March 2012 Expert Interview – Molly Galbraithby John Meadows on March 16, 2012
JOHN: I am thrilled to have Molly Galbraith join us for a sneak peek into her life. Molly is very well respected in the fitness community, and quite an inspiration to those that know her. Molly, can you tell us a little bit about yourself, your background, and what you are really passionate about?
MOLLY: Long story short, I was a competitive gymnast and cheerleader growing up and I got away with my horrible eating habits for almost a decade because I was so active. My weight fluctuated quite a bit after I quit cheerleading in 1999 and I ended up quite heavy and quite miserable in 2004 at age 19. At that point I got very frustrated with myself. I was working 2 jobs, taking 18 hours in school, had lots of friends, a great social life and to be honest, I was really doing well in every aspect of my life except my health and physique. This frustrated me because the two things you have control of in your life are: what you eat and what you do with your body. You can’t always control your boss or your family or your teacher or your friends, but you can absolutely take control of your nutrition and exercise. At that point I decided to hire a trainer, start working out, and start “cleaning up my diet.” Of course, at the time that meant going from McDonald’s 3 times a day to eating sugary yogurts and sandwiches, so it wasn’t ideal but it was a start.
JOHN: Ok, so were you chowing down on burgers, fries, and McFlurrys or eating yogurt cups with frappes?
MOLLY: Oh it was bad! Super-sized double cheeseburger meals with cokes were the norm and I would finish every last bite! I also had an affinity for cheese sticks with garlic butter (the people at the pizza place knew my order by heart), footlong subs, and Denny’s buffalo chicken strips and apple pie. Another (very embarrassing) fact: I am not much of an alcohol drinker so in college all of my friends would go “pre-drink” at someone’s house before going to the bars and I would run by the gas station and load up on junk food so I could “pre-eat” instead. While I can’t eat much fast food even if I wanted to because it makes me sick (had a Wendy’s burger 5 years ago and threw up) and while I have learned to love clean, healthy food, I am still a junk food junkie at heart! That’s why it makes me angry when people say, “Eating healthy is so easy for you… You don’t understand how hard it is to not eat bread and candy and pizza.” That’s a BS excuse that people use as to why they can’t reach their goals. But I digress….
JOHN: Ok, continue on…where did you go from there?
MOLLY: Over the next year I absolutely fell in love with training and nutrition and started reading everything I could get my hands on as well as spending as much time as possible around people who also felt passionately about those subjects. Between 2005 and 2009 I competed in Figure a few times and dabbled in Powerlifting as well and really enjoyed having a specific goal of getting better every time I set foot in the gym.
A few years ago I had some health issues (very minor in comparison to yours, John!) that made competing in Figure even more difficult and stressful than it normally is, so from 2009 until now, I have focused on improving my weaknesses/imbalances and getting stronger.
JOHN: What kind of health issues did you experience?
MOLLY: After my last Figure Competition in 2008 I rebounded very badly. I had always struggled to get my “normal” physique back after competitions despite employing intelligent post-competition nutrition strategies like slowly upping my calories and carbs, and weaning myself off the cardio. This time was different. I experienced unexplained weight gain, extreme fatigue, and even depression. It wasn’t a sad depression, but a depression where every single thing that I needed to do felt like an insurmountable task. I could barely get off the couch to get a drink of water much less grind out a killer training session. In my mind, walking to the kitchen to get a cup seemed like a marathon, walking to the sink to fill it up felt like it would take 5 hours, and walking back to the couch seemed liked climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro! I knew this wasn’t normal so I found an amazing Functional Medicine Doctor in my area named Lena Edwards and got her help. She diagnosed me with Hashimoto’s (autoimmune hypothyroidism), PCOS (poly-cystic ovarian syndrome) and Adrenal Dysfunction (not fatigue, dysfunction). (Side note: she is an adrenal expert and has a book called Adrenalogic. She argues that it’s not the adrenals “giving out” but rather a feedback loop issue between the brain and the adrenals).
JOHN: Yea that makes sense. The more and more research I do with my buddy Bill Willis, the more we find this. There is a strong link with many “resistance” type disorders such as leptin and insulin resistance, and hypothalamic inflammation as well.
MOLLY: To be honest, I am pretty lucky. Many people diagnosed with the things I listed above experience things like: hair loss, facial hair growth, acne, constipation, muscle weakness, high blood pressure, and dark patches on the skin. I had none of those. Overall my symptoms were very mild and my Doctor attributed it to the relatively healthy lifestyle I had been living. I say “relatively” because while I was eating well and exercising, I was pushing my body very hard, and I was over-stressed, and not sleeping enough to recover properly.
Over the last 3 years we have worked together to get my life and my health back on track. We have used dietary changes, supplements, sleep, stress management tools, meditation, and moderate and consistent sun exposure to improve my health. While I still struggle at times with fatigue, my overall energy levels are good and I am no longer experiencing the depression and unexplained weight gain.
JOHN: Ahh, consistent sun exposure. Do you have a protocol of some sort or just get natural sunlight plus hit a tanning bed on occasion? Also, what is your favorite supplement in terms of enhancing sleep? I am a big 5HTP fan myself. Plus it gives you some insane crazy vivid dreams.
MOLLY: I actually do have a protocol that I use. I am very fair-skinned so it’s a protocol that I have built up to over the last couple of years as I do my best to never get sunburned. From around May until September I will lay in the sun in a bathing suit for 30-40 minutes, 3-4 days a week. During the winter months or if we have a string of gloomy days during the summer, I will use a home tanning system that I purchased here: http://tanningbeds.mercola.com/. It’s absolutely fantastic! They have several models, but I purchased the Sunsplash Refresh. It was only $1500, it’s a stand-up so it doesn’t take up much space and it actually has some bulbs that are designed to simulate collagen production to reverse and prevent wrinkles! Using it consistently, the bulbs should last me approximately 4-5 years so it was a great investment. We are also looking into getting one for our gym so our members can take advantage of it as well.
I also want to note that I haven’t always been a sun lover. I abused the sun badly between the ages of 15 and 18, regularly getting sunburned and visiting conventional tanning beds almost daily. About 9 years ago I freaked out about my skin and stopped tanning completely. At that point I got virtually no sun and visited no tanning beds, and instead, I spray tanned 1-3x a week for 7 years. Looking back, that must have been awful for my skin! Now I wouldn’t touch most self-tanners with a 10 foot pole. Since much of what you put on your skin gets absorbed directly into your bloodstream, you really shouldn’t put anything on your skin that you wouldn’t eat/drink. While I don’t adhere to this 100% because it’s nearly impossible, the majority of my skincare products are so natural that they are edible (not that you would want to eat them, but if you did… they are made of things like olive oil, shea butter, and apple juice concentrate) and I try to be very conscious of what I put on my skin and hair.
It was a couple of years ago that I came to the realization that putting chemicals on my skin that essentially stained it a funny color was probably not the best idea, so I started doing my own research on sun exposure and came to the conclusion that consistent, moderate sun exposure is one of the best things you can do for yourself. The problem is, almost NO ONE gets that kind of exposure. The majority of people I have seen fall into one of three categories: consistent overexposure (sun- worshippers, “tanorexics,” people who go to the tanning bed almost daily), consistent under-exposure (people who avoid the sun at all costs and wear SPF 45 in the dead of winter on their whole body), and erratic overexposure (those who try to “be good” and avoid the sun, but a couple of times a year they can’t resist and they end up getting fried because their skin is not used to sun exposure).
It’s only been about 2 years since I have started getting a responsible amount of sunlight and optimized my Vitamin D levels. In that time, I have only been sick once (I used to go to the Doctor 4-6 times a year) my skin has gotten softer and smoother, and I have more energy. I’ve had many other positive effects as well, but it’s hard to know whether to attribute them to sunlight and Vitamin D or the other positive changes I have made.
When it comes to sleep supplements, I typically just take 2 ZMA capsules before bed. I have also taken 3-5mg of Melatonin regularly on nights when I am not feeling tired, although I recently read that Melatonin is a no-no for people with hypothyroidism as it down-regulates the activity of the thyroid gland, so I am doing more research on that and may have to find something else to help me sleep when I am feeling wired. Maybe I will have to try the 5HTP you like so much? =)
JOHN: How has training impacted your life?
MOLLY: Over the last 8 years strength training has changed my life more than I could have possibly imagined. It gave me purpose, confidence, and improved self-esteem, it taught me to love and appreciate my body not only for how it looks but for what it can do, it made me respect my body as a machine and encouraged me to fuel it appropriately, and it has connected me with some of the most amazing and motivating people in the world…people who inspire me to get better every single day.
Another gift that strength training has given me is the opportunity to use my experience, and knowledge of nutrition and training to motivate, inspire, and help others. There are several things I am passionate about, but from a professional standpoint, that is what fills me up and makes me happy – motivating, inspiring, and helping other people. The coolest part about my job is that I have the opportunity to affect people not just in my community, but all over the world.
JOHN: So how do you reach people?
MOLLY: There are 4 main ways I help people and they are as follows:
- Red Point Fitness (http://redpointfitness.com) – Red Point is a software program that dummy-proofs the process of building a nutrition and training program for you. It’s only $17.95/month and beyond the training and nutrition software, we also have a forum section where we post articles, and where members can post questions, keep logs, etc. Since all of this coaching is done online, we have clients from to Japan to Brazil to New Zealand! It’s amazing that we can change the lives of people on the other side of the world just by clicking a few keys on a keyboard!
- J&M Strength and Conditioning – J&M is my brick-and-mortar gym in Lexington, Ky. We offer private, semi-private and group personal training classes and we have the most comprehensive training program you will find in Lexington. In under an hour, we work on everything from soft tissue mobilization, to diaphragmatic breathing, to mobility and stability work, to strength training, conditioning, and stretching. Beyond just training, we take a very holistic approach to health and wellness by talking to our clients about nutrition, sleep, stress management, supplements, etc. We opened in May of 2011 and have since doubled our clientele. We are outgrowing our current space and looking to expand very soon!
- Girls Gone Strong (http://facebook.com/GirlsGoneStrong) – GGS is a group of 7 smart and wonderful women from different backgrounds with two goals:
- To re-define what it means to train like a girl.
- To inspire women to improve not just their physical strength, but also their mental strength and strength of character through strength training and sound nutrition principles.
All the GGS ladies have amazing stories about how strength training changed their lives and we want nothing more than for other women to get to experience that same wonderful transformation, so we are doing everything we can to spread the message that being unhealthy and starving = NOT AWESOME and being healthy and strong = AWESOME. Right now we only have our Facebook page up but we are working on our website which will be chock-full of informative articles and blog posts, instructional videos, motivational quotes and more! We hope to have it launched sometime in the next couple of months. We also have lots of other things in the works, including but not limited to: information products, manuals, seminars and conferences, t-shirts, wristbands, and jewelry. In the short time that we have had our GGS Facebook page up and running, the response has been phenomenal! We are constantly getting emails and messages from women saying that strength training has changed their lives and they are so grateful that we are helping spread the message.
- My website (http://mollygalbraith.com) – I just recently launched my website a couple of weeks ago. I was itching for a place where I could share my thoughts and feeling about nutrition, training, life… you name it! I also needed a place where I could direct people so that they could learn about what services I offer and figure out which service was right for them (J&M, Red Point or 1-on-1 online coaching). So far the response has been wonderful and I look forward to posting more in the coming months.
JOHN: I predict next year at this time your business will at a minimum triple what is now! In terms of nutrition, can you give me 3 common mistakes you see women (or men for that matter) make. How do you address them?
[pullquote]That being said, as hypocritical as it sounds, I have actually co-authored a nutrition manual to be released in the next couple of months. The difference in our manual is that we are not preaching to have found a new, crazy gimmick to get the body of your dreams. It still revolves around eating mostly whole, unprocessed foods. We just feel that we have simplified the process and allowed for an increased margin of error with our program while still reaping great results.[/pullquote]
MOLLY: Oh wow, only 3? 😉 First off, I do want to point out that I recognize how confusing it is for the average person to try to “navigate” through all of the conflicting nutrition information that’s out there. So while they make mistakes, it’s not always their fault. There are many professionals doling out outdated nutrition advice, there are companies that make millions off marketing “health food” that’s not actually healthy, there is a big, messy, incestuous relationship among the pharmaceutical companies, the mega-farms that produce tons of soy, wheat and corn, and the government agencies whom we are supposed to “trust” for nutrition information, and finally, there are other individuals with their own personal agenda cherry-picking data that backs up their personal beliefs about what foods we should be consuming. Not to mention there are always experts who are trying to come up with the latest NEW and SEXY diet craze/gimmick to sell books or products. Telling people to eat real, wholesome food 90% of the time and exercise moderately just isn’t sexy, so they have to come up with a gimmick to sell products.
Let me start off by clarifying that these are mistakes I see people making who THINK they are eating healthy and making good choices. The mistakes that the rest of America is making are obvious: eating too much crap and not moving around enough! Those are easy. These mistakes are a bit trickier.
Eating too few calories!
Believe it or not, most women who come to me struggling to lose body fat are not consuming nearly enough calories. This may sound counterintuitive, but I often see food diaries that look like this:
Breakfast: black coffee, 1 medium banana
Lunch: ½ turkey sandwich on wheat bread, 1 apple
Dinner: 4 oz fish, 1 cup broccoli, 1 cup brown rice
Snack: 10 almonds.
While this may appear like a “healthy” meal plan to the untrained eye, this poor person is consuming about 700 calories a day and they aren’t getting nearly enough fat or protein. Even doubling the amount of calories that person is consuming is still relatively low for an active female. Since they obviously they can’t jack their calories up really high, really quickly when they have been under-eating for so long, they have to raise them slowly. Ideally they would add 100-200 calories a day every week or two until they get to their maintenance calorie level or a little above and hold it there for at least a few weeks to help their metabolism repair before lowering them again in an attempt to lose body fat.
If someone comes to me for a meal plan and they aren’t under strict time constraints to lose body fat (like a Figure Competition) I always prefer to err on the high side with calorie level and here is why: If they have no clue how many calories they are eating each day and you start them at a calorie level that is too low, there is a good chance their fat loss will stall quickly and instead of losing body fat, their body will begin to hold onto body fat with a death grip! Then, you are forced to bump their calories up to get their metabolism and fat loss going again. So you are raising their calories with a depressed metabolism, which is not desirable. On the other hand, if you start them at a higher calorie level, and they are not losing body fat, you can pretty much rule out (in most cases) the idea that their calories might be too low, so you can lower them. In this case, you are lowering their calories with an elevated metabolism, which will have much better results. So if you know you’ve been under-eating, slowly raise your calories every week or two until you get to a more reasonable level and if you haven’t been under-eating, but you are new to eating clean, healthy food… don’t be afraid to start on the high side with your calories, since you’ll probably get great results just from making better food choices. And when it’s time to lower your calories you will have plenty of ‘wiggle room’ to work with. Trust me, your body will thank you!
Eating processed junk/fake health foods!
Like I mentioned above, there is so much misinformation out there about what you should be eating for optimal health and body composition. Reduced fat, low sodium, enriched, made with whole grain, fortified… these are pretty much all signs that what you are eating is CRAP! Remember, a 100 calorie pack of junk is still JUNK! Being 100 calories doesn’t make it good for you. If you know this and want to eat them anyway because they help you control the amount of junk you are eating, that’s fine, but don’t be disillusioned into thinking they are “healthy.” One of my favorite rules is: if it doesn’t spoil within 7-10 days, don’t eat it. This leaves you with fresh, unprocessed, real food like wild caught salmon, grass-fed beef, bison, leafy vegetables, berries, avocados, etc. Obviously there are exceptions to this rule like eggs, pasture butter, almonds and other foods with a slightly longer shelf-life, but you get the picture. Another way to think of it is this: if it had a mother or comes from a mother, or it grows off a tree/bush/vine you can eat it (it’s a little creepy to think about o_O but it makes sense!) You should also pay attention to how certain foods make you feel. For example, some people handle dairy just fine while it makes others feel sluggish and bloated. Experiment and find what real foods make you feel best.
Having an “all or nothing” attitude!
I find so many people talking about “falling off the wagon” and trying to get back on. They will have a couple of unhealthy/off-plan meals and suddenly it’s been 2 months and they have eaten nothing but junk. What they don’t understand is that’s it’s not all or nothing. You sure as heck can’t get instantly lean by eating one healthy meal and you’re not going to get instantly fat by eating one unhealthy meal. Look at it this way, if you had a Christmas budget of $500 and you accidentally spent $510… would you say, “Screw it!” and go spend $1,000 more? No! (At least I’d hope not!) You would likely say, “Oops! Went a little over budget. Just have to be careful to adhere to my budget strictly for the next week.” It’s the same way with good nutrition. If you over-indulge one night, just hop right back on plan; don’t go on a feeding frenzy. You will end up feeling guilty and upset and likely keep eating poorly. I usually recommend for maintenance and general health purposes to stick to an 80/20 rule (80% clean healthy meals, 20% off-plan, junk meals). For better results employ a 90/10 rule. This is for the general population of course. Those wishing to maintain a much leaner physique will have to experiment to see what works for them.
As you can see I stay extremely busy, but because I love what I do so much, it never feels like work. The feeling you get when a client emails you or calls you and says that they woke up without back pain for the first time in a decade, or that their son will be able to go swimming without a shirt this summer because the nutrition recommendations you made cleared up the rashes/lesions that plagued him for 6 years… you can’t beat that. It’s so amazing and rewarding to help people help themselves! I wouldn’t trade it for the world!
JOHN: Molly, thank you so much for your time and perspective. I look forward to seeing you at the next EliteFTS seminar!
Here is a link to Molly’s YouTube channel so you can follower her in action.
Here are a few videos of Molly in action. Very impressive. Impeccable form and very strong (the good looks are obvious).