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Health Warrior: Monica

If you’re ready to hear from a woman with a lot of ambition, independence and a fun, competitive spirit, here she is! Monica Parodi and I studied our way through undergrad together, spending hours on end studying through our nutrition text books and quizzing one another on the metabolic processes of the human body. She was also by my side the day I completed a full marathon (I think she was doing her first half marathon that day too)! She’s originally from Honduras and has made her through Texas getting her Master’s in Nutrition and now lives in Washington state practicing clinical nutrition. Monica is always ready to make dreams happen and empower others to do the same! I'll let you read about her current endeavors in the interview below, which include her first IFBB bikini competition and business launch!

Take a peek into this thriving young Dietitian’s life and you will probably find just the spark you need to launch your next health endeavor!

Hey Monica! I’m excited to interview you! Would you please start by giving us a little bit more of a glimpse into your life and a health advocate and dietetic professional? 

I am Monica Parodi. I love health, wellness, fitness, nutrition and have curiosities for learning more about human optimization. Human optimization is like taking certain supplements and medicinal products or adopting certain practices to help increase productivity, alertness, and achieve peak performance. I am currently training for my first International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness (IFBB) bikini competition on March 24th! It’s coming up! I love to stay active, workout, hike, and travel. I also enjoy hanging out with small groups of close friends. 

As a professional, I’m a clinical Registered Dietitian (RD) in an outpatient clinic, but am in transition. My goal and focus now, as an RD and wellness expert, is to start an online wellness business where I will provide programs, workshops and retreats for women who are ready to up-level their health and lives. I am most interested now in mentoring and coaching women ages 25 – 35 years old to become their best selves through nutrition, fitness, and lifestyle habits.

Before we jump into the big events in your near future holds, please share with us how you got started.. what prompted your journey into the field of nutrition and dietetics? Give us a little insight into what your health journey has looked like and what brought you to your current beliefs about your personal health.

From a young age I was attracted to health and wellness. I was an athlete all through high school and grew up on homemade dinners from scratch. I was blessed to have a healthy upbringing surrounded by unconditional love from family and friends. 

My health journey has been transformative. I honestly would not change a thing. I grew up a healthy child and adolescent. I was always active and had atypical eating habits for a regular teenager. I loved healthy foods from the beginning. In college, I turned to running. In hindsight I was over committed and stressed. I was under eating and running up to 30 miles / week when I was in the thick of training for a marathon. At the time I did not see it clearly but I was running myself into the ground. Ironically, I was a nutrition student.  I was always surrounded by amazing friends who were loving and supportive. I started to take better care of my nutrition and health. 

In graduate school, I found Crossfit. As an athlete, it was easy for me to pick up the sport and fall in love with it. I was hooked. Crossfit changed my life and health. If I wanted to get better, which I did because I am super competitive, I had to become stronger. So, I started supporting my body in a way that allowed me to get stronger and start building muscle. From then on, I decided I was going to try all kinds of new things to see how my body adapted and what “worked best for me.” I have done the whole30 multiple times, have done “Keto” a few times, and continue to explore and experiment. 

My philosophy with diet and nutrition is that you have to eat for your goals. I have since been eating according to my short and long term goals. Since I am currently training for an IFBB bikini competition, I am eating like a body builder. 

What prompts you to set goals like an IFBB bikini competition? How do you stay on track and motivated toward those goals?

I feel like I thrive off goals. Whether it’s a competition or a race, challenges are motivating to me. The goals I set are focused on trying new things. Like the Bikini competition: I wasn’t seeking it out, but when the opportunity presented itself to me it sounded like a great challenge and I signed up. The tracking and actual competition, completing it, is how I measure it. 

There have been seasons in which I workout simply because it makes me feel great and keeps me healthy. It is something I look forward to every day. On the days I don’t work out I relax completely or do fun activities like hiking. With these activities, the goal is simply to feel good and stay happy. 

As far as staying motivated, I would highly recommend listening to motivational audios / podcasts first thing in the morning to prime your day with a positive mindset for success. I also think prayer gives us relief because we know we are cared for by an all-powerful God who cares for us.

Could you show us what your self-care rituals are and what you do throughout the day to prioritize your health? What do you believe is the most important part of a healthy lifestyle, one thing you absolutely cannot neglect? Are you following a workout program and what might a workout look like for you?

I love making matcha tea in the morning. I like matcha, but I more-so love the ritual of making a warm healthy drink in the morning that I know will support the rest of my day. I have given up coffee because it made me feel anxious. Again, I experiment and see what works for me best. I also add adaptogens to my matcha frequently. Adaptogens are herbal supplements that help me adapt to daily stressors that may come my way. 

Other self-care rituals include taking long baths on the weekends, making sure I get 9 hrs/night of sleep, and drinking at least 3 L of water daily. Getting plenty of sleep is my non-negotiable. I am sensitive to not getting enough sleep and my day suffers when I don’t.

My workout program is currently broken up into exercising different body parts on each day of the week. I looove working out legs. It’s my naturally weaker area and so I love being able to challenge myself to get stronger legs. I love squat varieties, deadlifts, hip thrusts, lunges, and leg press on leg day. I love feeling strong and leg workouts do that for me. 

Do you have a favorite go-to way of staying physically active outside the gym? And do you have a favorite nutrition practice that keeps you progressing toward your goals?

My easy go to way of staying active is going on daily walks. Its easy, its cheap, and its soo rejuvenating. 

The way I eat depends on the workout. I usually don’t eat much before lifting but if I am going to do a Crossfit workout I must eat at least an hour before. Before a workout I eat easily digestible carbs, like half a sweet potato. I always eat protein and carbs after my workout. 

In your experience, what's the biggest barrier to overcome in terms of health? How have you worked to overcome your own health barriers? What is something you consistently tell yourself or do to renew your mind and motivate yourself?

For most, the biggest barrier I see is waning motivation. When we first start something there is an energy of excitement and newness. However, motivation is fleeting. We have to first determine our WHY we are starting or doing anything to begin with. That way, on the days you don’t “feel” like doing it, you can think back to your why. For example, I am training daily for the bikini competition. Some days I simply don’t want to train. But I want to win. I am doing this competition to win it and for now that is my why. So, the way I overcome my barrier of motivation is remembering my why.

My personal biggest health barrier was back in college when I got extremely thin while running and not eating enough. I often view circumstances as opportunities to overcome barriers that will allow me to become a better version of myself. I have come to realize that I have to love and support my body first and it will in turn help me reach my goals. I love the feeling that comes with having energy, peace, and vibrancy. My health and my wellbeing are my priority. I know that I serve the world best when I am at my best. 

I like having short term goals. I work best in “sprints” where I focus on one main goal and work toward that. Then I allow myself to rest and relax. I know it will be worth it because I am worth it. I think a lot of it comes down to self worth which I know is something many of us struggle with. I also listen to motivational speakers and affirmations. If I ever get loose about this habit, I definitely start to feel negative self-talk creep in. It is important to have systems that help us and support us, such as a healthy morning routines and a meal plan. I try to make everything as easy and as seamless as possible. So, I schedule things in advance to prevent decision fatigue. Then I don’t have to think about my priorities spontaneously.

What's the best advice you could give to someone just beginning their own health journey or considering doing a IFBB bikini competition? A key takeaway you could share with us?

Start small with one thing (emphasis on ONE) that feels easy and enjoyable for you to start doing! It is important to build on little victories. 

Sometimes having a “do-more” mentality instead of a “do less” one is really helpful. For example, “drink more water” instead of “eat less ____.” This can help prevent the feeling of depravity or missing out on something.

If you’re thinking about doing a competition, I’d say just go for it, “trust the process” and

remember why you started.

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