Laura Acosta is a registered dietitian, fitness professional, and university lecturer. Most of the time she is teaching clinical nutrition courses at the University of Florida, but when she’s not busy in the classroom, you’ll find her encouraging women to love and make peace with their bodies through mindful Pilates.
She is the creator of Briolates, a unique Pilates program that helps women reconnect with their “brio” (energy, vitality, and joy) and build core strength from the inside out. She has been honored as one of the top 10 Personal Trainers to Watch from the American Council on Exercise, the Recognized Young Dietitian of the Year from the Florida Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and the Teacher of the Year from the University of Florida. Her greatest honor of all is being a mom to her two boys, ages 4 and 8.
The right habits puts you in control of your health, relationships, mindset, and more. But most people lack the tools to stick with those habits long enough to see results that is about to change. Welcome to the unshakable habits podcast with your host habit change specialist and speaker Stephen Box. Join us each week as experts share their stories, experiences and insights and give you the tools to build unshakable habits so you can live life on your terms. It's time to take your habits from unsustainable to unshakable.
Stephen Box 0:47
Hey, everybody, welcome to another episode of The unshakable habits Podcast. I am your host, Stephen Box. And I am joined today by Laura Acosta. Laura, thanks for being here today.
Laura Acosta 1:01
Hey, Hey, everybody. Thanks so much, Stephen, for having me.
Stephen Box 1:06
So excited to share your story with everyone today. The way you summed it up was so neat, you said that you went from anorexic to obese to finally at peace. And I think that pretty much sums up what we're going to cover today. But little more specifically, can you tell me what it is that you do? Because I know you work with a lot of women? Can you tell me like for the ladies out there listening today? What are they going to walk away with?
Laura Acosta 1:35
Yeah, of course. So I help women in their 30s 40s and 50s, to get off the diet roller coaster, to finally make peace with their bodies, and to rediscover their inner vitality and joy, their inner rock star through mindful nutrition, and Pilates.
Stephen Box 1:56
And, you know, that's really what your story is about. You're, you're not just saying this, what you help people with, that's what you experienced, that's really what you went through. So they're going to get to see not just how that happens, they're gonna see how you did it and how it helped to transform your life.
Laura Acosta 2:10
Stephen Box 2:13
So before we dive into your story, I do want to take a second to remind everyone of our unshakeable habits framework. This is a framework that we want to view Laura's story through today, because it's what's going to allow you to take her story and apply it back to your own life. The first part is always about vision. Whenever we make major changes, anytime we start to create unshakable habits in our life, it all starts with a vision. Now visions are different than goals. Goals are about specific outcomes. And the truth is, we rarely have control over a specific outcome. But what we do have control over is the behaviors, the things that we envision for our future. And that literally is what the vision is, it's about, who do you want to be in the future. Once you have a vision, you understand who that person that you want to become is you have to create skills, or utilize skills that you already have. That's the second part of the framework. And then of course, if you're going to better utilize skills, or you're going to build new skills, you have to take some actions, and that is those daily repeatable actions that we take to build up those skills. That third part of the framework that helps us to eventually realize that vision that we've created for ourselves. That is the framework that we will be looking at Laura's story through today. And Laura, since we are all about taking people's habits from unsustainable to unshakable, why don't we start with the unsustainable part of your story. And since you laid it out so nicely for us, we'll start with, you know, how did you get to the point where you became anorexic?
Laura Acosta 4:02
Yeah, great. Thanks so much for asking. So really, the roots of this started very early in my childhood. And I think that we're all immersed in a, what I'll call a diet, culture, and fat phobia. And all of the messaging that we get is around weight loss. And we have a multi billion dollar industry, right, telling us that we need to lose weight that we're not good enough the way that we are. And so I was exposed to this at a very early age I my mother had always been very self conscious of her body. Although she was really never overweight, she thought she was and every time she would walk by a mirror, there would be some disparaging or self deprecating comment about her body. And so I think I internalized a lot of that. And I remember a few kind of pivotal moments in my childhood one was a conversation That was going on between my dad and my mom and we were all in the car. So I was just sitting in the backseat, but I heard them talking. And I'm sitting there and and I think we were having, they were talking about, like the Miss America Pageant or something like that. And somehow the topic came up of where my mom kind of fell on the, on the beauty spectrum. And so I'm listening and my dad says, Well, your, your average and, and I think my mom was a little taken aback, but and he's kind of described, no women that were beautiful and women that were average. And I just, I'm sitting there and I'm just kind of shocked and a little horrified because I'm thinking I guess I'm just average too and and that felt really difficult to hear and to and to kind of process especially when I was you know, seven or eight years old. And so then going through my teenage years I remember this vision like Steven was saying there's there's a vision and sometimes visions are not or they're kind of misguided, right, we might have a vision of what we think that we want for ourselves and we end up realizing later that maybe that that wasn't a good vision, but we learned something through it. So my vision when I was 12 years old, was to be thin, was to make sure that no matter what, I never got fat. And so this led to me doing my first diet at age 12 when you're going through puberty, there are changes and a lot of times you grow you know out before you grow up and so I started to notice some of those changes in my body and was just terrified by what I was experiencing and seeing these changes and so that's when I decided this is never going to happen to me I will not be fat and so I'm going to diet and I remember that the first day I at that point was kind of packing my own lunches and so I brought two strawberries and a Diet Pepsi for lunch. And I thought that that was going to be the beginning of my my new life my new diet and I remember getting home that day and being so hungry that I just I went to the pantry and just I ate probably a whole bag of chips or a whole box of crackers or you know something that was really overindulgent because it was it was deprivation driven was deprivation driven over eating and I just remember feeling disgusting I was like this is what what am I doing I just need to double down I need more willpower and I fought like this in my own head for two years. And I would and I would exert more and more and more willpower to try to overcome the hunger that my body naturally had right from from trying to starve myself well eventually got this got to the point where it became an obsession it became a habit that I could not shake and it was it was dangerous. It was it was scary. My parents were scared I remember so many doctor visits and being told you need to you need to gain weight you know and it got to the point where there was a threat of if you are not heavier by next time if you don't gain some weight or at least stop losing weight you're going to be sent to the hospital and I remember playing these games so I you know in my mind I'm
I wasn't willing to let go of what I was doing right because at that point it was an obsession it was something that I it wasn't an addiction really of sorts and I couldn't have stopped even if I wanted to. So I remember thinking what am I going to do I when I step on that scale, I have to be you know some certain threshold weight right or, or else and I remember hiding little like hand weights that were kind of discreet I were really baggy clothing, slips those underneath in places so that nobody would see them but that they would add extra weight to the scale. I I drink like a gallon of water before I went and I looked for the heaviest jewelry that I could find. So I'm going to like my little jewelry box and I pick out the biggest like chunky necklace that I'm thinking is going to add some weight right and and I went and I was like Right at the threshold that they had set, so I didn't have to go to the hospital that time, like, thank God. But this kept going. And every time I would, I would hide the weights in my clothes, I would wear the heavy jewelry, I would drink the I would do everything in my power to add, you know, every tiny little gram at that point, I felt like counted. And there was a time when I went in that didn't that didn't work. I just I simply, even with all of that extra, quote unquote, weight, I was below a threshold and and it was said you're going to the hospital. And so that's where I went. And that's where I spent the next month. And it was it was dehumanizing. I that's the only way I can really describe this psychiatric hospital. I mean, imagine, every time you go to the bathroom, you have to be watched, someone is standing there, as you, you know, strip down and you you do your thing, and then everything is measured. So like I can't just go to the bathroom, I have to measure my pee. And it was like, I had to be washed, I couldn't take a shower on my own. somebody standing there watching me could not go outside. I remember a friend gave me this spiral notebook to draw in. And she had been a huge support to me through this whole process. And so knowing that I was going to go to the hospital, she said, Laura, I want you to have this. And I just want you to, you know, when you're feeling upset or stress I want you to draw in here. And, and kind of feel that connection right to me and know that I'm thinking of you too. So it's a really special gift. It seems simple, but that sketchbook really meant a lot to me. And I remember getting there, and they went through all my stuff, they paused through all of my luggage and decided what I was allowed to keep and what had to go. And the spiral notebook, they take it out and they say, this is the sharp this goes. Apparently, because of the spiral binding, it was considered unsafe for individuals that that were proud to self harm. And so they took it and they threw it away. And I wasn't allowed to have it. And that that, that broke me that really broke my spirit. And I could describe many, many instances from that time. But it was a very low, very dark time. And when I got out of the hospital, it wasn't because I was better it was because my insurance ran out. And so I was discharged in this still fragile state. But I would say a very traumatized and terrorized state. And although I was not I was not better physically, I was not better mentally when I was was determined never to go back. It had been such a horrific experience that it didn't matter to me what I had to do, I was not going to go back there. And so for the next probably
five, six years. As I'll describe it, it's a it was like walking a tightrope. Right, it was like in my mind being above this certain weight was completely unacceptable. And yet being below that weight would send me back to the hospital. So I had to be exactly this weight. And it was exhausting. It was exhausting this, this, this fight, in my own mind between being acceptable to myself and being acceptable to other people. And I felt like if I just stayed at this one number, then I could then I could sort of satisfy both, but it never really, it never really felt like I was at peace ever. So that was my childhood in my teenage years.
Stephen Box 14:21
You just gave us like a whole lot to unpack. So I want to kind of dive into some of those things, because there's a lot of really powerful moments there. And I want to make sure that people really kind of hear these and get these. So the first and foremost thing is you talked about being in the car with your parents and hearing this conversation. Now the seeds had already been planted in your mind that you needed to look a certain way or that you needed to be at a certain weight because of your mom making the comments. When Anytime she walked by the mirror, which I think is a great thing, because although I'm sure every parent knows that they're an influence on their child, although every parent knows that their child hears the things they say, in the moment, it can be rather difficult to stop and think about the influence you're actually having. So I think it's just such a great reminder to people. And the really cool thing here is, if you're currently that person who's making those comments about yourself, you don't need to beat yourself up about being that person, you just need to start being more aware of the language through using read your kids, you need to be sitting in a different example for them. So I appreciate the fact that you're willing to share that experience because that is something that as a kid, you weren't fully aware that you were doing yours. Like you heard it, this was normal behavior, you weren't processed and to go, Oh, I'm, you know, projecting myself on to, you know, our mom's comments or whatever. So I really appreciate the feds, you pointed that out. And then you talked about this conversation, you know, with your dad, saying that your mom is average. And you didn't really give us a lot of detail on what he described as what he felt was beautiful. But I kind of gathered that a lot of it had to do with being really skinny, because that's what you gravitated toward is wanting to be really skinny.
Laura Acosta 16:31
Yeah, I think that was that was part of it. It was it. Kind of, you know, a whole a whole package. But I just remember in that moment, feeling so inadequate and feeling like, like that was inevitable that there was nothing that I, I felt that if I kept kind of going down the natural trajectory of things, that that's what, that's how I was going to end up inevitably. And so I felt like I needed to do something drastic to stop that trajectory.
Stephen Box 17:03
And you do something drastic, but it wasn't, it wasn't the healthiest thing for you. Right. And I think that's another powerful message. Because so often like you, you just say you help you know, women to accept their bodies, you help them to get off that diet roller coaster. And a big part of that is acknowledging that that diet roller coaster is not healthy. And that's really where you found yourself. And, you know, did you see here and here you talk about how you put weight in your clothes, just so that you could continue the lifestyle that you wanted, but also satisfy everyone else. I think there's so much there just in terms of how often we tend to try to please other people. And the extent that we will go to just try to find that balance of Okay, I don't want to go to the hospital for being too underweight. But at the same time, I don't want to eat. So I'm going to try to find a way to make myself heavier by wearing the jewelry by putting the weights in the clothes by doing all those things, that would add any little amount of weight that you could possibly add. So I just there's so much there in terms of I'm hoping that people will take the time here in listening to your story and reflect upon the things that they're doing. That the thoughts that they've had the the ideas that were planted in their heads, maybe even early on, and stern to realize that some of those things that they've maybe cured is truth, their whole life, or just stories and there don't have to be real, that you can let go of them. And you know, for anyone who's like hit this point, like, I'm so down right now because the story is so Saturday now, it's going to get better, we're going to we're going to get to the happy times, you see you see the smiling face over here. She's She's happy now. So we're gonna get to the happy parts for make sure you stick around for the rest of the interview. Don't don't don't leave now. But I do want to just say, I hope that people take that time to reflect upon those stories that they've been told, or that they've told themselves and really start to question, are these stories real? Or is this really what's healthy for me? Or it's just just what I've had to basically tell myself I had to do,
Laura Acosta 19:27
right? And I'll say one more thing about that if it's okay, that I found myself during that time becoming less and less of who I who I knew myself to be and who I wanted to be. I've always been important to me to have integrity and to be an honest person. And I found myself becoming very deceitful, not just with the, you know, packing the weights and the clothes, but I would lie to the doctors, they would ask me Are you having a period and I would say, I wasn't. I wasn't I didn't have a period for 15 years of my and I, I would say that I was because because I thought that that would make that's what they wanted to hear and that it would keep me safe. Yeah.
Stephen Box 20:12
Yeah. And I think that phrase that you used is so important, because not going to the hospital, not having them dig further into stuff was a safety net for you. Yeah. And we can't underestimate how powerful that need to feel safe really is.
Laura Acosta 20:32
Absolutely, yeah, that's where it really came from.
Stephen Box 20:35
The towards the end of your story, you talked about how you got to this point where you're like, Okay, I can't go below a certain number, because that's kind of gave me st vent to the hospital and that humiliating situation that you were in. But you also still had not fully gotten past what you were dealing with. So you still didn't want to go above a certain number. So now you're stuck trying to find this perfect balance. You're stuck in this diet Limbo of Oh, I eat too much today too little. And since I already know, as everyone knows, because you told us that at some point, this led to obesity. I'm going to speculate here that this is the part of the story where we get into how you became obese and not just it wasn't just you just stayed at this, you know, fluctuation forever, then eventually, that diet roller coaster finally push you too far.
Laura Acosta 21:35
Yeah, yeah. And so yeah, so let me I can elaborate that on a little bit. And I'll just say that kind of in in the interim to kind of bridge the two parts of this story. I ended up leaving home is like, basically as soon as I turned 18 The day I was 18, I was like I'm out of here. Because I felt really at that point, it felt suffocating with all of the doctor's appointments and the the therapist visits and things and I know that my parents just wanted to make sure I was okay and keep me they wanted to keep me safe. But I felt like I just wanted to run away. And so I moved as far away as I could get, and kind of started my my life as an independent single person didn't know a soul in town. And I about a year later I started college and I at that point had convinced myself that I was I was completely fine that I was better and I look back now and I'm really it kind of embarrassed for myself right that I would that I would think that because it was I was fooling myself. But truly what it was is that I was trying to find a way to legitimize my the fact that I was still obsessed with my body and weight and all of this and so I majored in nutrition to become a dietitian. And I had justified that to myself and the way that I explained it was that I've been through this horrible experience and I want to now help others at not to have to go through this right so I'm going to become a dietitian so that I can help people who are struggling with food and weight issues, but I wasn't better yet. I truly was just a way to justify thinking about food all day long because I thought well if I'm a dietician that I have then it's normal right to think about food all day long. And the same thing with my fitness career I became a personal trainer a group exercise instructor, a kickboxing instructor a yoga and pilates instructor. Awkward exercises are like every certification that that one could think of I I got it and again it was my my thinking was I want to help people become the best their best selves they want to them to help to help them optimize their health and specifically help women who are struggling with body insecurity but the truth is I was still really struggling and so if I'm being honest with myself, having all those certifications and and working jobs, you know, where I was in the, in the gym, basically the entire day was just just that it was an excuse to spend all day in the gym and have it look normal, right? So So this went on for a number of years and so at some point, the dieting caught up. And you know, it doesn't matter how long you've been in this diet cycle. At some point, your body will will rebel it will say no, this, we can't do this anymore. And it's really it's your it's your body's way of trying to scream out for help.
And yet we view it as this really shameful thing when we quote unquote overeat The truth is almost all overeating people like to call it emotional eating etc most of the time it's deprivation driven overeating we have to look at well what did we What did we eat all day? Oh, we ate hardly anything No wonder we had a huge dinner and now we've now we're blaming ourselves and feeling shame about it. But the truth is, if we had taken care of ourselves the way we should have throughout the day, that likely would not have happened and so imagine that now on a macro scale that's what happens in a day right we under eat we underwrite we under eat and then we get to dinner and we're ravenous and we have this huge meal. Now imagine 15 years of chronically under eating, keeping one's body at a, at a very low body weight, just barely enough to kind of be okay and not have somebody send you to the hospital right? So let's say for every action there's an equal and opposite reaction right? So this this is what happened after 15 years of that my body was done. And so I started trying to tell myself okay, I can eat a little bit more I was I was sort of ready to try and quote unquote, recover as well. But I when I started eating a little bit more, I couldn't stop. And again, it was this 15 years of deprivation that my body was trying to compensate for in some way. And so over about the course of a year, I gained about 80 pounds. And I remember feeling so ashamed so embarrassed, so so gross, you know and I look now and it's um you know, I have a different feeling about it now but then living in a body that I felt like I didn't recognize anymore, was a really hard place to be. And I remember going out one time to the grocery store and running into someone that I knew from the past that hadn't seen me in a while. And I remember looking at her and saying, you know, hey, Shauna, and she looked at me I first saw the look of on recognition like who are you? And then I saw the look of recognition immediately followed by utter confusion and then I saw the eyes go down and up and I just wanted to crawl out of my own skin it was Who are you? Oh your Lord what happened you know and she didn't say that. But I could see that you know, her eyes her face told me that and that was one incident there were many like that people that I hadn't seen for a while and having to go through that every time so I just I stopped going out I really became quite a a reckless I didn't want to be seen I didn't feel safe being seen and so that that was also a really dark time and and there's some irony I suppose in the fact that that started by me deciding Okay, I'm going to cautiously try to get out of this diet place. I don't want to be anorexic anymore. I want to be normal. And when I started trying to practice some of that and allow myself to eat a little bit more have the cookie You know, one cookie turned into 30 cookies, I literally could not stop. And so the the pendulum swung from one side all the way to the other.
Stephen Box 29:13
You just pointed out something there that I think so many people who are outside of the fitness industry don't understand because well fitness slash health industry. And that is that when we have a we'll call it a compulsive behavior, because that's, that's really when you talk about overeating or under eating. That's really kind of what it becomes. It's something like you've described several times that you just feel that you have absolutely zero control over and the activities you're doing are an attempt to gain some kind of control. But what happens is when we have a compulsive order, like under eating or trying to diet and might not necessarily be anorexic. But you do find yourself trying to control how much you eat, you're trying to constantly diet, what ends up happening is, if you don't take care of the underlying issues there, if you don't handle the feelings that are causing you to be compulsive in the first place, all you're going to do is transfer the compulsion. And what you just described, I think, is probably a fear that a lot of the ladies out there listening right now have, which is if I'm dieting, if I'm doing all these things, but I'm starting to understand that this isn't really healthy. But I'm scared to start eating because if I do have my swing the other way, and I might become compulsive, about overeating, and then I'm going to put on all of this weight. And then it's like, what if I, what have I done because now I've spent all this time dieting and trying to look a certain way. And now I'm just throwing it all away. And being overweight, is kind of how they're going to possibly view that. And I think what you hit on there so important that it's not necessarily about the fact that you went from being under eater to an overeater. It's about the fact that you never dealt with the underlying issues in between. And that's what that's why you ended up overeating, it wasn't because you decided that you could introduce cookies into your life that you became overweight, it's because you never dealt with the underlying issues.
Laura Acosta 31:29
Thank you so much for saying that, Steven, because that is absolutely right. I, in my mind, at that point, it was I want to stop dieting, I don't want to always have to be thinking about what I'm eating. So I'm going to allow myself to eat a little bit more I was looking at it on a very superficial level it was the problem is food. So I'm going to try to fix the food problem. Yeah, that wasn't the problem.
Stephen Box 31:54
Yeah, it's, it's just such a, such a deep, powerful thing. And that's why, you know, I know there's tons of stuff out there and everyone when they start trying to lose weight, or gain weight, or whatever, they always want to try to doodle on their own. But that's one of the reasons I always encourage people to work with a professional because they can see things that you can't see you're too close to certain things. And you just you don't know sometimes the damage that you're doing to yourself by being blinded to certain spots?
Laura Acosta 32:27
Absolutely, I would, I would totally agree with that. And that was one of the things looking back. I always want felt like I had it under control. And I could do it myself. And I was wrong. And that wasn't that wasn't accurate. I needed help. But I was too stubborn. And I was too kind of independent and strong willed. I was and I was embarrassed, you know, there there's a sense of shame as well. about, you know, maybe I maybe I am out of control, and I need help, but I don't want to admit to myself that I need help. Yeah, so I'm gonna handle this on my own.
Stephen Box 33:06
Yeah, and I think, and please tell me if any of this is not correct, because I'm going to make some assumptions here based on what you might have been going through. So early in life, you had this vision of I wanted to be skinny, because in your mind, that's what beautiful was. And you were very successful in achieving that. And so although it wasn't healthy, you viewed it as successful. So this was kind of a notch in the build of like, this is a skill that I have, I can do this. Yeah. And then you had this traumatic experience of going to the hospital. And that wasn't the same as working with a coach that was literally you've hit rock bottom, and we're going to do whatever we have to do to try to fix you here is the way that they're looking at it. You know, I don't like using that term fixing you. But that's the way that it's viewed in a clinical setting. Right?
Laura Acosta 34:04
Well, it was really at that point, it was an extreme intervention to save my life, essentially, it was you know, it wasn't really I don't think about trying to fix the psychological issues. It was like if we're going to force feed you and you're going to come out of here, heavier than when you came in so that at least you're alive and then you can you can deal with the mental stuff later.
Stephen Box 34:33
So moving into adulthood, you become certified as a dietitian, you get all these certifications excuse me, and I know for me personally this happened so that this may be with your situation was to when you find yourself a little overweight, so you're not really heavy at this point because I had the opposite approach of I lost 80 pounds, then came became certified, but actually became certified after I lost about 60 pounds. So I still had about 20 pounds to lose after getting my certification. And for me, there was a bit of shame and being a little bit overweight, because Oh, I know all this stuff. Now I have these certifications, there's an expectation in my field that I look a certain way. And so did you find yourself kind of in a similar situation where when you first started putting on the weight, the logic was because you had success in the past with keeping the weight off of Hey, you know, I know how to get skinny. I know how to do these things. And now you're gonna have all this extra knowledge and education is piled on top of it. And so in the beginning, you maybe didn't see that it was becoming a problem, because you feel like, Oh, I can easily fix that if I need to.
Laura Acosta 35:58
Yeah, I think that that that's fair to say for sure at the beginning, because I had all of the certifications and the knowledge and the credentials, when I was still in a very emaciated state. And so when the weight started coming on, um, at first, you're right, it was kind of easy to almost deny that it was it was kind of like, like, Okay, this is I can kind of hide this under my clothes or whatever. And, and I did kind of feel like Alright, well, you know what, that's it. Tomorrow, I start I started another day, I was finding myself reverting back right to those habits from my early teen years saying, I've done this once before, I can do this again. And, but what really disturbed me was that I would try. And this time, I, I could not, I didn't have the, as they say, quote, unquote, willpower right to, to overcome, my body was screaming out for help. And it had gotten a little foot in the door, and it wasn't going to be shut out again. It was gonna, you know, make its way so. So yes, and then as, as the weight kept coming on more and more and more, I felt more of that hypocrisy of, I'm supposed to look this way. There's a certain expectation as a as a trainer, and yet, you know, all of my clients are literally watching me blow up like a balloon. How? How do I? How do I be okay with myself? How do I even you know, justify that I actually am a trainer, it just it was this very, very disturbing kind of mental battle inside there. And most people didn't, didn't say anything. But there were a couple, you know, clients would be that would say, you're putting on some weight. And it's like, that's the worst possible thing anybody could say. It's not like I didn't know that. And that's one thing. Not to get off track. But don't comment on people's weights. It's not like they haven't noticed they live in their bodies every day. Yeah, so
Stephen Box 38:17
yeah. And now we'll even say that that works in both directions. I had a friend a few months ago, post it on Facebook, she actually had the gastric bypass. And this was years ago that she had it and she's since puts on the weight back on. And part of the reason why she put the weight back on was when she got down to her like most, you know, thin weight, her lowest weight on the scale. She was getting all these compliments from people like Sal, you look so great and energetic. And she said that it made her feel as though when she was heavier that she had no value. Because no one ever gave her these compliments until she got super skinny. And then it made her not even want to be that then so she actually put weight back on intentionally. Because she didn't want to be that then because she got tired of hearing people actually tell her how great she looked and given her all these compliments. Just because she was skinny. She's like, that's skinny is not who I am. That's just my body. That's that has nothing to do with me. Why did you Why did you not appreciate me before?
Laura Acosta 39:25
Totally, totally agree. And we've been conditioned to think that skinny equals good and fat equals bad. There's nothing further from the truth. And there are people who are really sick and lose weight and people are telling them Oh, you look amazing. You're losing weight. I mean, how awful for somebody that is going through cancer treatment or you know something else where they there. They're not even losing weight on purpose. And to be told, oh, you look great. And what an insult. So yes, don't comment on people's weight. Please.
Stephen Box 39:57
Just let it go.
Laura Acosta 39:58
Let it go. Yeah.
Stephen Box 40:00
Yeah, as I said, if you if you want to comment on someone's weight, the way I personally try to deal with clients, or the way I suggest people do it is, don't comment on the weight itself, like, talk to the person. And if they're telling you that they've made certain behavioral changes, comment on the behavior change. Somebody says, Oh, yeah, you know, I've been working out a lot Oh, that's, that's really awesome that you're, you know, staying consistent with your workouts. Like, that's the kind of thing that you comment on, not the actual weight, because at the end of the day, our weight is not who we are, the way our body looks is not who we are as people. But when we make a conscious decision to do certain activities, like exercise on a regular basis, those are the kinds of things that are okay to compliment people on because those are decisions that that person is made to do. So it's okay to compliment on that. But yeah, just just avoid talking about that way. Yeah. Yes, and we did get sidetracked there, but that's okay. Because that's a really important message that people need to hear. So kind of wrapping your story up here. So it was anorexic, to obese to finally at peace. So talk to me about you're now obese, you're now you said 80 pounds that you put on? Where did that vision come from that finally led to you being at peace?
Laura Acosta 41:31
That's such a good, a good question. And so for me, there were a few pivotal, pivotal moments. One of them was I while all this was was going on, I had to two kids, two boys. And I remember one time that they were about probably two and five, maybe the young young kids and we were playing, we're playing I Spy, right? So you go I spy with my little eyes, something red, right? And the kid says, Oh, you know, it's that blanket or whatever. So see a fun little game to pass the time. And so you'll describe what you're seeing. So I was I was looking around for something to choose. I saw, you know, this pretty chandelier on the on the ceiling. And I said, I spy with my little eye, something pretty. And within a second no hesitation they go, mommy. And I just remember being so so touched, and realizing that my kids, they were not saying that to try to make me feel good. That was the first thing that came to their minds. When I said something pretty. And wow, I mean, what a What a beautiful and humbling experience. Kids don't kids don't just say that stuff, right? And so I said I to them. I am I am beautiful. And that's what matters. Right? I'm, I have a mom and, and so being able to start to take this identity, right? I think my identity had been so locked into. I'm a dietician a fitness trainer, you know, the girl who's really thin and fit. And so I had an identity crisis during that time with the with the weight gain, because was like, I don't know who I am anymore. The things I thought I was this the skinny fit, thin fitness trainer image is gone. So who am I and it was a really tough identity crisis time. But with my kids, and with moments like I just described, I started replacing that old identity with a new identity that was far more meaningful and fulfilling. And I described who I was as a person, not just what I looked like. So my identity was I'm a mom. I am a I'm someone who cares and who encourages. I'm someone who serves. I'm someone who likes to see to make other people's day right and to do those little things that are going to bring a smile to someone's face, that's who I am. That has nothing to do with my weight or what I look like. And the more that I leaned into that identity, the more that the other stuff started to not matter as much, it was not a you know, a light switch, it was not something that shifted overnight. But it was a process of, of leaning in and and really embracing the identity of who I was as a person that had nothing to do with what I looked like. Another pivotal moment was I was at a continuing education conference for for dieticians, we have to get like 75 hours every five years for to maintain our our status and I remember hearing a speaker who spoke about nutrition weight the whole profession of of dietetics in a way I had never heard before and the way that she described our health and our weight she presented research that strangely compelling to to really show that weight BMI all of these measures of quote unquote health have really nothing to do with our with our health and they are there's an association because as somebody becomes fitter let's say let's say we start eating
eating healthier we start exercising more did our blood pressure go down because we lost weight or because we became more active right did our blood glucose go down because we lost weight or is it because we started eating better right and exercising and when all of that data is really kind of extracted and and looked at through that lens we realized that it wasn't the weight it was these other habits and someone can be at a perfectly normal weight and be very unhealthy. So that was a really impactful moment as well because as a dietitian, we're taught that weights really important you know going through through school that's something that is ingrained you know that somebody with obesity needs to lose weight and so looking at it through this different lens was like wait is is not nearly as important of a metric of health as we're made to believe that it is. So with that, I will say that another thing that that she was speaking about this this speaker was about this style of eating which is which is intuitive where we want to get back to how we were when if we think back to our earliest memories of eating maybe we're you know 234 years old and we're not thinking about eating for any other reason than that we're hungry and kids are so I watch my kids they're so their mommy I'm starving Okay, I give them food they stop when they're full the plate might not be clean, that's okay they're full. And so being able to reconnect with that and she provided a tool that I'll share because this might be helpful to some of the listeners out there called the hunger scale. And you at any point in time you can take a moment to assess where where are you feeling on this scale where it goes from one to 10 so five is in the middle five is neither hungry nor full, it's it's neutral right as you start to move down towards in the hunger direction so the numbers are getting lower. And number four would be just like that gentle you know? Knock knock knock like hey, you're a little hungry maybe in a couple hours you might you might even a meal, right and if you're in tune with your body you can hear that and you can you can recognize that like okay alright I guess I'll maybe wrap up here in the next half hour and go get some lunch right a three would be good good and hungry we're not starving or you know our mental capacities are not impaired because we're so hungry right but we're just said a nice kind of good and hungry a good time to eat. And then as we go down to a to it's where our thoughts start to be distracted by food is where we might smell food going by we're like, okay, where where's the food and you probably can can relate to this right? If when you're really hungry and it's like your mind keeps going food, food, food, and you're distracted by thoughts of food of one of course is so famish that like, everything looks good. Nothing looks good, am I I'm hungry, I'm starving, I'm weak. But But I can't even find anything that I really want to eat because I'm just You know, it's that hungry. Going up in the other direction has kind of a parallel sequence. So being able to recognize where you are, and, and allowing yourself when you get to that three, go ahead and eat and then be able to recognize when do I get to about a seven or so right where I'm, I'm good in full, I'm not stuffed, I'm not having to unbuckle my belt, because I'm so uncomfortable, right, I'm just very satisfied. And so being able to kind of eat between those two numbers. So putting some of that into practice to with intuitive eating really helped me. And I will say that going from obesity back to where I am now. And I did lose a good amount of weight. But it wasn't not, it felt completely different. It was not a diet. And none of that weight loss was actually intentional. It was just me getting back into Finally, learning after all of these years, because my started my first sight, like I said, when I was 12. So gosh, that would be over two decades of,
of chronic dieting, and then the over eating for a period. But finally learning. When am I hungry? When am I full. And I can trust myself, I can trust my body, that's a huge, huge piece, we were taught that our bodies are untrustworthy, right, we should listen to our mind when it's, you know, we should look at the clock to determine when to eat, and we should look at portion sizes and calories to determine how much to eat, your body is not trustworthy. That is that couldn't be further from the truth. Our bodies are completely trustworthy, if we are in tune with them. And we we allow them to talk to us, right, instead of shutting that little voice down inside, it's telling you that you're hungry or that you're full. So all of the weight loss that happened between being obese and where I am now was not a diet at all. It was intuitive eating, and the weight just fell off. And so yeah, that's where that's where I am now.
Stephen Box 52:14
I will tell you, I love what you just said, because I also teach intuitive eating, I also teach people the hunger skill is myself. They're such powerful tools. Because what you hit on there is something that we we so often miss most of our issues around weight and around eating, whether it's under eating, overeating, being underweight, being overweight, it all comes back to this idea that we have food rules that we put into our brain, if I have to eat a certain time, heavy dessert number of meals a day, I have to eat a certain number of calories. And when we have all of those rules, we are setting ourself up to get into that situation. I know there's probably somebody out there right now that goes well, but I count my calories. I'm good. And you know what, for some people it works. So I'm not completely knocking in or saying that nobody can do it. But I will say that in my experience of having, you know, been doing this for over a decade, myself, and having gone through the experience myself, is that unless you are an elite level athlete who gets paid to have your body be in a certain physical condition, you probably don't need the food, the food rules you can get by just by listening to your body.
Laura Acosta 53:45
Yeah, and it's a much more freeing experience to to be to be free of food rules is amazing. I mean, you start to realize a quality of life that you didn't have before and you didn't even know you were missing it. Yeah. And, and it It feels like this this great liberation,
Stephen Box 54:03
you know? Yeah. So one thing I wanted to quickly kind of point out here is, you know, we talked about the framework, we talk about vision, we talk about skills, and then we talk about the actions to build those skills up. So for you, when you started learning to listen to your body, what were some of the skills that you feel like you needed to develop to be able to listen to your body? And what actions Did you take to help you do that?
Laura Acosta 54:31
Yeah, that's such a great question. I think that it was, you know, and this will, this will sound this will sound weird. Maybe it won't sound intuitive, perhaps, but I'm going to try to try to explain where it comes from. Gratitude has been so important for me, waking up every morning and thanking God for the body that I have and just feeling amazing. gratefulness for my health, for all that my body allows me to do for my family for my home for all of the things that I'm blessed with. And that gratitude is a is a really powerful place to, to start from. And doing that I have found and it's a non negotiable every morning I wake up and it's not even like I have to force myself to do it, I just I wake up and I feel so full of joy and gratitude that that's just the natural thing to do. But, um, but that sets the stage for framing all of the all of the actions and decisions and behaviors through the day, through a lens of, of loving, my body, loving, loving myself for who I am, and wanting to take care of this home, right this is this is the home that I'm given while I'm here on this planet, and just realizing how how precious that is, for me has been really powerful.
Stephen Box 56:10
Yeah, I like the way you said that. Because if we look back at your entire story, we can see that it had always been about trying to be a certain size or trying to appease a certain image. And you've now reached a point where it's no longer about looking a certain way. It's now just about caring for yourself. It's about making sure that your body can perform that it's best that you feel your best that way you can be the best for your kids. That way you can be the best for your clients. That way you can do all those things, and you can be the best version of yourself. And the weight loss and looking healthy. And all those things are just a byproduct of those behaviors that naturally come out of having that mindset. They're not they're no longer something you're doing because you have to look a certain way. There are things that just someone who wants to be healthy does.
Laura Acosta 57:14
Yeah, that is so so true. And when it comes from that, that place of wanting to show up in this world, as your true as your most authentic self, and being able to show up as who you were meant to end called to be and living your passion and your purpose. Everything else falls into place.
Stephen Box 57:35
Yeah, it doesn't. And I think the really big takeaway that I personally would like to see people walk away with here, and I'm going to give you a chance to give your takeaway here at the end as well. But I hope that people walk away from this interview with this idea that you know what I might be doing the right thing for the wrong reason. And that doesn't mean that I should stop doing some of the right things. It just means that I need to change the reason why I'm doing them.
Laura Acosta 58:04
Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. And to kind of piggybacking on that a little bit, I recognize now looking back, that my behaviors were motivated by a desire for certain rewards. And those those were, I felt like if I was this certain, had the certain body, right, and look, that I would be loved, I would be accepted that I would be that I would be valued. And so me trying to manipulate my body to achieve those it was is very misguided, just exactly like what you were saying, I'm changing your eating habits, getting more active are not bad things to do at all. But sometimes they can be motivated by the wrong reason. So taking a moment to unpack a little bit and say, What are the real rewards underneath because for me, it was I want this perfect body. But now looking back, I realized that the perfect body wasn't really what I wanted what I thought I wanted, what I really wanted and needed at that point in my life was I needed love and acceptance and affection and and feeling worthy and valued. That's why I was trying to do that. I didn't recognize it at the time. But if people can take a moment and really unpack for themselves, why am I doing this? Yes, it might meet you to achieve an aesthetic goal. But what am i what's going to change in my life as a result of that when I get this look or when I achieve this weight or whatever? What am I thinking is going to to change what's the deeper reward that I'm seeking?
Stephen Box 59:56
Absolutely, I mean, you just summed it up so perfectly. So before we wrap up here, if someone would like to work with you, what is the best way for the reach out to you?
Laura Acosta 1:00:10
Yeah, great. So I would say if you find me on Instagram, my Instagram handle is at real lobbies. And I'll speak in a moment just briefly about kind of why and where that comes from. But that's probably the best way to connect, just please feel free to send me a DM those are always open. And we can connect, I have often challenges going on short term challenges, and then longer term programs for women that want to work more closely on a longer term schedule. So it's okay, Can I just tell them where real oddies comes from?
Stephen Box 1:00:50
Yeah, because I mean, that's part of your story, we didn't really get to, but I know that that was a big part of you finally, kind of finding that balance between how are you active but not focused on just like, looking a certain way or losing weight or whatever?
Laura Acosta 1:01:03
Yes, yes, exactly. Um, so I had mentioned that I had accumulated all of these exercise certifications from personal trainer to group exercise and etc. And, and how from me truly, if I'm being honest with myself was more of an excuse to spend all day in the gym, right. And most of the time, that exercise was motivated from a very negative place it was paying penance for calories that I've eaten the day before, or it was having to get to three hours on the treadmill to feel like I was okay with myself and I could I could actually go to go through the rest of my day, without beating myself up. So it was it was very motivated by this, like a punishment mindset. But there was one type of exercise that when I did it, I didn't feel that way it was this, it was the strangest thing, it was just it, it was almost like this bit of escapism, where for that time, I was not confined and chained by this inner battle in my head. And that was Pilates. And it was this beautiful integration of mind, body, and spirit. And it was not woowoo we're talking about something that builds crazy core strength, and truly moves the needle in terms of health and aesthetics. But without that inner turmoil of needing to feel like I'm, you know, I'm doing it to to look a certain way, or to burn calories, or whatever. So it was a very freeing experience as well. So when I started to come out of all of this, and learn the intuitive eating and find a new identity and who I really was, and my real purpose and passion and reason why I'm on this planet, right and trying to live that out, and thinking about what's the best way that I can help other women. And certainly, in addition to all of the mindful and intuitive eating tools that I can, I can teach and and work with women on Pilates was a was a really important part of my journey as well. And so my program, marries together, Pilates with mindful nutrition, but in a way where we are reconnecting with that, that person inside that might be covered up right that we might not have have really gotten to know her. But she's in there, right? And we have purpose, passion, joy, vitality, and sometimes we just have to, to kind of Peel the layers away to find her right. And so the word breo means energy, vitality and joy. So Bri allottees is Pilates, but it's not just Pilates. It's Pilates that is this also married with this mindset of being able to rediscover that inner rock star because she's in there.
Stephen Box 1:04:05
Yes, that's really, excuse me, that's really awesome. And I just, excuse me, also, My throat is all clogged up here. I love the fact that you're just able to pull out that one thing and say, You know what, this was some this was the one thing that made me feel good, and I want to share that with other people. So closing thought, if someone's walking away from this with just one single thing. I know I know that might be hard for everything that we've gone through today. Well what would be that one final like 32nd thing that you want somebody to walk away with.
Laura Acosta 1:04:44
You're beautiful. You're here for a reason. You're on this planet to fulfill a purpose. And a lot of times that gets clouded. We live in a a diet culture where There's a multi billion dollar industry trying to tell us that we are not enough how we are. And then it just makes me so sad to think about the number of people who are not out there living their passion every day. Because they, they're afraid of being in their own skin. They, they feel like they're not, they're not enough and they have to fix themselves first before they are acceptable to the world. And that, it makes me angry, it makes me sad. We need to change the narrative. You're enough. You're beautiful and valued and worthy. Just the way you are.
Stephen Box 1:05:48
Great message. Thank you so much for that. Thank you again, Laura, for coming on today. Being willing to open up and share your very personal very, you know, difficult story. And I know that people are going to get a lot of value out of hearing it. So thank you again, so much for coming on and sharing that and sharing your your expertise and your knowledge with us today. Thank you so
Laura Acosta 1:06:14
much, Stephen. It's been a pleasure. So happy to be here.
Stephen Box 1:06:18
And I do just want to remind everyone that we will be having another episode next Tuesday, so make sure that you tune back in. You can find us on youtube at unshakable habits, comm slash YouTube, or anywhere on your favorite podcast apps.
Thanks for listening to the unshakable habits podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, and you'd like to help support the podcast, please share it with others post about it on social media or leave a rating and review. To catch all the latest please subscribe at unshakablehabits.com/YouTube or on your favorite podcast app. You can learn more about unshakable habits at unshakablehabits.com Until next week, be unshakable my friends