Stop dieting. Eat well, yes. But it’s time we all stop dieting! A diet is a short-term commitment, not a lifestyle. That’s why people who diet often gain all the weight back and then some when they’re finished. Again, North America has an extreme view of diets. But it doesn’t have to be all or nothing! You can eat whole foods, fruits and veggies, seafood, meat in moderation, and still indulge in the occasional dark-chocolate bar. When you see eating healthy as a way of life instead of a thing you’re doing right now, you’ll get much better results and be much happier!
Ihad the pleasure to interview Monica Straith. Monica is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer and Nutrition Specialist, and she has a B.S. and B.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she played varsity soccer for four years. Monica pulls from her experience in athletics and health to contribute to AlgaeCal. She’s also been featured in many publications including myfitnesspal, a sweat life, and Huffington Post.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Monica! 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?
Ican’t really tell you a story about how I first got involved in fitness, because it’s always been such a big part of my life!
I grew up in a town called Summerland in British Columbia, Canada. It’s more of a city these days… but it’s still one of the most beautiful places you could hope to spend your childhood. Summerland is nestled in the Okanagan Valley and sits on a massive lake. Picture rolling green hills, lots of farms and wineries, golf courses, and, of course, beaches!
So ya, lots of opportunities for activities. My parents would always take me hiking, or we’d do water sports like kayaking and jet skiing on the weekend. They also owned and operated a golf course, so I played from a young age… I think I hit my first hole in one when I was 11!
In terms of sports, I grew up playing soccer and practicing Tae Kwon Do. I earned my black belt at age 13. But at a certain point, I had to choose which sport I wanted to take to the next level. Thankfully, my first love was always soccer, so the choice was easy.
From there, I pushed myself and became an elite soccer player. I made the major leagues and played for the Vancouver Whitecaps. I also earned a spot on the Canadian National Soccer Youth Teams at 15 years old! So I got a full-ride scholarship to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where I played NCAA Division 1 soccer for four years.
With physical fitness being such a big part of my life, a career in health and wellness just made sense. Diet, nutrition, supplementation, mindfulness… it was all part of my success. And I feel so grateful because I’ve been able to take my passion and turn it into a fulfilling career!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Probably, skydiving with an 87-year-old, in Cardiff, Wales!
Yes, I swear this was for work… I can’t tell you too many details because we haven’t released the docu-series yet. BUT, I can tell you the series is called At Any Age. And in the third episode, I jump out of a plane at 18,000 FT above sea level with Dilys Price, the world’s oldest female skydiver.
I’ve already told you too much, so you’ll have to wait for the series to come out to hear the full story! Watch out for it on the AlgaeCal website. 🙂
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?
The blender incident of 2016.
I was writing this article about green smoothies, and how they support bone building. Of course, I always do hands-on research when I’m writing these kinds of articles. So, my co-worker and I picked up a whole bunch of ingredients from a local health food store. And we were going to experiment with some smoothie recipes to share with our readers.
You can probably guess where this is going…
On the ceiling, on the walls, and all over the office kitchen! Yes, I made the classic “forgot to put the lid on the blender” mistake. To this day, there’s a slightly green stain on the ceiling that no amount of magic erasers can erase. Needless to say, I was pretty mortified.
The take-away? Pay attention when making smoothies. Especially the green stain-ey kind.
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?
I’m able to draw on my experience as an elite athlete, my education in life sciences, and my experience working in the natural health sector at AlgaeCal. I’m also an ACE Certified Personal Trainer and Nutrition Specialist which has served me well in my field!
My unique contribution definitely ties in with my work at AlgaeCal. AlgaeCal is a natural calcium supplements company that’s helping older women and men regain their bone density, and live their best, fullest lives. This is something I believe in wholeheartedly. Everyone talks about living your best life when you’re young and able. But as people get older, it’s like the emphasis on living your best life is lost or buried. It doesn’t have to be that way.
My goal and one of our goals here at AlgaeCal is to give that spark back to older adults. You can dream, take on challenges, and achieve health and wellness goals at any age. (This is what our upcoming At Any Age docu-series I mentioned earlier is all about!)
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?
My husband! I met my husband when I was 16 and in the thick of my soccer career. At 18, I went to the University of Wisconsin-Madison to get my education and play NCAA Div 1 soccer, and he went to Europe to sign his first professional soccer contract. Being with someone who was also trying to achieve their dreams made the journey that much easier. He kept me grounded and focused (and I think I did the same for him!).
There was a time in University when I didn’t want to finish my studies. I wanted to turn pro and play soccer in Europe instead. We talked about it at length, and we ended up deciding that finishing my degree was important. Soccer was important too, but why couldn’t I eventually have both? An education and a soccer career.
Looking back, it was a pivotal decision in my life. Now, I’m able to pull from my experience as an elite athlete and use my education to have a positive impact on people’s lives. My husband and I are currently living in Germany (he’s still playing soccer professionally), and I’m able to work in health and wellness every day!
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?
- Information overload. The internet is an amazing thing, but it can also lead you down a rabbit hole. It is SO important to look for SCIENCE-BACKED information to make informed decisions about your health. Cut through the noise, the influencers who have a million followers but no accreditations (sorry!), and look for experts in the field you’re interested in.
- Trying to do everything all at once. Habits are created by continuously doing something. It doesn’t have to be ten big things. It can be one thing at first. Then, when that becomes habitual, add another. And so on!For example, I’m big on visual cues. Even though I collaborate with AlgaeCal, a supplement company, I used to find it difficult to always take my vitamins and minerals. Now, I put everything on my dining room table. So when I have breakfast, lunch, and dinner, my supplements are literally there for me to take with my meals. I haven’t missed a dose in years!
- Trying to integrate fitness into our lives based on what we’ve read. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to health! What works for ‘them’ may not work for you. So you have to get creative in how you incorporate fitness and health tips in your life.For example, there’s a lot of talk about the benefits of veganism. And some people feel great on it! But for others it can be quite challenging. It all comes back to physiology. Our bodies are unique, and so the way we treat them should be unique too.
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.)
- You don’t need to go to the gym to exercise. North America has such an extreme view on exercise. “Go to the gym 5x/week for 60 minutes.” But living in Europe has taught me to incorporate exercise and activity throughout the day! To just move more on a daily basis. In fact, one study showed that people who do the recommended amount of exercise still spend too much time doing sedentary activities like watching TV! They call this phenomenon the “active couch-potato”. And active couch-potatoes are at higher risk of chronic disease. So just going to the gym for 30 minutes a day doesn’t cut it. Especially, if you spend the rest of your time on the couch. A better approach is to incorporate exercise more naturally into your lifestyle. For example, I consistently get 10k steps a day because I walk to the grocery store, to restaurants, and so on… not because I’m on a treadmill for X amount of time. Of course, I still regularly workout. (My go-tos are barre, Pilates, and yoga now that I’m pregnant! I’m going for low or non-impact exercise.) But that’s on top of all my other daily activities: walking places, doing housework, etc.!
- Stop dieting. Eat well, yes. But it’s time we all stop dieting! A diet is a short-term commitment, not a lifestyle. That’s why people who diet often gain all the weight back and then some when they’re finished. Again, North America has an extreme view of diets. But it doesn’t have to be all or nothing! You can eat whole foods, fruits and veggies, seafood, meat in moderation, and still indulge in the occasional dark-chocolate bar. When you see eating healthy as a way of life instead of a thing you’re doing right now, you’ll get much better results and be much happier!
- Control the controllables. If it’s out of your control, don’t stress! Growing up, my father would always tell me that, most of the time, stress is self-inflicted. He would say, separate the situations you can control and the ones you can’t. If you can’t control it, forget about it! If you do have some measure of control, try and look at the situation from many different angles until you figure out how to de-stress or de-escalate it!
- You’re only as strong as your community. Relationships are critical for health and happiness. In fact, socializing has been linked to everything from reduced coronary heart disease to a longer lifespan and overall happiness! So make time for your tribe — your friends, your family, your neighbors, etc.
- Get rid of the emotional vampires in your life. (Again, thanks dad!) There are certain people that you come across that will literally suck the life out of you and anyone else around them. Steer clear, or better yet, get them out of your life entirely! You don’t need to be around that kind of energy.
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?
- Muscle and bone health. Exercise helps keeps your muscles and your bones strong! This is especially important after age 40, when you start to lose on average 1% bone density per year. But exercise can slow bone loss, and when combined with the right nutrients, even reverse it.
- Cardiovascular health. Exercise literally makes your heart stronger! This greatly reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease like stroke and heart attack. Heart disease is a leading cause of death in American men and women, yet it can be prevented by simply getting more exercise daily.
- Mental health. Exercise makes you feel good, plain and simple. It boosts your energy levels, melts away stress, and releases endorphins. In fact, studies even show that exercise reduces anxiety and depression!
For someone who is looking to add exercise to their daily routine, which 3 exercises would you recommend that are absolutely critical?
- Weight/strength training. There’s a common misconception that weight and strength-training is just for body-builders. But this type of exercise has tremendous health benefits for everyone — including keeping your bones nice and strong.
- Cardio. Regular cardio is a key part of any balanced exercise routine. Like I mentioned earlier, it keeps your heart strong and reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Relaxation/mindfulness. In this high-speed, tech-savvy world we live in, it’s so important to take time to de-stress and center yourself. Exercises where there’s a mind and body connection like yoga can help you do that.
In my experience, many people begin an exercise regimen but stop because they get too sore afterward. 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?
It’s great to be enthusiastic about your exercise regimen, but you need to take rest days too. Rest days give your body a chance to recover, and you’ll actually benefit more from workouts this way.
Also, as I talked about earlier on, I’m a strong believer in just moving more on a daily basis instead of going super hard at the gym. When you push yourself to the brink, you’re not doing yourself any favors. Especially if you get injured in the process.
So instead of going all out for an hour at the gym, and then being too sore to do anything the next day, bike to work, or get off the bus a couple stops early and walk… do some gardening, go for a hike, go to the beach and play some volleyball… whatever activity you enjoy, do more of that!
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 don’t follow a diet! A diet is something you do for a short amount of time. For me, eating healthy is a permanent part of my lifestyle. I try to eat whole foods, organic whenever I can, lots of fish, and small amounts of meat. And I recommend my clients do the same if that feels right for them. It’s all about planning ahead, making better choices daily, and moderation.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?
The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. My dad gave me this book right before I went off to college, and it always stuck with me. The four agreements are:
- Be impeccable with your word
- Don’t take anything personally
- Don’t make assumptions
- Always do your best
I find when I remember to follow these rules, life is that much easier. And success comes that much more naturally. In contrast, when I break one, nothing good comes of a situation!
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 National Osteoporosis Foundation tells us that, “A woman’s risk of breaking a hip is equal to her combined risk of breast, uterine and ovarian cancer.” And hip fractures lead to everything from chronic pain to reduced mobility and dependence to even death.
And here’s the thing: it just doesn’t have to happen.
With regular exercise and the proper nutrients, osteoporosis and osteoporotic fractures are preventable!
If I could start a movement, I’d educate from a young age about the importance of maintaining your muscle and bone health. Because when you’re younger, you’re accruing bone mass like a bank account. But when you hit peak bone mass at age 40, you start to lose bone density every year. And with menopause and andropause this process can be accelerated.
So it’s crucial to be aware of your bone health at all stages of life. When you’re young, so that you can build up as much bone as possible. And when you’re older, so that you keep maintaining your bone density with exercise and nutrition.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“No matter how much it gets abused, the body can restore balance. The first rule is to stop interfering with nature.” — Deepak Chopra
I’ve seen this first hand through my work at AlgaeCal. I’ve seen thousands of women and men recover from bone loss by trusting in AlgaeCal’s natural products. And I’ve experienced this myself at points in my life where I pushed myself too hard. If I’d listened to my body, to nature, I would’ve known better.
So my favorite life lesson, and the lesson I help teach through my work today, is that nature really does know best! I strongly believe that if we all chose natural products, ate more whole foods, and listened to our bodies more closely, there would be much greater health and wellness in the world.
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 🙂
Oh that’s tough, but if I had to pick one person, I’d love to meet Dr. Mark Hyman! His approach to health through nutrition has always been a source of inspiration for me professionally and personally. For anyone wondering what “diet” to follow, you should read his book, “Food: What the Heck Should I Eat!”
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
I run the PR and Outreach department at AlgaeCal, so the best place to connect with me is through our social accounts!
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!