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Ziba Lennox: “Eating what you love and with joy”

Saying No. Many of us give and give to others but not ourselves. We’re afraid of what someone will think if we say no. They’ll think we are selfish or don’t care about them. But every time you say yes to something, you’re saying no to something else. That something else could be self-care. Not […]

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Saying No. Many of us give and give to others but not ourselves. We’re afraid of what someone will think if we say no. They’ll think we are selfish or don’t care about them. But every time you say yes to something, you’re saying no to something else. That something else could be self-care. Not always of course. I’ve observed this with my mother. She has always been self-less and loving to a fault and said yes to almost anything. Her health suffered because she didn’t have the bandwidth and energy to care for her basic self-care needs. After some tweaks, it still doesn’t come naturally to her to say no, but guess what? She’s 10X healthier, even with a little guilt. ☺


As a part of my series about “5 Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ziba Lennox

Ziba Lennox is a Chicago based entrepreneur, mom of two boys, cofounder of MaZi Dance Fitness and creator at Dancing Mama Style. She’s currently working on her first book on how to get and stayat your happy weight!


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?

I grew up dancing ballet and danced professionally since the young age of 12! Ballet is extremely demanding, you’re an athlete and artist at the same time. Being active and connected to my physicality is like second nature to me and I find that when I stray away my mind suffers. I opened MaZi Dance Fitness with my sister 11 years ago in Chicago and besides being a mom, it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

Since I’ve been dancing literally since I was two and working seriously at my craft since the age of 8, I have many! I think an interesting thing that has happened is that I shifted from not ever wanting to “teach” fitness and dance to having it quite literally be my calling.

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?

A funny mistake that that happened when we first opened MaZi Dance Fitness, was to not have an exit strategy. I think we thought we may not make it through a year so we didn’t plan to far in advance. Here we are 11 years later! Looking back, I think not having an exit strategy may not have been a mistake, even though it felt like it at the time. I don’t’ think there is any exiting for us in the traditional business sense. This is what we do, who we are, dancers!

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?

Having been a dancer for so long and at such a young age allowed me to make many, MANY fitness mistakes starting out. In the sake of competition and performance, I experimented with all the things to do and not do. That’s why I am writing a book to share how I found balance in wellness, it’s my duty to share. My unique contribution has been to have a community, a physical space, and now a digital one, where people find the next level of self love. Dancing is very powerful in shedding layers that don’t serve you, loving what your body can do and working through emotions that sometimes cannot be articulated verbally.

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?

Other than my sister and business partner, who’s rolled with the punches by my side, it’s probably our landlord at our first location in Chicago. Marshall Black took a chance on two super green “entreprenuers”, as he calls us, and rented us his beautiful space with no business proof our concept would work. Since then, he’s been a mentor and cheerleader for us.

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?

You’re absolutely right! The first thing is that most of us don’t do is schedule it. If you don’t make it a priority and carve out time in your schedule, it won’t get done. The second thing is fearing success. It sounds crazy but sometimes that’s what holds us back from action. It’s almost easier to stay where we are than to face what comes with success, especially as it pertains to our fitness. And finally, it’s relying on will power. Will power is fickle, and we’re human! Developing, building and honing healthier long-term habits are what translates to long-term success.

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.)

  1. Saying No. Many of us give and give to others but not ourselves. We’re afraid of what someone will think if we say no. They’ll think we are selfish or don’t care about them. But every time you say yes to something, you’re saying no to something else. That something else could be self-care. Not always of course. I’ve observed this with my mother. She has always been self-less and loving to a fault and said yes to almost anything. Her health suffered because she didn’t have the bandwidth and energy to care for her basic self-care needs. After some tweaks, it still doesn’t come naturally to her to say no, but guess what? She’s 10X healthier, even with a little guilt. ☺
  2. Eating what you love and with joy. Sometimes people are so afraid of food and have a bad relationship with the dining experience. Enjoying what you eat and eating with the people you love is transformative. It doesn’t matter what it is. Don’t eat food you don’t love. Please! I personally ate food I thought was healthier for me and didn’t enjoy, i.e. tofu with fake shirataki noodle. Guess what I didn’t like these foods at all and was always craving something after finishing my meal! If you eat with joy and enjoy your food and take your time eating, it will help restore a bad relationship with food and any guilt you may have with it.
  3. Journal. I know this is hard! But taking time to write most days about anything and without expectations will help you sort out your feelings and your thoughts. I’m the kind of person that has often conflicting cognitive thoughts and emotional feelings. Writing it down without expectations helps you sort it out. Start with journaling 3–4 times a week for 15 minutes either at night or the morning, whatever works best! If you’re struggling with what to write about, start with situations that happened the day before, what you’re looking forward to, what you fear, describe your dream house.
  4. Work on your posture. Posture is often overlooked. We are trying to take care of our fitness, diet, anti-aging with our face, our manicures, etc. Posture is a cornerstone for health. I have a few videos on this on YouTube you can try! It doesn’t take much time at all to have improved posture which will not only help prevent injury, it will assist any fitness program and help you look younger. It’s one of my favorite topics.
  5. Unfollow people in real life. At this point, we all know what “unfollowing” someone on social media. Take it a step further and unfollow people in real life, where it REALLY matters. It goes back to #1, which is saying no. Don’t feel guilty about saying no to a relationship that is one sided, don’t serve you or is harming you. They’ll get over it. Hanging on to toxic relationships is often the leading cause of other tangible problems in our lives. Sometimes taking a stand and saying, “I don’t want you in my life anymore” can salvage the relationship because the other person finally gives you the respect you deserve.

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?

  1. I call it my happy pill! My mood is instantly lifted after I workout, even if it’s just 30 minutes. I don’t’ think anyone can argue with that. If you have a better mood, typically that helps you make better food choices too. I don’t know why that is, but it’s true.
  2. Problem-solving Mindset. I can be having one of those days where it feels like the world is caving in or I can’t figure out a solution and after my workout, I’m ready to fight back.
  3. Enlightenment. Sometimes during or after a workout you may get an answer you were looking for. I believe the mind body connection, allows your brain to work in an optimized manner.

For someone who is looking to add exercise to their daily routine, which 3 exercises would you recommend that are absolutely critical?

  1. Posture exercises, I referred to earlier. I will get you the link to the exact one.
  2. Moving freely to music or breath. Of course, I’m biased towards dance and dance fitness but allowing your body to move without your judgement to a song or your breath (as in Tai Chi) is incredibly transformative. If will lift your mood, improve your flexibility
  3. Strengthen those glutes! A bridge is a great way to strengthen your glutes, legs and knees all at once.

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. 🙂

Tell at least one person (different each day) that they are beautiful or smart, or both.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life? We rise by lifting others. I don’t think I have just one story, I think it’s a theme that repeats itself in my life constantly.

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 🙂

Michelle Obama, Jane Fonda and Dolly Parton

What is the best way our readers can follow you online?

YOUTUBE: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMwAnJSUzNRPIRZRnvIFPSg

INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/zibalennox

Fitness WEB: https://www.mazidancefitness.com

GET MY 5 TOP Secret Lower Body moves: https://view.flodesk.com/pages/5e542d93c9b50f0026caf8d3

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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