Holly Toronto is a body image coach and spiritual mentor. I was curious how she combines those two things, and how they are linked together through intuitive eating and spirituality. In our interview, Holly shares more about her own journey with food and her body, and how spirituality became a part of her journey. As someone who also had a similar journey, I enjoyed sharing a bit more about my own story as well. We both found that our spirituality strengthened with our intuitive eating practices (a side effect neither of us anticipated)! If you’re curious, questioning, and or growing your own spirituality, this might be the perfect episode for you!
Also, if you’re liking the podcast, I want to make sure you’re on my email list! I usually send an email about once a week, with little tidbits I don’t include on the show. And…I have a big announcement coming soon! It’s going out to my email list first, so be sure to join me there if you haven’t yet! Just head to the homepage and sign up for the free 7-Step Guide to Kick Dieting to the Curb — you’ll get an instant free gift, plus all the perks of being an insider!
Let’s Meet Holly
Holly lives in Kingston, New York. She’s a Master Level Certified Health Coach, and has run her own coaching business for the last 5 years. She currently coaches women around body image and intuitive eating. This involves shifting from seeing yourself as an object whose value depends on appearance. Instead, she helps them create fulfilled, joyful lives that aren’t based on how they look or what they weigh!
Holly describes her entrance into coaching as a bit of a round about journey. She started in the fashion industry in New York, where she spent 7 years in an industry that came with a lot of pressure about appearance. She spiraled into disordered eating and body shame. At the same time, she was dealing with severe adult acne. Treatment for that involved harsh creams and prescription medication, which Holly knew weren’t going to last forever.
Eventually, she pursued a holistic approach. It was recommended that she try a really intense restrictive diet to get to the root cause. It was supposed to last for 6 weeks….but it stretched far beyond. Holly started becoming really stressed and anxious around food, as what she allowed herself to eat was highly restrictive. Ironically, she also lost weight and started getting a lot of compliments — even though she wasn’t doing well at all, people based their praise off the way she looked.
This positive feedback was enough to push Holly towards health coaching, even as she dealt with continued stress and social isolation (as a result of her strict dieting) in her personal life.
The Straw That Broke the Camel’s Back
In the midst of these changes, Holly and her husband went on a cruise. She found herself having anxiety and panicking every day around meal times. She didn’t allow herself to skip workouts, and was obsessed with how “bad” the food was. At one point, she swore she would never go on another cruise again!
Finally, her husband sat her down and shared that she didn’t seem that happy or healthy. (Also, that it was resulting in him not having much fun either!) Taking his feedback to heart, Holly decided to try and enjoy the time they had left. She happened to have brought with one book – Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works. How synergistic! Holly felt like got thrown into the middle of the ocean and given a chance to see how much she was harming herself!
As she started integrating the principles, she realized her self-worth wasn’t dependent on the way that she looked. She also discovered the Health At Every Size movement, and body acceptance work. Holly realized that she didn’t want to spread harmful messages about bodies and food to her clients! Her passion because helping women understand how magnificent and worthy their bodies truly are.
Giving Herself Time
Holly found that what she needed in many ways was time and space for her body to heal. Part of that journey has included decreasing stress and moving away from always needing to be “on” and productive. Even though she had learned a lot about disconnecting her sense of worth from her appearance, she found that in her business she still connected it to her productivity!
Stepping back and releasing some of those connections allowed her to experience the reality that she can trust her body. In many ways, it had been telling her that it needed more space and rest and room to breathe for quite some time. As she learned to listen and respond to those messages, her skin has healed naturally. (She rarely breaks out anymore!)
Holly realized that life is too short to spend it constantly stressed, worried, and pushing herself. Although it’s still a work in progress and a daily commitment, she has become much more mindful about returning to and caring for herself.
Intuitive Eating & Spirituality
I often find that clients end up experiencing some sort of renewed interested in spiritual practices once they start intuitive eating. I found the same thing happening to me!
Holly shares that the ancient Greek word for “breath” translates to “spirit”. She thinks of our bodies as being a pathway for the spirit, and notices that our breath constantly connects us to that. As she’s experienced an increase connection to her body through intuitive eating, she’s found that it also seems to connect her more spiritually as well.
Having grown up in the 90’s in Evangelical culture, Holly learned many intense messages about her body. She learned that her body could be a “stumbling block” for others, and internalized a lot of spiritual teachings about how her body didn’t belong to her, and that it was capable of great sin and wickedness. Desire and pleasure were not seen as positive things!
After starting her intuitive eating work, Holly learned so much more about appreciating her body. She wouldn’t be here, or experiencing this life, without her incredible, wonderful body. That sort of shift was so powerful for her, and she new she wanted to take that into her work with women.
Bodies Are Not Objects
When we treat our bodies as objects, we don’t lean into the mystery and wonder and opportunity of life. Instead, we’re focused on meeting external expectations about being good enough or looking a certain way.
When we release those expectations and come back to ourselves, we can step into our own sovereignty. We realize that we are worthy and valuable, and that we can embrace our fullest selves.
(Side note: As a mom, I love to remember that my body is a powerful being that deserves to be cared for and seen!)
Holly has noticed that when people move from calling their body “it” to calling it she/he/they, they tend to become kind and gentler. Practicing addressing your body as a being that deserves attention and care is such a powerful way of opening to new ways of thinking about yourself and your being.
The Spiritual Journey
So many things can start you on this journey! Many women find that starting businesses or becoming entrepreneurs connects them; as they lean to trust, surrender, hold things loosely, and take aligned action, they are developing their spiritual tools.
This is true of body image work as well.
Many times, clients find that learning to love themselves and feeling their own feelings and desires has many connections to spirituality. Often, this means learning to feel the full range of our feelings: both light and dark. Holly notes that if we are committed to “home coming”, or coming back to ourselves, we have to expand our ability to feel the full breadth of our emotions.
She gets that this is a BIG ask! It’s hard to do this when you’ve been in the practice of repressing, avoiding, or stuffing feelings. (Or even eating them!) One way to get started is to commit to spending 5 minutes every day sitting down, breathing, and feeling what is happening in your body.
As you develop that practice, you can move into trust and surrender. In the same way that intuitive eating asks you to give up the number on the scale and the control mechanisms we’ve been used (measuring, dieting, restricting), spirituality is the same. You have to start releasing these mechanisms of control.
Your body responds once it knows that you are no longer attempting to manipulate or control it (or her/he/they, as the case may be!).
Trust Your Body As Your Guide
You can trust your body! As you learn to trust yourself and your intuition, it begins to seep into every area of your life. It’s wild how far this practice can take you!
And even if you aren’t spiritual, you can definitely benefit from tapping more into intuition and self-listening. Clearing away external messaging and tapping into your own desires and inner knowing gives you so much clarity in your life. Trusting yourself is powerful, and it’s one more way of learning to honor your path and your being.
Intuitive eating and spirituality seem to come together naturally, which is such a wonderful experience. I’d encourage you to listen to the full episode to hear more from Holly – this is a powerful episode! You can also grab a free Body Gratitude Meditation from Holly herself, check out her Facebook group, or find her online at www.hollytoronto.com.