*NEW* Health Warrior Series {Feature: Tori Schaulis}

I love people. I always have and always will. I love to be inspired and challenged by others who are moving forward, or wanting to grow and live fully. 

As a celebration of this and in effort to distill and share the inspirational influence of others I respect, I’m starting a new feature on my blog called “Health Warriors”. 

The feature will be interviews and profiles of people I’ve come in contact with in one way or another who are pursuing a full life in terms of fitness, nutrition, mental health, spiritual thriving, and overall well being.

I’m really excited about this, and so I’m just going to launch into it and introduce the first installment and my first featured Health Warrior: Tori Schaulis.

Tori is a writer and storyteller originally from Kansas, making her way to Southern California, but  spending the summer doing humanitarian work in Peru. She’s creative, passionate about culture, passionate about Jesus, hilarious, and engaging. She’s one of the hardest working gals I know and on top of all of that, I get to call her family! Tori and I go way back as cousins and I’m proud to share with you a little bit about her.

It didn't take long for me to be inspired by Tori's life and responses. A few interview questions in and I was ready to put a new energy into my own health and fitness! I'm excited to share what she had to say: take a seat in your favorite chair with a good cup of joe and take this in:

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you do and where do you begin? Give us a glimpse into your health and fitness endeavors and how you got here. In your opinion, what's the most important part of a healthy lifestyle? What prompted you to pursue health and how has it impacted your life? 

My name is Tori and I'm a copywriter meets storyteller. I'm currently living in Cusco, Peru leading a team of college students, serving the local church, and opening a cafe near a university in town. In a couple months I'll pack up my bags and move across the country to Pasadena to begin my masters at Fuller Seminary. To be honest, I didn't put much energy into my health and fitness until I was a junior in college. I gained weight my first few years of college, and then one day I decided to train for a half marathon. Since then I've been a journey with my health and I love trying new things. For example, this summer I'm experimenting with a new kind of cardio at a Peruvian dance class with some local friends! To me, my health is something I should enjoy, not restrict. I know it would be easy for me to obsess about my body in an unhealthy way, so I practice placing my identify in who God says I am, rather than that my body looks like. This frees me to enjoy health, rather than placing the pressure on myself to perform or reach a certain result. 

2. Tori has been working as a freelance writer and hosting her own blog since 2015 (see her work at www.ToriSchaulis.com). She also travels frequently for mission trips and for business. Tori, can you share with us how you approach health and fitness, particularly in the midst of a demanding and, perhaps, shifting work schedule? How do you consciously steward and take care of your body on a regular basis? What sort of tools or tips do you have that help you keep a positive mindset for prioritizing your health?

That's a great question - one I'm still trying to figure out, honestly. For me it all goes back to enjoying my health, rather than restricting it. I am intentional to find exercises or attend fitness classes that I enjoy so that it brings life to me in the midst of chaos. So much begins with my mindset - am I working from a place of performance or shame or from a place of freedom and enjoyment? When I feel shameful about my body or health, I'm rarely motivated and become discouraged when I don't see the results I'm striving for. Yet, if my goal is to be a good steward of my body and to enjoy my health, then exercise becomes so much more fun for me. 

I'm not a very structured or organized person naturally, so it's important to me to have options when it comes to health, especially if I'm running hard or managing several projects. Now I keep a drawer of healthy snacks at home and always have one or two in my backpack when I'm out leading a team or working. I also keep a bag of workout clothes in my car so that if I have a window of time to head to the gym, I'll take it! And lastly, I practice extending grace to myself and loving myself where I am TODAY. It's so easy for me to fall into the comparison trap. I daily renew my mind to believe I am valued, loved, and enjoyed exactly how I am right now. 

3. Can you walk us through your typical morning routine? How do you set yourself up for a healthy day from the start?

To be honest, my morning routine has shifted quite a bit as I've transitioned into life in a foreign country, but I have several non-negotiables for my mornings. First, coffee. When I wake up, the first thing I do is walk into the kitchen and make myself a pot of French Press coffee. I like to experiment with what I put in my coffee, but right now I'm using one scoop of collagen protein with a splash of sugar-free vanilla almond milk. Next I'll make myself breakfast. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. A good healthy breakfast sets me up for the rest of the day and gives me the fuel I need to do my best. Some of my favorites include eggs with avocado toast, banana pancakes (1 banana + 2 eggs + baking powder + cinnamon and vanilla), and overnight oats with dried fruit and nuts. After breakfast I'll find a cozy spot in my bedroom and spend an hour with Jesus. I started doing this as a freshman in college and it changed my life - spending time with Jesus daily resets me and keeps me focused. I typically begin with thankfulness and then spend time reading God's Word. Next I'll spend time journaling and talking with Jesus, as if talking to a friend in the room. I'm a big external processor, so journaling helps me articulate my thoughts and prayers. I'll end with prayer and often ask God how to partner with Him in prayer for the things and people I'm carrying / investing in. Afterwards I get ready for my day!

4. I love that you mention eating a healthy breakfast is fuel for your day. We've shared some delicious recipes with each other and I know you have a knack for finding new healthy baked goods recipes! Do you have a favorite healthy sweet treat recipe we could try? 

I'm a big fan of the Minimalist Baker's Almond Meal Cookies with Coconut and Chocolate Chips. My friend Claire baked these for me and I was instantly obsessed. I really like the taste of almond meal - it's hearty enough so that I don't notice the absence of flour and adds a nutty flavor. 

5. What is one non-negotiable part of your health routine each week? Tell us what you protect or put in place each week to take care of yourself. 

I typically set aside my Saturday mornings to reset for the week. I like giving myself extra time in the kitchen and then spend extended time with Jesus. I also use this time to think through what worked this week and what do I need to do to get or stay on track. As an introvert, I cherish this time to myself. 

6. In your experience, what's the biggest barrier to overcome in terms of health? 

For me, it's my mindset. There's nothing like comparison to derail me from my goals and celebrating my current progress. I love researching the latest tips and trends, but if I'm not careful, I can become obsessive or discouraged and then start questioning my value and worth.

Another barrier for me has been tending to the needs of others and the tyranny of the urgent. It's so easy for me to tend to what's right in front of me and forget about my long-term goals and commitments. For example, last summer I volunteered in Greece working with Syrian refugees. I was in and out of camps all day long, distributing food and clothing, building relationships, leading a team, and running a million miles a minute. By the time I looked up, I had gained about 10 pounds in the process. I was so focused on the needs in front of me that I forgot to take care of my own. Now that I'm serving overseas again, I've been intentional to set aside time to exercise and make meals at home. This time I feel I am in much more of a healthy rhythm! 

7. Can you let us into one of your personal health struggles and how you've fought to overcome? 

A big struggle for me has been learning to respond to my body's needs. I'm learning to become more of an intuitive eater, realizing the way I take care of my body impacts my energy, weight, and physical mood. In college I was tested for hypothyroidism and started taking medication to balance out the thyroid hormones in my body. This discovery prompted me to begin paying more attention to my exercise and nutrition, though it's been a challenge for me. I'm a fast mover and an activator, so I like to move quickly from one thing to the next. But I've found that my health isn't a quick fix - it's a journey. I'm still learning how my body responds to different exercises and foods, though I pay a lot more attention now than I did a couple years ago. I've often felt like my body is a mystery I can't solve no matter what new trick I try or how many times I exercise a week. I'm still learning my body and extending grace to myself in the process. 

8. What's the best advice you could give to someone just beginning or restarting their own health journey? 

I would say to begin by learning to love yourself where you are today. If you begin your journey out of shame or fear, you will never be truly healthy. But if you begin by learning to place your identity on a solid foundation today, you will start from a much healthier and holistic place. I believe our health begins in our hearts, and if you aren't tending your heart, your missing the most important piece of who you are. Tend to your heart first, and then begin learning your body in order to enjoy your health!

9. How have you worked to overcome negative or incorrect mindsets in terms of health and fitness? What is something you consistently tell yourself to renew your mind and motivate yourself? 

One thing that helps me is spending time with Jesus daily. I also regularly ask Him to speak value over me and then I'll repeat it to myself so that it gets from my head to my heart. I read a book called Waking the Dead by John Eldridge a couple years ago and it changed my life in many ways. He talks about living from a place of enjoyment and abundance as we embrace who God has created us to be. After reading this book, I addressed the places of shame in my life and vowed to start living wholeheartedly by enjoying life and loving where I am today. 

10. How do you set health and fitness goals for yourself? Do you measure them? If so, how often? What are some goals you are currently working on?

Right now my goal is to create and maintain sustainable rhythms this summer while on mission overseas. If I can workout 4 times a week for at least 20 minutes and be conscious of what I'm putting in my body, I'll consider it a win. However, some of the girls on my team and I have set some goals in terms of how many push-ups we can do by the end of the summer and how long we can stay in a wall-sit! Once I get into a more stable environment, I'll likely set a more specific exercise and weight goal for myself. 

I like to live seasonally - so depending on what season I'm in, I'll set goals. For example, right now I'm in transition, so my goals are more transient and less defined. I honestly don't like to measure my goals, but this past spring I did a 10-week challenge with Carly and tracked my progress. I lost almost 10 pounds and learned so much in the process. I'm not as averse to tracking now, thanks to Carly's challenge. Tracking doesn't have to be negative - it can actually be empowering!

Carly CooleyComment