A Philly Health Coach’s Guide to Getting Unstuck

You may be sitting where I was about a year ago — in a large office building, feeling like you’re not in the right place in your career, job, or life, but not knowing where you do belong, either. Or you may be perfectly happy in your career, but feeling stuck where you’re at with your health, weight, or relationships. Either way, I hope some of the lessons I’ve learned about getting unstuck from my quarter-life career crisis of sorts will help you through any change you’re making in your journey to ultimate health and happiness.

But first off, in case we don’t know each other already, I’m Sam Vander Wielen, a corporate-attorney-turned-certified health coach who helps (mostly) women learn how to create a healthy relationship with food/exercise, prioritize self-care, and live the life they want.

In 2016, I left my career as an attorney at a large law firm to start my own health coaching business, Hygge Wellness. It was hands down the hardest thing I’ve ever done (and the Pennsylvania Bar is no joke!). Not only because I chose to walk away from great coworkers, an amazing managing partner, a generous salary, bonus, and the perks afforded to an attorney working at a great firm, but because I realized I had gone so far down a path I didn’t want, I didn’t know how to get back home. I know so many people, in various jobs in different fields, in the same position.

I realized life wasn’t going to hand me the perfect situation or timing to leave. It was actually pretty alarming to realize that I was in control of my happiness and future.

Here are the top 11 lessons I learned through the process of leaving my career as an attorney to chase my dream of starting my own business, helping others make themselves a priority, and spreading wellness across the Philadelphia region.

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The Checkup: The Secret Ingredient That Transforms Homemade Salad Dressing 

• You’ve probably made your fair share of olive oil salad dressings with the usual suspects, like shallots and lemon zest, but have you ever thought of adding pomegranate molasses? According to this home cook, the addition turns a basic homemade salad dressing into a drool-worthy staple that will guarantee you finish ALL of your greens. [POPSUGAR Fitness]

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The Checkup: This Goal-Setting Tweak Could Be Your Ticket to Lasting Weight Loss

• I think it’s safe to say that now, at the beginning of March, a good chunk of us have traded our New Year’s resolutions of weight loss or money-saving or whatever in for, well, happy hours complete with nachos. If your hand is raised, take note of the goal-setting strategy called design thinking: It forces you to dig deeper to identify the root reason for why you’re setting a goal, whether that’s weight-loss related or not, so that you actually — really! — stick with it. [Shape]

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The Checkup: Why You Should Open Your Curtains Right When You Wake Up 

• You’re going to want to start raising your blinds first thing in the morning. Research shows, people who were exposed to sunlight in the early morning had lower BMIs than those who weren’t, probably thanks to sunlight giving the body’s internal clock (metabolism included) a kickstart. Here, four more morning habits to tweak for weight loss. [Prevention]

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The Checkup: The 50/25/25 Plate Rule That Makes Weight Loss Way Easier 

• Figuring out what your plate should look like when you’re trying to shed pounds can be confusing. But the dietitian-backed 50/25/25 rule — which gives 50 percent of your plate to veggies or salad, 25 percent to lean protein and 25 percent to starchy vegetables or carbs — makes figuring it out a whole lot easier. [Self]

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The Checkup: The Case for Drinking Ice-Cold Water (Hint: Your Waistline Will Thank You)

• The argument for filling your work water cup up with ice cubes? Sipping on cold water forces your body to work harder to warm it up once you swallow. Your body working harder means you’re burning more calories (by literally doing nothing), and those calories add up — to nearly 500 more calories burned per week, to be exact. [Women’s Health]

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The Weight-Related Comment We All Need to Quit Casually Throwing Around

When I was 19 years old, I took a year off of school and worked the graveyard shift at a diner. One night, around 3 a.m., I discovered mayonnaise while eating an order of mid-shift fries. It was news to me: Mayonnaise was — and always will be — DELICIOUS. Thousand Island? Even better. I refer to this year of my life as the Year of Mayonnaise. Naturally, this year of consuming mayonnaise with reckless abandon — and often pairing it with cheese fries — was not my leanest year, but it was a lovely year. Until, that is, when one day, when I just so happened to be wearing an empire-waisted top, I was serving a group of very tipsy women during happy hour and one of the bunch pointed to my stomach and slurred, sincerely, “When are you due?”

I am now 26 years old and there is no seven-year-old child in my life — and to be clear, there was no baby in my life (or in my body) then, either.

I took her comment as a clear cue that empire-waisted clothing is probably not something I should wear until there is a baby growing inside of me. But I also — after staring at her like I would stare at someone who’d just said, “Can you pass me the cat milk for my coffee?” — wondered to myself, Why on earth would you ever comment on a stranger’s body in that way? Say I were expecting a kid — you, a stranger, do not know the circumstances. After all, not every pregnancy is an easy, happy, gush-to-strangers-about-it situation.

I bring this story up because this thought — why would you comment on someone’s body in that way? — is the same thought I had when my friend alerted me to the fact that someone she barely knows had recently rushed up to her and screeched, “You look so SKINNY! TELL ME: WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!”

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