Meet Antonia Daniel
Meet Amber Corbino
Meet Ashley Jones
Meet Kerry Regan
Meet Kristi Lees
Meet Makeda Benjamin
Meet Ariana Twitchell
Meet Kirsten Haug
Monty Python and the meaning of Fitness
Hey, whatever works...
Hard As A Rock
Heaven and Hell have the same address...
Walking the Labyrinth
Meet Holly Powell
Ironman: All in Your Head
The 10 Step Rookie's Guide
Train Like a Woman!
By Kristin Reisinger, MS RD
Kristi contacted me recently to include an interview with me about female athletes and vegetarianism (alongside some other really awesome women!). Being vegetarian herself, I was immediately intrigued. After keeping in contact over glorious email, I realized that not only is she veggie, she is an awesome role model for all women with regards to health, life, nutrition and coolness. This month I have chosen Kristi as my featured woman of the month... meet Kristi Lees!
KR: Please tell me a little bit about your background: age, athletic background, childhood, etc. Anything you might feel is pertinent to where you are now in terms of fitness and health.
KL: I grew up in New Zealand so I had a very 'outdoorsy' childhood. Family outings usually involved some active outdoors activity and sports were a part of the everyday school curriculum. The town I grew up in was pretty small so if I needed to get anywhere I would walk or bike, exercise was something I did naturally everyday without thinking about it. Through high school I must have tried every sport there was, everything from basketball to soccer, marching to aerobics. Through all this chopping and changing, yoga was the only thing that really stuck; it has been the one consistent thing in my life. I did my first class when I was 13 and have been hooked since then.
KR: How long have you been involved in this industry and how did you get involved?
KL: I have always had an interest in fitness and health, while my friends would be reading girly teenage magazines I would be flicking through the latest edition of 'Healthy Options.' I felt like a bit of a nutcase but I enjoyed reading about health issues more than the latest trends and gossip.' I always knew I wanted to have an active career but was just unsure exactly what that would be. Over the years I have read so many books on health, nutrition and fitness that one day it just clicked 'this is it, this is what I have to do.
KR: I know you are very much into yoga. How did you first get started?
KL: My journey started in 1994 at the tender age of 13, I can't remember exactly what it was that prompted me to enroll in a series of yoga classes but somehow I ended up sitting on a towel in a room full of old ladies. The classes were held in a classroom at the local high school (back then Yoga wasn't as popular and there was only one studio in the city). My first teacher was everything you imagine a yoga teacher should be. A petite Indian lady dressed in a full length leotard with a long black plait draped down her back which she sometimes wore in a bun. She led the class through various yoga contortions and strange breathing patterns that would occasionally cause me to giggle self consciously. I don't know what it was exactly but Yoga gave me something I couldn't find anywhere else.
KR: How do you feel yoga is beneficial in terms of health and fitness?
KL: Through yoga I have learned a lot about myself, life and others. I feel that what yoga has taught me applies to many other areas of health, fitness and of life in general. It is just such an all encompassing philosophy that touches on absolutely everything externally and internally in the body. It puts you in touch with yourself and your surroundings. It makes you appreciate you body more for what it can do as opposed to what it looks like whilst doing it.
Also because you become a lot more in tune with your body you become a lot more sensitive to what you do with it and what foods you put in it. When I don't eat/exercise right I can feel it in my body, it can be an inconvenience at times but it is the main thing that helps to keep me on the right track. I actually just finished an article on 'Yoga for Increased Performance' that goes into a bit more detail http://www.kristi-trinity.com/id40.html
KR: Tell me a little bit about why you practice vegetarianism. How do you feel about the different practices of vegetarianism: raw food vs. pesco-vegetarian, etc.
KL: I first started on the veggie path when I was ten, over a period of 13 years I tried everything from lacto-ovo veggie to vegan and even lived as a raw fooder for two years. It all came so naturally to me at the time that I didn't question it. The changes were gradual and it seemed the more I read the less I ate. I never had to force myself and I never felt deprived.
I think every version of the vegetarian diet provides a different energy to the body and a different focus to the mind. It depends what you are trying to achieve in life and in your body. For example when I was a Raw Fooder I felt very clear and light, the diet was very cleansing and I felt very 'pure' as a result. On the flip side however I became so uber sensitive to my surroundings that I would get affected by the smallest things. I noticed as I started added more cooked foods back into my diet and some grains this feeling subsided. A great book on this is called Food and Healing by Annemarie Coblin.
For me being a vegetarian is a state of mind just as much as a dietary choice. I find vegetarians are generally more aware of where there food is coming from and are a lot more 'consumer conscious' in that they are mindful as to where their money is spent and which companies they support. Well this has been my experience at least.'
I am not so much into labels these days, I just eat what feels good for me in my body, in my mind and I encourage others to do the same (within reason of course.) I think like nature, the body also has seasons. What we need in one stage might not suit us the whole way through life. We have to be open to change and listen to what our body is asking for and what it does/doesn't need.'
KR: Do you feel that being vegetarian hinders you in any way being involved in the fitness community?
KL: Not at all. Life is what you make of it and if you choose for this diet to be hard it will be. The main thing is to be strong in your beliefs and don't let others try to push you off course.
KR: Do you feel as though being vegetarian may compromise your physique goals because of the ongoing protein issues?
KL: This is one of those great 'veggie questions' that everyone is misled about. The meat and diary industry have done such a great advertising job that people are so scared to leave these foods out of their diet for the risk as to what might happen. I never felt this way even when I was a raw vegan.
As you can see I think the whole protein thing is blown out of proportion. It is still very important to get enough protein in your body but it is also possible to get too much of a good thing. Excess can lead to just as many problems as lack of.
I feel that if we can learn to listen to our bodies and eat accordingly we will always get enough of what we need. (This is not a license to go crazy on the chocolate by the way...)
KR: As a former anorexic, what do you feel the main problems are with female body image in our society?
KL: It seems that we are never 'enough.' Society constantly reflects the need for improvement of ones self and never seems to talk about the need for acceptance. Improvement can be a good thing but when it turns into an unhealthy obsession is when it becomes a problem.
It's strange; I notice this is a lot more prominent over here in North America than back home. I find that there is a strong sense of inadequacy over here that I never really encountered in New Zealand. That feeling of not being 'enough' is mirrored everywhere; advertisements for plastic surgeons flood the papers, diet pills are filling the shelves, new exercise fads and diet trends pop up everyday. Sure we have that stuff back home but it's a lot more subtle and you have to look harder to find it.
Plastic surgery seems to be a way of life over here, highly accepted and almost expected. Back home it is very rare. We seem to be losing touch with the concept of natural beauty and it's sad to see.
KR: What are your health and fitness goals for the future?
KL: To branch out and push myself to the edge; both physically and mentally. I have held back on myself in the past out of fear and now it is time to break out of my shell and see where life takes me. I am currently finishing up some studies and working on my website www.kristi-trinity.com which I hope will expand into bigger and better things very soon. I would like to compete in some figure comps at some stage but I don't feel I am ready for that just yet.
My biggest goal in this area though is to help others, so they can make the most out of their own lives. I see so many people living life 'half awake' and I have been there and it is no way to live. I want to inspire others to do all the things they want to do, and most importantly to have them believe that it is possible.
KR: If there were one thing you could tell a woman looking to get into shape, what would it be?
KL: Find your path and stick to it. Don't listen to the hype and don't buy into the commercialism of 'Weight Loss'. Educate yourself so you can make wise choices, put yourself in a place of power so you have control. Accept your self first for who and where you are and move from there. Most importantly be gentle with yourself and go slowly. Commit to making a 'life' change, but remember that change does not happen over night. Don't be in a rush as 'the journey is just as important as the final destination.'
Kristin Reisinger, MS RD, is a New York City-based nutritional consultant, fitness trainer, freelance health + fitness writer and musician. She holds a Master's Degree in Exercise Physiology + Nutrition from Columbia University and is a Registered Dietitian through American Dietetic Association. She is also a competitive figure athlete, former Galaxy competitor, avid snowboarder, rock climber and surfer. She has been competing for over five years and will continue to do so until she is 80. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.