07 March 2015 Last updated


Life Challenge Week 1: Paola Pani

Life Challenger Paola Pani on her main goals and kicking off the challenge

Aquarius magazine
8 Mar 2012 | 05:05 pm
  • "I was never a Sporty Spice type of girl, but I’ve always done some kind of exercise. However, recently I haven’t been inspired to do anything because starting tomorrow is always better than today!"

    Source:Stefan Lindeque/ANM

Age: 36
Nationality: Italian
My overall aim is to… Find out what I really want to do with my life.
The area of The Life Challenge I’m most looking forward to is… The life coaching, but the fitness will be a good opportunity for me to show myself that I can push myself.
The most difficult part of The Life Challenge for me will be… Dealing with people/friends who might not understand what I am going through. Also, being the one in the limelight will be hard for me.

On Nutrition:
Just before the challenge started I had to do some ‘homework’ so I wrote a food diary for a week for Christina, the nutritionist I’ve been assigned to. I don’t remember ever dieting in my life, I actually sort of dislike the word diet, so I was not sure what to expect from the outcome of the Body Analyisis tests. Although I think nutrition is not my main worry (I don’t eat take-outs or junk food as I worry I might get addicted), I’m definitely looking forward to knowing more about my body. Hopefully I don’t have to change too many of my eating habits... I love my cappuccino in the morning, my pizza once a week and my daily dose of chocolate... do I eat too much of it? I like to think not of course.

On life coaching:
I was anxious about meeting my NLP life coach Shana, thinking she would shed some light on the reason why I never feel good enough and have a feeling from deep down in my stomach that I don’t know what to do with my life.

Eventually I sent Shana an e-mail telling her I was anxious. She replied that, “Anxiety is just a warning from your subconscious that you are not focusing on the outcome you want … So, your first exercise can be to start focusing on exactly what you want.” Easy peasy, but I thought, “OMG, I haven’t started yet and I’m already making mistakes – how typical of me!”

What if I don’t know what I want? Or worse, what if I want too many things and I get the ‘Are you kidding?’ look. What if I’m just living in a bubble and someone has to give me a reality check? So pen and paper in hand, trying to focus, it’s as if I think that just by holding the pen, the sandstorm in my head will clear in seconds... But hold on a sec, focus? That’s another one of my biggest flaws - together with procrastination, insecurity, mumbling too much… Get the picture? So, as soon as I started focusing, I let myself be distracted again - by my cats that wanted to play, by facebook, an email, a piece of chocolate, oh dear the laundry! Argh!

On Fitness:
I was never a Sporty Spice type of girl, but I’ve always done some kind of exercise. However, recently I haven’t been inspired to do anything because starting tomorrow is always better than today! So the Life Challenge comes to the rescue for me because ‘tomorrow’ the Life Challenge starts and I have to do it! I received a four-week plan from Fitness First so I went to visit the gym in the Green Community and Ryan the GM walked me through the facilities. I loved the power-shower! I have only one rest day in my fitness schedule and I’m feeling tired just looking at it, but I’m glad that it starts with some gentle yoga... bliss!

Week one, day two


I’m still asking myself how I managed to put myself in this situation as for two months following my return to Dubai I couldn’t (or wouldn’t want to) socialise, see friends or go out as I felt I didn’t have much to say, so I confined myself to the safety of my house. Feeling guilty for neglecting my friends was (and at times still is) part of my daily emotional check list, together with feeling ungrateful for not just being content with what life has given me. The Challenge gave me a reason to believe that ordinary people like me can do something with their life, whatever that might be... I’m not aiming for riches, nor to be famous; I just want serenity and to find out what I'm good at. 

I started the diet that lovely Christina gave me and, although she said I make good food choices, I need to eat more for lunch and less for dinner, which is a bit of a challenge for me as the evening is the only time I can sit down at the dinner table with my husband and chat about the day and so on... Thankfully he’s very supportive, so we have already started. She also said I need to substitute my sugar with splenda, but I think I will ditch sugar completely from my coffee as I’m not a great fun of splenda. 

My first session with Shana was enlightening and very hard at the same time. She has a way of making you feel at ease so you can empty your emotional and mental backpack. I was so nervous before but it was like watching my favourite movie and I was the leading actor. It’s quite hard to explain the feelings of that day… during the session I went from sadness to exhilaration, but – most importantly – I finally had a moment of realisation and the feeling of gratefulness completely blew me away. Until now I’ve made a daily habit of writing five things I’m grateful for in my life as they say that it makes you more appreciative, but talking to Shana is a totally different experience… it’s like having the female version of the Dhalai Lama in my house (I’m not sure if she will like this comparison!). Her words travel quickly from your mind to the core of your soul. It was simply amazing! I was left feeling so relieved, hopeful and full of energy! So full of energy, in fact, that I agreed to help a friend source some items for her work, so for the past five days, I’ve been busy for a change.

Seeing myself in the magazine made me adamant to go to the gym and start my workout. I got lost twice on the way, almost had a breakdown, and called my husband in tears to help me find the way. I had to go back to the beginning and start from scratch... When I finally got there, my personal trainer was busy so a substitute helped me and I basically did a mini triathlon. He caught me yawning and told me if wasn’t enjoying it I should stop. Are you kidding? It took me a flipping hour to get here! I have to do this and quitting is not an option. So he said you don’t ‘have to’ do it, you must want to do it, so smile and take it easy... So I smiled and shouted “I will do it!” It worked and I pedalled my way to new horizons! What a day!

Week one, day three

I woke up at 1.30am feeling feverish and sore after my gym session. This is major – I absolutely have to stick to my gym routine. I need to – and want to – go as often as I can, so I dragged myself downstairs to get some painkillers… I felt like a train ran over me in my sleep. Am I just been dramatic? Once awake, I couldn’t get back to sleep because of worrying about what my intention for the life coaching Personal Breakthrough Journey is and what I want for myself. I was worrying about whether my family and friends will like the new version of me, and if they are embarrassed that I am doing this… I don’t want to disappoint them but then again why should they be embarrassed? This is once in a lifetime opportunity. Things like this don’t happen to regular people like me very often, but here I am writing this blog, so I guess I have to make them proud.

I’m wondering about the girls – my fellow challengers – and if they are feeling the same. I’m scared of the changes ahead and I’m feeling the pressure to do my best. I’ve never done anything great ever… am I grateful enough? Do I really deserve this amazing experience and pampering? I know my problems are not really big life problems. I have my health, a roof over my head, and I don’t necessarily need to work. For this I feel constant guilt and embarrassment, but I should be happy and content.

It’s so strange… although my friends and family have been amazingly supportive about the Life Challenge, and I feel I need them more than ever, I actually feel alone in this. It’s my challenge and I’ve got to do it by myself. I owe it to myself! For once I feel I’m really, truly doing something only for Paola. I don’t remember the last time I woke up thinking that I’m worthy, or that I have something to offer to the world. But finally I’m close to knowing what I want, being ready to be faithful to my inner self and, although I’m excited, I’m dreading the outcome. Whose going to hire me? Who’s going to bet on me? I know after this is over I will benefit in the long term and hopefully the people I love will too, because I will be a stronger woman and I will be happy again!

I don’t like myself like this – whining and wondering too much, over analysing everything. So, after two hours of tossing and turning, I tried to recall what Shana told me. She said, “You are here because you caused it and you worked your way to reach this point in your life”. So with this encouraging thought in mind, I relaxed, stop worrying and let myself fall asleep again.  

Paola’s nutritionist, Christina Doublichevitche, health and nutrition manager at Unilever, says:

“I am really happy you’re making the changes, Paola, and hope you are feeling better. You need to commit to the exercise plan as well to build up some muscle. Try to have small dinners and spread your food throughout the day… you’re already making fairly good choices, but your timing is off.” 

Week one, day seven


After the second session with Shana I feel like a blank canvas that needs to be repainted. I’m so much more relaxed and things makes more sense. I’ve learned that the major events in my life happened because they were part of my representation of the world and that’s also why I was not that surprised when those episodes happened – they were just a reflection of my thoughts. I always focused on what I didn’t want to happen and so I built my world out of fear of failure and distrust of myself. 

Our unconscious mind sees in pictures so we did an amazing exercise and something really extraordinary happened inside me while she asked me to close my eyes and to see myself forgiving all the people I needed to forgive. Then I had to embrace them, say ‘I love you’ and ‘Thank you’ and finally let them go... By forgiving each one of those people, I was automatically forgiving myself. It was beautiful and at the same time hard emotionally. I felt relief, like a huge weight left my body. It left me feeling lighter and confident that whatever happens, I will be fine. I’m already looking at some people in my life through different eyes and I feel like there is warm smile inside my heart because I understand myself a little better with regards to them. No words are enough to explain how grateful I am for the amazing gift that I am receiving, but I promise that I will try my best to make sure that every person I meet in my life will know about the amazing power of our mind and how we all can be happy – and how we all deserve to be. 

Today is International Women’s day so I want to dedicate this beautiful song to all of you, the superwomen of the world. 

Aquarius magazine

Aquarius magazine

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  • Vanessa, Providenciales, Turks And Caicos Islands

    It will be great to "watch you" from a distance; good luck, and I am sure the outcome will be as lovable as you are now and stronger and happier, I am sure.