You know how specialists say you should “eat to live and not live to eat”? Well I definitely don’t follow this rule, even though I know it is not the healthiest lifestyle.
That’s why I have interviewed Ellen. I met Ellen Kocher during her food conference at Takinoa in Geneva, and I was delighted to find out she is not only a very energetic, inspiring and nice lady, but also an expert when it comes to healthy lifestyle! And by this, I don’t mean you will stop eating burgers or sweets…
I met with Ellen to find out what she has to say about “all food fit” approach!
Les Toiles: Hello Ellen, can you please explain what is your role and how did your passion for health coaching start?
Ellen Kocher: I am an Entrepreneur, Founder and Owner of Whealthness. I am an Economist and Certified Health Coach. I coach Professional Individuals and Corporations to help them to go from “knowing what to do” with their self-care to “actually doing it”. My passion stems from my personal journey. After 10 years as an Executive in the Finance Industry faced with corporate responsibilities, extensive travel and stress, in 2003 I permanently changed my lifestyle and nutrition, lost 20 kilos taking charge of my self-care. Since then I have had the joy of dedicating my career to helping others achieve the same.
LT: What is the best advice for someone who wants to lose weight?
Ellen Kocher: Firstly, ask yourself the question “why” you want to lose weight. Be sure that there are solid, justified reasons to support your change. If not, you will likely not make sustainable changes. Secondly, do not look for a magic wand and realise that losing weight is not the objective, but that keeping it off sustainably is! Be ready for CHANGE to be a PROCESS and not a destination. Weight loss will be the outcome of your BEHAVIORAL CHANGES. One quick tip that truly resonates with people aiming for optimal nutrition and likely weight loss: MAKE HALF OF YOUR LIFE FRUITS OR VEGETABLES. If you ensure this breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner, you are likely to crowd out (or diminish somewhat) less healthy, higher calorie options.
LT: Do you eat everything? Can you tell us a bit more about your own eating habits?
Ellen Kocher: I believe in an “all foods fit” approach. I eat absolutely everything instinctively. Recently, I loved my son’s remark to me “mom, you are such a gourmande…” I do respect the globally agreed upon “Healthy Plate” meaning 50% Fruits & Vegetables, 25% Healthy Grains, 25% Healthy Protein. I do not prone any specific dietary theory but rather becoming one’s own expert. I am a gourmet cook and make everything from homemade ice cream, jams and absolutely everything and anything Italian! I eat three meals a day, sometimes four if I work over lunchtime and always sit down at the table – usually with my family – even for a snack…
LT: How do you control yourself when you eat?
Ellen Kocher: I do not control myself, I am in charge of what I eat! I choose to eat what I want, eat when I am hungry and stop when I am full. I eat and drink (wine) slowly and savour every bite. Very simple actually, but not necessarily EASY to learn. Remember it’s a process…there are many ways of changing our brain patterns and habit loops, that’s how and why I work with my clients.
LT: Is it easy to eat healthy in Switzerland without spending a big budget on food?
Ellen Kocher: Switzerland is fabulous for healthy eating. Whenever I am in the U.S. my friends and family tell me about shopping at “Whole Foods” or “only organic” …. they need to do that to be ensured to find healthy options. We have these amazing options daily at our fingertips at Migros, COOP, Manor as well as multiple local markets. We are farming communities and family meals as well as plenty of natural foods are, fortunately, still staples in Switzerland. Though food is expensive, many of our meals are at home, limiting restaurant prices.
LT: What would be, in your opinion, the perfect meal?
Ellen Kocher: Again 50% F and/or V, 25% Lean Protein, 25% Whole Grains/Carbs. In order to make it perfect, I would need to add…. A beautiful table setting, real dishes, glasses and silverware and a quiet atmosphere. No rushing. With friends or family if possible. A nice example? How about a homemade pizza with whole grain flour, layers of fresh Mediterranean vegetables, some fresh cheese topped with rucola!
LT: Do you believe in the 80/20 diet ? 80% of the results come from eating healthy and 20% from keeping fit and exercising.
Ellen Kocher: I would not put these % on it necessarily, but likely this is close. Look at the image here: Activity, Career, Spirituality and Relationships are all a part of well-being…. Each one needs to determine his/her %….
LT: How often do you do sports and if so, what kind of sports are your favourite and why?
Ellen Kocher: Activity is like food, a daily necessity for well-being. I move daily instinctively. I do what I like and stop when I have had enough. In the summer I swim and bike. In winter I do a lot of skiing and back-country skiing and hiking. Between seasons, I occasionally hit the gym for pilates classes. My main activity, however, is walking with girlfriends…nourishing mind, body and spirit!
LT: Do you believe in cheat meals?
Ellen Kocher: No. NEVER. Cheat on what? When you are in CHARGE, you eat what you want when you want and stop when full. That’s all, it’s like cheating every day.
LT: What did you learn from being the Responsible Corporate Health at-work of Weight Watchers during almost a decade ?
Ellen Kocher: Tons! However, 4 main things 1) Corporations need more that “weight loss” programs to help their people feel empowered, healthy, energized and perform optimally. 2) Nutrition is only part of the picture (see image above….) 3) People need not only to address WHAT they eat (and do) but WHY 4) Accountability breeds responsibility and people thrive in behavioural change with other people and with accountability partners!
LT: Can you explain your « Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating » program?
Ellen Kocher: AIH is a structured 8-week program using mindfulness-based and cognitive behavioral strategies to help participants (individuals or groups) discover their own internal motivators, increase self-efficacy and develop more effective thoughts and behaviors without a rigid, unsustainable routine. The non-diet, weight-neutral approach frees participants from the restrictive and consuming strategies offered in conventional workplace interventions and provides them with a method for re-discovering their expert within. Our mindfulness-based strategies guide participants to eat with intention and attention – and to live that way too.
LT: Do you think that drinking water plays a major role in having a healthy lifestyle?
Ellen Kocher: Absolutely! Water is often the answer to the “Am I hungry?” question mentioned above. Sometimes, we are thirsty! Water helps nourish every cell in our body and keeps everything working and energy levels high. I advise my clients to ensure their urine is always pale yellow to determine whether they are drinking enough.
LT: How important is it to eat organic and bio products?
Ellen Kocher: It is important to keep our food as natural and chemical free as possible. This often means “bio” or “organic”, however, this is not always possible and should not be the key decision factor. First priority is to respect the image above and then go for the best quality whenever possible.
LT: Do you think that the vegan diet is healthier than including meat products in your meals?
Ellen Kocher: A strict VEGAN diet eliminates everything ANIMAL and has become almost sect-like in some communities, often lacking in complete nutrition without adding in heavy supplements. I understand that some people have issues with animal nourishment and I respect that. As humans, with today’s technology and practices, our planet cannot sustain the current level of animal consumption. In conclusion, I believe the healthiest diets respect the words of one of my favourite doctors – Dr. Michael Pollan – “Eat real food, mostly plants, and not too much…” Given that, each of us needs to listen to his mind and body to make optimal choices for well-being.
LT: How would you summarise the eating habits of the western countries and what do we need to change to have better and healthier lives?
Ellen Kocher: In Western countries we often eat too much, too fast, too processed and too often. This is normal given the constant exposure we have to foods of all sorts. It is also a natural instinct to eat when there is food present…just imagine a cave man who did not know when his next food would be available… we are hard wired to eat when food is available. A great change in this hardwiring would be to learn to Pause and Think. We tend to eat fast and follow the latest “fad” to determine what is good for us rather than pausing to listen to ourselves. How do we feel? Look? Sleep? Etc. … Just getting into the habit of asking ourselves “Am I Hungry?” is a great first step toward eating more mindfully, healthfully and instinctively.
LT: What is the next cool thing in food and eating habits?
Ellen Kocher: I think it is just so cool that young people are interested in eating well. It has actually become “cool” to eat healthy…Just look at Instagram as a great proof of this!
LT: What do you think of juicing?
Ellen Kocher: I believe humans are meant to chew real, natural food since our satisfaction comes also from all of our senses…seeing, tasting, smelling, chewing and digesting…. However, juicing can be a great way to get our 50% fruit or vegetables and may be a great way to get kids to eat/drink well, especially if the skins (fibres) are included. I would not, however, suggest only juicing or juice fasts as a means of nourishing ourselves. Again, no quick fixes!