You might know Anna Victoria for her killer Fit Body Guide workouts, pretty smoothie bowls, and candidness about her stomach rolls and posed fitness photos. That's why it makes it hard to believe that the Instagram fitness sensation used to cringe at the people who spent hours meal planning and working out.
"Growing up in a small town in Southern California, I thought that people who worked out a lot and ate healthily were just really into themselves and cared about what they looked like," she recently said in a YouTube video on her channel. While Victoria admits her generalization wasn't fair, at the time, she thought healthy living seem unnecessary and pretentious. "While I definitely wished for a flat tummy…I never cared enough to do something about it," she said.
Victoria continued the video by walking through her fitness journey, starting with her childhood. "I did not grow up with the least amount of knowledge about healthy eating or working out—and to be honest, I really didn't care," she said, adding that she also loved fast food, which contributed to an unhealthy lifestyle.
"I was eating microwavable food, fast food, packaged and processed food—that made up 100 percent of my diet from when I was 12 up until I was in college," she said.
Eventually, that led to a series of health problems. "I had a lot of digestive issues…a lot of GI issues," she said. "[But] I wasn't putting two and two together."
At the beginning of her senior year of college, Victoria even found herself in the emergency room with excruciating stomach pain. The doctors just gave her some medicine and sent her home. Victoria went back to her poor eating habits and continued living her life the same way. Looking back, she realizes the issues were all a result of her poor diet. (Related: How Anna Victoria Learned to Become a Runner)
Then she met Luca—now her husband. "He's Italian and they eat really really fresh, whole, natural foods—and they're very balanced," she said. "When he came into my life and started noticing how I was eating, he'd tell me stuff like, 'Anna, you can't keep eating Goldfish crackers for dinner.'"
At first she was hesitant to heed his advice, but eventually, as she started trying different foods, she realized how much eating affected her body. "[Before], I had no energy levels, I had poor sleep quality, and that was all coming from what I was eating and my activity level," she said.
In 2012, Victoria decided it was time to make some significant changes in her life. She had just moved to China to study abroad and found time to research about health and fitness. She also started her first fitness Instagram account, where she shared inspirational quotes and transformation pictures to hold herself accountable. "I pretty much threw myself into my fitness journey," she said. (Related: This 15-Minute Metabolic Workout from Anna Victoria Will Work Your Entire Body)
Victoria started gaining followers who began motivating her to continue finding a healthy lifestyle that worked for her. But that didn't mean it was always easy. "My biggest struggles were always mental," she said. "I had a really hard time coming to terms with the fact that I needed to hone in on my calories and macros. There came a point where I plateaued and wasn't seeing results. I really had to swallow my pride a little bit and look into what macros were all about."
For example, Victoria realized that her fat intake was too high and her carb intake was too low, she shared. "Once I addressed that, I saw my body go to another level," she said.
She also had to find a balance between lifting and cross-training to help reach an optimal fitness level. (Related: Anna Victoria Wants You to Know That Lifting Weights Doesn't Make You Less Feminine)
Overall, Victoria hopes that by sharing how much her mindset changed and all the ups and downs she had, that people will realize that no fitness journey is linear. "I wish I knew that I didn't need to be perfect and that I just needed to focus on my progress," she said. (Related: Anna Victoria Has a Message for Anyone Who Says They "Prefer" Her Body to Look a Certain Way)
She ended her video by reminding viewers not to compare themselves to others and to focus on their own journeys. "Everyone's journeys are going to look different, everyone's bodies are going to look different," she said. "So don't let that get you down."
Watch her entire video below to learn more about how Anna transformed her life both mentally and physically to get to where she is today.
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In order to access the great outdoors while living in a city like New York, you typically need to hop on a bus or subway, transfer to a train, and finally have a taxi drop you at the start of the hiking trail. Not exactly easy. So, when I was invited to join Mammut and professional rock climber Sierra Blair-Coyle at indoor climbing gym MetroRock Brooklyn, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to get "outdoors," even if I'd be inside the whole time.
Let it be known that I love hiking, kayaking, and camping. Indoor climbing seemed like a natural fit. However, stepping into the climbing gym lined with daunting Easter-egg speckled walls made me feel completely out of my element. I wasn't sure if I belonged, or if I could hack it. After being greeted by the staff and meeting my mentor for the afternoon, Sierra Blair-Coyle, my nerves began to wane and I became more excited to attempt something I had never done before.
A U.S. national champion, world cup contender, and Mammut pro-climber, Blair-Coyle is mastering a sport that's often thought to be male-dominated. The first time she climbed was at age 8, when a local mall in Scottsdale, Arizona put up a wall. "I instantly fell in love with climbing," Blair-Coyle tells me. Who better to be my teacher?
The first thing Blair-Coyle showed me was the proper "falling" method in bouldering (climbing freely without a rope). It seems silly, but falling the right (read: safe) way can prevent injury. She explained that when you lose your grip or balance on the climbing hold (the colorful misshaped pieces on the wall), it's best to just accept that you're falling and go with the flow—literally. When you land, she said, allow your body to tuck in and roll down onto your back, side, or shoulder (kind of like an upside-down turtle in its shell). The wrong approach would be to brace your fall with your hands or arms, as this could lead to a sprain or break, or sticking the landing with your two feet. The "tuck and roll" is your happy place.
I warmed up by tackling my first "boulder problem," or route. Routes are color-coordinated, so you either want to follow the same color up the wall (more challenging) or you can "rainbow," which means grabbing hold of whatever color you want. I decided to follow the white pattern: I grabbed my first boulder hold, lifted myself from the ground, and moved my feet as I climbed upward.
When I came to the middle section of the problem, though, I got stuck. I was too far from the next hold. Pinching the wall, I swung my left foot up, catching a tiny white mound I wasn't even sure I could reach, and pushed off of it with my toes to hoist myself up to the next hold. Using my knee, I pushed off another hold to claw my way to the top. I amazed myself with what I could do with my body.
Confidence boosted, I decided to gain a little perspective and take my climbing to new heights. Enter: top roping. I strapped myself into a harness attached to a rope that passes up through an anchor system at the top of the wall, and then down to a belayer (your partner) at the base. My belay buddy was a total stranger, so I had to trust that he would have my back.
Next, I began my ascent, finding the orange holds with my feet and hands and working my way up the wall. For the first time all day, I wasn't thinking about anything—deadlines, family, what I was going to eat for dinner. My mind was quiet. Stress from the day dissipated, and I experienced a kind of peace you don't often find in New York City. I felt strong, alive, and capable. Like I could do anything I put my mind to.
I'll admit that I wasn't perfect: I lost my grip at one point and came off the wall, and was briefly swinging around in the air. (It wasn't as scary as you'd think.) But as I was being lowered down, I realized that indoor climbing wasn't just a mental escape, it also worked muscles in my body that I didn't know existed. It challenged me more than any other workout I've tried, and I was immediately hooked. I unknotted the rope from my harness and noticed one tiny blister on my left palm: initiation.
What beginners need to know about indoor climbing
“My biggest piece of advice is to just try it out," Blair-Coyle says. Sometimes the hardest part isn't the physical act of doing a new workout, but rather walking through the doors, she told me. The good news? Climbing gyms tend to be welcoming environments, Blair-Coyle tells me, which is something I experienced firsthand. My first visit to MetroRock Brooklyn wasn't nearly as overwhelming as I imagined it would be, and I found a strong sense of community within the sport. Unlike my yoga and barre classes, climbers actually socialize and cheer each other on.
In regards to technique, trust that you'll learn as you go. I was under the impression, like many beginners, that your upper body does all the work. Fortunately, I had Blair-Coyle coaching me to use my entire body, not just my arms. When I got stuck on a boulder problem because I couldn't reach the next hold with my hands, she reminded me to keep moving my feet up the wall. (Yes, I had totally forgotten to move my feet.) My hands were soon able to reach the place that I couldn't grasp before.
Positioning can also greatly determine your range of movement. "A lot of the time, if you’re having a difficult time with a move, it’s probably because you’re in the wrong position with your body," Blair-Coyle points out. In other words, don't be afraid to get experimental in the ways you move and bend.
You don't need a partner to rock climb
When I hit a cardio or barre class, I know it's not a team activity. We're all in it for ourselves. I don't need anyone to help me. I had always thought I needed a partner to climb, which was one reason that deterred me from giving it a shot. Another reason? Fear of the unfamiliar, of course. "If you're not comfortable just going in and winging it, inquire with the gym about introduction classes or one-hour private lessons," says Blair-Coyle. Most climbing gyms offer intro and beginner classes that teach you about equipment, tying knots, belaying, and proper commands.
You don't need a partner for bouldering, and many climbing gyms use auto-belays, which allow climbers with no rope handling experience to get onto the taller walls without the help of a buddy. Climb as high as you're comfortable, and the auto-belay will then gently lower you to the ground using its automatic braking system. Feel free to ask a staff member for a quick tutorial of the equipment to get you started.
The best indoor hiking gear to get you started
My thought going into any new workout class is usually, What the heck do I wear? Blair-Coyle keeps her climbing outfits surprisingly simple: tight-fitting shorts or leggings wirh a sports bra or tank. Other climbers prefer looser pants and tees, but it's entirely up to you. “Whatever you’re comfortable working out in is perfect for climbing," Blair-Coyle says. Just keep in mind that if you're wearing shorts and climbing on a rope, the harness could rub and irritate your legs. I wore these high waist Sweaty Betty leggings with this loose-fitted tank, and felt completely at ease.
As for equipment, the climbing gym should have everything you need available to rent, including shoes, harnesses, clips, and chalk bags. Even as a beginner, though, Blair-Coyle recommends buying your own chalk bag, because it won't break the bank and you'll use it often (below, our favorite ones). Don't invest in climbing shoes just yet, though: Shoes can be pricey, and climbers typically don't purchase them until they are more committed to the sport. Indoor climbing is safe and the floor is padded and soft, so some gyms don't require helmets. However, if outdoor sport climbing piques your interest, it's not a bad idea to get a helmet, says Blair-Coyle.
Still not sure where to start? (What's a chalk bag?) We've taken the stress out of the decision-making, and rounded up a few of the best gear for beginner climbers.
From sporty to feminine and chic, we've got your chalk bag needs covered. You can also conveniently scoop up this refillable chalk ball to pop in your bag for only $9. Amazon deems it as a number-one bestseller, so you know you'll be in good company.
The full zipper on this handy backpack allows you to completely open the bag to perfectly organize your climbing shoes, chalk bags, and rope. Bonus: the rope is also protected by an integrated rope bag. Great for beginners or climbing enthusiasts, it will be your new favorite gym bag or travel companion.
If you're considering sport climbing, this brand-new helmet from Mammut is the first of its kind to feature MIPS technology, which offers maximum safety and protection from impacts caused by tumbling rocks or falls. When the helmet gets hit at an angled impact, the low friction layer on the inside allows it to slide relative to the head. The energy and force from the impact is redirected and absorbed, rather than being transferred to the brain, reducing the risk of brain injury.
One of the biggest meat-eating holidays is upon us: Thanksgiving. A time when even the most steadfast vegetarians crave a centerpiece to carve; when steely will and tasty side dishes alone wonâ€™t cut it.
Many imitation turkey products, including â€œTofurky,â€ are available this time of year to cater to the seven percent of Americans that consider themselves vegetarians â€” especially those who still miss their meat. Dr. Brian Wansink, a food psychologist at Cornell University and author of Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life,Â says, â€œPeople who are attracted to meat-shaped veggie foods are vegetarian for health reasons, not animal-rights reasons, and theyâ€™re the biggest growing part of that market.â€
A Mintel report shows that indeed 36 percent of consumers (including non-vegetarians) are buying meat alternatives to be healthier. But are these products really any better for us? Sure, cutting back on meat (especially red meat) can help prevent heart disease and cancer in some cases,Â but replacing it with processed meat substitutes comes with a price of its own.
Most meat substitutes are highly processed and full of artificial fillers â€” not unlike the hot dogs we might have already sworn off. Many are made from soy protein isolate, wheat gluten and other textured vegetable proteins, but also questionable ingredients that help gel and mold them into meat-like shapes.
Rachel Berman, R.D., author of Boosting Your Metabolism for Dummies and health editor at About.com, says to read the box before buying. â€œBe wary of a long ingredient list,â€ she says. â€œThe more it has, the more likely there are additives and preservatives in there to stabilize the food, add flavor, or change its consistency.â€
Some of these additives put into processed foods include unhealthy amounts of extra salt, fat and sugar â€” and those are the ingredients we can pronounce! Other artificial additives have been shown to have side effects that include nausea, dizziness, weight gain, decreased absorption of minerals and vitamins, and even cancer. The Center for Science in the Public Interest has a list of additives to avoid and their potential side effects.
Most ingredients in imitation turkeys still do look better than processed meats, and better than many other meat substitutes in the frozen food section, too. But not all are created equal.
For those vegetarians buying a fake turkey this year, Berman recommends opting for an all-natural choice like Gardeinâ€™s Savory Stuffed Turkâ€™y. â€œTheyâ€™re making an effort to use all-natural ingredients, nothing genetically engineered and mostly things that youâ€™re able to pronounce,â€ she says. â€œPlus, they contain no chemicals or genetically modified soy, which most others use.â€
Products like Quornâ€™s Turkâ€™y Roast, which uses mycoprotein, a processed mold, gets a big thumbs down for Berman. â€œThere have been many reports of this stuff causing gastrointestinal distress and no research saying this is something that is healthy,â€ she says. â€œItâ€™s totally artificial and basically a fungus made in a test tube.â€
Like many processed foods, fake meat is also high in sodium, but it doesnâ€™t have as much saturated fat as the real stuff. Most of them, however, match real turkey gram for gram when it comes to protein, plus they include fiber, which is a bonus. So, treating yourself to a faux turkey one day out of the year isnâ€™t going to kill you, but itâ€™s not exactly health food, either. â€œI donâ€™t really like to label any one food good or bad because itâ€™s really about the sum of what youâ€™re eating in a day,â€ says Berman. â€œIf youâ€™re going to eat an imitation food, just make sure the rest of your meal is coming from the earth.â€
So why not just opt for Thanksgiving tofu and green beans instead? Many vegetarians find itâ€™s hard to shake tradition on this holiday. â€œItâ€™s not just about food, but itâ€™s also rituals and visuals,â€ says Wansink. â€œThereâ€™s a lot of variation with other holiday dinners, but not with Thanksgiving. Thereâ€™s the traditional five dishes, and if you stray too far, people will think youâ€™re robbing them of an experience.â€
â€œItâ€™s not the goal of Thanksgiving to be the healthiest meal of the year anyway,â€ adds Wansink. â€œIts goal is to be gleeful and thankful.â€
Whatâ€™s Really in Tofurky and Other Vegetarian Turkey
Here are some of the most common imitations roasts available during the holiday season, ranked in order from best to worst by Rachel Berman.
1. Gardein Savory Stuffed Turkâ€™y
Serving Size: 1 piece (150 g)
Calories: 280, 110 calories from fat
Fat: 12 g (1g sat. fat)
Sodium: 590 mg
Carbohydrates: 21 g
Protein: 23 g
Dietary Fiber: 3 g
water, soy protein isolate*, vital wheat gluten*, expeller pressed/canola oil, organic ancient grain flour (kamut Â®, amaranth, millet, quinoa), natural flavors (from plant sources), modified vegetable gum, yeast extract, sea salt, potato starch, organic cane sugar, onion powder, garlic powder, pea protein, carrot fiber, beetroot fiber, extractives of paprika and turmeric. stuffing: water, stuffing crumbs (wheat flour*, natural cane sugar, yeast, sea salt, canola oil), onions, celery, cranberries, canola oil, natural flavors (from plant sources), yeast extract. breading: Â wheat flour*, water, sugar, wheat gluten*, spices, salt, paprika, leavening (baking soda, cream of tartar), yeast, onion powder, extractives of paprika. *non-genetically engineered soy and wheat
2. Tofurky Roast
Serving Size: 1/6 roast (147 g)
Calories: 300, Calories from Fat 60
Fat: 7 g, (0 g sat. fat)
Sodium: 620 mg
Carbohydrates: 16 g
Protein: 42 g
Dietary Fiber: 3 g
ROAST: Water, vital wheat gluten, organic tofu (filtered water, organic whole soybeans, magnesium chloride, calcium chloride), expeller pressed non-genetically engineered canola oil, natural vegetarian flavors, shoyu soy sauce (water, non-genetically engineered soybeans, wheat, salt, culture), non-genetically engineered corn starch, white bean flour, garbanzo bean flour, lemon juice from concentrate, onion, carrots, celery, salt, calcium lactate from beets.
STUFFING: Organic brown rice, whole wheat bread cubes (whole wheat, filtered water, unbleached wheat flour, organic evaporated cane juice, organic palm oil, sea salt, yeast, natural enzymes, ascorbic acid), onion, celery, expeller pressed non-genetically engineered canola oil, organic wild rice, natural vegetarian seasoning, granulated garlic, herbs and spices.
3. Field Roast Celebration Roast
Serving Size: 4 ounces (114 g)
Calories: 280, 90 calories from fat
Fat: 10 g (.5g sat. fat)
Sodium: 710 mg
Carbohydrates: 16 g
Protein: 31 g
Dietary Fiber: 6 g
Filtered water, vital wheat gluten, expeller pressed safflower oil, naturally ï¬‚avored yeast extract, barley malt, whole wheat flour, granulated garlic, butternut squash, organic wheat ï¬‚akes, onion powder, apples, garlic, mushrooms, yellow pea ï¬‚our, lentils, lemon juice, irish moss (sea vegetable) extract, sea salt, red wine, tomato paste, black pepper, rubbed sage, rosemary, paprika, spices, natural liquid smoke and carrots.
4. Five Star Foodies Vegetarian Harvest Roast
Serving Size: 1 roll (170 g)
Calories: 290, 110 calories from fat
Fat: 12 g
Sodium: 830 mg
Carbohydrates: 16 g
Protein: 30 g
Dietary Fiber: 1 g
Seitan (water, wheat gluten, whole wheat flour), unbleached white, oat, rye, soy flour, millet, poppy & sesame seeds, soy sauce (water, wheat, soybeans, salt), vegetable seasoning, yuba (soybeans, water), organic sugar, salt, olive oil, spices, yeast
5. VegeUSA Vegan Whole Turkey
Serving Size: 2.5 ounces
Fat: 9 g
Sodium: 450 mg
Sugar: 3 g
Protein: 13 g
Dietary Fiber: 1 g
Soybean fiber, soybean protein, vegetable protein, raw cane sugar, starch, soybean oil, natural vegan flavor, sea salt, cinnamon powder, tofu skin
6. Quorn Turkâ€™y Roast
Serving Size: 90 g
Calories: 100, 40 calories from fat
Fat: 4.5 g (1g sat. fat)
Sodium: 540 mg
Carbohydrates: 3 g
Protein: 13 g
Dietary Fiber: 4 g
Mycoprotein (59%), Water, Onion, Natural Flavors From Non-Meat Sources, Refined Rapeseed Oil, Rehydrated Egg White, Milk Proteins. Contains 2% or less of Potato Maltodextrin, Salt, Tapioca Dextrin, Yeast Extract, Onion Powder, Sage Extract, Garlic Powder, Gum Arabic; Sunflower, Coconut and Palm Kernel Oil.
For comparison: Roasted Turkey Meat with Skin
Serving Size: 3 ounces
Fat: 6 grams
Sodium: 54 milligrams
Sugar: 0 grams
Protein: 26 grams
Dietary Fiber: 0 grams
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This article originally appeared on Life by Daily Burn.