When you find your truth, you find joy and live in freedom. You are then unstoppable. I didn’t know who I really was, if I would’ve known, I wonder if I would have done things the same? Once I was able to reveal my true identity the joy and peace that entered into my life was priceless!
As a part of our series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Melissa Vergiels.
Melissa Vergiels is a lifestyle coach for women who have had weight loss surgery. After realizing the scale was the least of her struggles, Melissa is now a certified speaker, trainer and coach through the John Maxwell Team, an ACE certified personal trainer and a weight management specialist. Her trademarked curriculum, Total Package Transformation, combines custom programing, personal and professional development to expedite the weight-loss surgery journey and set women up for long-term success.
Melissa Vergiels lives in Toledo, Ohio where she wears many hats. Melissa’s primary duty of caring for her disabled mother initiated an early retirement from her management career with the State Government in 2017. Melissa’s extensive education and ambition sparked the social entrepreneur in her and in 2018 she founded a grassroot nonprofit, Changing Gears NPO. Through additional education, certifications, training and healing, Melissa became a lifestyle coach and creator of the Total Package Transformation™ coaching program. Melissa’s passion for health and wellness can be traced back to childhood, where she spent significant time working on her body image issues and other struggles that cultivate within a dysfunctional family. Melissa serves women who have had weight-loss surgery after declaring victory over her own decade of winging it through trial-and-error post VSG weight-loss surgery. As a child of God, CEO, certified John Maxwell Team speaker, trainer, coach and American Council on Exercise personal trainer and weight management specialist, Melissa specializes in increasing productivity personally, professionally, and spiritually. Melissa also serves as an advocate for her community’s homeless population and enjoys traveling, writing, and spending time with family.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
I was obese all of my life. I remember going to Weight Watcher meetings in 5th grade. I knew all the fad diets and the workouts that should be implemented for best results, however, it wasn’t until my mom had a stroke in her early 50s that I realized I needed to do something about my weight. My mom spent the majority of her life yoyo dieting and beating her body up with food and alcohol. I could see I was following the same pattern and got super intentional about breaking the cycle. In 2011, I had the gastric sleeve weight loss surgery. I lost 100 lbs. in one year. Over the past ten years I have learned and implemented an intentional, healthy lifestyle. I acquired multiple degrees and certifications and after hiring a coach, I finally realized that my purpose is to serve women who have had weight-loss surgery, so they don’t have to spend ten years winging it like I did.
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?
I became a certified personal trainer about 6 months before the pandemic shutdown. My business quickly grew. However, when the world shut down, the success turned into 15-minutes of fame, and I was forced to pivot. I realized I needed help to figure out what my next step should be. I hired a coach to help me sort out how an online business might work. During this coaching program, not only did I learn key takeaways on starting an online business, but most importantly, I learned my purpose. I’ve always wanted to save the world, but when I niche down to a subgroup, that allowed me to turn my mess into my message and now I get to serve my tribe!
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?
My biggest mistake was taking session cancellations and no shows super personal. Because I want to serve the world, when my clients did not stick to their session, I didn’t take their life, schedule, etc. into consideration and turned real life into negative self-talk and experienced imposter syndrome.
The lesson learned here is that as a coach, I support my client, but I cannot do the physical implementation or action. This lack of control of the outcome is by far the hardest lesson I’ve learned thus far.
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 really became confident in my breakthrough when I was being coached by Anita Albert Watson. Her group program is called Blessed and in Business and the nuggets I received from that curriculum is priceless.
I will never forget in the beginning of the program I was following all her recommended steps and feeling so accomplished, but then reached a point in the module that discussed identifying my ideal customer. I identified a broad group of people I wanted to serve, that idea was rejected, and I was forced to dig deep inside of me. That deep dive into who I really am is what has brought me this far in such a short time.
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?
Anyone that has heard of weight-loss surgery, probably has heard that most people experience regain, and many times end up weighing more than they started off within a few years after surgery. In addition, mental health, addictions, and suicide numbers are increasing massively in the weight loss surgery community and my Total Package Transformation coaching program establishes the framework and provides the tools for long-term success with expedited results.
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.
1. Communication without being a people pleaser.
I spent my life not truly communicating my feelings in fear of rejection or disapproval. The breaking point was after I had surgery I would go out to a restaurant and when asked what I wanted to drink I would refuse the offer, as eating and drinking within 30 minutes of each other is frowned upon in the weight-loss surgery world. The response from the server never failed to question my surety and they would return multiple times for an, “Are you sure you don’t want anything to drink?” I finally just began to order ice water. I found with the simple water order it removed the unwanted attention of why I wasn’t drinking. It was during this time that I learned about people pleasing. The more I researched the behaviors, the more I realized I had been a people pleaser for as far back as I remember, and it really hindered my communication skills.
2. Self-worth. If I don’t value & respect myself, why should anyone else?
In addition to people pleasing hindering my communication skills, it also devalued my self-worth. Being obese destroys confidence. If you learn to recognize your worth and value, you may notice that you begin to hold yourself to higher standards. If you start receiving attention after losing weight, that attention could be misinterpreted and damaging. Self-worth can be reflected on personally and professionally. For me, I had to work on both. Professionally, my word was being considered more valuable and my recommendations were being implemented. I was able to easily grow into a valued, respected professional. On a personal level, the new attention caused some promiscuous behavior challenges, and it took a little longer to identify my self-worth.
3. If you do the same things, you have always done, you will get the same results.
We are all creatures of habit. The people, places, and things we spend time in become our comfort zone. Let’s consider an obese individual, such as the way I lived for 35 years. Every social interaction was based around food and drink. The people I hung around had the same unhealthy habits I had, and the places contributed towards an unhealthy lifestyle. I had to change it all! This is actually a very important aspect of my coaching curriculum because it is really uncomfortable to recognize and actually implement this change into your life. In fact, since most choose not to, that is why I personally believe the regain statistics are so high.
4. Mindful eating is a way of life.
Mindful eating is defined as an approach to food that focuses on individuals’ sensual awareness of the food and their experience of the food. What that looks like is that you eat to nourish your body when you are hungry and stop when you are satisfied. You chew your food thoroughly, evaluating your body after every couple of bites. I use the hunger rating scale to help put a number to my hunger and add logic to my choices.
5. Intentional Movement is key.
CDC and American Heart Association recommend 150 minutes of physical activity weekly. That is 30 minutes daily, 5 days per week as a minimum. This movement will keep the metabolism moving, body mobile and chronic illnesses at bay. Those 30 minutes can be scheduled through my customized programs or any online or in person fitness class. However, we all need to take initiative in intentional movement.
I once took an advanced yoga class and learned that the key to maintaining independence as we age is to be able to get up off the floor effortlessly. I intentionally get down on the floor on a regular basis. Another thing I used to do, that I’m not proud of, is drive around a parking lot until I found a close parking spot. I’m not alone, right? Well, years later, I park far and not only save my car from dents but get to add steps into my day by simply parking further from the store entrance. The final initiative you can apply today is to take instant action when you sit down and realize you forgot your phone in the other room, or when you get done with your plate don’t just set it down. So many times, we will just say, “we’ll get it later.” The intentional movement of immediate action creates healthy energy.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
My movement would be the 4-corner grocery movement. The amount of processed and preservatives in the average American’s diet are not doing a thing for their health and wellness. In fact, there is research showing that a brain scan of a western diet vs. that of a Mediterranean diet reflects decreased blood flow in the frontal cortex. It has been named Dinosaur Syndrome, essentially, the bigger the body, the smaller the brain and then they become extinct. The movement would keep shopping easy, yet focusing on more whole fruits, vegetables, nuts, and lean meats.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
- The journey is not easy. If I would’ve been aware, I could have been more proactive. I assumed since I couldn’t overeat, the journey would be easy.
- The journey can get lonely. The whole concept of those who live in the dark, don’t want to be around light. The shame of living unhealthy creates division. I didn’t even consider that there would be division amongst friends and family.
- You don’t know what you don’t know. I pride myself on research and being an informed consumer. I just knew I was ready for the journey and knew everything there was to know.
- Just because we were raised a certain way, doesn’t mean it was right. I did not know that there were healthy options. My family didn’t know that processed food had long term effects. I am not sure my family knew there were recommended serving sizes. My family certainly didn’t take into consideration any type of physical activity or personal development.
- When you find your truth, you find joy and live in freedom. You are then unstoppable. I didn’t know who I really was, if I would’ve known, I wonder if I would have done things the same? Once I was able to reveal my true identity the joy and peace that entered into my life was priceless!
Sustainability, veganism, mental health, and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
Big topics are often distractions from what we really need: rest and self-care. Those two topics add so much value to all diversities and need to be introduced and made relevant at every socioeconomic level.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
Thank you for these fantastic insights!