Don’t skimp on self-care. It’s essential for building the most resilient you. Get some movement in your day that fits your interests and feels doable. If you don’t enjoy running, don’t force yourself to run just because your best friend does. Go ahead and walk. Can’t get in your typical thirty-minute walk on a busy day? Walk for ten minutes three times over the course of the day. Fuel yourself with nutritious food you enjoy. It may seem that a candy bar, sugary coffee drink or other goodie will give you a burst of mental energy to help you conquer the world, but it’s short-lived. Your body needs quality food and lots of water to thrive — especially when it is under stress. Always have some quick nutritious snacks ready like nuts/seeds, fruit, light cheese sticks, peanut butter “go” portions or high protein/fiber bite-size cereal.
Resilience has been described as the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Times are not easy now. How do we develop greater resilience to withstand the challenges that keep being thrown at us? In this interview series, we are talking to mental health experts, authors, resilience experts, coaches, and business leaders who can talk about how we can develop greater resilience to improve our lives.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Melanie Jordan.
Melanie Jordan is a National Board-Certified Health and Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC) — one of the first coaches in this country to have earned this designation. She has over a decade of coaching, coaching leadership and corporate wellness program experience for digital health start-ups, top health insurers, and her own private coaching practice, Your Healthy Life Made Easy LLC. Coach Melanie is dedicated to helping business professionals be as successful in losing weight and transforming their overall health as they are in their careers. Through her site WeightLossWithCoachMelanie.com she specializes in stress reduction and weight loss and has helped thousands “get out of their own way” and live their happiest and healthiest lives.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?
After many years of putting my successful business career first and putting my health low on the totem pole, I saw the ghost of my future health self in my own family. The impact of a sedentary lifestyle, poor diet and obesity was having tragic health consequences.
It suddenly hit me that if I didn’t take action to rewrite my personal health story, I could end up the same way. Ultimately, I lost nearly fifty pounds and it not only changed my health, but it sent me into an entirely different career direction — health and wellness coaching and worksite wellness.
I pulled the trigger on enrolling to get my Wellcoaches® health and wellness coaching certification while my dad was in hospice. I was determined to get the professional skills I needed to help others make sustainable healthy changes to avoid a similar fate.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
During my business career I experienced three mergers and two layoffs that caused some hiccups along the way that were beyond my control. What I learned from that was, you always want to have “a little something on the side” for yourself in terms of work that is yours where you call the shots. For example, I’ve always kept my own coaching practice going. Sometimes it is my sole focus and sometimes it’s a side gig, but it’s always mine.
Through my own practice, I also get to choose to work with the clients I truly enjoy, rather than having to serve everyone an employer gives me to coach. Plus, I can coach in a way that provides a highly personalized journey for each client using best coaching practices that fit their unique needs instead of being volume-based like a larger company needs to be.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
My company, Your Healthy Life Made Easy LLC, is dedicated to helping career professionals and entrepreneurs rewrite their personal health stories. A key difference is that we’re not doing a quick fix or fad. We’re working together on making small, sustainable healthy behavior changes over time that feel doable and match who that client is uniquely. If they are willing to roll up their sleeves and embrace the work it takes to be their best self, it could very well be the very last time they need to work on losing weight.
Since I too was the successful businessperson in my forties struggling with my weight, burning the candle at both ends and, in the middle and putting everyone and everything else first, I chose to dedicate myself to helping others in the same boat. The reason I specialize in stress reduction and weight loss is that for this segment — the driven midlife business professional or small business owner — is that the two are often very much interrelated.
While I’ve had plenty of successes over the years, one of my challenging clients was a career professional in her early forties that ate out at least one meal a day with her husband and didn’t want to change that aspect of her life. We worked together within the context of this reality, and she learned that she could still lose weight while eating out regularly if she made good choices, watched portion sizes, and got plenty of movement and exercise in her day. Ultimately, she lost nearly forty-five pounds.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
While there have been many people who supported me in reinventing myself in the health and wellness field, the one who had the biggest impact was one of my former Managers when I was a Health Coach at Humana, Sharon Taphorn.
She was a warm, down-to-earth, highly approachable person who was a strong employee advocate. When I later had the opportunity to manage health coaches myself, I modeled my managerial style after hers. She also gave me the single most useful piece of advice to be a successful coach “just have good conversations so people will want to pick up the phone and talk to you again and again so you can help them.”
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
I like to define resilience as the ability to quickly bounce back from the things that life throws your way. Think of the main chorus “I get knocked down, but I get up again” in the ‘90’s Chumbawamba song “Tubthumping.”
In my mind, those who are resilient see a mountain ahead blocking their path and instead of throwing up their hands and saying, “I guess that’s it, there’s no way to get through now,” they keep a positive mindset that this is a temporary issue that is solvable. The resilient person either summons up the strength to work their way to the top of that mountain, or they know to tap into their strengths like creativity and resourcefulness to find a way to go around it.
Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?
I feel that it often takes courage to be resilient. I have an old poster hanging up in my home office of a series of Dalmatians that has one Dalmatian with multicolor spots wearing sunglasses. The phrase across the top of that poster is “dare to be different.” The resilient person has the courage to not take the easy path and stay the course when they know it will be challenging or the longer road.
Courage and resilience differ in that someone with courage can be more about simply having the guts to do something, period, while the resilient person does an excellent job of bouncing back from adversity when a monkey wrench is thrown into their plans.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
There are many of course, but I think the one who especially comes to mind is former NFL quarterback and Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Kelly. First off, he played eleven seasons for the Buffalo Bills in some rough football weather every year.
On a serious note, though, he had a son, Hunter, who was diagnosed with a rare disease that claimed his life at age eight. Then, in 2013, Jim Kelly announced he had cancer in his jaw. He subsequently had the cancer return two more times and in 2018, had to have surgery to remove the cancer that had reappeared that involved reconstructing part of his jaw.
Despite these major things that have happened in his life, Jim Kelly has remained a positive person who keeps persevering, gives back to the community, and supports research into the disease that claimed his son’s life through his Hunter’s Hope Foundation.
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?
All the time! Just kidding. When I got my initial health and wellness coaching certification back in 2011, what I didn’t realize then was that the field was more clinically-focused vs. behavior change-focused as it is now. Most health and wellness coaches being hired at the time were nurses or Registered Dieticians which was not my background. I was told unless I had one of those credentials it would be impossible to find employment.
However, being the resilient person I am, I didn’t let that stop me from doing what I felt was my true calling in life. I hung out my own shingle and leveraged my wealth of marketing and sales experience to help the cause. While I worked my own coaching practice during those early years of my “second act,” the field of health and wellness coaching subsequently boomed and companies came to the realization that great coaches could come from a variety of backgrounds pre-certification. The closed employer doors finally opened and the experience I gained privately was valued, but I always kept my own practice going as well.
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
I had a period in my life nearly 15 years ago where I had severe leg pain for over a year for which the root cause could not be found. This impacted every aspect of my life as it interrupted my sleep, and many common movements were triggers. I had every possible test and saw all kinds of specialists, but no one could find the answer. This chronic pain condition wore me down physically and emotionally.
Eventually, after anything truly serious was ruled out, I started researching and exploring mind-body connection books and audio resources from experts in the field such as Dr. John Sarno, Dr. Steven Gurgevich and Jon Kabat-Zinn. Ultimately, I ended up healing myself by focusing on this aspect of my health, which was something new for me.
It was an incredibly challenging time in my life, but I made it through in an empowered way. Looking back on it now, I see it was my first exposure to a fundamental concept of coaching — everyone has what they need to succeed inside them, they just need some expert support along the way to draw it out.
How have you cultivated resilience throughout your life? Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?
From a very young age I was brought up to be very independent. My mom worked full-time days and my dad worked full-time at night, so someone could always be home with me before I was old enough for school. However, my dad had to get some sleep after working the midnight shift, so I was on my own for a few hours each day. I have memories of a wooden gate across the kitchen and peanut butter and bread left out for me with a dull knife so I could make my own lunch!
I think that early independence contributed quite a bit to my resiliency, as even as a child I felt confident that I could handle most things that came my way. In terms of cultivating resiliency, I work hard to be a “glass is half full” type of person — my closet full of motivational t-shirts is evidence. I also very much take an empowered approach to my life since the mystery pain experience years ago. Lastly, growing up in New York City, I think you develop an emotional toughness that doesn’t let you stay down for long.
Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.
- We can’t control what life throws our way, but we can learn to control how we respond to it.
For example, you can’t control that you’re stuck in unanticipated traffic and are now late for an important appointment. However, instead of letting yourself slip into road rage mode, you can choose to shrug it off and blast your favorite song on the radio to make the best of it.
- It’s more important than ever to find things that make you feel relaxed and happy daily. Make time for this. What are some things you enjoy doing that you’ve let fall by the wayside? What did you love to do as a child?
During a recent coaching session with one of my clients, we discussed this exact topic to handle some stress she was feeling. By brainstorming together in this way, she remembered how much she enjoyed painting years ago. She subsequently went out and bought some art materials and started painting again which has really helped her stress level. Managing stress you feel, helps you better able to handle all life throws your way.
- Meditate daily in a way that suits you and shuts out the world for a few precious minutes.
In our world where there is so much noise in our everyday lives, letting go of some of the “mental clutter” gives you space to build your resiliency. If more traditional forms of meditation aren’t for you, find a way to let your mind calm down that appeals to you, Try watching the wind rustle leaves on a tree outside your window. Check out a gorgeous kaleidoscope video on YouTube.
- Don’t skimp on self-care. It’s essential for building the most resilient you. Get some movement in your day that fits your interests and feels doable. If you don’t enjoy running, don’t force yourself to run just because your best friend does. Go ahead and walk. Can’t get in your typical thirty-minute walk on a busy day? Walk for ten minutes three times over the course of the day. Fuel yourself with nutritious food you enjoy. It may seem that a candy bar, sugary coffee drink or other goodie will give you a burst of mental energy to help you conquer the world, but it’s short-lived. Your body needs quality food and lots of water to thrive — especially when it is under stress. Always have some quick nutritious snacks ready like nuts/seeds, fruit, light cheese sticks, peanut butter “go” portions or high protein/fiber bite-size cereal.
- Above all, as Journey sings, “Be Good to Yourself!”. Most of us place high expectations on ourselves, then we beat ourselves up when we find we are pretty darn good but can’t necessarily do it all. If you’re the type that tends to do for others and put your needs last, start moving yourself up on your priority list.
Simple five or ten-minute chunks of “me time” can have a profound impact on your emotional wellness as you intersperse them throughout your day and night. Walk around the block, do a couple of minutes of deep cleansing breaths, watch a five-minute funny YouTube video or text a friend or loved one you’re missing.
By proactively taking measures to replenish your “emotional cup” every day, you’ll be in the best possible position to bounce back from the curveballs life throws your way.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I don’t know about being a “great influencer,” but I’ve been honored to have played a part in the life-changing healthy journeys of thousands of people over the last decade.
Not surprisingly, I would like to see a movement that would be another way to positively impact the healthy lives of huge populations in this country. While the federal government does offer health insurance options for those who are not covered under an employer’s plan, they aren’t as robust or affordable as those that are offered through employers. As a result, it can create health insurance “handcuffs” for solopreneurs and self-employed workers who prefer to work more independently and start a second or third act. If we had, in essence, a national “group rate” for this segment of the working population, it would let them release these shackles.
I’d also like to see Present Biden follow through on one of his campaign platforms to lower the eligible age for Medicare to sixty vs. the current age of sixty-five. This would also support many with entrepreneurial spirits to go after their “third act” or to retire earlier and volunteer more to give back to society five precious years earlier.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them :-)
I’d love to connect with Drew Harrrington and Amanda Klane, the cofounders of Yasso®. Their frozen Greek yogurt bars are always a freezer staple for me! Like them, I love ice cream, and I had no problem in my past eating a pint. However, as is consistent with my coaching approach, I don’t deprive myself of my favorite foods, I just find a way to do them better. I’ve also successfully used this swap idea of ice cream for Yasso with many of my coaching clients.
Besides being behind a food item that makes healthy eating easier, I also love the fact they are childhood friends who grew up to create this product and company together as adult entrepreneurs. I imagine it wasn’t always easy and they had to flex their resiliency muscles often on the road to success.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Through my Your Healthy Life Made Easy!™ blog and I am also on LinkedIn.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!