Plans fail because they don’t fit into the schedule people actually live. Creating lifelong beneficial habits is all about consistency and repetition of doable daily goals. Small tweaks to the life you already live are far more effective at creating lasting weight loss and muscle development than restricted diets and rigorous programs that require a lot of time and mental energy. Everyone is gung ho at the start, but as soon as “life” starts to happen, people get easily derailed from plans that are too far from their “default” way of life.
I had the pleasure to interview Andrea Marcellus. Andrea is a certified fitness expert and CEO of ANDREA MARCELLUS, a cross-platform lifestyle brand focused on delivering customized how-to content that enables busy people to maximize their lives through fitness and healthy habit building.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the story about how you first got involved in fitness and wellness?
Igot into fitness when I was studying acting at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. I had a really traumatizing accident in the summer between my Sophomore and Junior years of school that took four surgeries and years to heal. I started taking classes at an amazing studio in NY at the time — Molly Fox’s place — as something I could do to make myself strong and confident again as fast as possible. In the process, I ended up soaking up technique and inspiration from two amazing instructors, Terri Walsh and Petra Kolber. They have no idea, but they taught me how to teach.
Throughout the years, fitness was my bread and butter while I was busy working on an acting career, then dabbled in stand up comedy and ultimately ended up a screenwriter. My first feature film to actually be made is coming out in 2020 — A Nice Girl Like You, starring Lucy Hale. I never expected my fitness career to overtake my entertainment industry aspirations, but over the past three years, that’s exactly what has happened. And I couldn’t be happier. The work I do now to get my message across about a personalized, positive approach to fitness takes absolutely every skill I’ve ever developed. It feels great to push myself in every possible way as I work to help others improve their lives, both physically and mentally.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Within a year or so of teaching, I got an audition to teach for NYC’s Crunch gyms which were all the rage at the time. You’re supposed to have at least five years’ experience, so I was super-honored to have a woman I was teaching for at a boutique gym tell me I needed to level up and make that call for me. I was only 21, it was super nerve-wracking and then when I walked in, who was auditioning me? Terri Walsh (one of my two “hero” teachers). She didn’t remember me from her classes years earlier, and I was too chicken to tell her she was one of the reasons I decided to start teaching. Thank God she hired me on the spot. It would have been mortifying to be rejected by my secret mentor. In a way, it was better that I didn’t mention how much of an inspiration she was to me. By not saying anything, I knew for sure that I got the job totally on my own merits — a hugely important boost to my confidence at a time when I was so young and inexperienced next to my colleagues.
Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?
When I was 20, I taught my first step class in NYC to a packed room of about 75 people… and about 67 of them left. Keeping my head up and seeing that class through to the end was one of the hardest things I ever did. After the class, I was absolutely devastated and couldn’t have been more ashamed to face the club manager. But her response wasn’t only unexpected, it was one of the greatest lessons of my life: namely that, perspective is everything. The manager said that she needed to elevate the club, but didn’t have the budget for high-level instructors — until my audition. She said I could absolutely hold my own with the best in NYC but, since I had no experience, she could afford me. It was pretty funny. Then she gave me the best piece of advice ever — she said believe in yourself and never “teach down.” If people don’t get it, slow down, but never “dumb down” what I have to offer. Give people the opportunity to catch on and ramp up — and when they do, they’ll love you for it. It was confidence-cementing, life-changing advice and I truly wish I could remember her name to thank her.
Can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the fitness and wellness field? In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?
In the past 26 years, I’ve taught basically every type of fitness — including functional resistance training, Spinning and Pilates, and have had the privilege of guiding people of every age and background to better, stronger, more confident versions of themselves. There is nothing more satisfying than helping people achieve an “outside” that matches the confident, capable person they feel like on the inside. I also take great pride in approaching every “new thing” with a degree of healthy skepticism (I’ve seen a lot of studies, recommendations and trends be debunked under the scrutiny of time.) And the thing I enjoy the most is helping people find their own way to success in fitness, wherever that goal post is for them and by highly individualized means that will be sustainable. I love freeing people from the vicious cycle of diet and overexercise. My book The Way In and my AND/life app are all about that — helping you find out what works best for your body and schedule and getting you to your goals in a way that you can easily maintain.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
A woman named Emily Smith (I think!) had a boutique gym called Sevens on 14th Street — my first great job in fitness. When circumstances forced her to close the studio, she made a call to Crunch on my behalf and, thanks to her, I got an audition right away despite my relative lack of experience. Without that call, I truly wouldn’t be where I am today. Amazingly, about 5 years ago in LA where I now live and teach, I ended up behind Emily in a Starbucks. I recognized her immediately even though it had been over 20 years. I got to tell her about the incredible impact her encouragement and that phone call had on my life and thanked her from the depths of my heart. She cried. I cried. It was pretty awesome. It’s not every day you get to to express profound gratitude — and to someone who has no idea she has it coming. I’ll treasure that extraordinary chance encounter for my entire life.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, exercise more, and get better sleep etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the 3 main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?
1)Plans fail because they don’t fit into the schedule people actually live. Creating lifelong beneficial habits is all about consistency and repetition of doable daily goals. Small tweaks to the life you already live are far more effective at creating lasting weight loss and muscle development than restricted diets and rigorous programs that require a lot of time and mental energy. Everyone is gung ho at the start, but as soon as “life” starts to happen, people get easily derailed from plans that are too far from their “default” way of life.
2) Eating programs fail because they don’t take into account your social life. A “no thank you“ lifestyle is not one people can maintain for very long, and it’s no fun. In my opinion, there’s no faster train to grumpy town than making it all about what you “don’t eat” and “can’t have.” Unless you have a medical issue that requires complete elimination of certain foods, better to take a moderate approach to the kinds of foods you eat and spend more time working on eating smaller portions at each meal.
The moderate, permission-based approach to food in my book, The Way In, and on my AND/life app are highly successful, because they take into account less beneficial foods that we will absolutely eat socially and also caloric beverages. You can absolutely drop 1 to 2 pounds this week simply by eating three bites less of every meal you eat. Try it and you’ll be shocked at the results. Sustainable fitness tweaks are far more effective than full-blown programs that are only temporary and then end.
3) Workout programs fail because they are too aggressive. They keep your heart rate too high for too long under the guise of burning calories and boosting your metabolism. But all they do is burn glycogen out of your body which makes you feel funky, and then you end up eating even more to try to feel normal again. It’s a vicious cycle. Again, moderation is key, especially when it comes to high intensity interval training. Most classes move too quickly and heart rate stays too high for too long, lessening the overall benefit.
Can you please share your “5 Non-Intuitive Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”? (Please share a story or an example for each, and feel free to share ideas for mental, emotional and physical health.)
The Way In and my AND/life app offer a whole lifestyle strategy: losing weight and shaping up in a sustainable way requires consistency. My method builds confidence by keeping the bar low and including your social life in the plan: the small daily goals of the method “ magically” turn into life-changing habits that get you to your goals and keep you progressing. The plan is grounded in my 5 practical life strategies — a mindset that, when applied to fitness, helps you deal when “life” happens so you have the time and energy for fitness and never get derailed. It’s truly a mind/body approach aimed to build both physical and mental strength.
1) Practice Personal Authenticity: In short, this means, you be you. Your fitness program needs to be highly individualized to keep you excited and invested, and it should fit into your regular schedule without a lot of rearranging so you can be consistent — the key to maintaining your gains.
2) Live The Rule of Awesome — This is everyone’s favorite: if it’s not awesome, don’t do it. Applied to fitness, this means if you bite a brownie and it’s not an AMAZING brownie, don’t finish it just because it’s there. And being discerning about isn’t just about avoiding calories that aren’t worth it. It’s a chance to remind yourself over and over again that you are.
3) Strategize Habits — leaving meals to chance is a recipe for never getting to your goals. Alternate between just a few optimized meal options for all meals except dinner and maybe your nighttime snack. We’re already creatures of habit. When we get those habits to be aligned with our vision for ourselves, we’re home free.
4) Practice Oppositional Stability — this a stress management technique based on Pilates. If you want to bend to the left in Pilates, you first have to pull your body to the right — the opposite way — to create a stable place from which to hear the points being made to you and also to get your point to be heard.
5) Allow In the Extraordinary: this is the whole point. The better we feel physically and mentally, the more open we are to amazing life opportunities.
As an expert, this might be obvious to you, but I think it would be instructive to articulate this for the public. Aside from weight loss, what are 3 benefits of daily exercise? Can you explain?
- Keeps disease at bay, making you happier.
- Balances your hormones, making you happier.
- Helps you sleep well, making you happier.
Conclusion: Exercise makes you happier.
For someone who is looking to add exercise to their daily routine, which 3 exercises would you recommend that are absolutely critical?
Easy: Back lunges with a rotation, Moving Plank to Down Dog and Swans. If you want a total body workout in three moves that’ll not only help you lose body fat, get strong and develop flexibility, do those three moves 10 times each and take a brisk walk. Boom.
In my experience, many people begin an exercise regimen but stop because they get too sore afterwards. What ideas would you recommend to someone who plays sports or does heavy exercise to shorten the recovery time, and to prevent short term or long term injury?
I’m not a fan of long, grueling workouts as a daily habit. The idea that you need to “break yourself down to build yourself back up” is ridiculous. Lives are super busy and consistent exercise can be a really tall order when you’re already mentally overloaded. Choosing workouts that physically overload to the point of serious discomfort are not only unnecessary to improve your health, they can also quickly put out your fire for fitness. Exercise has to feel good and be fun for you to adhere to a program for the long haul — and what’s the point if it isn’t for the long haul. Pushing hard every now and then can be fun, but it’s more beneficial to think in terms of cultivating an active lifestyle with exercise as an enhancement.
There are so many different diets today. Can you share what kind of diet you follow? Which diet do you recommend to most of your clients?
I recommend not dieting EVER. I like to think of my book The Way In as the “anti-diet,” an opportunity to develop a new, appreciative relationship with food where you can become friends with it again. When we judge our food as good or bad, we unwittingly judge ourselves the same way by association. These messages hit deep, chipping away at our self-confidence and derailing our motivation.
Losing body fat and cultivating good health is more about awareness of portions, food preparation, and what makes your body feel its best, than following someone else’s idea about what you should eat. I often find that small tweaks to things people already eat can make a huge difference. encourage people to tweak things they already eat to be more beneficial and create simple, wholesome “Go-To” lists for each meal and snack time you don’t share with others or eat on the fly. If you nail down a short list of super clean foods that are easy for you to get, make and rely upon for meals you don’t share, you will develop an eating plan that’s easy to stick with because it feels like “you.” And you will be able to eat whatever you want socially and still achieve a lean, strong body without willpower because your stomach will be adjusted to portion sizes that are smaller and your tastes will have changed away from salty and sugary foods (you’ll still want them, but they will become too much quickly during a meal.)
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?
The process of envisioning and writing my own book, The Way In: 5 Winning Strategies to Lose Weight, Get Strong and Lift your Life has obviously been life-changing for me.
The first 16 years of my career, I did so many things we are told we need to do to get super fit: calorie counting and restriction, food elimination, lengthy, taxing workouts… you name it. 10 years ago, I realized that despite doing all the things we were “supposed” to be doing, neither my clients nor me were able to easily sustain our achievements (if we got to our goals in the first place). So I threw all the supposed-to’s out the window and came up with a better solution that goes beyond exercise and workouts and thinks about your whole day — including three huge weight-loss inhibitors: caloric drinks, sitting too much and stress. Developing my own, unique approach to fitness through 10 years of experimentation, research and refinement has been one of the greatest achievements of my life. It’s incredibly gratifying to to read reviews of my book and see my vision for personalized fitness resonating with so many people.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
The Moderation Movement — I think a moderate approach to food and fitness is the most effective for the long haul.
Your best body starts in your mind. My goal is to first address the mindset necessary to make your fitness goals attainable, sustainable reality and then offer a practical method to get you there. Both my book, The Way In: 5 Winning Strategies to Lose Weight, Get Strong & Lift Your Life, and the AND/life app feature my real-world, small daily goals approach to fitness that takes into account your whole lifestyle –including your social life. But both work on your mentality as well so that life events — good or bad — won’t ever totally stop your progress. The plan makes the body. The mentality makes it permanent.
Getting in shape in a sustainable way is all about consistency. My method builds confidence by keeping the bar low and including your social life in the plan: the small daily goals of the method “magically” turn into life-changing habits that get you to your goals and keep you progressing. The plan is grounded in 5 practical mindset strategies for when “life” happens so you have the time and energy for fitness and never get derailed. It’s truly a mind/body approach aimed to build both physical and mental strength.
Everything I do is about helping people preserve and cultivate more of their own most precious personal resources: time, energy and money so they can achieve any goal, fitness or otherwise, get the most out of every day and always put their best foot forward. As you strengthen physically, you fortify yourself mentally as well. I’m about mind-body connection in the most practical sense of the term.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
Never complain. Never explain.
I first learned and adopted this Katharine Hepburn quote in my early 20’s and it has served me well. It helped me move past a victim mentality developed during some tough times in my childhood where my ego was easily bruised by failure and criticism and I’d waste precious time rehashing the situation over and over. One of the greatest lessons you can learn is never to waste the opportunity of criticism by defending yourself. There’s great strength in accepting it when you fall short and deciding to listen instead of speak so that you can learn how not to repeat the mistake. My confidence doesn’t come nearly as much from my successes as it does from my failures. Developing personal power is all about failing with grace, learning quickly and getting right back on the horse.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Ashton Kutcher. He invests in digital products that have a soul and stand to make a meaningful impact people’s lives. The Calm app is an example. My hope is to take on the obesity epidemic, the #1 cause of preventable disease in the US, with a shame-free, doable approach that helps people ingrain small tweaks to their lives that will make a big difference and, over time, yield huge results. I think we are aligned in terms of our big picture goals and desire to help improve lives and make a difference.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
Insta — @andrea_marcellus
FB — AND/life by Andrea Marcellus
Twitter — @AndiMarcellus
Pinterest — Andrea Marcellus
YouTube — Andrea Marcellus