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Exclusive Interview With Dr. Gaia Domenici – Strength, Nutrition and Holistic Health Coach, Founder

Dr. Gaia Domenici, also known as 'The Strongest Shield-Maiden', is a certified Nutrition and Health Coach, Strength and Conditioning Coach, Personal Trainer, and published author, with a PhD in Philosophy.


After spending a decade juggling between gym and academia, Gaia realised that body, mind and spirit are a whole, and, as such, they need to be trained together. So she founded 'Fitnosophy: Build Your Body Realise Your Self', a platform to share the spiritual meaning of fitness, and the impact of a strong body on a meaningful life. Following the sense of void and uncertainty left by the 2020 pandemic, Gaia founded the 'Shield-Maiden Tribe', a community in which women from across the world can share their inner and outer strengths, nourish their Inner Warrior, empower each other, and grow stronger together.


Since 2018, Gaia has coached countless clients and athletes worldwide, helping them get in tune with their Inner Warrior, and achieve physical, mental, and spiritual goals.

Dr. Gaia Domenici, Strength, Nutrition and Holistic Health Coach, Founder



Gaia, you are a London based strength and conditioning coach, personal trainer, nutrition and health coach, as well as an internationally acknowledged researcher in the fields of German Philosophy and History of Psychology. What is your mission?


My mission is to make an impact on other people's lives, improving their quality: physically, mentally, and spiritually. At the same time, I am also trying to reverse the 'either body or mind' dominating paradigm to a holistic 'body and mind' perspective. My experience in academia has allowed me to understand how conceiving body and mind as separate elements can lead to unhappiness and, ultimately, illness. Especially here in the West, we are led to believe that the mind needs to be prioritised over the body; we tend to adopt a career-oriented mindset, and we regard exercising, healthy eating, and relaxation techniques as a luxury. In the long term, this leads to more or less severe physical and mental consequences, such as: postural imbalances; weight gain; insulin resistance; increased blood pressure; heart disease; chronic fatigue; anxiety; depression – to name the most common ones. Moreover, we tend to neglect the importance of spiritual balance for overall health: oftentimes, the aforementioned physical and mental consequences originate from a sense of not being aligned with our own core values, of not fulfilling our own purpose – we are too concerned about making money, that we forget the main reason why we started making money in the first place: to live a happy and meaningful life.


How do you help people improve their life quality?


This is a very good question. First of all, I use my philosophical background – in particular Friedrich W. Nietzsche and C.G. Jung – to help my clients understand that there is no one-size-fits-all diet, training method, or lifestyle and that they need to figure out what really works for them as individuals. In this phase, the most important part is understanding what their core values are: we tend to take many things for granted without questioning their value for our own existence, so we end up believing in 'truths' that eventually turn out to be 'lies'; not because they are false, but because they are someone else's 'truths', which we just borrowed (fitness and nutrition 'myths' included). Once our own, individual belief system is in place, we can set realistic goals, and draw strategies to achieve them.


As my main bias lies in considering health as a top value, clients who choose to work with me also hold health in high regard. So I guide them through the choice of physical activities and eating patterns that are most suitable to both their goals and their core values. Many of my clients are already athletes, so my main work with them is about helping them live a more spiritually meaningful life, and simply refining their diet and training programmes. One of my favourite tools to use with clients is a 'training mindfulness' questionnaire, which allows them to enhance their mindfulness while training, and to connect with their training at a more spiritual level.



This is all very fascinating. What is your story, what led you to become a coach, and what is Fitnosophy?


In a nutshell, Fitnosophy is my whole life. I grew up as a very active kid, involved in many sports, and with a huge intellectual curiosity. I chose to study philosophy because I wanted to be as open-minded as possible, but also knowledgeable, and I wanted to develop critical skills. I fell in love with Nietzsche's philosophy and C.G. Jung's psychology very early on, and I devoted my entire university career to investigating Jung's understanding of Nietzsche, and the practical impact of philosophy on psychological processes. I was lucky enough to handle rare archival material, and to travel across Europe during my PhD. Unfortunately, however, academic philosophy turned out to be the opposite of what my expectations were: critical thinking and open-mindedness are hardly practised in academia, and market demands come first, just as in any other business. When you are 18, you think you can change the world by applying philosophy to your actions on a daily basis; all of a sudden you are 30, and you realise that you are just doing a job like any other.


Around the same time, I started to understand that sitting at my desks for hours and hours was not how I wanted to spend the rest of my life, and that fitness and nutrition were not only two non-negotiable aspects of my life but also two important elements of any balanced life in general, and, in my opinion, they both needed more respect in our society. It was much more than aesthetics for me: feeling strong and healthy was a spiritual experience; it would make me feel connected with my deepest self just as much as reading and writing, and, just like reading and writing, it was part of my essence. And I was sure it was also part of many other people's essences. I was going through a lot of despair in those years, as I could not feel like I was fulfilling my potential unless I would find a way to merge my philosophical drive with my passion for training and nutrition – anxiety, depression, and even panic attacks had become normal to me at that time. On a late 2018 summer morning, the word 'Fitnosophy' crossed my mind fast (and powerful) as lightning. I immediately bought a domain and created my website: I would start sharing my philosophical approach to fitness in the form of a blog.


A few months later, my mum was unexpectedly diagnosed with coronary heart disease, in spite of living what was considered to be a 'healthy' life – namely, starving herself on salads, and killing herself with hours of cardio. This opened my eyes about the importance of educating others about what self-care really means: that is to say, finding activities that resonate with one's own core values; eating nourishing foods; dedicating time to reconnecting with one's deepest self. This is when I understood that coaching was my calling: just like the philosophy I could mostly relate to, coaching would allow me to help others explore themselves, make the right choices day by day, and, ultimately, become who they were meant to become – without feeling the pressure of adhering to a belief system imposed from outside. The rest is history.


What are your plans for the future?


My two most urgent plans for the future are: finishing my second book, and expanding my Shield-Maiden Tribe.


The subject of the book I am currently writing is a philosophy of bodybuilding; more specifically, how bodybuilding and strength training can be regarded as a form of spiritual practice. My wish for this book is to open up a new field in scholarly research, that acknowledges the spiritual-intellectual value of physical training and proper nutrition, even outside of the fitness industry. I also hope for my message to reach athletes and fitness enthusiasts, so that they can understand how powerful their lifestyle can be at a spiritual level.

The Shield-Maiden Tribe is a community that I created after the 2020 pandemic, to empower women towards reconnecting with their Inner Warrior. One of the most recurrent feelings among my female clients at the end of 2020 was a sense of loss of their resilient nature, often accompanied by a sense of uncertainty towards the future and their role in society. For a woman who has identified her deepest self with a career-driven ideal of femininity, it can be really hard being forced to stay at home and look after her 'nest'. This type of woman needs to rediscover her strength, which is never only physical, but also mental and psychological. The Shield-Maiden Tribe is still a relatively small Facebook group, and my main focus within the next couple of years will be on expanding its reach as much as possible: I really want this group to become a safe space in which women can exchange opinions and support each other on a regular basis.


What are the biggest struggles that women face with life balance, training and nutrition?


Well, first of all, let me tell you that these three aspects are interconnected, so are the issues experienced. The main struggle I see concerns coping with one's own idea of femininity versus the idea imposed by society. For example, many women undertake their fitness journey for the wrong reasons: they want to lose weight, they want to stop feeling guilty for treating themselves to foods they like, they decide to punish themselves with hours of cardio or bootcamp classes. This happens because the main idea of femininity imposed by society is that of a thin, elegant, successful figure, who thrives on salads and dislikes other foods. Guess what? This idea is completely unrealistic: women are allowed to be thick, enjoy food, and even fail. Some women confuse gender equality with perfection and invulnerability: because women have the same rights as men, weakness and failure are never an option. But this has never been the case with men to start with, so why should it be with women?


Even more importantly, before being a woman, each woman is an individual, with unique genetics, thinking patterns, lifestyle, preferences, goals. If such individuality is forgotten or repressed in favour of an unattainable, archetypical ideal of a social image (in the worst-case scenario, a real 'inflation' with the 'persona archetype', as C.G. Jung calls it), a final burnout is unavoidable. This is why understanding what we really want for ourselves is of paramount importance: we should be able to differentiate between our own individual needs and society-imposed needs; both are equally important to maintain balance, but we tend to focus on the latter ones way more than on the former ones. In fact, some women even repress their own individual needs, regarding them as a form of weakness or flaw; so they start neglecting their nutrition and physical health, and eventually forget about their most important interests and hobbies. But because they neglect these aspects, these women end up extremely unsatisfied with their physical appearance, with their energy levels, and ultimately with their life balance. This leads to a never-ending cycle of: self-punishment through restrictive diets and cardio, energy crushes and coffee reliance, lack of sleep, burnout and consequent binge eating.

Once women learn to detach themselves from the social image they are taught to identify with, and begin to look at themselves as individuals, this cycle is finally broken. This is when a woman sets herself free again, takes ownership of her actions, and, ultimately feels in control of her life.


What 5 tips would you give to a woman going through this cycle right now?


  1. Start journaling. Keeping a diary is one of the most powerful means to self-exploration. Try to observe your thoughts in a non-judgmental way. The goal in this phase is to understand what your real needs are, not to analyse your behaviour. Think about all of those things that used to make you happy as a child, and how you could implement them in your adult life: were you a creative kid?; were you a little explorer?; were you into writing or reading?; were you an athlete?; were you a musician or an actor?; etc. Now think about the present: what would make you happy right now? Think about moments in your adulthood in which you felt really happy: what made you feel so happy?; how could you recreate such moments?

  2. Practise visualisation exercises regularly. Visualise yourself in 5 years from now: what do you look like?; how do you feel?; what does your life look like? Try to be specific and detailed, in order to gather as much information as possible as to where you want to be in the long term. Do not be afraid of thinking big: that is what children always do, and that is the only way to make dreams come true. Once you know where you want to be, and where you are at right now, try to rephrase the gap in terms of long, medium, and short term goals. Make sure such goals are realistically achievable, and also measurable. Now draw strategies to stay on track, and keep yourself accountable.

  3. Write letters to your younger self: what would you tell her?; does she need to be reassured?; does she need to be forgiven?; how far has she come?; has she met or even exceeded her expectations?; what did she do well?; what did she need to improve on? The reason for these letters is to be able to choose your own narrative, to re-write your own story. So, once again, do not be afraid of thinking big. This will give you all the motivation you need to go ahead with your goals, even when you feel like you are going through a rough time.

  4. Avoid self-comparison. Take a break from social media, and acknowledge that most of what you see online is fake or professionally edited. Also, every time you see someone you are about to compare yourself with, try to repeat to yourself that she is human too, and, as such, she has flaws, just like you – probably she is even self-comparing, perhaps with you. Be aware of the fact that you choose to focus on what you see: just because you choose to overlook someone's flaws it does not mean this person is flawless; at the same time, just because you choose to focus on your own flaws, it does not mean you have not got strengths and virtues. Perhaps you see a girl in the gym who looks as thin as you would like to look: what if that girl was self-aware about her small size, and was instead admiring you for your strength?

  5. Change how you talk to yourself. The way you refer to yourself affects the way you think of yourself. The way you think of yourself affects the way you present yourself. The way you present yourself affects the way others perceive you. Instead of focusing on the negatives, start talking to yourself in a positive way. Try to repeat to yourself as often as you can: 'I am strong, I am beautiful, I am independent, I am worth success and acknowledgement, I am a goal achiever, I am unstoppable, I am who I decide to be'.


Your 3 tips to young entrepreneurs taking on ambitious projects under unfavourable circumstances?


  1. Know that the more money you invest in the first few years, the more will return once your business is all set up. Make sure you plan carefully, so you have enough savings to invest in your business, but do not be afraid of spending money.

  2. Do not be afraid of big-dreaming: if you really want something, you need to invest all of your energy into it. The more you visualise your goal, the more likely it is for such a goal to be achieved. Spend time meditating and visualising your goal, and make sure you capture as many details as possible in your visualisations.

  3. Be prepared for lots of criticism and incomprehension but never stop believing in yourself and your potential. The business you want to create already exists in your mind, so it is just a matter of time before it materialises in the real world, too. It might take years before your work is widely acknowledged and understood. Try not to be selfish and impatient, and understand that just because someone is not ready to share your same vision yet, it does not mean that they never will. Keep persevering politely, and your well-deserved success will come.


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