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Thankfully life doesn't always go according to plan

11th April 2019

We all face life’s troubles to varying degrees, and they can manifest themselves as excuses for not exercising or eating well. Through my life’s journey, I’ve learned that nutrition, strength, determination, and change are four elements needed to focus on the end goal while conquering the difficulties. My story is by no means exceptional, but it shows how you can use life’s successes and hardships to skip the excuses and push forward to a consistent training program.


At 7-years-old I was on top of the world! After months of practice, demos, and corrections by one of the most famous gymnastics trainers in Moscow, I had finally succeeded in doing a full handstand on the crossbeam. I LOVED the competition and was already pushing myself to become an Olympic athlete. I was lucky to have learned determination through sports at a young age: discipline, ambition, turning the impossible into a world of possibility. For me participating in sports has always been an escape from life’s troubles. The competition brought the powerful taste of success.

What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger

A few months later and my family was thousands of miles away, in a whole new world. I looked out of the window of our new home, a 6th-floor apartment in Tel Aviv, and saw a ‘’Scud’’ missile fly past. My mother told my brother and me that we were at war with a country called Iraq. “Why?” I asked. “We just arrived in our new country and haven’t done anything wrong.” My mother said, ‘’Don’t worry. Everything will be ok. We have the strength to deal with it.’’

The next few years weren’t easy. As an immigrant, you struggle to keep your identity, while also learning how to make it on your own in a whole new reality. I continued my gymnastics practice as I learned to assimilate to a new culture and a new way of life. We weren’t able to afford a gymnastics instructor, so I had already given up my dream of Olympic glory (even though I didn’t realize it then). For my mother, the relative ease of life in Moscow turned into a struggle to raise two kids through financial hardships. I truly learned the power of mental strength watching my mother work day and night, break down and still push forward. Her singular goal was to feed her children, and through some great well of strength, she always found the courage to continue. And although it was difficult, she never failed us.

At 20-years-old, in the last weeks of my military service, I was deeply motivated, feeling mentally tough and filled with determination to get a higher education so that I could become a financially secure, strong, independent woman. Over the next 7 years I toiled through any job I could find, often working more than one at a time, so I could afford to pay for my education on my own. My only goal was to get a good job, something I felt would eventually bring contentment. I excelled through various academic degrees, but I was so focused on the individual goal – not failing my courses – that I had lost track of the whole picture. I stopped working out and playing sports, stopped eating and sleeping right – the things that actually made my body feel good. Sometimes I’d wonder, “When will this all be over?” I had simply stopped living.

When I finished my MBA, I was in one of the transition periods between jobs, meaning unemployment, but I’d been interviewing and was waiting on a call from a prospective employer – one of the dream jobs I’d been working towards all those years. The call finally came and the words he said pushed me beyond my threshold, once and for all: “We’ve decided to go with another candidate.” I was reeling! All that time and effort. All those years of work when I thought I was playing the game correctly, and it hadn’t gotten me anywhere but exhausted and out of shape.

But I had finally turned the corner – this last breakdown was the change I needed to push me from a feeling of powerlessness to limitless strength and willpower. My decision to change began my journey to build myself according to what I wanted physically and professionally, a refusal to fit into a premade box. I became empowered with the realization that my years of study, sports education, and life experience weren’t for nothing. As a sports nutritionist and strength coach, I could use them to forge my own path, build myself back up, and help others. I combined my science background, years of training knowledge, almost 20 years of overcoming daily struggles by myself and a retapped well of strength to create a personalized program designed for life – with all of its hardships, unexpected twists and turns, and accomplishments big and small.

With renewed determination, I dove into my own nutrition and training program, surpassing goal after goal, and began to pick up clients. One of the first: the woman who had given me everything, who’d carried me all those years. Six months into her program, my mother went to her doctor for a routine exam. When she walked in the door the doctor was shocked. Since her last visit, she’d lost 15 kilos and her cholesterol levels had returned to a normal range. “How did you do it?” he asked. “What’s gotten into you?”


“My daughter’s gotten into me,” she said.



Much like the beginnings of our life in Israel, following the nutrition and training guidelines I’d set for her hadn’t been easy: daily challenges and consistency issues that we all need help with, regular motivation, and a reminder to make herself a priority. But she soon learned to tackle them one by one and was amazed at how quickly she reached her goals. My life experiences (and my mother’s) help me relate to the struggles of my clients. No matter country, origin, or financial status, unfortunately, we can all reach a point where we lose strength and, like dominoes, everything comes crashing down.

My last 11 years as a nutritionist and strength coach have taught me that people don’t need another professional who will lecture them on what food is unhealthy or scold them for not working out enough. People will listen when you lead by example.


Orit Tsaitlin