How To Achieve A Healthy Body Weight.

Tanya Unkovich Grief and Addiction Expert

An interview with Jake Frankel.

Create your own winning formula; have your list of non-negotiable habits, and make this part of your daily routine, period. To follow are some examples for you, choose a few, or choose them all, and add more of your own.


So many of us have tried dieting. All too often though, many of us lose 10–20 pounds, but we end up gaining it back. Not only is yo-yo dieting unhealthy, it is also demoralizing and makes us feel like giving up. What exactly do we have to do to achieve a healthy body weight and to stick with it forever?

In this interview series called “5 Things You Need To Do To Achieve A Healthy Body Weight And Keep It Permanently” we are interviewing health and wellness professionals who can share lessons from their research and experience about how to do this.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tanya Unkovich.

Having faced many adversities in life, Tanya Unkovich is often referred to as a master of resilience. However, she openly claims that one of the toughest to overcome, were her issues with food and body image.

Tanya is an accomplished author, public speaker, has been featured in numerous publications, is a regular contributor to radio, and an expert in taking her private clientele on a journey of personal transformation.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

My parents were immigrants from the former Yugoslavia. Their upbringing during the second world war was unimaginable, as were the adversities they faced during my early childhood years. From early morning starts on the farm, to losing everything when our house burned to the ground, they endured tremendous loss.

My gift from these early experiences were the lessons on resilience, and the rewards from hard work. My parents were a living example of discipline, acceptance and getting yourself back up again no matter what has knocked you down.

I developed a deep curiosity of what was humanly possible if I applied myself, which I believe led to my desire to study hard and learn as much as I could in the hope that one day I could take care of my parents. I knew as early as my teenage years that if I applied myself, I could achieve and “be” whatever I wanted to.

Securing my first part time job at fourteen and commencing University at seventeen, I was a very motivated young woman with an incredible drive to work hard. The word can’t never registered for me. I just did.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

My background was originally finance hence I am a qualified Certified Practicing Accountant. My parents encouraged all of their children to have an education as it was something they never had, therefore being gifted at math and economics, commerce was my obvious choice.

This led to a successful corporate career and subsequently as a private consultant, specializing in accounting software. It was during my years as a computer consultant that I discovered my love of mentoring others. In addition to teaching my clientele how to balance their books, I was also advising them on how to balance their lives.

At fourteen the first signs of body dysmorphia and eating issues surfaced for me, and two years later, I sought help. Shortly after, I went on a deeper search and this I believe was when my love of personal development began.

It appears my writing career also began at this time when I purchased a journal and began to write about my healing journey. Little did I know that these journals would then become part of my future published books. Alongside my writing, I began to indulge in autobiographies and self-help books to learn how others overcame this thing with food and body image.

Many thought I was a little different as they couldn’t understand my need to do such deep internal work at such an early age. Eating issues most certainly wasn’t a topic openly talked about back then so I had to find my own way on what was the cause of my problem, and how to fix it.

Life then brought me many more difficult lessons. What followed nearly two decades of healing on this food journey, was an eight-year struggle with infertility and not long after, the passing of my husband to cancer. Being widowed at forty completely changed the direction of my life and very soon I realized there was a greater purpose for me.

The darkness of my grief led me to study as a therapist, and then as a Life and Business coach. Whilst it was my desire to use these qualifications to ultimately help mankind, I knew that my first and most important client was me.

My journaling continued, and then morphed into a career when not long after my husband died in 2005, I published my first book, Unplanned Journey. Becoming a published author was a door opener for speaking on the international stage, television and radio, and of course, coaching.

Life continued to present more lessons however, I often say one of the most difficult to overcome was the food freedom journey. With nearly four decades of experience, and mistakes, I knew my next book had to be written.

F*ck the Food, the ladies guide to letting go is all about food. How to let it go, how to have freedom, not only in the area of food, but every area of your life. It is about finally giving yourself permission to shine and live fearlessly.

What inspires me to keep writing and speaking, is a deep belief that in order to remain on your own personal path of greatness, one needs to give back. I remind myself often that this isn’t about me, but my willingness to serve and thus contribute to mankind. The fulfilment one receives by doing this is priceless.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

The interview process and training to be a Tony Robbins coach took three months and part of it took place at his Unleash the Power Within event in Florida. I call this event my ‘nearly one of my biggest mistake moments’. Had I made the decision to give up, my future would have been very different. Instead, this moment became one of my greatest lessons.

It was 10pm at night, I was exhausted from a very long day, on the phone to my husband crying my eyes out and declaring I was not going to walk on the stupid fire! I was having one of those ugly cries and I’m sure he thought there was another person on the line.

My husband suggested I at least go and watch everyone else do it. I reluctantly obeyed and found my way outside amongst the excited crowd, all barefoot and ready to walk on hot coals. Having missed Tony’s prior instructions and encouraging words I found myself to the front of the queue ready to walk. I look down and see the flaming coals, turn to the persona next to me and ask, “what do I do?” He says, “you just walk”.

Something inside me switched and in an instant, I decided to just do it, and give it my all. I went from an over emotional little girl, into the state of a powerful dynamic woman. Tanya the woman showed up in the nick of time, and she strutted along that heat as if she was walking on water, reaching the other end without feeling a thing.

This experience put me on such a high that night and to this day the feeling has never left me. I’d experienced how it was possible to change your emotional state in an absolute instant, if you chose to. My husband received yet another call in the middle of the night with a totally different woman on the line!

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

My favorite quote of all time was from my mother, shared with me one day after my husband died whilst I was crying down the phone feeling as though I had nothing left to live for.

“Tanya, YOU have to make yourself happy”, she said. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Here was I, with degrees, and years on this personal development journey, and my mother, with no higher education sums it all up in one sentence. I shared it with my grief therapist at the time and he too burst into laughter agreeing that mama summed everything up in one line.

From that moment on, even though my heart was broken, instead of choosing to suffer, I chose life and began to do the work to find meaning and purpose again. The cost of not making the decision to live is that we run the risk of drifting, feeling rudderless, with no direction in life.

Hence, this quote from my mom now forms the basis of how I work with my clients today. The solution begins within, and it begins with a decision to say yes to life. It begins with you.

For the benefit of our readers, can you briefly let us know why you are an authority in the fitness and wellness field?

Very early in life I understood that my health was my wealth and began my journey towards optimal wellness. I believe that this substantial financial and emotional investment, including post graduate education and continuous personal development seminars, has most definitely paid off. Without this commitment, I am not sure where I would be today.

Instead, now at 58, I am free of the emotional turmoil I once suffered from the food and body dysmorphia. I am just as strong and fit as I was in my twenties and I have a rock-solid belief that there is nothing I couldn’t handle.

My clients achieve lasting results, not just a quick fix, but a deep personal transformation. They know this journey is so much more than the food, and are now ready to finally fix this problem, look beyond it and unleash their greatness.

I have the ability to hold them through their deepest, darkest pain, knowing that once this is uncovered, they are able to see their own light, experience fulfilment and allow themselves to live freely and passionately.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about achieving a healthy body weight. Let’s begin with a basic definition of terms so that all of us are on the same page. How do you define a “Healthy Body Weight”?

The accountant in me used to be driven only by a magic number on the scale, however using only this fueled my obsession and rigidity even more. As a result, I had to redefine what a healthy body weight meant for me. In addition to the actual number, which is easily measurable, I added more parts to this equation and over time this also became my ‘winning formulas’ for life.

My definition of a healthy body weight is to be within a natural weight range that enables you to have the maximum amount of physical and emotional energy, to achieve and be what it is that you really want in your life.

My ultimate goal is to experience joy, be fulfilled and fully ‘show up’ in life and participate to the highest standard. If your weight is preventing you from comfortably experiencing this, then you continue to test and rediscover the body weight range that enables you achieve this.

I add the word “range” in the definition as it can be very easy to not allow yourself to fully live if you are always a pound or two away from getting there. The intention is to break the obsessiveness that can come from being too rigid with your goals. We are all so unique and a cookie cutter model is not always suitable, therefore a more personalised approach is required to create your own winning formula.

How can an individual learn what is a healthy body weight for them? How can we discern what is “too overweight” or what is “too underweight”?

The first step is to make the decision to gather data to see how things stand in your life right now. Yes, the number on the scale is one of the factors, body measurements are another excellent measurement tool, and many of my clients also like to run a set of blood work to have as much information to plan and make decisions.

Another way to discern what a healthy body weight is to ask yourself some great questions. These questions, when answered honestly will help you face the truth as you begin this journey of discerning what is too overweight or two underweight.

Questions such as: How do I physically feel when I wake up in the morning? What is my mood like when I first open my eyes? What is my energy like during various times the day? What feelings do I feel most of the time? How much food do I actually consume in one day? What do I see when I look in the mirror? Is the number on the scale at such an extreme that it interferes in carrying out my normal day to day activities? How does my clothing fit? Does my current weight stop me from socializing or participating in events that I would really love to be doing? How often during the day do I feel hungry, lonely or tired?

This might be intuitive to you, but it will be instructive to expressly articulate this. Can you please share a few reasons why being over your healthy body weight, or under your healthy body weight, can be harmful to your health?

One of the fastest ways to change how you feel, is to get up and move your body. If you are at a weight, (over or under), where you lack energy, or struggle to get up and physically move your body, this will negatively affect your physical and emotional wellbeing. This can lead to a sedentary lifestyle of isolation and loneliness through lack of connection with humanity, and this is not good in today’s world.

Being under or over a healthy body weight can affect your menstrual cycle. There was a point in my teenage years where I was below my healthy weight range and didn’t mensurate for three years and it took as many years before my cycle was regular again.

Some of my clients who are over their normal body weight share with me their hormonal struggles later in life also. Other difficulties they believe are attributable to their weight is pain in their joints, inflexible bodies through lack of movement, and the psychological effects on their intimate life by not feeling good about their body.

The effects to one’s personal identity is significant. When your identity is disempowered, it influences and affects how you show up and participate in every area of your life. Ultimately any stress on your body, whether it be physical or emotional, will determine the quality of your life, and health.

In contrast, can you help articulate a few examples of how a person who achieves and maintains a healthy body weight will feel better and perform better in many areas of life?

As the saying goes, “what you focus on you will feel”. When you are feeling physically and emotionally great, then it is highly likely you will focus on what is great about your life and naturally be a more positive person. You tend to be more results driven and disciplined about your daily routines, knowing their importance in achieving and maintaining what you really want in life.

On a professional level you will have the physical and emotional fitness to see through a big day at the office. When running your own business, one needs discipline, thus if you are disciplined when it comes to your health, you will carry this discipline through in other areas of your life, such as your work ethic and productivity.

At a healthy body weight, you will naturally want to do whatever it takes to maintain it, thus understanding and making the time for to self-care. Self-respect becomes a core value therefore, feeding your body and mind on a daily basis is non-negotiable. Even fifteen minutes of mindfulness can contribute to an entire day of peaceful productivity.

Having a healthy intimate relationship is a common desire for many. When you are at a healthy body weight, you will feel more confident in yourself, feel worthy enough to express your needs, feel more comfortable with your body, and highly likely you will be more open and transparent with your partner.

Ok, fantastic. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you please share your “5 Things You Need To Do To Achieve a Healthy Body Weight And Keep It Permanently?”.

Let go of chasing the quick fix diet schemes which to date probably haven’t worked for you. Many of my clients come to me when they have had enough and feel defeated and say “no more” of this madness. This was also my journey, hence the title of my latest book, “F*ck the Food: the ladies guide to letting go”.

Instead of impulsively starting a new plan, give yourself a breather, say a week or two, let go of the rigidity whilst you calm down and plan your strategy. The interesting thing is that most of my clients are happy to report that during this quiet down time, the desire to overeat leaves them.

It may have taken you many years to get to this point so I encourage you to be reasonable as you map out your goals and the timeline to reach them. Do it once, and do it well.

1 . Find a great mentor / accountability person or group to help you do this. Achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight permanently means making a solid decision to do so and a commitment to never give up, hence I encourage you to not do this on your own.

Find your person, or group, be open and transparent with them and schedule regular times to connect. To have someone who has already walked this path accompany you on yours will be invaluable as they will be able to foresee some of the possible hazards that you may not notice. Also, they are now living a life beyond food and know there is so much more on the horizon.

Many of my clients have been with me for a number of years, as once they have reached some of their goals and food is now in its proper place, their lives and other opportunities have now opened up well beyond their expectations. It is about now creating a greater vision for your life.

2. Measure your results. As the saying goes, you cannot manage what you don’t measure. Have a definite starting point, have a specific end goal, and map out a detailed and personalised path in between.

Create and document your plan, make it fun and exciting, something that really juices you, then get out and do it, remembering to always seek progress, not perfection. If it feels overwhelming at times, break it down into smaller manageable milestones, ensuring that you celebrate as you reach each one.

Many of my clients keep a written record of their entire process which enables them to remain on course and continue to gather evidence of their success. Re-reading these journals can be very encouraging at a later date as a reminder of how far you’ve come.

It’s thanks to all of my journals, vision boards and documented plans that have I then gone on to use them as content for my books. I plant this same seed with my clients as you never quite know what the future holds.

3. Make peace with your plate. The best way to start this is to eat nutritious foods you enjoy, of appropriate portion sizes, and no longer deprive yourself with extreme, rigid eating patterns.

Deprivation keeps you stuck in the cycle of shame, feeling different to others, denying yourself what you really want, and ultimately often leading to a binge anyway. When you deny yourself in the area of food, this will also lead to denying yourself in other areas of your life, because you don’t feel you deserve it.

One of my long term clients one day said to me, “now that I feel good about who I am, I believe I am now ready to allow love in my life again”. Very soon after, she found love, embraced it and is still blissfully happy, because she now allows herself to be. When you feel deserving of healthy, nutritious food, you then feel deserving of everything else in life.

4. Create your own winning formula; have your list of non-negotiable habits, and make this part of your daily routine, period. To follow are some examples for you, choose a few, or choose them all, and add more of your own.

Move your body every single day. Fall in love with exercise and do what you love. If you don’t, chances are you won’t keep it up. Be prepared with your meals. Find the most efficient and effective way to always have good food in the house. Daily self-care, at least one thing. Write in your journal or your gratitude journal. Document your progress, the good days and the not so good days as both are progress and vital towards your final outcome.

The emphasis of this series is how to maintain an ideal weight for the long term, and how to avoid yo-yo dieting. Specifically, how does a person who loses weight maintain that permanently and sustainably?

1 . Creating and maintaining a strong personal identity of WHO you are is paramount. It’s very easy to look back at past “failures” and continue to judge yourself. Reframe them, let them go, they were all part of your journey and this is NOT who you are anymore.

Learn to like and respect yourself again, acknowledging yourself for past achievements, how you have changed the lives of others and what you stand for in the world right now.

Have such a deep personal foundation and belief in yourself so that no matter what you face each day, you show up like a boss and handle it without resorting to food. When you respect yourself, you treat yourself the way you deserve to be treated.

2. Learn to deal with what comes up when you put the food down. Whilst a diet plan may provide you with the formula on how to lose weight, the plan doesn’t show you how to handle life and the feelings that arise when you are no longer pushing them down with food.

Feelings come, and feelings pass. Choose to not pick up the food in-between and learn to face them head on, always remembering that so far, you have already survived 100% of your worst days ever.

3. Have a strong reason why it is important for you to commit to this journey for the long haul. List them all, and make each reason so compelling that going back to your old patterns is no longer an option.

What will it cost you if you go back there? Associate pain with returning back to that old way of living and associate joy to your future. One effective tool is to also do a financial analysis of the cost of overeating, and any other personal pain points that will remind you of your why. It’s very expensive to be at an unhealthy weight, not to mention social cost.

4. Learn to trust yourself again. Follow your intuition, especially when it comes to food and your body. One of the effects of repeated and failed attempts at dieting is that you no longer trust yourself when it comes to food and choices.

Here’s the truth, no one knows you better than you. Follow your intuition, and when you master doing this in the area of food and your health, then it will naturally flow into every other area of your life. You will then become a master in decision making.

What are a few of the most common mistakes you have seen people make when they try to lose weight? What errors cause people to just snap back to their old unhealthy selves? What can they do to avoid those mistakes?

They try to lose it for the wrong reasons. For example, they are doing it because of pressure from a third party, or to fit into a specific outfit for a one-off event. They are doing it to prove a point to someone, or they are doing it because the want to attract or keep a lover. I could go on. It is of paramount importance that your reason for doing this is for the right reasons, and that YOU, are part of this reason.

They believe that if they lose weight and feel better about their shape, then they will feel better about themselves on the inside and everything else will magically fall into place. Then when they reach their magic number on the scale they are deflated and ask themselves, “is this it?” This journey is both an inside and an outside job, thus the importance to face the inner work and enjoying the entire process. If this is not done you will eventually return back to old habits and continue to use food as a source of soothing your pain.

They continue to hold onto past events, and feelings, such as shame, unforgiveness and resentment, all of which keep them unhealthy and stuck in life. Be ready and willing to let everything go and allow yourselves to live a life free of anything that is holding you back, not just food.

They are not willing to invest in themselves to have expert guidance on this journey and instead, try to do it on their own. Alternatively, they surround themselves with friends with the same problem and the result is when they going gets tough they collectively give up thus enabling each other to remain stuck. Find your tribe and ensure their standards are as high as yours, if not higher.

How do we take all this information and integrate it into our actual lives? The truth is that we all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?

We hold onto past stories and use them excuses. Stories such as, “our family have big bones so I will always be overweight. Eating is a part of my culture and that is why I am not at a healthy body weight. I don’t like going to the gym because everyone there is self-centered and that’s not me. I eat like a bird so I don’t know why I am this size. No one in my family has ever been successful at achieving anything amazing so I guess this is just my lot. I’m not worth spending money on my food and exercise regimes or a mentor to help me on this journey”. One must decide to stop believing these stories, stop using them, because these are a major barrier to your greatness.

Keeping a positive mindset takes time and commitment. It is very easy to fall into negative thinking or using negative language to describe ourselves and life. If you have a belief that this journey is going to be difficult, then this is what you will focus on. If you believe that it’s boring adhering to winning formula, then you will find every reason to not do it. Being positive and happy does come down to a choice, and making a daily decision to put your focus there.

If you find your use of language is slightly negative, then this is also going to be detrimental to your outlook on life and performance. Instead of using language such as “I’ll try” or “it’s hard”, use empowering words such as “I am, I will, I can, its easy” etc. Take a note of how differently you feel when you use these alternative words and decide to focus on achieving your goals.

Taking one day at a time is more challenging than it sounds and can lead to a downward spiral. It is so tempting to remain in the shame and regret of yesterday, or fast forward into the anxiety or overwhelm of tomorrow, meanwhile missing out on the preciousness of the day you are in. Live just for today.

People try to have a perfect journey and a perfect body. It’s not a dream body if it is a nightmare to maintain it! Accept there will be some bumpy patches, some days you slip, some days that feel like a bad day with food. Learn to let it go immediately, learn from the lesson, and immediately get back on track. A small slip is not an excuse for a landslide.

Self-care is not taken seriously and many poo-poo it as fairy dust. Unfortunately, if you don’t take care of your body now, you will be forced to do it later in life, at a significantly higher cost. Short and blunt I know!

Many forget who they are at the core. They slip back into a disempowered state, perhaps brought on by a slip, which can then spiral into the limiting belief that this can’t happen for them. This is why living one day at a time is so vital. You can apply that strategy to anything and reset your mind immediately knowing that in an instant you can change your emotional state, and thus change your day, and therefore change your life.

On the flip side, how can we prevent these ideas from just being trapped in a rarified, theoretical ideal that never gets put into practice? What specific habits can we develop to take these intellectual ideas and integrate them into our normal routine?

Plan your week ahead. What are your specific outcomes? Why are they important? Ensure each weekly goal is a milestone to your big picture vision. How must you show up to meet these goals?

For example, I have such a strong identity of self, Tanya the Entrepreneur, Tanya the Author, Tanya the Woman and Tanya the Amazon woman who is fit, strong and unstoppable. (Note the playfulness!) Depending on my weekly goals, I show up accordingly to ensure I meet each outcome.

There is a saying that repetition is the mother of skills. The more you repeat a healthy habit, the more disciplined you will become and the more this habit will become ingrained in your life and your identity. For example, when I am in the identity of Tanya the Amazon woman, there is no way I will do anything that will be detrimental to my health, because this is not who I am anymore. Define your winning formula for life, and stick to it, as if your life depends on it, because it does.

You have to get excited about your life again. No more boring stuff that doesn’t interest you. Be bold, be brave and create a daily and weekly routine that is fun, daring and takes you out of your comfort zone. Wear clothing that helps you feel amazing, move your body in ways that help you feel strong and alive, be around people who encourage you to rise up.

Every day, make sure you have fun and laugh, even if it means watching kitten and puppy videos. Do anything to help you shake off the tension that life can bring and allow yourself to be playful. We can make this journey very serious however I encourage you to laugh at yourself, even on those not so good days with food. My husband helped me tremendously on this journey by changing my mood when I was being tough on myself.

Even if you have not reached your ideal weight yet, or whatever your specific goal is, show up as if you have. Fast forward in your mind as if you are already wearing that amazing outfit, put your shoulders back and walk like a boss. If you can, buy yourself a new outfit that helps you feel this way. As the saying goes, “act as if”, you don’t have to wait until everything is just right before you start to live your life.

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

What I have discovered during my forty-year personal growth journey and search for meaning and purpose, is that at the core of everything, was my self-worth. My level of self-acceptance and self-respect was and still is, the most important barometer for determining the quality of my life.

It has been the journey within that eventually set me free of the food issues, cemented my self-respect and new found passion for life. This naturally led to fully trusting myself in every area of my life and finally making big decisions from a place of personal certainty.

My deepest desire would be to teach humanity of the power of doing the same. To see your own worth, mastering your own emotions, and believing in yourself. To show them there is an alternative to suffering, in fact, one of fulfilment and joy.

When we are at peace with ourselves, we are inclined to be more at peace with others, hence the ripple effect could only be the creation a more peaceful world. It is my unshakeable belief that when we go within, we will find the answers to everything we have been searching for.

At this stage of my life I wish to be a force for good in the world, changing one life at a time and encouraging others to then go forth and repeat this same message. We are at a time in humanity where there is a great need for connection and unity. It is by uniting that we will pass through this difficult time, and it starts with each one of us making a decision to do our bit.

It is my wish that whomever reads this article is encouraged to follow the message I have shared and follow me as I continue to spread my message of hope and unity to the world.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

Whilst there have been many thought leaders who have contributed to my own personal journey, the one I would love to have a private meeting with is Tony Robbins.

I have such a huge respect for what Tony has overcome in life, and continued to go on and achieve such greatness. His work ethic, his ability to create, to love and share, and his huge love for humanity are but some of the reasons why I would love to have a delicious meal with him.

To see the interview online click here.