SD Voyager Interviews Vanessa Rogers of Feed Your Spirit, Inc.

Today we’d like to introduce you to Vanessa Rogers.

Vanessa, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.

As a California native, I’ve had an active and outdoorsy lifestyle. I played competitive sports, and was fortunate enough to be invited to join the women’s basketball team at the University of California, San Diego. As a college athlete, I needed to maximize my physical health and performance and this was not intuitive for me. For one, I realized I didn’t know how to properly fuel my body. While at UCSD, I majored in Human Development and fell absolutely in love with it. I wanted to study everything about the human body from the cells to the psyche.

Eventually, I chose to focus more on school and to end my basketball career. Without consistent physical exercise and training, I started to gain weight. I didn’t know what to do. I would try to “cut carbs,” but I didn’t even know where to start. I started to feel anxiety about how I looked and began to turn to food for comfort. I was living in the most beautiful place on earth, but I was more comfortable staying indoors. Something wasn’t right.

Shortly after graduation, I traveled to Europe for a job. It was a wonderful experience trying new foods and seeing new sights. I found myself shopping for fresh veggies at local markets and enjoying making meals with my flatmates. Then one night while in London I found out that my Father, my hero, and my best friend, had died suddenly from cardiac arrest. It was like my world stopped spinning. Throughout the journey of my grief, I started to do some research. I wanted answers. It was part of my healing process.

I discovered some key information; that Heart Disease is the number one killer of Americans, your digestion affects your mood, how sugar can influence hormones, and more. I learned disturbing facts about the food and agricultural industries. I went to visit dairy farms, I volunteered at animal sanctuaries, I studied cooking in Asia and the Mediterranean. The more I learned, the more motivated I became!

My personal health practices improved with every new piece of information I acquired. I was my own guinea pig. I became more comfortable in my skin, I was becoming more fit and gained a new level of energy. I discovered the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, and the American Council for Exercise and my professional practice started to take shape. I started to see positive changes in the people and friends who had been asking me for food and fitness advice.

I knew this was where I wanted to spend my time. It was in honor of my Dad, and it was in honor of making things right for other people.

My friends and colleagues were asking me more often for help. Eventually, the word about my knowledge had spread. I took the leap to build my coaching business and my transformational group coaching programs. Every day I continue to learn more and share more. I have never been more grateful and have never looked back!

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?

I work with women who are struggling to take great care of themselves and are at the ends of their rope when it comes to food and energy. They have put themselves last for far too long, and they know it — they are suffering now because of it. Some of them would like to lose weight in a healthy and sustainable way (see: no dieting, no more ups and downs or yo-yo’ ing). Some have gotten a recent diagnosis and they need urgent immediate support. Some are just tired of feeling crappy. Honestly, they are ALL truly my people. They show up open and honest and brave. They are frustrated by this complicated health landscape (who wouldn’t be?) they’re tired of being confused about food and are struggling to find what really works for them.

That’s where I come in, that’s my sweet-spot because I can give them customized support, we find the foods that they love and love them back, and start to create a naturally healthy foundation and body relationship. All of which is 100% possible – and does not require anything crazy or awful! Just small steps in the right direction for them, that may become bigger steps in time. We get on track and work with the body, not against it. The body holds the answers we seek, and we can find them.

Starting my own business has been one of the most fantastic and challenging things I’ve done, which is saying a lot. Prior to Feed Your Spirit, I was living in my comfort zone, accustomed to the corporate world, but I wasn’t excited about it. The corporate merry-go-round was slowly draining my passion and excitement. Deep down I wanted to know that life had more to offer me.

After my dad’s passing I took on the role of breadwinner for our family, and I took a lot of pride in that. I realized that my decisions wouldn’t affect just me, which was added pressure. I had to get to know my fears really well. When you’re getting ready to take a leap, your fears try every trick in the book to get you to play it safe. I had to feel the fear and do it anyway, and I found that as I would take a step, the universe would meet me halfway. I knew I was headed in the right direction.

When I find ways to help people understand their body’s symptoms and decode their hunger, feel more peace and more control, I experience a level of happiness and excitement I didn’t know existed.

Feed Your Spirit, Inc. – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?

My background and my approach set me apart. It’s not just about ‘eat this and not that,’ at all. That would be a disservice in my space. Our food convos go deep. Plus, I have personally lived through the struggles. Eating disorders, crappy energy, childhood trauma, a parent with addiction, these are the things we may discuss because events may have shaped our thoughts, which later become habits. I have lived a lot of what they are working on in my coaching, and I know where to go with it.

My clients tell me, “I know there’s nothing I will say that will ever scare you off.” It’s true. Not much really shakes me. Which, I mean, of course not. I’m a stand for them. I’m their centered place where they can come and say anything. That’s where we need to go for real change.

You can probably (hopefully) tell from the name, Feed Your Spirit, we are here to do a lot more than just talking about nutrition. It’s often deeper than that, as needed from person to person. I often use Gabor Mate’s work in my coaching. He is one of the first and only M.D.’s to acknowledge that “troubled eating patterns are inextricably linked with emotional issues from childhood.” He has created some great tools and guidance for those of my clients who want to go there. Again, the smaller the steps, the better. I recognize that not all of it is easy to talk about and it may not be the best time in their journey to do so. Sometimes clients will tell me, “you were the one I knew I wanted to tell,” in which case, it is the right time.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?

I work with people who have competing priorities and are short on time. Men and women who have kids, full-time jobs, commutes, aging parents, their own businesses, travel, and more. One of my favorite moments is when they tell me, “I never knew this could be so easy,” or “you kept me accountable.”

That’s generally exactly what I want to get across. It doesn’t have to be hard, it doesn’t have to be a struggle — at all — quite the opposite! The breakthroughs happen and do give me chills, but I’m never surprised because they are so capable and powerful, it’s always only a matter of time (and sometimes commitment).

Anytime I hear someone say, “you know, Vanessa, I wasn’t feeling very good today, but now that we have talked I know I can do this,” it does make me feel something. It feels right. I want people to know they are powerful beyond measure, that’s why we call the program, Feed Your Power. When I hear that, I feel like they have taken their power back, right where it belongs.