TESSA: I'm a local DC gal and grew up in Alexandria, VA. I graduated from Virginia Tech with a business degree, and I worked in media for several years before deciding I just didn't have it in me to sit at a desk for 8+ hours a day anymore. I'd make coworkers get down on the floor with me to stretch and do pushups. So while it was definitely a little scary to walk away from the comfort of being employed by a big company, I think everyone was in agreement that it was the right move! I grew up dancing competitively, so being active was always a big part of my life. I stopped dancing when I went to college and began practicing yoga which felt like a very natural extension. I completed a 200-hour Vinyasa yoga teacher training at Down Dog Yoga in Georgetown, and everything basically took off from there. Shortly thereafter I trained to teach Pilates and barre. I taught yoga for a few years, and now teach FlyBarre at Flywheel Sports in Dupont (which is how we met!).
ELLEBEING: Your class seriously left me sore for days! Tell us about your company Monarq.
TESSA: Nutrition and fitness are absolutely my passions, and so I launched Monarq at the beginning of 2015 after completing health coaching and personal training certifications. I actually feel like I was made to do this, which while cheesy, is actually pretty damn cool. Monarq offers programs and services rooted in nutrition, fitness and stress management that ultimately influence a healthy, more balanced lifestyle. Health is so individualized, so it's important to me that everyone I work with is receiving a customized program with goals that are specific yet attainable and relevant. That being said, I've held seminars at companies and schools and taught barre on Good Morning Washington--so I also love being able to share general principles of wellness with large groups of people.
TESSA: Day to day it varies depending on my schedule. I'm usually up around 5 a.m., so without fail, my morning always starts with a cup or two of black coffee. Breakfast is usually a piece of fruit and eggs with spinach and avocado. For lunch, I make soup a lot this time of year. I basically just throw what I have on hand in a pot and call it a day. Some sort of whole grain like quinoa or barley, beans, lean protein, chicken broth and wilted greens is usually a standby combination and packed with nutrients. The best part is you can prepare a big batch and eat it throughout the week. Dinner is almost always vegetables and some sort of lean protein like fish or baked chicken. I try to eat produce that is in season, so I'm making a lot of squash right now and really enjoying fall spices like nutmeg, sage and cloves. I love to cook, so I do typically prepare most meals at home. But, if I'm out and about I'll grab a salad from Sweetgreen or Glen's Garden Market. Really no food is "off limits" to me, but I do try more often than not to make good decisions about eating foods that are nutrient-dense.
ELLEBEING: I love soups this time of year too! I just posted recipes for a black bean pumpkin chili and cauliflower soup. Try them out and let me know what you think :) How many days a week do you work out?
ELLEBEING: Do you believe in "cheat meals" or "cheat days"?
TESSA: I have mixed feelings about this concept. To me, "cheating" implies there should be some associated guilt. Food can be such an emotional thing, so I usually try to stay clear of labeling something good or bad. That being said, if a "cheat day" helps keep someone accountable, I'm all for it. It's definitely a balancing act. Trust me, I'll eat a burger and drink a beer on a Sunday afternoon while watching football. But, I always try to keep my eye on the bigger picture. You can't dwell on it or beat yourself up if you indulge in something you know isn't a super healthy option. The important part is that you get back on track the very next meal, and that the cheat meal doesn't turn into a cheat month.
ELLEBEING: What is your take on protein powders and supplements? (fish oil, biotin, etc.)
TESSA: Again, mixed feelings here. I believe that if you have a well-balanced diet full of colorful, nutrient dense, whole foods, you shouldn't need supplements. I do firmly believe no supplement will work on its own if a healthy foundation is not already in place. There are of course always special circumstances (pregnant women for example), but I think we benefit more from improving our diets naturally than from adding pills and processed powders.
ELLEBEING: It's already November so the holidays are creeping up! Do you have any tips to stay healthy during this crazy time of the year?
TESSA: I have a few! A lot of traditional holiday dishes are really not that unhealthy. You could do a lot worse than a lean protein like turkey and roasted veggies—it’s the additional sauces, glazes and trimmings that can take you off track. I try to eliminate (or at least minimize) extras like gravy, cream-based sauces, added butter, and thick pie crusts. Also, I really encourage people against fasting before a big meal. It will almost always backfire. Low blood sugar from hunger increases cortisol levels, which leads to cravings for fatty, salty, and sugary foods. It's very easy to overeat when you're ravenous. Saving up for the big meal just doesn’t work. Instead, snack on veggies, fruit and nuts throughout the day to avoid a full-blown binge come dinner time. One of the biggest mistakes people make this time of year is letting a single holiday become a four-day feast instead of a one-day indulgence. All of a sudden you have a reason to have treats nearly every day of the week. We all love celebrating, but staying mindful and accountable this time of year is just as important as ever.
ELLEBEING: Such a good tip to keep in mind! Now for those indulgences…what's your favorite holiday treat or recipe?!
TESSA: So hard to choose! I crave really rich and creamy hot chocolate (with marshmallows) in the winter. I also use this really great apple cake recipe that I've made several times already this fall. It’s definitely a crowd pleaser.
ELLEBEING: Thank you for chatting Tessa! See you at the barre :)