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Cool People, Motivation

May 19, 2009

You must believe in yourself

Part of an effective formula for succeeding in life is simply doing the things you want to do – that will serve to help others. We all have unique talents, how we choose to express these talents is our mission. 

Marta Montenegro

This interview with Marta Montenegro is the first in a series of talks with people who “help others feel better about themselves.” I was fortunate enough to network with Marta and SOBeFiT Magazine while researching for one of my other articles. We met on Twitter and here is what we spoke about:

Stefan Pinto: You often write about the importance of self and responsibility. Are these traits you have always practiced?
Marta Montenegro: I was raised with that sense of responsibility. Ever since I was a kid, I was taught that you have many choices in life, and ultimately you’re responsible for those choices. And you can make good choices or bad ones, but the important thing is to learn from every decision regardless of the result, because that will push you to do better.

SP: How would you advise children who are growing up, surrounded by fast food and video games that staying healthy; eating right and exercising is a responsibility to them and quite possibly, to their families?
MM: Currently we’re blaming everybody—schools, fast food industry, etc.—for the problem of childhood obesity. But ultimately the family is responsible. The family is your primary social circle; this is where you develop a sense of responsibility and importance of taking care of yourself. It’s very easy to blame video games and fast food. But it is parents who control these purchases. If you as a parent don’t develop the importance of a healthy diet and exercise, it’ll be difficult for your child to understand that concept. As a parent, you need to educate yourself so you can educate your kids.

SP: You too believe in establishing goals and staying focused. What advice can you give to people who are so afraid of failure that they never find the courage to start?
MM: The biggest failure is never having the courage to start something. You have to try and believe in yourself and the goals you set. You may make some mistakes, but if you truly learn from them you’ll only get stronger. My own fear is to not make the most out of a failure—that would be my failure.

SP: I always say that life is like a marathon. At times you’ll feel tired, you’ll feel the pain, you’ll want to quit, you’ll see who’s prepared and who’s given up. But amid all that, you’re still running your own race. You just have to stay focused. How has being fit changed your life? Were you always fit?
MM: I was fortunate to have a good genetic background, in the sense that there were no traits of obesity from either side of my family. But just because I didn’t have weight problems doesn’t mean I was fit. In fact, my first exposure to sports was frustrating; I didn’t have good coaches or people to motivate me properly. I first began consistently working out and doing sports when I was 18, after my father suddenly passed away. I wasn’t prepared for it, and I just decided to go to a gym and channel my feelings into a workout. That’s when I discovered another world. I realized that the human body is such a marvelous machine. If you give the body something, it will respond. I was seeing a change in myself mentally and physically. I fell in love with a healthy lifestyle, and the more I studied about it, the more I was hooked. Now I’m going on 17 years of continuous exercise.

SP: I read that you rise at 3 a.m. every day to run. How do you juggle such a presumably hectic schedule? What is your motivation?
MM: I have the discipline of a soldier. Like everyone else, I face all kinds of challenges. I have two jobs, a house to maintain, a husband and family. But I believe success comes from perseverance. It doesn’t come all in one day. Sometimes I don’t want to get up so early and train, but I always think about how good I will feel afterward; I think about how great I felt the day before when I finished training. That’s all I need to get out of bed. Every day is a competition with myself to do everything better, and I want to communicate that vision to everyone around me. Success comes day by day.

SP: Passion is another quality you admire. What do you think is the key for maintaining boundless enthusiasm?
MM: Having goals. You need short-, mid- and long-term goals. My enthusiasm right now comes from inspiring other people to succeed and achieve their own goals… to know that I’ve helped someone learn something.

SP: As a nutrition and diet expert, what do you believe are some of the popular food misconceptions that we have in America?
MM:There are three food misconceptions that I’ve noticed. First, we blame fast food for everything. I eat out frequently during the week because of my job, but no matter where I am, I can always find something healthy. The thing is to be well-educated. If you want healthy, you’ll find healthy. Another issue I see is that people are following food trends without knowing exactly what benefit they receive. Whether it’s a gluten-free diet or increased fiber, you need to know what you can include in your lifestyle and what not to include. Lastly, salads. Americans think eating any kind of salad is healthy! But when you get a bunch of lettuce and smother it with ingredients that come from a can, and then cover it with Thousand Island dressing… honestly, you’re better off eating a hamburger.

SP: I’ve heard that sweet potatoes are good for eliminating allergies. Did you know this? I know you like sweet potatoes.
MM: I think sweet potato is a wholesome food, rich in fiber, and as part of a healthy diet it is a great carb source. It’s not about avoiding carbs—just getting the best carbs. I know sweet potatoes are a low-allergen food and, as such, are used to determine food allergies, but I’m not aware of any well-known research studies that suggest they can cure allergies.

SP: What is your most effective fitness “habit?”
MM: Consistency. Regardless of whether there will be rain or a hurricane tomorrow, I know that the first thing I’m going to do in the morning is exercise.

SP: If you only had five dollars in your pocket, what would be the one food item, or meal, that you would purchase?
MM: Oatmeal made with low-fat milk and a spoonful of flaxseed, and an apple. This is an excellent well-balanced meal that combines a good amount of proteins, carbs, calcium and fiber. The insoluble fiber of the oatmeal also helps lower cholesterol, while the soluble fiber of the apple helps with the digestive system. The apple contains antioxidants, while the flaxseed brings in the essential fats like omega-3 fatty acids. Best of all, the cost of this meal is under $2.50.

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