A true jack of all trades when it comes to health and fitness, Zita is known in our community for being a bit of a science geek. Zita's philosophy on health is simple: "Don't do it because you are supposed to. Do it because it feels wonderful to give your body what it needs, and you deserve to feel wonderful." Here's Zita's story.
Zita doesn't believe in "diets", and she'll be the first one to tell you that.
What she does believe in is the human capacity for growth, change, and betterment. And she believes, firmly, in the power of self-care, self-compassion and self-love.
"We can learn to change the things about ourselves that we don't like. Every single day, we are given opportunities to become greater versions of who we are. We can evolve. It's in our DNA."
And if anyone can truly attest to the human ability to change, it's her. Over the past four and half years she has completely transformed her life by embarking on what her friends' described as a "radical journey of self-celebration." And while the change in her body size is probably the most obvious (it's hard to miss a ~100 lbs weight loss), the most significant changes happened in her mind.
She explains: "If you had told me four years ago that I would be here, now, a fitness and health professional, public speaker and health advocate, I probably wouldn't have laughed. I think I would have cried. I wouldn't have believed you- because I didn't know how to believe in myself. I wouldn't have believed myself capable of any of it."
All that changed when Zita's son Samuel's physical needs demanded that she change her way of life significantly to help him manage his neurodevelopmental difference. (Read more about that story here). Out of necessity, physical activity became a way of life for Zita and her family, and they've never looked back. Soon, these changes began to permeate every aspect of their lives.
"What's amazing is that, when you are working so hard at being healthy in one area of your life, you find yourself wanting to make better choices in other areas as well. As I learned to fall in love with my body, I also learned that I wanted to give it the very best I could. I wanted to eat a healthier diet. I wanted better sleep. I wanted to address problems that I had been ignoring for a really long time. I wanted to feel "good" from in the inside out."
Being a lover of science and of learning, Zita embarked on a journey to truly understand the human body, including how it fuels itself and stores energy. She also took a keen interest in behaviour change management, pursuing additional education in order to better support her clients. In doing so, she discovered what she believes to be the missing link in virtually every diet, and the absolute 'secret' to her success:
"Sustainable behaviour change can not come from a place of self-loathing. It must come from a place of love, acceptance and desire for growth. No one invests time, energy, and resources into projects that they don't feel are worthy. The first change that has to happen is the recognition that you are worth it. And that, for most people, is the greatest feat of all."
Now, Zita uses both her education and personal experience to help others work their way through different life changes. For those in the Weight Loss Program, those changes involve gaining a better understanding of food, of the relationship between energy intake and expenditure, and bringing awareness to their patterns and choices. For Zita, "this isn't a "diet"- it's simply the long term application of basic food science. And it's a system that can be used to accomplish any number of goals, because understanding how food works is essential to making empowered choices about your nutrition."
But she has found that often this is actually just the tip of the iceberg. She says "my favourite thing about this program is when the participants are so eager to tell me everything they have learned about themselves through the process. That's when they realize that this experience is about so much more than changing their food habits. It's the beginning of a love story- theirs, with themselves."
When asked what her greatest piece of advice was to those just starting out, Zita suggested focusing on the 'why' more than the 'what'.
"There are going to be days where the 'what'- be it exercise, or tracking, or meal planning- seems insurmountable. And when it does, you need to go back to your 'why'. You need to remind yourself that this is one step in a long journey towards better self-understanding, and that it isn't a linear path. Be forgiving and compassionate with yourself. Allow yourself to make mistakes, to make choices that may not reflect all of your goals. Allow yourself the pleasure, the pain, the grief, the frustration and the joy that are essential parts of the growth experience."
When not supporting clients or teaching classes, Zita can almost always be found eating, thinking about eating, or whining about how she hasn't eaten in over an hour. She laughs, saying "I use the program myself to make sure that I am actually taking in enough calories! I move a lot and require an awful lot of food to keep myself going. I'd even say that food tracking is all the more essential for athletes- we are putting our bodies through the ringer, and if we under eat or eat the wrong proportions of foods, we are opening ourselves up to major health risks."
When asked her final thoughts, Zita responded: "I never want to live in a world where I can't eat nachos. And on this program, no one has to. Maybe that's the best part."