When we can look at someone hurting us and think they only have the best intentions, or they are coming from a place of pain, so we don’t take it personally. My positivity is contagious. I’m sure at times it’s what carries my clients through their hard times. I see some very unwell clients that have had to deal with some awful conditions and I always say the problem with natural health is there is no magic pill to get through all the symptoms, you have to go through the bad times. Clients often remark that my positivity got them through the tough times. It was the light at the end.
In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Shelley Gawith.
Shelley is a New Zealand based International Speaker and Functional Nutritionist who specializes in helping people be the CEO of their own health with her message and keynote: The Future of Health is YOU.
At a time where people are suffering from burnout, anxiety, obesity and chronic illness Shelley helps people turn that around so they have “exponential energy.
Gawith is a Certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP), a Certified Gluten Practitioner, and a Certified Restorative Wellness Practitioner which collectively enables her to specialize in functional laboratory testing to provide further insight and information to her clients.
She draws on her life journey and shares her personal near-death health story going from an overachieving work-a-holic to having a physiological body breakdown that left her almost bedridden for two years. She was told by countless medical practitioners that she was going to die. This led her to dive deep into Functional Nutrition and rebuild her body. Now she travels the world as a keynote speaker at conferences delivers corporate training and presentations to help others to do the same.
Shelley divides her time between seeing clients 1–1 at her own private clinic, running her online programs, speaking and facilitating workshops to Corporates in NZ and overseas. She also helps other wellness practitioners to have booked out clinics like hers so that she can amplify her impact on wellness even further.
Known for her energy and positivity to her clients & colleagues Shelley’s presentation style is entertaining, and animated in a way that leaves people feeling uplifted and empowered with some clear takeaway tips and actions to move towards the health and life they want. She also has a very strong side and both expect and demand results. Rather than telling people what to do, Shelley opens their eyes and educates.
Thank you so much for joining us Shelley! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?
I grew up in New Zealand where I studied my first degree in accounting and commercial law. I went on to complete my chartered accountancy (CA). After leaving my CA firm I moved to the land of sunshine and grand opportunities Australia to work for an investment bank (Macquarie Bank). I became the Finance Manager for a division there at 26. What it really meant was I was a slave to the corporation. After catching full-blown influenza, my life dramatically changed for the worst. My recovery never happened and I was told by the medical world I need to be hospitalized or I would die. I don’t even know if I was fearful at this thought, or just so unbelievably sick, I was holding on for my life and had no emotional capacity to feel anything. I moved home to live with my parents in New Zealand where my Mum looked after me. This was extremely heartbreaking for both my parents to see their “little girl” so unwell. After seeing every specialist and doctor and being told there was nothing I could do, my life was limited to my bed and I would just sleep all day. I would scream during the night, from the intense pain I felt in my body, nobody should lie in bed each day without moving. My muscles basically began to eat themselves. After 18 months of this and the despair at not knowing if I would ever get better. I decided with the 20 minutes a day I could stay awake, I needed to start looking into nutrition so I could get myself better. I had to do something. My mum implemented all the food changes.
As I could stay awake longer, this led to me being able to study nutrition with the Nutritional Therapy Association. From my study I began doing everything I was learning on myself and slowly began to heal each system in my body. I can’t tell you the joy my family and I felt at seeing progress at last. Once I was 80% well I studied more advanced functional laboratory testing. My cry when I was in bed, sleeping most of the day, was if I can just help one person this was all worth it. The day I walked to the grocery store again, I cried, it was a dream come true, literally. Funny when you have nothing that you wish for. So once I had completed my study, I found another very sick person to help and then another one. From there my business as a Functional Nutritionist began. Now in 2020 I have a booked out clinic and a special detoxification center so I can help as many people as possible.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
The biggest take away I’ve learned from my corporate career, you can’t ignore poor health. When I was working long days at the investment bank, I was literally living off more and more coffee and gluten-free treats to sustain my energy. Thereafter, my health started to decline but I chose to continue to ignore it. I pushed myself harder and harder with the long hours and the endless promotions I wanted until my body couldn’t be pushed anymore and it literally crashed. I then realized if you don’t have your health you actually don’t have a career. All the money I had been working hard to get and save for my first house, I had to use to pay to get my health back again.
What do you think makes your company/brand stand out? Can you share a story?
The success of my business is truly because of my positivity. It’s infectious. Every client leaves our offices feeling more positive than when they came in. In our clinic we have some very sick people, you can’t fix all their symptoms in one session, but we can give them hope. Warmness, compassion and a big smile. Clients always message me with something that might have happened in between their appointments and they will end the email saying but we know you will somehow find the positive and it’s the truth.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful to who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I am so grateful to my Dad he is the reason I have been as successful as I am in my business. I had to do an assignment at university for my Commerce Degree on someone who had a successful business and I picked him. What I learnt in that interview, I have applied to every area of my life. He told me the key to having a successful business were the relationships you made. If you have strong relationships with clients they will forgive you for the small mistakes you will make along the way. And believe me he needed a lot of forgiving, his clients didn’t even mind when he ran late for his appointments.
Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience?
I would define resilience as having a strength in yourself to overcome difficult situations in life or if you can’t overcome them, having the grace to accept them. Resilience to me means how well we respond to negative events in our lives. Resilience is what we draw on from deep within ourselves to help us with the setbacks or things in life that we didn’t expect.
What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
The characteristics of resilient people are: Courage, strength, confidence, humbleness
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
When I think of resilience I think of so many clients, how they have had to overcome so much with their health. But one of my clients who I will name B came to see me when she was 27 years old, she was 77 pounds overweight, extremely tired, she was an ex gym trainer, but couldn’t even work out her body was so fatigued. She was forced to move in with her parents as she couldn’t look after herself. She was struggling with life. She had been to so many health practitioners and just told her it would be better if she lost weight, however, she just couldn’t. She didn’t eat unhealthy food. B came to me for months, before seeing any progress. As her practitioner, I would see small changes at each new appointment. But for a good 18 months, it looked like nothing on the outside was getting better. We were doing lots of good things on the inside but B had been sick for at least a decade before coming to see me. B would be judged for her weight and was told she ate too much when she didn’t. Every day felt like hard work for B and many days she did just want to give up. Her health and weight made it really hard. Finally, despite B wanting to give up many times over, she kept working with me. “Overnight” she lost the 77 pounds. B knows it did not happen overnight and it was the previous 18 months of those small changes of her body healing, but in 2 months as her body was healing she did lose the 77 pounds. She still doesn’t have the energy she wants so we continue to work together to cross the final hurdle. B is someone who makes me smile daily, as she really had to overcome so much negativity, judgment, and heartache but she stuck with it.
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?
When I was working at Macquarie bank I was always being told new innovative ways were impossible, I always had to prove it. At the time all our new software contracts and new buyer contracts were stil paper documents. Banks weren’t really paperless at that time, so it took up a lot of time and money scanning in these documents, saving them, sorting them and storing them. I convinced the General Manager of my division to let me work with a third party and make the whole process paperless. We were the first department to do it and other departments in the bank copied soon after.
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
My biggest setback was “losing” my health and being told I was going to die. When I was lying in bed all day every day with no clear idea of how I was going to get better and everyone telling me they couldn’t help. When every time I tried a new treatment I would somehow get worse. I would tell everyone, all my medical practitioners, I was going to get better. I would make a FULL recovery. I was even sent for multiple mental health checks as Doctors couldn’t believe I wasn’t depressed and in denial. I came back stronger because now I don’t take life for granted. All the small things in life that I took for granted I now value and they bring me so much joy every day.
Another set back came two years into having my own business, I had finally got my health back on track and had purchased the first apartment that I had worked so hard to buy. A few months after moving in, I felt my health starting to decline, I was a little more tired in the mornings and I had gained a little bit of weight. After going through everything with my health, I realized there were hidden sources of mold in my house. I had to totally destroy my apartment and re-build it again so it was mold proof.
Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.
My top 5 steps for being more resilient are:
- Mindset — We get to set our intention for each day. We get to choose the direction. Many doctors told me they knew who would get better based on the patient’s mindset. Once I was better, I remember talking to my main medical doctor in Wellington and I asked him if he thought even when he couldn’t help that I would get better and he replied yes! I asked him how he knew and he said because of my mindset, I was determined I was going to get better. I told everyone that it wasn’t going to be me. I was going to get better. I was going to make a full recovery. I never cared what the statistics said. I wasn’t going to be one of them. I was going to get better.
- Positivity — When we can see the best in everything and everyone. When we can look at someone hurting us and think they only have the best intentions, or they are coming from a place of pain, so we don’t take it personally. My positivity is contagious. I’m sure at times it’s what carries my clients through their hard times. I see some very unwell clients that have had to deal with some awful conditions and I always say the problem with natural health is there is no magic pill to get through all the symptoms, you have to go through the bad times. Clients often remark that my positivity got them through the tough times. It was the light at the end.
- Self care — it’s cheesy but if our cup isn’t overflowing first we don’t have anything to draw on. If we are empty when stuff comes up in life we have nothing to dig from. I truly used to believe that I was only on the planet to look after everyone else and put their needs before my own. In fact I don’t think I believed I had needs and if I did I was there to serve everyone else in my world. I remember dreading each week before it began, as I was exhausted on a Sunday night every week. I would get up, go to the gym, work all day and then attend events in the evenings. Some days I would be so tired and just want to go home to bed, but I would push myself to the next thing, as I truly believed I was on earth just to make others happy and not to worry about myself. I now know that when I get tired or when I’m not looking after myself, filling myself up, I actually can’t look after anyone else or be good at my job, because I have nothing left to give others and I just feel like anything could tip me over
- Balance your hormones — We view our lives through the lenses of our hormones. When our hormones are out of balance everything in life can take on a darker tinge. Life feels harder. I remember having a coffee before work in Sydney, I was studying to complete my chartered accountancy exams and I was busy looking for a new house to rent. My Dad called me to give advice on my house situation and instead of graciously accepting it and thanking him, I started crying and I remember clearly saying to him, why are you trying to stress me out more, why are you adding to my load, I can’t do this. I have thought back on this occasion many times over the years as it wasn’t long after that my health really collapsed, I look back and realized the way I reacted was from someone, that was running on empty, my hormones were out of balance, my tank was low and anything was going to tip me over the edge all the time.
- Nourish your body. We always feel as good as the food we eat or as bad as the food we eat. If we are eating foods causing us inflammation, it puts a stress burden on our bodies. All stress is the opposite of resilience. We are going to wear away at ourselves if we are eating foods for our bodies that are causing us symptoms. Unless we are eating for our own individual bodies so that we are filled with energy and not being weighed down by tiredness due to the inflammation, we won’t be resilient. For years I ate bread for breakfast, for lunch, and probably pasta for dinner. I never felt energized after eating it, but I would often have it with coffee and sugar snacks so I didn’t notice. Gluten for me causes me inflammation so, after years of doing it and inflaming my body, it became such a stressor on my body. It also meant that every time I was feeling tired, life became a struggle. It’s hard to be resilient when you are struggling.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
If I could inspire a movement I would like EVERY busy woman to realize that with every mouthful we eat we have the ability to change our own personal health, the health of our families and our countries. That we really do have the ability to change our healthcare system and the state of the world. We can reduce the amount of disease in the world.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂
I would love to have a private breakfast with Brene brown. I’m sure so many people would say her. For me reading her first book The Gifts of imperfection and then hearing her Tedx talk when I was sick in bed allowed me to look at myself differently. For the first time I gave myself permission not to have to strive to be “perfect” all the time, but it also helped me question what was behind the mask that I was wearing. I realized for the first time that while I didn’t numb myself with what I consider to be normal things that you would numb yourself with like drinking, smoking, drugs, shopping. I did actually numb myself. I numbed myself by constantly being busy.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Facebook: Shelley Gawith Functional Nutrition
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!