Work It! Intuitive Eating and Body Image Coach Golda Poretsky

Work It! is an interview series on MsBehaved featuring fascinating folks who work outside the traditional 9-5, to amuse, inspire, and light a fire under your butt to start pursuing the career of your dreams.

As a fat Public Health student, I am proud to feature intuitive eating and body image coach Golda Poretsky, HHC as a coaching professional who promotes health and wellness for people of all sizes (particularly plus-size women) without pushing dieting or body shame. I discovered her work through her Body Love Wellness blog and podcast, and have found it to be both educational and inspirational, and was excited to interview her for Ms. Behaved! -Bianca 

Golda Poretsky Body Love WellnessName: Golda Poretsky, HHC

Age: 35

Location: NYC

What do you do, in your own words, and how long have you been doing it?

I’m an intuitive eating and body image coach. I work mostly with plus sized women who want to get off the dieting roller coaster and make peace with food and their bodies. I’ve been doing it for over five years.

What was your first job?

My first job was as a babysitter. At the age of 10 I went to local elementary schools and handed out flyers to parents about my services. I always looked older, which is probably why parents entrusted me with their kids, although I did have a lot of experience helping out with my younger sisters. I have a feeling that parents today would be less cool about a 10 year old babysitter. 🙂

What’s the weirdest job you’ve ever had?

This is a strangely tough question because I can think about weird aspects of every job I’ve had. When I was in high school I worked weekends at a shoe store for women’s sizes 10-13. I have size 11 feet, and this was pre-Internet where it was incredibly challenging to find shoes, so I was very happy to have an employee discount. This was an old school store where we fit the customers and brought out things we thought they’d like. In my conversations with customers, I was always surprised at how much they hated their feet. I think it was my first encounter with the ubiquity of women’s body hatred, and it was pretty weird.

What led to you pursuing your current career? Did you have mentorship or special training for it?

Back in 2005, I was working very fully time and rather unhappily as an attorney. I went to an orientation session for the Institute For Integrative Nutrition, and decided to sign up. At the time, it was a live, weekend program in NYC. My main reason for going was to figure out how to finally “solve my weight problem,” though in the back of my mind, I did think that maybe it could be a career change. It was really hard to do the program while working crazy hours — I would literally go to my office on a Saturday or Sunday on lunch breaks from school and work for an hour and a half and go back. When I graduated I wasn’t sure if I would really do anything with it. It was only after that that I found Health At Every Size and body acceptance, and after working on myself a whole bunch I was able to combine my own research about health and weight and loving your body with the coaching skills I’d learned.

You started your career as an attorney. What was that like, and what motivated you to change gears? 

I often tell people that I went to law school because I was young and didn’t know what I was doing, which makes it sounds like I was entering a life of crime rather than a prestigious law school. I went to law school right after college, and I pretty much always knew it was wrong for me. I felt like I was on this path and I just had to do it. I had worked at a music law firm while I was in college, and I figured I’d go to law school and then be a music lawyer and wear jeans to work and see bands at night. Due to a whole bunch of things, including the post-9/11 job market in NYC, I ended up in real estate law. There are things that I like about the law — I love drafting agreements because it feels like putting together the pieces of a puzzle, and I sometimes like negotiating, but I didn’t really like the law firm world. I never really felt like I fit in, and I’m sure being fat was one of the reasons. However, I would never discourage anyone from doing anything because they were fat — we need more fat folks in law firms, not less. In the last few years of working solely for myself, however, I’ve found that I really like it. I honestly work just as hard, but my time is my own, and I prefer it. Plus, I’m doing work that feels really important to me, which is so satisfying.

What projects are you working on currently?

Aside from my usual coaching and writing, I have an online workshop called ReWrite Your Body Image coming up in early March that I’m very excited about. You can sign up for it here!

Golda appearance on ABC's Nightline

Golda’s appearance on ABC’s Nightline

What are you most proud of in your career, and what do you feel are your most memorable achievements?

My proudest moments are always when a client or former client comes to me and says that they feel great and they got what they want. I’ve had clients who thought they were undateable find love, clients who felt stuck in their careers find new jobs they love, and clients who just never thought they would wear colors, feel sexy, stop bingeing, etc. tell me about their successes and it makes all the work I do worth it. It’s an amazing feeling! That’s the thing about food and body image issues — when they get resolved so much good stuff happens.

What do you love about what you do? What drives you nuts?

I love coaching, both one to one and in groups. That’s really my favorite part. The thing that drives me nuts is that I’m fighting the “weight loss is important for your health” message all the time, and it can be a struggle.

In a society obsessed with thinness and dieting, what do you think leads your clients to seek a body-positive coaching experience that emphasizes size acceptance? (Especially considering how many coaches and nutritionists market their services for weight loss).

I’ve thought a lot about this, and seems that people seek me out when they’re just completely and totally sick of dieting and feeling like crap about themselves. They often have already been exposed to HAES and/or fat acceptance and they’ve tried to make changes on their own but need more support. Often, they’re in the cognitive dissonance phase of thinking that Health At Every Size makes sense but that they themselves still have to lose weight. That cognitive dissonance is very painful, and I help them get over that hump and start to make the changes they’ve been afraid to make.

Why do you think that society in general and the field of medicine and public heath continues to perpetuate moral panic about the “obesity crisis” when a great deal of evidence has emerged that it’s possible to be fat and healthy, and that diets don’t work?

The obesity panic b.s. sells a lot of product. That’s all it is. Think about all of the nutritionists, coaches, pharmaceutical industry personnel bariatric surgeons, diet industry people and even clothing manufacturers etc. who would be out of a job if people got the message that their bodies were normal and fine. The ripple effect would be astounding. Sadly, people have so bought into the anti-obesity rhetoric that they almost can’t hear the evidence to the contrary. Also, the heavily manipulated pseudo-studies that promote the anti-obesity rhetoric get all of the funding and continue to get reported in the media, so it’s just endless.

What advice would you give to people entering health and fitness-related careers such as nutritionists, therapists, coaches, yoga teachers, medical professionals, personal trainers, etc. who wish to promote body acceptance instead of weight loss with clients?

There are a number of schools of thought on this. I know a few practitioners who talk a lot about helping their clients get to a “healthy weight” but they’re really size positive. I understand what they’re doing, but I just can’t do that. I like to be as clear as possible and let people know what I’m about. My tagline/niche is “intuitive eating and body image support for plus sized gals” and that’s really what I do. And nearly every blog post I write talks about loving your body as it is, stopping dieting, etc. Given that that’s the way I do things, it’s what I recommend, but I understand it’s not for everyone.

What future projects and long term goals do you have in store?

Whenever I get this question I always want to reply, “Fat world domination!” Of course, I don’t mean that completely literally, but I do want to help get the message out to more and more people that they’re bodies are not dangerously unhealthy, they are perfectly wonderful as they are, and there’s no need to stress. I do feel that the more people wake up to that fact, the more they can enjoy their lives and create change too.

Personally, I would love to do more public speaking. I love talking about fat and health, and I hope to do it with more and more audiences.

Check out Golda’s Body Love Wellness blog and podcast, and “like” Body Love Wellness on Facebook. Go here if you are interested in booking a coaching session with Golda! 

Read more Work It! Interviews here. 

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