When you meet transformational nutritionist Cynthia Pasquella, you cannot help but notice that she's gorgeous. And, politically incorrect as it might be to mention it, that's actually a very germane part of her story.
"Do people think it comes really easy for you?" I ask her. "After all, I imagine you work with a lot of people who have been struggling with their weight for a long time. Do they look at you and think to themselves, ‘She's probably never struggled with weight, or sadness, or rejection, or cravings a day in her life.
How can she possibly understand me?'"
Her response is a lesson in why you should never jump to conclusions based on appearance. Because it didn't come easy for Pasquella. Far from it. "I came from a very abusive background," she says. "My parents lost a 2-year-old son before I was born. They were angry. They came from families with a long line of abuse, and they passed the tradition on. I was sexually abused. I was addicted to drugs. I had horrible acne. And I was about 30 pounds heavier."
By her early 20s, she was a physical and emotional wreck who contemplated suicide. Then something happened. She hit rock bottom. And, in a miraculous moment that people who hit rock bottom sometimes experience, she decided to climb back up. "I decided that suicide and all that wasn't something that happened to me-it happened for me," she says. "It started me on my path back to health."
Pasquella's way back to health-not just physically, but mentally and spiritually-came via nutrition. Which is precisely why she calls her work Transformational Nutrition. "I realized that nutrition was just the beginning, and that to really create a happy life in which you're at peace with your body and with yourself, you have to do so much more than just follow a diet," she says. "I know from my own personal experience how painful it can be to buy into the whole perfection thing," she explains, adding that following a diet just to fit into a bathing suit or snag a partner never makes you happy. And people rarely stick with these kinds of diets for long. "The question isn't so much knowing what to eat," she says. "The question is more what stops people from doing what they know they ought to do.
"I like to play the ‘I wonder' game with clients," she continues. "I wonder why you ate that pint of ice cream. I wonder what you were feeling.'"
Pasquella is quick to point out that she does not accuse her clients. "There's no, ‘Why didn't you listen to me?' No ‘Don't you know how bad that food is?' Just unconditional acceptance, genuine curiosity, and a desire to understand how we sabotage our own goals," she says. And there is a commitment to empower the people she works with so that they can get out of their own way and experience their own magnificence.
Finding Your Magnificence
It's a magnificence Pasquella believes every one of us has inside, if we could only stop sabotaging ourselves. "We're constantly outsourcing our nutrition," she says. "Everyone says, ‘Just tell me what to eat,' and from there it's just a short step to ‘Just tell me what to do,' or ‘Just tell me who to be'! And we get so busy trying to be what they say we should be that we don't remember who we really are. We forget about the greatness we have inside us. And when we forget who we are," she adds, "we become very hungry."
"Hungry for what?" I ask her.
"For compassion. For connection. For love and appreciation. We want to feel like we matter," she says. "The diet books aren't the problem. We are the problem. And the solution lies in finding out what we're really hungry for."
Cynthia Pasquella trains and certifies health professionals at the Institute of Transformational Nutrition. For more information go to cynthiapasquella.com.