My Life as an Eating Psychology Coach: Susan Hannigan

What made you want to become an Eating Psychology Coach?

I had been coaching for about a decade when I came across Marc and the Institute. I was looking for something to add to my practice that I cared about and shake things up. Things were fine but kind of flat. I think that was a reflection of where I was personally. I was in need of reawakening and maybe a bit uncomfortable. I, like most American females, have been dealing with issues around weight, dieting and physical self-esteem most of my life. I went on my first diet when I was 10 and basically had remained obsessed about the subject ever since. I realized I was not only sick of my own constant internal dialog about how I was physically failing, I was done hearing about it from other women. It felt like I was watching remarkable, beautiful women wasting their lives on hating themselves and measuring out little cups of hummus as snacks. I realized I wanted to be part of something that might help heal this or at least be a part of the conversation to have us look at this differently.

What do you love about being an Eating Psychology Coach?

The emotions are so full when I talk to clients about this stuff. There is something about food that is so core to all of us. Honestly the only things that I can think of that brings up more feelings are sex, money, and religion. So while it doesn’t happen every time, it’s not uncommon for clients to giggle, cry, get really ticked off. Because it matters, working with people who want to change how they relate with food, really change it, not looking for one more quick fix weight loss program. I am honored and proud when someone trusts me enough to want to take this one with me. Maybe this sounds a little high handed but helping someone love their bodies feels sacred and I take that seriously. What better way of life is there but to have a career that helps people get to a better place than they might have been yesterday?

What does your practice look like?

I have had a private practice where I work from my home in NYC. While I do see clients here I mostly work on the phone or on Facetime. That way people can work around their schedules. Also I have the fun of from time to time having international clients. I learn a lot about food when I am talking to people in other countries. We may all have food issues but we don’t all have Wal-Marts and fast food drive-thrus.

How did your education at the Institute prepare you to work successfully with clients?

I have been lucky to study coaching with some remarkable people. If I was to write a book about it, the Institute is chapter 4. As far as how it helped me prepare to work with clients, how hasn’t it? Sometimes I will feel insecure about my knowledge and then this piece of information from my studies there will pop out of my mouth. It will be just the point I needed to get across. As a result, I feel so grateful. And mildly clever. It is not a lightweight program. To get through it is a real commitment. But when you get through it you have this body of information that is remarkable.

What was your favorite aspect of the Training?

I am often not very good at these pick a favorite games. If you ask me my favorite color I will name purple but then will feel like I am being simplistic and leaving out all these other awesome colors. I don’t even have a best friend because I have all these best friends and I don’t want the others I don’t pick to lose. I will honestly say that all the things listed were hugely important to me at different times when I had different needs. It is a well rounded program. That I could call the staff when I was hitting a wall or ask Marc a direct question was a gift. That I could vent online with my fellow students was wonderful. The audios are downloaded in my computer and there to continue to support me. It was all good. And my favorite album is Joni Mitchell’s Blue.

How has being an Eating Psychology Coach impacted your professional life/financial well-being?

Excuse me while I ask my houseboy Sven to make my morning smoothie…… To be honest it hasn’t yet changed my money situation as a coach. I think that takes time. I have only added psychology food work in the last year so to expect it to be this money making boom is naive. This may sound a tad judgemental, but in my experience, if you are going into coaching to make money you are not the kind of coach I want to have lunch with. Because you are going to be the kind of person who is more about yourself than your clients. I am not saying you can’t make a living doing this. I do. But there are easier ways to make an income. But for me there is nothing more fulfilling. You have to ask yourself what matters to you. I was recently talking to a client of mine who is facing the fact that in her chosen profession she is almost at the peak of her game income-wise. There is not much higher to go. She earns a good comfortable living but she is never going to be rich doing what she does. I was asking her does she love her work enough that she can be all right with that. I think people who are coaches need to ask themselves that.

How has being an Eating Psychology Coach impacted you personally?

It is kind like Alice through the looking glass. I will always be an female who grew up in America taught to hate her body. I will live with that the rest of my life. A friend of mine who does body image coaching work says it is like being a recovering addict. The addict will never not have that condition. But they can learn to live with it in a loving healthy way that ends the abuse. I can look at my body and say it’s beautiful. I can do things like go to a nude beach and not be consumed with comparing and failing to the other bodies. That is pretty groovy. It doesn’t mean I don’t look at photo of myself sometimes and wince with displeasure. It doesn’t mean that I might want to potentially transform my body into a potentially smaller form at some point. That is alright. Those thoughts just don’t own me anymore the way they did. Also a really interesting aspect of my personal life with this subject is I now have a partner who I live with who has juvenile diabetes. I am now looking at body wisdom through his eyes. For example there is a big movement with nutritionists to say juice is bad. Too fattening. Unhealthy. Well I have seen a glass of orange juice save his life. It is now such a deep truth to me that all diets do not fit all people.

What do you see for yourself in your future as an Eating Psychology Coach – where is your work evolving towards?

I have noticed I really like talking about this stuff. I have been on the radio interviewed about my work in the last year and it felt completely comfortable. I wasn’t that nervous because I am completely fascinated by the subject. I love knowing about other people’s stories regarding food. I am doing a talk at a health institute in my neighborhood next month and am feeling again really excited and placed in my feet about it. Because , yes I will talk about myself some, but mostly I will be creating a conversation with other people in the room. I am also thinking about creating some workshops for mothers of tweens and teenagers to work on their own relationship with this issue- not about how to fix their kids.

Why Would You Recommend the Training to Others?

If you have the calling- yes. It’s confronting. It will bring up your own stuff. This is not about learning a subject and using it as a way to keep people at arm’s distance while being the expert. This is about being open and vulnerable. But if you are willing to be uncomfortable, challenged, scared in the name of potentially changing your life and the lives of others- go for it.

Anything else you’d like to share about being an Eating Psychology Coach?

I have conversations almost every week with people who just hearing what I do, who will never be clients of mine, talk to me about their relationships with food and their bodies. It is kind of remarkable. It is like I have a badge on my head that says, ” It’s safe here. Tell me all. I have been there too and I won’t hurt you.”. That is kind of amazing.

NAME: Susan Hannigan

BIO: Susan Hannigan is a certified life coach who has had a private practice based in NY for over ten years. Her professional passion is to help her clients get what they want from their lives through loving challenge, affectionate humor, and devoted truth telling. She works with teens and adults. She works with clients on Skype, on the phone, and privately in her home office. She is an award-winning writer, hosts excellent dinner parties, and is a happy if tired pet owner and stepmother.

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Tessie Tracy