DeAnna Zein helps save lives—ones lost to paralyzing anxiety, depression or physical health issues. As a registered counsellor and certified fitness trainer who has faced her own personal struggles, Zein is uniquely equipped to meet her clients’ needs head-on and design counselling and coaching programs tailored to tackle their specific challenges. Compassionate, non-judgmental and results-oriented, she guides them to clarity so they can overcome mental and physical health obstacles and begin enjoying life as they were meant to live it.
Zein also works with clients suffering from premenstrual dysphoric disorder, which can rob women of their well-being, hamper their careers and destroy their relationships. Refusing to accept the hopelessness brought on by this severe form of PMS, and the belief that surgery is the only way out, she creates a five-step plan of attack to help women take back their lives. She can help you reclaim yours.
What first fascinated me about your work is that you combine counselling with coaching, addressing both the psychological and the physical. What a powerful mix! Given the loop between the mind and the body, how do you begin when a client comes to you? What are some of the first questions you ask?
I always begin with the client’s current story. Questions are tailored specifically to each client and really vary depending on their individual circumstances. First we explore what’s not working in their life, get crystal clear on the current picture and the outcome we are looking for. Together we then develop a step-by-step plan based on the client’s specific vision they want for themselves.
We explore past events that may be contributing to the current situation, and we also explore the client’s values, belief systems, passions and interests.
Our step-by-step plan involves eliminating any anxiety and worry, controlling the client’s relationship with food or untangling the confusion that has built up over the course of their life. My counselling and coaching is very action focused. We don’t stay in the problem very long; we move quickly into taking the steps to help them change their current situation.
This brings me to your weight-loss coaching. Another salient principle of your work is the importance of maintaining discipline and forming better habits. This can apply to so many aspects of our lives, but why do so many struggle in this area of well-being?
There are so many factors that contribute to one’s struggles with weight loss. I find the individual’s relationship with food is the biggest struggle for most people. After years of trying every diet out there, my clients come to me exhausted and feeling hopeless about achieving weight loss. My first course of action is to eliminate dieting completely.
Diets are the WORST culprit for weight loss, and research shows that 30 per cent of people who lose weight through dieting actually end up gaining more weight than before starting their diet.
The truth is, the more you restrict your eating, the more likely you are to binge eat or over-indulge later. More and more research is showing that intuitive eating:
• Promotes long-term weight loss
• Improves self-esteem
• Increases good cholesterol
• Helps a person gain control over their eating
• Helps individuals identify and address their true emotions
• Promotes body appreciation and acceptance
• Decreases binge eating episodes
• Decreases emotional eating
In addition to intuitive eating, we focus on the behavioural habits as well as the emotional, social and biological aspects that may be preventing the individual from achieving their health goals. This can include:
• Life stressors
• The individual’s social network
• History of eating disorders
Tell us a bit about your background, your personal challenges and why you ventured into the work you do.
I have honestly been interested in the human mind and body for as long as I can remember. From a very young age, I was a peer counsellor at school, and I can remember having friends over after school to do workouts as far back as middle school.
Having these interests did not come without challenges. I struggled with eating disorders and body image for many years. I’ve been inactive and overweight, and I’ve also been through stages of compulsive exercise and starvation. Looking back, there is ALWAYS an emotional/situational factor that contributes to the “desire to be thin,” as well as the need to stuff one’s emotions—a.k.a. to binge eat.
The devil inside our heads plays such a role in every aspect of our lives. Back then, the story inside my head was that I was only worthy if I was thin, if the number on the scale went down every day, and during my divorce I remember only feeling beautiful if my ribs were showing. Looking back, this makes me so sad to think I felt this way.
Since then, I have grown immensely. I truly feel this is what contributes to my passion to help and serve others. After living the hell first-hand, you can really connect and relate to the individual you work with, and you can truly instil hope for change.
In addition to weight-loss struggles, I have struggled with depression and anxiety for many years. I feel that so many individuals struggle with this at some point in their lives, and the symptoms can be detrimental to their careers, their relationships, and their health. I am equally as passionate about helping individuals overcome depression and anxiety as I am about weight loss. Often my clients struggle with all of the above.
I truly love what I do. I love seeing my clients experience the changes I’ve been through. I love watching them evolve from feeling insecure, anxious and unhappy to feeling confident, relaxed and loving themselves from the inside out.
What do balance and well-being mean to you?
I could write a whole book about this! I feel that in order to maintain your well-being, you must have balance. The two just go together. I think we can all relate when I say that when one area of your life is out of balance, you don’t feel well.
I do believe that being in balance is different for each individual. For me, I feel in balance when my time is dispersed appropriately between my career, my family, my health (mental and physical), as well as leaving time for personal care, including time to “just be,” with no prior engagements, no responsibility and pure silence. When one of these is out of balance, my well-being is definitely compromised, I feel stressed, fatigued and completely out of sorts.
I believe that when a person is living their life based on their true values and they are living life with true authenticity, they have well-being. When our actions become out of line with what we value, we become distressed and unwell. In my practice, I see a lot of distress coming directly from this. Clients know what they value. However, their actions don’t always align with those values.
An example of this is someone who values health. I have women who want to start their families soon, and they want to be healthy and strong not only to bear their children, but also to play an active, healthy role in their children’s lives. These women come to me feeling distressed because they can’t stick to a healthy diet, and they have no motivation to do any physical activity. The distress comes from being out of line with what they value. Together, we work to increase that motivation, develop an action plan, and then work together to keep that accountability and get them back to feeling well.
Tell us something about yourself many might not know—a fun fact, interesting perspective, or entertaining story.
I think I’ll go with a little mindset work here. To anyone out there who lives in the limiting belief that they can’t do something, that their cards weren’t dealt right, or that they aren’t worthy or good enough to achieve their dreams, it’s total BS!
Let go of any belief that you are a victim, and choose victory instead.
Don’t let the devil inside your head tell you anything else besides how capable and worthy you are. No matter where you’ve been, no matter what your past looks like, the future can be anything you want it to be.
Connect to your dream and your purpose every day.
Focus on serving your client, and the money will follow.
Whatever you want from life, just ask. The universe will deliver (careful what you wish for).
This column was submitted as part of BWB Wednesdays.
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