Tweet Interview with Diana Mikolajewska: From Skinny Fat to Fit – Her Road to a Healthy Lifestyle
1. Can you tell us a little about yourself? (where you live, education, job, background…)
I was born and raised in Poland, and immigrated with my family to Michigan at the age of thirteen. After thirteen years in Michigan I made a decision to step out on my own and move to Scottsdale, Arizona, where I currently live. I work in healthcare industry, prescription benefit management to be more precise.
I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing so majority of my professional career has revolved around marketing and sales. After all these years I still find myself focused on fitness and nutrition more than anything else. It is my passion, ‘my calling’, as those who know me well put it. With that being said, I am finally taking the initiative to take my passion and go after my long-time dream of entering fitness and wellness industry.
In my free time I enjoy working on building my MikoFit brand and business plan, developing a modeling portfolio, and setting new goals. I also enjoy reading, writing, working out, yoga/meditating, participating in outdoor activities, traveling, anything related to nutrition/health/fitness, community service, helping others, creating projects, watching movies, and spending time with close friends and loved ones, or sometimes alone. And yet, there are so many things I want to do! I wish I had more time!
2. Can you give/list three adjectives that best describe you?
Only three?! I am energetic, driven, and independent. However, if you asked my friends they would definitely say that I am also memorable, quirky, and weird!
3. What are some of the accomplishments you are most proud of?
There are a few. Coming to America at the age of 13 without knowing how to speak a word of English, learning the language and adjusting to American culture is definitely one of them. Another important one is putting myself through college while working a full-time job. A more recent accomplishment was creating and fully funding a volunteer opportunity at an orphanage in India for 3 months in the Spring of 2010. Not only was it an amazing achievement because of the work I did, but also because it has transformed me as a person. It allowed me to recognize my abilities and harness my independence and adaptability skills. Working closely with the orphans and Tibetan refugees empowered and taught me to take joy from the simple things in life. Finally, one of my biggest accomplishments is taking charge of my health and how far I have come over the years with my fitness skills, despite the challenges and obstacles that my medical conditions placed before me.
4. Can you tell us about your transformation story? How did you come to the realization to embrace a healthier lifestyle?
My commitment to make these changes started in my early 20’s when I was diagnosed with borderline osteoporosis. Between my diagnosis and the dimpling on my legs (at such a young age) made me realize that I had to take charge of my health. Who would have thought that a 5’2’’ figure weighing 97 pounds could have osteoporosis, cellulite and difficult time walking at a steady pace? That was me, eight years ago. Today, I am strong, a lot healthier, more active, and 10 pounds heavier. Unlike most success stories mine includes weight gain, which was very much needed by my brittle, ‘skinny fat’ body.
5. What kind of training do you focus on? What exercises have contributed the most in developing your physique now?
I do a little bit of everything and I am always excited about trying new things! With that being said, my routine consists of cardio (Stairmaster/jogging/hiking), lifting weights 3 to 4 times a week, yoga and a high intensity interval or spinning class once a week. Weight lifting has played a big role in developing my physique and building lean muscle mass, whereas making healthy food choices and listening to my body has allowed me to maintain it even when I don’t work out.
6. You were diagnosed with Hypothyroidism. Can you describe what this condition means in terms of your health? How much of a challenge has this been for you in staying in shape?
Yes, I was first diagnosed about seven years ago; however, I ignored my lab results and my condition remained untreated until recently. I didn’t make an effort to understand what it meant to have an underactive thyroid and left the issue unresolved. My thyroid levels increased every year but I never associated them with my frequent feeling of tiredness and fatigue. It wasn’t until recently that I finally accepted the fact that I have a serious health problem that needs to be addressed.
Basically hypothyroidism is when one has an underactive thyroid gland that cannot make enough thyroid hormone to keep the body running normally. Symptoms include feelings of abrupt exhaustion, dry skin, brittle hair, body aches (not the type you get from an awesome work out!), body cramps, frequently feeling cold, puffiness in the face, sluggish metabolism and yes, weight gain. I have learned that a healthy lifestyle can help manage the condition, but more often than not medication is necessary to help your body function properly.
This condition has probably been the biggest challenge in staying fit because of the inconsistency in my energy levels. There are days when I literally go from a ‘10 cups of coffee’ energy level down to ‘zero’. However, over time this and other symptoms can be avoided by supporting your thyroid with right medication and of course a healthy diet and lifestyle.
7. How long did it take you to transform to the physique that you have now?
I made small changes and did things at my own pace to avoid feeling of pressure. I set goals that were realistic and feasible. It took me a few years to get my work out plan in place and to make all the necessary adjustments to my diet. I feel like I am still transforming and will continue doing so for the rest of my life. There are always new exercises, recipes, foods, cleanses, and detoxes I like to experiment with and incorporate into my lifestyle.
8. Do you take any supplements? If so, which ones do you use, and what results have these given you?
I try to be as natural as possible and get nutrients from whole foods. Nevertheless, my cupboard is filled with super food powders such as Healthforce brand Spirulina, Vanilla Maca Powder, Elixir of the Lake, Vitamineral Green, Fruits of the Earth, and Wheatgrass, to name a few. By consuming these products I get the necessary minerals and vitamins to feel energized, refreshed, and healthy. I refer to them as my ‘youth in a bottle’ products. I do not take every single one of the items listed daily; I alternate between them in no particular sequence. It is possible to have too much of a good thing.
9. What motivates you to stay on track with your fitness program?
My overall health and well being! I feel better when I work out and eat healthy. Having gluten and dairy intolerances can have its challenges; however, I look at the benefits of being mindful and more careful of what I eat, because it can define how I feel each day. When I stay on track I feel energetic and happy, in comparison to the times I stray off the path which can definitely affect me. I always seem to pay the price for it. Feeling good and inspiring people with my healthy lifestyle- or the way that I look- gives me the strength to persevere, especially on days when I feel like giving up! To me, there is nothing more rewarding than making a lasting difference in someone’s life.
10. How do you deal with your food allergies? Can you give us a sample breakdown of your daily diet?
That’s a tough one. Growing up I had extensive food allergies to pretty much anything under the sun (dairy, gluten, nuts, fish, chicken, berries, just to name a few). I would breakout in awful hives – even with minimal consumption. When I was about 15 the hives disappeared and I started eating everything- and I mean everything! I recently learned that while I no longer have the external symptoms, my body is inflamed internally. I now understand why over the years I would feel lethargic, aggravated, or bloated after eating most of my meals. It was tough to have to make these adjustments again, but over time I turned them into habits. I still make mistakes but try to avoid them by reading labels, modifying meals at restaurants, cooking at home, and keeping what’s on my plate simple. It’s almost as if some foods don’t even exist in my world anymore.
I do not have a meal plan, and I prefer not to pre-make my meals. I don’t know what I will be in the mood to eat at dinner time, not to mention two days from now. I simply make mindful and healthy choices when I eat out and like to eat different things every day. My diet is full of vegetables, lean proteins, and some fruit.
For instance recently for breakfast I had: ½ cup of GF oatmeal with cacao nibs and a scoop of Veggie protein powder (I cannot consume whey). For lunch: a bed of salad greens with roasted artichokes, pumpkin seeds and a grilled chicken breast with homemade olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette dressing. Dinner: roasted Brussels sprouts, asparagus, grilled tilapia with a lot of hot sauce and chili flakes.
By the way I very much enjoy hot spices! My favorite snacks are pumpkin or sunflower seeds, organic mulberries, coconut or cacao macaroons, peanut butter and apples. I splurge on egg whites occasionally, because it’s hard for me to omit them from my diet, and they are a great source of protein. I’m also known to create unusual meals such as rice cakes topped with apple slices, peanut butter, egg whites, cinnamon and cashews. Yummy, healthy and nutritious!
11. What advice would you give to motivate others to embrace a fit and healthy lifestyle?
Be patient with yourself! BELIEVE in the things you are doing even though at times they seem to be impossible or unachievable! We all have challenges and barriers that we have to overcome, and it’s important to treat our bodies like the temples that they are. Kick excuses to the curb! Do not allow yourself to believe that because you have a thyroid problem, hypertension, high cholesterol, or other medical condition, that you are limited to what you can or cannot do. As Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t. You’re right”.
12. What are your future career plans in the industry?
A healthy lifestyle is something that I am very passionate about and I live it daily. I wish to help others achieve their goals, and to be their resource and support throughout the process. I want to inspire, motivate, educate and get people excited about transforming their lifestyles into healthy ones. Writing brings me a lot of joy and I want to use my writing to reach out to people about healthy lifestyle changes and overcoming obstacles of all kinds; be it through blogs, posts, articles or maybe even a book some day!
Recently, I was exposed to some new aspects of the fitness industry which included modeling and writing. I really enjoy participating in both of these activities! However, my main focus is to inspire and to help people overcome the challenges they face when they set out to achieve their own health and fitness goals. Often when someone fails, it is because they lack a key component in achieving success – that is, having someone to support them along the way. I want to be their support, and I plan on leveraging my writing to be more than a fitness model, but to also be a resource for others so that they too can accomplish their goals and aspirations.
Eventually I would like to get involved in volunteering again and giving back to communities. I really enjoy working with children. It would also be really awesome to have a sponsor or be a spokesperson for a company that I truly believe in. If sky is the limit…then designing my own clothing line and writing a book is high up on my list of dreams!
At the end of the day, wherever my path takes me, I always want to be seen as a down to earth, normal individual that people feel comfortable approaching me and working with me as well.
13. Any shout outs? Where can we find you on the internet?
Always a shout out to my mom – my inspiration, role model, and biggest supporter of everything I do!
Also, I am launching my website and a Facebook page for MikoFit, a healthy lifestyle coaching business, in July 2012. The concept behind MikoFit is to be a resource for the latest nutrition news and information on healthy eating, shopping tips, and much more – to help people create a pathway to a healthier lifestyle. Stay tuned!