Heather Dorak on How Pilates Healed Her Life

mbg Founder & Co-CEO By Jason Wachob
mbg Founder & Co-CEO

Jason Wachob is the Founder and Co-CEO of mindbodygreen and the author of Wellth.

Image by Heather Dorak

Meet Heather Dorak, the founder of LA's fastest growing Pilates studio, Pilates Platinum. Heather tells us how Pilates healed her life, helped her overcome an eating disorder, and also shares her philosophy on food and more!

MBG: Many people come to Pilates for healing...how did you come to Pilates/how did it heal your body?

HD: I was a dancer for many years and the repetitive practice of moves over the years resulted in injuries and chronic pain in my feet, ankles and lower back. Because of the pain, I tended to over compensate my movements in one area of the body over the other which affected my alignment as well. As I was considering options for therapy, a friend of mine introduced me to Pilates. I took several classes and noticed an immediate improvement. Unlike many other training program Pilates works the whole body emphasizing control, precision and concentration in the mind, body and spirit. The focus on core stabilization makes one stronger from the inside out which is critical in healing and strengthening the body. Pilates is low impact which makes it ideal for injury prevention and rehabilitation. The balance between strength and flexibility creates a healthy , symmetrical workout for all muscle groups resulting in a leaner , more balanced and stronger body. My health and energy level improved dramatically after taking Pilates classes and I no longer experience any pain. My own personal successes led me to open my first Pilates studio with the goal in mind to inspire others to create implement and achieve their own health and fitness goals.

How did Pilates help you overcome an eating disorder?

Being a dancer for many years created a lot of body image issues and led into an eating disorder which was very difficult to overcome. My eating disorder affected my mind, body and spirit. In combination with the chronic pain that I was experiencing , my emotional level and loss of self greatly affected the quality of my life. Taking Pilates classes was my first step in the recovery process as it addressed the pain that I had been experiencing. As the pain diminished and my body became stronger I started to pay greater attention to my overall health and nutrition. I realized that having a stronger body while struggling with an eating disorder was completely counter productive. It wasn’t easy, but I started taking small steps to improving all aspects of my health. My family and friends supported and coached me through the process. The next big step that contributed to my recovery was opening my first Pilates studio. I quickly realized that in order to be effective with my clients I had to be honest with them and with myself. I knew that I would achieve greater success if I was as strong and healthy as possible and this idea in itself created a continued path of wellness.

Image by Heather Dorak

How/why can Pilates empower someone to overcome obstacles in their life? 

Pilates emphasizes a lifestyle. It's not a fad or trendy workout -- Pilates can truly change your body. Results are achieved in a short amount of time and I see it all the time from people at my studio. They become more self confident as they accomplish more and this motivates and empowers them to address other obstacles in their lives as well. They begin to make a long term commitment to their overall daily lives, activities and relationships the same way that they approach their fitness goals which brings them greater success and encourages them to take their lives to the next level.

A lot of yogis also practice Pilates -- why do you think this is so?

Even though they are quite different, I think that a lot of yogis practice Pilates because the nature of the techniques makes it easy for them to compliment each other. You get the stretch with yoga and keep it with Pilates. You can strengthen your abdominals on the reformer and see improvement in many of your poses. Joining the breathing techniques of Pilates and meditative aspect of yoga into a daily routine will enhance the mind, body and spirit. By combining both the body never becomes totally accustomed to performing the same routine every day so it's constantly in a state of change and development. This is what a successful workout routine is all about. Pilates and yoga are both dynamic workouts that are time proven and established and people who participate in both achieve the ultimate benefits possible.

What is your philosophy on food? 

I believe that clean eating goes hand in hand with being healthy and achieving our fitness goals. The soul of clean eating is consuming food in its most natural state, or as close to it as possible. If you eat garbage, your body will show it. If you eat whole, healthy and fresh foods your body, skin and soul will glow with health that will give you endless energy. It is not a diet, it is a lifestyle approach to food and its preparation. Here are my favorite tips that I share with my clients who are seeking ways to improve their food choices.

  1. Avoid processed foods and eliminate food with chemicals.
  2. Eat lots of plants, preferably straight off of the tree or bush; the idea here is to stay away from anything that has been altered by a food company.
  3. Drink at least two liters of water a day.
  4. If you eat meat, eat meats that are whole and straight from the butcher, humanly raised and local.
  5. Consume healthy fats every day.
  6. Enjoy grains – eat whole grains that haven’t been broken down.
  7. Read labels so you know what you are eating. Clean foods only include one or two ingredients.
  8. Buy organic when you can.
  9. Learn about portion sizes and work toward eating within them.
  10. Eat 5-6 small meals per day, if this is too difficult, eat 3 smaller meals with a mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack.  Include a lean protein, plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, and a complex carbohydrate with each meal.  This keeps your body energized and burning calories efficiently all day long.

Clean eating may seem overwhelming at first, especially if you have lots of changes to make. My advice is to take baby steps. Make little changes every day and don’t feel guilty if you make mistakes. We all do. Just realize that it is what you do the majority of the time that counts.

Image by Heather Dorak

What are some of your favorite healthy places to eat in LA?

There are so many amazing healthy places to eat in LA and that’s why I love this city. I love Tender Greens, especially the one next to my Santa Monica studio on Broadway and 2nd street. They have a raw salad featured every day with local farmers market produce. Euphoria Loves Rawvolution is an amazing place that serves up these marvelous raw food dishes. It's also my go to place when I am craving something sweet. Latest indulgence was cookie dough ball made out of coconut butter and coconut oil -- amazing! The space out there is just so cool, vibrant and open, I love going there to work or just hang out with friends. Main Street in Santa Monica is one of my favorite streets in LA.

What's next for you, what are you working on?

I have found that lifestyle, not diets or trendy workouts is the most important thing to emphasize as we strive to make changes in our lives. My dedication is to inspire others to create, implement and achieve their personal fitness goals. Next month I will also begin to offer fitness and nutrition seminars at our Brentwood studio. I'd like to create an environment that is constantly evolving and provides opportunities for people to feel supported and engaged as they continue on their chosen path.

For more on Heather check out PilatesPlatinum.com.

Ready to learn more about how to unlock the power of food to heal your body, prevent disease & achieve optimal health? Register now for our FREE web class with nutrition expert Kelly LeVeque.

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