Even now, as a certified personal trainer and the founder of ProCakes, a health-focused, high-protein pancake mix, Caren Magill-Myers admits that she wasn’t always a picture perfect example of healthy living.
In fact, she was far from it. At 21 she was overweight, weighing in at about 180 pounds, and it was only when she began to recognize that her poor health was beginning to hinder opportunities in her life that she decided to make a change.
So, how did she make the switch from inactive and overweight to an enthusiastic exerciser and impassioned fitness professional?
Well, Magill-Myers says that she actually has two weight loss stories, and both of them opened her eyes to a handful of important lessons and realities.
Her first weight loss journey, she says, began at the age of 21. She lost 70 pounds over the course of three years by improving her diet and exercising more.
“The changes I made were so small and incremental, that I was able to incorporate them into my lifestyle and I never regained the weight,” says Magill-Myers. “This is one of the principles we're taught at Precision Nutrition—to make behavior changes so small that you can't fail. I didn't realize that's what I was doing at the time, but it was a powerful practice.”
She says that she’s kept those 70 pounds off for about 20 years and completely credits her success to creating healthy habits that have been sustainable over the long term.
Why then, if Magill-Myers successfully kept off the weight, does she have a second weight loss story to share?
Well, her second journey was a little less traditional and she says it helped her to gain a more grounded understanding of what it means to be fit and healthy.
“My second weight loss story was training for my fitness competition,” Magill-Myers explained. “That was a matter of getting down from 21 percent body fat to 16 percent. It wasn't sustainable and I realized that from the start, but it made me aware of how far one has to go with diet and exercise in order to achieve the ‘six-pack abs’ look.”
She said that the very restrictive, high-protein diet she had to follow for the competition led to the creation of ProCakes.
“My coach recommended making pancakes with oats, protein powder, and egg whites, just to mix up my menu a bit,” she said. “So I did, and they were disgusting, but it inspired the idea to create a great tasting pancake mix with a healthy dose of protein and a nutritious blend of flours.”
Following the competition Magill-Myers says that she intentionally regained some of the body fat she had lost for the show, and along the way learned a lot about her body’s “wants and needs.”
“I've found a great balance in that knowledge,” she said.
Magill-Myers says that if she could offer one piece of advice to someone who’s struggling with weight loss, it would be to sleep more. In fact, she said sleeping for about eight hours each night is the first place to start.
“Leptin and ghrelin are two hormones that control our body's hunger and satiety signals,” she explained. “If you're not sleeping enough—ideally eight hours—you'll continue to fight cravings for starchy carbs and overall elevated hunger.”
In addition to making sure that you get enough quality sleep, Magill-Myers says that when it comes to losing weight, adding lots of veggies, quality protein, and healthy fats to your diet and cutting out sugar are of most importance.
“If you can change those three things, you're going to experience sustainable weight loss and vastly improved mental energy as well,” she said.
It’s clear that Magill-Myers has an enthusiastic passion for healthy living, but she says that it didn’t appear in her life until later on.
“Both my parents passed away at a young age from cancer,” she said “Their short lives were a strong message to me that you have to take care of physical and mental health in order to live a long, full life. Nutrition and exercise are only two legs of the stool.”
She went on to explain how she’s learned why stress management and personal happiness are an equally important part of the equation.
“More and more studies are pointing to mental wellbeing as the insurance against chronic illness,” she noted.
At the end of the day, Magill-Myers says that adopting a healthy lifestyle all comes back to creating sustainable habits and doing things that you enjoy.
“If you hate to run, but you're forcing yourself to do it because you want to lose 10 pounds, it won't work because you won't keep up with it over the long term,” she said. “Consistency is what brings lasting results, not 30-day challenges. Creating a behavior around consistent exercise has to start with doing what you enjoy. Building a healthy diet starts with the same principles.”