Please meet Rachael Gorab, 27, Ph.D candidate Northeastern University, former rugby player, yoga-inspired, cheese lovin’ dog owner. Rachael and I worked together last fall and she was an AWESOME client, and I absolutely adored her, and loved working with her. She was committed and trusted the process, she was open-minded to new suggestions and just totally rocked the house.
Here is her story!
How Rachael felt before coaching:
Uncomfortable, no energy, inactive, out of shape.
How Rachael feels after coaching:
Strong, peace with body, present, happy.
Major body changes after coaching:
Down 11 lbs., clearer skin, and no more stomach pains.
Hi Rachael! Thank you so much for taking the time to do this and for sharing your story with us. You rock!
To kick it off can you tell us a little about yourself? You know, what you’re like, what you dream about, and what you do with your time?
Sure. So, first of all, I’m a Ph.D. student and part-time undergraduate instructor at Northeastern University in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology. I’ve been working on my graduate degree for the past 4 years. I am a perpetual student, but I love that!
I feel lucky that I get to spend time reading, writing, and thinking about something I feel deeply interested in. I’m an urban sociologist, so I study things about peoples’ lives in cities. But I’m specifically interested in how globalization and urban development are happening at the expense of people’s land rights in the global South, and what we can do to change that. So, that’s what I spend a good deal of my time on. While I’m working on that, I teach undergrads at NU.
I’m not sure why I decided to talk about work first, because I’m much more interested in play. It’s a problem sometimes. But I’m working on balance. Anyway…when I’m not reading/writing/thinking/teaching, I’m doing yoga, eating, shopping, maybe cooking, dancing, or spending time with my girlfriend Meredith or our dog, Sidney.
I’m generally interested in having fun. That’s pretty much the most important thing in life for me. I just want to be having fun.
I dream about owning my own yoga studio and living on the beach– somewhere warm, where I can wear as little clothing as possible on a daily basis!
Thanks for sharing that. Let’s talk a little about rugby shall we. I know you played in college, can you share with us what that experience was like for you? What did you like most about the sport?
Sure. I played in college, and it was the first time I was actually pretty good at a team sport. Both of my sisters were really good soccer players when we were growing up, and I was just… not. I rode horses and liked to read and paint and take photographs. Sports were just not my thing.
And then, I went to college, and for some reason decided I was going to try playing rugby. It was the most random thing. But I just fell in love with it!
Truth be told, I loved hitting people. I was fairly good at it. It just felt so good, and I felt so strong. I played all 4 years in college and loved every minute of it (well, except the running sprints part—there’s nothing I hate more than running).
I think I loved it so much because for the first time in my life, I tapped into a part of myself, a strength, that I never knew was there. I also had a great coach and fun teammates. It was just an overall great experience.
After college, did you continue to play?
I played briefly for a women’s team in Boston after college. I experienced a pretty bad back injury about a year into playing with that team, and I just decided it was time to step back. I haven’t ever looked back.
I miss rugby a lot, but I don’t miss how my body felt when I played. I was sore, I had reconstructive knee surgery, and even though I was in great shape, it took a huge toll on my body, one that I’m still paying now. I still have issues with my right knee, I’ve had serious lower back pain, and have problems with both ankles—I fractured them each separately in college.
My experience isn’t representative of everyone’s, though. Many people play rugby for years and don’t get hurt and don’t feel the same toll on their body and I did/do. I just felt it was time for me to stop. I actually think my body was trying to tell me to stop way before I actually did, but I wasn’t really listening to it at that point in my life.
How did your health or body change after you stopped playing and started working?
Well, I’d like to say that it improved after I stopped playing, but it actually got worse. Physically, I went from being in good shape and feeling like an athlete to gaining weight and being pretty inactive.
I had spent the last 5 years not really having to worry about working out—it was sort of built into my life—and didn’t replace that with anything when I stopped playing rugby.
I also was not thinking at all about my diet. When I was playing rugby, this really wasn’t a problem for me. And, to top it off, I was also in a pretty unhealthy relationship and was not managing my school/work-related stress well at all. This all translated into one, pretty big disaster.
Enter yoga. I started regularly practicing vinyasa yoga about 2 years ago, when my lower back pain and stress level both reached a point that was literally intolerable. I had heard that yoga was good for both of these things, and I wanted to address my weight as well, so I took a class and was hooked.
I’ve been practicing 4-5 times a week since then. It’s helped tremendously with back pain (that’s gone!) and stress (better, but not perfect), and has allowed me to tap into the same strength that I felt when playing rugby, believe it or not.
However, I still wasn’t feeling physically great, in a holistic sense.
What was bothering you the most about your body and your health? And how did you feel about yourself before we started working together?
Even though I was practicing yoga regularly, getting a significant amount of exercise, I still had issues with my health and body that were bothering me. I wasn’t losing the weight (about 15 lbs) that I had put on, for one.
I also was having some pretty uncomfortable digestive issues, like waking up with stomachaches every morning. My skin looked bad, despite going to a dermatologist and trying everything under the sun. I was not getting a regular period and had not for years. All of these things bothered me—although I think they bothered me more than I knew then!
Mentally, I felt generally uncomfortable in my body and like I had no control over my diet and what I ate. I realized that so much energy was going into negative thoughts about my body every day.
This was by no means a new struggle—I was overweight as a child and had an eating disorder when I was in middle school. I lost my childhood weight, but not in a healthy way by any means. Before working with you, I felt like I was in a battle with my body, and had felt that way my whole life.
During our coaching, can you tell us some of the dietary changes we worked on and how you incorporated it into your schedule?
The first thing we did was to eliminate (or try to minimize as much as possible) soy from my diet. I was having a ton of soy. Soy milk in my (multiple cups of) coffee, soy milk in my oatmeal/cereal, tofu, soy sauce, etc. This, it turns out, was really fucking with my estrogen levels, and I think was the culprit responsible for my bad skin and irregular period.
This wasn’t a hard change to make—I replaced soy with organic, pasture raised ½ and ½ in my coffee and whole milk in other things.
We also adjusted how much and how often I ate. I was only eating a small breakfast, lunch (sometimes), and usually a pretty big dinner. I started making sure I was eating every 3-4 hours—breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a snack in between each meal. At first, this was difficult and required me to consciously think about eating and to plan meals for when I wasn’t going to be at home—because I’m a student/teacher, my schedule is inconsistent, so I had a different plan for this every day.
I started thinking about my food for the next day the night before and putting meals together ahead of time. At first it was hard, and felt pretty time-consuming, but it’s since become like second nature.
The third major thing that I think we worked on was making sure the content of all of my meals and snacks was going to be sustaining me and nourishing me. I wasn’t getting enough protein, and we made sure that every meal, even snacks, contained protein, carbs, and fat. I would sometimes have entire meals that didn’t have any protein in them.
At first, this was a little challenging for me, especially as someone who isn’t crazy about eating meat. But we worked together to think of proteins that I could live with—cheese, goat milk yogurt, fresh fish. These are staples for me now! And getting processed foods out. I’ve always been pretty good about it, but there were some small things that weren’t great—mostly my snacks. Replacing them with fruit and cheese has been something I can totally live with. I love cheese.
How did you plan your meals, or deal with going out to dinner?
Before we started working together, I didn’t give much thought to whether my meals were feeding my body, and was more interested in whether they were feeding my appetite, if you can understand the distinction I’m trying to make.
I think this was the biggest thing I learned from our time working together and was the biggest practical change that I made—making sure that, first, I was eating often enough for my body to sustain itself, and second, that the things I was putting into my body were feeding and nourishing it.
Before we started working together, I would eat breakfast, a small lunch, and dinner. We worked on eating every 3-4 hours, and I had to actually consciously think about eating as well as plan snacks to bring with me to work, etc. Interestingly, I’m actually eating more now than I was before and losing weight. And, making sure I was getting protein, carbs, and fat in every meal/snack was very different for me. I’d never thought of that before.
So, it required some planning in terms of shopping for groceries and also in terms of bringing meals and snacks with me to work, versus buying them in the moment and not really thinking about what they were doing for my body. I used to think that as long as something wasn’t hurting me (i.e. I wasn’t having ice cream for dinner), then it was good for me. What I realized was that this wasn’t exactly right—the things we feed ourselves can actually energize and heal us.
Going out to dinner– I love going out to dinner. It’s probably one of my favorite things to do. I love the social aspect, I love trying new restaurants, I love not having to cook and do dishes, I love getting dressed up for a night out. Everything. And that hasn’t changed! I’ve just learned how to plan my whole week around a big night out and that eating smaller portions when I’m out actually still leaves me satisfied.
And, probably most importantly, I’ve realized that not feeling bad about going out and eating a totally indulgent meal is ¾ of the battle. I went to San Francisco for a while we were working together, and I ate my way through the city for a large portion of that time. Bread, chocolate, pizza, etc. I lost weight. I let go of the guilt and just enjoyed myself, and my mind and body thanked me.
Aside from all of the food related stuff we worked on, did you notice any changes in your emotions or how you thought about yourself, and life in general?
Yeah, definitely. I think if I could assign one word to it, it would be clarity. I’m more clear on what it is I want my body to feel like, and also more clear about the fact that the first priority for me is to feel good, and if I look good in the process (which, by the way, I am convinced there is a direct relationship between the two!), then that’s just great.
I came to peace, I think, with the fact that this is the body I’ve been given, and I should love it instead of fight it, as I have been doing pretty much my whole life. I will never be a size 2. But as long as I’m putting healthy, organic, fresh things into my body and sweating it out in yoga class 4x a week, then whatever it looks on the outside is as it is supposed to be.
That feeling of clarity and peace, it seems, seeped into other aspects of my life. I’ve always been filled with a lot of doubt in terms of my career and what it is I want to ultimately accomplish in my life. “Am I doing the right thing?” was a question I asked myself daily, even multiple times a day.
I really hate a lot of things about academia, but I love what I study, so it’s always been a very difficult situation for me, and one that caused me a lot of stress. It turns out that focusing on this really took away from my ability to actually do what I was doing anyway. I’m now focusing more on the fact that I’m studying something that I love, and trying to make paths around the things that I hate instead of focusing on how much I hate them… if that makes sense!
And, in general, I am happier! I am—and have been since we were working together—in a relationship with a woman I really love. But, I find myself more able to give and receive love openly because I am a happier person who lives in the present. It’s all good.
What physical changes have you experienced? Would you mind sharing with us how much weight you’ve lost or how many inches?
I have lost about 11 lbs. so far in total! I am not sure about inches—you have all of that written down I think! All I know is that I have some really sweet red pants that I fit into now and feel like a million bucks in. Before, I couldn’t even get them on. So, the weight loss has been noticeable, and it’s continued to come off since we’ve stopped working together.
But the weight is really secondary to how I feel overall. I’ve been sleeping much better, and I don’t have stomachaches every morning as I did before we started working together. This is really invaluable to me! It was not cool waking up feeling sick to my stomach.
I also find myself feeling happier, less anxious, and living with a greater sense of freedom. I am no longer obsessing over my body nearly as much as I was before. Those critical thoughts (I hate my stomach, I wish my thighs were smaller, etc, etc.) creep in from time to time, and I have some bad days where I’m super hard on myself and frustrated with my body. But these are pretty few and far between, and I generally feel pretty happy and accepting of myself because I feel so good and I’m consciously treating myself well.
Now that you’ve had all these awesome results, what do you want to do next in your life?
I’ve started to think more about doing the things that energize me and make me happy, and spending less time on the things that are energy sucks. As you know, I love to do yoga, and I’m thinking of getting certified to teach. I love teaching (sociology), and I love to do yoga, so why not combine those two things?
I’m going to continue to work on getting my Ph.D., which has been a difficult process and one that I’ve considered quitting many times. I’m sticking with it because it’s something I’m intellectually passionate about, but I’ve begun to consider whether or not I want to go into academia. I’m still working on that.
But, overall, I’m actually trying to let go of planning. I’m going to continue to dedicate myself to the things I love, let the path unfold, and let spontaneous action flow from there.
And finally, probably the most important question: Which are cooler, fairies or unicorns?
Unicorns. I grew up riding horses. If I had a horse that could fly… I’d be going to Bali a lot.