How to Stop Making Excuses, a Q&A with the 21 Day Fix’s Autumn Calabrese
By Rebecca Swanner
Autumn’s a petite Italian mom from Cleveland, but don’t underestimate the trainer behind the 21 Day Fix™. This single mom with more than 10 years of personal training under her belt has gotten countless clients where they want to go—whether that meant losing ten pounds, a hundred pounds, or getting their body back after becoming a mom. She’s in amazing shape now, but as a teenager, she struggled with her weight and still battles cravings, a tight schedule, and mornings when she just doesn’t feel like working out. Get ready to be inspired by the story of our newest trainer and find out how to stop making excuses and start seeing results.
Ok, let’s cut right to the chase. Have you always looked like a model?
No. When I was a teenager, I was that girl with frizzy hair and braces who got picked on all the time…I don’t want people to look at me and think, oh you don’t know, it’s so easy for you. Because there was a time when it wasn’t.
When did that change?
I started dancing when I was in eighth grade. At first, it was one or two classes a week, but the next year my teacher wanted me competing, which meant I had to take a certain number of classes a week; the more classes I took, the more I wanted to take. Our teacher would talk to us about healthy eating and not drinking soda and that sort of thing so that we could give our best performances. I remember I cut soda out and three weeks after I did it, I walked into dance class one day and everyone stopped and was like, what the heck? They noticed it overnight. I lost five or six pounds, which on my frame, is a lot! But, they would never talk about you should be “this skinny” or say “you’re too fat.” I think that made a huge impact on how I work with people. My big philosophy is learning how to eat clean and enjoying everything in moderation.
How do your experiences as a teenager influence your training style?
I’m not the trainer that is going to scream at somebody and be like, do it, do it, do it. I’m never going to put someone down. I’m always going to be the cheerleader for you and encourage you to reach your goals. I’ve been there. I was the underdog.
How did you get into personal training?
I came to Los Angeles wanting to act and dance. But, I have a bulging disc in my lower spine so I still couldn’t dance as much as I wanted to. I could book a commercial, but I could never book a tour. I could never be on Broadway because my back couldn’t handle that. I pursued acting and have my SAG card and did a commercial here and there, but I was waiting tables the whole time. I waited tables from the time I was 16 to the time I was 25, and was burnt out. I needed to figure out something else to do. I didn’t want to sit at a desk, but I didn’t want to teach dance either. I didn’t want to get burnt out on it. I looked into personal training certifications, got certified through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), and started training. Then a couple years later, I became pre- and post-natal certified.
Speaking of which, you’re a mom. Was it hard for you to lose the baby weight after having your son?
There was a point when I hit a plateau and I was like, OK, this is a bummer, but I stopped making it about the weight and made it about challenging myself in other ways. Could I lift just a little bit heavier? If I was out for a run, could I run a little bit further or a little bit faster? Could I put the baby in the stroller and push him because that’s going to give me more resistance? The weight ended up coming off and I ended up five pounds lighter than before I got pregnant.
Did you try and stay fit when you were pregnant?
I worked out throughout my entire pregnancy. I was in the gym in the morning and went into labor that night. I still gained 36 pounds during my pregnancy and I had a C-section. My goal was to get the baby weight off in 12 weeks, but first I had to recover from the C-section, so it wasn’t like I could go back to working out the day I got home. But, the one thing I could do was go back to my healthy eating. I was breast-feeding so I made sure I was eating enough for myself and for him, but I made healthy choices. When I could get back to working out, I did.
Wasn’t that hard? How did you make the time?
This is the one time you’ll see the tougher side of me. I don’t have patience for excuses. I’ve had a C-section, I’ve had a hernia, and I have a bulging disc in my lower back. For the last 10 years, I’ve worked 12-hour days. And it wasn’t like I only worked out with my clients. I had to find time in between being a single mom. And I still do it. And you can too. You can either make excuses, or you can make results. How bad do you want it? What are you really willing to sacrifice? Yes, there are sacrifices. Yes, there are mornings I don’t want to go to the gym. There are times I’d rather eat chocolate cake than broccoli. But, at the end of the day, I love feeling good about myself. I love having energy to keep up with my son. I love when I put on my jeans and they fit or when I put on a tight dress and it looks good.
You’re making me want to work out right now. Where did the idea for the 21 Day Fix come from?
I started working for Brooke Burke’s site Modern Mom and picked up some celebrity clients. Then two years ago, I had the “aha” moment that I needed to develop something for my clients where they’re going to understand the nutrition side. I was saying, eat three or four or five ounces of chicken. But no one wanted to go get the scale and measure it. I finally sat down with a nutritionist and started brainstorming. We broke down the food groups and came up with 13 different container sizes to fit them. One of my goals was to not eliminate food but teach you how to integrate foods without overdoing it. The goal isn’t to be perfect. The goal isn’t to not enjoy life. Everyone has to have a glass of wine at some point and a girl’s got to have a piece of chocolate. But, the goal is not to do it every single day. America’s problem is we overeat everything…even the healthy stuff.
Not the lack of exercise?
It’s both, but I think at the end of the day, in terms of your weight, it’s more about what you eat. If you’re eating healthy and you’re in the right calorie zone, you should be at your proper weight. Exercise will improve your muscles, your flexibility, and your endurance, keep the weight down, and change the appearance of your body. But I see it all the time. Those people who go to the gym five to six days a week but don’t eat right are all still overweight. They look the same as they did three years ago. I think looking like you’re strong and fit looks better than skinny fat.
What is your cheat food?
I am usually a cookie or a chocolate person. But, I’ve gone so long now without it that when I have it, the sugar rush is too intense. I get headaches and feel nauseous. But, if it’s that time of the month, I want sweets and every so often a piece of pizza, though I don’t eat dairy anymore. But, to be perfectly honest, I don’t keep crap in my house. I know what my weaknesses are. I know if you catch me in a bad emotional state and there are Oreos in the house, I’m not eating one—I’m eating the entire row. I’ll feel sick later and I’ll make myself pay for it in the gym, but if it’s there, I’m going to eat it. And if it’s not there, I’m not going to get in the car, drive to the store, and buy it. So I might go to bed angry about it and be like, I wish I had some damn chocolate, but I’ll get over it.
OK, back to the containers. How do they help?
Autumn Calabrese Working OutWe kept them pretty simple. People don’t have time to cook gourmet meals, so I based a lot of it on how I had to prep for competition. At the very beginning, it was chicken and Mrs. Dash, 5 meals a day. I was like, OK, I can have turkey, I can have steak, I can have fish. I can buy all the different Mrs. Dash seasonings instead of the same one. Or I can make a stir-fry out of it, I use oil and Mrs. Dash flavors instead of soy sauce. I’ve gotten creative, but it takes time. In the beginning, it was like, the recipe says chicken, I’m making chicken.
Some people who might want to do the 21 Day Fix have a lot of weight to lose. Any thoughts on how they can get a good start and then stay motivated?
The biggest thing is to have a support system around you. Have that conversation where you say to your household: This is important to me. I’m trying to make a change. I’m not forcing you to do it, but I need your support. Please don’t try to push me to have things I’m not supposed to have. Or, if you’re the head of the household, you just say, This is what we’re doing. I think it’s important for parents to lead by example. But, at the end of the day, you have to make the commitment to yourself and the only person you have to report to is yourself. That’s a switch that you individually have to figure out how to turn on. Until you can, your weight is going to fluctuate up and down and you’ll find excuses. It’s 21 days. See where you get in 21 days. You may not be perfect. You might cheat. You might have setbacks. But you also can’t let those determine how the rest of the future looks. If you cheat, acknowledge it, figure out what triggered it, and get right back on the horse.
One of the things I loved about the 21 Day Fix was how awesome my legs and butt looked after three weeks. Why the emphasis on the lower body?
The biggest muscle groups are in the lower body, so that’s where you’ll get the biggest calorie burn. Second, it’s important to be balanced in your upper and lower body. And, finally, I’m a leg girl. I’m a dancer. I think strong, toned legs are sexy and appealing. And, a guy with scrawny legs? Come on! You’re out. Out! I shouldn’t be able to squat more than you.
Reposted from: http://www.teambeachbody.com/about/newsletters/-/nli/305#354242573
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