June 24, 2021

124: Mind - Body - Thrive with Melyssa Allen

Melyssa considers herself a multi-passionate, pur…


Melyssa considers herself a multi-passionate, purpose-driven professional dedicated to promoting the health of mind, body, and heart through therapeutic lifestyle changes. She has personally experienced and witnessed the transformational results of her clients using lifestyle medicine in her roles as both a fitness and mental health professional.

Melyssa has over a decade of experience with behavior change, working as a former animal trainer, health psychology intern, and fitness coach. While still enrolled in her graduate program, she began her own fitness business in early 2019 which later expanded to include the Mind-Body-Thrive Lifestyle. Melyssa graduated from the University of Central Florida with her bachelor's in both Biology and Psychology in 2012, her master's in Clinical Psychology in 2020, and obtained her board certification as a Diplomate of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine in 2020. In this episode, we sit down at a nearby park to talk about the importance of using exercise as medicine.

 

Melyssa has offered our podcast listeners a coupon code for her virtual fitness studio: PBDFW will get a free 5-Class Pack at www.melyssawithawhy.com 

 

Transcript

Melyssa Allen  00:00

As a fitness professional, there are those opportunities to work with physicians, even physical therapists, occupational therapists to really bridge that gap between the care because what usually happens is a physician will tell you what you need to do as far as physical activity is concerned, but maybe they don't exactly know how to tell you to do it. And that's where a fitness professional can come in and really work together with the client to help find what is going to be the most suitable form of activity, what really excites the person and really trying to make exercise something that people can look forward to instead of something that they end up reading.

 

Narrator  00:38

Welcome to the Plant Based DFW Podcast weekly show with Dr. Riz and Maya, a show broadcasted from the Dallas Fort Worth area that focuses on lifestyle medicine. This is the use of evidence based lifestyle therapeutic approaches, such as a whole food plant based diet, regular physical exercise, adequate sleep, and stress management to treat, prevent, and oftentimes reverse lifestyle related chronic diseases that are all too prevalent. Every week They feature a guest who speaks on one of these lifestyle medicine pillars. This show is for you, the person who is seeking to improve your overall wellness and quality of life. So whether you are driving, walking, or relaxing at home, we hope this show will provide you one more tool for your wellness toolbox. Let's meet today's podcast guest.

 

Maya Acosta  01:30

Melyssa considers herself a multi-passionate, purpose-driven professional dedicated to promoting health of mind body and heart through therapeutic lifestyle changes. She has personally experienced and witnessed the transformational results of her clients using lifestyle medicine in her roles as both a fitness and mental health professional. Melyssa has over a decade of experience with behavior change working as a former animal trainer, health psychology and turn and fitness coach. While still enrolled in her graduate program. She began her own fitness business in early 2019, which later expanded to include Mind - Body - Thrive lifestyle. Melyssa graduated from the University of Central Florida with her bachelor's in both biology and psychology in 2012, her master's in clinical psychology and 2020 and obtained her board certification as a diplomat of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine in 2020. In this episode, we sit down at the same park in the a Trail where we hold our monthly walks that are part of Walk With A Doc and we talk about the importance of using exercise as medicine. We also talk about what tends to drive people away from wanting to exercise and how motivational interviewing can move people towards the desire to exercise. All of Melyssa's links will be provided in the show notes and are also located on our website, Plant Based DFW Podcast.com. And again another reminder that the lifestyle medicine conference will be held near Dallas, November 7 through the 10th. Check out lmconference.org. I hope you enjoy this episode. Welcome, Melyssa.

 

Melyssa Allen  03:16

Thanks, Maya. I'm so happy to be here with you and your audience.

 

Maya Acosta  03:19

I'm happy that you're here. You're the first person that I sit with like this, you know, as we're still going through the pandemic, so it's an honor for me that you're here that we're outdoor,

 

Melyssa Allen  03:31

Yes, being able to enjoy the weather, because it's been raining the last few days. So we lucked out. And it's a little overcast, but it feels wonderful. 

 

Maya Acosta  03:38

Yes it does. We're sitting here, we're in Dallas. And for people that are actually part of our walking group, you would probably recognize the path. This is where we used to do our monthly Walk With A Doc events, which by the way, we will be resuming in June. And so I was excited that Melyssa could come and join us because she is a fitness coach. And that's what we will be talking about. If you're only listening to the audio version of this interview, there will be a link to the YouTube version so that you can see a little bit of the background, which is really nice. This is also where I come out for nature walks and to meditate and just really contemplate and you notice you can't see them right now. But we have Canadian geese. Yeah. I was blown away by it. So I want to let our listeners know that I found you really through the directory of Lifestyle Medicine, who are members and also diplomats. So we will be talking about lifestyle medicine. But also I saw you on Instagram because you're very active as well.

 

Melyssa Allen  04:46

Yes. Yeah, I have two different businesses, I guess you could call them. One is Melyssa With A "y" which is mostly just fitness and I like to infuse it with a little bit of positive psychology. too, so just creating positive fitness experiences and then Mind - Body - Thrive Lifestyle is more of my lifestyle medicine consultation and coaching programs, online courses and things like that.

 

Maya Acosta  05:12

I can't wait to hear more about your background, there's so many different things that make you a very interesting person before we get started, because you are, you know, boarded in lifestyle medicine, and we touch on the different pillars of lifestyle medicine, a lot of times it's about nutrition, stress management, sleep hygiene, we rarely talk about fitness, which is absolutely important. And you believe in prescribing exercise as medicine. So I was hoping that you can kind of explain to our listeners a little bit would have fitness coach is.

 

Melyssa Allen  05:45

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it has a lot of different terminology. You know, we have group fitness instructor, we have personal trainer, there's exercise physiologist, exercise specialists. But really, I consider myself a fitness coach, because I do focus on more of the behavior change aspects behind it, which obviously, lifestyle medicine is a very big proponent of, you know, meeting people where they're at being able to come up with that plan of action. And so as a fitness coach, I not only teach fitness classes, but I also work with my members to try to figure out, you know, their short term, long term goals, coming up with different, you know, plans of action to overcome barriers, because really, we're our own best experts. And so we're going to know what those kind of challenges and barriers that get thrown our way are going to be. And then trying to work as a team to figure out how to overcome those barriers to physical activity.

 

Maya Acosta  06:43

Exactly. And I like that you have that psychological component and training to at all because there's a lot of psychology involved with how you actually help create healthy habits and create change. Now, I went to the conference, the lifestyle medicine conference. Yeah. Which by the way you come into this year, yes, I will be there this year. I've been talking about the conference coming up, since I found out about it, because it'll be here near Dallas. So in 2019, I happen to go That was my first time attending the conference. And I wanted to go to one that talked about exercise as medicine. Yeah. And my husband and I split up he went to several I went to several and I came back and I said, You know what? We've really need to find someone in the Dallas area that talks about this because the emphasis was on how fitness is sort of marketed to many people yes. And yet how it's not to physicians?

 

Melyssa Allen  07:41

Yes, absolutely. And and I was lucky enough to be elected into the role as secretary for the Fitness In Medicine Member Interest Group with ACLM. So that is really exciting, because that has been a huge gap within, you know, the health care professions and the fitness professionals is a lot of people don't realize that, as a fitness professional, there are those opportunities to work with physicians, even physical therapists, occupational therapists to really bridge that gap between the care because what usually happens is a physician will tell you what you need to do as far as physical activity is concerned, but maybe they don't exactly know how to tell you to do it. And that's where a fitness professional can come in, and really work together with the client to help find what is going to be the most suitable form of activity, what really excites the person and really trying to make exercise something that people can look forward to instead of something that they end up dreading.

 

Maya Acosta  08:42

And that's where that positive psychology comes. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Love it. Okay. This learn a little bit more about you. Now, last week, we were we sort of greeting each other's state. So I flew to Florida, you flew here. Yep. to Texas. You were mentioning that you're originally from here from Texas that is.

 

Melyssa Allen  09:03

Yes. Yeah. So in my childhood, I spent most of my time on the outskirts of Houston up until around late Elementary School. Then we did a brief stint in Idaho for a few years. But Austin was really kind of my home base here in Texas, I was where I went to middle school, high school and just kind of got that whole Texas experience. And so I was mentioning to you before we recorded that being here in Texas barbecue is basically a food group for everyone. And I am making that transition into a whole food plant based diet. And I've come a really long way in even the last year and a half. But it's exciting to know that there's still room for improvement because I've already noticed such an amazing transformation in my own health journey too. So yeah, that's why I get excited to share that message even with my fitness classes too, because nutrition is a huge part of it. And that's why we all talk about how lifestyle medicine just ties together all the time.

 

Maya Acosta  09:59

Yes, and it's And I appreciate you saying that because you know, a lot of our listeners are not necessarily fully plant based or vegan. But they're they're seeking, they're looking, they're researching. They're listening to our content and other people as well. So, so you're from Austin. And now you're in Tampa, Florida. Is that right?

 

Melyssa Allen  10:18

Orlando, actually, yeah. So I'm in Central Florida.

 

Maya Acosta  10:21

Yep. Tell us about your background and your interest in psychology and also in animal training.

 

Melyssa Allen  10:27

Yeah. So that that was actually originally why I moved to Orlando, Florida was to attend the University of Central Florida go Knights! And I did study both biology and psychology when I was an undergrad. And people were very surprised by that, because they always looked at it as two very different fields of study. But really, you know, you think about physiological psychology that ties a lot into it. You think about neurobiology that ties a lot into the psychology behind things. So again, it's it's all interconnected. And so being able to study both of those, my intention was to become a marine mammal trainer. And I did eventually accomplish that because it was my childhood dream job. I went to SeaWorld San Antonio, when I was four years old, fell in love with the experiences and just seeing the different relationships that the trainers held with these animals and the amazing behaviors that they could do. But I didn't want to quite give up on the biology side of things. So I decided to double major. And once I graduated, I had an internship with Disney's Animal programs at the seas with Nemo And Friends. And then I went on to work for the Navy's Marine Mammal program for about a year up in Kings Bay, Georgia. They actually have a program where the sea lions and dolphins act as almost like the canine patrol units, but for the waterway, and so we would be patrolling around the nuclear submarine base to make sure that the waterways were secure. Yeah, a lot of people don't even know that program exists. I wouldn't. But But yeah, it was a really amazing experience. But ultimately, for me to make my way as a marine mammal trainer at SeaWorld to really promote the messages of education and conservation. That was what let my heart thing and being able to accomplish that childhood dream job. I was so so grateful, worked with everything from the you know, little, Asian small clawed otters all the way up to assisting with Shambu sessions, so the killer whales, but I was never a full trainer there. So it was a lot of support tasks. Yeah, because it takes you a long time before you're able to really work with the animals of that size, right. But my favorites were still the sea lions and the walruses. And the reason for that is because the otters, the lions, and walruses can hear our voices. And so it's almost like having a big dog in front of you. When you're working there for a few years. You know, I felt like I got what I needed from that job as far as like being able to live out my childhood dream job and wanting to leave room for other people to do the same thing. To be honest, I was also not feeling as challenged as I used to, like I had trained a lot of different behaviors at that point in time with a lot of different species of animals. And so I was looking for an opportunity to grow and I didn't see that happening within the park. So I ended up actually getting into a clinical psychology Ph. D program at UCF's main campus, and happened to fall into the fitness industry while I was there, I worked as a lifeguard at the on Campus Recreation and Wellness Center. And I happened to go back to reconnect with some of the old administrative staff that were still there. And just got curious, you know, what, what would it take to, you know, be a group fitness instructor because in my mind at the time, I was thinking, well, that could be a good way for me to make an extra income and get paid to work out. Yeah. I was thinking time management, how could I use my time most effectively. But what ended up happening was that I would get so much fulfillment out of not only going to the group fitness classes, but also as I started to teach, it was just something that I just couldn't get enough of, and, you know, meeting with my team leadership, they encouraged me to pursue my personal training certification. And I always had the thought like, well, I don't really look like a personal trainer, you know, I didn't have the bulging biceps. I didn't have the six pack abs and so I was really intimidated to pursue that certification. But, you know, they encouraged me and, you know, made me They helped me believe in myself because they already believed in me, so thanks Valerie and Troy. But, but really, the group fitness experiences were what you know, made me most fulfilled. I ended up finding out that the PhD wasn't really the right fit for me. I kind of wanted to I get down to business sooner rather than later, and ended up transferring into the clinical psychology master's program. Where had I gone straight into that program, I might not have ever found fitness because it was on a totally different campus. Fitness wasn't something that I had ever intended to really pursue. But, you know, looking back connecting the dots, it all makes sense the way that it worked out. And it was supposed to,

 

Maya Acosta  15:26

It actually does when I think about it now, just in case, we have listeners that don't understand that component, we have a squirrel Look at that. Until I don't know. But um, for individuals who might not understand exactly what clinical psychology is, I wonder if you could explain.

 

Melyssa Allen  15:48

Yeah, so for clinical psychology, it's more about, you know, being able to perform assessments to be able to assess for diagnoses come up with a treatment plan. And essentially, it falls under the umbrella of therapy and counseling. And so being able to really have a science practitioner approach to treating your clients using evidence based practices, and being able to also, you know, tie in a little bit of that art behind it to where, you know, you have to work with the person and see them as a whole person instead of just the diagnosis that they have in trying to help them accomplish their therapy goals. So for clinical psychology, we go through a lot of different training. In my program, we would go over different treatment modalities. So things like cognitive behavioral therapy, we would touch on, you know, family counseling, but we weren't a program that was tailored for marriage and family counseling. But it was still helpful to understand you know, family systems and things like that. We cover you know, a substance use course of, you know, physiological psychology course, to basically just get, again, that whole person approach to treatment, and understanding how the psychology behind these different types of disorders manifests to and being able to understand the clinical diagnostic criteria to assign those diagnoses and then come up with a treatment plan. 

 

Maya Acosta  17:22

Now, your official title is a fitness coach? 

 

Melyssa Allen  17:25

I guess I would now go by board certified lifestyle medicine professional, because I do have the fitness background. But simultaneously, I'm working towards my license and mental health counseling as well. Wonderful. So I am a registered intern in the state of Florida working on getting my clinical hours to get my license. And I kind of play around with the whole title as far as thinking of myself as a behavior change wizard or because a lot of that, but it is so much more, you know, I get the clients coming into my virtual classes that are looking for more resources to promote their optimal health. So, so I do classify myself as a fitness coach, because I wear all the different hats of personal trainer, group, fitness instructor, lifestyle, medicine professional, and I feel like that just kind of is a nice umbrella term for it.

 

Maya Acosta  18:18

And I like also that you're pursuing the mental health aspect of it all. Because as you know, it's become such an important topic to talk about.

 

Melyssa Allen  18:26

For my clinical internship during my master's program, I was lucky enough to be placed at the integrative medicine department within Orlando Health that had a cancer support community within it. And so they had a lot of focuses on the whole mind body health connection. And I got to help facilitate a study on a cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia program for cancer patients. And so that kind of first started exposing me to the sleep side of things and how the sleep deprivation just affects our mental status and our physical status. So significantly.

 

Maya Acosta  19:02

So we talked a little bit about your background working with animals. And I thought I'd throw in there the question of how do you see human beings in terms of like the field, the capacity you're in now? How are human beings a lot and very similar to animals, for example, that you work with?

 

Melyssa Allen  19:20

Yeah, well, they're much more challenging humans we are, because we have our minds chattering away at us that can either have helpful thoughts or unhelpful thoughts. Whereas I would like to believe that the animals don't have as much, you know, noise going on up in their heads as they do, making excuses and things like that, but, but really, when it comes to working with people, it is a lot about those mental barriers to change that come up and so trying to work with them to coach them through, you know, finding their motivation for change, anticipating those barriers And how they're gonna work through that. Whereas animals, you know, they, it's more about like, well, how, how does it look like they're feeling today because you have to read kind of the cues that they're giving to you. And then really, they're very food motivated for the most part. But even with animals, they had different motivations to some of them preferred tactile interaction, like, you know, neck scratches or back scratches. Others really enjoyed environmental enrichment devices or toys where you know, you toss it in for them, and they, you know, really seem to enjoy it. But for humans, it's so much more difficult because if you are trying to lose weight, you don't really want to motivate yourself with food, we have to get a little bit more creative in that sense to find that extra push to get us to do the hard thing sometimes, because especially even with exercises, medicine, we can prescribe physical activity to our clients all day. But really, if we're having difficulties with medication adherence, even trying to get them to adhere to a physical activity prescription can also be challenging at times, too.

 

Maya Acosta  21:07

Yes, I can understand that. And you were just talking about, you know, like, for example, you wouldn't use food as a way to motivate. And yet in some ways you can say that the way we are is partly because of the way we've been conditioned. Yeah, not so tradition, in terms of whether we grew up in a family that was physically active or not, yes. So then it's hard to get started at a certain age, or at least that's how we perceive it. Now, before we talk about motivational interviewing, how did you discover lifestyle medicine?

 

Melyssa Allen  21:37

Yeah, so I mentioned my internship being at Orlando Health's Integrative Medicine Department. And there is a lady there named Nicole Santa Pola. And she's the cancer prevention specialist. And she went to the conference and brought back all of these resources. And at the time, I was trying to figure out, you know, like, what do I really want to do after I graduate with my Masters, because I couldn't see myself in a therapy office for back to back sessions for you know, seven, eight hours a day and having to do notes, I was like, I just don't feel like I fit into that mold for traditional private practice therapy. And so when she went to the lifestyle medicine conference, and brought back all of those resources, she was telling me, you know, like, you've always mentioned to me how you enjoy leading the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Program and the Sleeping Well S tudy, and trying to do the like return to wellness group. So you know, I really think that you should check this out. And so she was that link for me to bring everything together, where it was like, Oh, my gosh, there are people out there who understand already that everything is interconnected, because it wasn't until I ended up with two stress induced illnesses that I really started to tune into the mind body connection. I ended up with hand mouth and foot disease, which is common in preschool children. And then three months later, I ended up with shingles on the left side of my face, and, and I was a relatively healthy, 26 year old and my doctor goes, you got to do something about your stress, because both of these are stress induced. And so up until that point, I always thought meditation and mindfulness were like, very woowoo, you know, kind of hippie dippie stuff. But really starting to learn more about the science behind it was where I convinced myself to give it a try. And it took me a while to really understand that like, No, you can't be competitive about it and say, I'm gonna sit for five minutes and not have a thought in my mind. That was how I started approaching it. Obviously, that wasn't helpful. So really being able to see that there was a community of people already and medical providers that understood that sleep, stress, physical activity, and I was still a little iffy about the nutrition thing. But, you know, I had an open mind at that point. I said, Well, you know, what, what's the worst that could happen from eating more plants? You know?

 

Maya Acosta  23:59

That was in 2019, when she brought this information to Yes, I was I was at that conference. I wish I would have been there. And then 2020 you sat for your board exam?

 

Melyssa Allen  24:12

I did the first ever virtual board exam. super stressed, it was okay. Yeah, I would have much preferred to have like gotten somewhere to take it and have like pen to paper or however they would do it. You know, it was it was hard to do it from home.

 

Maya Acosta  24:28

Yes 

 

Melyssa Allen  24:29

So but, you know, made it happen and luckily, got boarded. And the virtual conference I will say was an incredible experience to I like I said, I much would have preferred to have that in person as well. But being able to still have that kind of experience and still learn that amount in such a short period of time. Absolutely amazing. 

 

Maya Acosta  24:51

Right. That's how I felt too. I again, when my when my husband sat or was preparing for his board exam, he had the medical one And then I had this one that I bought later on the Lifestyle Medicine Handbook by Dr. Beth Frates. And so I was setting this one and he was sending his Yeah, because the other ones very technical I fell in this one I love I mean, and this is just for my own personal education, that I really enjoy it. And so now that weren't, you know, on the topic of lifestyle medicine, motivational interviewing was a new term for me as well. Yeah. Again, I'm not a coach, and I love to learn all this stuff. Sure. But it makes sense. Yeah. It makes sense. At earlier you said, you know, we were talking about physicians working with patients. And I've read that in the past, sometimes patients feel judged by other physicians, right. And then there's this disconnect of, you know, here's the expert prescribing, and here's the person that just probably doesn't know how to get started. And there's like this division, this sense of separation. That's partly why we want it, we want it to be part of Walk With A Doc, yeah, we can show that, hey, we're out here, too, right? We're not judging you. We just want to connect with you. And I feel like it's created such a nice sense of community. What's the deal with some physicians not being well trained in exercise using exercise as medicine?

 

Melyssa Allen  26:19

Yeah, I think it's just been something that in the traditional medical training was just very briefly discussed, if at all, I think the more conventional medicine approach right now has kind of shifted more heavily towards treating the symptoms of different conditions. And versus lifestyle medicine, taking that let's treat the root cause. Right. And so for physical activity in particular, I also think there's a big misconception for people out there that think fitness needs to look like heavy breathing, drenched in sweat, lifting heavy and all of these ideas that are very intimidating. And in to even go to like a fitness environment, whether it's a gym, or even like a, you know, physical therapy environment, it's just very well, physical therapy is more clinical. But when you go to the gym, and you see the people that are like grunting, while they're lifting, and you know, trying to show off for their Instagram pages and stuff, it can feel very intimidating for someone who's trying to move further help. And so being able to help people understand, you know, just just get moving, whether that's walking, if it's yoga, it doesn't have to look like a very high intense session. And so when it comes to physicians prescribing physical activity, that's where exercises medicine came in, because it was created by the American College of Sports Medicine, and being able to try to again bridge that gap to help physicians and health care providers start recommending more physical activity to their clients. I think another thing that starts to get overwhelming is when people look at the National recommendations and guidelines, so you know, thinking about 150 to 300 minutes a week of moderate intensity activity. That might sound like a lot for somebody who's doing nothing right now. And so really being able to say, like, just start at five minutes a day. Yeah, because five minutes is going to be better than zero exactly and helping them to work up and build their confidence. Yeah,

 

Maya Acosta  28:21

What is wrong with not exercising? Why should we exercise in the first place?

 

Melyssa Allen  28:26

Well, as humans, we were built to move we have been able to survive that way. And the sedentary lifestyles that we're starting to lead are having not only physical effects, but also mental health effects, too. Whenever we move our bodies, we get that burst of feel good hormones, and our heart starts pumping a little bit faster.

 

Maya Acosta  28:46

Sometimes I feel that people only see that you only exercise to gain muscle or to tighten up or to lose fat to lose fat and don't understand like the benefits in mental wellness, insulin resistance improves, hypertension improves, like that kind of stuff, who tells you that. 

 

Melyssa Allen  29:03

Right to tie up the why we should be moving is because it is good for our overall health and our quality of life. You know, when we're exercising regularly, we are going to get better sleep, we are going to have reduced stress, you're going to experience other benefits, like improved sexual performance, improved memory, and cognition and attention. And so it's, it's all of those factors coming together to enhance the quality of the life that you're living. Even if you don't have weight loss, schools are lifting goals. And so just being able to move on a regular basis, it's what our bodies were made to do. And so when we start neglecting that, we're gonna see declines in our physical health. And we're going to experience mental health side effects of that, too.

 

Maya Acosta  29:46

So how do you work with clients? And can you tell us a little bit more about motivational interviewing?

 

Melyssa Allen  29:53

Yeah, so I like to and I know I've said it already before, but I like to meet the clients where they're at and just start with what whatever resources that they have, and really work together as a team, to identify their strengths, clarify what it is that is driving them to change and coming up with those action plans. And the reason I like using a positive psychology approach is because that tends to lead to more sustainable change, right? A lot of people will have maybe a weight loss goal set for themselves, because they're not happy with how they look. And so they shame and judge themselves into changing. But that is only a temporary fix. And honestly, it's not the healthiest way to change. Because when we are shaming and judging ourselves, it's releasing some toxins into our body. And so being able to recognize and have a mindful awareness of like, Well, I'm not really happy with where I'm at. So I want to start working towards change, how do I do that using what I'm already good at, and what new things can I try. So for motivational interviewing, it is kind of like a dance with your clients, you know, because it's more about really respecting the client's autonomy, because you know, I can't I and this is, you know, again, the expert versus the coach approach, like I can tell you to change all day and what you need to do, but ultimately, you're the one that has to do the work, and you're not going to do the work if you're not really motivated for it. And so being able to ask the right questions through that process, and helping them to really start to dig deep into the importance behind these changes that they're making, in a way that kind of helps the client become their own coach eventually. Okay. So, you know, motivational interviewing asks a lot of open ended questions, reflecting a lot of the clients experience, summarizing, you know, and really using the active listening skills, because you want to be able to hear what your client is saying, but also the message that they're conveying. And so if you tune into, you know, someone saying, like, Oh, well, you know, when I have my future family, I'll use myself as an example. So you know, I want to have a kid someday. And I know that I need to have a healthy body in order to do that. And so, I like to walk people through an exercise that I call the five why's and so when you set a goal for yourself, asking yourself, why is that goal important to you? So increasing my physical activity? So why is increasing my physical activity important? Well, because I want to have better health? Why is it important to you to have better health? Well, because I want to have a family someday and have a healthy body? Why is it important to you to have a family someday? Well, I want to be able to set a good example for them and to have my kids learn these things early on in life so that they can share it for their future families, okay. And that basically means I want to stick around to see grandkids someday, right. So that's a lot more motivating than me just saying to myself, I want to increase my physical activity. So really trying to work with the client to discover what those underlying motivators are,

 

Maya Acosta  33:04

They're actually imagining themselves living a different way, right? with a different purpose. Very nice.

 

Melyssa Allen  33:12

I actually operate a virtual Fitness Studio for the moment, the lifestyle medicine side of things, I'm working on creating more like self paced courses and programs. So for my fitness business, I just have members of a virtual studio that I then meet individually with, I like to call them achievers because I call my Fitness Studio mindset achieve. Yeah. So my achievers and I meet together to really discuss their goals and to help provide them, you know, different resources that I teach. So I talked to a variety of formats, but I also encourage them, you know, like, you don't have to use the videos that I have for you, like, go and find what works best for you. It's not gonna hurt my feelings, as long as you're reaching the goals that you have.

 

Maya Acosta  33:59

And that were that you just use achievers that goes back to that whole positive psychology. It's you're really implementing everything that you talk about 2020 was that pretty successful for you in the sense that you went straight to video or online courses, right.

 

Melyssa Allen  34:13

And that was something that I was going to mention, you know, as you were sharing how you've never really liked to go into a Fitness Studio. And there's nothing wrong with that too. Because, you know, I think if anything last year taught us that we have to find ways to move even if our resources are taken away because gyms got closed. And so people that did have regular physical activity routines, their whole world was disrupted, and they had to try to, you know, work out from home. And so for some people, they're like, Wow, this is great. Like, I've never going back to a gym, and that's fantastic. But for some people, it was a much more challenging transition. And so what I found is that, you know, for transitioning to virtual fitness and 2020 I do miss that in person interaction, but you can build a really strong company. Unity online. And so then whenever you do get to see those people in person again, you just appreciate it so much more. But you're also able to work out like with my mom who was in Germany for you know her job. And so being able to have everyone working out on like a Saturday together through zoom, and just connecting that way. Well, it was an awesome experience that I'm not sure if I would have pursued something like that. If I didn't have that push from the pandemic. Yeah, because I was still teaching at UCF for the Recreation and Wellness Center throughout my grad school experience, which ended in August 2020. And so even for them, I was teaching virtually, and it was just such a unique opportunity. And we made UCF history, which I was very grateful to be part of is the first virtual classes. But there there is something and you know, bringing in the positive psychology aspect of it relationships is part of the perma model. So for your listeners who might not be familiar with the perma model, it's an acronym that stands for positive emotions, engagement or finding yourself in a state of flow, relationships, meaning, and accomplishment. Yeah. And so for that social piece of it, I mean, it's huge for us. And that's why it's one of the pillars of lifestyle medicine. And one of the reasons that I love group fitness so much is because it brings in a lot of those different aspects of not only lifestyle medicine, the perma model, but just being able to get together, do something good for our mind, our bodies and our hearts and leave a feeling like we can take on the world.

 

Maya Acosta  36:38

Your program seems like it was very successful in 2020. Because you, you know, you were creative, and you went online and right. And when people really like that individual that's teaching them, they'll just buy it, they'll continue to buy into that program, you'll continue to offer your online program, then people can learn more about you and contact you that way. Can you give us your website and social media? And by the way, you have two IG accounts, if you want to talk about that, too.

 

Melyssa Allen  37:03

Yes, absolutely. So the fitness account, and this is always a little confusing for people when they're listening to it. So please put it in the show notes. Because yes, my Instagram handle is Melyssa. But it's spelled me l y SSA underscore with underscore a underscore w h y. So Melyssa with the Instagram page, because I do always try to encourage people to find their why my website is also just Melyssa with a y.com. And then my lifestyle medicine page is at Mind - Body - Thrive underscore lifestyle. And then it's just mind body thrive lifestyle calm. Yeah,

 

Maya Acosta  37:41

If people can remember the colors that Melyssa is wearing, those are her colors on her social media, her website and all of that, yes, is there anything else that you would like our listeners to know?

 

Melyssa Allen  37:53

I think I would just encourage everyone to really take some time to think about what forms of movement they really enjoy. And if there's nothing that you enjoy right now, maybe thinking back to when you were a kid, and if there was any, like team sports that you played, or maybe you took a couple dance classes where you know, if there's just a nature park that you can find around you to start exploring, you know, I would try to challenge all of your listeners and readers to just use, like five minutes each week to try to start boosting their physical activity in some way, shape, or form. And to not be so hard on ourselves, because there are so many times where we're our own worst critics. And if we start down that shame and judgment and critical spiral, it's a lot harder for us to make change. Because when we don't feel good, we're not going to do good for ourselves. So really being able to again, focus on that positive psychology aspect of things that bring meaning to your life, things that help you feel accomplished, no matter how small those accomplishments might be. Everything counts and everything that you do should be celebrated. Yeah. So start one step at a time, one day at a time and just try to find a move your way experience.

 

Maya Acosta  39:08

What about a resistance training? And should we exercise more as week?

 

Melyssa Allen  39:12

Yes. So you know, one of the things that you kind of mentioned was you're like, I'm not looking to build muscle or anything. And I think there are people out there who do feel that same way. And so they tend to focus more on something like cardio or flexibility or balanced training, which are all wonderful as well. But for strength and resistance training, it's so important because it actually helps to keep our bones strong, too. So being able to help just that little bit of resistance, and increasing our bone density is going to be something crucial as we age because we become more frail if we're not keeping up with these types of things. And if you if you don't balance train, you're more prone to falls and if you do fall, when you're frail, you're more likely to break your bones. And so again, coming back to that whole well rounded fitness experience You know, cardiovascular, very important to get your aerobic exercise in, that's where you know, the recommendation of 150 to 300 minutes per week of moderate, or 75 to 150 minutes per week for vigorous intensity activity. But two days of strength and resistance training are also recommended. And it doesn't have to be powerlifting, where you know, you're throwing the bar up over your head, it's just, you know, have lighter weights with increased repetitions. And that's still going to get you similar benefits to keep yourself strong. Yeah, so being able to have, you know, non consecutive days of strength training, working different muscle groups, because we also do have to build in recovery for our bodies to so being able to allow when we're strength training, because we do have micro tears in our muscles that happen when we're lifting heavy, or lifting at all. And so allowing our bodies to heal that way to prevent us from getting injured, because overtraining is also something that we need to be mindful of. We don't want to take on too much too fast, because then we'll end up getting injured, which could lead to a setback and losing all of the progress that we could be making.

 

Maya Acosta  41:09

Okay, I'm glad that you mentioned that as well. So, Melyssa, okay, being that 2020 a lot of us relied on technology to exercise you have, you know, you told us about your courses, can you tell us what can people expect, when it comes to your videos, your fitness videos?

 

Melyssa Allen  41:25

Usually expect to have a lot of fun. One of the biggest compliments that I get from people or they always appreciate my energy and positivity, right. And so I always try to infuse that into the fitness classes that I teach. I have live classes that all teach as you know, a virtual live stream. And then there's also an on demand library that I have that I'm working to organize into different programs. So like if people are looking for more like strength training or having a library they're for more cardio based. For me, anything that I moved to the music is what I consider my fitness love language. So I teach a lot of like cardio kickboxing, yoga Pilates kind of hybrid class that's set to the music. So the that's what you can expect from the virtual fitness experiences for the Mind - Body - Thrive lifestyle online courses, I'm working right now to create different libraries of programs for like a stress less with mindfulness six week course, where you know, you pay a one time fee, and then you get access to the course and take it at your own pace. Okay, different things around, you know, I would love to do the food as medicine jumpstart that the acplm has really been a huge help for me. So I would love to maybe do some videos about you know, making the recipes myself and being able to show people how to do that. Yeah. But really, it's just more about like incorporating the How do you get better sleep and like a program for that kind of going over each of the pillars of lifestyle medicine, and then being able to also offer group coaching experiences at some point.

 

Maya Acosta  43:07

And when you say group, I you still talking virtual and maybe in person? 

 

Melyssa Allen  43:10

I'm hoping in person, I'm keeping my fingers crossed or in person within the, you know, Central Florida community in collaboration with places like the lake Nona performance club, because they're going to be opening right around August of 2021.

 

Maya Acosta  43:25

Wonderful. Yeah, I can see how all the collaboration can happen there. Yeah, that's what we like, as we travel throughout Florida is that we see that there's a lot of that over there.

 

Melyssa Allen  43:35

Yeah, it's all it's all starting to, you know, get more attention. And I think especially after last year, all of us recognizing how much our lifestyle factors affect not only our immune system, but just our quality of life in general. And I think just from you know, my psychological perspective, I think one of the things that I found most helpful when it came to promoting lifestyle medicine was that it's a way that you can take control over your health, because there's so many other aspects that we don't really have a whole lot of control over. But being able to change our behaviors and the ways that we're living is where I find that you can empower people to realize like, I don't have to go down the same trajectory that you know, my grandfather or my aunt, you know, had and so being able to recognize that those lifestyle related diseases, you can kind of change that trajectory of your own life experience.

 

Maya Acosta  44:31

Absolutely. I feel like that's always my message is you can take control. 

 

Melyssa Allen  44:34

When everything else was out of control. These are things that you can actively and proactively take control of for your home.

 

Maya Acosta  44:41

So going back to what you just said about the food as medicine and maybe hoping I guess you said to offer some of these recipes or teach them in person maybe?

 

Melyssa Allen  44:49

Yeah, you know, just being able to share even like an instructional video of like, you know, putting the ingredients together because I find that's where I get most intimidated when it comes to recipes. I am not a culinary magician able to find easy to follow recipes that are helpful and nutritious? Yeah, that's something that I know I need more of in my life. And so trying to share that as well with others.

 

Maya Acosta  45:13

I think that's part of we're all on that path of just incorporating healthier foods. Are you ever asked like what foods people should eat for recovery or for a good workout or anything like that? 

 

Melyssa Allen  45:24

Yeah, you know, a lot of people say, Oh, well, this is what I need to have my protein powder and stuff like that. And it's like, well, that's also processed. So you know, it might not be the best thing. I mean, I'm not saying that it's a bad thing. But there are probably some other options, you know, maybe like a handful of almonds, or a banana and some peanut butter, like being able to just have something that is going to, you know, heal and fuel your body, not only through the workout, but as you go through the rest of your day, right and recover. I think that's really going to be up to people finding what helps them feel best after they workout, because for some people, they may be really sensitive, and not want to eat anything immediately after they've worked out because they might feel nauseous. But for other people, you know, they may feel that need for hunger, like coming where they get hangry after their workout and need something to fuel them. So you know, I would just encourage them to see what they like to eat. That is a whole food plant based item.

 

Maya Acosta  46:27

Yes. And that's where we're also learning in terms of figuring out whether eating first, like I've heard some people that do run they prefer doing their morning run and then coming back and having a smoothie or whatever works for them. I'm so excited because I'm going to see you again then in the fall. Conference. Oh my god, I'm so excited and more people. Yeah, sure. Absolutely. Oh, my gosh, the world is changing and love that we're pursuing and moving towards some more like you say, helpful. Helpful is the better word, isn't it? Yeah, I lost it is. So

 

Melyssa Allen  47:00

I know. Everyone says they want things to go back to normal. And I'm like, No, I want things to stabilize, and then us figure out what new normal we want to create for ourselves. 

 

Maya Acosta  47:09

Yes, I think that we definitely, at least for my own perspective, my own life, I kind of was okay with letting go certain things in my life that I realized agreed no longer work for me. And I feel like I found a new side of myself that I really like and want to nurture. And so and that includes relationships to like healthier relationships and healthier approaches to life. And so we were given that opportunity.

 

Melyssa Allen  47:33

Absolutely. And I'm sure that there's some of your listeners out there who may have felt like, you know, they were in a better place before the pandemic happened, and are having a hard time either trying to get back into that more healthful space that they found themselves in before. And so for that, I would just say, you know, be patient and compassionate with yourself and give yourself some grace during this time, because it is really hard to to move forward from something that was, you know, potentially traumatic for some people, but also just very uncertain, and trying to figure out how to pick up the pieces and put them back together to create something that we can move forward into. Yep. So just taking it slow. self compassion is key to transformation. So remembering that 

 

Maya Acosta  48:22

Absolutely I always say self compassion. And I really say because I'm preaching to myself, but 

 

Melyssa Allen  48:26

I do that. I know. 

 

Maya Acosta  48:30

Okay, so you've heard from Melyssa Allen, and we'll put all her links in the show notes, follow her and learn from her. She's got a lot of courses to offer. So

 

Melyssa Allen  48:40

Thank you so much for letting me share this time with your audience. I really appreciate it.

 

Maya Acosta  48:45

Thank you. You've been listening to the Plant Based DFW Podcast show. If you like our content, please like, share and leave a review. Our goal is to provide quality episodes to help support the community