This article was first seen on the Huffington Post. For this installment, we are joined by Gloria Inyang.
Let’s start off with a general introduction. How would you describe yourself, what are you all about and how did you get involved in health and fitness?
My involvement in health and fitness came from a jolting life experience when my mother suffered a stroke. It was preventable, and yet she endured one. She had been instructed by her doctors for years to lose weight and to consume a healthy diet, but she ignored it. She was overweight, not physically active, and had no regard for her daily nutrition.
Poignantly, I was headed down the same dark path. I was literally doing the exact same thing she was doing, not taking into account how my carelessness concerning my health would impact my life. After her stroke, I dropped everything and flew home to Houston to help her recover. I pounced into action researching healthy diets and workouts to get her healthy and well. Initially my primary focus was my mother, but after seeing her get into better shape I subsequently followed initiating my change January 6, 2014.
Where does your motivation come from?
My motivation was conceived initially from the traumatic experience with my mother however, I have been motivated to continue with my journey by taking moments to reflect on the progress that I have made. I went from a staggering 180 pounds to 125 pounds in four months.
I sometimes draw back to that critical time and remember how relentless I was to reach my health goal. I was so unrelenting, I trained outside in a snow storm as the city of Atlanta, Georgia was being shut down. Nothing was going to stop me. That same hunger and drive is still with me today.
As you decided to make a career out of your passion – what were your biggest stumbling blocks along the way?
Stepping into a new territory can be scary. I was not confident in my knowledge or capabilities. My biggest hurdle was having faith in myself. In spite of the physical transformation, which many think would boost confidence, I really had to tell myself that I was capable of making this career change.
I was worried my family wouldn’t understand and that I was making a big mistake. But, I have come to understand with experience, people will have an opinion whether I make this change or not. I must go after the things that really make me happy and feel fulfilled and the uncertainty of not knowing “how” will always work out in the end.
So now my resume for 2016 includes a Masters in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Doctorate in Public Health (in progress), scientist for the Center for Disease Control, personal trainer, fitness model, and entrepreneur.
What’s your perspective on the importance of self-care?
Self-care establishes a solid foundation of actions you need to reach optimum physical and mental health. It’s exceedingly important to experience life and all it has to offer but you can’t do that if you aren’t the best version of yourself. Taking a moment to be in tune with your own personal needs instead of being consumed by the needs of others makes for a well-rounded human being.
It’s certainly not a selfish activity. When you’re on an airplane, an oxygen mask drops in front of you. What do you do? As we all know, the first rule is to put on your own oxygen mask before you assist anyone else. Only when we first help ourselves can we effectively help others. Caring for yourself is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. It is also one of the easiest things to forget. But you benefit greatly from self-care and so do others in your life.
What are some of the biggest misconceptions about women lifting weight?
Perhaps the most common delusion is that women lifting heavy somehow makes you look manly, which couldn’t be further from the truth. We simply don’t have hormones for that to happen. Lifting heavy is what tones, lifts and tightens your body to give it that fit and sexy look. Lifting five pound weights with the intent of growing your glutes or sculpting chiseled abs will be a futile endeavor. So, pile on the weights and go heavy!
Many young women who want to lose weight believe that not eating is the way to do it, without realizing the consequences of that kind of behavior.
Why do you think this is and what’s your perspective on educating society on healthy nutrition habits?
A lot of misinformation is available on the internet. Many people who have experienced some form of weight loss through starvation can voice their story for millions to hear. To compound that scenario with images of thin women everywhere, somehow women think, in order to look like that, they have to stop eating.
Another prospect is that not enough people who have experienced healthy lasting weight loss transformations have an opportunity to share their story to inspire, motivate and help others make better choices. Its very important to talk about the benefits of consuming a healthy well balanced diet.
I did not achieve my success as a result of deprivation but strategically fueling my body with the right foods to make it healthy from the inside out. This has been one of the issues that has propelled me to pursue my Doctorate of Public Health degree. The public is overloaded with tons of information, but not always the right information. I want to help remedy that.
What are the most unexpected lessons you’ve learned on your health and fitness journey this far?
First, if I want to change my current state, it requires massive action. I can’t wait around hoping and wishing something would change because that only adds up to wasted time that I can never get back. My fitness journey was the outcome of massive action to prevent the negative outcome of poor health. I have much more control over my life and its outcomes than what I previously thought.
Second, being able to have control of my physical body is a privilege that at one point in my life I took for granted. There are many people who can’t walk, are in wheelchairs, bed ridden or affected with a disease that prevents them from having full use of their body. Yet, there are many inspiring stories of these same people, who have massive physical impediments in their way, overcoming them. It is an honor to be in good health and so it is a must for me to respect my body by taking good care of it.
Lastly, embarking on my fitness journey has given me a platform to inspire and motivate others. I didn’t think something so personal would turn out to be something that so many others could relate to, and use as a resource to ignite change within them. There is a tremendous responsibility that goes along with that influence and I have great respect for those who look to me and trust me to help them.
What do you do to maintain balance in your life?
Balance is vital considering I have moments when I feel overwhelmed with all of my responsibilities. I take Friday or Saturday nights as leisure time to watch movies, go out to eat, or go to a concert. Hiking and outdoor meditation have also provided great balance for my sometime noisy life.
It gives me the chance to think about nothing and be fully present in the moment. These pockets of leisure have given me more energy and barred me from feeling burned out. These activities no longer occur by chance but are a requirement for me to be healthy, happy and well rounded. This is the essential definition of self-care.
How do you stay productive?
To stay productive daily or weekly I focus on outcomes. Every day begins with a definite plan of attack. My plan has to be compelling so that I have the emotional drive to complete it. I prioritize what’s most important and complete those tasks first. I usually give myself a time limit to complete these tasks and then move on to the next thing. This stops me from spending all day doing just one thing. This method has allowed me to cover lots of ground in very little time. This method of progress makes me feel happy and accomplished.
Can you give a breakdown of your current diet, training and supplementation regimen and the thinking behind it?
Maintaining a healthy physique is like second nature at this point in my fitness journey. Unquestionably in the initial stages of making this life change, it was not easy. I really had to ask myself why I was doing this and focus on my outcomes in order to reach my goals. Now, what I once struggled with, I struggle with no more. I’m able to maintain my physique by abiding by a constant meal prep schedule.
Every Sunday, I go to the grocery store with my grocery list and make my purchases for the week. My Sunday’s are always reserved as my meal prep day for the week. I plan out my meals and decide at which point mid-week I may need to prep additional food. I always carry a large lunch bag (which really looks like luggage) everywhere I go. The worst thing in my opinion, is to be out and about, and then get hungry. You are more inclined to make poor choices in a state of extreme hunger. So, I like to eliminate that stress.
My diet is 95% healthy. The other 5% makes up the not so healthy foods I treat myself to occasionally. I don’t think of eating healthy as a burden at all. I truthfully enjoy it. Pertaining to the gym, I spend no more than 90 minutes max doing a workout. Sometimes it’s much less than that, but it never exceeds 90 minutes. I always have a plan of attack before walking in. I know exactly how many workouts I’m going to execute, my rest time in between sets, and how much cardio I’m completing for the day.
The maintenance of a healthy body is really the delicate dance between eating the right foods consistently and working out. However, this dance will not be properly performed without the most crucial factor, the choreography aka planning stages. You have to have a plan, meaning your grocery list, daily workouts and your fitness goals for the week outlined prior to taking physical action to achieve these your desired outcomes.
I tweak my supplement stack about every four months but the following items have remained constant on my list. ON Nutrition Whey Protein is my source for protein shakes. I can certainly give this brand credit for my lean muscle mass gains this past year (2016). I was really dedicated to attaining size. I went from 125 pounds to 136 pounds with this protein shake, and unquestionably a consistent healthy diet and workout routine. I really saw a transformation in my physique after incorporating it post workout and drinking it right before bed.
ON Nutrition Opti-Women Multivitamin is what I take twice a day. Once in the morning and another mid-day when my energy starts to wane a bit. It has precise ingredients such as 23 vitamins and minerals with 17 specialty ingredients to create a comprehensive multivitamin specifically for the active woman. It’s really been a lifesaver when I’m in the middle of contest prep. BPI Sports Best BCAA is what I drink during my workouts to help with my recovery. I was originally a skeptic of drinking BCAAs in general, because I didn’t think they were obligatory. But honestly, I really felt 1000% better (if that’s possible) after my workouts and especially the next morning. Without this, it was taking me several days to recover from just one intense workout. Vitamin Shoppe Omega-3 Fish Oil have a number of benefits, but I primarily take it for thick hair, clear skin, improved joint pain and heart health.
If you could only choose one thing, what would you tell your younger self?
Everything you need, to conquer every obstacle in your life, is already in you. You do not need to look outside yourself for validation, strength or courage.
What are your biggest life goals?
I have been working on opening my own health and wellness center in Atlanta, Georgia. It has proven to be no easy feat, but I have been up for the challenge and I’m not backing down. I intend to have a greater influence in the community of Atlanta, Georgia providing its citizens with a facility that thinks of the whole person from the inside out, truly impacting the health and wellness of others.
Also, I will continue my doctoral work in public health and will be working with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. I have taken specific interest in the obesity epidemic plaguing our country and will be working with organizations to gain more insight as to how I can support in prevention efforts.