Amy Fournier considers herself a reformed People-Pleaser turned Healthy Lifestyle Entrepreneur. She specializes in emotional fitness, stress and energy management, work-life balance, natural health and beauty from the inside out.
She is the Founder of Miami Fitness & Lifestyle®, a lifestyle club located in North Andover, Massachusetts, which is a unique fusion of specialty fitness classes with community and fun for women. Amy considers herself to be a student of life and a work in progress – she is also an artist, workshop presenter, dance/fitness/yoga instructor, author, International fitness cover model, philanthropist, friend, daughter and lucky Mom to cute little fur-baby, Charlotte.
Take a moment and get to know Amy!
Daring Spirits: Tell us about a decision that felt really bold.
Amy: Gosh, there have been so many times in my life where I feel life has given me the opportunity to be bold, brave, and daring and go out of my comfort zone and move from where I was, and they all involved a lot of fear and uncertainty. Thinking back on them, they all involved a lot of doubt and it was always scary to make the move I knew I had to do. Here are some top ones:
1. Deciding to get a divorce and then starting over
2. Leaving everything I knew: a safe and secure life with all my friends and family and established business to move to Miami, Florida, by myself and without any solid connections, job, or plan!
3. Opening my own club! This was certainly a BIG HUGE one!
All of these decisions forced me to dig deep and take action and just leap despite the fear and insecurity. For some reason, I’ve always had something driving me and I’ve known that the only way I can evolve and grow into the person I was meant to be was to risk and to keep expanding – just like the entire universe does. It is our example of how to live.
Daring Spirits: Describe a time when things went “wrong” and then the Universe delivered.
Amy: Well, if I understand this question correctly, I think you’re asking about a time when I thought something was “bad” and it turned out to actually be for my highest good. If so, I have to say that I just love when that happens – it’s one of my favorite things, and I find it so comforting! It’s like God’s way of winking at us and letting us know He’s out there and in charge and got our back’s so we don’t have to worry.
I have one very clear example of this. Let’s just say God removed someone from my life whom I thought was good for me and replaced them with some one SO much better than I could have ever dreamed. At first, I felt devastated and couldn’t image how I would carry on; yet at some point I realized that it was the biggest blessing in the world and actually an answer to my prayers!
Daring Spirits: What’s one thing you really want people to know (about the world, about you, about life — this is your chance to drop some knowledge!)?
Amy: I’d say to relax, to trust, and to just be yourself. Fight for the life you want, and to be the person you want to be. Stay focused on what matters most to you and what’s real. Go within for the answers you seek, and then have the courage to heed the answers that you will feel from your heart/your body. It always knows what’s best for you and what you really want.
At the end of the day, all we have is each other, and the love and connections we have created and shared are all that matter. That’s it. Nothing else is really that important. Have the courage to just be yourself; it sounds so simple, but it’s so rare to see today and took me over 40 years to finally get it myself!
DS: Beach or Mountains?
AF: Gosh, both – it’s like saying left hand or right to me!
DS: Sweet or spicy?
DS: Window or aisle?
AF: Aisle!! (gotta be able to get up!)
Daring Spirits: Stay focused on what matters most. Wise words, Amy, thank you for sharing your insights and energy. It’s clear to us that you’re aligning with what makes you light up!
FIND OUT MORE ABOUT DARING SPIRITS AND ALL THE WONDERFUL THINGS THEY OFFER HERE!
If you’re like me you don’t have time to be sick.
You have goals, dreams and aspirations for your life that require a high level of good and consistent energy. You want to feel amazing as much as possible and you want to look as good as possible while doing it. You want to be highly functional, strong, lean and toned and be able to burn any excess body fat if necessary without being completely miserable, cranky and uncomfortable. You’re also smart enough to know that getting your diet right is a big part of making sure this can happen.
I’m here to tell you that to be lean and have the consistent, good (i.e. “happy”) energy you want, you need to turn your body from a Sugar-Burner to a Fat-Burner.
How to Know If You’re a Sugar-Burner and NOT a Fat-Burner
- You have energy highs and lows or no energy or motivation at all. You feel like your often “dragging”.
- You think about food all day
- You have a big appetite and are often “starving”
- You’re still hungry or unsatisfied after meals
- You’re have hair loss or have noticed a lack of luster, volume and texture of your hair
- You have poor skin: it’s less “plump”, more wrinkled, dry and “stressed/aged-looking”
- You need to eat every 2-3 hours
- You have problems with bloating, gas, upset stomach, constipation, IBS
- You require coffee/energy drinks etc. to get thru the day
- You have joint pain, fibromyalga or “arthritis”
- You are on medications
- You don’t sleep soundly every night and rarely wake up refreshed
- You have excess body fat and/or you have a muffin top (yup, no matter what your age!)
How’d you do? Don’t worry, most people in this day and age are Sugar Burners and don’t do too well on the list either but I’m here to share with you the good news:
If you’re willing to reconsider what you’ve learned as “healthy” eating and change the way you think about food, you can reverse most, if not all of the above “symptoms” and feel and look AH-MAZING by becoming a Fat-Burner!
Top Fat Burning Myths You Need to Ditch Pronto
Let’s start with clearing up some of the top, misconceptions of a healthy diet:
- All calories are created equal Weight loss and health is NOT all about calories in and calories out or “exercising more and eating less”! Science, biochemistry and empirical evidence shows this is just not accurate. 100 calories from a plate of broccoli will have different physiological and hormonal effect on our body than 100 calories of gummy bears. Rather than a calories in/out equation, we now know weight loss and health is about understanding how different food, hormones and meal timing work in our bodies and then using that knowledge to make them work for us rather than against us.
- Losing weight is about eating less and exercising more Just look at any health club or gym: if this myth was true, everyone there would be fit and trim and we wouldn’t have a multi-billion dollar diet/fitness/book industry
- To prevent metabolic slow-down, you have to eat every 2-3 hours This is only true if you are a Sugar-Burner! When you become a Fat-Burner you don’t get “hangry” (hungry + angry) or suffer from low blood sugar and hypoglycemia and mood and energy dips when without food for a while
- Eating fat will make you fat Only when eating the wrong types of fat can you get fat because they are toxic to the body. Otherwise we absolutely need plenty of the right fats to run our hormones, neurotransmitters and stabilize our moods and blood sugar
- Saturated fat is bad/unhealthy/evil/increases cholesterol We now have mountains of scientific research that has since debunked this faulty hypothesis.
Basic Principles of a Healthy Diet and Being a Fat-Burner
So let’s turn this ship around and get you burning stored body fat for fuel instead of relying on the sugar from the food you are eating for energy.
- Eat a diet high in good fat (SOURCES: coconut oil/butter, Ghee, olive oil, grass-fed butter, lard, avocado, grass-fed meats), adequate (not excess) protein, like .5-1.0 grams/pound of lean body weight/day (SOURCES: whole, free-range eggs, wild fish, sardines, poultry, free-range meats) low in carbohydrates (SOURCES: vegetables) and REMOVE/AVOID: Starchy carbs: grains, rice, pasta, flours, fake foods, sugar, fake sugars, soy and vegetable oils (canola, soy, corn, safflower, sunflower, etc)
- Eat nutrient dense foods. You want bang for your buck. Don’t waste calories with low quality, low nutrition food. When you eat better you can eat less because you are satisfied and meet your body’s nutritional requirements. In general, the darker the food, the more nutrients it contains. For example dark green spinach has more nutrition than iceberg and fresh herbs like Cilantro and Parsley have more phyto-nutrients than any other food source!
- Determine your ideal food mix and you Personal Carb Quotient: Find out by trial and error the right amount carbs your body does best at. This will be different with everyone and will depend on how much metabolic damage has been done, your insulin-sensitivity, activity and stress level, current level of body fat, etc
- Eat real food (Don’t rely on shakes, boxed, packaged products, brand “meals”, meal replacements, etc. These are energetically dead “non-foods” that have no life-force.
- Identify any food intolerances or allergies and avoid. Soy, eggs, gluten, wheat, nuts are common ones but any food that causes inflammation is an irritant and is technically something your body is not tolerant of. A common sign of an intolerance is swollen, tight or achy joints like fingers, hands, knees, backs and necks.
- Read all food labels. You have to know WHAT you’re actually putting in your body!
- Do a Kitchen Makeover: Go thru your whole pantry, refrigerator, drawers, etc and get rid of the junk!
- Keep a Food Journal for 3 days to 1 week – Most people are horrified to know how much they are actually eating. Research has shown that almost all of us underestimate the amount of food we eat. Keeping a notebook or an APP on your phone is an incredibly simple, yet effective way to track your intake and give you an accurate indication of why you’re getting what you’re getting!
There you have it!
Follow these tips and switch from being a Sugar-Burner to a fat-Burner and enjoy more stable energy, a leaner body and best of all a liberated mind free to think of other things rather than food, eating and calorie-counting!
Check out this fun, 5- Minute Luscious Legs Workout I put together for the folks over at Empower Fitness. It will help to get your legs toned and lean and pump up your whole metabolism too!
I love Empower Fitness for many reasons – the great people, the superior products and the fun and friendly vibe but most of all because their mission and philosophy is very much in line with mine: They strive to empower women to be happy, healthy, and strong with fitness solutions that educate, motivate, entertain, and inspire.
When most of people think of being healthy, they usually think of eating a healthy diet and exercising. Although those are very important, they are not the only factors involved in living a vibrant life.
All too often I see people investing a lot of time, energy and money on buying and preparing healthy food or paying for fitness club memberships to exercise only to still be overweight and feel frustrated. I’ve learned, living a healthy, high-energy life requires looking at your whole life, and your whole self, both inside and out. When we overlook other very important lifestyle factors like getting proper rest, downtime, play, fun and connection we suffer and certainly do not get the lasting results we desire.
How we feel and think on a daily basis are just as important components to our health and looking good as the mechanics of how we move and the food we use to fuel ourselves. In other words, we must think holistically – at our whole lifestyle, mind, body and spirit to be able to achieve the results we want.
When you consider your healthy lifestyle, do you also think about:
- Your stress level
- How much recovery and down time you have
- How you think/your beliefs/self-talk – your anxiety level, optimism, expectations, confidence, etc.
- Getting regular sunshine
- Having meaningful relationships with people you care about and trust
- Connecting with nature regularly
- Minimizing toxins in both home and personal care and hygiene products
- Ensuring you enjoy regular play and fun
Without addressing these lifestyle factors, we will never reach the levels of wellness we aspire to and will be perpetually frustrated and lose our joy (and boy is that unhealthy!).
To make it easy for you, I’ve put together a checklist of four of the key foundational areas to look at when considering your health holistically. Next time you find yourself frustrated or falling short of your goals, have a look at them and see how many you can check off on your list!
Key Lifestyle Area #1: Diet and Nutrition
- No one-size-fits-all solution – Must learn to LISTEN TO YOUR BODY – How You Should Feel After!
- Learn about the hormonal impact of food and macronutrients – All calories are NOT created equal!
- Eat an Ancestral Diet = high in healthy fats, with adequate protein and low in net carbs (no sugar, processed foods, fake foods, etc)
- Eat REAL FOOD – Eliminate packaged, processed foods, soda, fruit juice, “sports drinks”
- To achieve ideal weight, you must determine your personal Carbohydrate Threshold or Quotient, eat adequate, high-quality protein and plenty of good fat
- The longer the shelf life, worse is for you – do a Kitchen Makeover and clean out the crap!
- Read all labels – Can a Kindergarten kid pronounce the ingredients?
- Identify personal food intolerances or allergies
- Make Sure at Least One-Third of Your Food Is Raw
- Eliminate All Wheat, Gluten, and Highly Allergenic Foods from Your Diet (Wheat, Soy, White flour products (baked goods, cookies, and pastries), Rye, Teff, Spelt, Kamut, Barley, Couscous)
- Low energy, acne/skin, gastrointestinal problems: bloating, diarrhea, cramping, constipation = symptoms of intolerance
- Non-gluten grains: Rice, Corn, Buckwheat, Millet
- Eliminate Transfats -like hydrogenated oils and shortening
- Understand Serving Sizes and portions
- Avoid Soy
- Fast 12 hours
- Consider Basic Supplements – probiotic, Magnesium, Vitamin C and D
- Get Adequate Sun Exposure– Optimized vitamin D levels may significantly lessen your risk for cancer, type 2 diabetes, chronic inflammation, age-related macular degeneration, and Alzheimer’s disease. Vitamin D can also combat infections and control seizures, especially for epileptics.
- Use The Hunger Scale – (0-10: “0” = stuffed and “10” = famished) eat between a 5-6 -Never get stuffed/Starved. Eat until 80% full and then stop. (for proper digestion, weight loss and energy)
- SLOW DOWN when you eat. TASTE and CHEW each bite. Never Eat when stressed
- RX: Drink a minimum of ½ your body weight in ounces of pure water per day.
Key Lifestyle Area #2: Exercise and Movement
- Vital to life and all proper bodily functions – both physical, mental and emotional
- The primary benefit of exercise is not necessarily weight loss but instead to make you more sensitive to insulin, burn excess glucose and to engage all your bodily systems and hormones
- Being fit and losing weight is NOT a matter of “calories in and calories out”. It’s about understanding the different metabolic and hormonal effects of different foods and macro-nutrients as well as ideal exercise timing for maximum effect
- Exercise format balance = Key. You want VARIETY:
- High-intensity interval training (HIIT). This requires just 20 to 30 seconds of maximum effort, followed by 90 to 100 seconds of rest. HIIT improves your muscle tone, promotes higher energy levels, enhanced production of the HGH, or human growth hormone, and leads to increased calorie burn.
- Strength training – Improve muscle strength, tone, and elasticity, create strong connective tissues, tendons, and ligaments, and slow down and even reverse risk of Alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
- Yoga and Active isolated stretching (AIS)
- Cardiovascular- increases mitochondria, oxygen transport and circulation/detox
- Balance, Agility, Speed and Power
Key Lifestyle Area #3: Proper Sleep and Rest
- Ideal amount of sleep per night = 8 hours minimum
- Sleep is essential for proper repair and revitalization of all body cells, tissues, organs and systems
- Needed for detoxification and anti-aging
- Deficiency can lead to weight gain (because levels of appetite-inducing hormones rise) and affects brain, reducing ability to think and focus also increases sugar/carb cravings when sleep deprived
- Lack of proper sleep is associated with higher risk of depression and chronic diseases – diabetes, cardiovascular and heart diseases, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer
- Resting as needed is part of the repair and rebuild requirement of your body. Listen to it and slow down, unplug and rest as needed – with NO GUILT! We are not machines. We are human!
Tips for Getting Great Sleep
- Expose yourself to sunlight during the day – especially in the morning. This will increase your serotonin and happy chemicals.
- Refraining from using electronics at least 2 hours before bedtime: TV, computer, phone (emit blue light that tricks your brain into thinking that it’s still daytime – hinders the pineal gland from secreting melatonin at an optimal time, usually between 9 and 10 pm.)
- Establish “wind-down” routine. The body likes routine.
- Maintaining a regular sleep schedule
- Sleep in complete darkness – melatonin, reduces body temperature and hunger and optimizes your circadian and improves gene expression and cellular growth and repair as well.
- Keep room cool/fresh air: Ideal room temperature = 60 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit
- Taking a warm bath 90 to 120 minutes before bedtime – raises your core body temperature, when you get out of the bath, the temperature drops, signaling your body that you’re ready for sleep.
- Exercise contributes to better sleep but ideally not within 3-4 hours of bedtime.
- Nap wisely: taking long naps during the day disrupts your body’s circadian rhythm, or your body’s internal clock. Ideally, keep naps a maximum of 20 minutes, at least 4 to 6 hours before bedtime.
- Don’t eat 3 hours before bedtime, otherwise the digestive process can interfere with your natural sleep cycles
- Listen to meditation or relaxation CDs before bed to help unwind
- Do 5 minutes of deep breathing at bedtime
- Use aromatherapy/essential oils like Lavender, Serenity, Peace and Calming or Sandlewood – either diffused or topically
- Get a massage at the end of the day
- Read a relaxing book
- Write an “End of the Day Gratitude List” of all the things you were grateful for that day (no matter how small!)
- Journal – write your thoughts and emotions to get them out of your head and help you process, release and reframe them
- Drink hot water with lemon before bed or Chamomile tea
- See Foundation #4 below (you need a fun/stress outlet so you can rest)
Key Lifestyle Area #4: Regular Play and Social Connection
- Make a Happiness/Fun List of things you love to do and that make you feel good
- This is important for your mental and emotional health and your overall quality of life.
- Research has shown that strong social ties and connections are as powerful for promoting good health as exercising regularly and not smoking
- Getting regular play and fun promotes creativity and problem-solving
- Fun is one of the best (and cheapest) anti-aging potions we know of!
- They are powerful stress-relievers
- They prevent overindulging in “naughty” foods, activities and emotions due to “lack of fun and fulfillment” in your overall life
- We evolved with tribes. We are social beings and it’s in our DNA to connect and collaborate with others. Loneliness and feelings of isolation are very damaging to the heart and blood vessels.
- Strong social ties give meaning to our lives
- All work and no play make you a dull person 🙂
We all wanna feel good, right?
Well “emotions” are caused by brain/body chemicals that we’ve inherited from our mammalian ancestors, but we also can control them with neural pathways we build from things that happen to us in our lives.
Emotions are caused by brain/body chemicals. We’ve inherited these chemicals from our mammalian ancestors, but we control them with neural pathways we build from things that happen to us in our lives.
You were born with billions of neurons but very few connections between them. We build the connections by our life experiences and they channel the electricity that flows into your brain as the world bombards your senses with information. This is the basis for how habits are made. Habits are basically strong (well-established) neural pathways. Wanna form a new habit or break an old one? Here’s the key:
Electricity flows down your old paths….unless you build new ones.
The idea is to identify the current pathways you have and to consciously create new ones to promote more of the good feelings you want and less of the ones you don’t. It takes a little bit of effort at first but it works!
Now-a-days, it seems like everyone is talking about “happiness” and “being happy” and that sure is wonderful and super important, but I think we need to remember that our “happy chemicals” are not meant to flow all the time. They turn on and off in response to the opportunities and threats we see around us.
You define opportunities and threats with the neural pathways you have. An opportunity triggers a happy chemical that motivates you to go toward it. A threat triggers an unhappy chemical that motivates you to avoid it. Each spurt is soon metabolized, and you have to do more to get more. Opportunities and threats for your genes get your mammal brain’s attention whether you consciously think that way or not.
Here are the 5 Key Neurotransmitters that determine our Moods and Emotions
DOPAMINE spurts when you approach a reward. It releases your reserve tank of energy so you can do what it takes to meets your needs. New rewards are powerful because your brain adjusts to old rewards.
ENDORPHIN produces a euphoria that masks pain. Physical pain is what triggers it. We are designed to avoid pain, not to create it. Endorphin evolved for emergencies, not for a constant flow.
OXYTOCIN creates the good feeling of trust. You feel safe with those around you when it flows. Safety in numbers helps a mammal survive, but it’s not safe to trust every critter, so oxytocin goes on and off.
SEROTONIN creates confidence in your ability to assert yourself. A social animal has to assert itself to get the food and reproductive opportunity necessary to pass on its genes. Serotonin makes it feel good.
CORTISOL creates the bad feeling that your survival is threatened. It motivates you to do what it takes to make it stop. Bad feelings are information. They help us avoid paths that don’t meet our needs.
In my workshops we address details on how to build new brain neurochemical pathways and healthy habits so you can feel more of the good-feeling chemicals more of the time!
- Meet Your Happy Chemicals – Loretta Graziano Breuning, PhD
- The Science of Positivity – Loretta Graziano Breuning, PhD
- The Diet Cure – Julia Ross, M.A.