This article was first seen on the Huffington Post. For this installment, we are joined by Lauren First.
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?
I’m Lauren! I’m 21 years old, a senior in the nursing program at Kent State University, and I am currently a nursing assistant at a local hospital.
Growing up, I have always been active and participated in gymnastics, cheerleading, and dance. Once I entered college, I started to see that I was putting on extra weight than what I was used to. All the drinking and greasy foods were adding up fast! My boyfriend at the time introduced me to the world of fitness.
Once I began getting into a routine, changed the way I ate, and started to seeing results, I was hooked and wanted to progress to the fitness competition side of things and step on stage for a bikini competition. This led me to wanting to inspire others to do the same, as well. I’m all about living a positive balanced life. I’m for seeing women empowering other women. When we all inspire each other, the fitness community can be so great!
Where does your motivation come from?
I feel like my motivation comes from the fact that my goal in life is to inspire others. I want to show others out there that it is actually really easy to get into a routine and make a change. That alone gives me the motivation to keep going. I also love following other fitness accounts on social media. Seeing their results and inspiration gives me extra motivation to keep going.
As you decided to make a career out of your passion – what were your biggest stumbling blocks along the way?
There have been many roadblocks along the way! The biggest one that I have faced is the fact that I am in nursing school while trying to compete in fitness competitions. I never realized how demanding the major was until I began trying to balance it with competing. I would say that my plate is pretty full during each semester and college has made it difficult for me to afford the shows and everything that goes along with it.
What’s your perspective on the importance of self-care?
Self-care is very important to me! I feel like we need to treat ourselves with just as much respect as we would give to others (especially with being a nurse….I work to take care of others!) Feeding your body with the essential nutrients, drinking the recommended amount of water daily, and listening to your body when it tells you it needs rest, is so vital in maintaining self care! For me, I enjoy getting massages every now and then, as well, for when I can really feel my body getting more tense than usual. You need to treat yourself sometimes!
What are some of the biggest misconceptions about women lifting weight?
For some reason, some people think that when you lift weights, you’re going to get HUGE! No, that’s not the case at all! Lifting weights is actually how most women can obtain that “toned” look they go after! When one eats in excess amounts, combined with a heavy workout regimen, that is then when you would start to see the “bulkier” side of things.
Lifting weights not only helps you achieve that desired look due to effective fat loss, but it can also improve your quality of sleep, bone health, and stress levels! Combining this with a well balanced nutrition plan is the key to success!
Many young women who want to lose weight believe that not eating is the way to do it, without realising 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?
This question is my absolute favorite! One thing that I preach the most about to others is maintaining a balanced nutrition plan! Due to television and media, eating things high in carbs, sugar, or fat is perceived to be horrible for your health and will make you gain a lot of weight, and the only thing that works is eating nothing but lettuce…and more lettuce.
Wrong! Actually, our bodies can handle so much more and are designed to run on more carbs, fats, and proteins. Restricting yourself from everyday foods can mentally mess with you and lead to things such as body dysmorphia or binge eating episodes. I live life by a thing called balance!
Even a week before a fitness competition, I still enjoy some sweet treats here and there and still see amazing results. The big thing that most people have a hard time understanding is portion control. That’s where a lot of people encounter a downfall. If you pay attention to the amount you’re eating, it is easier to see results. When you allow yourself to still enjoy the things you are craving (in moderation) it will make it easier to maintain a healthy relationship with food…and you can still get those abs you have been dying to see.
What are the most unexpected lessons you’ve learned on your health and fitness journey this far?
If it wasn’t for following this fitness journey, I wouldn’t have learned so many life lessons. Fitness has showed me who my true friends are. I have met so many wonderful and supportive girls through social media and real life. We all share the same views about fitness and life, in general, and I’m so thankful for the friendships and connections I have made.
Fitness has also transformed me from caring only about myself to caring about everyone. I used to only look at things in my own perspective. As a year passed, I realized that it is not all about me and there is so much more to life. With a more open heart, I feel like I have let some very special people into my life and I have entered the lives of many more out there.
What do you do to maintain balance in your life?
I do many things to maintain balance! I still enjoy time with my friends, roommates, boyfriend, and family as much as I can! Someone wants to go out for lunch? Sure thing, I’m there! Someone wants to go out for the night? I’ll go! It is hard to see people fall into the trap of putting too much focus into fitness all of the time and changing themselves because of it. It’s okay to enjoy life…one bad day isn’t going to ruin your progress! If you incorporate more balance into your life, then not only will you feel better physically, but you’ll be stronger mentally, as well.
How do you stay productive?
I always need to plan ahead! I write everything out in a planner ahead of time. If I see I set a checklist for myself ahead of time, I’ll be more likely to actually do it. If time allows, I prefer to get my workout in first thing in the morning. This increases my energy significantly and I will be more productive throughout the remainder of the day!
If you could only choose one thing, what would you tell your younger self?
I would tell my younger self that there is so much out there and there is no reason to get caught up over the little things. If I were to say what I thought I would be doing at this time in my life, I would have never expected this. So many opportunities have come my way over the past couple of years, so I wish my younger self would have known the things that were going to come her way and to not stress over the little things because everything will work out.
Can you give a breakdown of your current diet, training and supplementation regimen and the thinking behind it?
So, as stated above, I live a very balanced lifestyle. I follow flexible dieting approach when getting ready for fitness competitions. This form of dieting includes hitting a set amount of macronutrients (protein, fat, carbs). So, I am able to work in any food my heart desires, but it just has to stay within the set amount of macros that I have for that given day.
I train 5 times a week with a minimal amount of cardio. I hit 1-2 muscle groups per workout and I usually don’t stay in the gym for longer than 1 1/2 hours! I make sure I supplement myself with vitamin D and fish oil daily. My boyfriend, Dylan Bair, is a registered dietitian and competition coach, so I get all of my macronutrients and workout routines through him. He’s really great at knowing what my body responds to and what I should follow in order to prep for my shows.
What are your biggest life goals for the year?
My biggest life goal is to graduate nursing school and pass the NCLEX next year. My goal is to get a job on a Labor & Delivery unit. In addition to that, I really want to move down south with my boyfriend right after passing the exam!
On the fitness side of things, a goal of mine for 2017 is to step onto my first national stage and compete at that level.
Where can people go to learn more about you online?