or you teach high school or you teach something else completely like fitness or movement, whatever it is that you teach. Thank you for doing that because that’s how we make the world a better place, right. To share our gifts. And in response to your earlier comment. Yeah. Sam, usually we end up teaching what we need to learn the most. No doubt. I went from stressed out to much to understanding how to manage my stress and protect my energy. And for those of you who are teachers out there, or students or parents whoever’s listening, I I’d love to give you just some simple tips that you can use right now, anywhere.


Suz Jeffreys (13:35):
Anytime, if we want to let go of stress, tension, anger, fear, whatever’s just exhausting us and depleting our energy. We can always go to our breath and think about it this way. Our breath is literally biomechanically speaking. The easiest way for our body to release tension. Tension is an important to be aware of tension, anxiety, stress, fear, because they burn up our life, energy, our Chi, which is what she means in TA Chi, life energy. And then the philosophy of Tai Chi. The only cause of death Sam is that you’ve used up all your Chi, like you run out of gas. So we need to protect our Chi and to make sure that we don’t let it get wasted by things that are not important, or we can’t change. So stress, fear, regret. We gotta let ’em go. And the easiest way to do that is with the focus on her breath. So if y’all wanna do this with me, it’ll just take a minute and you really can do this anywhere. If you’re sitting sit up tall and relax your shoulders back, take your left thumb, place it gently in your belly button and layer Palm on your abdomen. And then your right hand on top. We’re gonna take a few moments to focus on our breathing in, through the nose, to fill our hands and out through the mouth, to empty


Suz Jeffreys (14:55):
Into the nose, to fill and out through the mouth to empty. If you like, you can close your eyes. That’s how we do it traditionally. But if you prefer, you can keep your eyes open, softly, gazing out. It’s something easy on the eyes, breathing into the, and out to the mouth. Listening to the sound of your deep breath Sounds a lot like the ebb and flow of waves on your favorite beach. And as we breathe deeply in this manner, you’ll fill your hands, filling up and emptying out. Our hands are on top of our center. It’s two to three inches inside our body. And we inhale to fill our center in exhale empty. We’re breathing deeply down to our center of gravity center of balance And center of power. We’re breathing deeply to relax the body, quiet the mind, and smooth out the energy. So whenever we feel stressed out anywhere, anytime I’ll invite you all, I’ll invite us all to just take 10 deep breaths, enter the nose so we can hear the sound of our beautiful breath And out through the mouth to empty. We inhale to fill up with positive energy and we Exel a let go of anything. That’s not serving us. Inhaling joy in


Suz Jeffreys (16:43):
Exhaling, anger, out, breathing balance, and Breathing, chaos out, breathing centeredness in breathing stress out. Let’s just do three more deep breaths together, breathing in and out In and out last one, together, breathing in and out, filling up with the good stuff and let going, letting go of literally anything that does not service the breath is powerful. It’s a beautiful tool we have at our resources that are accessed anywhere. Anytime. Just really a matter of realizing the potential for releasing stress powering up and balancing better. It all begins with the breath. We just have to remember to do it and to give ourselves the time it for a few deep breaths.


Sam Demma (17:52):
Hmm. What is tie? If she is life energy, what is, what is tie?


Suz Jeffreys (17:58):
I love that. So tie is grand ultimate.


Sam Demma (18:01):
Okay.


Suz Jeffreys (18:01):
Grand ultimate. And she can be can be translated in several different ways. It can be grand ultimate life energy. It can also be grand ultimate way.


Suz Jeffreys (18:13):
So the grand ultimate way in TA Chi is to conserve your energy, to protect it and cultivate more. And, and here’s why TA Chi, this is actually super interesting. And for you teachers out there, I think you’re gonna relate to this Tai Chi was created 1800 years ago by a Dallas priest named Chun. And he was head of this very important temple in China. He was the most highly regarded master of the temple. And he had a really big problem. His problem is he had a lot of responsibilities as head priests at the temple and his students meant back then Brazil men would flock from all over China to study with Chung fun and, and, and to be a dad was priest. You’d have to be a monk first and you’d have to study the, the ancient books of wisdom. And then you’d also have to practice Kung Fu, which is a martial art.


Suz Jeffreys (19:02):
And you had to become a warrior, not only a warrior that could attack and protect, but also a warrior that could heal. So you may have seen pictures or videos or movies where there’s all these Chinese people in the monk uniforms doing, you know, E so, so doing all these things together, they’re practicing one of the most important parts of ch fund’s job was to assess the students as any good teacher does. And one of the assessments was he had to test the martial arts skill and they wanted to go up to the highest level up being a monk and be ready to become a priest, which is a huge honor. Very few people made it there. It was a very, very high level of mastery, not only in the philosophy, but also in martial arts. And so Choong was a master. He was the one to test them.


Suz Jeffreys (19:48):
And if any of you out there have ever taken martial arts, you probably know for the higher levels of martial arts, you fight you spar. And that’s how they would test. But back then in China, they didn’t have like headgear and face masks and pads. No, you love like you fought. So Cho’s Ben’s problem was that he had to test all highest level students by fighting with them. And it’s not that he couldn’t beat him because the master never get every move. They always have a little secret on the head in the back pocket. It’s just no don’t mess with the master. It’s just not worth it. But his problem Sam was that he was using all this G you know, fighting with all these students. So I had to figure out a way to test his students and serve them without wasting his own energy.


Sam Demma (20:31):
Mm.


Suz Jeffreys (20:31):
So you know what he did


Sam Demma (20:33):
Invent to TA Chi,


Suz Jeffreys (20:34):
He invent to Tai Chi and you know how he got the idea. This is nuts. I’ll keep it short. He went to a cave and meditated until he he’s like, I gotta figure this out. So he went and meditated, you know, he’d get up every day and walk and eat whatever, and go back and sit and meditate. Three years later, my friend, he was coming up with nothing three years. Wow. So he went out for his daily walk. It was a sunny day. Like it is in Toronto, like it is in Southwest Florida. And he saw this big fat snake on the ground in front of him, just like, like taking a sun bath, you know, they just appeared to be totally sleeping there’s and he was looking at it and there was this circle circling on the ground and it was a spec and he looked up in the sky, there was a bird of circling. It was a Hawk. Well, he S possible second just rolls out the way and hits dog gets back up and he circles dives down again. The snake just rolls out the way, and the Hawk hits the ground really hard. Again, that happens over and over. And so finally, you can tell the Hawk is really exhausted. He does the last circle against more momentum than ever. He dives down and guess what happens at the last possible second, Sam


Sam Demma (21:47):
Snake just moves out the way


Suz Jeffreys (21:49):
They just moves outta way. It was working. The Hawk kicked himself on the ground so hard. He knocks himself out the snake, slithers over circles, a snake, and has the Hawk for lunch. Mm. And ch sun fun goes, that’s it. The snake wasn’t attacking anyone, but he wanted to protect himself off. And he was able to protect himself by getting out of the way, by allowing the attacker to waste his own Chi until he is completely de depleted. And then to go ahead with very little energy, very little effort, be the Victor. And that’s what inspired Tachi.


Sam Demma (22:25):
Hmm. It reminds me of Japanese ju to slightly it’s like the, you know, the art of Japanese jujitsu is using your enemies force against you or against themselves. And yeah, right before COVID hit here in Toronto, I, I did it for four months and it’s funny cuz you’re mentioning Kung Fu and all the different practices. And I enjoyed them, the, the sessions and the training, so much, many reasons, but one of the reasons that I enjoyed it the most was the aspect, the aspect of discipline. And and I think it’s really, it’s really awesome. And then, you know, discipline also ties into Tai Chi. Like there’s, there’s an older gentleman that I see at the park near my house, like every other day doing Tai Chi. And I never like looked into it like looking so peacefully and calmly and I just, I was always fascinated by it. And it’s really cool that you brought this up today and you’ve taught me so many things. So I appreciate it. And I know that the guest listening can say the same. If someone wants to learn more information about Tai Chi, get even get into it like what, what would, what would you advise? Would you just search up like classes and near their, or do you offer this thing online? Do you do this stuff online? Like what would be the best way for them? Yeah.


Suz Jeffreys (23:34):
Great, great idea. Yeah. For, for anyone who wants to try Tai just for free and play with it, I have a bunch of free Tai Chi videos on YouTube. Just look up Tai Chi with souse and that’s a growing library. I also have a free Facebook page called Tai Chi with souse and you can check it out. I have new content there every single week, cuz I really wanna spread the word Sam, you know, not only is Tai Chi and martial art. It’s also a way to stress less to protect our energy and to create my or balance there’s 10 ancient principles in TA Chi that were literally would change my life. And when we begin to learn those ancient principles and we implement them on day to day basis, whether we’re a parent, a grown up a kid, a teacher, a student it’s truly life changing.


Suz Jeffreys (24:21):
So my vision is to help spread the, the information and share it around the world. Cause in these crazy times, we need to find simple, profound truths that can allow us to connect more, to be healthier, to, to be more of who we truly are in this world authentically like you, Sam, you’ve got so much clarity around your purpose that you want to serve and help others learn how to serve this remarkable at your age. You’ve got the clarity and in TA Chi, we call that clear intent. Mm. When we have clarity, that’s one thing that can absolutely help us not only transform our own lives, but the lives of others. So you can go to TA Chi with sues.com or TA Chi with Sue on Facebook or Tai Chi with sues on YouTube. And you know, hit me up, send me an email if you’d like to get I have some TA Chi principles and little videos. I can actually email you. If you go to TA Chi with sue.com, you can sign up for that. I’d love to love to help anybody who’s interested in just finding simple ways to make their life better.


Sam Demma (25:20):
And you know, you mentioned the principles and every time you say something, I have like five more questions, but I’m keeping this. Like, I love that as concise as I can. The out of the 10 principles that you mentioned or alluded to, which one or two have had the biggest impact on you. Like I can imagine they probably all impacted you in various ways, but which of those 10 ancient principles impacted you the most and what are they


Suz Jeffreys (25:43):
For me, there’s really the, what had the really created a whole pivotal experience on many layers in my life was remember back in that class, the first class I just found by, I really say it like company. I didn’t, I wasn’t looking about it. Our seafood told us that story about the snake in the Hawk. And she said, so remember this means we all have Chi life energy and our life energy is precious because when we use it all up, it’s gone, we die. Mm. Instead, like if you were, it’s not that you have a heart attack, we die from a heart attack. It’s that people die from a heart attack and didn’t have enough cheat to survive. Mm. So she’s like, so our life energy is precious and we all have life. And that means every single person on this point is precious. I was like,


Suz Jeffreys (26:37):
Because till that moment, Sam, I had real self-esteem issues. Whole long story will get not get into. But I don’t know. I think a lot of people out there maybe don’t believe in themselves or their own words as much as we should. And when she said that, I’m like, wait, so Chi is precious. We all have Chi. That means I’m precious. And that means that I can protect my Chi. I can take care of me. I can simplify do less and give more. So the idea of conserving my Chi and that she is precious, keeping it simple has been just profound, really profound for me.


Sam Demma (27:13):
Cool. Yeah. I love that. Well, this has been a phenomenal conversation. We’ll definitely have a part two, sometime in the future. If a teacher does want to get in touch with you, do you have an email address you can actually share and recite right now on the podcast?


Suz Jeffreys (27:26):
Absolutely. The other website you can check out ’cause I do many things is Suzjeffreys.com. You can email me at suz@suzjeffreys.com and there you’ll see, I’m also a certified nutrition therapist, I’m a fitness instructor, and I’m a speaker ’cause I just, you know, the so many ways we can nourish ourselves and when we nourish ourselves and take care of ourselves, we have more to give to others. So suz@suzjeffreys.com would be awesome.


Sam Demma (27:52):
Awesome. Suz, thank you so much for coming on the podcast, really appreciate it. Keep doing awesome work and I will see you soon.


Suz Jeffreys (27:59):
Thanks Sam. It’s been a pleasure


Sam Demma (28:02):
And there you have it. Another amazing guest, an amazing interview on the High Performing Educator podcast. As always, if you enjoy these episodes, please consider leaving a rating and review so other educators like yourself can find this content and benefit from it. And here’s an exclusive opportunity that I mentioned at the start of the show; f you want meet the guest on today’s episode, if you wanna meet any of the guests that we have interviewed, consider going to www.highperformingeducator.com and signing up to join the exclusive network, you’ll have access to networking events throughout 2021 and other special opportunities. And I promise I will not fill your inbox. Talk to you soon. I’ll see you on the next episode.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Suz Jeffreys

The High Performing Educator Podcast was brought to life during the outbreak of COVID-19 to provide you with inspirational stories and practical advice from your colleagues in education.  By tuning in, you will hear the stories and ideas of the world’s brightest and most ambitious educators.  You can expect interviews with Principals, Teachers, Guidance Counsellors, National Student Association, Directors and anybody that works with youth. You can find and listen to all the episodes for free here.

Andrea Holwegner – CEO of Health Stand Nutrition Consulting Inc “The Chocoholic Nutritionist TM”

Andrea Holwegner - CEO of Health Stand Nutrition Consulting Inc "The Chocoholic Nutritionist TM"
About Andrea Holwegner

Andrea Holwegner (@ChocoholicRD) is the founder and CEO of Health Stand Nutrition Consulting Inc. established in 2000. Her mission is to empower people to create a healthy and joyous relationship with food and their body.

She leads a team of experienced dietitians that help busy families with meal planning success, weight concerns, eating disorders, digestive issues, sports nutrition, heart health, diabetes and more. She is an online nutrition course creator, professional speaker and regular guest in the media. Andrea is the recipient of an award by the Dietitians of Canada: The Speaking of Food & Healthy Living Award for Excellence in Consumer Education.

In her spare time, she enjoys skiing, mountain biking and sipping wine with her husband over a delicious meal. Most of all, she loves being a mom and playing in the dirt in the vegetable garden she grows with her son. Join Andrea’s free nutrition newsletter that goes out to thousands of people each week for her latest TV segments, articles and healthy recipes from her award-winning blog at www.HealthStandNutrition.com/newsletter

Connect with Andrea: Email | Twitter | Linkedin | Website

Listen Now

Listen to the episode now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or on your favourite podcast platform.

Resources Mentioned

National Eating Disorder Information Centre

Health Stand Nutrition Blog

Russ and Jay Shetty Podcast Interview

Dan Siegel: Name it to Tame it

Andrea’s website

Andrea’s free weekly newsletter 

Nutrition for mental health (article and video)

9 things everyone should know about eating disorders

Dispelling the top 4 myths about eating disorders (article and video)

The Transcript

**Please note that all of our transcriptions come from rev.com and are 80% accurate. We’re grateful for the robots that make this possible and realize that it’s not a perfect process.

Sam Demma (00:02):
Andrea, welcome to the High Performing Educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show this morning. Why don’t you start by introducing yourself and sharing a little bit about who you are?


Andrea Holwegner (00:12):
Well, thanks for having me, Sam, of course. People mostly call me the Chocaholic Nutritionist because of my passion for balanced, not clean living. But of course, my name’s Andrea Holwegner. I’m a registered dietician, a busy mom and owner of Health Stand Nutrition in Calgary and lead a team of about 10 dieticians and growing as we speak specializing in really helping people with overall health and wellness and, you know, topics like how to get enough veggies to wanna, you know, take care of your health, but still save room for our favourites, like chocolate and potato chips and all the good stuff too.


Sam Demma (00:52):
If I was choosing to work with a dietician, they would have to have a giant picture with chocolate-covered strawberries in their office, or they would not be an option.


Andrea Holwegner (01:03):
Oh. And that might just be what I’m staring at right behind me here.


Sam Demma (01:09):
Yeah. That’s, it’s so awesome. Where did your passion for, you know, health and nutrition come from? Where, where did that stem from?


Andrea Holwegner (01:19):
You know, I was raised by a mom that like baked bread and we had family dinner together each night and just a family of, of food, loving people. My grandparents were farmers and grew all sorts of good stuff in the garden. So I just had a really rich upbringing with the love of, of good food and good culture. And then along the way, my dad in his forties became quite sick with cardiovascular disease. He became one of the youngest guys that were being followed by a local cardiologist here for very complex heart disease. And so he had some bad genetics both of his parents really complicated health histories and, you know, my dad, wasn’t the healthiest guy. There was probably a little bit too much you know, baked goods and all sorts of good stuff that he liked to to get into.


Andrea Holwegner (02:12):
He was a chewing tobacco guy. He was a banker, but he was a chewing tobacco guy, which was an interesting thing. So that also increased his risk. And so I watched him go through complicated, you know, health, recovery quadruple bypass surgery carotid artery surgery. And, you know, as a, a kid in high school going into post secondary, I was really starting to look at the connection between nutrition and health. And so the rest is history, sort of a, a food loving dietician, married with a total nerdy science brain that wanted to know more about how food connected to our overall health. And that’s how I ended up here.


Sam Demma (02:56):
When you’re going through school you get bombarded with so many different ideas. Atkin’s diet, this diet that diet eat these food groups, don’t eat these food groups. How do you approach nutrition from a Al approach? And maybe this is like what you get when you consult with you, but in a nutshell, what is your approach to nutrition and how could someone listening start to embody the same approach?


Andrea Holwegner (03:28):
Well, I love this question because of course the word diet when you even you ask people how that’s perceived or even the word dietician, and of course the word dietician has the word diet in it, and it also has the word diet it. And so most people think they’re going to be deprived and it’s gonna be awful. And that they’ll, you know, never be able to enjoy their favorite, fast foods or chocolates or ice creams or taco chips, whatever your favorites might be. But really when we look at our brand at health stand nutrition and our overall philosophy, it’s always about coming back to the big picture. So I always say to people, there are no bad foods, there’s only bad overall diets. And so if you love McDonald’s French fries, or if you love chocolate like me what we want to think about is, well, how do we make sure that stays in your diet? And then we wrap healthy eating around it. And this is a way more vulnerable, enjoyable, fun way to live than thinking about taking out all of the joy and being known as a fun sucking dietician. I have no interest in that. I have a total interest in teaching people how to keep all the good stuff in and finding the joy.


Sam Demma (04:38):
Do you think it’s obvious that there’s a, between nutrition and physical health, even explain through your situation, watching your father go through his situations? Do you also believe there is a connection mentally based on the foods that we choose to consume and eat?


Andrea Holwegner (04:57):
Absolutely a hundred percent. What we know about nutrition is if you think about it, there’s nothing more immediate that has an impact on your energy, your mental health, and how you focus, concentrate at school or work and how you feel than what you’re eating. And that can happen in the matter of minutes to, you know, an hour. If you think about how you feel, if you haven’t eaten in a long time, it could be state of hangriness that starts to, to emerge where we get hunger mixed with anger in our practice, we’ve also coined the term anxiety, and that means you’re, you know, anxious. Some people get really anxious when they haven’t fueled themselves properly and maybe it’s cuz they didn’t plan ahead, they forgot, or maybe they’re following some crazy cleany eating plan or low carb plan or whatever plan might be trending on Instagram or TikTok trying to, you know, make them a, a different version of themselves. And the more we restrict fuel, particularly carbohydrates for our brain, usually the hanger and the more anxious people get and nutrition has an absolute direct correlation to how we feel. And so when, what we’ve seen through COVID is a massive spike in mental health issues across the globe. Our business has grown as a result of so many emotional eating issues and working from home issues for parents, for kids and massive increases in eating disorders very much directly a mental health illness connected to food.


Sam Demma (06:33):
What does that look like? What is typically, what does the K that you typically get presented? It’s obviously not a good thing that more of these cases are happening and I mean, it’s a good thing. Your business is growing, but it’s unfortunate that it’s because of the health challenges of more and more people. What, when someone comes to you with this sort of a challenge, what does, what does it typically look like? And I, I would assume every situation is different, but give us a little bit of an idea,


Andrea Holwegner (07:01):
You know, maybe the best way to, to share this might be just to go through a couple of examples of, you know, some of the situations that we’re seeing, that’s really common. So we’ve seen you know, whether it’s teachers or, or, you know, individuals that are working from home, the whole changing dynamic of work has really shifted how people eat when they eat, what they eat and when your refrigerator is right next to you and you’re bored or you’re stressed, it becomes a source of comfort, right? And we all eat for emotional eatings or emotional reasons. Dieticians included, you know, the beginning of the pandemic, I pretty much wanted to just sit down with a box, a chocolate and call it a day. I mean, it was overwhelming for all of us.


Andrea Holwegner (07:41):
So because of that shift in the working environment, we’ve seen a huge shift in in people’s mental health. And then as a result of that, we’ve seen some people, for example, put on 50 pounds in developed diabetes or heart issues struggles with their body image and their confidence as a result of, you know, even being on a screen and through video conferencing has shifted people’s ability to really, you know, feel self confident. When you’re staring at yourself on video each day, it, it’s not healthy. It’s like walking around with a mirror attached to you and that’s not good for anybody. So one of the first things we do with our clients working on zoom is we teach them how to turn off their self view so that they’re not having to see themselves, cuz it’s really exhausting people, self-check themselves a lot and we just want them to be present and focused on why we’re here and what we’re doing.


Andrea Holwegner (08:34):
The next sort of piece, you know, if we were to sort of dive a little deeper into what we’re seeing with eating disorders you know, it depends on the source that you’re looking at, but there’s probably been a 30% rise in eating disorders, particularly amongst young adolescents going to school and that’s for a variety of reasons, you know, no surprise, everything changed school, changed their social community, changed you know, dance and music and sports, all of that community. And that way that adolescence really connect and alleviate stress. All of that became, it was just gone. And then households were experiencing a lot of family dynamics and family stress as a result of that as well. And so we see this huge increase in in eating disorders and knowing that in Canada alone, we’ve got a million people diagnosed with an eating disorder right now on top and that was pre COVID. So I don’t know what these numbers are gonna look like towards the end of this year, but it’s super concerning what we’re seeing in the collaborative work we’re doing with physicians and and therapists throughout the country,


Sam Demma (09:41):
Seeing yourself on conferencing is one challenge. I think for young people, it’s also challenging when they’re on TikTok, Instagram, seeing what is being presented as the perfect person, the perfect body image, the perfect diet, the perfect exercises it goes on and on. How do we address this? Or when someone comes with you comes to you with a case of emotional eating or an eating disorder, what are some of the initial steps that you know, that you can take or they can take to start working on it and, and hoping to soon resume back to a positive, more holistic diet approach?


Andrea Holwegner (10:26):
Yeah. So if we, if we were to look at first off, you know, like why do eating disorders even happen in the first place? I think a lot of times people see it as you know, it’s purely image focused or body weight focused, and really that’s actually quite a myth. What we know about eating disorders is there’s some genetic predisposing factors for example, being highly perfectionistic and achievement oriented. So we see if I think of our client load that we see often in our practice, these are like the top of the class. These are the kids that are the troublemakers. These are the adolescents that are, you know, on the social committees. They are like leading the charge in their peers. But with that drive and that high achieving mentality sometimes comes a lot of anxiety and a lot of feeling the need to perform or be perfect in so many of ways from school and in their extracurricular activities.


Andrea Holwegner (11:21):
The other thing too we know about eating disorders is there’s a lot of cultural factors, there’s mental health factors. There’s a lot of family dynamic factors. So for example, how your family communicates and how sort of emotionally connected they are, has a really big impact on our ability to be emotionally sound as well. And so oftentimes we see when we inherit an eating disorder, adolescent or teenager or someone in their twenties or thirties, oftentimes we probably inherit their family in the work that we need to do. So sometimes you know, parents might not be great at emotion coaching and helping their kids through stress and anxiety and what to say. And, and and so therapists that we collaborate with will spend a lot of time digging into the family dynamics. Sometimes it’s you know, when, when we look at who also is at risk for eating disorders, absolutely.


Andrea Holwegner (12:16):
The LGBTQ plus community is highly at risk for eating disorders just based on so much of a journey and being true to who they truly are at the end of the day. So if that is you, I, I, and you’re listening to this podcast. I just want you to know you are absolutely not alone. There’s help eating disorders that are affecting all different ages, all different genders all different socioeconomic patterns. You know, we’ve had lots of LGBT members as clients. We’ve had young boys that are 13 with anorexia. We’ve had women in their sixties that have never sought help for their eating disorder women that are pregnant and the list goes on, so it really can affect anybody. And it’s a lot of complex factors on how we get here.


Andrea Holwegner (13:06):
Along the way. And then Sam, you, you asked me about like, well, what do we do? Like what we know it’s affecting a lot of people, but what are the steps in kind of reaching out for help? And so when we’re kind of looking at overcoming and eating disorder, there’s three pieces or probably four pieces of, of help. The first is actually, you know, somebody in your trusted friend in family community that can be a support person is going to be someone that’s in your corner can be so helpful. Well, just that is more connected to you. Second is going to be working with your family physician, cuz sometimes there’s assessments or medical treatments and sometimes medical monitoring to make sure your, for example, your heart is healthy. All of these types of things need to be monitored, your mental health.


Andrea Holwegner (13:52):
The third piece is actually the field of psychology. So we were work with a lot of psychologists. The heart of the treatment, any needing disorder is absolutely through therapy and through really digging into how did we end up here and what are the ways that we can you know, get ourselves back on track to feeling more comfortable in our skin. And then of course working with a registered to dietician that specializes in eating disorders and it’s super important to find somebody that really gets it. Otherwise you’ll just be frustrated. It’s kind of like going to see a kidney doctor when you’ve actually got heart health issues. You need to find to all doctors are not created equally. And so all dieticians are not created equally in terms of their areas of specialty. So someone that really stands mental health and eating disorder behaviors is really who you wanna be seeing so that when you’re talking to them about your fears and worries and it’s, it’s something that we’ve heard before and people have gone before you, and we know what to do with that to help you kind of overcome some of these challenges.


Sam Demma (14:54):
There may be someone listening who is going through this right now and you’re giving them some great information for them to think about and start their steps on a healing journey. If there’s someone listening who, when you’re explaining the situ can identify someone else in their life, who they think is struggling with this, who they’d like to help, how would you advise that person reach out to that individual? Like how can you be there for somebody if I, if you had a friend in high school or a colleague who might be going through this, how can you make sure that you’re not crossing a bad and making them feel uncomfortable, but you can also be there for them through this tough time.


Andrea Holwegner (15:34):
This is such a great, great thing to to be talking about Sam, cuz I can promise you, there’s probably somebody, you know, that is struggling with anxiety, depression, suicidality, self-harming behaviors, eating disorder behaviors. And the best thing that you you can do is, is really just reach out with compassion and care. You know, you might say something like, Hey, I’ve noticed that you don’t really seem yourself these days is everything okay? That’s a better question than saying, Hey, I’ve noticed that you’ve dropped some weight. So somebody with a needing disorder, this is highly triggering. And sometimes actually will we in the nature of what we know about the distortion in body image and mental health might actually be perceived as a compliment that Hey, people are noticing that my weight is down. So that is the worst thing that you could say.


Andrea Holwegner (16:25):
That’s a do not say, do not comment on people’s weight, their body size, make it all about, I’ve noticed the it you’re different. I’m seeing maybe some of the life in your eyes has gone down. You know, I’m noticing that you’re, you know, not as engaged or you’ve kind of lost a little bit of, of some of your pozas in your spark that I kind of know you for oftentimes adolescence, we see them socially isolating more and that’s been tricky to sort of suss out through co with. But for teachers and parents really taking a pulse on sort of that social isolation piece is really, really key to notice on.


Sam Demma (17:04):
That makes a lot of sense. And I asked because in high school there was some people like that in my life and it was always a, it was always a challenge to figure out how to approach it. So I think it’ll be helpful for teachers and also for students to have that context. So thank you for sharing.


Andrea Holwegner (17:21):
I think all of us, when we’re going through a tough time, don’t want somebody to come and, you know, attempt to fix it for us cuz you know, that probably just makes us angry if anything. Yeah. But what we know is really helpful is if people can see that we’re struggling and people can sort of hear and express compassion and just give us some space to even talk about it without any need to fix it as a parent or a teacher or a friend that is the best thing that we can do is just give people that forum and that space instead of tip toing around it and pretending it’s not there and ignoring the elephant in the room is name it. In emotion focus therapy that therapists use, we talk about, you know, validating or seeing the, or, or naming the emotion first.


Andrea Holwegner (18:08):
So we call that name it to tame it. When you say to somebody, Hey, I can see that you’re looking sad or Hey, I can see that you’re looking angry. This actually calms emotion because you’ve named the emotion in our brain. It just sort of feels like, wow, validating that somebody can see that I might be struggling. The next thing that you can do is then, you know, either add to the validation that it’s like, it makes total sense why you would be feeling sad or I can imagine it feels really scary or that you’re really angry about X, Y, and Z. So that naming it and validating it and then just allow some space for them to tell you what’s going on or not share. And if they don’t share the first time, that’s okay. It doesn’t mean it has, hasn’t been successful. They just know you’re someone that’s not going to judge them or try and fix the problem for you and give you all of the, you know, 10 strategies on what you should do to get better at this. You know, you can keep kind of having those conversations and in time that person will talk to you. This is what we know. They just need to know that they’re safe with you and that you’re not judgemental.


Sam Demma (19:12):
I was listening to an amazing podcast with Jay she and a rapper named Russ sounds unrelated, but this’ll make sense. In a second, Russ was explaining how he always wanted to feel understood and when he was going through tough situ people in his life would tell him, I know exactly what it feels like. And Russ knew that they had no idea because they had never been through it. And he said them saying that actually made him feel more alone. So, you know, there is understanding in accepting that you don’t understand what someone’s going through, but just deciding that you’re gonna be there to support however they need it. And I thought it was a really beautiful phrase or mindset and it sounds very similar to what you’ve just explained. So I thought I would bring it up.


Andrea Holwegner (20:04):
I love it. That’s so great. I mean I think if we can really just say, I can’t imagine what you might be going through, but what I do know is that you got people in your corner like me, if you choose to kind of, you know, open up to me that have got your back, that’ll help you figure out the next steps. And I certainly don’t know the exact answers as to what we need to do next, but Hey, we could do it together. And that type of support is so much more you know, wrapping people with a warm, cozy blanket which is really what we need through this COVID period, more than ever.


Sam Demma (20:38):
And some chocolate covered strawberries. Yeah.


Andrea Holwegner (20:41):
You know, chocolate covered strawberries, chocolate covered almonds, chocolate covered raises. All of them are good for me.


Sam Demma (20:48):
That’s awesome. Well, this has been a phenomenal conversation. If someone would like to get in touch with you, reach out with a question, excuse me, or check out some of your resources, what would be the best way for them to absorb everything that is you in the company?


Andrea Holwegner (21:08):
Oh, okay. Well you can go over to our website first off its www.healthstandnutrition.com. And if you go into the search area of our website and just search the topic, eating disorders, we’ve got a ton of videos and articles and supporting resources that might be a useful place for you to to start to inquire. We’ve also got a free weekly newsletter. It comes, you know, goes out to thousands of people each week where we give people really balanced living tips and recipes and information that is in alignment with the topics that we’re talking about today for physical health, as well as mental health. And the other resource I would suggest is you can go over to the national eating disorder formation center. They’re known as www.NEDIC.ca. And they’ve got a ton of supporting resources for teachers, parents, students and the general public on all things, eating disorders. If you need a little bit more support there.


Sam Demma (22:03):
Awesome. Andrea, thank you again. Keep up the awesome work and I look forward to talking again.

Andrea Holwegner (22:09):
Thanks so much, Sam.

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The High Performing Educator Podcast was brought to life during the outbreak of COVID-19 to provide you with inspirational stories and practical advice from your colleagues in education.  By tuning in, you will hear the stories and ideas of the world’s brightest and most ambitious educators.  You can expect interviews with Principals, Teachers, Guidance Counsellors, National Student Association, Directors and anybody that works with youth. You can find and listen to all the episodes for free here.