This week we explore one person’s journey from 300 lbs to an inspirational fitness coach. Coach Ry shares how shedding her extra pounds helped in increasing her self-esteem and gave her the strength to help others find their path to optimal health.
Episode 68: Losing Pounds, Gaining Confidence
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Welcome to Supplementing Health, a podcast presented by Advanced Orthomolecular Research. We are all about applying evidence based and effective dietary lifestyle and natural health product strategies for your optimal health. In each episode, we will feature very engaging clinicians and experts from the world of functional and naturopathic medicine to help achieve our mission to empower people to lead their best lives naturally.
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[01:08] Cassy Price: Thanks for tuning into Supplementing Health. Obesity rates in North America are on the rise with roughly two thirds of all adults being overweight or obese. Once a part of this statistic, today’s guest is no stranger to the struggles that come with finding your way to a healthier path. Cindi Ryan-Lim, or Coach Ry, joins us today to discuss her journey to health and how that has led her to guiding so many others to find their passion for wellness. Welcome Cindi, thanks for joining me today.
[01:33] Cindi Ryan-Lim: Thanks for having me, thank you.
[01:35] Cassy Price: Everyone’s health and wellness journey is unique and I would love to know where you were at when you decided that something had to change for you and you started on this path to wellness?
[01:45] Cindi Ryan-Lim: Absolutely, I started my fitness journey back in 2007 when I was still in nursing school. At 310lbs, I was the heaviest I had ever been, and I was depressed and constantly sick and in pain and my asthma was uncontrollable and at one point in that spring, I had caught pneumonia and it almost killed me. That was my big wakeup call that I needed to do something about this, or I am not going to be seeing 40.
[02:11] Cassy Price: I can see that. So, then where did you start? What did you do to get started?
[02:17] Cindi Ryan-Lim: Honestly for me, after that big scare, I went to our college’s gym, which is at WVU. So, I started going to the gym there and started watching what other people were doing and I fell in love with weightlifting. Through weightlifting I was able to build the muscle that I needed to actually burn that fat. From there I found rugby, I found cross fit along with weightlifting, I had dabbled in several different things since then. The start of it, I just walked into a gym one day and instead of having that preconceived notion of it being full of bros and all these skinny girls that already know what they are doing, there were other people like me who are trying to start their fitness journey, that was really comforting for me.
[03:04] Cassy Price: Yeah, for sure. So, did you set yourself a specific goal when you started or was it just about feeling better?
[03:10] Cindi Ryan-Lim: Initially I had in my mind that I was going to lose 50 lbs so I could take some of the stress off from lungs and my joints but like I said the more I trained the more I fell in love with it and that 50 turned into 100 which eventually led to this 170 lbs that I have lost in total.
[03:30] Cassy Price: So, once you got started, how long did it take you to get to the point where you felt comfortable enough to start helping others on their journeys?
[03:40] Cindi Ryan-Lim: I would say once I got to the competitive level in most of my sports. By that point I had already lost the bulk of my weight, I had been weightlifting and at least training for excess capacity for at least six or seven years at that point and the more that I trained the more I knew that I wanted to do it as a career. So, it started out with rugby coaching because that is what was closest to me at the time but that eventually led to me getting my cross fit level one, getting a weightlifting cert and eventually getting my NASM which also led to all of these other certs which allows me to be able to run my gym in the capacity that I do today.
[04:18] Cassy Price: Do you still compete in different sports today?
[04:23] Cindi Ryan-Lim: Not recently. With Covid of course there was a lot of things that got shut down. We did have a spartan team that I was part of and the captain of, but we had to put it on the back burner. Right now, I am just training to train just to be ready for everything when things are more open, and things are a lot more certain for dates and training and things but I also just enjoy being able to train to be a good role model for my clients.
[04:47] Cassy Price: That’s fantastic. So, what would you say was the biggest obstacle that you had to overcome in getting to where you are now?
[04:56] Cindi-Ryan-Lim: Honestly, it was my own mindset. I remember being in a place of self-loathing. I see that in a lot of my clients. I wasn’t a stranger to that. Being able to get past my own inner monologue and inner demons to get to a place where I realize that I am deserving of this. I deserve a healthy lifestyle. I deserve to love myself. That was one of the hardest things that I had to do.
[05:27] Cassy Price: What kind of techniques did you use to get past that?
[05:32] Cindi Ryan-Lim: Honestly, I went to therapy. Therapy changed my life. There is no shame in asking for help. We all have our trauma, and we all have our demons, and being able to find constructive ways to cope and having these mechanisms in place to where I don’t fall back into that spiralling and I don’t fall back into those habits that got me to that 310 lbs in the first place was very key to my success.
[05:58] Cassy Price: Do you incorporate therapy or different therapeutic techniques into your training with your clients or do you recommend that they go and find another practitioner for something like that?
[06:08] Cindi Ryan-Lim: I am always a big advocate of mental health and finding that mental health, whether that is through me or through somebody else. I feel that I also have this ability to connect with my clients because I have been there. I know what is like walking into the gym for the first time, I know what it is like not knowing what you are doing but you are doing it anyway. I understand and I come from that place of understanding. As a good coach to, you should be in touch with your client. You should know if they are having an off day. You should know the mental thing that they are dealing with because the more you know the more you can help that client.
[06:47] Cassy Price: Do you find the mental space or obstacles the biggest challenge that your clients have or is there something else that you regularly see coming up?
[06:56] Cindi Ryan-Lim: It’s definitely mindset. It is the largest part about it. If we are not in the right mindset, we can’t put our heart into it. A lot of this is realizing that we need that self-love, and we can no longer repeat the lies, that even the adults in our lives, have told us and failed us or that we have personally conditioned ourselves to believe.
[07:22] Cassy Price: So, you mentioned that you were training as a nurse when you started on this journey. Do you find that medical training has helped you in this career and helping your clients get to where they need to be?
[07:33] Cindi Ryan-Lim: Oh, my goodness, absolutely. That means physiology may have ruined my summer that one semester, but it definitely gave me a great understanding of how the body works. That really came in handy when I started studying for these extra certifications. I was still working a day job as a nurse while I was starting out my fitness career and then I would stay up all night studying anything I could get my hands on but because I had such a good understanding already of how the body works and how hormones and even things with medication for people with pre-existing conditions when they come to me, like metabolic syndrome, hypertension, diabetes, those kinds of things. I have a really good grasp on how to attack that while the client also feels safe because I do have that background.
[08:20] Cassy Price: So, would you say there is anything that you have learned over the years as a coach that you wish you would have known when you started?
[08:28] Cindi Ryan-Lim: Honestly, I really wished that I knew that being myself was the biggest key to my success. I have a trainer development program and one of the things that they typically want to know when they start with me and they see my full schedule is “how did you do it?” I spent years in a career that was unfulfilling and trying to fit into this mould of society that I just simply didn’t fit in. The one thing that I had to learn was that this is okay. I have a coach that would always remind me before any competition, any heavy lift, anything where I was really trying to get out of my own head, he would always say “remember you are trained, and you do you.” Those words, as simple as they are, have really resonated with me in my journey as well as my own client’s journey because I can now say I am proud of who I am, unapologetically. I am proud to be in a place that I can openly talk about my journey and had I realized this earlier in life I could have definitely started this amazing journey sooner and started doing something that was super fulfilling to me.
[09:30] Cassy Price: So, jumping back a little bit to the mental health piece, you have kind of alluded to it a lot throughout the conversation. A lot of people that have mental health issues deal with addiction, and usually when people think of addiction, they think of either eating disorders or substance abuse, but there is for some people almost an addiction to sports and activities. Do you notice that in your clients, that it helps them fuel that need for something and replaces sometimes an alternative addiction?
[10:09] Cindi Ryan-Lim: It can but also a good coach will recognise that from the get-go, that this person does have a tendency to use these things as a coping mechanism to such an extreme that it does become unhealthy and being able to openly talk to my clients about this. My clients know that everything is an open book. There is 100% transparency in everything. They know that if they hide something from me, I cannot fully help them, and they know I am going to find out anyway. So, being able to talk about these things openly and as a coach being able to recognize “hey, you probably shouldn’t be pulling double sessions as often, let’s talk about why you feel like you have to do this” before it becomes a physical issue more than a mental issue.
[10:55] Cassy Price: So, then, what role does rest and recovery play in the whole process of getting to that healthier space?
[11:04] Cindi Ryan-Lim: It is very important. Just like being in that right mindset, if your body isn’t prepared to train then you have already set yourself up for failure. Those days are needed in order to recover and heal, not just physically but also mentally. We work 40 hours plus a week, we sit in traffic, we sit at desks, we come home and have all these things that we have to do in our day to day lives, so being able to recognize “yeah, I am doing these things and I am training for me, but I have all these other things outside of training that I also have to take care of.” Being able to recognize that you also need that one hour a day to take for you, for you to do what is important to you, what makes you smile, what helps you relax and those things. I am even guilty of that at times. As a small business owner, my wife and I work very hard we work really long hours, but we also have to take that time to take a step back and say “yeah, I need a day to rest and get my mind back at it so I can continue giving so much of myself to my clients.”
[12:10] Cassy Price: So, then when you are working with your clients and making sure that they are getting all of the support that they need, besides the rest and recovery, diet and nutrition is also a huge part of you trying to hit certain fitness goals, do you recommend a specific diet for your customers or does that fluctuate depending on the season they are in, in life and the goals that they are trying to hit?
[12:30] Cindi Ryan-Lim: It is definitely based per client because I am a big believer that there is not just one copy paste formula for everyone. Everyone is different. Everybody has different metabolisms. Different hormonal levels. Different activity levels. When they come to me and they are looking for nutrition advice I definitely take a look at what they are already eating and then we typically find one or two things that are small to change but those small changes over time make very big results. There is not really one that I would specifically recommend for the masses but I do feel that it is important to take that time, especially in the beginning, like have it on paper about what we are eating and what we are putting into our bodies because sometimes we don’t even realize what we are putting into our body is that bad until we have it right there in front of us and being able to take it apart for that client so they can get to their goals the best was possible is super important.
[13:31] Cassy Price: There is a lot of debate around restrictive diets verses a Mediterranean style or a keto, there are so many trendy diets, if you will. Do you tend to pull parameters from those different diets, or do you follow a more intuitive plan for people? How do you go about crafting those suggestions for your clients?
[13:56] Cindi Ryan-Lim: I hate the word diet. Honestly. I feel that diets are meant to be temporary and if we are going on this journey of creating a lifestyle of better health and wellness, we have to be able to change our relationship with food. Finding a diet that is sustainable for a client, meaning they are getting all of their macros, they are getting their fuel sources from the right places, they are getting all of their vitamins and nutrients, that is much more important than putting someone on a fad diet and watching them lose all this weight and then put it back on and then some and do permanent damage to their metabolism because they are not getting their fuel from the right sources.
[14:36] Cassy Price: Speaking of metabolism. Do you incorporate things like hormone levels and some of those more medical aspects into your training with your nursing background?
[14:17] Cindi Ryan-Lim: We definitely take it into account. We know that men of course have more testosterone, biological women eventually hit menopause and different levels of hormones change but we don’t have anything as of yet that will do testing or anything like that. That is like my big vision. One day to have a doctor on site who will be able to clinically give people workout plans based on their needs down to their serum of their blood.
[15:15] Cassy Price: Yeah, I think it is really cool area. There is so much amazing research coming out in that area, especially for women because historically speaking women’s training plans have been very much based on men’s research, right?
[15:28] Cindi Ryan-Lim: Even all men aren’t created equal, and a lot of these plans are for people who build really well. You see these guys online or on Instagram or on TikTok and they are doing these crazy things and they are all beefed out. The masses, the typical general gym goer, doesn’t necessarily understand that these people have taken thirty takes for that one video, that their diet is measured to the microgram, that these people have a whole team of people helping take care of them and being able to show people that you can have these attainable goals but there are also certain things that you have to do to be able to take care of yourself for the long term, because no matter your gender, because it is not as simple as gender. We know that everybody’s hormones are different. Everybody is built different. People are prone to build strength or to build muscle easier or lose fat easier. It is really based on the person. As much as our current research for exercise is male dominated and male based, when we boil down to it at the end of the day, everybody is different. We have to approach each client as a clean slate, no matter their gender, their background, no matter anything. That is the fun part because then you get to figure all this stuff out.
[16:44] Cassy Price: Yeah, absolutely. Do you find that there is a bit of trial and error with new clients as you figure out what works for them and motivates them, that sort of stuff?
[16:52] Cindi Ryan-Lim: Absolutely. I’m fully disclaimer when people start, “here is the plan that I think is the best plan for you, but I am not always right.” We then also discuss other possibilities there as well. We like to think about every possibility there could be. When I talk to my key clients especially because I want to ease their mind because I am thinking about that long term. Again, this journey is not just going to happen in a month or two. You are talking months and months of dedication of time and effort that you are putting into this journey and being able to show our clients from the get-go that you are interested in their wellbeing and everything throughout every aspect of this journey definitely is a big help. If we did have to change something along the way then it is not that big a deal because they already knew “hey, this might not work but here are some other options that definitely will.”
[17:45] Cassy Price: What do you do when a client comes to you and is looking for that quick fix? How do you help them see the light, if you will, in the fact that you need to put the work in to get the results?
[17:56] Cindi Ryan-Lim: I definitely share my experiences. I remember getting frustrated along my journey because I wanted it to happen really quickly. I quickly found out then that it doesn’t. It is also important for the trainer to understand that this is also a journey that you are going on with this client. Being able to talk to them in the long term of everything will help them. Setting realistic goals over time is definitely something. We get clients that come in and they definitely can’t squat. They can’t move over head. We do a lot of therapeutic services as well as weight loss and strength building. Seeing a client finally understand that this is really a longer journey and being able to push them past that mental threshold of that is really rewarding but it does take a little bit of time sometimes and just really a lot of patience on our end and a lot of encouragement and really reminding them that Rome wasn’t built in a day. It did not take you a single month to get to where you are right now. It is going to take some time to be able to get to a better healthier place.
[19:10] Cassy Price: So, if there was one piece of advice that you would give to someone who has not yet taken the leap into their path to wellness, what would it be?
[19:21] Cindi Ryan-Lim: Just jump. Just do it. Don’t wait any longer. Just start as soon as possible. Start today. It is a scary jump. You are at the edge of this cliff and you just can’t see anything and it is all dark and you have no idea what is beneath these clouds at the top of this cliff. You have to trust that you are going to fall into the right place with the right kind of people who will help you. I wasn’t self-made. I did put in all that hard work, but I definitely couldn’t have done it without the support of those that I had around me, my friends, my family, my coaches, and people like you honestly who just want to hear my story. It is the same thing for my clients. Being able to find a community and find people who do deeply care about your goals and your ambitions and your needs and your wants within your own fitness journey is definitely a big component to a lot of my client’s success.
[20:16] Cassy Price: So, what would you say has been the most rewarding piece of this journey for you?
[20:22] Cindi Ryan-Lim: Definitely just being able to come full circle with everything. I now own a gym that prides itself on inclusivity and the kind of care that you get when you walk through our door. Being able to help people who didn’t quite love themselves or are struggling with their image or their identity. Our gym is openly LGBT owned and friendly. We are a big safe space in San Diego and we really pride ourselves on that. Being able to see this community built from just two people, my wife and I, is amazing. I am forever humbled and inspired by my gym and my client’s journey.
[21:13] Cassy Price: Is your wife a coach as well?
[21:15] Cindi Ryan-Lim: Yes, she is. She does group fitness as well as some of our online stuff. She actually is currently working toward her NASM certification to do personal training.
[21:16] Cassy Price: Cool. Fantastic. So, if listeners wanted to work with you or get a hold of you, is your website the best way to go about that?
[21:34] Cindi Ryan-Lim: Absolutely. You can look on our website. It is www.theexperiencefitness.com. We also have a very active Instagram and Facebook and both of those are @theexperiencefitness.
[21:48] Cassy Price: Fantastic. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your story with me toady and chat with me. I really appreciate it. I think it is something that so many people are currently struggling with or can relate to. We have all had our own ups and downs when it comes to health, whether it be you yourself or a loved one that you know, so I think it is really great to hear other people’s journey’s and where it has taken them and like you were saying community. You are never alone in this.
[22:13] Cindi Ryan-Lim: Absolutely. No, you are never alone. If you feel like you are alone then you are not in the right place. One of my favourite sayings is that ‘if a flower isn’t growing in it’s garden, change the garden, not the flower.’ For me it was moving out to California and being able to show people out here that there is a different way of doing things and other people seeing my vision.
[22:38] Cassy Price: That’s fantastic. Again, I really appreciate you taking the time to chat with me. Thank you so much for joining me today.
[22:44] Cindi Ryan-Lim: Thank you very much.
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Thank you for listening to Supplementing Health. For more information about our guests, past shows, and future topics, please visit AOR.ca/podcasts or AOR.us/podcasts. Do you have a topic you want us to cover? We invite you to engage with us on social media to request a future topic or email us at [email protected]. We hope you tune in again next week to learn more about supplementing your health.
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