“The worst days of my life have turned out to be the best gift of all.”
It sounds like a meme you’d find on an inspirational meme, but it’s a real quote from a real solo business owner.
Meet Joni Seeto whose own battle for better health led her to the business of her dreams. The Melbourne-based food coach, owner of Food Habits is on a mission to help women overcome emotional eating, one step at a time.
It’s a job Joni covets with a passion because she’s walked the journey herself. Eighteen months ago she was running a health food shop that was failing miserably. After spending the previous decade working in corporate finance, the health food shop was Joni’s first foray into business.
“It was a health food shop and I figured that if I was surrounded by healthy food all day, I’d become healthy,” laughs Joni.
In reality she’d never been more unhappy or unhealthy.
“I was working 7 days a week to keep the shop going. And because I was in an environment where I was stressed and surrounded food – what did I do?”
“Because I had spent almost the whole year in the shop I’d barely saw my partner and we were so close to calling it quits at that point. And then my nan died – these things all come in threes, right? And it was the final straw. I realised I had to make a change.”
‘It was the first time in my life where I had to stop and think’
The first change was closing the health food shop – a move that Joni describes as completely discombobulating for her perfectionist personality.
“It was the first time in my life where I had no plan – I had to stop and think: what will I do now? And that kind of led me on a self-discovery journey.”
Heading back to the corporate life was not an option: “I got a taste of the freedom of the business world and I still had my original reasons for becoming a business owner: I wanted financial independence so when I eventually have children I can be free to work around them,” she says.
Joni says reading self-help books on “everything” was a key part of her journey.
“I started learning more about what makes businesses work (ie that they need to solve a real problem and reflect your ‘why’ and key values,” says Joni.
Joni hid her emotional eating out of shame
“A big influence was John Demartini and then I discovered the enneagram personality framework and that really helped me understand myself and the way I viewed the world. And and the John De Martini training helped me understand my values – including why I turned to food in the first place.”
Joni says until she tapped into the Demartini information she’d always struggled to understand her issues with food.
“For 20 years I have struggled with binge eating and emotional eating and I just thought this was my own issues with food. It seemed like everyone else out there was doing so well and I was the only one who couldn’t stick to a diet,” says Joni.
“So when I had this first realization that what I was doing was binge eating, I opened my Instagram account and started talking about it. I started getting messages, one after another from women who were saying, ‘OMG I do his too! And they were saying that they too were thinking they were the ones who did it. It was then that I realised, I had no choice, I had to get the message out there.”
And so Food Habits was born
Joni completed a diploma at the Institute for the Psychology of Eating and became a certified eating psychology coach. She says her clients are all women 35 years and up.
“They come to me after 15 or 20 years of dieting. At the end of this period they have tried absolutely everything and realised that nothing is working. So they are starting to go – okay there is something else going on here,” says Joni.
“When we are in our teens and 20s and even our 30s we are always looking for external validation of approval or love. You start to realise you have to give it to yourself and that additional self love and acceptance comes from that.”
Joni’s courses run for 12 weeks and start with a big section on “undoing the diet mentality”.
“I teach women how to un-brainwash – how to tune back into their bodies and find respect for their bodies again.”
The future looks bright
Joni says having finally found a business that aligns with her personal values motivates her on a daily basis.
“My main business goal now is how can I spread this message far and wide. Actually, my ultimate dream is a Netflix documentary on this topic to really reach the women of the world,” says Joni.
“This business is so aligned with my values that I don’t care how long it takes to get off the ground, I will never stop fighting for this business. My food business was nice to have, but this business is completely different.”