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Nutrition

Judy Foreman: Valeska Voiges Finds Calling Teaching Clients How to Eat for Life

Certified health coach has knack for helping individuals achieve ideal balance of food, energy, emotions and choices

Valeska Voiges, right, stops in at the Hilltop & Canyon Certified Organic Farm booth at the Santa Barbara Farmers Market. The certified health coach and former private chef has made it her mission to help her clients see the errors of their diets. “I do not believe in fads or diets or a set universal program,” she says. “Instead I look at the individual and think how can I help this person sustain a healthy and happy life?”
Valeska Voiges, right, stops in at the Hilltop & Canyon Certified Organic Farm booth at the Santa Barbara Farmers Market. The certified health coach and former private chef has made it her mission to help her clients see the errors of their diets. “I do not believe in fads or diets or a set universal program,” she says. “Instead I look at the individual and think how can I help this person sustain a healthy and happy life?” (Voiges family photo)

Visiting the Santa Barbara Farmers Market on any given Saturday yields a great slice of life on the American Riviera.

With music in the air, food vendors, shoppers, adults and kids gather to sample, share and take home fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers, baked goods, antibiotics-free meat, hummus, nuts, honey and so much more.

It’s a true cornucopia of life and the outstanding availability of farm-to-table food in our community.

On a recent Saturday, I had the privilege of getting a world-class tour of the farmers market and meeting some special vendors. My passport to the “good eats” was conducted by Valeska Voiges, a certified health coach and personal chef.

Voiges and I met through coach Alex Ash at The Lab, which is part of the P3 family at 121 Gray Ave. in the Funk Zone, where I’ve been working out since December.

In addition to improving my physical well-being, I’ve been wanting professional guidance to upgrade the quality of food I’ve been eating. Now that my kids are married, in college or live in Los Angeles, I’m often just cooking for myself or eating out.

It’s easy to skip meals and grab what’s convenient, but I know that’s not always the most nutritious. Plus, there’s the challenge of keeping it interesting.

Voiges is a celebrity at the farmers market and on a first-name basis with many of the vendors. Their faces lit up as we approached their stalls.

She explained the reasons why she chooses each vendor, a process that often involves visiting their farms to see firsthand their growing methods. After sampling their products, she makes her choices on flavor and quality.

Our day at the market was fascinating, informative and fun. Voiges has a warm, nonjudgmental personality. She is one of the new young entrepreneurs to watch in Santa Barbara, along with her husband, renowned artist R. Nelson Parrish, whom she married on the Gaviota coast almost a year ago.

Having grown up in Berlin, Voiges spent summers in Italy and in the German countryside with her grandmother, who showed her how to garden, to grow food and to cook meals from what she had harvested.

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As you might imagine, there was nothing processed in their food. Just as authentic were the company and conversation.

When Voiges moved to the United States, she couldn’t help but notice our “on-the-go” food mentality. While working as a private chef in Santa Barbara, a friend recognized her talent and suggested she enroll in the School of Culinary Arts at Santa Barbara City College.

At SBCC, she learned to cook professionally, which led to a successful career cooking for clients, including Hollywood celebrities, families and individuals with special dietary needs.

She said her “aha” moment came when she realized that while “I was cooking for them, I was also changing their lives.”

“I was getting my clients to slow down and eat, and begin to taste fruits and vegetables they had never eaten,” she told Noozhawk. “They were eating more as a family. Chronic illnesses were being reversed and my clients seemed happier and healthier.

“I observed that I could be touching more lives if … I could coach people as well.”

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With more people living longer, the quality of food and the importance of exercise is irrefutable. While you can stop smoking or drinking alcohol, you can’t stop eating. According to Voiges, figuring out how to make those choices, and trusting them, “will lead us to the right place, weight, relationship, body and health.”

As we discussed how to make changes in my own life, Voiges shared that, as a certified health coach, the success of her clients lies in “making things accessible, realistic and easily incorporated in their lives.”

“I do not believe in fads or diets or a set universal program,” she said. “Instead I look at the individual and think how can I help this person sustain a healthy and happy life?”

This is where she believes the deep and truly life-changing work happens. As soon as she lets her clients know she is there for the long haul, she says, the changes start happening. It becomes trusting relationship.

We followed up our field trip to the farmers market with a visit to my home and a look inside my pantry and refrigerator. I was nervous about her seeing my hidden junk food drawer, but she didn’t judge. She did ask me to keep a food journal for the next week.

A follow-up conversation ensued when she called me from her Mission Canyon home office as she prepared to leave on a delayed honeymoon. We scheduled a meeting for when she returned from Europe in early September, an ideal time for me to begin a new schedule.

Voiges asks clients to commit to four to six months of working together, and her first consultation is free.

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“Many stay longer, and while the subject begins as food, most clients talk about other things — like their relationships, families, their jobs,” she said.

“I noticed when those things come into alignment, the food part is simple, and underlying all of my clients is a deep desire to feel good in their lives and in their bodies.”

Her message resonated with me about getting people to tap into their own intuition and trust themselves to make good decisions for themselves.

Sometimes that decision means eating chocolate cake or, in my case, one too many Trader Joe’s chocolate-covered almonds. Sometimes it means not.

Although I would have liked to hire Voiges as my personal chef, she’s retired from that aspect of her work. Now she’s only coaching clients and teaching them how to understand the connection between what they put into their bodies — foods, emotion, energy — and how to make conscious choices that create habits that will alter the course of their lives.

Voiges also works with and consults for a few local organizations as another part of her community outreach.

Click here for more information about Valeska Voiges, email [email protected], or call 805.448.0768.

— Judy Foreman is a Noozhawk columnist and longtime local writer and lifestyles observer. She can be contacted at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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