Hello and thank you for visiting my website! I'm Gabbi Berkow, a Registered Dietitian, Exercise Physiologist and a certified Personal Trainer and Pilates Instructor. My aim is to help you achieve your goals by providing the exercise and nutrition expertise you need to get the best possible results and forge a happier, healthier life.
I've dedicated many years to learning the sciences of the human body, movement, exercise, and nutrition so I could become armed with the knowledge needed to help people get healthier through lifestyle changes. But I know first-hand that even with all the knowledge in the world, change is HARD. I came into the fields of exercise and nutrition 100% because of personal struggles – I struggled with my body, food, exercise, and weight throughout my entire life. Through academic studies, professional help, and many years of dedicated hard work, I overcame the challenges that plagued me physically and emotionally. And because I believe wellness is a lifelong process, I continue to work on my health and fitness journey every day.
So I know what you're going through. I've been there. I know what it's like to battle with your body, food, and weight day in and day out. I know what it's like to feel miserable and stuck. And I don’t want you to have to go through that.
I’ve now devoted my life to using my experiences of overcoming challenges with food, exercise, weight, and lifestyle to help others. I want to empower others with the tools I’ve learned to cultivate a healthy, balanced life that supports looking and feeling your best. And I wanted to share my story so you know where I'm coming from - I want you to know about my struggles and my journey so I can help you with yours.
A dancer since age 3, I've been interested in the body and movement for my entire life. I loved dancing more than anything but I always struggled with ballet – and I never knew why. In middle school, I was diagnosed with severe scoliosis, but chose not to wear a brace so I could keep dancing. In high school my dance teacher recommended that I study the Alexander Technique, a somatic method of increasing body awareness and improving posture and alignment. My experience in Alexander Technique was enlightening and pivotal – it ignited my interest in movement sciences and set the course for the rest of my life. I learned how my scoliosis was causing me to unknowingly have poor posture and a ton of imbalances. I learned why my anatomy and my back made ballet difficult for me. I had to relearn how to perform basic, everyday movements – standing, sitting, writing, lying, pouring a drink, brushing my teeth – without giving into my scoliosis. I had to undo my natural physical tendencies and become constantly aware of my posture – just to stand up straight. For 2 years I trained in Alexander Technique with private lessons every week, and spent the rest of the week practicing my new posture and movement patterns until they became habitual.
Immediately after my Alexander Technique training, I was introduced to Pilates. My first instructor was a seasoned Pilates expert and explained to me how the core strengthening and correction of asymmetries in Pilates would be really beneficial for my scoliosis. That was over 10 years ago, and I have practiced Pilates every day ever since. The scoliotic curves in my upper and lower back worsened inexplicably throughout my adolescence, but after a couple years of consistent Pilates training my curves stopped progressing – and even decreased.
I was fortunate enough to attend Goucher College on a full tuition merit scholarship, and I melded my academic work with my passions for dance and Pilates. In my first semester at Goucher, I took an exercise science class, where I learned anatomy, physiology, nutrition, exercise guidelines, and biological responses to exercise. The class piqued my interests – learning how the body worked finally helped me make sense of my own. I knew I had found what I wanted to do with my life. Goucher didn’t offer an exercise science major, so I designed my own major that integrated extensive coursework in anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, psychology, neuroscience, nutrition, exercise, and dance. Deep into sciences while continuing my dance and Pilates training, I graduated from Goucher summa cum laude with early induction into Phi Beta Kappa.
After college I moved to New York and earned my Master’s in Exercise Physiology from Columbia University. I had earned my personal training certification and was training clients while I was in graduate school. At Columbia I learned all about the physiological responses to exercise, fitness and health assessments, and exercise guidelines for special populations.
Although at Columbia I was studying how to promote health, my own health was miserable – all because of food. I had developed exercise bulimia, a terrible eating disorder that involves cycles of bingeing and purging through starvation and over-exercise. Exercise bulimia was my absolute rock bottom. I spiraled out of control and gained 25 pounds. I hated myself. I couldn’t sleep. I had no energy. My clothes didn’t fit and I didn’t want to go out. The eating disorder voice and the healthy voice were constantly at war in my head. I felt like the eating disorder had sucked the person right out of me. I desperately wanted to change – but I just wasn’t able.
Exercise bulimia was the culmination of a lifetime of struggles with food and hating my body. As a dancer who never had the right anatomy, I was under pressure to be thin and was rejected because of the way I was built. My self-esteem was low and I was never happy with my body. When dancing intensely in high school I had developed the Female Athlete Triad, a combination of over-exercising, undereating, loss of the menstrual cycle, and decreased bone mass. I didn’t realize the repercussions that the Triad would have until I was in college, when I fractured a bone in my left foot and was diagnosed with osteopenia (low bone mass) at age 19.
I was struggling to lose weight after college and reached out to a dietitian for help. The dietitian taught me about the complexities of nutrition and the altered nutrient needs for active people. Working with her planted the seed for my desire to become a dietitian – I learned so much, and I wanted to gain her knowledge and skills so I could help people like she was.
I lost weight, but I was exercising so much that I became too thin and the weight loss wasn’t sustainable. My body wanted to hold onto any fat that it could, and soon enough it rebelled and wanted food. Cue exercise bulimia.
After a year of the torment of exercise bulimia, I decided that I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. On January 1, 2012, I made a New Year’s resolution to recover from the eating disorder and I never looked back. I worked with a dietitian and psychologists to do the nutritional, cognitive, and behavioral work that I needed to recover and reclaim my life. I had to eat highly controlled meals to reset my metabolism and relearn fullness. I had to eliminate any trigger foods. I had to correct a slowed thyroid gland and all of the nutrient deficiencies I had developed, including iron deficiency and vitamin D deficiency. I had to learn how to feel comfortable at a restaurant and with eating in front of other people. I had to stop food from torturing me. I had to develop more realistic perceptions of a healthy body type. I had to learn to get back on track. I had to learn to accept mistakes. Most of all, I had to learn to accept myself.
The experience of suffering through and then recovering from an eating disorder, combined with all of the other struggles with my body, made me want to become a dietitian and help others break free from the chains of food and weight. I wanted to use everything I had learned – my academic studies, my work with professional counselors, and the countless self-help books I read – to help others feel better about themselves. I became passionate about helping people develop healthy relationships with food, exercise, and their bodies. I knew what it was like to struggle, and I knew what it was like to get better; I wanted to help people experience the latter.
My journey took me from self-hatred to self-acceptance, and from extremes to balance. It is my goal to use my own struggles, the challenges I’ve faced, and everything I’ve learned along the way to help others feel better and find balance in their lives. My own transformation shaped who I am and my path in life, and it is my honest hope that what I share can help you with yours.