We’re back with my Conversations on Mindful Eating series, and I’m so excited to share this interview with Holly Toronto! Holly is a Certified Health Coach who specializes in body image and approaches issues of food and body from a non-diet perspective. With summer fast-approaching, breaking down body image can be crucial to maintaining recovery and living a diet-free life, and I’m so happy to be able to share such a timely conversation.
Q: To start off with, can you tell us what a body image coach is? It sounds fabulous and like something we all could use in our lives!
Holly: As a Body Image Coach, I help my clients live the life they desire in the body they are in today. So often, women put their lives on hold until something about their body changes. This is something that is reinforced by society and it leaves women in a place where they aren’t expressing or enjoying their lives to the fullest.
Body Image Coaching is about helping women reject the messages of diet and beauty culture and take an empowered stance for their health and life…now.
Q: How is a body image coach different from a therapist who specializes in body image?
Holly: With so many different styles of therapy and coaching, the answer to this question isn’t black and white. There are a lot of similarities between coaching and therapy, yet the biggest difference would be in the clientele and specific cases that would be best suited for coaching vs therapy.
As a coach, I do not have the expertise or training to support someone through an existing eating disorder or a previous trauma and will often refer out to a therapist for those cases.
The work of a coach is focused on challenging the beliefs and the mindsets that are currently preventing someone from fully experiencing the life they desire. For my clients, those beliefs are usually centered around their bodies and how they might be putting areas of their lives on hold until their bodies change.
As we work to shift their mindsets, we also will set goals that move them towards living the life they desire in the body they are in today, while also learning how to take care of their bodies for self care instead of weight loss.
Q: What role, if any, does mindfulness have in your work with clients? I personally think it is impossible to talk about mindful eating and learning to trust your body without also talking about body image and the inherent conflicts so many of us are caught in with our own bodies. How do you see this play out in your work with clients?
Holly: When I think of mindfulness, I think about creating awareness. The work I do with my clients is all about creating awareness around the belief systems that are informing their decisions for their health and life.
For example, a client might think that a certain bodily characteristic is unattractive and consistently cover that area of their body. We’ll work together to create awareness around that characteristic and the meaning they are making about it. Is it true that it’s unattractive? Who or what is informing that belief? Also, why does something need to be covered simply because it’s unattractive by society’s standards. How might it feel to take a radical stance for yourself and show that part of your body?
I’ve had clients wear shorts and bathing suits for the first time in a long time and feel more empowered in their body than ever before.
Another client told me that she wanted to be a personal trainer but didn’t feel as though that were possible because her body didn’t fit the societal standard of “fitness”. After challenging those beliefs, she’s now pursuing a personal training certification and is one of the strongest students in the class.
It’s about becoming mindful of the decisions we are making for our bodies on all levels. Are we making decisions from an empowered stance because it’s truly what is best for us or is it informed by a society that enforces unrealistic standards of beauty and thinness?
Q: What is your number 1 tip to help people improve body image?
Holly: I always say that having a positive body image is going to require learning a new language. The best way to learn a new language is to surround yourself with other people who are speaking it. Finding a group of people that is committed to body acceptance and self love creates accountability and will allow you to embody these new values permanently.
You can find in person or online groups and even bring this new way of being to your existing community.
Also, finding an expert such as a therapist or a coach, to help you navigate the journey of self acceptance is incredibly powerful and the most effective way to experience lasting change.
And here’s a little more about Holly and how you can connect with her work!
As a Certified Health Coach with a specialty in body image, Holly supports women and men in finding freedom from body shame and food fixation. She uses a non-diet, pro-lifestyle approach that focuses on cultivating a healthy relationship to the body and food, while avoiding deprivation, restriction, guilt or shame. From this place, her clients are able to make empowered decisions for their health, feel amazing in their bodies and live the life they desire.
She is extensively trained in the Transformational Coaching Method through Health Coach Institute. She works with private clients, groups and runs online courses. Additionally, she leads workshops, classes and participates in panels discussing body positivity and self-love.
In her spare time, you’ll find her with her loved ones, cooking a delicious meal, drinking wine, doing yoga and being surrounded by beauty.