Six Weeks To Fitness

Welcome to Six Weeks to Fitness, I'm your host Vince Ferguson. Thank you so much for joining me today. Now, for those of you who are used to listening to my audio podcast, you can now watch my show on our Six Weeks to Fitness, YouTube channel and joining me today on as my very first video guest is Carmen Carriker. She's a graduate of Fordham University's Alvin Ailey Bachelor of Fine Arts program, She is a professional dancer, a fitness instructor, she's an actress, she's an educator and creator of Crown Soul Yoga. And I am very pleased to have Carmen Carriker on my Six Weeks to Fitness program. Carmen, how are you today?

Carmen Carriker:

I'm great. Thank you so much for introducing me. I'm happy to be here.

Vincent Ferguson:

It's such a pleasure having you. You're so full of energy and vivaciousness it's just a joy to have you here today. Thank you so much for coming on the show.

Carmen Carriker:

Thank you.

Vincent Ferguson:

But before we get started talking about your illustrious career, let's talk a little bit about your early days. Where did you grow up, Carmen? And what was your childhood like?

Carmen Carriker:

Well, I'm originally from Detroit, Michigan, so I'm from the Midwest. And I come from a family, I was raised by my mother, single parent, and she was a musician, a singer and a songwriter. So she had her own band. So I grew up in an environment surrounded by music. So it was a very fun experience having a band, rehearsing in my house as a toddler.

Vincent Ferguson:

Yes.

Carmen Carriker:

It was introduction to jazz music, and to instruments. And that was where my love and passion for music began. It was a great experience. Nice growing up somewhere where you have trees and I grew, planted plants and vegetables and fruits with my grandfather who had a garden.

Vincent Ferguson:

Nice.

Carmen Carriker:

Because I come from the Motor City, there are lots of engineers in my family, so everyone worked or retired from Ford, GM, Chrysler. So I grew up working on cars. I helped out [in my youth.

Vincent Ferguson:

Really?

Carmen Carriker:

I was a girly-girl, but I was also a youth who dibbled and dabbled in working with machines, engineering and designing things. So I like to work with my hands and put things together and that began my interest in textile design because I'm also a fashion designer. So my love of music came from my mother and my love of engineering and design came from the men in my family.

Vincent Ferguson:

Wow. A good combination, I would say, huh?

Carmen Carriker:

Yes.

Vincent Ferguson:

Wow. So although you came from a single parent home, you did have family around you to help you, male figures, female figures which makes for a well rounded environment? And it made you the person you are today, which is absolutely amazing.

Carmen Carriker:

Yes.

Vincent Ferguson:

Yes. You've been teaching dance for about 25 years, I understand, am I correct? Right. Now that would make you about 30 years old because I've met you and you look like you're in 20s actually, but you know what I'm saying? So-

Carmen Carriker:

Yes.

Vincent Ferguson:

... you healthy lifestyle is really paying off, right?

Carmen Carriker:

Starting dance from the age three and continuing on into my 30s, I've been dancing and I've been an athlete nonstop. I started teaching when I was 14 years old assisting ballet classes and helping the studio owner run the studio after she had a baby. So I started early.

Vincent Ferguson:

Yes, and I believe if you introduce children to activities like the dance and fitness at an early age, they continue as they get older. You are exposed to it, you know?

Carmen Carriker:

Yes.

Vincent Ferguson:

And look what you're doing now, you made a business, a career out of it. Amazing. Yes.

Carmen Carriker:

I tell my student that [crosstalk 00:04:45] what you do in studio, what you're doing in school, when you're assisting teachers and helping out it pays off because you end up being the one that's hire for the job. Having the skills and the information and the knowledge to start your own business based on all of the experience that you've had growing up.

Vincent Ferguson:

Beautiful. Now you studied at the Fordham University's Alvin Ailey Bachelor Fine Arts Program. How was that experience?

Carmen Carriker:

Wow. And it's been a good 17 years since I graduated. I graduated in '04, I think. Something like that so when I was a part of the Alvin Ailey and Alvin Ailey is one of the most or the largest African American modern dance company. We were the Guinea pigs of the program, so I was a part of the first graduating class as far as them having a joint program with Fordham University. So we were the first classes. So it was new to have professional dancers at Fordham taking liberal arts classes and then walking over to Ailey and having a full dance conservatory experience. So I had a very long day. I had like four academic classes and then I'd have four dance classes and then I'd have rehearsal in the evening and then I'd have a job working at the university. So 22 credit hours, a semester, lot of hard work. If we started off with 20 students in our class, by the end of four years, there were 10 of us.

Vincent Ferguson:

Really, really why?

Carmen Carriker:

Because it's very demanding on the body. It's costly to live in New York. So coming from Michigan, moving here not everyone could deal with the transition as well and a lot of dancers found that, oh, this is just too much on my body. Only the strong survive. So if you think, oh, okay. You know, let me go do this BFA program. Yes. Do the BFA program, but research it, make sure that it's something that works with you because it's a very demanding program.

Carmen Carriker:

So I'm glad that I went through it. So many connections, so many performance opportunities. Working with all of the major choreographers and having the opportunity to apprentice, to be a guest performer. I'm so blessed and thankful and to work with some of the company members had been taking class with Alvin Ailey dancers every day. Ballet class, modern class, African dance class, the conditioning classes, yoga, Pilates. They were the first and second company members were living with us. And then you had the PPPS, the afterschool kids were in the building as well. And this was when Alvin Ailey was on 66 and Amsterdam. Now it's the larger building. So the larger building was not there in 2004. In the year 2000 when I joined it wasn't until four years later that that building was finished. So when I graduated the institution that everyone knows of now that huge building, which is called the Joan Weill Building, which is named out to the person that funded it, wasn't there. It wasn't there yet. So all the hard work that all of the students and teachers and everyone, the Ailey family, all the hard work that we did contributed to continuing the legacy of Alvin Ailey having that large institution where people from all over the world are coming to learn.

Vincent Ferguson:

Yes, amazing.

Carmen Carriker:

[inaudible 00:09:25] experience, but it definitely made me who I am. I'm a stronger dancer, a stronger, a more experienced teacher have a lot of knowledge and information to share. And I have a lot of connections, always have all of those dancers and teachers as support.

Vincent Ferguson:

You can't put a price on that support, you know, those connections. Can't put a price on that. And speaking of dance, what type of dance do you now teach? I know you teach children and adults. What type of dances do you teach?

Carmen Carriker:

Well, I teach everything. Well, mainly right now I'm teaching yoga, teaching kids yoga classes from the ages 18 months to like five and six. That's the group that -

Vincent Ferguson:

18 months.

Carmen Carriker:

Yes. The mommy-baby classes, the baby.

Vincent Ferguson:

Wow. And what else? Okay.

Carmen Carriker:

And then I also teach adult classes.

Vincent Ferguson:

Adults.

Carmen Carriker:

Yeah. All the way up 80.

Vincent Ferguson:

Up to 80. Yeah. There's ton of time for me. Oh, good. But again, so you're teaching yoga, you're teaching ballet. You're teaching... What else?

Carmen Carriker:

Teaching jazz. I'm teaching [inaudible 00:10:45]. I teach swing, wing dance, the Lindy hop.

Vincent Ferguson:

Lindy hop.

Carmen Carriker:

Yes, I teach SoCo fitness, I teach African dance in afterschool programs. And I love to share African history history, so that people know about the culture. That's very important especially when I'm teaching kids that they know where the movement comes from, that they know what instruments are and they know what places that these dances come from, especially in this time when TikTok videos and social media, there's so much information, visuals so everyone sees movement but they may not know where these dances come from. So good that they have the history and they know the knowledge and the culture behind.

Vincent Ferguson:

Now let's talk about yoga because that's where I first met you, when you did a yoga class from my organization, Body Sculpt of New York and with the children. Now, where did you learn yoga?

Carmen Carriker:

Well, I started yoga, yoga was a part of my curriculum at Alvin Ailey.

Vincent Ferguson:

Okay. But didn't you also learn yoga in Jamaica?

Carmen Carriker:

Yes. By the time I graduated I was condition my body by doing Pilates and bar and gyrokinesis anything like that, that would help keep my body fit.

Vincent Ferguson:

Yes.

Carmen Carriker:

It wasn't really a spiritual journey for me until I went to Jamaica and I wanted to learn specifically a style of yoga that was more ancient, more meditative that connected to me as an African American. And that's where I found Kemetic yoga. So I was like, I'm going to go straight to the source. I'm going to go to Jamaica because I had the time and I was available to do the 10 day retreat and training. And I've been doing it ever since and it's my favorite. It's something that I really connect to spiritually. I'm a Kemetic yogini if you want to say that. I practice a Kemetic diet. So Kemetic, all of it, living, according to the laws and principles that the Ancient Egyptians practiced. Learning the history, learning the language and incorporating that in the modern day lifestyle has been easy for me and it has kept me grounded.

Vincent Ferguson:

Really? And you say Kemetic, which is Kemet, in Egypt, right? And so when you're training, you're teaching yoga, you're teaching Kemetic yoga are you also teaching the language to your students?

Carmen Carriker:

Yes.

Vincent Ferguson:

Wow.

Carmen Carriker:

There are learning poses in the Metu Neter language.

Vincent Ferguson:

Give me-

Carmen Carriker:

So if we are combining for example, the Sphinx pose or the lion pose is Heru Akhet. So I'll say it in English and I'll also say it in the Metu Neter language as well.

Vincent Ferguson:

Do you have any space to go to do a pose or two that we can see?

Carmen Carriker:

Sure. So we all know of the monument in DC that's shaped like an obelisk?

Vincent Ferguson:

Yes.

Carmen Carriker:

Okay. So in Egypt of it is called Teken which is spelled T-E-K-E-N.

Vincent Ferguson:

Teken.

Carmen Carriker:

So this is Teken pose so you're standing with your feet together.

Vincent Ferguson:

Yes.

Carmen Carriker:

You're connected to earth, and earth, the Egyptian word for earth Geb and then [inaudible 00:14:57] up and you're connecting to the sky, which is Nut

Vincent Ferguson:

Huh. Nice.

Carmen Carriker:

So this pose is called the Teken pose so you're feeling connection to the earth and the sky.

Vincent Ferguson:

Wow. Wow. That's powerful. That is really, really powerful to see that, you know. And you said the Kemetic lifestyle. Okay. Now, does that involve also nutrition as far as eating healthy? Because you're a vegan.

Carmen Carriker:

Absolutely. I'm vegan. Kemetic diet is a plant-based diet. So if you're choosing a lifestyle and you're choosing to practice Kemetic yoga, you're also choosing a plant-based diet.

Vincent Ferguson:

And why is that important?

Carmen Carriker:

Well, if you look at the hieroglyphic, even the ancient Egyptians, you see lettuce, you'll see greenery around them so those are examples that that was the way that people were living. And that was their source.

Vincent Ferguson:

Okay, so they didn't eat the chickens and the cows? They weren't meat eater? No?

Carmen Carriker:

Well, I mean, as far as I know, there're of course are going to be people who do different things depending on where they are. But the tradition and the Kemetic practice that I'm practicing and that I've learned from teachers before me we're practicing plant-based.

Vincent Ferguson:

Excellent. I think that is an excellent way to eat, to live. I do believe that. I believe that it also helps you to connect more with spirituality, because you're not weighed down by meat eating, you know?

Carmen Carriker:

Yes.

Vincent Ferguson:

So I applaud you for that and I think it gives you a lot of energy and that's why you're all over the place doing so much. I am so impressed with you. Now you call your company, Crown Soul Yoga. Where'd you get that name from?

Carmen Carriker:

Well, you know, Crown Soul Yoga it came to me in a dream. So a lot of times things that I do artistically, I may have visions. So it came to me and the Crown is your crown and you know, I think of ancestry and the kings and queens before me. So when you take care of your crown you're protecting yourself, protecting your connection to spirit, connection to the higher powers. And then Soul is your heart. So anything that I do, I'm giving from my heart, my soul and I'm giving. So by helping others, I'm feeding my soul. And so [inaudible 00:18:09] and in creations, which was my first, is also my business, Crown Soul Creations. Everything that I make is that connection mind, body, spirit. So whether it's Crown Soul Yoga, which is the business of yoga, Crown Soul Creations, which is the business of jewelry and the knit wear, and the soaps and the products that I make, the t-shirts and the hoodies and all that stuff that I make, those are my creations.

Vincent Ferguson:

Wow.

Carmen Carriker:

So the branding.

Vincent Ferguson:

Yes. Branding.

Carmen Carriker:

[inaudible 00:18:44] queen, so I want people to feel royal and to embrace who they all are and to have a lot of soul in whatever they do.

Vincent Ferguson:

Most definitely. So you're more than just a professional dancer, a professional fitness instructor or educator. I mean, you are business woman, you're an entrepreneur and how has that journey been for you?

Carmen Carriker:

It's rewarding. It's rewarding to look at the things that I've done. Look at my resume, look at the timeline that Facebook shows me like this happened 10 years ago.

Vincent Ferguson:

Yes.

Carmen Carriker:

It's mind blowing to know that so much time has passed and so much I've been able to do and share as far as fashion shows, as far as vendoring and doing different events. And now focusing more on online yoga business and sharing medication and sound healing, Reiki, which is energy work. Even the energy I do holistic health and wellness is based in Kemetic tradition as well. So shout outs to Ra Sekhi Arts Temple, which is where I studied, which is based in Atlanta and the Kemetic Yoga School in Chicago under Yirser Ra Hotep. So YogaSkills Method. And I'm so thankful. I'm thankful to [inaudible 00:20:18], and I'm thankful to Queen Afua and all the Sacred Women who have led the way to healthy living and [crosstalk 00:20:28]

Vincent Ferguson:

Yes. Most definitely. Definitely. Now I know you live in Brooklyn, New York, right? And that's where my podcast is hosted in Brooklyn, New York. Shout out to Brooklyn. But now prior to the pandemic, most instructors like yourself and dancers, they would train their students in-person but as you know, New York was hit very hard and during the pandemic they shut all that down, so most of you guys had to pivot and start doing online instruction. How has that worked out for you? And are you still doing online?

Carmen Carriker:

I'm still doing online. It's been two years of online teaching. It's hills and valleys. It's been hills and valleys.

Vincent Ferguson:

Yes.

Carmen Carriker:

At the beginning I think that there was definitely influx, numbers going up everyone was at home and just needing to have connections so they were Zooming in, however, WhatsApp, whatever people could use to connect with me through private sessions, through small group sessions and group conferences. But as things have opened up in New York, it is slowed down. I also feel like teachers, as well as students, clients have experienced a little bit of Zoom burnout. I'm spending so much time online. I think that people need to take a break from it and do in-person things. So I'm glad that this summer I was able to go into schools so we were able to dance outside the playground areas, or I was able to teach in Central Park or Prospect Park. Do some outdoor or public space events. But it hasn't been easy because now there are a lot of restrictions.

Carmen Carriker:

There are a lot of restrictions in New York and based on your status of vaccination, non-vaxxed, you know, it limits who you're able to access and then who feels comfortable going back into spaces. So even depending on whatever your status is there are people who are just would rather do online. And then there was others who are very happy to be back in all the public spaces. It's a... I guess I'm a person that goes with the flow and I follow my intuition. So if I feel that something is telling me, no, wait a little while longer, and then open up more opportunities then I do that. If I feel like, okay, let me hold back. Maybe we'll do hybrid for a while, maybe we'll come in, do some online, you know?

Vincent Ferguson:

Yes, yes.

Carmen Carriker:

And to see how things go until before winter season.

Vincent Ferguson:

Yes. So I would imagine, well, online will be around for a while.

Carmen Carriker:

I think that it is now a way of life for instructors and it is now a way of life for, I think it's convenient in a lot of ways save a lot of money as far as transportation. I'm someone that boots around a lot and I found that by being a online for two years and not having to ride the Metro and taking public transportation I saved tons of money.

Vincent Ferguson:

Yes.

Carmen Carriker:

And the stress of traveling and commuting and coming in contact with so many people because it's a busy city, there's so much going on that can be drained alone.

Vincent Ferguson:

Yes.

Carmen Carriker:

So I found that I was more at peace, just kind of being in my own space and that I still feel that, but I'm definitely love being connected with nature. So you will find me at the beach teaching or just experiencing yoga meditation for myself out in the open and sharing it online.

Vincent Ferguson:

Yes. Most definitely. And we will also be sharing you online because we are going to be doing some Six Week Fitness programs again. And you'll definitely be one of our preferred instructors, as long as you have the availability we want you.

Carmen Carriker:

I can help with that.

Vincent Ferguson:

Now, this is my podcast, my program is called Six Weeks to Fitness. Okay. It's a subsidiary of my Body Sculpt of New York nonprofit organization. But if you had six weeks to get fit, what exercise activities would you do or recommend people do to get in shape in six weeks?

Carmen Carriker:

Well, I would say at first, look at your diet and come up with a food plan. You might want to consider fasting diet. Start with a fast, it could be a seven day fast juice just to clean your body out, just to help. We a colon cleanse out everything now, before you start your six week journey, you want to start off fresh and clean. So your body is rejuvenated. So I would suggest do a juice fast. And if that's new to you, you can start easy. Maybe you just cut out your carbs, cut out the heavy foods, the process foods. Only eat lean meats if you're eating lean meats and just gradually increase that. But I think that you should have definitely include healthy eating in your program and which you start the six weeks, have a calendar and then set up, have a meal prep for each week.

Carmen Carriker:

And then analyze, maybe do measurements to see where you are at the beginning of your fitness journey, see where you are and be kind to yourself, but do those measurements. Get a measuring tape measure your arms, measure your weights, measure your thighs and record that and then set up work workouts for each parts of the body. I know that's what I do. So I have a leg day. I have a arm day. I have ab day. I have, you know? Total body workout day, and then I'll have a day of rest. A

Carmen Carriker:

nd then that continues on for the full workout. I'd say it's easy to also have a buddy, have a fitness buddy. Somebody that can hold you accountable. Somebody call and say, "Hey girl, are you still doing your workout? Did you do your 25 minutes today? Or did you do an hour? Did you work out today or I'm about to do these workouts?" All right. Let's do a challenge today. Let's do 10 pushup." You know, whatever. 40 today. Whatever the challenge is, but I think it does help to have someone or have a group. It could be an online group or a group of friends or co-workers that will support you, say, "Hey, this is what I'm doing. I'm going to be working out for six weeks. My goal is to lose five pounds." And maybe even have like a money pot. So for every person in your group that loses the five pounds, they get $10 or something like that, or you do a gift exchange or something in a sense for people to really not only yourself, I know I've done it with my family members like my brother.

Carmen Carriker:

We did it with a group of friends and I found that it helped me and it helped them because we sometimes we were so busy and it's easy to forget, oh, I was supposed to do this today. Oh. Or I forgot like, or, you know, you might have a cheat day. Okay. I really want to eat, I want to have cupcakes today or whatever it is that you love, I'm a sweet lover. So for me vegan treats or something that you might see me eating vegan ice cream. So we all have a day that we might cheat, but just know that if you have a group or you have goals that you set for yourself, you look back at that, look at the calendar, the agenda that you set out for the workout plan that helps you kind of stay on track.

Vincent Ferguson:

Most definitely. Awesome advice. I appreciate that. I'm sure my listeners and viewers will take some of that into consideration. I want to touch on very briefly, the fact that in addition to all this, you are also an actress. Have you been in any shows and what's the plan for acting going forward?

Carmen Carriker:

Well, this was the first year that I was invited to the Tribeca Film Festival. And because of the pandemic, the festival was online. I would've loved to been invited to be on the red carpet for my first film festival as a principal dancer. But it was online. It was a Zoom call and wow, it was an amazing experience. Tessa Thompson was the lead actress in the film that I was a part of trying to remember the name of it, that's crazy.

Vincent Ferguson:

Oh, so that happens.

Carmen Carriker:

But it was a great experience just to work, to shoot. We were still filming, of course during the pandemic there's COVID testing and all that they had to be done. It was shot in Bushwick in a church so it was nearby as far as filming and I was a swing dancer in the film and it was a club scene. So the movie took place... It kind of went from, it was based off of a book and it was about the relationship that these two women had, they were black women, but they could pass for white. So it was about the challenges they faced in Harlem, these two women who grew up together, but they separated had two separate lives. They met up again, one chose to marry a black man had kids, the other chose to marry a European and there were race issues. And what ultimately happened at the end is that the truth came out and it was [crosstalk 00:32:41]

Vincent Ferguson:

I can imagine.

Carmen Carriker:

I just thought of the name of the movie. The movie is called Passing. So if you go on, I think Tribeka Film Festivals site information about those movies, I'm not sure because of the pandemic a lot of those movies have not... I don't know if they are going to be released. But during the festival you pay for a ticket, then you can watch all the movies online from your home, which is convenient. But dancing, it was a 14-hour shoot for three days. A lot of dancing, a lot of swing dancing. It was me and the 10 dancers that were featured in the club scene. We're all friends, we all work together here in New York. So it really is about who you know, because the lead choreographer avid dancer someone that I know assists in choreographer, someone that I know is from Ailey as well. Many of the dancers in the cast are former Ailey dancers, or professional actors, black performers in New York.

Carmen Carriker:

It was such a great opportunity. It was a well-paid gig at a time when we didn't have much work at all. Shows and events have been canceled so to have a big job like that happened before things went haywire like they are now I give thanks for that. Yeah had an opportunity to work on the movie Passing before that I was working right before the pandemic, which I guess now it's been two years, I was working on the Mandela musical. So choreographer from South Africa, musicians from South Africa they chose six dancers for the project to just set choreography for the future opening of the musical. Of course, with all of this happening, there have been so many setbacks, but at least I was a part of the creative process. So we were learning Afro beats, a fusion of Afro beat dance, modern dance, house. So it was a fusion, very rhythmic movement. So I worked on that project for, I think it was like three weeks.

Vincent Ferguson:

Three weeks. Nice.

Carmen Carriker:

Yeah. And that was the in-person. That was an in-person project we rehearsed in the studio full band. Everyone was there. It was before all this happened. That was the last project I did that was in-person. Since then I worked on another project this year with a cast, Swing Out, and Swing Out is now at The Joyce. So there was an audition process, they were seeking about 20 or maybe 18 musicians, singers, tap and swing dancers to partner up with a cast member for a residency program. And the residency program was for four weeks and at the end of the residency you'll have learned music or you've learned choreography, and then you're able to present it. And this is something that I normally would be so busy that I wouldn't be able to be a part of the residency because it would mean I would have to take off for my job, but with everything that was going on, my schedule was open and I was able to work and work with really great musicians. Really great choreographers and dancers. So shout out to the cast of Swing Out for those who are going back into theaters and on Broadway.

Vincent Ferguson:

Yes, Broadway.

Carmen Carriker:

Be [inaudible 00:37:08] so I'm honored that I was able to work with them in an online performance setting.

Vincent Ferguson:

Yes, yes, yes, yes. But that's okay. You've done so much though, Carmen in your young life and I'm so impressed, but what advice, or what words of encouragement would you give to other aspiring dancers and fitness professionals who's trying to get to where you are? What advice would you give them today?

Carmen Carriker:

Well, I'd say discipline. Discipline, know your craft. There are a lot I would say people who look good on camera and they create all types of online content, but the conditioning it takes to perform and go on tour is a very different beast. So if you're choosing to be a performer, a professional who gets paid for doing what we do, longevity, if you want to still be performing, and have a career and say, "Hey, I've been on stage and I've performed everywhere and it's been 25 years and I'm, knock on wood, injury-free.

Vincent Ferguson:

Yes. Yes.

Carmen Carriker:

That's very important to say that I've danced and had a career this long and I haven't had any injuries. It's conditioned and training and listening to your body. Because we live in an environment where we're being pushed. You'll be pushed to the edge. People are going to push you to use your talents to the last little drop. But what has saved me is knowing my body and knowing my limits, knowing when I need to rest, knowing when I need to take a break and having good rapport communicating properly. Because in this world, in this industry, the connections that you make stay with you. So if you have a good reputation and you're nice to the people that you work with and people know that about you you'll get referred for jobs. If you have a bad rapport, meaning that you don't show up on time you don't have good habits. Maybe you smoke and drink on the job, or you do other types of things and I don't recommend that everyone has their choice of what they do, but when you are in a professional setting, always be professional and be yourself. Don't try to compare yourself to anyone else because there'll be people that have 10 times better than you. Then there'll be people who are still learning. So I say it's easy to look at celebrities and to look at people that you see and like, oh my God, I don't have the best social media content. I need to keep going. I need to look at what's necessary in order for you to reach the goals that you want.

Carmen Carriker:

Look at someone that you admire. I admire Camille Brown she is one of my peers, we're the same age and to see her growth and her development from Ailey dancer to this choreographer who is setting major work on all of the Broadway shows right now, her consistency and her beliefs and her vision and her branding, or her work, having her own and company and not allowing anyone to manipulate or change her work is why she is where she is. Her commitment to sharing the black experience through dance, her commitment to sharing and making sure our voices are heard as people of the diaspora is why she's doing Corey and Best, why she's doing all these different or that she's being called for the job.

Carmen Carriker:

And when you get into a position of power in the industry, keep the people in your life who support you the most with you, because you're going to need that support because if you go into an industry and you become famous and you don't have anyone around you to support you, you are vulnerable to all kinds of stuff, and you don't have people fighting for you. So I would use the people that I admire, who are very successful in the industry. You look at their assistant directors, you look at who their assistant dancers are they are people that they've been working with.

Carmen Carriker:

The same 10 people or five people that they known 10 years ago, or 20 years ago are on their team, on their board of advisors. So keep the people close to you. That's my advice because I know that I don't have a big company like that, but when I do have that kind of business and flow and opportunity, I'm going to definitely reach out to folks like you, of course, who have provided a platform for me to be on and many others that I've worked with so that we can grow and build together. Because that's what it really is about.

Vincent Ferguson:

Yes, Yes. 100%. Love that. Love it.

Carmen Carriker:

Just live your life.

Vincent Ferguson:

Yes. Live your life. I'm trying.

Carmen Carriker:

Don't be stressed out and if you are stressed out, tell people about it, meditate, pray, have a spiritual, whatever your spiritual beliefs are, stay grounded in that because that also helps you keep a clear mind, a clear focus and knowing what your purpose is in life is also important. If you don't know what it is figure that out. And that could be a lifelong journey. We're all trying to stay on the right track.

Vincent Ferguson:

Oh, most definitely. This has been so uplifting and rewarding for me. And I'm sure it will be for my listeners and viewers as well, but where can my listeners and viewers find out more about Carmen Carriker?

Carmen Carriker:

Well, you can find out about me, you can go to my website which is crownsoulyoga.com. You can find me I have a YouTube channel at Carmen Kemetic Yoga and I'm on Facebook as Carmen Carriker. I'm on Instagram as crown soul fashionista or Cecil Kemetic Arts. But you can just look up my name, Carmen Carriker and Google Search me. I'm available, you'll see my businesses and you'll see my classes. And I'm open to working with everyone and helping us to live a more healthy, happy life.

Vincent Ferguson:

Yes, most definitely. Carmen Carriker on behalf of Body Sculpt of New York and Six Weeks to Fitness, I truly want to thank you for coming on my show today.

Carmen Carriker:

Thank you so much for having me.

Vincent Ferguson:

And to my listening and viewing audience, I truly hope this program was informative, encouraging, and, inspiring and that you will continue listening in and watching our Six Weeks to Fitness program. And if you have any questions or suggestions for the show, please leave them in the comment section below and don't forget to subscribe so you don't miss any future episodes. And remember, let's Get Ready, Get Set, and let's Get Fit!

Direct download: Episode_175_Carmen_Carriker.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:18pm EDT

In this Episode of my Six Weeks to Fitness podcast, I explore the importance of motivation to help you achieve a healthy mind and body.  Did those extra pounds you lost prior to the pandemic, find you again?  If so, now is not the time to give up or give in.  It’s time to step out of your comfort zone and do what others won’t do in order to get what others won’t get.  Too often we give up right at the doorstep of success, but what if you had that extra motivation from people who have been there before.  What if you were to hear the right words at the right moment from motivational speakers that will help push you towards your goals.

So you failed at your fitness goals, so what? That was yesterday, today is a new day.  Thomas Edison failed 10,000 times before he found the answer.  Have you tried even twice or three times before giving up?  My father told me many years ago, he said “son, nothing beats a failure but a try,” so each day I get up, I thank God for another day, I start trying, because I know that the race is given to the swift nor the battle to the strong but to the person that endureth to the end, and so today on this podcast, I’m doing something a little different and bringing forth 20 minutes of motivation from various speakers.  We all need a little kick in the rear sometimes to wake us up and keep us moving towards our fitness goals.  You see, life isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon, and I know the importance of finding inspiration and motivation along the way to help keep you focused on your beliefs and goals and these motivational speeches may be just what you need to keep going, so, sit back and enjoy some of my favorite motivational speeches, and if you would like to hear more podcasts like this, just drop a comment and let me know. I would love to hear from you.

Direct download: Episode_174_Best_Motivational_Speech_Compilation.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:31am EDT

Mercedes De La Cruz is a Canadian born actress and model best known for her memorable and charismatic performances in more than two dozen television shows and independent films. After a successful modeling career, De La Cruz made the transition to a versatile supporting actor lauded as a great actress by the likes of Academy Award nominee, Sally Kirkland for her role as Carla, a savvy pregnant prostitute in Ramshackle Blues, De La Cruz was nominated for a best-supporting actress at the 2019 Vancouver Bad-Ass Film Festival. De La Cruz recently wrapped filming a co-lead in the feature Because You're Dead to Me. And also a movie called The Machine where she can talk a little bit more about while we have the interview. And the co-starring role in the Netflix series Made an extensive spiritual journey, led her to overcome an alcohol and drug addiction.

Vincent Ferguson:

Her in-depth study in A Course In Miracles led her to a massive change in her perspective and gave way to her being able to see energy on objects. This new development opened her eyes to energy work and set her on an even deeper mission. Health and fitness have always been a high priority for Mercedes as a classically trained ballerina for well over a decade, she is no stranger to a strict fitness regimen. She lifts weights, does circuit training, Yoga and Pilates, and when it comes to nutrition, Mercedes has always been interested in pushing her boundaries, everything from intermittent fasting to breatherianism or the Paleo diet to being a vegetarian. She is now a firm believer in being in communication with your body, giving it what it needs, and eating a lot less than we are used to. So let's welcome Mercedes De La Cruz to my Six Weeks to Fitness podcast. Mercedes how are you?

Mercedes De La Cruz:

Hi. Wow. I'm really good. How are you?

Vincent Ferguson:

I'm good. I'm good. Before we talk about fitness and spirituality. Let's talk also about your acting career.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

Sure. Yeah, absolutely.

Vincent Ferguson:

You started out as a model, a very successful one, and yet you transitioned to acting what or who inspired you to get into acting?

Mercedes De La Cruz:

Well, I actually, even before modeling, I was a dancer and I started on stage when I was three years old. And I really like performing, ballet was one thing, but performing just being up there and the crowd and the lights and the excitement and all the energy up there. I really, really wanted more of that. And I mean, I was super young, I was three years old. And so I've been on stage kind of ever since. So I wasn't actually inspired by anyone really specific to perform. I just kind of have always done it. And actually my boyfriend asked me this today. We were doing this fitness stretching class a little while ago and I was really flexible. And he's like, "Have you always been so flexible?" And I was like, "Well, yeah, I was a ballerina. And he was like, "Well, but before you were a ballerina?" And I'm like, "Well, there wasn't anything before."

Vincent Ferguson:

Right. You're a toddler.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

Yeah. I don't have any in-depth memories of what it was like before I was three years old. So it feels that same way with performing as well.

Vincent Ferguson:

Well, so you're actually doing what you believe you were born to do?

Mercedes De La Cruz:

Yeah, pretty much. And that's the funny thing, being a dancer... And it wasn't just ballet that I did. I did ballet, jazz, musical theater, song and dance, like whatever my dance school had. I didn't do tap because I heard it was bad for your knees. That was silly. I was always dancing and performing and I realized later on that it wasn't even really dance that I wanted to do. It was more the performing side, but it was my mom who really was like, "Oh, you're such a great dancer." And I wanted to make her happy and we do that as human beings. We want to please the other people around us and get approval. But I think if someone would have really asked me like, what I preferred I probably would have been acting a lot sooner.

Vincent Ferguson:

Really? A lot sooner.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

Yeah. I mean, not sooner than three, but rather than taking all those years of dance, I think I would have liked to get more into acting sooner than I did.

Vincent Ferguson:

But doesn't having that background in dance compliment your acting?

Mercedes De La Cruz:

Absolutely. I think there's a lot of major benefits from all the dance classes that I took and in that is discipline. Right.

Vincent Ferguson:

Right.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

Also, competence and learning about you, about your body as well. I'm not shy by any means, and I don't know if I would've ever been, but all the years of being on stage or being around that many people I think probably contributed to that as well. And then also listening. Right. Like being able to take direction. I think that was cultivated in dance.

Vincent Ferguson:

I know you were born in Edmonton, Canada, but you moved to Vancouver. Why did you move to Vancouver?

Mercedes De La Cruz:

To pursue acting.

Vincent Ferguson:

Really?

Mercedes De La Cruz:

Yeah. I've always worked really hard and I left home really early when I was about 13 years old was the first time that I left home.

Vincent Ferguson:

Really?

Mercedes De La Cruz:

Yeah. And I always had lots of jobs. I really wanted to be successful. And so I had part-time jobs and even through school, even when I wasn't living with my family, I always worked. And then I started a bunch of businesses and I had a home decor and painting company, and I had a marketing and promotions company and I was modeling and acting and traveling, and I was doing so many things and I was really spread thin. And I think because of that, and probably because I was drinking a lot as well I just wasn't feeling centered. And I felt quite depressed. And a close friend of mine, Robert Andrews, who had been a photographer actually, who's been taking my pictures since I was 17 years old, he sat me down and he was like, "All right, you're not happy. I can see that. What is it that you need to be doing? Or if you woke up every day and you were going to be doing something that would make you happy, what would it be?"

Mercedes De La Cruz:

And without even thinking, I was like, "Acting." Like, it was like quick.

Vincent Ferguson:

Quick.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

Quick answer. And he was like, "Okay, you got to move." And so I thought about two places that I could live in Canada where I would act and it would be either Toronto or Vancouver. And Vancouver was a lot closer.

Vincent Ferguson:

Okay.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

To Edmonton.

Vincent Ferguson:

Yeah.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

And I chose Vancouver. And so within I think it was three weeks, I got rid of everything pretty much that I owned and packed up what I could fit in my Volvo and moved to Vancouver. And I didn't know what I was going to do. I didn't have an agent. I didn't know anybody. I didn't have an acting class set up, nothing. I had no idea, but I just felt that's where I needed to be. And lo and behold, it worked out perfectly.

Vincent Ferguson:

Yeah. Most definitely. Now again, you stepped out on faith.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

I did. Oh yeah.

Vincent Ferguson:

Right.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

I do that a lot.

Vincent Ferguson:

Faith. And you had no agent. Okay.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

Nope.

Vincent Ferguson:

Nope. So did you have to audition for your first show, for your first movie?

Mercedes De La Cruz:

First things first when I got to Vancouver, this was before everybody had computers. Right. So I was going to internet cafes when that was the thing.

Vincent Ferguson:

Okay.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

And I doing up my resume at the internet cafe and I was looking for an agent and I was sending my resume to all these different agencies. And then you would have to audition for your agent. They would want to see what you were like.

Vincent Ferguson:

Yeah.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

And I mean, I was lucky. I'm ethnically ambiguous so I can play a lot of different roles. And that's definitely something that agencies would like to have. I have like a Hispanic look. I'm very mixed, so I can play a lot of different things.

Vincent Ferguson:

Yeah. Versatile.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

Yeah. Very versatile. And in Vancouver, there's very few Hispanic actors. So I did have a pretty big pick of agencies that I could go with, but still I had to audition for that.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

And in the beginning... I mean, I already had acting credits, I had experience. And I had been taking classes and I had already had a resume of work that I had done, but it was different. Like now I'm in a city where there's TV shows. Right. And I've never been on a TV show before. I didn't even know what that looked like. So I started doing backgrounds and for, I think probably two years, I did background work, which was great because it got you or got me to see how that all works.

Vincent Ferguson:

Right.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

Right. What everyone's job is in the production, the hours, and also just like the craziness of having to do the scene over and over and over again. And it's like Groundhog day, right.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

Not only that let's say it's a party scene and you're dancing at a club. Well, you'll have to do a take where you're dancing with music. Then you have to do a take with dancing without music, probably a few times. Then you have to do it again because you have this person's dialogue and then it's the other person's dialogue. And then there's going to be times where you're supposed to talk to the people that are around you. And other times you have to pretend that you're talking to these people because they don't want to have any sound. It's crazy.

Vincent Ferguson:

Yes.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

Yeah. So that was really interesting. And then of course, for anything that I was wanting to be part of it, definitely an audition process. I mean, I was new to the city. I didn't know the casting agencies.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

I didn't know of casting. I didn't know anybody. Right. So I was going in like completely blind. And I mean, even just to get to these places at the time... I don't think I had a car when I had first, when I first moved down there. Yeah. I don't know what happened there. So I was like taking the bus to weird places and getting lost.

Vincent Ferguson:

Yes. Exactly. By yourself.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

Yeah. Everything that happens when you move to a brand new city and you're young and naive, but it worked out great.

Vincent Ferguson:

Yeah. It definitely worked out.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

Now it's a different beast as you've been in the city longer, you know the people and it's not so scary.

Vincent Ferguson:

Right. Exactly. Exactly. But it's worked out for you in Vancouver. All right. Most of your success has been there, correct?

Mercedes De La Cruz:

Yeah.

Vincent Ferguson:

But I understand you're no longer in Vancouver is that a fact? Where are you now? And why did you move from Vancouver to where you are now?

Mercedes De La Cruz:

Yeah. All right. Well, where I am now is Belgrade, Serbia.

Vincent Ferguson:

Serbia. Oh my goodness.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

Serbia. Yeah. It's been a while wild ride.

Vincent Ferguson:

Wow.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

I didn't even really know much about Serbia until a few years ago. My, partner, my boyfriend, Mario Milanovich, he is Serbian born in Belgrade, but didn't actually live here. He lived in Germany and then Canada and sometime in the U.S. But about five years ago, he came back for some business and we had started to take trips here and we really enjoy it. The people are so welcoming. The food is so fresh. Like GMO, what? They don't have that here.

Vincent Ferguson:

Really? Nice.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

No, I mean, it's incredible. And the prices are like... Gosh, you go to the farmer's market and you get bags and bags and bags of produce and it's like five bucks. And the tomatoes are the size of like two hands.

Vincent Ferguson:

What?

Mercedes De La Cruz:

It's wild. Yeah. Beautiful.

Vincent Ferguson:

Really?

Mercedes De La Cruz:

So anyways, we had been coming back and forth for some time and really enjoyed it. And then when COVID happened, it was challenging in Vancouver. The prices are really expensive, property's expensive, my bills were really high and I wasn't working. So I found it quite challenging to sustain my regular lifestyle. And my partner really wanted to get out of the west. So he came out to Serbia and he persuaded me to come too.

Vincent Ferguson:

Yeah. Whoa. Yes.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

So yeah, I did kind of what I did in Vancouver I gave all my things away. I also had an energy healing business in Vancouver. I closed the doors of that. I gave everything, I owned away like all my clothes, all my accessories. I used to style shoot too so I had closets full of yeah, full of everything. And I gave everything I owned to friends and whatever else I wasn't able to give away I gave to charity. And I packed two suitcases and moved to Serbia. And I mean, I didn't know the language. I didn't have any friends or family here. I didn't know what I was going to do. I didn't even know if I was going to act. I was just, again, going on faith-

Vincent Ferguson:

Really.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

... Yeah. And I said, "All right, universe. All right, God, I know that everything's always working out for me so let's just dive in and trust that everything that I desire is still going to be accessible." And then I'm just going to do it and so I did. And within like a month, I got acquainted with an amazing acting coach from New York City, Adam Davenport. Yeah. And he's a phenomenal human being. He's now my acting coach and publicist. And he started an acting school out in Serbia, believe it or not because he came to prep for a movie that he was doing and he is a phenomenal acting coach to begin with in New York. He won like to top 10 acting coaches in the region. So when he came out here, he thought, "All right, I'm going to start a school." So I joined his acting school and met friends that way and got acquainted with casting agencies. And lo and behold, I end up working on a Hollywood movie in Serbia.

Vincent Ferguson:

Really?

Mercedes De La Cruz:

Yeah.

Vincent Ferguson:

A Hollywood movie in Serbia?

Mercedes De La Cruz:

Yeah. Yes, in Serbia. I've been trying to break into the Hollywood scene for some time and I'd done some small roles here and there or whatever, but I would've never thought that coming to Serbia would land me a role in a legendary picture, feature film.

Vincent Ferguson:

Amazing.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

But it did.

Vincent Ferguson:

Yes.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

Yeah.

Vincent Ferguson:

I was just going to say, I was going to ask you, well, most actresses if they want to make it big, they'll usually travel to Hollywood. Okay. But you traveled to Serbia and ended up in a Hollywood movie.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

Yeah. Yeah.

Vincent Ferguson:

So, how is the film industry out there? Is it booming? A lot of opportunities for you?

Mercedes De La Cruz:

Yeah. Actually, it's fantastic. They really have a good foundation for productions to come here now. They have tons of crews ready to go there. The government is offering a tax incentive. It's also cheap. Right. The labor is inexpensive.

Vincent Ferguson:

Wow. I see.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

And it's not unionized out here.

Vincent Ferguson:

Oh, it's not.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

No, I know it's very different in Serbia. They didn't even have any agents here up until this past year. So even all the actors, they just represent themselves, which is something that is unheard of in the west.

Vincent Ferguson:

Crazy.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

Yeah. It's all who you know, right. So you end up knowing casting directors or casting agents and they will find their roles that way. And it's super unusual. But because of that the pay is very low typically for the actors out here. So when a production from, let's say, New York or Los Angeles comes here and they're paying bigger rates, it's a big deal. It's a big deal for the actors here.

Vincent Ferguson:

Yeah. I could imagine. Must be fighting to get a role.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

Yeah. But I mean, we always are anyway.

Vincent Ferguson:

It's so interesting though, because again, wherever you go you seem to land on your feet?

Mercedes De La Cruz:

Absolutely.

Vincent Ferguson:

And we're going to talk about that, but I know that you, again, after reading your bio and you've mentioned you are classically trained ballerina. I also understand you are a Miss Hawaiian Tropic as well as being a successful actress, but which tells me that you are someone who pretty much takes care of her body. And yet at one point in your life, you had a drug and alcohol problem. How did that come about and what steps did you take to kick that habit?

Mercedes De La Cruz:

Well, I've always been very good to my body and then also not so good to my body. And I think primarily... Gosh, like how did it start? I don't know. I mean, I think it first starts like, you're just a kid and you're having fun and you're drinking and partying with friends and then you get a little older and you're still drinking and partying with friends and then maybe your friends are getting out of that and you still kind of doing it. It was a progressive thing for me. There wasn't any specific incident where it was super traumatic and I wanted to escape. But I found as the years went on, I did use it for escapism. Like there's beliefs that were going on, maybe beliefs of not being good enough or worthlessness or lack, right.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

Or fear. And I think rather than having to feel those feelings, it's so much easier to just numb it out. And that's what I did. And I think also another big part of it was my lifestyle. I had all these jobs and some of them were in nightclubs and some of them were in lounges and bars. And some of them were like in party scenes. Like when I had that marketing and promotions company, I was putting on big events, traveling all over with other models. Even like with the Miss Hawaiian Tropic stuff, you're with other gorgeous women at parties and they're offering you whatever, drinks and drugs. And so, it's a party until it's not a party.

Vincent Ferguson:

Right. Exactly.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

Yeah, I think that's really what happened for me. But I think the longer that I drank and did those drugs, the more I felt those feelings of worthlessness. Like the depression would set in the next day. And for five days after, and I hated myself and I hated my life. And it would take for me to get like, "Okay, I got to get up, dress up, show up, get to the gym." Right. And I would do this cycle thing. Okay. So I party all weekend and then come Monday, I'm back at the gym. I got to get my body back and I started feeling better by Friday. And then here we go, party again on the weekend. So I think it was for me, I had to hit a place that was kind of like a rock bottom where I just couldn't do this anymore. And from that, I was able to make some changes, but it wasn't until I put the alcohol down completely that I could make any change.

Vincent Ferguson:

Okay. So you did this on your own? No one came to you. You didn't go to a drug rehab program, alcohol anonymous, anything like that?

Mercedes De La Cruz:

Oh my God. No, I tried everything.

Vincent Ferguson:

Oh, you did?

Mercedes De La Cruz:

Oh, sure. God, must've been nearly a decade ago now when I chose to quit drinking. I was like, "Okay, there's got to be a better way. Enough is enough." And I was on a spiritual path. I knew that there had to be a better way and I wanted to shift my perspective. And in that I went and stayed at a spiritual retreat center for three months. And I mean, it wasn't a rehab facility, but it was for anybody, anybody who wanted to make a shift in their lives. I started something that I sort of made up called the Yes Experiment where I would say yes to anything that came into my experience.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

And so if someone was like, "You should try this course." I would say, "Yes." "You should go to AA." I said, "Yes." "You should get a sponsor." I said, "Yes." So I did absolutely everything I could get my hands on. I've gone for silent meditation retreats. Like the Pasana where you meditate for 10 hours a day, 10 days straight, which is a hundred hours of meditation-

Vincent Ferguson:

Really?

Mercedes De La Cruz:

... in 10 days. Yeah. And in that you can't talk to anybody. You can't look at anybody, you have to keep your gaze down. Yeah. That was interesting. I've gone and done like Ayahuasca ceremonies, probably 20 of them. I've gone and done like dark room meditations. I've gone for different sort of body work, energy work. Oh my gosh. You know what? I probably have a list of like 40 different things that I've tried.

Vincent Ferguson:

Really. Really. Unbelievable.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

I did not do it alone.

Vincent Ferguson:

Most definitely. I guess I have to wait for the book to come out right, on your life.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

Pretty much.

Vincent Ferguson:

Because I also know that you studied a course called A Course in Miracles. That book, that course was written by Marianne Williamson, correct?

Mercedes De La Cruz:

No.

Vincent Ferguson:

This is the original.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

Yeah. The original is not. The original is actually it was written by Automatic Writing and it was Ellen Schulman. And this was in the seventies and her and her partner, they were psychologists or psychiatrists. No psychiatrist, yeah, at a university. And at the university, it was really having lots of issues and it was going downhill and their faculty was really having a hard time. And her and her partner Bill Thetford, we're like, "Okay, something's got to give." And Ellen started hearing voices in her head. And the voices were saying, "This is a course in miracles, take notes." And at first she thought she was crazy and she didn't want to do anything with it. And she thought, "Oh my gosh, this sounds like schizophrenia." And being a psychologist, this doesn't sound good. So eventually as time went on, she eventually told Bill like, "Look, I got to tell you something. I'm hearing these voices. What do you think I should do?" And he was like, "Did you ever think of taking notes?"

Vincent Ferguson:

Yeah.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

Because that's what the voices were saying.

Vincent Ferguson:

That's good. Wow.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

[crosstalk 00:26:11] take notes. So she did, she started taking notes and went and showed him the next day. And as he read what she wrote he was like flabbergasted. It was the words of, and this is I mean, it sounds crazy, but Jesus. And specifically, she was an atheist Jew or something like that. So, I mean, this was not something that she was writing herself, but it was very old English, which is not the way that she spoke. But they ended up writing this whole thing. And it was seven years, it took them to write this book. And then there's the Course and there's 365 lessons one per day. And it's all about changing your perspective. And so the Course in Miracles was really transformational for me because, I was stuck in this point of view of believing these ridiculous beliefs about myself and with the shift of perspective you can start seeing how the things that maybe I thought at one time, maybe aren't true. Right. Yeah.

Vincent Ferguson:

So this has changed your life and your whole perspective on life?

Mercedes De La Cruz:

Absolutely. I mean, and that's where it started. There's different ways of saying it. There's tons of different books and even like Landmark Personal Development Program was kind of the first step that I had in that direction when I quit drinking. And the same thing, it's about shifting your perspective. And it's like, this is the story and this is what I made up about the story or what the story means about me. Right. And so it's that distinction between this is actually what happened, and this is what I feel happened. And when I can separate the two, I'm not a victim anymore. And when I'm not a victim anymore then I have control and I can choose the kind of reality that I wish to perceive or to have more of or to create.

Vincent Ferguson:

Hm. Very, very deep.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

Thanks.

Vincent Ferguson:

And I love it. Do you believe in miracles or do you believe that we create our own miracles?

Mercedes De La Cruz:

Well, I think both. I think a miracle and even in the Course in Miracles, what they talk about is a miracle is just going from fear to love. In our experience we oscillate all day long where we're in love... And when I mean love, I don't mean like romantic love, but just feeling joy, peace, freedom, all of that. And when we're in fear, we're feeling anything either than peace, love, and joy. So it could be annoyance. It could be when I say fear, not just fear of like the dog, but like fear of tomorrow, the future, the path. It could be heartache. It could be loneliness, like all of these emotions are all under the fear category. And so the miracle is being in a state of that and then being able to get out of it right and shift to that love state. And I think that's what we're doing all the time. Right. We want to spend more time over there. And when I'm over there, then I get to create more of that because whatever I'm focused on, I get more of. So it's simple. It's just not easy.

Vincent Ferguson:

Definitely not. But whatever you focus the most of your time and energy on that's what you bring out. Right. That's what you bring about. And it's easy to say, but it's hard to focus on what you really want.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

Well, yeah. We're so imprinted and patterned with this looking for what's wrong rather than looking for what's right.

Vincent Ferguson:

Exactly. Do you believe there is a higher power that directs your life?

Mercedes De La Cruz:

I definitely believe that there's a higher power. I don't necessarily think that it's directing my life. I believe that it's there if I want to take it. I believe I'm directing my life, but when I let go and relax and I trust then I can go with the flow. But because I have free will I can push away from that flow-

Vincent Ferguson:

Yes. Easily.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

... anytime I want.

Vincent Ferguson:

Exactly. Yes. Yes. So true. So true. Now at this stage of your acting career and your life, how important is fitness?

Mercedes De La Cruz:

Wow. It's very important to me. Fitness and nutrition both are very important, but it's in a different way. I used to be a crazy gym rat, like I would spend three hours a day at the gym. And I'm that girl that like, if I'm supposed to do 10 pushups, like I'll do 50.

Vincent Ferguson:

Wow.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

Like I pushed myself so hard almost to a detriment because I didn't listen to my body for a really long time. And I didn't know how. I think as human beings, we were raised where our parents said, "Listen to me, I know better." Or the teacher says, "Listen to me, I know better." Or the doctor says, "Listen to me, I know better." Nobody said like Follow your inner guidance system. You know what to do."

Vincent Ferguson:

Right.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

Nobody said that. And because of that, we don't trust ourselves. We don't trust how our body feels. We don't trust these little bits of insight maybe, or intuition that we get. We don't know that we know. And so forever, I kept reading books about what I thought I should do for fitness or reading books about what I thought I should do about nutrition. And now I do the opposite, I do what I can and I do what lights me up. And with food, I eat what I want. And I don't mean it in a way of like, eat donuts all the time. But I used to have this point of view that I'm supposed to eat breakfast, lunch, dinner, then three snacks in between. And like don't eat after six and all of these things that we read or we heard, and that's fine and dandy, but like, that's not what my body's asking for.

Vincent Ferguson:

Ah, yes.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

Right. So it wasn't until I took food away entirely. I became a breatherian. Which a breatherian is somebody who sustains their life force energy by A changing your mind to what's possible in breathing exercises. And in that you don't have to eat food. I know that sounds wild, but I did that for half a year.

Vincent Ferguson:

Really.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

Yeah. And at first I thought, oh my gosh, there's no way that I'm going to be able to have any energy or whatever. And it was actually the opposite.

Vincent Ferguson:

Really.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

Yep. I had more energy than I had ever had before. I didn't need to sleep as much. And this is why, this is what they say. And I mean, I don't know the facts behind it, but what they say in breatherianism is that we use 80% of our energy to digest our food.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

So if that's the case and you get up in the morning and you eat, and then you eat lunch and then you eat dinner and then you eat before bed well, you're digesting all day long using 80% of your energy. That means that you're working on 20% energy all day.

Vincent Ferguson:

Wow.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

Well, how are you supposed to like drive your car, be creative, basic motor function, have conversations, like that's tough. Well, you take all that digestion process away and all of a sudden you have 80% more energy. So you can be more creative. Your body can heal throughout the day, rather than waiting for you to fall asleep when you're finally not eating. Things like that. So anyways, long story short, I wanted to throw that in there just to say, when I took all the food away and realized that these points of view that I had around... I mean, we were told no food or water for three days, you'll die. Right.

Vincent Ferguson:

Right.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

I think of a common "fact". Well, I've gone seven days with no food and no water and I wasn't thirsty or hungry and I could have went longer I was just bored.

Vincent Ferguson:

Oh my goodness.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

What I believe will then become my reality. And so that's why it's important to change your mind to what's possible. In doing all of that, I realized like my body will tell me what it needs. And because I took everything away, I could just start implementing what I needed. I wouldn't call myself a breatherian anymore. However, I might go a couple of days without eating and then maybe I'll go a few days with eating a lot. Or maybe I won't have breakfast for a while. Maybe I'll decide, I just want salad. But I just listen to my body and I give it what it desires and I don't have any problems. I feel light. I feel more energetic.

Vincent Ferguson:

Yeah.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

I have more energy to go out and... I started running. Like, I didn't think I was a runner. I started doing that. And I love working out. I love working out in the gym. I love heavy weights, but I don't go as crazy as I used to. I just do what feels good.

Vincent Ferguson:

And you listen more to your body. Correct?

Mercedes De La Cruz:

That's it.

Vincent Ferguson:

Amazing. Now you recently wrapped up filming, as I mentioned, a co-lead and the feature Because You're Dead To Me but you said you also wrapped up a movie called The Machine. Talk about that for a minute.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

Well, yeah. The Because You're Dead To Me is an independent film that we shot in Vancouver. And right now it's being sent to festivals. So we'll see what happens with that. And then The Machine is a Legendary Pictures, feature film from LA. And that movie is about Bert Kreischer. He's a comedian in the U.S. and you can actually watch his special on Netflix. He's hilarious.

Vincent Ferguson:

Nice.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

Yeah, he's a jolly dude that doesn't like to wear a shirt. So he's usually topless in all of his spandex. He just doesn't like the way it feels, he's so funny. And actually doing the movie, he wasn't wearing clothes for most of that. I mean the top, he had pants on. Anyway. Yeah. So he's a hilarious comedian. And he has a standup routine called The Machine.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

And what it's about is him in college taking Russian, which he actually thought was Spanish in the beginning, but is like that good of a student that he didn't realize. He wanted to get out of the class and the teacher was like, "Look, we need X amount of students for this to be a class, just stay in the class and I'll give you a C." And he was like, "Okay."

Vincent Ferguson:

Really. Cool.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

And she's like, "You don't have to do..." Yeah, "You don't have to do anything. Don't worry about like writing tasks. I'll just give you a C." And he was like "Score." So he took it. And after four years of Russian, they went on a class trip to Russia where he got involved with the Russian mob. And it's a hilarious skit that he does all about that. So for the movie it's about that. And then 20 years later, him and his dad get abducted by the Russian mob for things that they believe that he did 20 years prior. So it's Bert Kreischer and Mark Hamill plays his father who was Luke Skywalker.

Vincent Ferguson:

Mark Hamill.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

The original Luke Skywalker. Yep. And yeah, and I'm in that and I play his teacher.

Vincent Ferguson:

Nice. And you said you wrapped it up. So is it going to be released in a film or Netflix? How is it going to be released?

Mercedes De La Cruz:

Well, it's a feature film. So Legendary Pictures also did like Godzilla, The Hangover, they're a big production company. Yeah. I believe it's going to be a Hollywood blockbuster. I don't know when they're going to release it. I don't know. I don't know what's happening with that now that so many productions were probably put on hold because of COVID and maybe aren't released yet because all the theaters aren't back in running. I don't really know.

Vincent Ferguson:

Right. Right.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

But I do know that Bert right now is on tour with his standup. So he's probably promoting the movie and hopefully it will be out maybe by next year, I'm hoping.

Vincent Ferguson:

Yes. I hope so, too. It sounds great. It really does. How can my listeners find out more about you Mercedes?

Mercedes De La Cruz:

Well, you can check me out on Instagram. I'm Mercedes De La Cruz one. Also, you can look me up on IMDB and my IMDB link is on my Instagram page, also Facebook. But I post on Instagram a few times a week, at least. And I'm always talking about what I'm up to in my stories. And I make little videos here and there as well. And I post a lot of modeling pictures and people can reach me that way. I've also helped people out, when it comes to getting clean and sober, giving advice, whatever. So if anybody needs a hand with anything like that or just wants some advice, drop me a line.

Vincent Ferguson:

And they can do that via Instagram?

Mercedes De La Cruz:

Yeah.

Vincent Ferguson:

Nice. Well Mercedes De La Cruz on behalf of body sculpt of New York, that's my nonprofit organization, and Six Weeks of Fitness I truly want to thank you for coming on my show today.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

Thank you.

Vincent Ferguson:

And to my listeners, I truly hope this program was informative, encouraging, and inspiring, and that you will continue tuning in to our Six Weeks to Fitness podcast. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions for the show, please leave them on my Six Weeks to Fitness blog at www.6weekstofitness.com or email me at vince@sixweeks.com. And don't forget to subscribe so you don't miss any future episodes.

Mercedes De La Cruz:

Bye.

 

Direct download: Episode_173_Mercedes_De_La_Cruz.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:24pm EDT

Are you feeling tired and stressed with all that’s going on in the world around you? Well, you're in luck. Joining me today on my Six Weeks to Fitness podcast is Brooke Rozzie, a certified health and wellness coach, nutritionist and personal trainer with over 12 years of experience in the wellness industry. She is also the creator of the Balanced Body program, a program dedicated to supporting women in not only achieving their goals, but to truly transform their relationship with their body. So they could not only have the energy they need to keep up with their busy mom life, but to also feel good in their skin while doing it. Today, Brooke will provide some expert fitness and nutrition tips for you busy moms out there and, show you how to balance your body and your life.

Vince Ferguson:

Brooke, But before we discuss your Balanced Body program, tell my listeners more about Brooke Rozzie. Where did you grow up and what was Brooke's childhood like?

Brooke Rozzie:

Oh gosh. How much time do we have? So I grew up in Michigan. I grew up in a pretty great home. My parents were awesome. We all have our family stuff, right? I grew up with a brother with addictions. I was overweight as a kid, and I think that presented challenges in itself growing up. And I really learned fitness from a younger age. Around sixth grade I lost most of the weight by myself and I didn't know how to do it healthily. And I grew up watching my mom diet a lot of my life, talking poorly about her body. I'm what I call like the SnackWell generation, where everything was fat free.

Brooke Rozzie:

And that's the environment I grew up in. And so I developed some eating disorder tendencies in high school due to a lot of those things. Poor body image, the way I talk to myself and I really started to realize what I was doing as I entered my young twenties. But in your young twenties, like most females, a lot of my approach to nutrition was still like, "Is this making me fat or skinny? How is this making me look in a bathing suit?" It was never, "How is this making me feel when I choose this," and prioritizing my health until I lost my dad about seven years ago and through the trauma of losing him and the stress, I really started to see the wellness side of the industry and see how much other environmental factors in our life were influencing how we feel in our body.

Brooke Rozzie:

My body went a little haywire from it. My hormones went out of control. I developed Hypothyroid, and I was really forced into understanding how much my endocrine system and a lot of those things were playing a role in how I was feeling day to day. So, from personal experience, that truly transformed how I coach people and why I coach people the way I do, because I started to see how much other women were feeling similar ways that I had been feeling in my body. And after becoming a mom, I struggled with postpartum anxiety and I didn't feel like I really had any resources or understanding as to why it was happening. I've always been in the nature to ask why? Why is this happening? Not just accept "Oh, you just have it." But my question was always like, "Well, why do I have this?"

Brooke Rozzie:

It just came out of nowhere. So I really started to ask why and explore a lot of those things and when I started to see that there were so many different moms feeling the same way in their body and not understanding or getting the support, it really led me to truly developing the Balanced Body program that I coach and how I coach to it now because I really, obviously, I want women to feel good in their skin and achieve their goals and feel their best, but I really want you to just feel good when you're there. I tell a lot of my clients I don't care if you lose 20 pounds, if you don't feel good, I want you to feel good when you're there too.

Vince Ferguson:

And you mentioned, explain what that is to my listeners and how you dealt with that.

Brooke Rozzie:

So, Hypothyroid is essentially like, think of your master metabolism controller. Well, essentially if your thyroid is not functioning ideally, then we can pretty much assume that a lot of other parts of your endocrine system, meaning your sex hormone function and your stress responses and your gut health are not functioning the way that they should be either. So it really impacted a lot of areas in my life, my energy during the day, my anxiety, how I was able to sleep at night, foods that I was craving, my digestion. It impacted so many areas. I did go on a medication. I still take one now. I partnered with physicians to truly understanding the nutrition that I needed to be consuming to feel my best.

Brooke Rozzie:

And it really did gear me towards taking more of an individual approach with everything I do because the basic things that I was doing just wasn't working for me and I really had to learn that nutrition and workout were more than just the food that I was eating. It was how I was balancing the stress in my body and how I was moving my body to support the stressors and things that I was experiencing.

Vince Ferguson:

So do you feel that nutrition plays a major part in how you feel?

Brooke Rozzie:

A hundred percent. I try to explain it to people it's, the number one way available for your body to get nutrients is through your food. Our body is designed to receive nutrients through our food. Supplementation and things like that are amazing that we have options like that but we shouldn't have to rely on things like that. So you're your food truly, I always say, your food literally dictates your mood.

Brooke Rozzie:

If we're lacking nutrients, for example, like magnesium, we have 200 enzymatic processes in our body that need efficient magnesium to function. And when we're low, we have 200 enzymatic processes in our body that aren't functioning ideally because of it. So think of one little thing that all of those different nutrients we get through our food contribute to how our body functions day to day.

Vince Ferguson:

Very good. Good point. So when you speak to your clients, you go over, you go over what they're eating every day. I mean, do you provide a meal plan for them?

Brooke Rozzie:

I think of it less as meal plan and more of like foundational habits to build on. I truly start with, I think a few different things. We have our foundations and then we have our details and the details would be meal plans, macros, things like that, which can absolutely be beneficial but I always tell my clients, especially the moms, life is going to happen. And when life happen and your meal plan is not available to follow, what are you going to do?

Brooke Rozzie:

You need to have the foundations instilled so that you always have that place to go back to so that it's not like, I'm on the bathroom off. I'm being detailed or I'm in maintenance. And I think of it that way versus I want you to know what to do. But I always tell my clients, my role when you're done with me is to not need me. I ultimately want to work myself out of a job because I want you to know what you need to do because I cannot be with you for the rest of your life. You need to know why you're choosing the foods you're choosing and those things, and a meal plan is not teaching you that.

Vince Ferguson:

That's very, very true. So do you have free consultations with your clients before you take them on?

Brooke Rozzie:

Yeah, absolutely. Everybody I meet with, we start with a decision support call. We walk through, essentially I look at it as where are you at right now, where do you want to be and what are the holes in between that we need to focus on to get you there. And that's really what our decision support call is for. And from there it's, "Okay, here are the options and the things that I see from my experience and education that we need to prioritize with you and then these are the avenues we should go to do it."

Vince Ferguson:

So what does it mean to have a Balanced Body?

Brooke Rozzie:

It really means being in alignment with yourself. Balance is the marketing term. Balance is kind of BS. We're not really going to achieve balance, this ever, ever ending thing that we're always looking for, but we can find alignment. And especially as a mom or a woman, it's the alignment in how you're feeling mentally, the alignment in your mindset and how you're approaching things, your relationships, your relationships with other people and yourself. It's the alignment in what your workouts look like during the week when life happens or when you have an easy week, what does that look like and how do you do it? And it's the alignment with your nutrition choices for your individual body and what you need. And that's truly what gives you that balanced feeling.

Brooke Rozzie:

We have this expectation, that balanced means that we're never going to have struggles, we're never going to take a setback, we're never going to have life step in where we have to pivot. And that's just not the reality, but the alignment means that we're aligned in ourselves and we know how to pivot with it so that we can still feel the way that we need to feel.

Vince Ferguson:

So there's no cookie cutter approach here. Everyone is treated as an individual.

Brooke Rozzie:

Yeah. Even in my group coaching program, I'm giving you the foundations and the general guidelines, but I'm truly guiding you through how to take that and individually implement it too.

Vince Ferguson:

And again, you said that you don't want someone to be dependent upon you, you want to basically have them be free of you after a while once they able to go out on their own and do what they need to do. And once you give them the information that they need, do you want them to be able to be independent of you?

Brooke Rozzie:

Yeah. I tell my clients, I'm like, "I love you. It's not that I want to not work with you but I haven't done my job if you need me forever, you haven't learned anything."

Vince Ferguson:

What are some of the causes, Brooke, for an unbalanced Body? What can contribute to that?

Brooke Rozzie:

Well it depends on where we're feeling out of alignment, but it could be, a lot of times, especially a mom, when we've had a kid, we try to put this expectation on ourselves that we need to be able to keep up with and do what we used to do before we had kids. And we don't take a step back to see, we all have this capacity in our day. And one, as a mom, like the whole "It takes a village," type of a thing, the village has disappeared in modern motherhood. It's just not there anymore. So we need to remember that we only have a certain capacity and we try to give so much of ourselves to other people. And self-sacrifice is like badge of good motherhood, and it's not. It's not true.

Brooke Rozzie:

But alignment really, truly mean that we recognize our capacity and we know what that is and we prioritize ourselves in that capacity. And let's say before kids you have a cup of water, you have more capacity in that cup of water to add more on your plate, because you don't have a human relying on you for something. But now that you're a mom, it doesn't mean you still can't be effective and good with the things that doing or prioritize yourself. It means that we need to set healthy boundaries on what our capacity is and what we're able to take on because a lot of that capacity has been taken up by the amazing thing that we have in our life, but it is taken up. So we need to, a lot of times, set those healthy boundaries that are taking away from us, being able to show up feeling our best so that when we feel our best, we can show up our best for our kids, for our spouse, for ourselves, because that's really what it feels.

Vince Ferguson:

Do you believe that moms put too much stress on themselves trying to be perfect, trying to be all things, all people?

Brooke Rozzie:

All the time. We have this guilt, this mom guilt of, if "I don't do this and I'm failing," or, "That person needs me, I should be able to give more of myself to them." Like, "Oh, my kids needed this, it's just easier. If I do it." We're putting way too much on ourselves. One of the best things that I learned was don't do for your kid what they're capable of doing for themselves. And we try to instill that with our kids. And a lot of it is not because I'm not going to be here for you to do things but I want you to learn to be self-sufficient. And as a mom, we try to take that over a lot, not just with our kids, but with a lot of people. We want to be needed, we want to help people. It feels good to help people. And there's nothing wrong with that, but we can't help people when we're not able to help ourselves first.

Brooke Rozzie:

And we overextend because we feel this guilt, but truly, I always ask my moms "Who's story is that? Why are you feeling that guilt?" You need to check back in with yourself of like, "Hey, where is this guilt coming from? If I don't help this person, why am I feeling guilty around that," type of thing. And sometimes it can be other people's expectations of us and our feeling the need to need it. It can be our expectations on ourselves and it can be, like what I said, what we used to be able to do and thinking we should be able to do that and not recognizing, you know what, what my life has shifted. And people sometimes can expect that we're going to be the same person as we were before we had kids and it's okay to acknowledge that you might be the same person, but your priorities have changed. And that's okay.

Vince Ferguson:

What kind of stress does it put on a relationship though, between a husband and a wife, when she realizes that she can't do everything that she used to do, or she has to change her way of doing things?

Brooke Rozzie:

That's so true. It's the boundaries and it can bring resentfulness. It's very common. It can feel like you're the one doing everything. I've gone through this in my own relationship with my husband. Sometimes you feel like you need to be the rescuer, you need to be the one to fix it instead of having the, "What? This was your responsibility, you need to handle this." I think after our first, my husband and I really struggled with that one, and it was more so we really needed to set boundaries and priorities of who was handling what.

Brooke Rozzie:

A lot of times, women, we try to handle everything. We think that certain things in the home should be our responsibility but my husband and I really approach it as, we're a partnership. We both are working inside and outside the home. We're a partnership and how we handle this. We're equally parents in this. One of us has our strengths over the others with certain things and we try to capitalize on that where I am very type A organized. So I handle the bills and the appointments and those kinds of things. I say I handle the mental load of our home, my husband handles the physical load of our home and he handles the laundry and the dishes and those kinds of things.

Brooke Rozzie:

But it really took a learning process to work through that. And it took me setting the boundaries of, "Okay, you know what? The laundry is not done. It's overflowing." Instead of getting resentful and take it on myself. I had to start saying to my husband, "Hey, the laundry is not done, we're not doing this until that's done," type of a thing. And you're not parenting But you're partnering in it.

Vince Ferguson:

Good point. But I wonder how hard is it, when you're speaking to your clients, knowing that they have a partner here, how hard is it to get through to them that now it really is a partnership because I think women have a tendency of taking it all on themselves and the partner is more than willing to let them do that.

Brooke Rozzie:

Well, of course, right. If somebody is going to take on your stuff, we would all be like, sure, take it away. I would not-

Vince Ferguson:

Exactly, take it.

Brooke Rozzie:

Yeah. Who wouldn't take advantage of that. But it's really the communication and it comes down to a lot of times we expect, especially as a woman, we think of things totally different than a man. And we have to be okay with that. A lot of times we think like, "Well, he should think of this the way that I do or he should do this." our brains are just not wired that way at all and we need to like recognize that sometimes guys literally communicate differently in many different ways and we need to acknowledge that our communication to them shouldn't be the expectation that they know what we need but it's the sitting down and having the conversation of, "Hey, I need you to understand when you're not keeping up with this, it's impacting me in this way," and not coming from a place of anger or feeling triggered or anything like that, it's coming from a place of like, "I know you're not intentionally doing this, but this is how it's impacting me."

Brooke Rozzie:

And I think when we understand how our actions are affecting somebody else, we can come from a place of support more than when, it's very common nature and I'm not always my best self either but we all can sometimes show up as like attacking or upset versus the, take the step back and have that true communication. So I always say, whether it's your goal or food in the house or roles around the home or those kinds of things, it's so much better when you can come from, I call it your green, yellow, and red zone, that's one of my coach calls it. When you can come from that green zone to say, "Hey, I need you to understand that eating this way is really important to me because it makes me feel good. And when I feel good, I show up better as a spouse to you as a person to myself, as a mom to our kid," and having those real conversations where we have to be a little vulnerable, because then they can understand where you're truly coming from.

Vince Ferguson:

Wow. That's a very intense topic too. I mean, I think we go even further into this.

Brooke Rozzie:

Yeah, and we want it to be easy, right? We want those transitions to just be easy. And sometimes when we fight it, we create this resistance around it and that's where we get stuck and we stop. But we have to understand that we're changing habit, we're changing narrative, we're changing pathways of how we do stuff. It's not going to be easy for that stuff to happen, but it's going to be so worth it if you can work through those things because ultimately you can either feel uncomfortable where you are or you can feel uncomfortable going through those transitions to get to where you're truly wanting to be.

Vince Ferguson:

Good. Excellent. But now I have an even tougher question for you, but I'm sure you have the answer because you've worked with clients. What if you dealing with a client who does not have a partner, just a single mom who has to do so much and whose mother and father to her kids. What do you tell them?

Brooke Rozzie:

Oh my gosh, I have so much for single moms because you have so much on your plate. And gosh, the days that my husband's gone, I'm like, "Oh, thank God you're back here." But it's really prioritizing. I do have girlfriends that are single moms and they balance a lot and they have partners that are not in the picture at all. And we sit down and it's just, "Okay, what are your non-negotiables?" And be flexible within what that non-negotiable is. So your non-negotiable could be movement, but be flexible about what that movement is. Maybe you can't get a 45 minute strength training workout in that day, but could you put the kids in a stroller and go on a walk? You couldn't do that. But maybe be flexible on what that is, but non-negotiable on the fact that you're getting movement in.

Brooke Rozzie:

It could be a non-negotiable that we eat healthy food in our home, but you know what, I don't have any food prepared so I'm going to be flexible on where the source of that food is coming from. Maybe we're ordering it out or I'm picking a couple of things up from the store instead, instead of grabbing fast food or something, I'm, non-negotiable that I'm eating healthy food, but I'm flexible in the approach that we're taking to do that.

Vince Ferguson:

Now with your clients, I know you talk about nutrition, but you also talk about exercise, correct?

Brooke Rozzie:

I do. All my programs include tailored workout, for you at home or gym, whatever is best. I work with people across the country, so it's more virtual action. So it's all done through an app and it's all tailored to what you individually need and you have access to me through it, coach you through, make pivot all those kinds of things through it.

Vince Ferguson:

Okay. So your business is pretty much via what, Zoom?

Brooke Rozzie:

Yeah. I'll make coaching appointment with private clients via Zoom. And my group coaching programs, we do Zoom coaching calls. I have a community group with everyone where, in an app, we're all interacting with each other. I made the pivot, one, because of the pandemic, but two, it really gives mom the flexibility that they need to not have another appointment on your plate that you have to get to. It really gives you more flexibility to make it work.

Vince Ferguson:

Oh, definitely. But also you have a wider audience.

Brooke Rozzie:

Yeah.

Vince Ferguson:

Because I mean, not only in this country, you can meet up with people in other, not only time zones, but other countries as well, like Ireland and Sweden or Poland, whatever, which is amazing. The sky's the limit.

Brooke Rozzie:

Yeah. Some of my clients are in Canada. Some are here. That's where I'm at right now, but it's cool for me to, to like learn how other countries do things too, and have to be flexible with that. It's pretty awesome.

Vince Ferguson:

Definitely. Now, what type of packages does your Balanced Body program offer? Like, six weeks, 10 weeks?

Brooke Rozzie:

It's 24 weeks. It used to be 12 weeks for the Balanced Body program, but I really found that 12 weeks was not enough time for you to leave me truly feeling good and ultimately, I said that's my goal. So 24 weeks is really enough time where we really can prioritize and make sure that these things are instilled as a habit for you. You've gone through life with it, you've gone through a couple of seasons with it so we can make sure that you've had the true support that you need to leave it not needing another program again. Know what you need to do.

Brooke Rozzie:

I do offer a graduate program to my clients when they're done, where like they can keep me at an arms with distance and still have programming done for them if they choose but they don't need to. It's really up to them at that point. The program is 24 weeks. We emphasize hormonal health and how it's impacting how you're feeling, nutrition, you have tailored workouts done for you. I have guest expert coaches that come in from like hormonal health to mindset coaches to maternal mental health that speak through the program as well. And then everybody gets access to me via Voxer or like voice texting throughout the program too, as well as bi-weekly coaching calls with me.

Vince Ferguson:

And you've been doing this now, this program now for how long?

Brooke Rozzie:

A year.

Vince Ferguson:

A year? And it's been doing quite well.

Brooke Rozzie:

It's been doing awesome. I used to only do private coaching and I still do private coaching for select clients, but it's truly my favorite thing to deliver because it's all encompassing. It's the program I really wish was there after I had our first, because I didn't know what I didn't know about being a mom and it's the program made for moms because there wasn't a lot of things out there for that.

Vince Ferguson:

Isn't that something, if you only had this program that you put together for you, yourself, when you had your first kid, it would make all the difference, but obviously there's a need for it, there's a market for it and you, and you're filling it and that's a great thing. How many kids do you have?

Brooke Rozzie:

I have two. We have a three-and-a-half-year old and a one-year-old.

Vince Ferguson:

Wow. So you're busy.

Brooke Rozzie:

Yeah. It's a little chaotic in our house.

Vince Ferguson:

Yes, exactly. Now your sessions though, your packages, is it once a week that the client sees you?

Brooke Rozzie:

It depends. If they're in the Balanced Body program, the group coaching program, then they get bi-weekly calls with me and then if they're doing private coaching with me, private coaching is if somebody wants a little bit more accountability, support, a little more hand holding, or they just don't like a group setting, I do have a private coaching option and the private coaching clients do meet with me weekly.

Vince Ferguson:

Okay, great. Now my podcast is Six Weeks To Fitness. So let's say, what would you recommend a busy mom to do if, if she wanted to see results, at least getting to where she wants to be. Let's say if it's a weight loss, she just wants to feel overall better about her body, about her life, what nutrition advice would you give this busy mom for six weeks to see and feel some improvement.

Brooke Rozzie:

Yeah, that's a really good question. So in six weeks I generally say, "Don't put pressure on yourself but think of the simple things that you can shift that will make a massive difference." The foundation's always not at the most because those are truly what keep us sustained and where we need to be. So I always say like, let's look at the areas that you're like missing the boat right now. And let's prioritize that and each week focus on one to two new things. So one week it could be aiming for half of your body weight in water each day and then the next week it could be prioritizing protein with each of your meals and then the next week it could be moving your body for 30 minutes a day and then we're just building. And then at six weeks you have six different habits that you've implemented and you're in a totally different place in six weeks just from implementing one new thing each week through that time.

Vince Ferguson:

But when it comes to nutrition, are there any types of foods that you recommend that they start eating as opposed to other types of food?

Brooke Rozzie:

Yeah. I always say one, whole real foods, they're going to keep you the most satiated and deliver you those nutrients that we talked about that you need. So start with assessing, looking at how much of your food is coming from whole food or packaged food and try to aim the first week for 80% of your food to come from whole food sources. And then look in the detail of what that food is. So on your plate, you should have a protein, an adequate protein source palm to maybe a hand size. If you're eating three meals a day, you should have about a fish size serving of good fiber carbs on your plate. Some veggies I generally say should take up like half of our plate and then some fat. We need to have an adequate fat in there, especially as women to support our hormonal functions.

Brooke Rozzie:

So what you can do is week one, look at the whole food. Week two, prioritize that protein with each of your meals. Week three, make sure you have a fibrous carb with each meal. Week four, make sure you have the veggie and fat with each meal. Week five, start to tune in to what sources. Are we eating more organic sources? Where are we getting those from? And then in week six, start to look at, "Okay, how much water am I taking in?" Start to up your water intake a little bit more. They seem so simple, but they can make a massive difference in how you're feeling.

Vince Ferguson:

Most definitely. Brooke, how can my listeners find out more about you about a Balanced Body? And do you have a website? Do you have the social media that they can follow?

Brooke Rozzie:

So Instagram is probably where you're going to see me the most. So it's @Brooke Rozzie, R-O-Z-Z-I-E. And my program is open right now. So the Balanced Body start September 13th. So they can come join. If they have questions, they can come ask me there. Just shoot me a DM and we'll share.

Vince Ferguson:

That's awesome. Now, Brooke, do you also have a podcast?

Brooke Rozzie:

I don't. I had started one. I thought about it and I'm back to the drawing board on what I want it to be. So pretty soon, I might.

Vince Ferguson:

Yeah, I would imagine you will because you articulate your program so well and I think that it would be another benefit, another asset of yours to have that. You'll reach even more people and that's what you want to do. That's what you're doing.

Brooke Rozzie:

Yeah. I love podcasts. I think they're an amazing way to get information. I need to, well, one I'm looking at my capacities, just like I coach my clients of like what I have capacity for, but it will be there. It's just a matter of when.

Vince Ferguson:

That's impressive. You're right. You don't want to put more on you than you can handle right now, right?

Brooke Rozzie:

Yeah. Yeah, absolutely.

Vince Ferguson:

There you go. I'm sure you tell your clients that we become overwhelmed trying to do everything, be all things, all people and you don't have the capacity for it.

Brooke Rozzie:

I practice what I teach.

Vince Ferguson:

What advice would you give to moms now who are busy, struggling, trying to make it happen and need some encouragement.

Brooke Rozzie:

One, give yourself grace. You have so much that you take in a mental load and a physical load day-to-day. So you have to give yourself grace on what you're actually doing. We always feel like it's not enough. If you sat down and made a list of the things that you were doing day to day, you would be shocked. And then I always say, talk to yourself the way you would talk to your daughter. And if your daughter says that she needs a break or she's feeling exhausted or run down, what would you say? You would tell her to chill but somehow we tell ourselves, we have to push harder, we have to do more. Give yourself a break. It's okay to take a step back and assess and you don't have to be everything to everybody.

Vince Ferguson:

Awesome. Give yourself a break. You don't have to be everything to everybody. Chill.

Brooke Rozzie:

Yeah.

Vince Ferguson:

Love it Brooke. Brooke Rozzie on behalf of Body Sculpt of New York, that's my nonprofit organization and Six Weeks To Fitness, I truly want to thank you for coming on my show today.

Brooke Rozzie:

Thank you. I love being on here with you. So thank you for having me.

Vince Ferguson:

You a wonderful, and to my list of those, I truly hope this program was informative, encouraging, and inspiring, and that you will continue tuning in to our six weeks of fitness podcast. And if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions for the show, please leave them on my Six Weeks To Fitness blog at www.6weekstofitness.com or email me at vince@sixweeks.com. And don't forget to subscribe so you don't miss any future episodes.

Direct download: Episode_172_Brooke_Rozzie.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:22am EDT

Could our gut bacteria play a major role in the prevention, and treatment of disease? Dr. Christine Bishara has been studying diseases for over 20 years.  She is the founder of “From Within Medical”, a medical wellness practice in New York City, that places emphasis on the mind-body and gut-brain axis to prevent and manage disease.  Dr. Bishara discovered that the connection between these systems plays a significant role in disease prevention and management but it has not been adequately addressed.

COVID-19 and Children

Dr. Bishara recently published an article on the role of gut and probiotics on immunity and COVID-19.  She shared that through research her team discovered that children have healthier guts than adults.  This is due to the level of gut bacteria called Bifidobacterium.  This type of bacteria decreases as we age.  Dr. Bishara believes the reason children were less affected by COVID-19 is because of the levels of Bifidobacterium in their guts.

Although Bifidobacterium levels decline with age, in one particular study she cited, Bifidobacterium levels were found to be higher in Italian and Japanese centenarians than in the younger elderly population.  Upon further research and study of centenarians in other countries, it was found that their diet and lifestyle played a major role.  They were mostly vegetarians and for exercise they would walk over 30 minutes per day on a regular basis.

Dr. Bishara went on to say that the importance of our guts to prevent disease is nothing new.  According to the Greek Physician and father of modern medicine, Hippocrates, “all diseases begin in the gut”.  He made this statement over 2400 years ago.

Dr. Bishara believes that the Standard American Diet (“SAD”), is what’s destroying our immune system.  In a recently published article on the CNN website titled “Poor diets threaten US national security — and it's serious”, it stated that “46% of adults have poor quality diet and 56% of children and these numbers are highest in the minority, rural and low-income communities.” The article went on to say that “diet-related illnesses are harming the readiness of the US military and the budgets of the US Department of Defense and the US Department of Veterans Affairs. Seventy-one percent of people between the ages of 17 and 24 do not qualify for military service, with obesity being the leading medical disqualifier,” citing numbers from a 2018 report. 

Why isn’t there more focus on the Immune System

Dr. Bishara doesn’t know why the media or society as a whole isn’t shining a light on our immune system.  She believes that the focus should be on prevention rather than treatment.  She also believes that people want a quick fix and that we should go back to the basics, which is our food.

She also believes that a good place to start boosting your immune system is by taking a probiotic. Probiotics are live microorganisms that provide health benefits when consumed, generally by improving or restoring the gut flora.  You can find large amounts of Bifidobacterium in probiotics.

Dr. Bishara went on to say that while she recommends we take a probiotic, there is nothing better than prebiotics, which is when we consume more fruits and vegetables, cut back on the high processed foods and eat more organic foods.  If we did all these things, we wouldn’t need a probiotic.

The role of Vitamin D to support the immune system

I recently interviewed Dr. Joel Gould on my show.  Dr. Gould suffered from Sleep Apnea and Crohn’s Disease.  Through his research, he discovered patients with Sleep Apnea usually have low levels of Vitamin D, so he increased his Vitamin D intake and not only did his Sleep Apnea go away but so did his Crohn’s Disease.  He also stated that 96% of the people who died from COVID-19, had low levels of Vitamin D in their bodies (20% or lower). 

Dr. Bishara agrees with Dr. Joel Gould on the importance of Vitamin D to our immune system and how it plays a major role in our intestinal health.

During the early stages of the pandemic, New York City was considered the epicenter.  During that time, Dr. Bishara noticed that the majority of COVID-19 patients had a BMI over 30%, which is considered obese.  Dr. Bishara believes that COVID-19 is a disease that attacks our immune system. 

Dr. Bishara’s advice to parents is to “invest in your health and invest in prevention versus treatment.”  Dr. Bishara’s practice is located in the flatiron District of New York City.  You can contact Dr. Bishara on Instagram and on Facebook @drchristineb or on her website at www.fromwithinmedical.com.

To receive the full impact and insight from this very informative interview with Dr. Bishara, please listen to the entire episode., and if you would like to listen to future episodes like this one, please visit www.6weekstofitness.com and subscribe, so you don’t miss any future episodes.

Direct download: Episode_171_Dr._Christine_Bishara.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:52pm EDT

Moses Sistrunk Jr., also known as Coach Moses is a Harlem born enthusiast of the sport of fencing, since 1991.  His dedication to the sport began at Our Children's Foundation, Inc., a nonprofit organization that serves the Harlem community with afterschool and summer programs. It was here where he met Coach Witold Rak who was the fencing instructor at the time. Since 2012, Coach Moses has been running his own program called Inner City Fencing, which is a program that uses the sport of fencing to develop lifelong skills in young people from underrepresented and underserved communities, throughout the New York metropolitan area.

At present, he is developing a nonprofit organization called Inner City Fencing Initiative, Inc., that aims to increase the physical and financial accessibility of fencing across the New York City area.  He works with local organizations, such as my nonprofit organization, Body Sculpt of New York and others to help expose more young athletes to the sport of fencing.

Coach Moses goal is to raise the funds, to make programs such as these, consistent and reliable for students in all areas of underserved communities.

This is his way of continuing his passion and giving back to the community through the sport of fencing. And I'm thrilled to have Coach Moses on my Six Weeks of Fitness podcast. Coach, how are you today?

Coach Moses Sistrunk:

I'm doing great. How about yourself?

Vince Ferguson:

I'm Good. I'm good. Thank you so much for coming on the show. But before we talk about your program, Inner City fencing, tell my listeners, where did you grow up and what was your childhood like?

Coach Moses Sistrunk:

Well, I actually grew up, since January of 1980, in what you call Grant Housing, right on 125th Street. So, I've been there for over... I would say 30 years right now, that I've been in that area.  I have a younger brother. I had a pretty good childhood. My father was always active. He always had us going out there doing different activities and stuff.

He'd always make sure Saturdays and Sundays, we were out there doing some type of activity. He did not want us sitting around the house. So, I was always active. And my mother basically, around the age of 11, 12 years old, actually 11 years old... I actually remember it. November 5th, 1989, on a Tuesday. Yes, I remember this. I came to Our Children's Foundation and that became a blessing to me because it was right across the street from my house and I did all types activities.

Fencing was just one of the activities I did. I used to do ballet, tap, martial arts, African drum class, sign language. So, I got exposed to all those activities at a very young age and it just exposed me to different things.

So, I was very fortunate that my mother brought me here and I've been here ever since. So, we're talking about nearly 32 years of me being exposed and working for Our Children's Foundation.

Vince Ferguson:

Wow. And that's all basically in the community of Harlem, correct?

Coach Moses Sistrunk:

Yes.

Vince Ferguson:

Wow. So, where did you receive your training to become a fencer? Was it there?

Coach Moses Sistrunk:

Well, I learned to do fencing here, but what ended up happening was, back in 2000, I pretty much... Unfortunately, around this time I suffered a tragedy. My girlfriend had just passed away from cancer and I was there when she passed away.

And so, what ended up happening was my coach used to come and visit. And he recognized me. He was like, "Oh, hey, I remember you. You used to be that skinny runt that used to be all around fencing." So, I was like, "Yeah."

So, he remembered me and he literally brought me to his place that he had just remodeled, because he has a fencing club in Queens and he used to let me come by and just practice around.

So, I would come by, do a little fencing. And they actually had fencing here at The Foundation at the time. I was a junior counselor here at The Foundation.

So, the guy that originally was here... I don't remember his name at all... He left. And then, my boss at the time, knew my fencing so he said, "Hey, how would you like to teach fencing?" And I looked at him like, "But I don't know how to." Before I could finish the sentence, he said, "You can make 25 an hour." I will find a way how to teach fencing because I never made 25 an hour in my life.

So, and that's how I got exposed to it. And then my coach, what he would do is he would have to go to coaches conferences. Like this was all like a whole other world of fencing to me, as being an instructor.

So, and this is under the United States Fencing Coaches Association. And so, I was under them since 2006. I had no idea what I was looking at. No idea what they were talking about. He'd just kind of plop me there and he said, "Get to know your.. Get to know..." He promoted me literally. And I'm like, "Why are you promoting me? I have no idea what I'm doing."

But he saw me as a fencing instructor and that's how I got exposed to fencing on that level and teaching it and exposing it and learning more stuff about it.

Vince Ferguson:

Now, you mentioned something about your fencing training. Tell my listeners more about training and certification.

Coach Moses Sistrunk:

Well, my certification... I got what they call an Assistant Moniteur in 2010. And this is under the United States Fencing Coach Association. It's a non-profit organization. And basically, what they do is they realized in the past, most fence instructors, we grew up under an instructor.

And so, we were grandfathered in, as far as instruction. Now, what they're doing is they're making sure that you're getting continuing education. You get actual lessons so that you can become a better instructor.

So, they teach us how to do warm up, stretches, just things so that you make sure that you're teaching fencing in a safe environment. And they want to make sure that if you run a club that you know what the ins and outs of running the club are and how to deal with that.

So, you have different training on that. And they also have training on the different disciplines, the different weapons. So, that's what they do. And they do it every year.

Now, since COVID, they've been doing it virtually, but every year we have a training and I'm also a member of the association as well. So, I got my certification as a foil instructor back in 2012 and passed.

So, we do all practical and I would say, multiple choice. So, you do a written multiple choice and you have a practical exam. And they touch on both.

Vince Ferguson:

Which is hands-on?

Coach Moses Sistrunk:

Yes. Yes.

Vince Ferguson:

You said foil. Exactly what is that?

Coach Moses Sistrunk:

Foil is just a flexible weapon. The one that I use has a rubber chip. It's a practice one, and it's 110 centimeters long and very flexible. And the target, is what we call a vest target. So, no arms, no legs, just the stomach, chest and back. And the new rule is, part of your neck.

Vince Ferguson:

Oh, really? Wow. Wow. Now it sounds like you're always being upgraded. You're always training. You're getting educated more and more on fencing each year, which is great. And it also sounds like they teach you the business of fencing too.

Coach Moses Sistrunk:

Yes. Yes. When I last went to the conference in 2018, we was at the University of Las Vegas, Nevada, and for seven days, seven straight days, we were training in our discipline. So...

Vince Ferguson:

Wow.

Coach Moses Sistrunk:

And yes, that's how they do it. And also for us, you would think, for a person like, you do this from nine in the morning to five in the evening, you would think that's a boring job, but for us, part of it is verbal. And part of it is us getting a group lesson from the instructors, teaching us better ways of teaching fencing to the kids or to our students, whether it be to a younger child or older adult.

Vince Ferguson:

Oh, okay. Excellent. So, you teach kids and adults. And I do know that. Let me just be perfectly honest with the listeners. I know that, because for approximately 12 to 15 years, I've known you and you participated as one of my only fencing instructors for our annual Children's Sports and Fitness expo here in New York.

And I will say, out of the 30 activities that we present at this event, fencing was by far the most popular. But what is it about fencing that makes it so popular, especially with the young people?

Coach Moses Sistrunk:

I'm going to be honest with you. First of all, I didn't really know I was the most popular because I know that every time I did your program, I always had to get more equipment.

But I think what it is is, we always like, even as little kids, we like swinging swords. It's the imagination of swinging a sword at somebody. I know I did. My influencers were Star Wars and the television show Highlander. And I loved those shows. So, you're swinging the swords.

So, that's how I got into it. And the kids want to do the same thing. So, and over the years I've gotten better. So, now I've got foam swords because I know when I used to start off, I used to carry like four, five bags of equipment. So now I'm a little lighter. Now I have the foam swords.

I'm trying to invest more in those, so they can get a little taste of it and have the kids wear a mask now instead of just wearing the jackets and everything else. It does get hot when you wear those pants and jackets.

Vince Ferguson:

Yes it does.  Wow. Now, my organization focuses on young people and basically, young people in underserved populations in New York, similar to your focus, but now why have you made it your focus though, when it comes to the children and underserved population?

Coach Moses Sistrunk:

Because, I was one of those kids, when I learned fencing. And I didn't know. To me, I was just taking an activity. Never did I realize this would become my passion.

Like I said, my tragedy led me to my passion. So, it was a way of coping at the time. Or coping and trying to impress a girl at the same time. That didn't work out, so the fencing part turned out.

Because for me to be different, because I know a lot of people that teach fencing, they've had experience competing on a higher level. I've done sporadic competitions. But I guess, because I could relate to the kids more of, "Hey, this is what fencing is. I definitely know how you feel, because I was there too." I can share my story with them.

I'm from Grant Housing. If I say, Grant Housing, people go, "Yeah, I know what that is." But for people who don't know what Grant is, he was the 18th President of the United States and a civil war general, but that's just me because I'm a presidential fanatic.

But yes. So, I get it. And a lot of parents they cannot afford to do fencing classes. Fencing classes are very expensive. So, that's why I'm doing what I'm doing because I want them to get the opportunity I never had. I never did fencing in high school. I never knew it went to high school and I never really knew it went to college.

So, I thought this out as I was learning how to teach. How to say, "Wait a minute. Maybe I could have had this opportunity." So, I didn't know. I didn't know. So, now, I'm like, "Okay, I'm going to make sure that they get the opportunity that I didn't have.

Vince Ferguson:

Nice. A very good role model you are. I will say that, man, for sure. For sure. Now, I also understand that when it comes to scholarships, it's easier in a sense, to get a scholarship, if you're doing something like fencing, because so many people don't.

Most parents, they enroll their kids in basketball, football, soccer, but it's harder to get scholarships there, because there's so many people. But with fencing is not as many, especially of us, doing it. So, would you say that it's easier to get a scholarship for that reason?

Coach Moses Sistrunk:

It is. Because a lot of the other sports are saturated. Think about it. How many basketball players are you going to get? How many football players are you going to get? You know what I mean?

So, with fencing, first of all, I feel like it's a little... I don't want to use the term being in a little mob, because no one knows about it. So, it's like you have your own little secret society. So, very few people know about it.

Because even when I carry my bag, people are like, "Oh, you play guitar?" I'm like, "No. Fence instructor." "What? Fencing?" People hear fencing, they look at me weird because they associate fencing with Caucasian people and Asian. Which they would not be wrong because in certain fencing clubs, that's what I see.

But a lot of us are coming up in the sport. So, but the opportunities are there because every time I go to the coaches conferences, guess who I bump into? Collegiate coaches. And what do they ask for?

Matter of fact, I would think about almost, I would say eight years ago, we went to our last convention. One of the ladies, she was from San Diego and she grabbed me. She's like, "Do you have any fencers? Do you have any fencers? Do you have any fencers?" I was like, "Personal space?"

Like "I don't have any kids here. So, don't hit on me." But yeah, no they're looking and even in 2018... No, no, no, no, no. I'm sorry. 2019, when I went to Notre Dame and I spoke to the coach, Coach Geo, and matter of fact, they just won their NCAAs, Notre Dame.

So, him, he was like, he's trying to find fencers in house and not international. He's trying to get homegrown fencers. So, yeah because what tends to happen is people think when you do fencing you have to go to Harvard, Princeton, Yale. Yes, those are the top. But let's say you fall short for going there. You've got Notre Dame. I would say Columbia, but Columbia is right up there too.

Vince Ferguson:

Princeton?

Coach Moses Sistrunk:

Well, I'm talking about the ones that are not those. Like I would say, that's the argument. I know Notre Dame is one of them. Like if you can't go to one of those, go to Notre Dame. Go to Columbia.

I believe... Now, I don't want to assume right now, because I'm trying to think of colleges off the top of my head. Ohio State. We went there because I saw one of the coaches there.

So yeah, they're there. And mainly I would say, "Women, okay, this is the time period for women to get the opportunity if they're looking." Like they are looking. Like this is why I'm trying to push, as girls change and like I said, they were coming at me like, "Do you have any fencers?"

And I know some collegiate coaches. It's not hard for me to say, "Hey, I have a potential student." Now, I have to be careful with that because of the rules of the NCAA. But yeah, they're looking. Oh, I forgot about Temple University. That's another one.

Vince Ferguson:

Oh, Temple, out of Philadelphia.

Coach Moses Sistrunk:

Yeah.

Vince Ferguson:

Wow. Interesting. Interesting. Now, this sounds to me like a perfect opportunity for young people to get involved with fencing right now. And you're giving them that opportunity. But as you said, fencing is not a cheap sport. It costs money.

Coach Moses Sistrunk:

Yes.

Vince Ferguson:

So, how are you offsetting the costs of fencing for the inner city children?

Coach Moses Sistrunk:

What I'm doing is because I also have a co-founder, Tico Flores-Kyle. He's been my... I call him the mouthpiece of the business because literally, usually I'll have him do what I'm doing right now. I usually don't do this. I do the inner workings of the business. So, only because it's you, I said, I'll do it.

Vince Ferguson:

Thank you, Coach. I appreciate it.

Coach Moses Sistrunk:

But he's the one that goes around to different neighborhoods and talks to parents and talks to organizations and let them know about what we're doing. Because we've been in Queens at one time. Now we're back in Harlem. We do want to kind of spread out and just let people know that we're here and there are other fencing programs. But we try to make it affordable. So, we made it $75 a month.

So, that at least, you're not spending all this money for kids to do fencing. Because I've seen parents spend three, $400 for maybe a month or two. And I'm being very conservative, because this is fencing. This is expensive. Like technically, I charge 75 a month. I really should be charging $75, for every 30 minutes.

Vince Ferguson:

Every class?

Coach Moses Sistrunk:

Every 30 minutes.

Vince Ferguson:

Every 30 minutes?

Coach Moses Sistrunk:

Like me. Like me, personally giving you a lesson. $75. 30 minutes. That's what I should be charging, but I don't do that because I'm like "No, that's going to take away from the students." You know what I mean?

So, I want them to come in and see if this is something that they like. And then if they like it, then I can go ahead and tap into my resources and find ways of them doing fencing in a very affordable level. Because it's not easy. The equipment alone could cost you 500 to a thousand dollars. Easy.

Vince Ferguson:

I've seen your equipment. I've carried some of your equipment. I've carried it. I know. I know. I see. I've seen it firsthand. Professional.

Coach Moses Sistrunk:

And me personally, at least for the last couple of years, I haven't really paid myself. So, I literally put it right back into the business. So, I'm constantly getting the equipment and making sure that kids have what they have. And if I have assistant coaches, I make sure they get paid first, before I do.

Because you see the work I have to do and I'm not getting any younger. So, this is the month of my birthday too. So, when the Olympics start is my birthday. July 23rd. I'll be 43.

Vince Ferguson:

Wow, isn't that something, man, but you're still a young man. Let's make this happen. So, listen, where is your company located in Harlem? Exactly where is it located?

Coach Moses Sistrunk:

In the building of Our Children's Foundation, which is at 527 West 125th Street. We're located on the second floor. So yeah, we're on the second floor. So, people just buzz in or just give me a call and I just come down and let you in.

Vince Ferguson:

Okay. And you're looking for more kids right now. Am I correct?

Coach Moses Sistrunk:

Yes. Yes. Because a lot of people don't know, like the parents, I have 10 clients right now and a lot of them say, "You've been teaching fencing here all this time?" I'm like, "Yes." No one knows I'm in here.

Vince Ferguson:

Yeah. Best kept secret. Isn't that something? What are some of the many benefits that young people can expect to experience while learning fencing at your school?

Coach Moses Sistrunk:

Well, I only say this because I could draw from my experience. You really learn about yourself. You learn about your offensive or defensive. I realize now as I'm a little bit older, it depends on the situation. So, when I was younger, I was defensive. So, I would wait for the person to come at me, see what they do and then I would respond. So, that's one. Two, you will definitely learn different languages.

Vince Ferguson:

Languages? Languages? Really?

Coach Moses Sistrunk:

Because fencing is only two languages, English and French. So, you have to know a little bit of French.

Vince Ferguson:

Nice. I didn't know that.

Coach Moses Sistrunk:

So, when I teach the kids, I'll tell them how to say things in English. And then I'll tell them how to say things in French. So, if you don't know what they're talking about, how would you know? And the other thing is you will learn are different measurements. We do the Avoirdupois system, which is pounds and ounces. And of course, with metric system, you have to learn meters, kilometers, kilograms. So, you're going to learn how to do that.

Coach Moses Sistrunk:

And you're going to learn some geometry too, because in my class you will learn how to make a fencing strip and use measurements.

Vince Ferguson:

Really?

Coach Moses Sistrunk:

Yep. That's what I teach in my class. They have to learn that. So, that's part of the class. So, what I do is... Because I know other classes teach differently. A lot of them are geared more towards competition. Great. That's what you should do.

I'm more about, "Hey, let's see if you like this first, okay? And if you're serious, then I'll gear you towards competition." Because what happens is they'll go to a club that's in the competition. Kids want to do it. It's expensive. Then they're like, "I don't like this no more." Then they leave.

Vince Ferguson:

Right. Wow.

Coach Moses Sistrunk:

So my thing is, "No, I'm going to do the fun part. Come to me. We'll do the fun part. I'm going to break everything up. And then if you feel that you want to do this seriously, then that's a whole nother thing on the side where we can do, and we'll focus on that."

Vince Ferguson:

Sure. Wow. Nice. Nice. Now, there's so much I could ask, but we don't have a lot of time, but let me ask you this. Is fencing a great way to keep fit? Obesity is a major issue today among children.

Coach Moses Sistrunk:

Yes, it is. Literally, if it wasn't for fencing, I would have been 300 pounds a long time ago. I would have gotten here quicker, but it is a great way. I also like this. You're not thinking about the workout when you're fencing. You're thinking about, "How can I get my point?" You don't think about it.

Coach Moses Sistrunk:

It's a great leg workout, great core workout. Great upper body workout. I would say more of a leg workout because you're doing a lot of lunges.

Vince Ferguson:

A lot of lunges?

Coach Moses Sistrunk:

Yes. A whole lot of lunges. So, yeah, but it's not just about swinging a sword either, because a lot of kids, when they come in, they think, "Oh, I'll just swing a sword." Nope. That's how you get scored on real quick. So.

Vince Ferguson:

There's a lot to it, yes. Look, I've seen you in action. I've seen how the kids' faces light up and the parents too. And they always want to know where can they go to take their kids to continue fencing? And that's so important that you have a place where they can go. That's so important, but what about nutrition? Do you touch on that? Is that important to a fencer?

Coach Moses Sistrunk:

Yes, it is. Even Tim Morehouse, he's one of the premier fencers. And what ended up happening with him was, even as a fencer, he's still eating McDonald's. He's eating junk food and it wasn't until... I think it wasn't until 2012, when I think when he was doing fencing he changed his diet, slendered down and he became better. And I think he became a silver medalist at that time, as a team in Sabre.

And I know me personally, because I know what happened with me and I'll definitely get into this. A lot of people assume because I teach fencing that I always keep in shape. But for years, I really wasn't doing that. I wasn't participating with the kids, but then I had really let myself go. I went from when I first started from 170 to as heavy as 270.

Vince Ferguson:

That's a hundred pounds heavier.

Coach Moses Sistrunk:

Yeah, I was a hundred pounds heavier. This was a matter of, I would definitely say 15 years. No, actually 17 years and what ended up happening was this was during the pandemic where I ended up going to the hospital and found out that I was a Type II diabetic. I'm walking around being a Type II diabetic and didn't know for three years. They just now told me after I went to the hospital and I didn't take that very well. I really didn't. That just blew my mind. So I said, "Nope." But they did tell me my condition was because of weight.

Vince Ferguson:

Weight?

Coach Moses Sistrunk:

Yeah, weight. Purely weight. My neurologist told me. He said, "I'm not checking your foot." He said "Lose the weight, then I'll check your foot." He literally really told me that. My dietician said, "It's the weight." And my primary care doctor said, "It's your weight." So, from November to now, I've lost, I would say 44 pounds, because I'm 226 now.

Vince Ferguson:

Congratulations on that. You took action.

Coach Moses Sistrunk:

Yeah. I was not playing. That scared me. That scared me and I will never be the same now. So, I drink more water now. I definitely incorporate a lot of fruits and vegetables because I didn't do that before. I do eat meat, but I cut down on a lot of the meat consumption.

Vince Ferguson:

So, you changed your eating habits. You changed your nutrition. And would you say that... Do you eat late at night or did you stop doing that, as well?

Coach Moses Sistrunk:

If I eat late at night, it would be a smoothie or something very healthy. Like it has to be something very light if I eat at night. But that has been put to a halt because I realize that's why my sugar levels is going up. I was eating late at night.

Vince Ferguson:

I see, just making those subtle changes, makes all the difference. And now, you're doing your fencing, but you're slimmer now and you feel better as a result. And that's what children can look forward to, as well, which is great.

And you are now, you're more of a role model because now you're looking more the part, not just giving instruction, but you're looking more like you're athletic.

Coach Moses Sistrunk:

Yes, yes. Like I said, my goal is... And this is what I like about fencing also. It doesn't stop when you're young. I can compete at 40, 50, 60, 70, 80.

Vince Ferguson:

Compete?

Coach Moses Sistrunk:

Yes. You can compete at those ages.

Vince Ferguson:

Now that, I didn't know. Wow.

Coach Moses Sistrunk:

Yes. So, yes sir, you can compete in fencing too. So, you're not too old to do it.

Vince Ferguson:

Sign me up.

Coach Moses Sistrunk:

Yeah. That's what I like about it. I could go out there... Right now, I have an Olympian named Ivan Lee. He's a former Olympian and he's out there competing now. I think he got first place just recently. So, he just hit 40. Just hit 40. Yeah.

Vince Ferguson:

Just hit 40?

Coach Moses Sistrunk:

Yeah.

Vince Ferguson:

And that's a African-American, right?

Coach Moses Sistrunk:

Yeah, yeah.

Vince Ferguson:

That's so impressive, man. You can do this. Man, this is beautiful. Now, where can parents find out more about Inner City Fencing and how can they contact you?

Coach Moses Sistrunk:

Well, right now, they can contact me on my website, Inner City Fencing.org, or www.innercityfencing.org. And they can check out the website. Mostly my schedules are there and the pricing and everything.

Or they can come to me directly at Our Children's Foundation. I'm usually there Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Right now, we're doing the summer schedule. So, I'm here from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. So, and that will last until September 10th. So, then the schedule is going to change, but I'm usually here Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

Vince Ferguson:

Perfect. Is there anything else that we didn't touch on, that you want to share before I let you go?

Coach Moses Sistrunk:

I would say that I do a little bit of this and it's still ongoing, but I am what they call a cosplayer. And I don't know people know what cosplaying is, but you're costume playing.

So, I also go to comic book conventions, upstate New York, and I promote fencing and that, and I do a little bit of amateur stage combat, basically. So, I used to do that with two groups, with dealing with Star Wars for about six years.

So, I'm developing that class right now. It's not something I'm pushing at the moment, but I'm just putting it out there that I do do it, because I tend to meet when I go to these conventions and I tell them I'm a fencer, they're like, "Oh, I want to do fencing."

And then when I go to fencing and I tell them, I do cosplaying, "Oh, I want to be a cosplayer." And I'm just like, "Oh, I've got two different goals that would have come together, but they can't do it because fencers have to compete on the same day that cost players do their stuff at the conventions."

Vince Ferguson:

Wow. Wouldn't you know?

Coach Moses Sistrunk:

So basically, you have to give up one to do it.

Vince Ferguson:

One for the other.

Coach Moses Sistrunk:

Yes. So, I kind of gave up, not gave up. I didn't give it up. I'm just not competing right now. So, I'm doing a little bit more cosplaying, but at the same time, I am still instructing. But when I compete, I'm going to have to put it into my schedule. So, yeah.

Vince Ferguson:

Yes. I hear you. You got to do what you got to do. Do this is great. This is great, Coach. Listen, Coach Moses Sistrunk, on behalf of Body Sculpt of New York and Six Weeks of Fitness, I truly want to thank you for coming on my show today.

Coach Moses Sistrunk:

No, thank you. It was a pleasure.

Vince Ferguson:

And to my listeners, I truly hope this program was informative and encouraging and inspiring, and that you will continue tuning in to our Six Weeks of Fitness podcast. And if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions for the show, please leave them on my Six Weeks to Fitness blog@www.sixweekstofitness.com or email me at vinceatsixweeks.com. And don't forget to subscribe, so you don't miss any future episodes.

Direct download: Episode_170_Coach_Moses_Sistrunk.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:39pm EDT

Coach O’Neil Brown was born on the beautiful Island of Jamaica 48 years ago. He migrated to the States in 1981. Coach O’Neil grew up in Far Rockaway, Queens, New York, and played multiple sports while in high school. Coach O’Neil developed a love for health and wellness by learning from his mother, the late Icilyn Brown. He has been a fitness and lifestyle trainer for over 15 years. He is the founder and CEO of OB-FIT. His greatest desire is to see everyone live in peace and happiness from within. O’Neil encourages everyone he trains to take their health seriously. Two of his many mantras are your health is your wealth and excuses don't get results. And joining me today on my 6 Weeks to Fitness Podcast to discuss his personal journey into health and his fitness philosophy is coach O’Neil Brown. Coach O’Neil, how are you doing today?

Vincent Ferguson:

Thank you for coming on the show.

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Hey, thank you for having me.

Vincent Ferguson:

Now in your bio, coach, you credit your mom, Icilyn Brown for getting you started in health and wellness. Tell my listeners about your mom and how she helped shape your views on health and wellness.

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Well, my mother, was a hardworking woman and first and foremost, she always put God first in everything that she do, she always put God first. She made sure that everything that she does is lined up with the word of God. And the thing about it, the love that she had for us was amazing. I mean, words cannot explain. But one thing my mother took her health very seriously. And the foods that she ate, she made sure she ate foods that were healthy and nutritious. Now, would I tell you that, Hey, she wasn't the most expensive eater no, but she knew what to eat. She made sure she'd take time, cooking her own food and learning from her also set my life up to where, you know what, I use that same lifestyle that my mother taught myself and also my brothers and sisters. And it has helped me tremendously.

Vincent Ferguson:

Well, you mentioned your brothers and sisters. How many siblings do you have?

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Well, I had four brothers, one passed away and I have 4 Sisters. So it's a total of nine of us. It would've been nine of us total.

Vincent Ferguson:

Man, that's a big family man.

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Yeah and the greatest thing about it, one father.

Vincent Ferguson:

You don't hear that too often today, man. So I credit good upbringing for that.

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Yes Sir.

Vincent Ferguson:

Now, what was it your mother's influence that inspired you to become a trainer?

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Yes. I love to play sports. I always loved sports. Sports is something that I really loved and I realized that working a nine to five and there's nothing wrong working the nine to five, I love to move. So I realized that you know what, this nine to five thing is not cutting it for me because I don't like to just stay in one place. I like to move around and I had to do something. I had to make a change.

Vincent Ferguson:

Speaking of moving, now I know you were raised in New York, but I understand you currently live in Tallahassee, what attracted you to Tallahassee? Was it the weather?

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Well, one thing the weather is something for me, the beautiful scenery, Tallahassee is a tremendous place. Lots of history. You have the University of Florida, A&M you have Florida State, you have Tallahassee Community College. It's a great, small city that has a lot of history and moving here at the present time I was married and my wife had took an assignment. Unfortunately, we are not together anymore, but you know what, life is life. And then a person has to move on and just learn from his or her mistakes and better themselves and hoping that hey, they'll never make that mistake again. So here I am today.

Vincent Ferguson:

Most definitely. Life is about learning, right?

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Yes.

Vincent Ferguson:

It's about learning, man. And we are all in this life together and we're here to learn and there's nothing wrong with that.

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Yes.

Vincent Ferguson:

Now you and your wife, your ex-wife, you guys still communicate, I would imagine, right?

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Yes, we do communicate. We have great communication. We still talk to each other and everything. So at the end of the day, I learned from my mistakes. I learned from my mistakes, that's the most important thing. And the funny part about it, it was never infidelity. It was never alcohol. It was never drugs, gambling or money. It was just my ego.

Coach O’Neil Brown:

My ego and lack of communication.

Vincent Ferguson:

That's amazing, man. But to be able to speak to that, that's a beautiful thing. How has your health helped, being in the fitness world, how has that helped you to deal with your relationship with your ex-wife?

Coach O’Neil Brown:

If I wasn't taking care of myself from within, I also would've pointed the finger. I would not own up to my mistakes or own up to my responsibility. So I had to make sure my mental health was right because, in order for me to understand that I made a mistake, I had to own up to it. The only way you can ever, ever move on in life, you have to own up to your responsibility. And when you do own up to your responsibility, you must accept truth and once you accept the truth, change will come. And that's what I did. And it made me a better person today.

Vincent Ferguson:

Amazing. A better, man. Huh?

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Yes, yes.

Vincent Ferguson:

Amazing. That's awesome. That's awesome. Now you and I have a mutual friend, Patrice Rush from Rush Productions.

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Yeah.

Vincent Ferguson:

Now Patrice told me about you. And she said, coach O’Neil, he's called THE FITNESS PREACHER. I was like, what? THE FITNESS PREACHER? So how'd you get that name?

Coach O’Neil Brown:

I was in Miami. I was going to a wedding and it's a young lady, she knows me and she said, you know what, you just not a person who just talk about health and wellness. You look it and you live it, I have a name for you. You should call yourself THE FITNESS PREACHER. And from that day on, that's what I go by.

Vincent Ferguson:

Oh, from that day on, it stuck as they say.

Coach O’Neil Brown:

It stuck. It stuck, yes.

Vincent Ferguson:

Now that's awesome. Cause when I heard that, right away, I'm thinking about, okay, this is obviously a brother who's talking about the Bible and God, but it can also take on the other connotation where basically you practice what you preach, right?

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Exactly. Life, life. It's so important when you put God in your entire life, whatever you're doing, he should always come first.

Vincent Ferguson:

Yes.

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Whatever you're doing, he should come first. If God is not the head of it, then guess what, you're going to lose in battle. Then it's absolutely for the enemy.

Vincent Ferguson:

Now out of all the scriptures in the Bible, which one would you say motivates you the most?

Coach O’Neil Brown:

I love Matthew 6, verse 33. It says, but “seek ye first, the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be added onto you.” So once you seek God first, and once you are following God’s words and once you apply his words, then if you want good health, you are going to get it because now as you seek it, it requires action. So now you're not just talking it, you're also living it.

Vincent Ferguson:

Do you share your beliefs with your clients?

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Yes. Yes. When the opportunity comes to share my beliefs, I find ways of plugging them in. I just don't put it on them because, at end of the day, it's not about force. Everyone has a choice. And at the end of the day, it's your choice. Whatever you're doing, life is all about choices.

Vincent Ferguson:

Exactly. I also believe that. You can make good choices or you can make some bad choices, right?

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Yes, Yes. Absolutely.

Vincent Ferguson:

Excellent. Now, how important is faith and fitness to you?

Coach O’Neil Brown:

It's everything because you got to understand, this body that we're living in, it does not belong to us. It belongs to God.

Vincent Ferguson:

Yes.

Coach O’Neil Brown:

It belongs to our creator. We don't own anything. We came into this world with nothing, right?

Vincent Ferguson:

Right.

Coach O’Neil Brown:

So we shall leave with nothing. So naked I am as I came and naked I will leave. So at the end of the day, if I'm not returning back this body to God, then Hey, as I said earlier, I am losing this battle while I'm living on earth. And you got to remember with God, all things are possible.

Vincent Ferguson:

That's Powerful my brother. All things, not some things, all things.

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Yes.

Vincent Ferguson:

So if I want to be healthy, I can actually use that as part of my faith. My faith can help me to be healthy, right?

Coach O’Neil Brown:

That's right. Because when you look at it, you go back into third, John verse 2, it says “beloved, I wish above all things, that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospers.” So it's just not your finance or just your marriage or in school. God wants us all to prosper in every aspect and area of our lives.

Vincent Ferguson:

And speaking of that, one of your mantras is your health is your wealth.  That's what you're talking about, correct?

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Right because good health, you got to understand, health is a treasure. And think about this. Everything that God has given to us is for a purpose and God gave us a perfect word.

Vincent Ferguson:

Yes.

Coach O’Neil Brown:

But, he also gave us the choice of how we should live in it.

Vincent Ferguson:

My question is, and I understand, I agree 100% with you, why is it so many of us abuse this body? Why is that?

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Because one thing they aren't disciplined. You have to be disciplined and when you're disciplined, it's not saying that you're better than anyone. You're just setting up yourself to be in a better place.

Vincent Ferguson:

Most definitely. Now how do you get that discipline?

Coach O’Neil Brown:

The discipline is now you got to acknowledge that, hey, at the end of the day, am I doing right or wrong? You will know when you're doing right or wrong. You know, when you're eating healthy because guess what, the human machinery, this body, it's going to tell you, it's going to always give you signs. Before there's any disruption of the human body, you're always getting a warning. So if we're not taking heed to the things that we're putting in, later on, we're going to just, boom, collapse and there it is, that's the end of it.

Vincent Ferguson:

What you put in is what you get out!

Coach O’Neil Brown:

That's right. If you put junk in, absolutely, you're going to feel like junk. You're going to talk like junk. You're going to walk like junk, you're going to look like junk and you're going to act like junk. It doesn't matter how much money you have, because what's the sense of having a nice, big, luxurious home, nice, beautiful cars having money, which is all good. But you still eating like a pauper.

Vincent Ferguson:

Definitely. And how long are you going to be able to enjoy those fancy, those fine things, if you're not taking care of your health, correct?

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Right and it all starts with what you put inside of your body because at the end of the day, food is something that, what controls the mind, it helps rejuvenate the mind, it stimulates the mind and also the body.

Vincent Ferguson:

And do you talk about, I mean, you talking about it right now, but do you talk about nutrition and prepare healthy meals for your clients?

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Absolutely. Because that wouldn't be the fitness preacher, just by preaching it. You have to live it.

Vincent Ferguson:

Yes.

Coach O’Neil Brown:

I am one who loves to show it. I'm not one who will recommend my client, hey, eat kale and then you go on my social media page, you don't see not one salad. You don't see not one healthy meal on there. All you hear, I'm talking. You ever hear of the "Show-Me" State? Hey, I'm from the "Show-Me" State.

Vincent Ferguson:

Exactly.

Coach O’Neil Brown:

I'm not just going to also tell you, but I'm going to show you how it's was done because I'm going to live it. You got to see it. Not just in words, but in also action.

Vincent Ferguson:

In action. So what would you say on a scale of one to 10, 10 being the most important, where would you put nutrition?

Coach O’Neil Brown:

At the top.

Vincent Ferguson:

At the very top.

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Because at the end of the day, God is number one. It's two things food can do for us. Food can be our medicine, or it can be poison.

Vincent Ferguson:

So true. And so many of us have poisoned our bodies because of the foods that we eat. Right?

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Right.

Vincent Ferguson:

And would you say that the biggest contributor now to obesity and heart disease is basically the food that we eat?

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. Because it's not the air. It's not the sunlight because those things are free. Those are the things that God gave us.

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Why would God give us things like those and harm us with it? So when we're not putting anything inside of the body, that's clogging up the human machinery, then it won't happen now. But later on at a certain age. When we get older, we start to find out that you know what our digestive system is not working properly. And it's not, even when you get older, even the young ones are having issues with their digestive system.

Vincent Ferguson:

Yes. That's true.

Coach O’Neil Brown:

So if you notice its poor lifestyle, I've always said this. We don't have, we don't have a hereditary problem, we have poor eating habits problem

Vincent Ferguson:

Yes. So many people want to blame their family history. That it runs in my family. So that's why I'm like this.

Coach O’Neil Brown:

It's funny because even a few days ago, I was showing someone that called me and I explained it plain and straight to them. I said the opportunity that my generation and your generation have to better ourselves with health, is 10 times better than what the generation before us had. My great-grandmother, their great-grandmother their great, their great grandmother. Because at the end of the day, you have to look at it like this. Some people never had got opportunity to even read a book because if they did, they would have been killed. And now we have the opportunity to read all the books. We have social media, we have smartphones, but we’re not taking advantage of it.

Vincent Ferguson:

That's so true. How do we get people to think the way you think and take charge of their health like that? How do you get them to realize that their true wealth is their health?

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Continue to be an example. Continue to allow God to use you. Continue to live the life of Christ. The only way I could live it is by him. I allow him to abide in me.

Vincent Ferguson:

Most definitely. You have, and another one of your mantras, another one that I really like, excuses don't get results. Now explain what that means to my listeners.

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Now we all have 24 hours in a day, right?

Vincent Ferguson:

That's right.

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Every human being has 24 hours in a day. So what I do with my 24 hours, if I'm wasting it then, and I'm not seeing any results out of it. And I'm spending my time on social media and I'm spending my time lollygagging, then you know what, at the end of the day, I won't be progressing. Now, if I take my time and I struck out my morning, my afternoon, and my evening, and I find time for myself, I wake up, I prepare myself in the morning to make sure I'm going to get my workout in. I'm going to eat properly. Then, you know what, I won't have any room for excuses because excuse is of the enemy.

Vincent Ferguson:

Definitely. Definitely. What excuses do you hear from people when it comes to exercise?

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Oh, I don't have enough time. Oh, it's too expensive. Oh, you know what, it's too expensive to eat healthy, but it's more expensive when you don't move your body. It's more expensive when you go out to eat, it's more expensive even spending one night in the hospital bed.

Vincent Ferguson:

Oh man. Oh, most definitely. If you don't pay now, you're going to pay later. Right?

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Exactly.

Vincent Ferguson:

I Hear excuses all The time. But meanwhile, that same person making excuses is at home, watching Netflix for four or five hours.

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Right. And the funny thing about it, as I said, everything that we need is right in front of us. If we want to know how to eat healthy, guess what? Google it. Even for those who aren't able to read, you could at least, press that Google button and say, how do you eat healthy? Healthy meals, it's right there.

Vincent Ferguson:

That is so true. Now what about goal setting? Do you talk to your clients about setting goals?

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Absolutely. Small, realistic and reasonable goals.

Vincent Ferguson:

Have any clients come to you with unrealistic goals? Like I want to lose 50 pounds in two weeks.

Coach O’Neil Brown:

And I'm like, hey, I'm unable to do that. I can't do that for you. And I've always let my clients know that, you know what, here's the thing about me. I don't do weight loss because the reason why I let them know that I don't do weight loss, it's more than weight loss. It's more than about losing weight. I want you to understand this is a lifestyle. I want you to feel good from within. How are you going to feel good from within, by making simple changes one day at a time, let's just focus on today. Let's not look at next week, next month. Let's focus on today.

Vincent Ferguson:

You're the first trainer I've had on that said they don't focus on weight loss. That's amazing.

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Because when you talk about weight loss, it's a lot of times, it's all about people who want to make money, and don't get me wrong, this is a ministry, but it's never about money for me. I want to see young men, young women, adults, I want them to live and be happy and understand at the end of the day, that someone out there cares about them. And they're not in it for the money because I always said, I always say this, people, before profit.

Vincent Ferguson:

Nice. People before profit. Awesome. How many people were saying that? That's awesome, man. That's a blessing right there. You put people first before you put making money first.

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Yeah, people first. If we put the people first, I'll tell you, the money will come. That's why I never say, hey, I want to make $100 000 this year. No, that's the last thing on my list. If I could touch 100 000 lives and hopefully that 100 000 lives that I touched, they could also plant seeds to touch another 100 000 lives. That's even better than me making $10, $20 million.

Vincent Ferguson:

Wow. That's awesome. Yes, I like that.

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Yes, yes.

Vincent Ferguson:

It's all about helping people, man, helping people. Can you share a success story from one of your clients?

Coach O’Neil Brown:

I have so many, so many and even when people call me that aren't my clients, I give them information. Like, I'm going to give you one, not even a client. Individual call me and they was like having an issue with glaucoma and I've never healed anyone. I don't claim that I heal anyone. Now I can point you to the one that can heal and restore you and I recommended what that individual is supposed to do. And I also made a few drinks and everything and also bought it to them and I said, if you do this, I promise you this, watch how your body reacts. And I can tell you that, hey, in a couple of days you're going to be here. But if you practice this on a daily basis, watch what's going to happen. A week ago, when that individual came back to me, they were like, I have good news. When I went to the doctor, my last visit, my doctor said, I have glaucoma and they went back and all of a sudden the glaucoma is gone.

Vincent Ferguson:

Gone, really?

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Gone.

Vincent Ferguson:

Now how long did that take?

Coach O’Neil Brown:

About a few months.

Vincent Ferguson:

Was she following your plan that whole time?

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Yes, sir. Yes, sir.

Vincent Ferguson:

Really?

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Yes, sir.

Coach O’Neil Brown:

And it was just simple, simple, simple, simple foods. Foods that come from the earth.

Vincent Ferguson:

There you go. Did you tell her how to prepare juices?

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Yes. How to eat? I said, if you really want to get rid of this, I'm not here to soothe whatever symptom you have. Let's get to the head of this. Let's cut the head. The only way you could get rid of the snake, right, is what, cutting the head off?

Vincent Ferguson:

And she stopped feeding that snake.

Coach O’Neil Brown:

That's right, she stopped feeding that snake. So now she doesn't have to worry about that snake biting her.

Vincent Ferguson:

And she wasn't even one of your clients.

Coach O’Neil Brown:

No she wasn't.

Vincent Ferguson:

So she never paid you. She's never paid you for this service at all?

Coach O’Neil Brown:

No. The only thing, I may have requested, charge her for a few of the things that I made, but it wasn't anything weird. Like, Oh my goodness, I have to pay 200, 300, no, nothing like that. Not even, nowhere close to that.

Vincent Ferguson:

So you actually made the juice for her?

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Yes, sir.

Vincent Ferguson:

That's awesome, man. Was she in Tallahassee?

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Yes, sir. Yes. And then there are more stories, especially one of my clients, in August, it's about to be two years and she came to me, she had high blood pressure. She was suffering from so many illnesses and I was like, listen, you have to change. You have to change how you eat. I said, the problem is, what you're putting inside of your body.

Coach O’Neil Brown:

And I let her know, I'm not here to turn you into a vegan, that's not what it is. That's between you and God. But for us to start, I want you to make simple changes with one specific thing in the morning when you wake up, you have to avoid all of that heavy food that you're eating.

Vincent Ferguson:

Did you give her something to eat?

Coach O’Neil Brown:

I said nothing is wrong with having some fresh fruit in the morning. Nothing wrong with having a salad. Nothing is wrong with drinking herbal tea. Nothing is wrong with drinking your spring water with some lime in it.

Vincent Ferguson:

Yes.

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Drink those, take those things. Start your morning off properly.

Vincent Ferguson:

That's the key to jumpstart your metabolism. You are feeding your body properly and I understand, and I believe that your body was meant to heal itself.

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Oh yes, absolutely. It can absolutely heal itself.

Vincent Ferguson:

But you have to give it what it needs in order for that to happen.

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Yes.

Vincent Ferguson:

Awesome. Now, do you train most of your clients in the gym or at home or virtually?

Coach O’Neil Brown:

I do it all. I do it all.

Vincent Ferguson:

Excellent. So someone can actually reach out to you from another State and you can actually train them and give them fitness advice as well.

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Yes, sir. Yes, sir.

Vincent Ferguson:

Perfect. That's very good to know. What advice would you give people who are sitting on the fence right now and haven't decided to make fitness a part of their lives?

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Well, if they don't move it, they're going to lose it.

Vincent Ferguson:

There you go. If you don't move it, you're going to lose it. I like that.

Coach O’Neil Brown:

And your body was designed to move.

Vincent Ferguson:

Yes.

Coach O’Neil Brown:

It's not a sedentary lifestyle. We weren't made to be couch potatoes. Yes, we were made to move our bodies and we get a good night's sleep and come back again the next day. But we're not supposed to be sitting down 18 to 20 hours out of the 24 hours all day.

Vincent Ferguson:

Yes. Now from your experience, are people starting to take their health more seriously now because of this pandemic?

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Oh, absolutely. I'm going to tell you something. My brother and I, right? My brother and I Vaughn Wilson and I, we started last year when the pandemic hit. He and I decided that, hey, we're going to do this walking group. And it's called the OB-FIT/Mega Ace 45 challenge group and we said, the month of March, we just want people to walk 45 miles. We have over 6,000, participants-

Vincent Ferguson:

Really?

Coach O’Neil Brown:

In this group. Yes.

Vincent Ferguson:

All in Tallahassee?

Coach O’Neil Brown:

From different areas, from around the world.

Vincent Ferguson:

Around the world. Oh, my goodness, 6,000.

Coach O’Neil Brown:

6,000. Started it last year, March. In the pandemic, yes. When they shut down everything, and I'm telling you, we decided that, hey, this is not about us, this is about the people. Because you know people were getting, they were panicking. They didn't know what to do.

Vincent Ferguson:

Yes.

Coach O’Neil Brown:

So we came up with that and we removed ourselves. We said this is not about us. This is for people because you got to understand. People are getting COVID. People are losing their jobs. People don't know what to do. So we had to find a way of helping these people to make sure that these people are doing something for themselves. Okay. Don't worry. We got a group for you. We're not asking for any money. We're not asking for you to donate anything. You don't have to send any information to us. All you have to do is focus on putting 45 miles in it for a month by just walking and the amount of testimony that we had. People who were on medication are now off medication.

Vincent Ferguson:

Wow. That's amazing. Really? Just from walking more?

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Just by walking, because one of the greatest exercises is what, walking.

Vincent Ferguson:

Yes, Yes. I often say that, man. It doesn't cost any money.

Coach O’Neil Brown:

No.

Vincent Ferguson:

And it's no stress on the joints. Just walk.

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Yeah.

Vincent Ferguson:

Wow.

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Yeah.

Vincent Ferguson:

That's amazing. 6,000 people.

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Yes.

Vincent Ferguson:

You're making the difference internationally.

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Yes, sir. And I take, he and I, we both take no credit and I am just fortunate and blessed that when you can connect with people who have the same positive energy and you can put it together and allow God to take the lead, it's amazing.  On the 30th, he and I will be, we'll be meeting up with the mayor to receive a proclamation.

Vincent Ferguson:

Really?

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Yes.

Coach O’Neil Brown:

And we never did it for any rewards or any awards. We did it because we care about the people.

Vincent Ferguson:

Because you care about people. You don't find that today. Unfortunately, not enough. Coach where can my listeners find out more about coach O’Neil Brown, THE FITNESS PREACHER?

Coach O’Neil Brown:

My Facebook page, O’Neil Brown. I don't really have a private page. I keep it right where it is, I'm just one who straight forward, O’Neil Brown. O N E I L B R O W N. And if they type in the word on their Facebook page, #excusesdontgetresults, they'll see me. If they type in boom with three Os and an M, B O O O M they'll find me and on my Instagram, it's O B F I T_THE FITNESS PREACHER.

Vincent Ferguson:

O B F I T_THE FITNESS PREACHER.

Coach O’Neil Brown:

THE FITNESS, that's my Instagram and a beautiful thing that my brother and I, we are doing also, Kelvin Frazier owner of Kingz and Queenz Fitness. We are doing a 30-day fitness challenge. 30 Day Transformation Fitness Challenge. We're starting it up in April and it's only $25 to join. And last month we finished up one that was in February. We gave away $500.

Vincent Ferguson:

Really?

Coach O’Neil Brown:

To the winner.

Vincent Ferguson:

So tell me this fitness challenge starts in April. Do you have a flyer?

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Yes. I have a flyer. Yes, sir.

Vincent Ferguson:

Where can you send that to me?

Coach O’Neil Brown:

I could send it to your messenger. I could email it to you.

Vincent Ferguson:

Yes.

Coach O’Neil Brown:

With all the Information.

Vincent Ferguson:

Yeah. Send that to me. I like to promote that, maybe even with the interview, that'll come out next week and even separately, because this way people can know about the challenge.

Coach O’Neil Brown:

And here's the thing about it. The exercises are only for 10 to 12 minutes. They could do it in the confines of their home.

Vincent Ferguson:

Nice, nice. Which is easier for most people.

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Everyone can participate in it and we have modifications, we have advanced.

Vincent Ferguson:

I think people like challenges like that. Something that they can do at home.

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Yeah.

Vincent Ferguson:

Because so many of us have gained weight, during the pandemic, during the shut-down. And you got to get moving to get rid of that extra weight.

Coach O’Neil Brown:

That's right.

Vincent Ferguson:

And having you guys, being accountable to someone or sharing it with one group is sometimes the best way to do it, you know.

Coach O’Neil Brown:

That's right.

Vincent Ferguson:

I'm excited about that.

Coach O’Neil Brown:

It's about helping people and when helping people you don't have to be charging an arm and a leg. You could do it to where everyone is benefiting from it, everyone. So, the beautiful thing about what I do is this. At the end of the day, you know what, if 10 people who were struggling with health and wellness, and a few months later, as they get into your program, and they realize that, you know what, this person, what he or she is bringing to me is absolutely true. And once they start applying it, that's the key they got to believe. And once they believe they just got to apply, and once they apply, they take action. Hey, it's beyond the sky, it's beyond the sky.

Vincent Ferguson:

No limit to what you can do, once you take action.

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Yes.

Vincent Ferguson:

Well, this has been great, man. I tell you, this is one of the best 30 minutes I spent in a long time.

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Vincent Ferguson:

I appreciate it. So coach O’Neil Brown on behalf of Body Sculpt of New York and 6 Weeks to Fitness, I truly want to thank you for coming on my show today.

Coach O’Neil Brown:

Yes, sir. Yes, sir. I appreciate it. And I would like to leave the people with this, one of my favorite motivational speakers says this, Mr. Les Brown, he says, “you must be willing to do the things today that others won't do in order to have the things tomorrow that others won't have.” And “life is a fight for territory. And once you stop fighting for what you want, what you don't want will automatically take over.” And I always say this, my mother always said this to me. She said, “son an ounce prevention is better than a pound of cure when you think right thoughts, you will perform right action.” And I say this to all the listeners out there. I say, embrace the mindset that excuses don't get results. “Boom!”

Vincent Ferguson:

Boom! Awesome. To my listeners, I truly hope this program was informative and encouraging and inspiring, and that you will continue tuning in to my 6 Weeks to Fitness Podcast and if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions for the show, please leave them on my 6 Weeks to Fitness blog at www.6weektofitness.com or email me at Vince@6weeks.com and don't forget to subscribe. So you don't miss any future episodes like this one.

Direct download: Episode_169_-_Coach_Oneil_Brown.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:20am EDT

Yvette Frith-Raymond is a strong woman of faith who has dedicated her life to service, with an intention to change the life trajectory of those within her sphere who are vulnerable and living beneath their potential in Christ. Yvette possesses more than a set faith. Her willingness to step out into unchartered territory without readily available resources or known end is a prime example of Yvette's audacious spirit and her total dependence on God. Best known for her commitment to excellence and ministry, coupled with a servant's heart, Yvette has worked tirelessly in several capacities at the Rise Church International, formerly known as the Brooklyn Christian Center. She is always willing to share her gifts and talents with those who serve alongside her, mentoring, training and loving the people of God. Equipped with a bachelor of arts in modern languages and literature and a masters of social work from the State University of New York at Buffalo, Yvette has traversed the four walls of the church for over 19 years to advocate for underserved children and families throughout New York City. She is a social worker by profession and is employed by the New York State Office of Children and Family Services. And I am pleased to have Yvette Frith-Raymond on my Six Weeks to Fitness podcast. Yvette, how are you today?

Yvette Frith-Raymond:

I am doing well, Vince, thank you very much for having me. How are you?

Vincent Ferguson:

I'm great, thank you. Thank you for coming on the show today.

Yvette Frith-Raymond:

My pleasure, my pleasure. Thank you.

Vincent Ferguson:

Now, before we discuss your story and the reason why I asked you to come on the show today, tell my listeners, where did you grow up, Yvette, and what was your childhood like?

Yvette Frith-Raymond:

So I was born and raised in the beautiful Island of Jamaica. I was born in Spanish Town, but raised in Maidstone, Manchester. And Maidstone is one of the very first freed villages and it's in the rural part of Jamaica. I was raised by my grandparents, as my mother worked as a caretaker, she worked and lived outside of our home. My grandparents raised my brother and I, along with some of my cousins. We were raised in a large family, my grandparents had 14 children.

Vincent Ferguson:

Wow.

Yvette Frith-Raymond:

So yes, yes. And I was raised in a village, not just in the family village of my aunts, uncles and cousins, but in a village where people outside of the home took care of each other. My village is a farming community, so we had land to roam and run around and I just remember having a childhood where there were rough days, but as a child, you didn't even know what that meant, because my family gave love.

Yvette Frith-Raymond:

Every time I think about my childhood, I just think of family and love, even the days when it didn't seem as if you had enough, you had more than enough. Because, again, I was raised in a village, so the village took care of us and my grandparents took care of the village, just because it was just how the community was. So every time I think about home, I think about love and I think about family. My grandmother has since passed, but my grandfather is still alive and he's 102 years old.

Vincent Ferguson:

Whoa, God bless him, 102?

Yvette Frith-Raymond:

Yes.

Vincent Ferguson:

Goodness. Healthy living.

Yvette Frith-Raymond:

Yes. Healthy living, yes.

Vincent Ferguson:

Oh my goodness.

Yvette Frith-Raymond:

And that is the longevity I desire to have.

Vincent Ferguson:

Sounds like you're on the right track.

Yvette Frith-Raymond:

I pray I am, I pray I am.

Vincent Ferguson:

And so when they say it takes a village, it really does take a village doesn't it?

Yvette Frith-Raymond:

I really do believe it does. And I can say that the foundation of my life started in that village and that's what actually drives me today. My foundational beliefs and values came out of that village.

Vincent Ferguson:

Wow, and speaking of which, you are a person of faith and very active in your church, correct?

Yvette Frith-Raymond:

Yes, I am. Yes, I am.

Vincent Ferguson:

So how important is faith to you and why?

Yvette Frith-Raymond:

Faith, the truth is, Vince, I don't know of a life outside of one of faith. I was raised in the church. And even though I did not always go to church, but again, the foundational values, it's just a part of who I am. It doesn't mean that I didn't have to learn what that was for myself as an individual. I had to grow. You learn about faith growing up, but you had to grow to experience certain things for yourself.

Yvette Frith-Raymond:

So as I became an adult and matured I think life experiences kind of forced you to go a little bit deeper to find for yourself. And that is when I know I can say I definitely know that faith helps to get me through life. There's just an inner... Faith is just as important as the air I breathe, right? So I need air to breathe and I need my faith to live, because my faith in God is what guides me daily. I'm not sure if I know how to express it any other way. It nourishes my heart, it really drives my soul to be here, it's just fundamental to my existence.

Vincent Ferguson:

Oh, most definitely. And like you said, it's like you need air to breathe, you need faith for today. And I think it's more important today than any other time that we have our faith.

Yvette Frith-Raymond:

It sure is. You have to have something to stand on, something to believe in, something that's going to propel you to go beyond where you are and help to guide you to that place. Otherwise, you're at a place where you're like, "I'm not sure I can do it. Can I do it? I'm not sure." And that's me relying on my own inadequacies. And when I do that, I'm not sure how successful I could be if I do live and believe that way.

Vincent Ferguson:

I see. I see. And in addition to your faith, you also live a very healthy lifestyle, right? But were you always into health?

Yvette Frith-Raymond:

You know what? If I am honest with myself, I can go back to maybe even my childhood with how we were raised. We were raised on things from the farm. It's very rare that my grandparents prepared meals that were not from the farm. It was very rare that there were things from the supermarket, when you go to the supermarket, certain aisles, it was very rare that those things were at the dining table. And so, I guess I would say I was always fed that way. Did it mean that I knew what it was like until I became an adult and kind of matured into expecting a certain lifestyle? But I would have to say that there was a foundational piece to it.

Vincent Ferguson:

When you came to the States, did you notice that most of the people here were not eating as healthy?

Yvette Frith-Raymond:

So I migrated to the States at 15 years old and I have migrated to live with my dad, my stepmom and my other siblings, and my parents also prepared healthy meals, so I just think it's the way my family was and I think culture has a lot to do with that. But I think my changes actually started in college.

Yvette Frith-Raymond:

I went away to school in Buffalo, University of Buffalo, and it was in my second year in college. No, it's maybe transitioning into the third year that I actually went vegan. I started to eliminate meat within my freshman into sophomore year. And then in my junior year, I actually just started doing total no meat.

Vincent Ferguson:

No meat?

Yvette Frith-Raymond:

Yeah, no meat. I started out doing more vegetarian and then I transitioned into vegan. There was a transitional period, but I would say in college is when I made the total shift to how I actually eat.

Vincent Ferguson:

But something happened, okay, because again, you're living a healthy lifestyle, you're eating vegan, so you're relatively healthy, but something happened that caused you to change the way you eat. Please share that story with my listeners.

Yvette Frith-Raymond:

So I went vegetarian, vegan in college and I did that for most of my adult life. And when I became pregnant with my children in 2008 and my second child in 2010, I maintained more of a vegetarian lifestyle, not a vegan lifestyle, because during my pregnancy, I found that I needed more than I was able to really do being a vegan. Fast forward later in life and I realized that that time that there were things that I was eating that really was not in agreement with my body. Not that it wasn't healthy eating, it just wasn't what my body needed. And so, you grow to learn that as healthy as one can be, is not always the best option for that person. So today, we're in 2020, transitioning into 2021.

Yvette Frith-Raymond:

So I could say in 2017, I had a drastic shift in life. And what that did, I had to be open to understanding that as healthy as I was Vince, I was really also very unhealthy. So the vegan food that I was consuming was not the best option for my body. So what I will say is I am hyperthyroid and my thyroidism is an autoimmune disease. And I had to learn over time that when you have an autoimmune disease, that there are certain foods that's not the best choice for your body. So I became sick in 2017 and I was on a journey that was rather painful, but it was a life altering, painful experience. And so, I had ended up seeing the specialist for my stomach. It was just one point when it really got to the point where I had to stop, I had to pause and I really had to figure out what was going on.

Yvette Frith-Raymond:

I saw my doctor, because I was not able to eat and digest. There was nothing that was really digesting as I ate. I got sick and I just was not able to eat. And I called my doctor and I said, "You know what? I have an issue and I don't know what it is and I think it's a GI issue." I went in to see her and I explained what was going on, she gave me a referral to a GI doctor, but everything takes time. And during that time that I was waiting to see the doctor, my symptoms and my issues just kept on getting worse. By the time I was able to see the GI doctor and schedule the necessary tests that I needed to get done, the endoscopy, the colonoscopy, et cetera, I learned that I had gastritis and my stomach was so inflamed that I was not able to eat, to digest the food, that was necessary for my body.

Yvette Frith-Raymond:

After getting that diagnosis, I was told I could go back to my normal lifestyle, but the truth is, I had not been able to go back to my normal lifestyle and it's been over three years. Yes, and it didn't stop. And so, it took me, I think, a good nine months between going to the GI doctor and having to see another GI doctor and then allergist then, a bunch of just different doctors, because then I realized I had all these food intolerances, food sensitivities, just a lot of stuff. I lost a lot of weight, because I was not able to eat. I was not able to digest the food. And so, when you're not able to digest, you are afraid to eat, because you don't know what is going on.

Yvette Frith-Raymond:

In the process, I was very stressed. It was very overwhelming, because there's a lot going on and you don't know what is going on in your body. I can fast forward and say, I'm grateful now, looking back, for the medical team that I worked with, my primary care doctor who gave me the necessary referrals. She never, one day, asked, "What is wrong with you?" Doctors may sometimes think that you're overreacting. She never, one day, said that. She gave me the necessary referrals. And I have to tell you those referrals were always the right referrals. And what I can encourage people to do is to get your diagnosis, know what your diagnosis is, so that you know what you're working with. If you're not armed with the information you need, you're not going to know what your right course of treatment is.

Yvette Frith-Raymond:

So when I saw the GI doctors, and I'm not one to take medication, I don't like medication and medication somewhat contributed to some of the pain I ended up experiencing, because I have some disc issues in my neck and I have rotator cuff issues. So there was pain there that I was taking some ibuprofen, Advil, and I did not know I was one of those people who cannot take NSAID, because that was horrible for my stomach. So in addition to what was going on with foods that I was eating, then that stuff also contributed to that as well. So the right referrals helped, because the doctors did the tests that they needed to do. And it was in that process I found out that, yes, my stomach was inflamed. I was not able to eat right. Some of the foods that I was eating, I was not able to tolerate. So I had learned that while I don't have celiac, I do have sensitivity to gluten and soy, and as a vegan the alternatives were all gluten or soy.

Vincent Ferguson:

Yeah, I see. Yeah.

Yvette Frith-Raymond:

Yeah, so for years as a vegan, I was consuming those meat alternatives, because they're very high in protein and to be honest with you, they're very tasty. And I love to cook, so I really enjoyed fixing meals, preparing meals and the flexibility that I had to be able to do that. I ate a lot of browns, I hardly ever do anything white. So I did the wheat, I did the different grains, but what I was not understanding is that the browns, which were the gluten grain, was just not the best option for my body.

Vincent Ferguson:

For your body.

Yvette Frith-Raymond:

Right, and so, as I was consuming those for years and years and years, it was taking a toll on my body. And that's something that I didn't know. And then for some people who have autoimmune diseases, they do have some type of motility issue and I learnt that in the process. So my stomach processes my food a little slower than most people, so yes, so that contributed to some of the challenges that I experienced. And having said all of that, what was important to me was to be armed with the information that was necessary. It was important for me to know my diagnosis so that I could develop a treatment plan for myself. And the beauty about it is, the doctors that I saw, they all knew I was not one for medication. So the options-

Vincent Ferguson:

Oh, they knew?

Yvette Frith-Raymond:

Yes, we had that discussion upfront. So the option was always on the table to find out what are the natural alternatives for whatever that medication is or was that was going to be prescribed, or what are some of the other lifestyle options that I could have actually engaged in to support my health?

Yvette Frith-Raymond:

And I started doing yoga, something I heard about over the years, but never tried. And that thing about you will do anything to get better. I remember the very first time that I did yoga, I didn't know what I was going into and I ended up doing hot yoga.

Vincent Ferguson:

Oh, Bikram, yes.

Yvette Frith-Raymond:

Bikram, oh my goodness, what an experience. And I have not gone back to Bikram, I have done Vinyasa, I've done a bunch of different forms of yoga, but I did not go back to hot yoga.

Vincent Ferguson:

You didn't go back to hot yoga? It's too hot for you.

Yvette Frith-Raymond:

No, I did not go back to hot yoga. No, I just couldn't do it. But it was a very great experience, that I will say, because it helped me to start to think differently about my body and bringing my body back into alignment. And I mentioned growing up in Jamaica in a farming village, as a little child, we ran around outside with no shoes. So we were always connected to the earth. And so, we were practicing natural grounding without even knowing it.

Vincent Ferguson:

Interesting, yeah.

Yvette Frith-Raymond:

Yes, yes. So yoga brought me into a different awareness, managing stress, because I became very stressed, not knowing what was going on in my body, so I was really not in a good place when it came to being stressed. And I had to learn what we call mindful living. So I had to learn to manage my stress. I had to learn to find my breath. I had to learn to become more grounded. I had to learn to give up what I could not control and still managing what the diagnosis was. And the managing the diagnosis was for me, eliminating a lot of the foods that I used to eat that was causing pain in the body, because one thing that people need to know is gluten causes inflammation in the body.

Vincent Ferguson:

Gluten?

Yvette Frith-Raymond:

Yes, inflammation causes pain. When you feel pain, there's inflammation somewhere. So I had to learn to eliminate the food that I loved, because it didn't love my body or my body didn't love it. So I went back to my foundation. I grew up on a farm where my grandparents planted their own and we ate what was raised on the farm and I had to go back to the root food. I've always shopped at farmer's markets, just, that became what I go to more now, the farmer's markets every weekend. And I go and I get root foods. I get foods that are grown in the soil that is really good for the body. A part of that process included probiotics so that you could get your gut flora in check so that you're developing a healthier GI system, so there were just a lot of different things that helped me to be where I am today.

Yvette Frith-Raymond:

But one thing I can share with your listeners, is you have to know your body. You have to work with your professionals to get your right diagnosis. And once you get your right diagnosis, you can develop a treatment plan that's best for you. I did a lot of free webinars Vince to learn about natural alternatives. And again, back to the farm, we grew up using a lot of herbs and I always have herbs, I now just have a better understanding of what those herbs actually do for the body. So I do use a lot of herbs and I use spices for healing. I use a lot of essential oils, so my medicine cabinet really is more my essential oils than my herbs. But again, that might not necessarily work for everyone, that works for me, making the necessary adjustments that I needed for my body.

Vincent Ferguson:

Very nice. So now, are you back to basically a vegetarian lifestyle?

Yvette Frith-Raymond:

I am back to a vegetarian lifestyle, because I cannot consume the vegan options that I really loved. There are days when I wish I could, but it's just not the best thing for my body. So I have come to terms with it and we have closure on that area of my life, so I do mostly vegetarian now and I'm satisfied with it. For the most part, I don't do dairy, I don't do soy and as best as I can, I don't do gluten, because I need to remain balanced in what I consume and how that affects my body.

Vincent Ferguson:

Yes. And like you said, the gluten caused a lot of inflammation.

Yvette Frith-Raymond:

Yes. Yes it does.

Vincent Ferguson:

Yes. Yes. And again, what's important too, you said you recommend that my listeners know their body, get to know their bodies.

Yvette Frith-Raymond:

I think it's so important to get to know your body. As much as we think we know our bodies and as much as we accept... There are a lot of fads and there are a lot of things that people tend to gravitate to, because, "This looks good, I think this might work. This sounds great." But the truth is, it might not be what's ideal for you as an individual. And, I mean, I didn't get into vegan and vegetarianism because if it was a fad or…….. I got into it, because that's something that I'm naturally propensed towards, so it's something that I enjoyed. It's just that my body was really not able to manage it. And for years, if I might, for years, as much as I ate that way, I was gaining weight over time and I always liked to work out.

Yvette Frith-Raymond:

I mean, there were a couple of years in between that I wasn't as active in the gym as I would've liked to, but I was never one of those people who over ate or over consumed certain things and I really started to gain weight that I was really not able to move. And in hindsight, if I was to really look back at when those things started to happen, I would have recognized that something was going on in my body that I needed to pause and really take a look at, but I didn't. In hindsight, I would have, but you learn later.

Vincent Ferguson:

Most definitely. They say hindsight is 2020. You look back, you can see clearly.

Yvette Frith-Raymond:

Yes, you learn later.

Vincent Ferguson:

So do you do any other types of exercise besides yoga now?

Yvette Frith-Raymond:

So I don't do as much yoga as I used to in 2018 and part of 2019. In 2020, believe it or not, I started running again and I used to do track and field in high school. I used to do volleyball. I was actually an active sports lover and I participated in sports. So in a 2020, this pause has really given me an opportunity for reset as well. I live close enough to Prospect Park and my husband and I would take our children for walks in the park and they actually wanted to start doing trails and just kind of exploring the park a little differently. And we started to do that. But what I realized is when I was taking them out, I really wasn't doing much for me. And so, I decided that I would start going out in the morning when the weather, it was still fairly cool, started changing, and I started to go for walks.

Yvette Frith-Raymond:

And my brother, he's in the military, one night I was speaking to him and I mentioned, "No, I haven't been running. I really wish I could go back to running." And a part of the reason why I wasn't able to do that, Vince, is because on my journey, I lost so much weight and my muscles became so weak and I was not as strong as I used to be. And I wanted to be healthier, I wanted to feel better, but I was always so weak. If I lifted something that I thought I would have been able to manage in terms of lifting, I would feel pain. That's because my muscles were so weak and I needed to do something to strengthen them. In 2019, I started to go back to the gym, but even then, lifting the weights, it hurts. So I had to start out at bare minimum and I would just go and I would just do the walk on the treadmill, because I couldn't do the running on the treadmill. I just did the basics.

Yvette Frith-Raymond:

And then in 2020, I remember just speaking to my brother and I said, "Oh, I really wish I could go running." And that morning after I spoke to my brother, I was walking and then I decided to, "Maybe let me just see what I could do." And I think I did half a mile of a jog. And the next morning I did like a mile. And I think by the fourth morning, I just took off when I went in the park and I just started running and I have not stopped.

Vincent Ferguson:

And you haven't stopped?

Yvette Frith-Raymond:

I have not stopped, except for now that it's winter, I'm not out running. If the weather is not too bad, I will go out and I'll do a half walk, half jog. But I love it. I truly, truly love it and it has rejuvenated my body and I love it.

Vincent Ferguson:

Excellent. Excellent. Well, I'll tell you, Yvette, this half hour has gone so quickly and I just thank you so much, because I think you're adding a lot of value to my listeners about what you went through and how you were able to get your health back. What advice would you give my listeners when it comes to taking care of their own bodies?

Yvette Frith-Raymond:

Number one, know your body. And if you don't know how to know your body, work with someone who can help you to get to know your body. And a part of getting to know your body is really listening to what your body is saying to you. When I didn't know what my body was saying, I went to my doctor. When I started to become overwhelmed with anxiety and stress and I thought I was having heart palpitations, my doctor referred me to the cardiologist. Turned out I did not need a cardiologist, but that was the way stress was manifested in my body. So learning your body, working with someone to help you understand what is going on with your body and knowing your diagnosis, if there is one, and developing a treatment plan for that diagnosis for a very favorable outcome.

Yvette Frith-Raymond:

And it is okay to know the diagnosis. I think one of the things that we have to understand is, we cannot start to treat something we don't know what we're treating. We could try to develop a treatment plan and it's totally off. So you have to know your diagnosis, know what you're working with, develop a treatment plan that works for you, works for your body, develop a network of support who is going to be a great source of encouragement. You need cheerleaders in your life. You need people who understand. When I went to the cardiologist and he sat and he listened to me, he recommended that I read the book Dropping Acid. Never heard of it, did not know what that meant. And you know what was so funny, Vince? When I went to the allergist because of some of the food sensitivity issues I was having, he also recommended reading portions of that book that I was already reading. So there was a network of doctors who could give recommendations and it was like confirmation and it was consistent.

Yvette Frith-Raymond:

So developing a way of living in a mindful way decreases stress. It reduces anxiety in your life. And once you create a balance in your life, there is harmony. And I can tell you, once you're at that place in your life, there are things that's happening around you, that you will recognize. The things that you used to major in has now become your minor. They're not as bothersome anymore. You're able to become more carefree. You're able to just release a lot of things that you have no control over. And that helps to really bring your body into alignment, because your body can heal itself, but you need to give your body what it needs and your body needs to be at peace. Your body needs to be whole. You need to be well. And that is some of what I would recommend to your listeners.

Vincent Ferguson:

That's a lot, let me tell you. That is awesome recommendations, Yvette. And the name of that book was Dropping Acid?

Yvette Frith-Raymond:

Dropping Acid, yeah.

Vincent Ferguson:

Man, that sounds like a powerful book to get, okay? Because your body builds up a lot of acidity.

Yvette Frith-Raymond:

Yes.

Vincent Ferguson:

I get it. I get it. And tell me, Yvette, about your family and your church. Tell me how important they are to you?

Yvette Frith-Raymond:

So I am an active leader in my church, Rise Church International, where my pastor, Dennis Dillon, is our leader. He is a community activist. He is such a leader who encourages us to really just be the best we can be. And he's really one of the reasons why I even feel as confident as I am speaking to you today, because he recognized something in me when I did not know I had it in me and he pulled that out of me. So I'm as confident speaking with you today, because of what he saw in me. So I want to be able to say thank you to him and the work that he continues to do in Rise Church here in New York, as well as international with our communities in Africa and across the globe.

Yvette Frith-Raymond:

And the next question you wanted was to know about my family. Well, I am married. I dated my husband for five years before we got married, so we've been married now for 14 years. September 2020, we've been married for 14 years and we have two beautiful children Malachi and Elaysha Raymond. We serve in ministry together and he's a great source of support to me and the children, they're just growing well and I just thank God for the work they're doing. So, they've been doing school all virtual for this whole time and they actually both made the honor roll for their schools and I'm really proud of them both.

Vincent Ferguson:

Congratulations.

Yvette Frith-Raymond:

Thank you.

Vincent Ferguson:

Beautiful, yeah. Yvette Firth-Raymond, on behalf of Body Sculpt of New York and Six Weeks to Fitness, I truly want to thank you for coming on my show today.

Yvette Frith-Raymond:

Thank you, Vince, this was truly a pleasure.

Vincent Ferguson:

You are a blessing. And to my listeners, I truly hope this program was informative, encouraging and inspiring, and that you will continue tuning in to our Six Weeks to Fitness podcast.

Vincent Ferguson:

And if you have any questions, comments or suggestions for the show, please leave them on my Six Weeks to Fitness blog at www.6weekstofitness.com or email me at vince@sixweeks.com. And please don't forget to subscribe, so you don't miss any future episodes.

Direct download: Episode_168_Yvette_Frith_Raymond.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:37am EDT

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