Self Talk — I always say “Be careful about the way you talk about yourself — because you are listening.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Shanna Ferrigno, a health and fitness educator for the past decade. Shanna Ferrigno has helped balance thousands of people’s lives as a lifestyle coach. Traveling throughout the world, Shanna motivates her audiences everywhere she goes to take on the challenge of healthy living.
On the journey from being an overweight kid to becoming a fitness and lifestyle coach, Shanna accumulated a lot of stories and experiences from clients she uses to help others overcome their struggles with diet and exercise. After reflecting on these topics (as well as her own from childhood) Shanna was inspired and motivated to write The Reset Plan: Lose the Secrets, Lose the Excuses, Lose the Weight — shanna-ferrigno.com
In her book, Shanna delves into the psychological triggers of weight loss from guilt and shame to loneliness and other emotions that can set a person up for addiction and a constant battle with losing weight. Shanna helps her audiences recognize those triggers and helps them “RESET” cognitive patterns for successful weight loss and healing.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?
Ihad been a trainer for about 4 years when I got a call one morning from a man named Walker.
Walker was 34 years old, but according to his recent physical, his doctor measured his age to be over the age of 60. He’s 5’11” and weighed 340 pounds.
Walker began to train with me consistently twice a week. When it came time for his first 6-week evaluation, I noticed significant change and advancement with balance, technique, and knowledge about certain body parts, food, and equipment.
The big issue, the elephant in the room, was that in 6 weeks he had only lost 5 pounds. No question he worked hard with the 4% (one hour) of his day when we trained — but it was what he was doing, or not doing, the rest of the 23 hours that bugged me.
When I finally sat down with him he promised me he was eating non processed foods and mainly protein and vegetables. There was no way with how we were working, and if he was eating healthy, he wouldn’t be farther along. He was lying and we both knew it.
Some coaches keep enabling that behavior for a paycheck but I am not one of them. When I take on a client we become a team and we reflect one another. When I told Walker to come back when he wanted to be honest then we could work together — but until then he was on his own.
It sounds harsh but I knew there something deeper holding Walker back from his own success and until he was ready to take it on, no diet or any work we did would get him to where he should be.
Walker and I met a month later and I was the first person he came out to. His parents are very religious so he ate to hide his body and sexuality. All his dishonesty isolated him and kept him in the abusive relationship he had with food.
He realized he was hiding nothing by being as big as he was. I made a deal with him that we would continue to train but he would have to do the emotional and spiritual work on himself as well. He agreed to begin therapy and he agreed that when he was ready he would come out to his family.
After countless hours of therapy and 28 pounds lighter, Walker stayed true to his word. His parents admitted they were not thrilled by his revelation but told him they didn’t love him any less and they wanted him to live a long and healthy life as God intended.
That same year Walker lost another 94 pounds — a 122-pound total, bringing him from 340 to a muscular 218 pounds. Walker now runs, works out with his partner 5x a week, and has continued to keep the weight off.
Avoiding coming out and keeping his truth a secret was the heavyweight. Once that was lifted relearning how to have a healthy and sustainable relationship with food came easy.
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When I first started training people I spent too much time telling them what they needed help with physical and not listening to them enough emotionally. I had countless clients stick to the general workout routine and diet and get great results — for a short period of time. When I noticed they weren’t staying consistent and felt deprived that’s when they started gaining the physical weight back and also the weight of shame. Shame disconnects people from one another and I lost a lot of clients my first year.
When I started working with my clients from the inside out I began to see long-lasting results not only physically but emotionally.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I was picked on most of my childhood for being overweight. Being Lou Ferrigno’s daughter, who is best known as a successful bodybuilder and for playing the role of the ‘Incredible Hulk’, made it that much harder to be overweight. Even though kids, and adults, would shame me for my weight — my family never did. My parents, still married after 39 years, always told me I was beautiful no matter what size I was. What was important to them was that I was a good person. They instilled in me a great work ethic, empathy for others, and always led by example. They always encouraged me to be my best self and pay it forward in the world.
Ok perfect. Now let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
“We are not machines with broken parts — we are humans with unmet needs.” I believe that shame has a lot to do with the disconnection we have with ourselves and the world. What I have learned is that shame does not discriminate. It doesn’t matter how rich, famous or even broke you are. It is debilitating and the shame we carry isn’t usually ours to carry. No matter if we are the cause or it’s inherited, it’s important to kick the stigma of shame’s ass. We have to walk deep inside ourselves in order to reset and restore who we should have always been before it. I am proud to say that because I have, and continue, to do the work on myself daily I have helped countless people reset themselves to get beyond their shame.
Can you share your top five“lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.
- Self Talk — I always say “Be careful about the way you talk about yourself — because you are listening.”
- Establish a morning routine — Schedule your time. You can only control the controllable so if the world is caving in around you at least you know that the 30 minutes or hour you dedicated for yourself in the morning is yours to make the day a little brighter.
- Boundaries — A healthy relationship with yourself, sets the standard for a relationship with someone else.
- Have a RESET day- Pick a day that you take extra time for yourself to plan for the next 6 days ahead. Meal Prep, Schedule appointments, finish a home project…anything that helps you mentally to feel less anxious and more empowered.
- Keep Moving — It’s important that no matter how far you are in your mental health journey you keep moving. I believe you have to keep your body moving to allow your natural endorphins to kick in and feel better. No matter if you accomplished one thing or 10 — congratulate yourself and keep moving!
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Get aggressive about reading food labels. Stop eating out of boxes and try not to eat foods that have more than 6 ingredients. Look into the oils that are going into your body. My mother is a pioneer in the health and fitness world and recently started getting horrible reactions to canola oil. Canola oil is taking the place of butter and natural oils in our food because it’s a cheap processed oil and cuts companies’ costs at our health’s expense. I believe this is having a huge impact on the obesity epidemic in our nation. I have met mechanics who clean their engines with canola oil. It’s important to be mindful of processed junk in our foods.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
- Always trust your gut. When it comes to people or business endeavors always go with the feeling you have from the start and don’t overthink it or question yourself.
- The old saying “You have two ears and one mouth so do twice the listening and less talking.”
- Have a big picture of your wants and goals but have realistic small steps in place to get there. Nothing that is worth having just happens overnight so relax when it doesn’t be patient and consistent.
- Don’t let people who aren’t positive take up space in your life or live in your brain rent-free.
- Hold on to the positive moments as an affirmation, not the negative ones that you need to RESET.
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
It doesn’t matter how pretty, rich or successful you might be. If your mind isn’t clear of chaos you will never be happy. I believe there is still a stigma when it comes to mental health and shame. If we had our food and shelter taken away, our physical status jeopardized, most of us would reach out and find resources to solve those issues. When it comes to mental health we don’t have enough discussions about fear and unbalanced emotional despair.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
IG — @shannaferrigno
FB — @shannafitness
Thank you for these fantastic insights!