Kim: [00:00:04] Welcome back to the Fitness Simplified Podcast. I'm your host Kim Schlag. On today's podcast I'm joined by my friend, Alessandra Scutnik. She is an incredible strength and nutrition coach. She, alongside her husband Josh, runs SD Evolution Coaching, and she also produces a mega-ton of top-notch content around strength training and nutrition for both the general population, but more specifically for those who are pregnant and in the postpartum period of their life.
And so that's what we talk about today. I really wanted to have somebody on to talk about this period of life. Although I will tell you, if you're a menopausal woman, if you're a little bit older, you're out of that pregnancy period, postpartum period, there is still something for you in this episode because we also talk quite a bit about self-love and about body image, so stay tuned in.
Hi there! So glad you could join me on the podcast. How are you?
Alessandra: [00:01:18] Me too. I'm so excited. I'm good. Finally getting some good weather here in Connecticut and I'm so grateful for it.
Kim: [00:01:24] That's good. So, is Kai sleeping right now or is he gonna make a surprise appearance, perhaps?
Alessandra: [00:01:31] He is sleeping. My husband is taking him if he does wake up. So, we're good to go.
Kim: [00:01:38] That is great. So, I'm so glad you're here, Alessandra. I know you're very busy. I appreciate you taking your time to come on here.
I spend a lot of time talking to women about fitness and nutrition in middle age and on, but I have a lot of people who follow me who are at a different stage, an earlier stage, and I really want to be able to address that specifically and get into the nitty gritty of that.
And I was like, I need somebody to talk through that with me because I have to tell you when I was in that stage, fitness and nutrition were not really a part of my life sadly.
I have three kids, but I wasn't thinking in terms of what would be good for me fitness-wise and those kinds of things.
So, I was like, "who can I get?" And you were my first pick.
Alessandra: [00:02:20] Oh, well thank you. I appreciate that so much. And it's funny because I forget who shared one of your posts awhile back when I started following you, but I sent it to my mom immediately because my mom's also a personal trainer and she has her own fitness studio.
So, everything you post, she has been aligning with so much and she's been sharing that with her clients. And I just thought it was really cool because I obviously cater to mostly people my age, so I think we are mutually exclusive there going back and forth and mutually beneficial, helping each other out, so I love that.
Kim: [00:02:58] Absolutely. Well, I'm glad to hear that. You'll have to tell me your mom's name later and I'll say hi to her.
Alessandra: [00:03:04] For sure!
Kim: [00:03:05] So you've been in the fitness industry a long time, like a decade, right?
Alessandra: [00:03:10] Yeah, a little over.
Kim: [00:03:12] And you've competed in powerlifting and bodybuilding and run marathons, so you've had this breadth of experience. And I read somewhere on something you had posted that one of the most challenging things for you was pregnancy, so tell us a little bit about that.
Alessandra: [00:03:28] Yeah, for sure.
So, yeah, like you said, I got started with actually running and kind of went the whole running route, and then that transferred over to bodybuilding and then powerlifting became my love, and I still do that now. But I got pregnant back in 2018, end of 2018.
And at this point I had grown my social media; I was doing online coaching and I was posting a lot about my personal experiences. That's what my social media was geared towards. So, when I got pregnant, I was like, "well, what the heck am I going to post about now?" Like, people follow me because they like to see my transformations and they like to see my powerlifting.
And I kind of felt like, "holy crap, what's gonna happen?" But along with that, pregnancy was just one of the hardest things I've ever had to deal with. And that's not even-- like, I had a great pregnancy. I didn't have any real issues or conditions or anything to complain about, I guess.
But at the same time, being someone who knows how good that they can feel in their body, then becoming pregnant and sharing your body with another human, it's hard and it's hard to embrace your body changing and embrace not being able to lift heavy and embrace all of these new things that I just didn't really have to deal with before.
So, it was a new experience like all of the others, but in a way, it kind of was the most fulfilling by the end of it. As hard as it was.
Kim: [00:04:58] And what helped you navigate those changes and that difficulty? Because you're right, all of a sudden, your body's not necessarily your own, and especially in your situation where this is a business issue as well, right?
You're like, "wait, this is what I do and this is my business, and that's obviously going to change a little bit now just based on what's happening to me."
How did you navigate that?
Alessandra: [00:05:22] Yeah, that's a good question.
So, my husband and I are both online coaches and with our business, we focus on making our clients training and nutrition fit their individual lifestyles. Whatever's going on for them at that phase of life, we'd make it work.
So, this was something where I was like, okay, I have to take what I'm preaching to everyone else and figure out what is my training nutrition going to look like during this phase of my life? Obviously, it's not going to be extreme bodybuilding or powerlifting or any of that, but I can still do something to make myself feel great every single day and be a little bit better than yesterday and show up in the best way for myself, my family, and my clients.
So, I just kind of kept that mindset throughout my entire pregnancy and just embraced each day as it came. Embracing the rest days, especially in that first trimester, and just kind of rolling with it. And I think the other big thing, too, was not comparing what I was going through and what my pregnancy was with anyone else that I was seeing on social media.
And I think anybody can relate to that. That's something that you can take away whether you're pregnant or not listening. When you start to compare yourself and compare your journey to someone else's, it's like, well, you're kind of taking away the happiness of what you could be having.
So, I took in a lot of information and I love following others who are pregnant and had this healthy lifestyle at the same time, but I always came back to the idea that this was my pregnancy and that it's okay if that looks different than what I was doing before, and it's okay if that looks different than someone else's.
Kim: [00:07:03] I love that, and you're right, that is so relatable no matter what somebody's life situation is because wow, it is so easy to compare ourselves in all kinds of ways.
Whether it's like, "well, you know, I really shouldn't complain because my pregnancy is not that hard compared to this person on bed rest." Well, that doesn't matter if your life is topsy turvy, it's still hard for you.
And we do that so easily. Whether it's, "I'm not as good as..." or "I shouldn't complain as much..." like, "I'm starting to get emotional, I'm going to start crying. I don't know why that makes me so emotional." I feel like we do it so much, right?
Alessandra: [00:07:36] Right. And especially now during the pandemic because you know, I had a client reach out today who was like, "you know, I feel terrible complaining about this minor issue." It was something about like her diet, and she's like, "when people are dying and going through all of this hardship," and I'm like, "well, you know what? You can complain about it. It's okay. It's something that's impacting your life. And yes, there's other things happening, but that doesn't take away from what's going on in your life."
Kim: [00:08:04] It's so true. I see that a lot and I've done that to myself during this pandemic, but like, "well, I shouldn't be upset about that." You know? "There's way more serious things..." and I have to stop myself and be like, "you have every right to be upset."
We just canceled my 50th birthday. We were going on a big trip, we were going to cruise to Alaska and we had to cancel it, and I was really in a funk and finally I'm like, "just sit and be upset about it, like it's okay. I was excited," and then I felt better when I was like, "yeah, it's okay to be upset about that." It doesn't take away from the fact that I'm like, yes, I realize you're in the hospital. That's more serious. Clearly that's more serious. But we're allowed to feel our feelings and we have to give ourselves permission.
Alessandra: [00:08:42] Absolutely. I totally agree with you.
Kim: [00:08:45] So talk us through -- let's say there's a woman, let's talk about different stages, like before someone gets pregnant, during pregnancy, and after. And let's talk about a woman in each of those stages. She's somebody who wants to look good, feel good, move good, be her best in all of those areas.
What's your best advice, fitness and nutrition-wise for each of those stages?
So, let's talk before she gets pregnant.
Alessandra: [00:09:07] Yeah, that's a great question. So, pre-pregnancy, obviously at this point you're getting your body ready and you're getting your body, I guess primed is the word, to have a healthy pregnancy.
So first and foremost, you want to ensure that you're tracking your cycle. I will back that up for any woman, regardless if you're wanting to get pregnant or not. I think there's so much power in knowing what your personal cycle looks like and what that is for you. Just because so many other things factor into that. So just getting familiar with how long your cycle is, when you're ovulating, and different things like that.
There's a book that's called "Taking Charge of Your Fertility," that I recommend for that for anyone listening. But I think just having that knowledge and power is, right off the bat, the best thing you can do.
Kim: [00:09:56] Let me ask you a follow up question about the tracking -- how do you track? Do you use an app? Do you use that book itself? How do you track?
Alessandra: [00:10:04] Yeah, so I use an app called "Kindara." It is a paid app. I think there's another one called "Flow," I believe is the other good one.
Just something to kind of loosely track your cycle and you don't want to put too much weight into any of these apps, because obviously if they mess up -- like, you don't want to be using it as a birth control, I'll just say.
Kim: [00:10:23] Right. That would not be good advice.
Alessandra: [00:10:26] So just use it to kind of inform yourself about what your cycle is looking like.
I basically just check when my period comes, when ovulation around is happening, and then I kind of just go from there. But I'll get into that a little bit in the next stage too, because I used that to get pregnant.
But as far as training and nutrition during the pre-pregnancy time, you don't have to change too much of what you're doing training-wise. I know a lot of women tend to be nervous and scared that they have to shift everything or stop exercising in general. And really you don't need to.
Exercise is something that all physicians and doctors encourage throughout a pregnancy for most people. Obviously, that has caveats to it if you have issues and they tell you not to, but for most people, you should be able to train throughout your pregnancy.
So, at that stage, there's really nothing huge as far as the training goes that you have to change. And then on the nutrition front, most women, I'm sure as you know, come to us under eating.
So, this is something I would advise against even while you're trying to get pregnant or thinking about it, unless you have a good amount of body fat to lose and your doctor's advising you to lose weight. So I guess it is a little bit individual, like everything else with training and nutrition, but at the end of the day, for most people, you want to make sure that you're fueling your body with enough protein, healthy fats, healthy carbs to sustain normal hormones, making sure that you're ovulating, just taking the precautions to just be healthy.
This is all stuff that we should all be doing as women anyway, so I think just putting a little bit more emphasis and focus on that, knowing that you're potentially going to get pregnant soon is a big key.
Kim: [00:12:18] Okay, so let's go into pregnancy, then. Same question, but I'm pregnant now.
Not me. I'm 50. That would be a miracle.
Alessandra: [00:12:27] Yeah. So, once you become pregnant, same thing, a lot of people are like, "okay, so should I stop working out? Should I stop lifting? Should I stop doing cardio?" And it really comes down to -- and this is going to look a little bit different for each of the trimesters. So, the first trimester, most people are tired, fatigued, napping more, you don't have to change your training too much at this point.
You don't have a huge belly getting in the way. Obviously, and this goes across the board throughout pregnancy, do the type of training that makes you feel good throughout your day. So, this comes down to enjoyment, what you personally prefer. I am a huge advocate of resistance training, as I know you are, but a healthy balance of both cardio and strength work throughout your pregnancy is going to make you feel great.
And for me, personally, throughout my pregnancy, the days that I didn't do anything, that I would just be a couch potato and just soak up those naps, I was more fatigued, more lethargic, didn't feel as great as the days where I'd go out for a walk or do a light lifting session.
So obviously, it changes from a perspective of intensity and overall volume. As far as intensity goes, you don't want to be lifting so heavy or doing such high intensity cardio that you can't hold a conversation or you have to hold your breath to get through the lift. You want to make sure that you're breathing throughout all of your movements, whatever you're doing, and just ensuring that you feel good, you're not getting dizzy or anything like that through your sessions.
But you know, at the end of the day, you just have to do what makes you feel great. And a lot of people feel guilty when they aren't going as heavy or aren't doing their HIIT cardio for the day, or aren't doing their CrossFit workouts, and you just have to view it from this perspective of, "okay, I'm in a different phase of my life and it's okay if my training looks a little bit different than it did before," but knowing also that you have the power to continue to do some modified version or some version of what you enjoy doing as long as your doctor gives you clearance.
Kim: [00:14:39] Can you speak to the kind of old advice of, "you're eating for two?"
Alessandra: [00:14:46] So, that's a big myth.
Kim: [00:14:48] Dang. I believed it. I gained 50 pounds with all three of my pregnancies. I took that to heart.
Alessandra: [00:14:57] You know what? So, there's the recommendation as far as weight goes for pregnancy and for women and that is kind of based on where your starting weight is when you get pregnant. But at the end of the day, I don't like putting so much emphasis on those numbers. And this goes for macros, too. So, let's say on the nutrition side of things for this pregnancy question, you're gonna want to increase calories each trimester, obviously, but those recommendations are much smaller than you think.
So, for the first trimester, for most people, if you're eating enough when you get pregnant, you really don't have to change too much for that first trimester. Your body is doing its job to grow this tiny human who is like the size of a raisin at this point. And you don't have to double your intake right off the bat.
As your baby grows that calorie recommendation does increase for each trimester, so anywhere from 200 to 300 for the second trimester, and anywhere from 400 to 500 for the third. This is obviously a very general blanket recommendation and it's going to shift a little bit for everybody, but I think we can ditch the idea that we have to double our intake or pretend like we're eating for two people because that's just not realistic and it's going to set you up for more fat gain and just not feeling our best.
Kim: [00:16:22] Absolutely. Absolutely. It's so interesting, that advice really stuck hard. I don't know who started that or where it came from, but it's one of those things, this generally accepted nonsense that's out there.
And when things like that take hold, it just feels wrong to say-- people are like, "wait a minute, what do you mean that's not right? Everybody knows that!"
I'm like, I know everybody knows that it just happens to not be true.
Alessandra: [00:16:48] Yeah. And it's funny because I remember being younger and thinking about like one day getting pregnant and being like, "Oh my God, I can't wait to get pregnant, because I'll just be able to eat whatever I want and just do whatever I want," and it's really no different than any other time.
As long as you have health goals, you can still have those health goals and those fitness goals while you're pregnant, if not even more so than before, because now you're growing a human and you want your body to be able to do that job as best as possible.
And you want to feel as good as possible. So, when you're just throwing all of your nutrition out the window, it's like you're going to feel crappy and who wants to feel crappy?
Kim: [00:17:28] Yeah. So then let's talk about in the postpartum period, which frankly feels like kind of the most important period to address because there's a lot of pressure on women immediately upon having the baby to get her fitness and nutrition to a certain level.
So, talk to us about that. What was your experience like and how do you kind of guide people through that period?
Alessandra: [00:17:50] Yeah. So, there is definitely a lot of pressure on women in this part of the journey, but also there's really not a lot of information out there on what the new mom should be doing.
You read all of this information about your new baby and how to care for them. And it's almost like you forget that you need to take care of yourself, too. So then when you get home from the hospital, it's like, "well, what the heck do I do now? Am I okay to work out? Should I not work out?" It's like all of these questions arise.
So, my postpartum experience, I did end up having a C-section with my son, Kai. Obviously not planned, not emergent either. And that was kind of a shock to me. I don't think anybody's ever really expecting when that happens. So, you know, I'm bringing my new baby home, I have this incision on my stomach and I'm in pain, and it's like all of these things that I wasn't planning on going through. So, it was hard.
And I think at the end of the day, just like throughout pregnancy, you have to give yourself grace and that is my biggest piece of advice for all new moms out there listening.
You're under so much stress. Stress is high, sleep is lacking, all of these emotions are swirling because your hormones are all over the place, and it can be a really, really, really hard time for a lot of people, especially those that don't have the extra help of family around or whatever their scenario may be.
So, I think that you just have to remind yourself that it's okay to not jump back into what your life looked like before this baby arrived and to kind of take it slow, both with your body physically and mentally, because it can be a lot, your whole life just changed. So, you really have to give yourself that grace and take it day by day and just focus on those tiny wins throughout the day.
Let's say you get your baby down for a 10-minute nap and it was one minute longer than yesterday -- that's something to celebrate. And that's really what I focused on, was focusing on, "okay, what was the good that happened today? What went well, what didn't really work out?" And I just tried to stay mindful and take that approach to it. So, I think that helped me, personally, not get too overwhelmed with everything going on.
And for my personal experience, too, obviously being a business owner, I didn't really get a typical maternity leave, so I was talking with my clients five days after giving birth and having a C-section. So, we kind of jumped right back into work on top of everything else. And granted, we do have great family here and a great support system, so that was really helpful, but I'm the type of person that doesn't like to ask for help. I think I can do everything myself, so that was really hard for me to like give up tasks or give up the baby or give up work to Josh or to family members to get that help.
And once I did, I understood the quote where they say "it really takes a village to raise a child." And it made so much more sense to me. So, if you do have the help, ask for it because that was, by itself, a game changer.
And then as far as training and nutrition goes -- the training side of things, I see this all the time. So, you have this baby, you're used to training every day -- you know, most people are love to work out -- and you have this baby and you're not allowed to do anything for six weeks, here in the US, at least.
And that can be really hard because once you hit week 3 or 4, you start to feel a little bit better, you start to feel more like yourself, and you kind of get this urge to do something and your body is just not there yet. So, I like to put it this way -- just because your mind is ready for training doesn't mean your body is ready at all.
I don't think a lot of people understand the impact that labor and delivery can have on your body whether you have, you know, a vaginal birth or C-section, and just because you're itching to get back into the gym or itching to do whatever you do for training, it just doesn't mean that you're there yet.
So, easing back into fitness in the postpartum period is so, so, so, so important because there are things like prolapse or pelvic floor dysfunction and if you have an incision, you can possibly tear that. So, there's all these different complications that can arise in the postpartum period that I think get thrown out the window or most people just aren't informed about.
So, I think that would be my biggest piece of advice for postpartum women is to really take the time to ease back into training and not jump the gun. Even if you feel like you're ready.
Kim: [00:22:42] Yeah. That's so hard to do across the board, whenever, right? Because, like you said, your mind is ready and you have goals and desires and it's hard to honor what our body actually needs sometimes.
Alessandra: [00:22:55] Even right now, a great example -- gyms are opening back up, everybody's itching to get back in there and you can't go zero to a hundred right away because you're going to be like on crutches.
Kim: [00:23:05] Yeah, we both had to posts on that this week. Actually, a lot of the people had that post this week because I could see it coming. I'm like, "Oh no." People are gonna run back in there.
Alessandra: [00:23:16] Yeah, and it's the same thing postpartum. Our minds are really powerful and we like routine, we like what we're used to, but you have to embrace that rest and I'm not saying, sit on the couch all day. The day after I had my C-section, my doctor was like, "if you feel okay, go walk to the mailbox, or go walk to the other side of your house. Just get movement in." So, I'm not saying don't move at all, but just be really intentional about the movement that you do and listen to your body because your body will tell you, "okay, this is way too much, take a step back," or, "okay, this feels good."
If it's adding value to you across the board -- physically, mentally, emotionally, then keep doing it. And maybe if you walk to the mailbox tomorrow, the next day, feel good, walk a little bit further and just focus on the movement in that sense and taking your baby out for a walk or going to sit outside or just doing those basic things.
Kim: [00:24:20] You put that on your stories a lot. You always have you and Kai out doing your walks. Have you done that pretty much since the beginning?
Alessandra: [00:24:26] Yeah. Right from the beginning I would take him out for walks. It was great because he enjoyed it and he was always quiet outside, or he would fall asleep in the stroller and I would get that time to myself that I was missing.
I think as a new mom, you are always surrounded by other people visiting the baby or you're always with the baby, or your husband's always around, so it can be hard to separate that and get your you-time in, so that was kind of like the time that I would take throughout the day to just go and clear my mind, listen to my favorite song or a podcast, or just listen to nothing and just walk.
And that was honestly my favorite part of postpartum that I've carried into my daily life now.
Kim: [00:25:09] That's fantastic.
So, let's talk body image. This is always important for women, across the lifespan, but I think in the postpartum period, maybe even just a little bit more so.
You know, there's this idea, "I want to get my pre-baby body back."
Can you talk about that a little bit? Your thoughts? I think I know your thoughts on that, but kind of expand on your thoughts on that idea and what women should do with that thought.
Alessandra: [00:25:37] So this is obviously a very common thought across the board, and I think it all comes back around to what we're shown postpartum is. And nobody really talks about the nitty gritty or the "yucky," if you will, details of postpartum life and something that was new to me was when I had Kai, I had the C-section, I remember looking in the mirror and I'm like, "okay, I still look like I'm five months pregnant. What's going on?"
Nobody shows you what a true postpartum body looks like right after you give birth. So I think that a lot of women go through that and they see that and they ultimately feel like they failed because they didn't "bounce back," or even a couple of weeks later, you still have a lot of extra body fat from the pregnancy and you're still just healing and your body just grew a human, so you're not going to be in the same place that you were a couple of weeks after giving birth when it took you nine months to grow this human.
So, I like to put it that way for a lot of my postpartum clients. And I think there's just this unrealistic expectation that that should be our top priority after having the baby, when in reality your top priority should be taking care of yourself. Obviously through training and nutrition once you are cleared from your doctor and feeling okay to, but getting your body back -- you never lost your body, this is just your body in a new stage. So, I think there's a lot of power in embracing that stage, understanding that it's not a race, so there's no pressure to lose the weight or change how your body looks right away.
I have clients reach out to me all the time who are in this phase of life a couple of weeks after giving birth and they're like, "okay, I'm ready to go back," and I'm like, "are you really though?" Like, are you really ready for this high stress change on top of everything that's already going on?
And most of the time they're not ready. So, I think that as a whole, we have to give women more time and appreciation when it comes to their bodies postpartum. Because your body just did this amazing thing, so you can't expect it to just bounce back to what you looked like before you had this baby.
Kim: [00:27:59] Yeah, I think there's a very unrealistic timeline that people put on themselves about what to expect.
And also, I love what you said, that it's your body in a new phase. You're not getting your "old body" back because you never lost it. I think that's so important. I hear from older women all the time, they're like, "I want my old body back. You know, my pre-menopause body, I want that body back," I'm just thinking, you didn't ever lose your body. You still have your same body. Some things have changed and you can change now, and at no point is it ever a point where this is all this is as good as it gets. You can make your body when you're physically ready, whether it's after pregnancy or whether it's in your fifties, you can train and eat to look as fabulous as possible and it doesn't have to be compared to some other point in time and what you looked like then.
Alessandra: [00:28:51] Or compared to someone else's postpartum journey. We see it's still such a glorified thing on social media and there are a lot of women opening up about this, myself included, and showing the real postpartum part of life, but it's still not enough. And even from a perspective of your body shifting as far as gaining stretch marks or cellulite or just looking different than it was before, all of these things we're told are just negative things when in reality, 99.9% if not a 100% of women have them. So, it's like, why are we ashamed to have this thing that all women have? So that has been something that has really opened my eyes. Because again, pre-baby, my Instagram was catered to my body and changing my body and gaining muscle and losing body fat.
I showcased a lot of what my body looked like on my personal journey, and I was worried that when I started to experience these changes, at first I was like, "well, why are people gonna continue to follow me?" But when I started being real and really showing up authentically and showing the real postpartum life and showing pregnancy in a real way, so many more people opened up and can relate back to that.
So, I think there is so much power in talking about these things and showing other women that it's okay if you have stretch marks or it's okay if you have cellulite. We all have it and we all shouldn't be ashamed in the sense that we have to hide it.
Kim: [00:30:31] Absolutely.
I love that. I think it's really important because you're right, and so many more people do what you're saying right now, right? We show up and we show what our bodies look like and we talk about these things, but it doesn't feel like enough yet because the other side of perfection and "these things are bad," is just so pervasive.
I wonder what it's going to be like a generation from now with enough of us speaking up and showing like, "Hey, this is what an actual body looks like postpartum." "Hey, this is what an actual body looks like with stretch marks and cellulite and I'm at an okay place with that."
I wonder what it will be like with enough of us doing that over a long period of time.
Alessandra: [00:31:14] I'm excited about it because I think that the message is shifting. And another side of things too is what I'm always encouraging women to do is not have just body goals. You don't need to make your fitness and your health goals all about how you look on the outside.
There's so much power in focusing on increasing strength or doing a pushup for the first time or trying a new movement. Honestly, anything. And I think we get caught up in the idea that it always has to be about how we look on the outside and how we show up to the world. But when you start to shift your perspective and focused on anything else aside from your aesthetics, it really can be eye-opening and adds so much more positivity and value to your life.
But the funny thing is when you do focus on something else aside from that you get what you wanted more oftentimes than not on the aesthetic side anyway. So, I think it's funny how that works, and I've seen it in myself and in a lot of our clients is once we shift their perspective to not only focusing on how they look, they ultimately succeed.
Kim: [00:32:20] It is so true. I've found that 100% with myself and with clients. When people come to me and they have no interest in performance goals, I don't try and convince them otherwise, but, -- well, I don't try and convince them otherwise out loud. I don't tell them that's what I'm going to do, but I always end up doing it because no one doesn't like to feel strong.
No one is like, "yeah, I'm not so interested that I can do a pushup now." No one ever has been not excited about like, "Holy cow, I'm strong. I can do these things." And so over a relatively short period of time I get every single one of my female clients interested and excited about performance goals and they come to me and they're like, "I can't even believe I actually like this stuff now, let alone, am excited to get to the gym and see what I can do.
Alessandra: [00:33:04] Yeah. It's so funny. It's like once they get that little taste of it, it opens this whole new world to them and it's a really cool thing to see happen on the other side of it, because you've got this person who's just so obsessed with every little imperfection on their body, and once they shift that mindset, they're just so much happier across the board and it makes me so happy.
Kim: [00:33:26] I think it's definitely one of the biggest tools we have in our toolbox to help women truly get to the point where they can feel love for themselves.
I will tell you, I don't really love the advice, "you just need to love yourself." It leaves me cold. And when I hear that advice, I think back to my younger self and I immediately think like-- okay, so I struggled with obesity for many years and I felt very much like a failure. Like, "I cannot take care of the most basic human need of keeping myself healthy." I was really upset about that. And the idea of somebody telling me, "well, you just should love yourself how you are."
And I know I didn't, and so it was just one more thing I was failing at. Like, "great, so I can't do that either." it's this real sense of, "I don't love myself."
And so, I don't think it's a useful piece of advice, but I think there are so many things we can do to help people get to a genuine spot of increasing their self-love without just saying "love yourself."
What do you think is good advice for women who look at their bodies and they don't like what they see?
Alessandra: [00:34:34] You know, I think that's fair. You don't have to love what you see in the mirror and you don't have to love where your current body is right now. And that might be against the grain from a lot of the self-love people out there.
But I think you can do whatever the heck you want. It's your body and you don't have to love it, but I think you at least have to like certain things about it and appreciate certain things that it can do to help you get to a place where then you can start to appreciate it more as a whole.
I think that we all have insecurities and we all have parts of us that we don't necessarily love, but you don't have to hate it either. You can just kind of be like, "okay, that's what that is, and it's there," and you could be neutral about it.
Kim: [00:35:18] I love that idea. Like getting to a place of neutrality about our bodies can be a great step from going from, "I don't like myself" or, strongly, people are like, "I hate my body," right?
People genuinely feel that way and to tell them, “you should just love your body," a great place to go in between is becoming neutral. Like being able to look at yourself in the mirror and be like, "these are my legs today." "This is what I look like doing a pushup."
And it takes a lot of repetition of not allowing your brain to go to like, "Ugh, my legs," right? But going to like, "these are my legs today. This is what I look like when I bend over." It takes a lot of repetition, but being able to come to a place of neutrality is a really good stop. And then you kind of add in that whole performance piece where like, "I'm a strong woman," and I think that all together can really get a person so much closer to, "I actually like and love myself."
Alessandra: [00:36:15] Absolutely. I totally agree with you. And like you said, I think it takes a lot of repetition and a lot of mindfulness in that moment when you are so automatic to just saying, "Oh, I hate how this looks," or "I hate how I look," right? "I hate that picture of me."
Stopping ourselves in that moment and learning to practice mindfulness and say, "okay, this is what I automatically say, but what if this is just how I am today?" And you know, our bodies are so fluid too that how your body shows up today is completely different than how it might look later tonight or tomorrow or next week. We eat and we drink and we move, and we're constantly taking in and getting out and our bodies are shifting.
So, I think letting go of the idea that you have to look like you do when you wake up on Tuesday morning all day long and for the rest of the week, that's just not realistic. So, understanding that our bodies are constantly evolving and shifting based on different parts of our life, whether that be higher stress areas, or maybe you slept crappy last week or biofeedback is off somewhere, understanding the bigger picture of how your body works can be so powerful.
Kim: [00:37:25] Absolutely. I love that you even said it might not look the same tonight as it did this morning because that is such a real thing. And people get down on themselves like, "Whoa, what happened?!"
Well, you ate and you drank, and that's what you look like, and tomorrow morning it's probably not going to look the same.
Alessandra: [00:37:42] That food's gotta go somewhere. I feel like people forget that.
I think it all stems back to the idea they see these fitness models and people with ripped abs on Instagram and they think that other people just walk around like that all the time. When even those people, their bodies are changing constantly.
So, I think understanding that idea that we are constantly shifting and evolving based on what we're eating throughout the day can be such a powerful thing.
Kim: [00:38:10] Yeah. And you know, the fitness model thing and us, there's posing. And I'm very clear about that, when I'm posing for things, I'll be on my stories and be like, "just so you know, I know what angles I can use." Or I'll point out on my stories, I'm like, "just so you know, the lighting right now is super sweet, and that's why I look like this. Not that I don't have muscle, but I have muscle and the lighting is freaking amazing right now," because people need to know that stuff so that they don't look at themselves and think like, "what's wrong?"
Alessandra: [00:38:38] Yeah. And that's where you get caught in that comparison trap. And you're like, once you see yourself in the mirror, and then you think back to Jenny's story from earlier where she was looking great. It's like, "why don't I look like that?" Well, one, you're not her, and two, you have no idea what the heck app she's using or what her lighting scenario is, or if she's holding her breath and squeezing her muscles so hard that she can't even breathe.
You have to understand that Instagram and social media in general is such a highlight reel and that it's just not worth your time to compare.
Kim: [00:39:14] So let's switch gears here a little bit. What are you finding as a mom in this stage of life with a young toddler? What is your biggest challenge, or what are some of your biggest challenges when it comes to fitness and nutrition?
You're a mom with this little person. I just remember that age, wow. That's a tiring age. They have so much energy and it's like at any moment they could really seriously injure themselves. They just have no concept of what is safe and what is not.
Alessandra: [00:39:44] Yeah, no concept. Kai will literally crawl like he's gonna go flying off the couch and I like grab his ankle and I'm like, "what are you doing?"
So, I guess he will figure it out at some point.
Kim: [00:39:57] Believe me, they do. They do eventually figure it out. And I remember breathing such a sigh of relief when all of my kids would kind of get to the point where they realized like, "Oh. I shouldn't stick my finger there and jump here," like that sense of, "I know what safe stuff is."
Gosh, that is such a good moment in life when you're like, "I can actually turn around and when I turn back, you're not going to be doing something dumb."
Alessandra: [00:40:20] Yeah. Yep. We are in the middle of that right now. He'll be one in a couple of weeks. Which is just crazy to me. They say, time goes by fast the first year and you don't really understand, but here we are. So, we're kind of in-- well, I guess everybody's kind of in the same scenario as us at this exact moment, being home with the pandemic. But Josh and I, my husband, we both work from home, we both run our health coaching business. And not much has changed since COVID had happened for us as far as work in our schedule and our daily life.
But as Kai has gone through the different phases of his life, we have kind of adapted. So, in the beginning stages, in the newborn stage, it was super easy to just work with him sleeping on me or get stuff done while I'm wearing him. I was a big user of the baby-wearing contraption, and I just would do so much with that.
And then as he got bigger and into this current stage, it's been a lot harder because he wants to obviously be independent and crawling around and exploring and doing things on his own. So, balancing that, playing with him, and watching him with both our business and our own training and nutrition and making sure we're meal prepping, it's a lot.
I guess all parents out there, and especially single parents --so much respect for everything that they do, because I don't know how I would do it without my husband. He's amazing.
So, what we do is we kind of take "shifts" with Kai. So, every other day I'll wake up first with him and I'll kind of take the morning breakfast, routine and we'll play or we'll go for a walk and Josh will have his time to work out. And then the next day Josh wakes up with him and takes that shift and I'll kind of use that as my morning time.
So, we've gotten into a pretty solid routine with that and then we just keep flip-flopping throughout the day as it goes on. So, he still luckily is napping twice a day, which is really nice because that's when we crush work, have meetings, or whatever we have to do. We use that to prioritize work.
And then like I said, we just kind of communicate with each other and figure out, "okay, you have this this day, or you have a meeting, so why don't you wake up with him first? Or I'll take him for this session," and if I need to get a workout in and he's waking up from his nap, I'll just bring him down into the garage with me and make him watch me.
It's something that I hope that he will want to partake in as he gets older, so why not just get him out there now and show him that, “my mom is lifting, my mom is exercising and taking care of her body and doing some cool stuff." And it's funny because when we go out there -- he's not out there all the time -- but when we go out there, it's like this whole new room to him.
So, he's just kind of sitting there watching and exploring that. Which I've been really grateful for. So obviously we're kind of taking it month by month at this point. He is crawling and not walking yet, so I guess that helps a little bit, but he's just getting into that phase where he just wants to go.
So, we'll see what happens, but as of right now, that's kind of how we've been managing that.
Kim: [00:43:38] Wow. My hat's off to you. I remember that stage. I just remember how physically challenging that was, to constantly be on the go with those little ones.
So, it's amazing how much you're able to still accomplish, both with your business and in the gym. And you know, I think the word balance is just such a myth. I don't think there's any such thing as "balance," right? It's more like how do we navigate it? Like, these different aspects. You know, we've got motherhood and your business and you're a wife and you're a mom and navigating that. And so, hearing you talk about how you're doing that, it's a big juggling game, but you certainly seem like you're on top of it.
Alessandra: [00:44:16] Thank you. And I mean, I will say I'm exhausted by the end of the day, don't get me wrong. Some days are better than others and balance is a funny thing. I think for me personally, it's not equally balancing everything, it's kind of figuring out what that day looks like.
So, if one day work has to take the priority over training or training takes the priority over going for a walk or whatever it is -- figuring out what those different ratios are to make up the full day is kind of how I try to view it.
I know that I can't do it all, so I just prioritize, "okay, this needs to get done today," or "I need this workout today," and I'll just run with that. And then whatever doesn't get done, whether it's my dishes or my laundry or a little bit of work, it's okay and I can just do it tomorrow.
I'm not the type of person that gets really stressed out over anything and I am very, go with the flow and I think that's helped me tremendously as far as delegating tasks and figuring out how to just do it all because I don't do it all, but I do what needs to be done.
Kim: [00:45:22] Yeah. You do it all over long stretches of time, right? Not in a single day. I love that. I love that feeling.
Okay, so whenever I have a woman on, I really do like to talk about their own personal training because I like the women who listen to me to hear other strong women tell us what they're into.
So, what's your jam these days? What are your training goals? What's it like?
Alessandra: [00:45:44] It's funny because I would say for the first maybe eight months postpartum, I didn't really have any set goals. I was just kind of working out to feel good and just lifting three to four times a week, doing some hiking or walking and I didn't really specify specific goals until I hit the eight- or nine-month mark. And I was like, "you know what? I want to challenge myself to do a powerlifting meet again."
Previously to having Kai, I did five or six powerlifting meets and the powerlifting community is just really awesome.
They're so welcoming, everybody really cheers everyone on. And, like you said before, it just feels so cool to be strong and see our strength increase. So, I felt like I was at a point postpartum to kind of set some fitness goals for myself.
So, I hired one of my good friends who is a powerlifting coach. I was like, you know what? I am a coach myself, but I don't even want to think about writing my own programming. So, she writes me my powerlifting programming.
I was planning on doing a meet that has now been canceled, obviously, due to COVID, but that was coming up in a couple of weeks. I'm still gonna do a mock meet in our garage and just kind of test my numbers.
But yeah, I've been focusing on powerlifting. And for those listening who don't really know what powerlifting is -- basically, you're just focusing on the three main lifts of the squat, bench, and deadlift. So, seeing how strong you can get in those lifts.
And I think the most challenging thing going back to powerlifting now has been not comparing my numbers now to what they were pre-baby, which, obviously, they're going to be in a different place right now.
But I will say I've surprised myself tremendously and I'm not getting too hyped up about that, but seeing my strength increase every single week has been really awesome and it just feels good to have a goal again. So that has kind of been my main focus right now as far as training goes.
And I also get out for hikes at least once a week. We're out walking all the time and just doing as much as we can outside because we love being outside and so does Kai. So that's kind of how we've been incorporating him into that and what I've been focusing on on my own.
Kim: [00:48:02] Nice. Yeah, such a bummer your meet was canceled. I'm wondering if there's going to be any meets for the rest of the year.
Alessandra: [00:48:08] I know! I mean, I don't think anybody knows at this point what's going to happen. And it's hard because obviously a lot of people go to a meet, it's not like it's just a small group of people usually.
So, we'll see, but I'm excited to still test my maxes, at least in the garage.
Kim: [00:48:25] Yeah! I'm glad to hear you're doing that. I've done that before. I just wasn't ready to sign up for another meet, but I really wanted to, so I did a full peaking program and then just did it here at home and it was a good experience.
I was hoping to compete in a meet again in December, but at this moment, I just don't really see it happening that there's going to be meets because like you said, it's a pretty big chunk of people and it's a lot of people in a small space and I just don't know that that's going to happen.
Alessandra: [00:48:57] Yeah. It is a bummer, but hey, it's okay. I'm still out there doing what I need to do.
Kim: [00:49:02] Yeah! It's great that your son is going to be watching you do all of this. Such a good example.
Well, thank you so much for being here with us today. Before you go, I would love for you to tell everybody where they can find you.
Alessandra: [00:49:17] Absolutely. So, my Instagram handle is at @alessandrascutnik, I will have Kim put it in the show notes because it's kind of a hard, long name to spell.
We also have our website sd-evolution.com and we also have a YouTube channel, Alessandra and Josh.
Kim: [00:49:38] Fantastic. Well, I appreciate you being here with us today.
It was so much fun getting to talk.
Alessandra: [00:49:44] So much fun. I'm so glad we did this, Kim. Thank you for having me.
Kim: [00:49:47] Thanks so much.
Thanks so much for being here and listening in to the Fitness Simplified Podcast today. I hope you found it educational, motivational, inspirational, all the kinds of -ational.
If you enjoyed it, if you found value in it, it would mean so much to me if you would go ahead and leave a rating and review on whatever platform you are listening to this on. It really does help to get this podcast to other people. Thanks so much.
I'm a NASM certified personal trainer who is passionate about helping women transform their bodies through strength training and sustainable nutritional habit changes.