Until Debbie Lindenlaub, 53, received a forwarded email from a friend of hers about Miriam Kaseff’s health coaching, she’d never before considered going to a health and wellness coach.
“Even though the exact reasons why that friend mentioned she utilized Miriam weren’t necessarily all my issues, I was anticipating the prospect of stepping back from my parenting role,” says Debbie, a mom of three, whose youngest is only a couple of years away from graduating high school. “I wanted to take some time to work on me and decide what it is that I want.”
Debbie, who left a career in sales after 25 years to become a registered nurse and now works as a gynecology oncology nurse, is a caretaker by nature. Like many women balancing work and motherhood, she felt guilty about prioritizing her own needs over the needs of family and work.
But, faced with the prospect of a major life transition, she decided to schedule a free consultation with Miriam.
“I was interested in hearing a peer’s perspective in how I’m doing in my journey,” Debbie says. “It was about spiritual health, as well as physical and emotional health.”
Because Miriam, who has two grown daughters, recently experienced the empty nest transition herself, Debbie felt an immediate connection with her as someone who could relate to how she was feeling.
“Right away, I really liked Miriam. She’s a great listener who is obviously very passionate about the work she does,” Debbie says.
Satisfaction over Deprivation
Together they set specific goals to help Debbie create a more satisfying, well-rounded lifestyle that included a kinder approach to how she addressed her health.
During the six months they worked together, Debbie’s idea of a healthy lifestyle changed dramatically. Prior to working with Miriam, she obsessed over the number on the scale, weighing herself weekly and carefully tracking her daily calorie intake.
“At the time, my definition of a healthy lifestyle was eating things like Healthy Choice [calorie-restricted frozen, packaged meals], not having dessert, exercising and feeling deprived,” Debbie says, who had lost 30 pounds a few years before, but had regained a stubborn 10 pounds.
She appreciated Miriam’s flexible approach that didn’t force her to make changes she wasn’t ready for. Instead Miriam offered suggestions that gave Debbie the courage to try new ideas without making any long-term commitments that made her uncomfortable.
“I’ve always been a food obsessor—waking up in the morning thinking, what do I get to eat versus what am I going to eat today? I was obsessive about the art of tracking every single thing I ate,” Debbie says. “I obsessed about the number of the scale and weighed myself every week without fail. That number defined me, and I allowed it to determine the way I would feel the rest of that week.”
When Miriam suggested she try not tracking her food intake for a couple of weeks and not weighing herself weekly, Debbie wondered if this approach would set her back on her weight loss goals.
“At first it was a very strange to me that she was suggesting that I weigh myself once a month and not once a week.”
But, she decided that she would give it a shot for two weeks and if it made her unhappy, she’d go back to tracking and weighing in.
“I found that the obsession part of it was a very emotional attachment to the food. Instead of trying to control every bite, she helped me figure out foods that are appropriate to eat.”
Knowing that she was feeding her body wholesome foods that supported her health and her weight loss goals, she could relax and stop thinking so much about portion control and daily food intake.
“I am no longer a slave to the scale,” Debbie says.
An Eye-Opening Makeover
Debbie also took advantage of the pantry makeover, which Miriam offers as part of her coaching.
“The pantry redo was probably the most eye-opening thing I experienced,” Debbie says.
Together, they cleaned everything out, washed the shelves, and started from scratch. They threw away expired foods, including decade-old spices that had long lost their taste. They reviewed food labels and removed offenders like highly processed foods that frustrate weight loss and don’t contribute to a wholesome diet.
Miriam also provided solutions to help satisfy favorite food cravings.
“For me it was peanut butter—it’s like a staple,” Debbie says. “I had bought two things of crunchy peanut butter that are ginormous from Costco. And she said: ‘Can I challenge you to try a type that you can get in any grocery store?’” It’s just Smucker’s natural peanut butter. It comes in creamy, it comes in crunchy and the ingredients are just peanuts and a pinch of sea salt.”
She also learned to cook leaner cuts of meat and chooses more unprocessed foods that are closer to their natural form. For her family who loves cereals, Miriam taught her how to make a delicious and satisfying homemade granola that can be eaten on its own or in yogurt. She also taught her how to prepare vegetables in a grill basket.
“She’d tell me things that were not hard to do and enabled me to really feel that what I was consuming was no longer filled with preservatives or stuff I didn’t need,” Debbie says.
To help stick to her goals and avoid hunger-induced, last-minute dietary disasters, Debbie preps food on the weekend for the upcoming week. For those evenings when she doesn’t have much time or energy to cook, she stocks her kitchen with a few pre-packaged foods with limited shelf life that she can quickly heat up. One of her favorites is chicken with a Thai coconut sauce that she found at Aldi.
As a nurse who works four eleven hour shifts each week, working in a regular exercise routine was another problem that Debbie faced. Miriam encouraged her to find an exercise that she actually enjoys.
She’s tried different exercise classes and swimming, but for now, she likes doing the elliptical and free weights with a helpful incentive.
“I decided to listen to an audio book, but only when I’m at the gym or on a walk. It makes me want to go so that I can get to the next chapter and hear what happens.”
On days that she works, Debbie sets her alarm an hour early (giving herself three days off) and completes a low-impact exercise routine to kick off her day.
Empowered for More
Debbie not only learned how to transform her diet, but her work with Miriam also helped her counteract negative self-talk that only served to inhibit her progress. Even on weeks where it felt like she hadn’t made much progress or was feeling low, Miriam would remind her of her wins. “She would sit me down and say ‘you had 20 wins this week!’ which helped with my perspective.”
Feeling better than ever, Debbie looks forward to getting more involved at her synagogue. She also takes more time for pursuing hobbies like traveling with her husband of 20 years and creating digital scrapbooks that she can share with her family and friends.
“I’ve noticed how I’m putting me at the top—or at least near the top—of priorities. Sometimes that means saying ‘no.’ I used to feel bad about that. Now, I feel it’s a gift to me,” Debbie says. “I’m a work in progress. But I like listening to what I want and following my own lead. Gaining healthier eating, stress relief and kinder thoughts have made a great impact on my own personal happiness.”
Debbie says she is thankful for Miriam’s guidance.
“With personal initiative and Miriam’s help, you’ll most certainly be in a better place after six months because she can help guide you there. Not only is she a great resource, she’s become a good friend.”