Anna Gora is a vegan health and fitness coach. She is a dedicated, sensible trainer, ready to take on any challenge her clients may throw at her.
Anna worked hard to get where she is, and she is constantly evolving, which is the secret to her success.
She has just landed an exciting partnership with Liva Healthcare (NHS England) as a personal health coach.
This free service is part of the Healthier You: NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme (NHS DPP).
I met Anna on LinkedIn, and I am thrilled to host her for this interview!
Trigger warning: the interview includes references to diets, body shaming, weight-related comments, and mental health.
Anna, thank you very much for featuring your work on GreenLivingUK. Can you please tell us a bit about you and your fitness journey?
My fitness journey started around 20 years ago in Warsaw, Poland.
I grew up in the 90s, the golden era of the ‘heroin chick’ look. Pictures of ill-looking models were all over. An alarming amount of people around me were developing eating disorders.
My teenage body did not conform to these widely accepted beauty standards. Back then – I was rather overweight, with broad-shoulders, and quite tall for my age.
I was constantly feeling that I am not thin enough and my mental health was quickly deteriorating.
I was struggling with severe weight fluctuations, comfort eating and severe bouts of depression.
Then one day I got myself into competitive sports.
After only few weeks of training I made an interesting discovery. It was not just my body that got stronger and healthier – my mental well-being also rapidly improved.
Exercise helped me become more mindful, less anxious, and more in control of my negative emotions.
For the first time in my life, I could switch off the noise in my head.
I quickly fell in love with fitness, and I believe that this passion turned my life around for the better.
I became a personal trainer to promote the benefits of being active. To also help people live longer, happier, and healthier lives.
I am a firm believer in science and evidence-based approach. I therefore, make sure that I can provide the best possible advice to my clients.
Having spent many years meticulously researching the effects of diet and physical activity on health and well-being.
I am a proud holder of MSc in Nutrition, Physical Activity and Public Health from the University of Bristol. As well as various other health and fitness coaching certificates.
You are a successful vegan health and fitness coach. What is the main factor that made this possible for you?
You can have all the theoretical knowledge in the world, but if you do not have a deep understanding of human nature and behaviour, you will never succeed as a coach.
If you are a fitness fanatic, you do not find it hard to be active and you tend to be very committed to achieving your goals.
But it is important to remember that most people do not enjoy exercise.
Not everyone has been conditioned to eat healthy.
I strongly believe that it is the years of experience working on the gym floor, chatting daily to various people about their health struggles and teaching hundreds of fitness classes that truly helped me develop my coaching skills.
My experience enabled me to understand how to effectively work with different personality types. Also, how to approach common perceived barriers to living a healthier lifestyle.
When clients trust your judgement and feel comfortable around you, they are much more likely to stick to their fitness programmes.
They will succeed with their goals and happily recommend your services to their friends and family.
How did you get into veganism? Did you find it tricky to transition to a vegan diet?
I got into veganism by accident, to be honest. I used to absolutely love cheese and I could not imagine my life without a milky coffee.
However, everything has changed when I lost a bet to my vegan sister. She decided that my ‘penalty’ would be to switch to a plant-based diet for a month.
I was quite sceptical, but I accepted the challenge and gave it a try.
To my surprise, I quickly discovered how easy it was to change my lifelong habits and I absolutely fell in love with the taste of vegan food.
More importantly I experienced a remarkable improvement to my physical health. I could finally ditch the medications for my digestive conditions.
I felt lighter, happier, less bloated, and more energetic and even my persistent skin problems started slowly disappearing.
Deeply inspired by such a positive experience, I started actively seeking information about the vegan movement.
What I learned helped me fully realize the horrifying extent of animal abuse and environmental degradation.
I decided that I did not want to take part in this ongoing destruction of our planet.
I have been a passionate vegan for nearly six years now and I am fully convinced I will stay plant-based for the rest of my life!
Veganism is gaining popularity, but this also means that there are different views on how to be fit and healthy while on a vegan diet. What are your thoughts on this?
Science of exercise and nutrition is continuously changing and evolving.
While we understand the basics and general rules of living a healthy lifestyle, the devil is in the details.
There are many views on how to be fit and healthy, but that does not necessarily mean that one view is better than the others.
There are few major reasons why the science of exercise and nutrition is not always black and white.
To start with, scientific studies into the effects of nutrition on human health and well-being come with severe limitations, mostly due to the simple fact that they heavily rely on human recall and are prone to bias.
For example, most of the time study participants are asked to write down what they ate few days before. It is hard to remember everything as human memory can be quite selective.
Not to mention that feeling shame and guilt about unhealthy behaviours can impact such recall as well, affecting the accuracy of study findings.
Laboratory studies or highly controlled behavioural studies are incredibly expensive and resource-consuming and as such, can be quite impractical to conduct on a mass-scale.
As a result, we end up with different studies having different answers to the same question.
Secondly, human bodies are all different, and we still have a lot to learn about them.
Your genetic make-up is unique and so are the circumstances that shaped your habits and personality.
A specific diet or exercise routine could have worked wonders for your friend or your favourite fitness influencer, but it does not mean that it will work to the same extent for you.
And finally, fitness is an extremely broad term, and everyone has their own views as to what fitness means to them.
For some, it will be being able to run a marathon.
For others, to do hundred press-ups without stopping – both are perfectly valid, and both require a completely different approach.
That is why it is important to always keep an open mind, educate yourself constantly and be ready to try different things – keeping it fresh makes it interesting!
What services do you offer?
I offer several different online coaching services, including digital health and fitness coaching packages as well as plant-based nutrition guidance services.
In my work, I communicate with my clients using a combination of video calls (for example, initial consultations, weekly check-ins and 1-2-1 personal training sessions), pre-recorded video messages and in-person meetings (when possible).
To deliver useful content to my clients outside of their 1-2-1 sessions, I sign them to my own web app.
The app offers healthy vegan recipes, countless hours of interactive workouts and multiple bite-sized articles on health, nutrition, and plant-based lifestyle.
They can also drop me a message or an email anytime they need their urgent questions answered or they struggle with their motivation.
How do you work with clients? Do you find it tricky to advise them to switch their fitness and eating habits?
The process starts with a free-of-charge consultation, conducted usually over Zoom or another video call app. This lasts anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour.
These meetings are essential to break the ice and build the initial rapport. I also collect all the necessary information about the prospect’s personal circumstances, exercise history, dietary habits, abilities, and goals.
Based on what we discuss during this consultation, we decide together which coaching package is the best way to move forward with.
When I work with my clients, I aim to stay friendly and positive, yet professional and courteous.
I always try to set challenging, yet achievable health and fitness goals as well as continuously provide encouragement and mental support.
Understandably, there will always be some big challenges.
Particularly when a client lives a hectic lifestyle, is under great psychological stress, or struggles with severe mobility limitations.
But no matter how difficult someone’s circumstances can be, there is always a way.
And my job is to find it!
How do you help your clients overcome their potential body insecurities and be happy with how they look, no matter type, shape, or size?
The rates of body dysmorphia, eating disorders and body image issues are skyrocketing, particularly among girls and young women.
From the moment we are born, the Western society has been teaching us that our value is dictated mostly by our looks.
For many people it almost became a habit that they never really try to question, justify, or analyse.
We casually punish our bodies and blast ourselves and other people for not looking like a model.
Despite knowing very well that even models do not look like models.
We are constantly bombarded with highly edited pictures of ideal bodies.
Even for the most rational thinking, most confident, most resilient person they can become a source of worry and comparisons.
As such, battling issues related to poor body image is a constant and draining struggle, and it never really stops.
It becomes especially difficult when these body insecurities are much more than just a mere dissatisfaction with the way we look.
Experiences of trauma, difficult childhood, poor mental health, and toxic relationships can all affect the relationship with our bodies.
When I coach my clients, I try to get to the very bottom of their body insecurities and deeply understand their thought process, so we can identify the root causes and target them effectively.
This process requires a lot of hard work and mutual trust. Therefore, it needs time and communication, and sometimes the involvement of other health professionals as well.
It definitely is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ method.
What is your goal as a vegan health and fitness coach?
Fitness gave me much more than just a toned body.
It gave me confidence, self-esteem, and belief that with the right tools I can achieve every goal I set myself to.
No books, no cheesy inspiration quotes, no TED talks added as much value to my life as simply keeping fit and healthy.
I want to share that passion.
My goal as a health and fitness coach is to help as many people as possible fall in love with healthy lifestyle and discover their true potential.
In your opinion, what is the one best thing people can do to keep fit and healthy?
The one best thing people can do to keep fit and healthy?
Go vegan, of course!
What does a typical day in your life looks like? What is your favourite dish?
I usually wake up at around 7am and start my day with a big cup of coffee and a nutritious breakfast – usually a rye bread sandwich with peanut butter or hummus and a plant-based protein smoothie.
Before I get ready to meet my clients, I make sure to go through my emails and morning newspapers to always know what is going on that day.
After I finish work, I often go to the gym to work on my fitness goals, and it takes me a good hour or two.
Following a nice training session, I go home to have a dinner with my partner – usually something from the Asian cuisine.
With a hefty portion of plant-based protein – and watch some stand-up comedy to finish my day on a positive note.
What is my favourite dish? Oh, that is not an easy choice!
But if I had to pick one, I would probably go for one of my childhood favourites, such as Polish pierogi with blueberries or a beetroot soup with little mushroom dumplings. Nothing compares to the food that instantly brings back happy memories!
Being a business owner can be hard at times. How do you keep motivated?
Whether it is working on your fitness goals, New Year’s resolutions or business endeavours, it all comes down to developing the right habits, rather than relying on motivation alone.
Being crystal clear on the reasons why you started your business will help your motivation and can pull you through the hard times, but willpower is not a limitless resource.
Facing failures is the very bread-and-butter of every entrepreneur.
Growing a thick skin is essential if you want to be successful.
Because our motivation will inevitably change depending on where we are in our business.
Well-developed habits, on the other side, will stay with you no matter what ups and downs you experience.
Are there any other projects you are working on at the moment? Where do you see yourself in the future?
I have recently partnered up with NHS England, Liva Healthcare and Living Well Taking Control.
They deliver the digital arm of Healthier YOU: NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme (NHS DPP).
The Healthier You programme was launched in 2016 to support people who are at high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
The programme, which advices on dieting, exercise, and a healthy lifestyle, will double in size over the next few years.
It aims to treat around 200,000 people annually as part of the NHS Long Term Plan’s renewed focus on prevention.
Pre-diabetic patients through GP referral can access this brilliant service free of charge.
I strongly believe that digital health coaching is the future of preventative healthcare.
In the future, I would like to contribute to improving and scaling up online healthcare services.
Everyone struggling with type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, or other non-communicable chronic diseases should have the chance to access personalised advice on diet and physical activity.
Where can we find more about you and your services?
You can check my website – Home – Anna Gora Personal Trainer | Vegan Health and Fitness.