We had the good fortune of connecting with Theresa Paganini and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Theresa, as a parent, what have you done for you children that you feel has had the most significant impact?
I have one fur-baby, four step-children and hundreds of adult “children” (aka my clients) that I have positively impacted by encouraging the same philosophy: enjoy everything life has to offer, including failure.

I believe the purpose of life is to learn who we are really meant to be and find joy in creating our most fulfilled life. You cannot do that without curiosity, experimentation, success, failure, connection, and a willingness to learn. But it is our job as parents to make our children feel safe to do that. It is probably the toughest and yet bravest thing we can do as a parent – let our children explore the world, risk failing and getting hurt, but then get back up and LEARN. This needs to start at a young age so we don’t hold them back with our own fears. Instead, we simply ensure they feel safe to explore their own beliefs, style, likes, dislikes, and boundaries.

Each time one of my step-kids gets in some kind of trouble, I simply ask one question, “What did you learn?” I don’t really care what they did or how someone else judged their action as “bad”. I want to know their own thoughts on the situation and what they learned from it. That’s how they grow, get stronger, get smarter, and become their most authentic and best self. Because of this, the kids know they are safe to fail. They also know they will get back up. They know they will be loved in all of their glorious imperfection. They know every choice has pros and cons, so choose wisely. They also know almost every choice can be changed, so it’s okay if they get it wrong. This permission, or more accurately encouragement, to explore and fail has given them the confidence to experience life with curiosity rather than fear.

I do the same with my clients. Losing weight is simple, but it is not easy, especially for those that struggle with a disordered relationship with food. Throughout life, my emotional eating clients learned to use food for comfort, distraction, and punishment. In my programs I ask them to open up their minds and hearts to explore their own beliefs, style, likes, dislikes, and boundaries, rather than the ones they have been living with. The ones they have been living with were most likely taught to them as a child.

Luckily, life presents plenty of opportunities to “fail”. It’s in these moments that we better define the beliefs that are influencing our behavior. Anytime a client falls off plan or self-sabotages with food, I ask them, “What did you learn?” I don’t ask about what they ate or how much. I don’t shame them with ridicule over their deviation from plan. I don’t show disappointment or frustration that they paused their progress. None of that is helpful. Instead, I simply ask, “what did you learn?” There are a variety of reasons why someone can fail in that moment, and it only matters because we can learn from it. This opens my clients up to self-forgiveness and grace, which allows them to let the failure go and move on rather than being defined by it.

I think it’s this belief that failure should not be a defining moment but SHOULD be a learning moment that has had the greatest impact on all of my “kids”. When you are not afraid to fail, then you are not afraid to act. Through action, both my step-children and clients learn who we really are meant to be and find joy in living their most fulfilled life.

Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
My business is called Love Yourself Lean because my mission is to help people feel worthy of love, acceptance, and joy so they can create their healthiest bodies and live their best lives. It isn’t until you believe you are worthy of love, acceptance, and joy that you allow yourself to experience them. And without them, weight loss becomes a very toxic journey filled with self-abuse and shame. Without the foundation of self-worth, any effort towards weight loss simply encourages a disordered relationship with food and validates feelings of failure.

Conversely, my programs focus on self-worth, love and respect first and weight loss second thereby creating a positive, compassionate, and rewarding experience that allows my clients to eat and live with joy throughout the process. This is especially true of my signature online emotional eating program Love Yourself Lean. This 6-month, self-paced program helps those that have a disordered relationship with food learn how to redefine their beliefs, reframe their thoughts, speak with intention, and eat with mindfulness so they can live lighter in mind, body, and spirit.

Although I am extremely proud of the company I have built and the love-centered emotional eating programs I have developed, it hasn’t been easy to achieve success. Most people that struggle with their weight find safety and distraction in dieting. The process of dieting is very logical, methodical, action-oriented and numbers focused, whereas my programs are highly introspective, communicative, and emotional. To be successful with my programs you must be willing to reflect, look inward, face demons you’ve been avoiding, and be completely honest with yourself about your willingness to think, speak, and act differently; it requires introspection, vulnerability, courage, and discomfort. These are feelings that my target market prefer to avoid. And because we focus on the mind and heart first, weight loss is significantly slower than your typical fad diet, which can be frustrating and demotivating for someone who is used to losing copious amounts of weight very quickly. As a result, there’s typically a good three to six months between the time someone learns of my programs and when they actually sign up – many won’t sign up at all. They’d rather stay in the safety loop of dieting. This has probably been my greatest challenge growing the business. But, I have learned that my job is to educate, inspire, and create a safe and inviting environment for potential clients; my job is not to sell. Remaining authentic, passionate, and persistent in my messaging has been my secret to success. When I focus on providing valuable insights to my audience that challenge their perspective, I immediately make a difference in their lives and spark a curiosity in learning more about my programs.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
My friends and I share three pleasures in life – the great outdoors, good food, and well made cocktails or wine. So, here is what a week with friends would look like:

Day 1:
1-hour morning hike up South Mountain (which happens to be in my backyard)
Breakfast at Pomegranates Cafe
Kayak the Salt River from Water User’s Pass to Phon D Sutton
Dinner and drinks at Bourbon and Bones in Scottsdale

Day 2:
Spend the morning at the Desert Botanical Gardens
Eat lunch at Gertrude’s Restaurant at the DBG
4-wheel a couple of miles behind the gardens to find the trailhead for a beautiful 6-mile hike with multiple river crossings
Dinner, drinks, and live music at The Cellar in Ahwatukee

Day 3:
Drive to Jerome and park on the outskirts, then walk up to the main street.
Grab a coffee and breakfast at The Flat Iron, then spend the morning exploring all of the cute shops, wineries, bars, and cute homes in Jerome.
Grab lunch at the Hillside Deli before heading to Cottonwood
Spend the afternoon exploring the streets and wineries in Old Town Cottonwood.
Dinner at Bocce

Day 4:
Enjoy breakfast at Crema in Old Town Cottonwood
Drive into Sedona and hike Bear Mountain, or Chapel of the Holy Cross Trail, Airport Loop, Devil’s Bridge, etc. They are all favorites!!
Enjoy dinner at the Mesa Grill near the Sedona Airport

Day 5:
Wake up super early, hike up Cathedral Rock and watch the sunrise from the saddle
Grab a Bran muffin (much more delicious than it sounds) and coffee from The Secret Garden Cafe in Tlaquepaque and explore the shops and galleries in that area
Walk from Tlaquepaque to Uptown and enjoy the views and information placards along the road.
While in Uptown, visit Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory for a dark chocolate pecan bear claw (repeat visitors get 15% off their bill!!)
Then head to Page Springs for dinner at Up The Creek. Start at the bar where Mario will introduce you to a variety of folks as well as amazing wines. Then, either eat at the bar, or grab a table by one of the windows and enjoy the view of the creek while you enjoy the amazing food.

Day 6:
Wake up early and do a morning meditation at Airport Mesa then grab a quick and delicious breakfast at The Local Juicery before heading back to Phoenix.
Chillax at home, then get dressed up and head to the Phoenix Art museum
End the evening at Hanny’s for dinner and drinks

Day 7:
Wake up and take a walk around the Equestrian neighborhood in Ahwatukee to check out all of the amazing homes backdropped by South Mountain
After breakfast at home, head to the butterfly museum in Scottsdale for an amazing experience with the butterflies!!
Lunch at The Vig
Walk around Chaparral Park near Old Town Scottsdale and spend some time in the Xeriscape Garden and dog park.
Happy Hour at House of Tricks in Tempe before heading home

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Everything I do is because of my mother; she is the inspiration for my business. Thank you Mom, (aka Bobbie Paganini), for teaching me to speak my truth, believe in myself, and lift others up with my words and actions.

I have the courage to build this business because of my life partner, David Crawford. He is my rock, my comfort, my shield, and my greatest cheerleader (sans the short skirt – ha ha). Thank you for being the love of my life and the anchor I need to brave the world of business as I change people’s lives.

I also have my good friend Tiffney Houston to thank. She is in a similar field of business for a similar amount of time and she always inspires me with her positivity, tenacity, curiosity, and creativity. She is an indomitable spirit that does not understand the word “fail”. She lives life with a full and open heart that she shares generously with others. I’m lucky to call her friend.

Books that have influenced my success (in the order I’ve read them) are Make the Connection by Bob Greene and Oprah Winfrey, Clean Eating by Tosca Reno, The Gift of Imperfection and Daring Greatly by Brene Brown, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, Ask and It Is Given by Esther and Jerry Hicks, You Are a Badass and You Are a Badass at Making Money by Jen Sincero, and Business Made Simple by Donald Miller.

Website: www.loveyoulean.com

Instagram: www.instagram.com/loveyoulean

Facebook: www.facebook.com/loveyourselflean

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLtjWGBGuOSeOh9pGRHpmyQ

Image Credits
Erin Green Photography

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutArizona is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.