Author of the popular website and blog Find Your Balance, Michelle Pfennighaus is both a resource and inspiration for women trying to find balance in the midst of working, parenting, relationships, and all the things today’s busy lifestyles entail.
Though she is now a certified health coach through the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and the American Association of Drugless Practitioners, she was not always concerned with health—until the day she walked into a neighborhood yoga studio just to get a little exercise. She left with a new sense of what wellness could be, and through her continued practice, started to pay more attention to her diet and the way certain foods made her feel. She began to realize the benefits of a holistic approach to wellness, and how diet and lifestyle could change everything. Her original motivation was based on healing herself. Now, she’s dedicated to helping other women through her life-changing nutrition programs. Michelle has been featured on CBS, NPR, ABC and in the documentary Lemonade.
What made you get serious about getting fit?
My motivation was always based on healing myself from digestive trouble and anxiety issues. The better I ate, the more I practiced yoga, the better I felt. My digestion improved dramatically. My moods did too! Six pack abs and toned arms were just a great side benefit. But it all happened very gradually. I made one change at a time in my diet and lifestyle, and when it worked I was inspired to do more.
What has pregnancy taught you about your health and your body?
It’s been like living in a different body. One day I was in the best shape of my life and the next day I was out of breath crossing the street! I suddenly started craving meat, cheese and eggs like crazy. Along the way I’ve honored my cravings and listened to this new body. I’ve had to be very forgiving and nurturing toward myself and my baby. It’s been a big lesson in listening to my intuition.
What keeps you in balance?
My husband. Sometimes I work too hard and put too much pressure on myself to be perfect. I’m a total Type A! Max reminds me to stop and smell the roses. We have so much fun together. I’m a much more balanced person because he is in my life.
What’s your favorite workout routine?
I love a really challenging Vinyasa yoga class. But if I love the teacher, I’ll practice any style of yoga. My second favorite workout routine is a night out dancing!
What’s your favorite food (besides cookies)?
Green curly kale. I use it a million different ways and never get tired of it. When people say that eating healthy is too expensive, I say buy 1 head of kale per week. It costs $3 and is one of the most nutritious things you can eat.
What recipe or ingredient are you obsessed with right now?
Bacon. It’s one of those things you hide from when you’re trying to eat healthy, right? But I’m a big believer that fat from natural, whole sources is good for us. And you don’t need much bacon to get big flavor, especially if it’s from local, healthy pigs! I’d eat a pound of bacon any day over one of those chocolate whey protein powdered shakes. Have you ever read the ingredient label on those?
When you find yourself feeling out of balance, what do you do to adjust?
I cancel things. Ha! Really. At one point I was working way too much, my body was out of whack, and my emotions were a mess. So I picked up my planner and just started crossing things off. It’s really important that I prioritize downtime and relaxation.
What do you say to people who insist that they don’t have time to be healthy?
Re-prioritize. You can’t take care of anyone or anything else if you don’t take care of yourself. The good news is you can make small changes over time that will make you more efficient, happier and healthier in the long run. Get support to make it happen!
What advice would you give to women who are determined to stay fit through their pregnancy?
My advice is to be gentle with yourself and love the body that is working so hard to build your baby. Follow your intuition. But also know that your body never needs or wants ice cream as much as it needs perhaps calcium, energy or relaxation. Try to figure out how to really give your body what it’s asking for, even when the message comes through once again as “Take me to Ben & Jerry’s!!!!”
Is there a vegetable you thought you’d never like that you’ve grown to love?
Haha, I guess the answer is kale again! I had never had it in my whole life until I started changing my diet and saw it popping up in recipes. I was very, very hesitant at first. But it was great!
In addition to your blog, you’ve published a few e-books about food and fitness. What writers have inspired you?
I absolutely adore Heidi Swanson’s style. She’s got a great blend of recipes and information about natural food.
What’s your favorite thing about health coaching?
Just this week I got an email from a past participant in one of my nutrition programs. I hadn’t heard from her in months. She wrote to let me know that her pre-diabetes condition has reversed, her doctors are thrilled, and both she and her husband have continued to lose weight despite the holidays. Holy moly. It made me cry. I could never imagine a better job benefit than knowing I’m really making a difference.