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A Conversation with... Valerie Latona
Guest Editor for Exercise & Fitness, Former Editor in Chief of Shape Magazine, CEO of Valerie Latona Health Media
Interviewed by Bess Coble,
ATH Co-Editor of Exercise & Fitness
Editor’s Note from Bess Coble: I’m very happy to introduce Valerie Latona as our new Guest Editor. I’ve read Shape Magazine for years, all the way through the recent time when Valerie was Editor in Chief. Her impressive and knowledgeable background will give all of us expanded insight in how to live a healthy and vital life at any age. It’s been an honor to get to know Valerie a little more over the last few months. I’m also happy that Kathy Smith will, very much, still be a presence with us in the Featured Article section.
Bess Coble: What are some of the things you learned as Editor in Chief of Shape, a leading health and fitness magazine, that you apply to your life now?
Valerie Latona: The most important thing I learned is that we are all so similar in our efforts to be healthy and fit. While we may feel alone in our struggles—be it a weight concern, an “I’m-flabby-and-so-out-of-shape” feeling, a bad habit we’re trying to break, you name it—this isn’t the case at all. We all want to be the best that we can be, but life gets in the way: work encompasses our time, as does family, as do any health problems we have. But people with these same time constraints do find the time to dedicate to eating healthy, working out, and doing things that they love (I call this soul fulfillment)—and learning how they do it (or did it) is key to finding this healthy balance in our own lives.
This is what I learned from all the readers—real women like you—whom I interacted with on a daily basis. Every single one of them was so inspiring!
The bottom line is: Seek out people who have been a success, and find out what worked for them. You’d be amazed what great, inspiring information you can get from others…and it may be just what you need to get back on track in your own life.
I’ll try to be this source of information for you, too, while I’m a guest fitness editor.
Bess: There’s so much information available on diets, new gadgets and new food products that it can be overwhelming and confusing. What is your best advice right now for caring for our bodies?
Valerie: Simple is best. That is the philosophy I follow in my own life—and has been as a health and fitness editor for the past 20 years. What this means in practice: eat simple foods (5 ingredients or less) like nutrient-rich fruits and veggies, whole grains (like amaranth, millet, steel-cut oats, and quinoa); and drink plenty of filtered water (no soda or processed drinks). And eat in moderation (stop when you feel 90 percent full). If you follow this philosophy, you don’t need fad diets, energy drinks, weight-loss gadgets, weight-loss pills, surgery, and the like.
Bess: While at Shape, you shared that many women in their 50s, 60s, 70s, and even 80s felt left out, yet yearn for fitness, nutrition and confidence-boosting advice just like their younger counterparts. How would you advise women on staying vibrant & healthy through each decade?
Valerie: We featured a Shape reader, age 85, in the magazine. She was a regular competitor in 5K and 10K races around the country (for her age group). She walked the races, but she finished each one and she loved every minute of it. What an inspiration! That’s the way I want to be when I’m 85!
To keep vibrant and healthy—no matter what your age: eat simple, healthy foods, and keep moving. And when it comes to moving, you’ve got to do strength training along with walking or whatever it is you do to exercise. That helps build muscle and bone. I just gave my mom a weighted walk vest to help her strength train on her daily walks. These are a great tool for any age!
Bess: As a wife and mother of three young children and CEO of Valerie Latona Health Media, what is your current personal routine for healthy eating and exercise?
Valerie: I wish I could say that I am the picture of perfection when it comes to living a healthy life, but I’m not! There are days when I simply don’t have time to work out (like these past two weeks, when each of my children was sick with the flu)—and there are some days when I indulge in too many chocolate-chip cookies! But a friend of mine told me about the 80-20 rule—and it’s always stuck with me: live healthy 80 percent of the time and the other 20 percent, you’re allowed to indulge. I try to live by this rule.
As for exercise: I love swimming, and I try to do that several times a week—on one of those days, I do it while my daughter has her swim lessons (so we have mommy-and-me time). I have an elliptical at home, so I fit in a 30- or 45-minute workout when I can. And I love to run and bike around my local park. I also walk whenever I can—and that usually involves walking my older son to and from school every day (it’s a good mile there and back). The one thing I struggle with is finding the time to get back to a regular strength-training routine. I used to do it 3 times a week, but once I had my third child (who’s now one), I just couldn’t fit that in with breastfeeding, working, and managing my two other kids. But I will get back to it soon because it’s critical for a strong, healthy body.
The other things I swear by are omega-3s and antioxidants: these are two things I never skimp on. They are both so important for health and longevity.
Omega-3s: A recent study found that getting plenty of omega-3s can help prevent breast cancer in women. I’m sure to add plenty of flax or chia seeds to my morning oatmeal, eat salmon several times a week, and take a daily omega-3 supplement.
Antioxidants: I try to eat plenty of antioxidant-rich foods like red grapefruit, blueberries, dark bittersweet chocolate, green tea (which I drink every morning), red and orange peppers…study after study shows that eating plenty of antioxidants can help prevent disease. They’re also important for helping to minimize wrinkles on the skin!
Bess: Thinking of my own experience of running a marathon, I resonated with your fear of doing a triathlon, a three-event competition. How did you overcome those fears of being in a triathlon and ultimately achieving a fantastic finish of 386th out of 1000+ women?
Valerie: I remember standing in the lake for my first open-water swim (a test run before the actual event). I stood there for at least 10 minutes deep breathing in full-on panic mode. Every excuse went through my head. You’re going to drown! Who knows what’s living in that water?! You’re not a good swimmer! But I eventually shoved off from the foot-deep water—and kept swimming. It is one of the most incredible feelings when you accomplish something you are terrified of.
My advice to anyone who wants to try something new like this: familiarity is key. The more you do something, the more comfortable you are with it. Practice as much as possible, starting out for short periods of time…and before you know it, you’ll be doing a 5K, a 10K, a marathon, or a triathlon!
Bess: You shared that you used to have a closet with sizes ranging from 4-14. What was the deciding factor that made you take the plunge of participating in a triathlon and then afterwards staying on a healthy track instead of slacking off?
Valerie: I distinctly remember a moment when my mom said something to me that really struck me. We were going on a warm-weather family trip with her and she said: “I have nothing to wear. I’m so fat [not true]. None of my clothes from last summer fit. And there’s no way I’m putting on a bathing suit.” And I thought: “Oh my gosh. That is exactly how I’m starting to sound!” At that point, I refused to go on any more like that. I said: I’m not going to live the rest of my life struggling with gaining and losing weight and being unhappy with my body. That was it for me. We all have a defining moment in our get-healthy quest…and this was the one for me.
Also, an expert made a comment while I was at Shape (that we used in an article on weight loss); this expert said: “Obese people start off by being just 5 pounds overweight.” This is so true: if we don’t let ourselves go beyond being just 5 pounds overweight, then we wouldn’t be yo-yo dieting for years and years and having all sorts of different clothing sizes in our closets. That’s my motto now: I allow myself (during holidays, particularly) to gain a max of 5 pounds (pregnancies, obviously, not included!) before I kick my eating and exercising back into high gear.
Bess: When you were growing up were you encouraged to eat healthy and to exercise?
Valerie: We were encouraged to eat healthy and to play outside. Exercise was fun (swimming, biking outside, playing outside for hours), it wasn’t a chore. We didn’t have the computers and the TV channels and the Smartphones we have today to encourage us to stay inside and sit on our butts. I remember my mom and dad being into yoga before that was popular; we were the family eating tofu and lentils and whole-wheat cookies before that was in, too. I hated it then, but now I look back and am able to appreciate everything in a different way. My parents set the groundwork for the healthy lifestyle I have today.
Bess: I love your motto: “Every single person has the power, the courage, and the strength within them to make changes and to be their best.” Do you have anything more you would like to add or expand on about your motto?
Valerie: Just this: we have just one body and one life—why we should always live a life of no regrets. You don’t want to look back on your life in 20 years and say I should have….Think about what it is YOU need to do to be your best today and do it, no matter how hard it is. That way, you’ll be moving forward with happiness and the confidence and energy that comes from being happy every single day.
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More about Valerie Latona
Valerie Latona is the former Editor-in-Chief of Shape – and one of the leading writers/editors on the topic of living healthy with confidence. She is the founder, CEO of Valerie Latona Health Media, but her real job (and greatest accomplishment): she’s a mom to three amazing children (8, 5, and 1). Find out more about Valerie here. Follow Valerie on Twitter: @vlatonaINSHAPE.
About the Inteviewer
Bess Coble, BS, LMT, ATH Editor of Exercise/Fitness, has been involved in the fitness and wellness field for over 20 years as an avid student, instructor and amateur athlete, participating in the Walt Disney World Marathon. She has a BS in Human Performance (Exercise Physiology) specializing in Physical Performance, is a Licensed Massage Therapist, a Certified Pilates Instructor, and has certifications in various other fitness and wellness modalities. She is a Certified Rolfer graduating from the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration in Boulder, Colorado. Bess currently has a Rolfing and Pilates Wellness practice in Southwest Florida. Her website is www.rolfingfortmyers.com.
Visit her website: www.rolfingfortmyers.com
Fort Myers, Florida USA