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Since her first appearance on Muscle and Fitness Magazine in 1994, Monica has graced the cover of more than 100 fitness magazines. And, after more than 20 years of competing, Monica won 1st place in Figure at the 2013 WBFF World Competition for the second time.

As if that wasn’t enough, Monica recently traveled to Brazil to compete at the World Master’s Track meet in the Women’s 40-44 age group, participating in the 100m, 200m, 400m and both 4×100/4×400 relays for team USA. She came home with a Silver, (2) Bronze and (2) Gold Medals as well as a new personal best for the 200m.

Outside of her own competitive endeavors, Monica stays busy helping others reach their goals. Next month she will kick off The Body & Soul Retreat in San Antonio. “People forget to make time to take care of themselves, especially women. I wanted to create a heartfelt weekend for women – away from all the hustle and bustle of everyday life,” she told me. “This is not your average ‘boot camp’ which is why I titled it a ‘retreat’ instead. It’s not a competition, but a fun opportunity to experience new things.”

Monica has also partnered with Visalus — a leading weight loss and fitness challenge company — and launched her 90-Day Challenge. “I’m very excited about what the company is doing,” Monica explained. “It gives people a plan. They eat a couple healthy meals and add in the shakes and meal replacements.”

“The community of Visalus is what I think is really key,” she continued. “And, they want to make to make it fun because people get bored with fitness.” Until recently if someone wanted fitness and weight loss guidance from Monica they would need to attend one of her events or hire her personally for consulting.

“This is a vehicle for me to help more people,” Monica said. “Not everyone can come to my retreat, so now I have something for them. This is a way I can open myself up and help more people. It is an opportunity for all kinds of people to get involved.”

I asked Monica about her New Year goals, and what her diet and fitness tips were for someone wanting to get fit in 2017. She told me, as she opened a bag and pulled out her evening snack of mixed nuts, a green apple, and burger patty, “Just getting started is the hardest part and it’s true for me, too.”

“When I work with clients, 9 times out of 10 they’re doing ridiculous amounts of cardio, not seeing results and under-eating. So I flip-flop it,” she continued. “Take some of those hours off the cardio grind and get your food to fuel your body properly.”

“I have not done normal cardio in years,” she confessed. “All of my workouts are intense sprints and heavy weights. It’s been awesome.”

“The stepmill is one piece of equipment I love,” Monica added. “If I had to do cardio.”

 

Monica Brant’s New Year Fitness Tips:

1. Get a plan together for your training and nutrition so you’re not just winging it.

2. Be realistic in your goals and know the days you are going to exercise. If you haven’t been exercising at all plan on two or three days a week for 30 minutes and see how that works for you. Then you can add as you go.

3. Have someone help you make your plan. I highly encourage people to have personal trainers. You’re not born knowing how to exercise properly and what’s best for you — especially if you have injuries or things that need special attention.

4. Nutrition is more important than training. If you’re not getting the proper fuel you’re going to end up burning out, exhausted and bored.

Visit MonicaBrant.com for info about her 90-Challenge, The Body & Soul Retreat, and upcoming events.

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I think my tolerance for body critiquing has finally reached its breaking point. Seriously. I don’t think I can take anymore. Whether you are fit or fat or round or stick thin, it is none of my business. Just as my size is no one else’s.

My weight fluctuates like most women and it seems to be an incessant topic of conversation. There is no escape and there is no winning. A couple years ago I dropped down to 100 lbs. I was in a deep depression suffering from daily unbearable migraines toward the end of my marriage, which caused constant nausea and made it hard to eat. Some asked what I was doing because I “looked great,” while others told me I needed to eat because I looked “sick,” “gaunt” and “too skinny,” as if I wasn’t well aware of my current struggle. I’m happy to say that I have come back from that period. I feel healthier and stronger than ever, and now that seems to be a new topic of discussion from friends, clients, and strangers alike.

Typically, I just brush it off because I realize that as a personal trainer my body is part of my business. It comes with the territory. Like celebrities living in Hollywood who get annoyed by the paparazzi – it’s kind of a package deal.

Just the other day I was triggered like I haven’t been in a very long time. I went to talk to a financial advisor to come up with a plan moving forward with my business and one of her first comments before she even shook my hand or introduced herself was about my body. She said something about how fit I was, and I said thank you and took it as a compliment. We proceeded to chat for a couple minutes about why I was there and then she joked about wearing sweats that day just for me (it was actually Lululemon, and I don’t really care what she wore that day). I laughed it off and continued talking about the business at hand.

A few minutes later she said that I was really in some shape. I said, “thanks, though its kind of part of the job description as a personal trainer,” trying to make light of her awkward repeated comments about my body. I tried to hide my frustration. Then, within minutes she paused again and said that I was “so tiny.” Are you freaking kidding me lady?! I said nothing and could not wait to get out of her office.

I get that this may seem like a silly thing to be annoyed about. But, when it is a persistent theme of a conversation it’s hard not to feel objectified and on display. It felt like she was taking my being fit as an aggressive attack on her level of fitness. Though, I having been dealing with inappropriate, uncomfortable commentary about my body for a long time and know that it is something that many people deal with, at all shapes and sizes.

I don’t hold it against people because I know they usually mean no harm, and it is pervasive in our culture. Our bodies are compared, critiqued, complimented or criticized on a regular basis and most of us have been guilty of it, myself included. However, the word “tiny” was a trigger for me. I felt defensive and insecure and sad. I have worked VERY hard for a lot of years to get away from being “tiny.”

After I left I knew that I wasn’t going to hire her, but didn’t think much about the body comments. That night I drank four beers and ate several servings of pasta for dinner. I felt sick, and the next morning felt awful and disappointed in myself. That type of binging is way out of character for me though it used to be the norm when I was younger. Turns out that it doesn’t take much to regress back to feeling like the skinny child who was bullied.

skinnypic 122x300 Please stop! I beg of you.

I spent my adolescence and teens binging in an effort to gain weight. I was a popular “cool” kid until all my friends hit puberty and I was still the “skinny” “flat-chested” “butch” girl, as I was often reminded. I was 8 years old in this photo, helping with yard work in my swimsuit. It wasn’t long after that I only swam in baggy t-shirts or avoided swimming all together until my 20’s… still not a fan.

In middle school I asked the boy I liked if he wanted to go to the dance with me. He said no, and that he was surprised I had asked because thought I was a lesbian. In 9th grade I vividly remember hanging out with a group in the school courtyard and the boy I had a crush on proclaimed in front of everyone, “ you would be mad hot if you weren’t so anorexically-skinny.” Had I been more witty back then I probably would have told him that he’d be “mad hot” if he didn’t have such bad grammar. Instead, I sat on the picnic bench stunned and embarrassed with those words permanently seared in my head.

My sophomore year I began strength training with heavy weights in an effort to add bulk, since the years of eating thousands of calories each day had not been working. It would be years before I was able to put on more than a few pounds and have any sort of feminine curves.

I could give countless examples of being harassed about my size, like when a man I had never met approached me in the free-weight area of 24 Fitness and told me that my body looked good, but I needed to do more squats because my butt was droopy. Or, when another man told me I had the body of a 12-year old boy. Or, just recently I ran into an old client who loudly observed how narrow my hips were as I poured my morning coffee in a crowded café. It goes on and on.

I am by no means looking for sympathy. Simply trying to explain that bullying happens at all sizes, and outward confidence does not mean that there are not deep-rooted insecurities. Body commentary is pervasive in our conversations — It begins when we’re young and is a tough habit to break. But, I would like to challenge us all to do our part to break this destructive habit.

My “fit” body is simply a result of trying to undo years of bullying. So, I beg of you, if you see me please don’t comment on it. I will do my best to practice what I preach and say nothing more than “it’s great to see you.”

 

 

(This post was originally posted on my other fitness website, but I thought it was a fitting topic for Rebelle Fit as well and wanted to share. Please let your thoughts and own stories in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!)

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As with many families, mine has a long history of addiction. Though, I did not realize this until I was older. Didn’t everyone’s dad pick them up with a styrofoam cooler full of beer in his back seat? Wasn’t binge eating a bag of Cheetos in front of the TV how everyone’s mom spent their Sundays? The things that were “normal” to me as a kid were not necessarily healthy.

I have spent most of my adult life trying to “save” my big sister from alcoholism, and it was easy to feel healthy and in control by comparison. But, now that she is sober, there is no one to focus on but myself. As the addicts in my life get sober, pass away, or go their separate ways, I am left with only my habits. And, I’m honestly not sure how I didn’t see them before!

My issues with food started when I was young and couldn’t gain weight no matter how hard I tried. I would often eat an entire box of Keebler Soft Batch chocolate chip cookies in one sitting, and drink shakes containing creatine (a bulking supplement that bodybuilders use) with several thousand calories per serving. For lunch in high school, I’d go to Subway and eat a footlong sub with 2 cookies, a bag of chips, and a soda. At the age of 15, I got my first real job as a hostess at a restaurant in Scottsdale. Most nights I would order a pizza for dinner and a double fudge brownie sundae with ice cream, nuts, whipped cream, caramel and hot fudge for dessert.

This was normal until I suddenly ballooned at 18 years old, adding 25lb pounds in just a few months. My metabolism changed, but my eating habits hadn’t. I had trained my body to eat large quantities of food and high amounts of sugar. Changing this has proven to be an ongoing battle. After 13 years of practice, I feel like I am winning most days — until recently.

I made some pretty big fitness goals for 2014 and began my own 15-Day Rebelle Fit Challenge. The challenge requires giving up added sugar. And, after having more than enough to drink over the holidays, I decided to give up alcohol too.

Quitting sugar has been a little tough because it is in just about everything. I’ve had some minor fatigue and headaches, but so far it’s doable.

Giving up alcohol was kind of okay for about a week until several days ago when I woke up feeling hot and chilly at the same time, lying in soaking wet sheets. My big old dog was lying on the blanket next to me and I thought for sure that he must have had an accident. Yuck!

I was a bit shocked when I got out of bed and realized that my shirt and pillow were also soaked. Holy shit. That’s from me?! Seriously, I drink a few nights a week and eat well most days. How can my withdrawals be so severe?!

It has really gotten me thinking and I’ve decided to tackle the question, “When does a habit cross over into an addiction?” I have been surprised by what I’ve learned, and think it might be sooner than most of us think.

The dictionary definition of “Addict” is:

1. Physiologically or psychologically dependent on a habit-forming substance

2. To occupy (oneself) with or involve (oneself) in something habitually or compulsively

According to Medical News Today, alcoholism is described as, “A physical compulsion, together with a mental obsession. Apart from having an enormous craving for alcohol, an alcoholic often yields to that craving at the worst possible times.”

WedMD explains food/sugar addiction as, “People who are addicted to food will continue to eat despite negative consequences, such as weight gain… trouble stopping their behavior, even if they want to or have tried many times to cut back.”

According to a study on sugar addiction signs of addiction and dependency include cravings, bingeing, withdrawals, and sensitization — meaning that one thing leads to another. Like, if you smoke then it leads you drink or if you eat simple carbs then you eat sweets.

This table shows what the American Heart Association (AHA) says is a healthy added sugar intake. Basically 12 grams for the average woman and 36 grams for the average man. That’s not much!

Daily Calorie Level  1,600  1,800  2,000  2,200 
Added Sugars, Example 12 grams (3 tsp) 20 grams (5 tsp) 32 grams (8 tsp) 36 grams (9 tsp)


Added sugar is nearly impossible to avoid. Today at the store I noticed this AHA certified marinara sauce, which has 10 grams in ONE serving. If I eat this seemingly healthy option, it will account for almost my entire day’s allowance of sugar — assuming I only have half a cup.

IMG_20140111_130409

If I decide to have a couple pieces 100% whole wheat bread with it, I‘m now at 16 grams of sugar. Damn!

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And, if I had my usual healthy brand fruit and nut bar for a snack earlier in the day, I’m screwed.

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So far, that’s 30 grams of added sugar and I haven’t even counted breakfast, lunch, an afternoon treat, or an evening nightcap.

As a fitness coach, I am supposed to set the example of a healthy lifestyle, yet I’m having serious trouble giving up sugar and alcohol. It’s everywhere — including the foods with labels promising to be the healthiest option.

I’ve struggled with this the past couple weeks — feeling like a bit of a hypocrite and even going to an AA meeting to explore the idea of having a serious issue. Given my family history I am not naive enough to believe that I am immune.

With some introspection and research, I don’t think I am an alcoholic or sugar addict, but the jury is still out. After a couple weeks being mostly sugar and alcohol free, I’ve decided that though I do want to be aware of my intake, I don’t want to be completely sober or sugarless.

I have changed my self-inflicted “no drinking” rule to only drinking socially. No more sipping a cocktail at home while I work or clean or watch Shark Tank. I’ll save alcohol for when there is a social occasion that calls for it.

And, since I’m going to be social later tonight, drinking a glass of red wine while I write this doesn’t count, right?

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Let me start by saying that I can see what original Paleo dieters were trying to do, and at its core the Paleo diet has some great principles that people can definitely benefit from. But, as with many ideologies, philosophical, religious or political, even if they start out well intentioned in theory they usually end up divisive and destructive in practice.

Paleo

The actual Paleo diet does several things right. If you’re going to eat meat it is best to buy grass-fed, organic, free-range, or hunt your own, avoiding factory farmed, processed meats. Also, eating a lot of vegetables is a great idea! It suggests avoiding dairy, sugar, and refined carbs which is wonderful. They lose me at cutting out beans/legumes. And, at the suggestion that large amounts of animal protein and saturated fat are healthy, even though there’s endless scientific and anecdotal evidence which shows it causes cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and countless other ailments.

Here’s another problem. Most Paleo dieters do not eat the way it was intended. It’s nearly impossible in our modern society! Many bloggers, authors, and fitness pros are cashing in on the Paleo craze and creating their own spin offs.

I have wanted to mention something about this topic for a long time, but it is such a heated and passionate debate I’ve avoided chiming in. It’s to the point where I feel like I can no longer sit back in good conscience and do nothing while people eat bacon fat brownies and red meat pretending like it’s the healthy choice.

Paleo has turned into is little more than the Atkins diet. If you’ll recall, that did not end well for Dr. Atkins. He died obese after having had at least one heart attack. Here we are a decade later and I’m hearing the same high protein, low carb rhetoric.

paleo meat

In fact, according to NPR, “Atkins Nutritionalists say this renewed faith in the low-carb approach is helping the company grow again. Sales of Atkins’ branded products have grown by nearly 44 percent since 2011… the folks at Aktins are also hoping that the popularity of the paleo diet can give the brand a boost.

There is no doubt that low-carb, high protein diets help you lose weight in the short term. If you have an event coming up soon that you want to get skinny for then by all means eat steak wrapped in bacon for breakfast. You’ll lose weight. I also hear that methamphetamines are an effective weight loss supplement and cocaine improves energy.

Just because something works does not mean it’s healthy.

Paleo Yogi

The premise of Paleo is that we should be eating the way our ancestors ate a 2 or 3 million years ago, pre-agriculture/farming, because that is how our bodies were meant to eat. It is very true that society and technology are evolving faster than we are in many respects. But, the assumption that because something is “new” (or less than a couple million yrs old) it’s bad, and that if it’s old then it’s good is a flawed hypothesis. Personally I think beans/legumes are a part of any healthy diet and they’re completely off limits, yet lard is a staple in Paleo.

I decided to look up some credible research studies to share with you to support what I’m saying. There is no need to take my word for it when there is scientific evidence to back it up.

Here are just a few of the studies results:

  • A growing body of scholarly data suggests that no such thing as an evolved human diet exists and that popular notions of returning to a diet that is more true to human nature are inconsistent with the ways in which metabolisms and eating habits develop in humans. (Nutrition Reviews, Aug 2013)
  • Increasing scientific consensus that eating more plant foods but fewer animal foods would best promote health. One challenge to this consensus is the idea that palaeolithic man consumed more meat than currently recommended, and that this pattern is genetically determined. If such exists, a genetic basis for ideal proportions of plant or animal foods is difficult to determine; hominoid primates are largely vegetarian, current hunter-gatherer groups rely on foods that can be obtained most conveniently, and the archeological record is insufficient to determine whether plants or animals predominated. Most evidence suggests that a shift to largely plant-based diets would reduce chronic disease risks among industrialized and rapidly-industrializing populations. (The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 1999)
  • Studies have linked high protein intake with cancer, especially of the breast and colon. Studies also show that diets high in meat have a strong positive correlation with atherosclerotic coronary artery disease, but such diets are presently linked with high intakes of total and saturated fat, which probably accounts for a large part of the association (Committee on Diet and Health, 1989).
  • High fat content may promote obesity, because high fat diets may elevate serum insulin levels, and because breast/colon cancer incidence consistently shows strong positive correlation with dietary fat.
    (Department of Nutrition and Food Studies: New York University, 1994)paleo bacon

Bacon is a very popular food in Paleo recipes. It’s used in promotional materials, and widely accepted as a perfectly “healthy” food in the diet. The idea of this seems almost comical to me. Bacon is heavily processed, and smothered in sugar, sodium, and nitrates.

Is it that Paleo dieters actually believe bacon is healthy, or is it wishful thinking? I’m really not sure. But, I do know that people tend to hear what they want to hear and believe what they want to believe. So, diets that tell you eating lots of grease and lard and bacon is good for you is much sexier than me telling you to eat more beans.

One teaspoon of bacon grease contains 38 calories. It is almost 100% fat, with little nutritional value, and it’s about 40% saturated fat. Oddly, butter is popular among Paleo dieters as well. Though I can’t imagine a time when cavemen added butter to their coffee and fried up bacon for breakfast.

And, just because I’m a science nerd, here’s a couple studies cited on Wiki that I thought were interesting:

  • A  study by Columbia University suggests a link between eating cured meats (such as bacon) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
  • Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health found in 2010 that eating processed meats such as bacon, preserved by smoking, curing or salting, or with the addition of chemical preservatives, was associated with an increased risk of both heart disease and diabetes.

The Paleo diet is right when they say to cut out added sugar and salt, processed foods, simple carbs, and dairy, yet in practice it doesn’t look much like that at all. It appears like an excuse to eat butter and bacon without feeling guilty because it’s diet friendly. I learned a long time ago that if something sounds too good to be true it probably is. It doesn’t look to me like this is any different. You can’t actually have your Paleo cake and eat it too.

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