My Journey to Healthier Habits

Local photographer, yoga instructor, mom and entrepreneur Meagan Gumpert talks about the commitment she made in recent years to reach a new level of wellness and maintain a healthy routine, free of mommy-guilt and fad diets.

What does health mean to you, and why did you decide to make some changes toward a healthier lifestyle?

To me, health is a balance of your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. After spending years in the trenches of early motherhood, I felt like a wreck in all these areas. And I was finally over it. No more pity party. I wanted to be healthier for me. I wanted to be healthy for my kids.

 

How and when did you make health and fitness a priority?

Things really changed for me in December of 2018. I had been feeling extremely frustrated with how I was feeling physically and mentally. I was working out. I was eating healthy. But something just didn’t feel right. I talked to several doctors. They all assured me I was a healthy weight, and there wasn’t any reason to be concerned. But I knew my body and something was off.

I found doctors at Absolute Health who took the time to listen to me. This was huge! There were blood tests, referrals to specialists, supplements, prescriptions and lots of appointments. They put together a plan that was customized for me, my body type and my personality. It took a lot of work, and the changes were gradual. But I went into this with an attitude of wanting to find a new, sustainable lifestyle, not a fad diet or trendy exercise. 

You’re a busy professional mom. How have your healthy lifestyle changes helped you in your family life?

Working out is a priority in my life, not something I do when there’s time. It is literally scheduled on my calendar. But this is where the mom-guilt can creep in if I don’t keep it in check. When my boys were younger, I picked my gym based on the childcare options available. (Thank you, Zone Health and Fitness.) The more I went, the more my kids got used to the routine. I want regular exercise, healthy food choices and occasional treats to be a normal part of life for my kids. I’m also careful about how I talk about this in front of my boys. I explain that I’m making choices to be healthy and strong, not to be skinny or look a certain way.

 

You recently became certified as a yoga instructor by Ocala Yoga Center. How does yoga impact your day-to-day life?

Yoga isn’t about bending your body into crazy positions. It’s more about what you can learn about yourself through the process of bending your body into crazy positions. Often the way you approach a challenging pose in yoga is the same way you’d approach a stressful situation at work or at home. Is there resistance, fear, excitement, anticipation, anger, joy? Being aware of these personal tendencies is the first step. From there, you can learn to process and let go, creating new, positive habits.

Finding Balance

Traditional stand-up paddleboarding and SUP yoga can provide recreation, exercise and even help create a more mindful workout.

Always up for an adventure, we asked Gumpert to join us at Lake Weir for a stand-up paddleboard (SUP) yoga and photo session. While she is a certified yoga instructor, she says she is a novice at SUP yoga and enjoyed the opportunity to challenge herself in this unique way.

“I took a paddleboard yoga class with personal fitness trainer Jen King back a couple of years ago. It was a fun workshop,” she explains. “Since then, I’ve occasionally rented boards when we’ve gone to the beach, but that’s it. I definitely wish I did it more though.”

Although that program is no longer offered by King, Marion County Parks and Recreation has been offering traditional SUP classes and camps over the past few years. While on hold for the moment, they should resume later this year. To learn about those offerings, visit www.marionparksrec.org.

Historically, paddleboarding has been a staple on local waterways including the Rainbow, Silver, Ocklawaha and Withlacoochee rivers, and Lake Weir, with participants often renting boards through local vendors.

While experts say that SUP yoga can be a challenging discipline that takes training and practice, when mastered it can be a peaceful yet fun way to take your yoga practice outdoors and onto a floating mat of sorts. 

According to Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI Co-op), the nation’s largest consumer cooperative of outdoor gear, expert advice, classes and adventure trips, doing yoga on a SUP engages muscles you may neglect during on-land practice and can help develop mindfulness because of the challenge. For a comprehensive guide to SUP yoga featuring expert advice, visit
rei.com/learn/expert-advice/sup-yoga.html

Things to Know:

I now do a combination of weightlifting, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and yoga four to six days a week.

I teach power yoga at 6am on Friday mornings at Zone Health and Fitness.

I no longer regularly count calories. I did this and tracked macros for a couple of months when I started with my doctor, but stopped when I felt I had the hang of it. I will occasionally track a day or two now to just keep myself in check.

I avoid eating gluten and dairy, per bloodwork results from my doctor. And, Ugh!, I can totally tell when I cheat and overdo it.

While not all individuals will achieve similar results based on avoiding gluten or dairy or changes to your physical routine, we share Meagan’s insights to provide inspiration for achieving optimum wellness. Consulting your family physician before making any major changes to your diet is advised.

For more information, check out the following digest of wellness recommendations from leading experts, compiled by registered dietician nutritionist Brigid Titgemeier at www.beingbrigid.com/2020-wellness-intentions/

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