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Overcoming Adversity and Finding Your Passion: An Interview with Fitness Coach Sherry Shaban

Updated: Jan 30




Sherry grew up as a competitive athlete who lived for sports. She shares, "I was always MVP...I was competing against the boys in elementary school. I had to do the most pushups and all that." Her athletic prowess continued into high school, where she excelled in varsity sports. At 16, while living in Switzerland for boarding school, she was hit by a car on her way to buy Pearl Jam tickets. She recalls, "I woke up and I was in the hospital."


From Sports Star to "Victim"

The accident triggered immense back pain that rapidly progressed. Within weeks, Sherry "wasn't able to shower on my own I wasn't able to walk." She underwent emergency back surgery, where doctors repaired several herniated discs. They delivered crushing news: "You're never allowed to play sports again...if ever you were to become pregnant one day, this could pose a lot of issues on the back."


Sherry followed doctors' orders, abandoning the sports she loved. She admits, "For a long time I was just angry. If this hadn't happened...I could have competed in the sport if this, you know, and it was this constant, if then, which is very victim mindset, right?" For years, she numbed her pain with medication, lost touch with her identity, and engaged in unhealthy habits—the opposite of the driven athlete she once was.


Turning Pain into Passion

In her early 20s, Sherry had an epiphany: "I kind of just woke up one day and I'm like, okay, who is this person?" She signed up for a gym membership and began rebuilding her strength, starting with short walks. She notes, "My back pain is gone. I was able to get off my pain medication." Bit by bit, she reclaimed her active lifestyle, eventually pursuing degrees in exercise science and osteopathy.


Sherry reflects, "For a long time, especially when I just opened my gym, I didn't really want to tell people I was a coach or I was a trainer or that I was even a gym owner." She felt embarrassed by her back surgeries and limitations. However, training clients at her gym gave her a renewed sense of purpose.


Watching members transform their health inspired Sherry. As she shares, "...that actually is what re inspired me. And it was that moment where I decided I get to be whoever I am...it was so clear that this hadn't happened to me, it actually happened for me." She realized her injury equipped her to truly empathize with and empower people overcoming physical and mental obstacles.


Leaning Into the Victim Mindset

Sherry acknowledges falling into victim mentality at times, noting "It's gonna happen—the mind is always gonna go to the negative." However, she stresses the importance of acknowledging feelings without getting stuck in them. As she advises, "Allow yourself to get the emotions out, maybe even time yourself." Then, intentionally shift perspective by asking, “What is the opportunity?"


Practicing gratefulness and having faith that challenges lead somewhere better keeps her moving forward during setbacks. She explains, "...creating that massive awareness that this does happen for us is how we can actually move past that."


Helping Others Make Peace with Food

Today, Sherry focuses her coaching on "help[ing] women overcome out of control and self sabotaging eating behaviors." Using an anti-diet, holistic approach, she empowers people to transform both mind and body.


Sherry also shares free resources through her Make Peace with Food website and @sherryshabanfitness Instagram. She designed her workbook specifically for those seeking to gain control over problematic eating.


Key Takeaways

  • Adversity provides opportunity for growth and purpose, if you lean into it.

  • Victim mindset is normal, but don't get stuck there. Shift your focus to gratitude and possibilities.

  • Consistency and adaptation are key—start small to build sustainable habits.

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