Finally Free Program Encourages Intuitive Eating, Diet Ditching

Taylor Starek

The concept of intuitive eating is having a bit of a moment in the wellness community, but Simi Botic, a Columbus-based holistic health coach, is sure it's more than a trend.

So sure, in fact, that she teamed up with fellow coach Paige Schmidt to launch Finally Free, a virtual program based on the principles of intuitive eating, to help women ditch diets and repair their relationship with food.

"We've lived this stuff," she says. "And we know first hand how [Finally Free] can just totally transform how women live their lives. It definitely has for us."

The program consists of 12 video-based sessions surrounding topics such as understanding hunger, enjoying exercise and freeing yourself from restrictive diets. As a member of the Finally Free community, you'll have access to Botic and Schmidt, too, as well as encouragement from other members.

We talked with Botic, who also runs the blog The Micro Harvest, about why she wanted to launch Finally Free and what she hopes women draw from it.

The program, priced at $497, is available at finallyfreeprogram.com through Sept. 14.

What made you want to launch Finally Free?

I'm a holistic health coach. I coach women loosely based off of the principles of intuitive eating. My good friend, Paige, coaches using similar principles. We became good friends, and we decided it would be awesome to do something together. We both took some time brainstorming, and we both came back with the same idea: We need to do a virtual coaching program. And the idea behind it being making it super accessible to women who only have time to do coaching at odd hours, women who want to take things at their pace and who maybe couldn't afford the price of one-on-one coaching. We love the idea that the program would give them personal coaching through sessions, then we would have a community where women could be connecting, so they feel they are part of something and aren't alone. So often the women I work with will tell me they feel like the only person who feels this way. In reality, it's something I see so many women struggling with. It can be encouraging to connect with women all around the world. It's a really, really cool environment.

Let's get into the logistics-how does it work?

So when someone signs up they set up a username and password. It's unique to them. They can log in at any time, and they go into the Finally Free portal. There are 12 sessions. And they're video-based lessons with Paige and I, and each lesson is set up with a specific topic. We share our own personal experiences with that topic. We give action steps on specific struggles-overcoming binge and emotional eating, honoring your health-topics like that. In addition to the videos, which range from 20 to 30 minutes, there are also handouts and guides and action steps for each session for the clients to take. You do one session every one to two weeks. They automatically get added into our private Facebook community. People might post a question, share an experience they have. It gives Paige and I the ability to coach on any situation.

Who is this for?

This program is created for women. I'm sure a man could do it, but when we think about our ideal client, it is a woman. She is someone who has tried diets in the past and perhaps has had some success but ultimately is really struggling to stick with it and feels like a failure. She maybe struggles with body criticism and a lot of guilt and judgment around certain foods. Someone who doesn't feel relaxed and normal around food. Someone who would eat an ice cream cone and feel bad. When they eat bad foods, they make a judgement about themselves as a person. Women who would like to break free of the cycle of dieting. Women who want to feel good in their bodies, but they're struggling with not having enough willpower and not being able to stay on track, and they feel like something's wrong with them. It's our perspective that there's something wrong with diets. They need to connect with their bodies. It's about being motivated by that love for themselves.

It seems like a lot of women have a complex relationship with food. Why is that?

Paige and I have both definitely struggled with levels of disordered eating in the past. There's such a lack of connection with our bodies as females because we're told by the diet industry-and that's how they make their money-by telling us that our bodies can't be trusted. Women believe my body is the enemy, but the truth is if we spent more time connecting with our bodies, they want to feel good and function optimally. Women often believe if I did what my body wanted, I'd eat brownies all day and be a blimp. Finally Free, it's almost about rewinding to that childlike state. When you're a kid, you're so tapped into your body. Kids will often leave food on their plates. They're way more into interacting with everything and less about food unless they're hungry. They'd rather be having fun. No obsessing about it and thinking about it. It's about getting it back to that place where you're living your life and food is secondary. It's so simple. It's so childlike. And yet it's complex.

Why don't diets work?

They don't work for a few reasons. The first is because we as human beings are built to survive. Our body's number one goal is always survival, so any time our body feels it's been put into a state of restriction, it triggers in us the desire to overeat or gorge ourselves. It sends us back to this place where food is scarce, and we need to store that for a later time. That's why so many people experience the diet binge roller coaster, even if it's only perceived mental restriction. The second thing is because every body is so unique, so what my body needs today is different from what your body needs today. We're unique human beings. We have differing levels of energy. So putting us both on the same diet doesn't make sense. Diets don't take into account our bodies' unique needs. My body will need more nourishment based on what I do. A diet might keep you from being able to listen and being able to honor what your body needs in that moment. It doesn't account for our uniqueness and primal instincts to survive. The last reason is because it creates a disconnect between our mind and our bodies. When that happens, we aren't able to connect with ourselves and nourish ourselves emotionally or physically. It creates this unhealthy relationship between ourselves and food.

For those who struggle with disordered eating and restrictive dieting, what's the first step to repairing that relationship with food?

I think it's important to acknowledge that there are steps to getting back. The first step, and it's session number one [in Finally Free], is breaking up with diets. It's getting pissed off about diets and understanding why they don't work, so you can constantly be acknowledging to yourself, yes the urge to try a new plan will be there and then be like no I'm not going back there. It's to acknowledge that the old ways are no longer serving you. We move from there into identifying food rules and what kind of subconscious language you're using around food. Learning what hunger feels like and how you can feel that. Layer by layer, you build up that trust with your body and that relationship. It's constant course correction. It's continuing to strengthen that relationship and being really committed to relationship building. In my opinion, intuitive eating is this incredible journey. It's almost like you're going to relationship therapy but instead of two people, it's you and yourself. You're in it for the long haul. So you communicate through it with every little tough moment. That's what this is. This is the longest relationship you'll have, so let's go to some couples counseling.