Interview with my sister Sonia DeFelice, MYWW-(Weight Watchers reimagined) Coach

My sister Sonia is a superstar workshop coach for WW - Weight Watchers reimagined.  She started as a member of Weight Watchers for the first time nearly 15 years ago but most recently rejoining just over 4 years ago, and then was recruited as a workshop coach. Sonia is known in the company for leading energetic and inspiring workshops.   
Sonia and I grew up in Lebanon NH. She now lives happily in a warm climate near the ocean in Florida, where in contrast, I feel most happy in the mountains of Colorado. We are called to live in very different places, but we share a passion for supporting others in their pursuits of health and wellbeing. The last time we were together was in September when we surprised our Mom in NH for her 80th birthday. Sonia talked at length about her work and what a joy it is. It is a gift that we share, supporting others in their health and wellbeing. I wanted to share Sonia with all of you. 
It seems your work is about supporting and leading a community of people with the common goal of improving their physical health and sense of wellbeing. Is this a good way to summarize what you do?

Yes, officially…. Our purpose is “To inspire healthy habits for real life - for people, families, communities, the world-for everyone”. This is done not only with the MyWW food plan but also through weekly meetings that teach techniques based on science. 
How do you coach your groups and individuals to adopt a successful mindset?  What are the important elements?

The MyWW program is built on three pillars, Food, Activity and Mindset. While inspiring healthy lifestyles, we coach behavioral changes and healthy habits. Members attend weekly workshops where we introduce a topic each week to help build a “toolbox” of techniques that members can draw from. Nationally WW will be covering the same technique but each coach adds their own energy and delivery to that scientifically proven technique. I am blessed to have such an opportunity; sharing this knowledge in my own way with members is my passion. 
How does the group support each other?  How important is the group aspect of WW?

Community is very important in WW. I have many members who use the term “My WW family.” Each workshop has time devoted to having members share and connect with each other, celebrating their successes and supporting each other’s challenges. Brainstorming and sharing experiences that can help struggling members with new ideas and so that they know they are not alone. We all need to know others have experienced many of the same challenges and yet still they succeed. This offers more than just support; this offers hope and inspiration. I am fortunate to say one of my jobs is to find out how the members put the behaviors into action so other members can use this in their own journey. 

Generally, people are very motivated at the beginning of a program or an initiative, and then life happens and motivation wanes. How do you help people get back on track during your workshops? What strategies do you recommend to them?

When a member joins WW we like to find out what brought them in. Often people either have a moment of truth or a tipping point. They have a realization that their life is not heading in the direction they want. This can be very emotional and this is often the fuel for the journey and we call that a “Why.” Sometimes people will forget their why, or it is no longer relevant, so first I ask them to re-evaluate their why. Other times peer challenges can spur the feeling of success and reinvigorate some people. Often, we find that a small feeling of success sparks pride and excitement. I have also found that connecting a waning member with another who has recently been in the same headspace but then found motivation can be very powerful. Finally, I like to point out that not all victories are seen on a scale or one measure. We need to look at the many small victories that have lead to an overall picture of healthier habits, behaviors, and overall mindset. Often people think of healthy habits as what they “should” be doing, not recognizing they are changing their whole world with these small amazing transformations. I love celebrating this change and asking how will your life change if you stop now? 
In your opinion, what traits or behaviors do the most successful people in your groups have in common? 

In my opinion, there are a few traits that I believe help people to be successful. My top two? A growth mindset and gratitude. When a member is ready to accept that what has happened in the past is not going to bring them the results they would like, they tend to be successful. Also, there is scientific evidence that happier people make healthier choices, and we know that healthier choices lead not only to weight loss but also a better quality of life. 
What do you say to people who are struggling and feeling discouraged?

I wish I had the perfect response for each person but I don’t. I need to ask questions as to what the challenges are and what is getting in the way. I find that most of the time people have some pretty hard standards for themselves and that leads to frustration. We need to remember that with every healthy habit we develop we are winning and achieving success. Not all success will happen on the scale. We really need to celebrate every change we make. 
Can you describe one or two of your biggest success stories?

First, none of these stories will be mine, they will be journeys of members that I have had the honor to watch. I suppose it would be expected of me to say one of my members is one who lost 100lbs or more but really, that isn’t the only success. The success in this story is the confidence that this young mother and nurse gained from becoming a healthy woman. She learned how taking care of her own body gave her children a better quality of life. It gave her the confidence to apply and become a head nurse. I could also tell you about the grandmother who joined WW to “to be able to keep up with her grandson.” Last fall she was able to take him camping and sleep on the ground. This activity was a major success considering at one point in her life her weight did not allow her to get on the floor to play with him, for fear she could not get up. Every day I hear how members are taking less medication and becoming more mindful of food choices. They are healthier overall and these are the biggest successes.  
Do you ever regret denying that you took stuff out of my closet when we were kids? 

Hell NO! It gave me a moment to be ALMOST as cool as my big sister. Oh how long I waited for the chance to be able to wear the white Nike’s with the red swish! 
You are a bright light in the world and I am happy that you have found a way to shine it on people who need support and inspiration.  
And you have always been my inspiration. Thank you Dawn