{Q&A} Fitness, Nutrition or Both?

{Q & A} Featuring Rachel Mateo on Fitness, Nutrition, or Both?

Part one of a two part Q&A Interview with Rachel Mateo which answers the question: should you focus on fitness or nutrition more? It also touches on mindsets when it comes to body image and overall health.

Rachel has 15 years of personal training experience and a B.S. in Exercise Science. She currently works for Juice Plus+ as a Qualifying National Marketing Director, inspiring healthy living around the world by teaching on nutrition, and she is a certified group fitness instructor with Body By Rachel online and recently Fitology. She loves her husband and their dog May. She spends weekends traveling from Pennsylvania, her home state, to Rehoboth Beach in Delaware where she gets the freedom to run and play with the dog in the water.

Q: Weight lifting vs Cardio: How often do you get each into your weekly workouts? A: I do some form of cardio about 6 days a week and like to have variety in modality and intensity. This may include online cardio classes, running outdoors, body-weight/plyometric exercises, hiking, etc. As for weightlifting, usually 2-3 days with a focus on total body training each time… also gets the heart rate up which I feel is a great bonus!

Q: What would you recommend to a novice in the world of fitness in getting started on a workout routine for the first time? A: When first beginning to exercise, I feel it is very important to work with a professional (or at least someone you know who is seasoned and knowledgeable) to assist you in proper form and technique. Begin with the basics to build a good foundation. Try not to overdo the duration and intensity and give yourself proper rest/recovery in between workouts.

Q: What’s the most important thing to you when it comes to fitness and nutrition? Why? A: To focus on more than just your micronutrition (carbs, proteins, fats). These building blocks of any diet first and foremost need to be quality: Limiting/eliminating highly processed foods and anything artificial, while focusing on whole food. Your body, mind, emotions etc… will notice the difference when you flood your bloodstream with good, quality, nutrient dense foods and cut out the stuff that is unrecognizable and unnatural. Energy goes up and therefore you can have better workouts, better recovery, better results.

Your body, mind, emotions etc… will notice the difference when you flood your bloodstream with good, quality, nutrient dense foods and cut out the stuff that is unrecognizable and unnatural.

Rachel mateo

Q: How much do you recommend women eat calorie wise to maintain health when working out? Are calories even important? Why or Why not? A: There is something to be said for being aware of your calories in versus calories out, but it certainly should not be the sole focus. When you focus on eating clean, nutrient-rich whole foods you’re feeding your body what it truly needs so you can feel satisfied and maintain good will power. There can still be “too much of a good thing”, so when it comes to even your healthy, quality macronutrition, be aware of portion sizes, eat slowly and mindfully, and do not eat too late at night. I personally like to leave a 14 hour window from my last meal/snack of the day until my first the next day. When you stay within this eating window making health your priority in your choices your body has the chance to utilize these quality calories when they’re needed during your daily activities and then fully rest/recover at night.

Q: How do you fuel your body to work out each day? A: I live by the “WFPB” concept (Whole Food Plant Based). Not to say I’m vegan or vegetarian, but I’m mainly focused on trying to take in the most high quality nutrient and antioxidant foods. My complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and quality proteins come in the form of fruits, vegetables, nuts, nut butters,oats and gluten free grains, beans, organic vegan protein powders, almond milk, nondairy yogurt, etc. I do add in some eggs, fish/seafood and chicken from time to time, but not daily. So as an example, before a workout I’ll enjoy a light snack of an apple with almond butter or clementine with a handful of raw mixed nuts, and then post workout I’ll blend up a big filling smoothie with things like berries, almond milk, vegan protein powder, flaxseeds, chia seeds, coconut yogurt and cinnamon. Good energy in, good energy out!

Q: Do you put more value on nutrition or workouts? Why? A: Both are integral parts of total mind/body health, but when it comes to weight management, disease prevention, mood, energy, etc. nutrition takes the front seat. Maybe you’ve heard the phrase “you can’t outrun your fork”? It’s basically to say that diet is about 80% of the equation when trying to lose weight. Same concept goes for when trying to build muscle or simply change the shape of your body. Workouts are certainly important for your metabolism and strengthening/building your muscles as well as creating a calorie deficit, but exercise alone could never get you there. At least not safely, healthfully and sustainably. We need the nutrition not only to repair the microtears in our muscles as we work them, but also play a huge role in recovery, neutralization of oxidative stress, decreasing of systemic inflammation, etc.

Q: How do you balance body image with being content with where you are and pursuing a certain look with being physically fit? What would you say to a woman struggling with body image concerns? How does mindset play a role in your own fitness and coaching? A: It’s not easy when we’re bombarded with images on tv, movies, social media, advertising… all putting labels on what is acceptable. We have to do our best to focus on our health and wellbeing first and know that our individual body type/shape is very unique. Instead of fighting an against the grain in an uphill battle to try to dramatically pursue a look that may not be the way your body is designed, try taking some time to really focus on the best YOU you can be. More intense/focused dieting and exercise routines (if done properly) may be ok for a short period of time, but it’s then more important to think of things in the long term. What is truly sustainable for real life? What diet and exercise routine will help you look and FEEL your personal best, physically and mentally? I recommend beginning and ending your day with some positive affirmations through meditation, prayer and/or self reflection. Then ultimately asking yourself: What is my motivation? Why do I want to look this certain way? If it’s centered around a positive, healthy result, go for it and seek professional guidance to help you in that direction. Also, choose an accountability buddy who also has similar goals as you. Having someone to talk to about your successes and struggles lets you know you’re not alone in your challenges and also makes it more fun to create your new healthy habits!

What is truly sustainable for real life? What diet and exercise routine will help you look and FEEL your personal best, physically and mentally? I recommend beginning and ending your day with some positive affirmations through meditation, prayer and/or self reflection.

Rachel Mateo

The Biblical Side of Living Like a Glutton and The Fattened Calf Mentality

It’s holiday time and I couldn’t pick a better season to write this post that has been mulling around my mind for about two months. I’m glad I’m writing it today because of the timing of the year and I hope it brings encouragement and FREEDOM to your health, eating, and relationship with food… especially if you are like me at all and have struggled with eating in the past.

The Fattened Calf Mentality.

This is a term my brother said to me once and though I don’t recall how many years ago he and I discussed “the fattened calf way of eating” I can honestly say through the years it is the best mindset I’ve adopted when it comes to food. More on The Fattened Calf mentality in a second, but first a little history of my personal, messed up turned healthy, relationship with food.

I had struggled with what works for my body since middle school and though I eat healthy compared to many people around me, I’m sure I look like a pig compared to many others. Therefore, after finally finding a food lifestyle I am comfortable with in my late twenties, I realize how personal diet is and…

1) I don’t really care what other people eat and…

2) I don’t really care what other people think about what I eat…

After all even Jesus was accused of being a gluttonous, drunk (more on that momentarily).

Through the years, I’ve listened to and watched foodies, men and women in the fitness world, doctors who wrote books, food bloggers, and have done my own reading and research. I have accepted and rejected lots of information on food either by trial and error… actually consuming food, or by comparing and contrasting information without even picking up a fork.

My current diet works for me and that’s what counts. I love to share it with people, but it doesn’t even have a name, so therefore instead of telling you what to eat (though there are non-negotiables like you must eat multiple fruits and veggies daily to be healthy), the best takeaway after losing 20 lbs in 10 months and maintaining this new weight for about two years, is what I’ve adopted and call The Fattened Calf Mentality. With it, I feel good about myself almost every day with the eating part of the healthy lifestyle I try to maintain. Workouts are the other side of the same “Healthy Lifestyle Coin,” but are not what this post is about.

Food is very personal. Tastes, preferences, age, baseline health, cultures, family background, lifestyle, habits, education around eating, and so many other things play a role what you and I put into our bodies every day to keep them running—we hope at their optimum level. No two people eat exactly the same thing all the time, unless you’re pregnant and consider what you eat as the same as the baby within you. The Fattened Calf Mentality has less to do with what you are eating and more to do with how you are eating and therefore can apply to everyone. This is also why I won’t go into the specifics of what I eat on a day-to-day basis.

So, what is The Fattened Calf Mentality?

The Fattened Calf mentality comes from looking at the Bible and what Jesus, and everyone else, ate as a Jew living in the first century. I cannot talk about much of anything in my life without tying in the Bible. I cannot escape the value of a biblical worldview/perspective/ drawing from the history of the Bible and applying it to my life. So, if I’m being honest as I write this, I stole the concept directly from God and as I choose to believe, His Son, Jesus.

As I struggled to figure out how to get food to work for me years ago, I questioned how did Jesus “do food”? He was sinless so binging and purging, starvation, and gluttony weren’t things He sinned doing– like I seemed to struggle with daily. But did He starve himself as you and I might define starving or eat gluttonously in comparison to others? Maybe, yes, and I’m pretty sure there He was accused of BOTH things, plus being a drunk while on earth (Matthew 11:19).

In my dive into “the perfect diet,” I learned that Jesus consumed a Mediterranean diet, which from research AND personal experience is one of the best diets out there. You can Google what a Mediterranean diet is, but another key thing I learned is that as a Jew, one thing Jesus wouldn’t have eaten is pork. A number of cultures don’t eat port the way say, Americans do with their hams and bacon. If you do eat pork and it doesn’t cause any bloat, headaches, swelling, or anything else and you like it, great! Keep eating it. Again, this is NOT a how to on what to eat or not to eat. Just an important discovery of what I found and works for me ESPECIALLY AROUND THE HOLIDAYS. Additionally, Jesus also had his 12 disciples around him through most of the accounts we have, many of whom were fishermen. Jesus himself performed a miracle by feeding 5,000 people out of just 2 fish and 3 loaves of bread (Matthew 14:13-21). I truly love fish and seafood and don’t feel the need to cut that out of my diet as I slowly implement a more plant-based diet. Maybe someday, but not right now!

What is most interesting about the Bible when it talks about food is how much FEASTING there is all throughout the entire book. The old testament drips with talk of feasts and parties that God planned into the year to give people a break and let them… simply party. And from what I understand those parties lasted weeks sometimes. Gorging on food and drinks during seasonal planned events was a lifestyle. These times of feasting remind me very much of the holiday season we are currently in.

It’s interesting because as much as feasting was a part of the picture, so was fasting.  It’s just that we don’t hear about the fasting as much. It’s not really talked about. There are only a few verses in the new testament about fasting. But we know it happened. And for me personally, breakthrough occurred when I married these two concepts of feasting and fasting together and coming up with The Fattened Calf Mentality.

There is a time to fast. There is a time to withhold from eating. There is a time to give up. There is a time to be okay with being hungry. I think we have been lied to, through marketing, about needing to eat 3 times a day + snacks. When I embraced the idea of being hungry, that it’s actually really healthy for my body to be hungry, I felt better doing that act of letting my digestive system rest and refrain from eating. The health benefits of fasting are quite good for you. Just Google all the positive things that intermittent fasting can do for your body. Even a 24 or 36 hour fast to just rest your body and give it a break from all the digesting and breaking down it’s constantly doing from the generally heavy foods we dump into our systems, is cleansing and healing and has many health benefits. I choose to embrace hunger at times, to me it feels better than being stuffed.

But let’s not forget the feasting. If you shock your body with too much food every once in a while, this can actually jump start your metabolism to kick it up a notch and burn more. Also, food produces dopamine and serotonin—naturally produced chemicals in your brain that simply make you feel “happy!” This is science. But beyond the science, feasting and parties are historically and culturally important around the world. Why does so much of our world revolve around food? Feasting is important and over doing it with food is actually… okay, I think. I used to beat myself up when I ate too much, but not anymore. I appreciate knowing that God blessed me with too much food to enjoy. Gosh, what’s better than a good meal with awesome people?

And for me, though refrain from many foods and am slowly walking into a more plant-based diet, I can’t forget The Fattened Calf.

One story Jesus tells his followers is of the “prodigal son” who leaves his family trying to make it on his own. Definitely paraphrasing here, but the son ran out of money, spending it on women and booze, and was too embarrassed after going broke to return home. He got a job at a pig farm, and because he was starving would eat the pig slop he fed the pigs because he had nothing else. Eventually he realized that the servants that took care of his Dad’s property were taken better care of than his current situation. He decided to go home and see if his Dad would hire him to work his property after so many months away.

The Dad who loved his son waited months for his return. And that particular day, seeing his son a long way off coming up to the property, ran for him. He hugged his dirty, smelly son, and the moment called for a party. He ordered the fattened calf to be killed. Though I don’t fully understand the historical and cultural meaning behind the fattened calf, I’ve heard it was a big deal. (The story comes from Luke 15.)

I’ve learned that there are times and seasons each year to go crazy and eat big, binging and having a good time. There are times to kill the fattened calf and enjoy it. Then, there are other times to fast, embrace being hungry, and refrain from eating the same way as the kings of the world through history. (Seriously only kings though time ate the way our first world nations eat and it’s crazy the surplus of food we consume.)

There is so much more I could say on The Fattened Calf Mentality that I’ve adopted when considering food consumption in my life, but I will end it there for now.

Diet and food are complex. But by simplifying it to the one phrase has helped me grow in leaps and bounds by having a healthier relationship with food. I know I can enjoy food to its fullest, like now, during this holiday season, while making fasting as much a part of my life, if not more, at other times. After unpacking my research and history, I’m hoping this post brings freedom to those who are controlling, strict, and limited with eating as I used to be– and shed light on how we can enjoy food, and drinking even (without actually becoming gluttonous-drunks).

My encouragement is this: be cognizant of what you eat, you only have one body and need to take care of it. But be sure to recognize, embrace, and celebrate those fattened calf moments in life and consume food that you normally wouldn’t– like meat, wine, and an extra dessert– without guilt.

When Skin Tells a Story

I was rubbing my sun burnt legs down with lotion and noticed not only the hot feeling of a surface burn, but also felt an itch with a cluster of mosquito bites on my left calf. Scratching only irritated the burn, but if I didn’t scratch the bites were impossible to handle. Then, I noticed the nick where I had cut myself with a razor blade down near my ankle; blood was starting to trickle down my foot. I had rushed my shower, obviously, to have not noticed my beat-up legs and allowed myself to be so careless in cutting myself. Cuts, burns, and bites made my leg looked like it had been to battle.

I studied my other leg taking in an old scar down by my ankle. Fewer bites, but still uncomfortably burnt and a giant bruise on my shin.

All of a sudden, I felt a wave of being proud of my legs. I think typically my mind would rumble through thoughts of frustration having to dress a certain way to cover up the mess that was my legs in that moment. But not this time.

“Look at that.” I thought. “My skin. Taking the heat literally for all I go through and put it through.” My skin protects me from all kinds of elements just by walking the daily ins and outs of life. And look at all it can handle. The sun. Insects. Scrapes. Scratches. Bruises. Cuts that lead to scars. Though imperfect, my skin was beautiful to me in that moment. Is beautiful. And I don’t give it enough credit.

Skin is the biggest organ of our bodies and gets treated the harshest. Do we thank our skin for all it protects us from? Do we take care of it as we should? Do we drink enough water or eat high nutrient foods that hydrate and feed it properly? I try to. But besides the physical necessity that skin is by providing our bodies protection, there is so much more depth to understand.

My skin told the story of a woman who loves the outdoors— bug bites and sunburns. The bruises point to someone who is active, jostling around, and bumping into things. The scar on my ankle showed something of adventure or an experience that might have been rough in the moment, but ended with me being more resilient and now it’s healed. The razor cut by my ankle points to a personality of getting things done quickly, maybe too quickly and even rushing at times.

And what about you? What does your skin say to the world? What stories can people gather beyond the surface from that tough outer layer?

Some people have tattoos. (I love asking people about their tattoos! Sometimes the stories of a person’s tattoos are deep and meaningful. Others say they got a tattoo on a whim because of a bet or a preference. “I just like stars!” someone responded when I asked what the array of stars on their shoulder stood for.)

Some people have unique birth marks.

Some people have freckles.

Some people have stretch marks or wrinkles.

Some people have callouses built up from work and play.

Some people have more or less melanin, making them “black” or “white” or somewhere in between.

Think of the individual fingerprints you specifically were born with.

It’s pliable and soft. Growing with you. Stretching with you. Unique to ONLY you.

You can get skin wet and dry it off in a matter of seconds. Sometimes when it’s rainy and I need to run outside to the mailbox or take the trash out, I would rather go in my bare feet knowing that shoes will take forever to dry compared to wiping my feet off.

Skin gets dirty and it’s never a problem knowing you can then get it clean in the next shower.

Whatever your skin says on the outside about you, your life, your story—know it is absolutely beautiful and deserves appreciation and care.

Be proud of your skin. Be proud of what it says about you. Be proud of the first cover people see to the story and book that makes your life. And live your best life knowing your skin is beautiful even if it’s imperfect.