Travis Zipper grew up in Chicago, IL. After playing college football at Northern Illinois for a few years, he transferred out West to Arizona State for the warmer weather. He graduated with a computer engineering technology degree. After graduating, Zipper felt he was the furthest thing from an engineer. He spent the next several years working as a doorman for various nightclubs.
Zipper eventually moved to California and became a glorified social worker for a home care company. After helping a client out of a bad situation, he realized that’s what he wanted to do, and it paved his path toward helping people. Zipper went into nutrition and fitness, first working in a medical weight loss clinic, and then transitioning to an age management clinic. During this time, Zipper became a regional CrossFit athlete for several years.
Zipper now teaches health coaching. He returned to school, working toward his doctorate in clinical nutrition at the Maryland University of Integrative Health. He is a lead instructor for the Nutritional Coaching Institute. He is also the director of education at iN³ Nutrition, where he teaches, trains and oversees the coaches on staff. Most recently, Zipper has created a mentorship that teaches the more advanced health coaches called WellFitz Mentorship.
1. What is your current position, and what does your typical day consist of?
My current position is a director of education for iN³ Nutrition, which is a macro-based coaching program. I’m the lead instructor and co-owner of the Nutritional Coaching Institute, where we teach level one and level two certification and specialty courses geared towards health and nutrition coaches and for the company I’ve written six courses for the Nutritional Coaching Institute. I’m the go-to guy for the whole program.
I also have a good amount of schoolwork during the day. So for my morning, I’m an early riser, I usually get up at 4:30 a.m., and I get a lot of my schoolwork and studying done. Then I have client calls, usually from about 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. After that, I have the coaches that I work with in the WellFitz Mentorship group.
I always have some personal time. I do very well with regards to managing stress and not working too much. I’ve always had a gym session day. I live by the beach so I can enjoy walks on the beach, putting my feet in wet sand, and getting in some sunshine.
2. How do you motivate others to achieve their fullest potential?
I think that you have to walk-the-walk and talk-the-talk of what you’re trying to get them to do and lead by example. Then, you also have to be able to lay out a plan that a client or individual can understand and that they can relate to. They have to be able to see and understand your vision versus just discussing short term goals such as what you are going to eat this week because if they can’t see your longer term vision, it can get harder for them to jump on board.
3. What is your leadership style, and how did you determine this to be the most effective?
Encouragement and education. I believe in the premise of teaching others to to fish so that they can eat for a lifetime versus just giving them a fish so that they can eat for one meal. I think you have to delegate and let people think on their own so they can learn by trial and error. I’m also firm believer in also making people feel a little uncomfortable and being thrown into uncomfortable situations as long as if you fall down, you pick yourself back up.
4. How did you know it was the right time to start Wellfitz Mentorship?
I currently teach for the Nutritional Coaching Institute (NCI), and we offer two levels of advanced education, but there’s nowhere that goes past that. And there currently exists large gap between a person going to see a functional medicine doctor and what they get from working with a traditional health coach. I think there is a huge demand for learning how to work with the more difficult clients who maybe cannot afford to see a functional medicine doctor. Oftentimes many clients will benefit from more of the encouragement and accountability that health coaches can offer than what a 30-minute doctor visit will give them.
5. What is the most common misconception you hear about health and fitness that you would like to debunk?
A common misconception is that you have to eat less food to lose weight and be healthy, or that you have to exercise more in order to do so. People always say if you exercise more and eat less, then you’ll reach your goals. That is definitely not always the case.
6. Can you tell our readers about a situation where you had a difficult client, and you were able to successfully achieve their goals?
I’ve had many clients who have come to me with obvious, at least to myself, food intolerances and or many chronic conditions that they have become used to because of their years of dealing with it. The first thing you have to do with people like that is make them realize that feeling terrible or having no energy or having a very poor sex drive or having really bad digestion is not something that they should be happy and just live with. They should want to work towards improving all of those factors and then show them the light with regards to what can be done.
Difficult clients, you’ll often get them where they also get stuck on their scale weight, and that don’t want to make a lot of changes, even though they know they need to. As change can be scary. So, one of the biggest things we get people to do is work with their food intake. We eliminate things that may possibly be causing issues, even if they seem like healthy foods through things like elimination diets or cleaning up food quality, and many times that allows them to see the progress that’s being made in a relatively short period of time. When they see a little glimmer of hope or their health improves just a little bit for the first time in a long while, they can go from a previously difficult client to now a much more compliant client because they’ve seen a little light at the end of the tunnel.
7. What is the biggest lesson you have learned from your clients?
You will always have something that you need to work on, there will always be something that you can do better, and there will always be more people that you can help. You should never be content until you feel great.
8. What advice would you give a first-time gym-goer when they are about to begin their fitness journey?
Go slow and find something that you enjoy. If you don’t enjoy going to the gym or exercising or whatever your chosen goals for fitness are, then you’re not going to stick with it. So, don’t go too hard at it and become so sore they next day where you don’t even want to move your arms or even get out of bed. Ease into it instead; find something that you really like, maybe even have someone go along with you to have some companionship while you’re doing it.
9. What is your greatest professional accomplishment, and how did you achieve it?
I would say my greatest professional accomplishment is the WellFitz Mentorship. It is a 12-month program where people are committing a year of their life to working with me at considerable financial expense to learn from what I have to offer them. It’s very humbling to see people who want to work with me and appreciate what I have to offer them. It makes each day exciting, knowing that there are people who are ready to learn and want to make a difference.
10. What health and wellness tip(s) would you like to share with our readers?
I’ve never met a person who didn’t have a diet that couldn’t be improved in terms of food quality. I’ve never met a person who doesn’t have something that they can’t improve on in terms of their life and feeling better. There’s always room for improvement. So, I always tell people that the sky’s the limit in terms of health, wellness, and diet. Don’t settle for not doing your best, and if someone tells you to ever do just that, then find a new person to work with.
11. How did your journey with health and fitness begin?
I’ve always been into health and fitness. I’ve always been in shape, so I guess there was a background of that in my mind and I was always trying to improve my own health, but it was working with other people and helping them that served as the catalyst. As it’s rewarding to help other people and to feel rewarded, and knowing you’re doing something good in this world.
A lot of it all started when I was working as a glorified social worker for a home care company close to ten years ago, as that was when I had my ‘aha!’ moment in life. A string of events happened with an older client that I was working with. One of her caregivers was abusing her. I discovered it, and I ultimately got that person fired. The client and I sat down after the fact and She told me that when we talked each week that it was always the best 15 minutes of her week, and it had been for several months and that she had no one else that ever spent the time with her. That was my ‘aha!’ moment, as I went home that night and slept like a baby, and I thought, this is the kind of feeling that I will always want to have when I go to bed at night.
After that, I realized that I would no longer be chasing money, but instead, I would be chasing more of a feeling of doing a great deed. That moment pushed me into the path of helping other people and where I am today. It was when someone that was almost ready to leave this earth, a hospice patient who was very lonely and no one spent any time with besides her nurses and the occasional doctor. I would just sit with her for about 15-20 minutes every week and just chat, go through things with her and just reminisce. It was that one day afterwards where she thanked me for doing and her telling me that no one else spent any time with her and that she looked forward to these 15-20-minute check-ins as the highlight of her week and the feeling that it gave. It wasn’t much later after that that she passed away.
That night, after hearing those words, it was a feeling inside me that I wanted to have more of. Everyone has their kind of ‘aha!’ moment that puts them on a different path. Before that, I unfortunately chased money way too much, thinking it would make me happy and it never did
12. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In five years, I’ll be a Doctor of Clinical Nutrition, and hopefully, I’ll be teaching the health coaches of tomorrow to go out and make a difference. I also hope I have a WellFitz community underneath my belt, and I will most likely or probably still be working with some of the more difficult clients out there who need a holistic and outside view of their health and a guide on that journey.