Precision Nutrition coach: Kate Solovieva | Precision Nutrition

Coach Kate Solovieva
Precision Nutrition Coaching

By John Berardi, Ph.D.

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I work with them every day; so I know how awesome Precision Nutrition’s coaches really are.

Today you get to meet one of them, Kate Solovieva. This way you can find out too.

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For the multi-talented and dynamic Kate Solovieva, “Every year has a theme, a focus, a word. You can’t really force the theme. It emerges, appears, comes naturally, like a pet name.”

Like her own nickname, perhaps: SOLO.

Solo, for her surname. Solo, for the independence she had to show early in life, as an immigrant kid from Siberia who switched schools more times than she could count. Solo, for her sport of obstacle racing, and for her meditative practice of yoga. Solo, for the way she loves to travel. Solo, for the solitude required to support her twin loves of reading and writing, and for the reflection that fosters personal growth.

“My life mission?”

“I try to be like a fairy godmother”, she laughs. “I won’t clean the floor FOR you, but I will show up and sprinkle a bit of magic when you need it most.”

“I want to help people to be more awesome. Whatever that means for them. In coaching, that happens one-to-one. In teaching, it’s one-to-many. And in writing, it’s one-to-the-world.”

She pauses to crack a mischievous smile. “Maybe even one-to-infinity,” she adds.

Her life’s work, in other words, is all about helping others find their own strengths, their own light, their own way.

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Yet she needed to connect authentically with herself before she could connect authentically with others and help them do the same.

“They say that people come into your life for a reason, for a season, or for a lifetime. I don’t know if I believe that. After all, no one is in your life for a lifetime. We may meet a life partner at some point. Friendships may come and go.”

“Well, no one except… YOU”, she cocks her head thoughtfully. “The relationship you have with yourself is truly the only one that you have for a lifetime. Might as well make it a good one”.

Kate’s journey began in the former Soviet Union, where she was born.

She grew up in Siberia. The winters started in November and did not end until March.

Her mother, an English teacher by trade, stayed at home, raising Kate and her younger brother. Kate started learning English at the tender age of 6.

“I hated it,” Kate laughs. “For as long as I could remember, I had regular homework and English homework from my mom. So unfair!”

But in retrospect, those hours of study turned out to be a blessing, giving Kate the linguistic foundation she’d need in her future home.

Her family immigrated to Canada in 1998. With major financial and political crises unfolding and inflation running rampant, the mood in Russia was quite grim. “Many, many people were trying to leave,” Kate says. “We sold everything for pennies and just took off. My father left two weeks early to find us a place to live and we followed.”

Kate was fifteen when her family came to Canada.

Acclimatization was tough. She missed her friends. As her family moved, she had to switch schools.

“In Russia, kids normally stay from first grade all the way through high school in the same building,” she says. “So what was happening to me was very different from what I’d grown up to expect.”

It was confusing and alienating. “High schools can be so cliquey”, she shrugs. “It was like everyone has made friends already by the time I showed up. There were no vacancies”.

But being on the outside taught Kate self-reliance.

And perhaps it laid the seeds for her later graduate work in psychology — on topics of resilience and proactive coping.

Why do some people collapse in the face of stressors, while others manage to find something positive even in the most trying life events? What conditions make it possible, or easier, for people to improve their lives? And what can people do to ensure continued growth and development?

These were the questions that Kate explored, as she continued her studies, first at the University of Waterloo, and then at York University in Toronto, where she completed her graduate degree.

Bright, focused, and determined, with hard work she eventually overcame the many obstacles in her path – the cultural barriers, the loneliness, the constant moving.

In fact, she emerged as an academic star, becoming a teacher and professor of psychology.

At one point, she even taught in the very same classroom at the University of Waterloo, where she was once a student.

“Talk about coming full circle!” she says. There, she saw the same desks, the same chalkboards, the same windows, the same view — except now she was standing at the front of the room instead of sitting and taking notes. For an intelligent, curious, and book-loving person, this was a dream come true.

Yet, on its own, she came to understand, it wasn’t enough. Because her years of struggle may have taken a toll — but they’d also fostered a love of challenge and adventure. And over the long term, a life in academia might have stifled that.

That venturesome streak is what drove Kate to trek through India for six months in 2011.

At twenty-seven, she had never travelled extensively on her own before. Yet on the road, surrounded by new experiences, her “inner adrenaline junkie” thrived.

“I joined a mountaineering expedition to the Himalayas, summiting three peaks. I rode a motorcycle. I bungee jumped and skydived.” She also wandered, practiced yoga, soaked up the sights.

She was learning the joy of testing her physical and emotional limits. And she was proud of what she was achieving.

Meanwhile, travelling alone, she found opportunities to get to know people in a way that might not have been possible in the midst of a group.

People like Jojo, the teenage rickshaw driver in Jaipur, who confided to Kate as they rattled down the dusty street that she was his first customer in ten days.

Jojo didn’t own the vehicle, so most of his meagre earnings went to his boss for rent.

“He had saved 20,000 rupees to buy it out, but needed another 5,000 ($125),” she says.

$125 — the cost of a fancy dinner in North America — could buy a young man self-sufficiency and autonomy. Could buy him the hope of a future. The thought got hold of Kate and wouldn’t let her go.

So, despite the fact that she was travelling and far from anyone she knew, she immediately reached out via the Internet, canvassing her widespread circle of friends and acquaintances for small donations.

Within a day, the funds that Jojo needed were in her hands.

“I received money in four currencies, from at least five countries. It came from my best friends, acquaintances, fellow travellers and even people I’ve never met.”

And presenting it to Jojo gave her one of her biggest thrills in a journey filled to bursting with peak moments.

“That trip changed me,” she adds. “I wasn’t a tourist anymore. I became a traveller.”

Not only that, but a fellow traveller. She’d made a concrete contribution to another person’s life, helping him transcend a difficult set of circumstances.

“It was one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.”

Back in North America, Kate resumed teaching.

She set up her first real home. She began to put more energy into her personal relationships. And she also did something a bit unexpected.

She signed up for Precision Nutrition coaching.

She wasn’t obese. She wasn’t even terribly overweight. But, stunned by the sight of a friend who’d successfully completed PN coaching program, she recognized that she wasn’t feeling good about herself in some ways —and she wanted to do something about it.

Like most clients, she expected she would lose a few pounds. “You know. ‘Tone up’ a bit. That’s what I thought I wanted.”

As it turned out, she actually wanted something deeper, and something more.

“I came to lose a little weight. And maybe to learn how to eat a little better. But the program made me into an athlete,” she says.

Even now, there’s a note of surprise and pride in her voice.

“Coaching set me on a path of self-discovery.”

Her trip to India may have been the catalyst. But now, with the guidance of a strong mentor and the support of some caring communities, she embarked on a very different kind of journey.

“I did something crazy,” starts the first entry in the blog that Kate started in mid-2012, part way through her year of Precision Nutrition coaching.

She had just signed up for the 2013 Spartan Death Race.

From 2009 on, Kate had been participating in various endurance sports. And over the years –particularly during her trip to India——her joy in testing her own limits had only grown.

But now, supported by her PN coach, her teammates, and other friends, she got more serious, committing herself in print to an exceptionally challenging goal — one that only 15% of competitors attain.

“This race is a 48+ hour event that is created to break you physically, mentally, and emotionally,” says the blurb on the race website.

Making their way through an unmarked course in the Vermont woods, participants undergo a series of grueling mental and physical provocations.  This might include chopping wood for hours; carrying a 20-lb stump for miles; hauling many pounds of rocks; building a fire; memorizing lists of American presidents (and reciting them back after climbing a mountain); crawling under barbed wire in the mud — and cutting a bushel of onions. For time.

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Training for an event like this takes careful planning, strategy, and structure.

Kate threw herself into the process with her characteristic determination and verve, reporting on her progress on the blog that over time became much more than a simple diary.

She had always enjoyed writing, but now she turned to it with renewed enthusiasm — trying out poems, authoring a magazine article, taking classes. And her blog evolved into an important creative outlet —a place to reflect, to play with words and imagery, to make sense of the changes she was undergoing, and to plan.

Ultimately, it also became the place where she could pay public acknowledgement to her biggest obstacle — and the deeper reason she’d sought coaching —her relationship with food.

“I’ve never really thought about it, growing up”, she says. “There was a lot of focus on appearance, but it was part of the culture. It seemed totally normal”.

“I never felt threatened if someone called me an idiot,” she adds. “The insult did not sting, because I knew it was not true. But if they made a comment about my body… ”

Even a well-meaning comment could send her into a downward spiral. “I did not wear tank tops or sleeveless shirts for few years, because I was so self-conscious about my arms”, she confesses.

Food made her feel better, yet terrified of gaining weight, she began to purge. She’d eat to fullness —and way past fullness — and then make herself throw up. It seemed like a perfect solution. Everything was under control.

What did it feel like? “Suffocating darkness. And then hollow emptiness,” she says.

Every purge felt the same. The cold of the toilet bowl, the towel carefully folded to protect her knees from the hard floor. And most of all, the deep shame.

Still, she didn’t do it very often. So she told herself it wasn’t really a problem. It wasn’t “enough of a problem”. “I felt like I couldn’t even do an eating disorder right”, she smiles sadly.

Her wake-up call came a few months before she signed up for PN coaching. She had been to a party — where, as sometimes happened, she had eaten “too much.”

She rushed home, desperately trying not to speed, as she drove on a snowy road. “I couldn’t wait to replace the heavy burden in my stomach with emptiness. To substitute one pain for another.”

Before going to bed, she pulled her trusty DSM-IV off the shelf. This book, otherwise known as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, is the psychologist’s bible. She opened the section on Eating Disorders.

Skimming the page, she realized that she now met the diagnostic criteria for Bulimia Nervosa.

And something clicked.

This was one obstacle race that couldn’t be a solo effort.

She’d been trying on her own for too long. Now, more than ever, she was racing for her health. She needed to stop denying that she had a problem. And she needed a team to support her.

PN coaching gave Kate the tools she needed to face and overcome her challenges with food.

As the year went on, she continued her workouts and her training. She sought therapy. She began to feel stronger. And, as a lover of bucket lists, she noted a secret goal: To go one entire year without purging.

A year later Kate met that goal.

“I took a day off work, and stayed in bed bawling my eyes out,” she confesses.

In some ways, it was the toughest challenge she had ever faced. Tougher than a Tough Mudder. Even tougher than the Spartan Death Race.

She made it official in another year, “coming out” about her history of disordered eating on her blog.

“I’ve struggled with the idea,” she says of this courageous step. “At first I thought that I needed to be 100% ‘fixed’ to talk about it.”

But ultimately she saw that disordered eating exists on a continuum. Many people struggle with it at different times throughout their lives. And part of why it exerts such a powerful hold on them is the shame they feel.

“Coming out” was her way of trying to banish that shame — for herself, and for others.

These days, she can safely keep a jar of peanut butter in her house. “I probably eat peanut butter every day”, she laughs. It’s a tribute to how far she’s come — eating what used to be a trigger food “normally”.

But she still not a fan of all-you-can-eat buffet tables. And she does not keep chips in the house.

In short, her experience is just like many of her clients’.

“I’ve been there. I can relate. I know what this is like.”

And she knows that going “solo” isn’t the answer.

Instead, recovery from any form of disordered eating involves identifying and managing triggers, practicing self-compassion, and reaching out for community and support.

Now, in her role as a PN coach, Kate offers that support to others.

Sharing their load. Shining a light. And clearing the obstacles away.

She is a racer. A writer. A traveller. But, first and foremost, she is a coach. A fairy godmother. And she’s on your side, all the way.

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