New routes to a healthier new year

Entrepreneurs, philanthropists offer hope, health, support

Friday, January 8, 2016, Vol. 40, No. 2
By Linda Bryant

About a year ago, Christina Charley launched Love Yourself Fitness, a virtual at-home personal training and holistic coaching business.

Now a year later, Charley’s new business is thriving and she’s in the process of expanding it.

Charley’s 12-week courses cost $297, and she usually works with eight people at a time.

Although most of Charley’s clients are from Middle Tennessee, there’s nothing keeping her from working with clients from New York, Paris or Knoxville.

She communicates with participants daily – and extensively – via a private Facebook page, email, Skype and videos.

Many Love Yourself Fitness clients are women, although Charley has also had success coaching couples that are focused on getting in shape and leading healthier lives.

“I can work with anyone, but I really did see a missing link for women not getting the emotional support they need in their journey to get fit and healthy, ” Charley says.

Christina Charley

-- Michelle Morrow | The Ledger

“I personalize for each individual, and they are able to participate from the comforts of home. They don’t have to go to the gym and feel self-conscious.”

Cathy Freiberger signed up for virtual coaching with Charley a year ago and has since lost 105 pounds. Now at 156 pounds, she weighs less than she did in high school.

“I’ve gone through a huge transformation,” Freiberger explains. “I feel like working this program helped my body, mind and spirit. It helped me set clear and specific goals and become really accountable.”

When Freiberger first started she has trouble walking. Now she’s not only walking with gusto, she’s working as Charley’s assistant coach in the business.

“There’s no shame when you work with Christina,” Freiberger adds. “We’re all in this journey together. Christina is a great cheerleader and does a great job of keeping us inspired, motivated and on track.

“I think she’s especially good with clients who respond to adding a spiritual component to weight loss. She shares scripture and inspired quotes, and it’s really motivating.”

Freiberger lost an average of 2-2.5 pounds a week. She exercises about 30 minutes a day.

The Ledger spoke with Christina Charley about the specifics of Love Yourself Fitness.

Q: Do you have an ideal client? What kind of people come to you?

A: “Women who are seeking a compassionate and supportive approach to addressing their health and weight loss issues from the inside out. Women who are looking to address more than just behavior modification when it comes to their health and nutrition. Women who want to discover a new way of thinking, loving and supporting their whole self.’’

Q: From your experience what are some typical ways people sabotage themselves when it comes to getting healthier/losing weight? What are some good ways to counteract these negative mindsets?

A: “I believe it’s less important to focus on how much – or how quickly – you lose weight. It’s more important to focus on holistically losing weight. You want your body, soul and emotions to all ‘lose weight.’

“Most people don’t understand what you truly become is produced by your thoughts, by how you think. I first try to help people become aware of, and identify, the thoughts they carry about themselves all day long.

“Most of us don’t realize how negative and critical we are of ourselves. Many of us carry wounds of rejection, fear and destructive thought patterns. We don’t even realize we are thinking them.

“I help my clients see the connection between their thoughts and the way they treat themselves. We learn to replace these negative thoughts with truth, with understanding of who God says we are.

“We learn to treat ourselves intentionally and with the love and respect we’d give to a friend. We talk about the importance of faith, prayer and other faith building practices. We choose nourishing foods that will love and support optimal health and exercise. I am here to support my clients and give them accountability.’’

Q: You talk about “clean eating” in your approach. Can you explain it a bit and perhaps add some tips on snacking?

A: “I believe eating “living” foods that are as close to their natural state is very important. Many of my clients and friends struggle with eating vegetables, and I encourage them be patient and give their bodies time to adjust to eating differently and their tastes for healthy foods will come with persistence and consistence.

“I even ask them to pray and ask God to help them to crave the foods created to be best for nourishing and healing our body.

“Be present when you eat. Ask yourself if the foods you choose are going to love and support you body. Are they going to support your health goals and make you look and feel good?

"Plan your treats. If you know you are going to have a party later in the week, make that the day you have a treat or two in moderation. Don’t allow your emotions to dictate what you are going to eat. Understand that food is not the enemy, it’s the person choosing the foods that has the control.

“I help clients focus on the foods they can have. To simplify my life, I have my favorites. I stick to them most of the time and try a new recipe when I have time. It’s important to make room for some of your favorite treats.

“But you need to plan most of them and make sure they are portion controlled. For example, I love ice cream. I will treat myself and my kids to a cone at Chick-fil-A almost weekly.

“I also love Trader Joe’s dark chocolate almonds. I’ll have a few of those each day if I want. One of my favorite go-to recipes is spaghetti squash. I throw the whole squash into a crockpot on high for about an hour and a half and top it with all kinds of things. I have found many ways to cook with this dish. It’s a great choice for pasta lovers.’’

Q: If I came to you and wanted to lose 100 pounds and wanted to do it very quickly, what would you tell me? How would you work with me?

A: “First, I’d really commend you for wanting to make a positive change in your health and for seeking out help. That’s a huge first step. I’d really try to listen, and then just get to know you.

“I’d ask questions to learn more about your health history, your thoughts around food so that those needs could be addressed.

“I encourage my friends to be willing to be patient with their bodies. To allow their body, mind, and spirit to heal and let go of the weight at its natural pace. For some that will be faster than others.

“We work together to set realistic goals. This is not about a quick-fix diet. It’s learning about your body and its needs and addressing the habits, choices and thought patterns that have created your current heath situation. It’s about learning how to eat and exercise in a sustainable, long-term way.

“It is possible to lose a good amount of weight fairly quickly, and many of my clients have had lots of success losing and maintaining a healthy weight.

“One of my clients lost over 100 pounds in under 11 months this year and is just 15 pounds from her goal weight.

Q: Why do you think this country has such a problem with weight? Seems like there’s hundreds of diet books and methods and there always have been. But people still struggle. Why?

A: “Lack of knowledge plays a big part. Most people don’t really know what a healthy portion size looks like. I think we are so busy that we don’t take the time to prepare healthy foods at home.

“I don’t think we truly understand the value of our health and the necessity to properly nourish our bodies and spirit. I do think that as health problems continue to skyrocket in our nation that more people are beginning to take notice and look for help.’’

Q: How do you set goals in a way that makes them achievable?

A: “It’s important to have a strong purpose and reason for why you are want to reach your goal. Identifying your purpose and reason is important, and that will help you through the tough times.

“You need goals that excite you, goals that you really want.

“Understanding your weaknesses and the various things that have caused you to stumble is very important. It helps so much to have a plan in place when those same old obstacles come up.

“Ask yourself if you understand the sacrifice required to reach your goal or goals, and if you are really willing and ready to make that commitment.

"I follow the SMART goal setting plan. Here’s how it works:

"Specific – What do I want? Be very clear and specific.

"Measurable – What changes will I see? How will I know I met my goal?

"Attainable – Make sure your goal is not too far out of reach but still challenging.

"Relevant – Link your goal to something important to you. Something that inspires and excites you.

"Timely – when do you want to reach your goal?"

Lasagna-Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

Makes 6-8 servings

2 medium-sized spaghetti squash
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound 93/7 ground beef or lean ground turkey
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
1 (15-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 cups 2% ricotta cheese
1/4 cup roughly chopped parsley
1 cup low fat shredded mozzarella
Chopped parsley or basil, to garnish

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Lay them cut-side down in a roasting pan or other baking dish and add about an inch of water. Roast for 45 to 60 minutes, until soft when poked with a fork. Transfer to a cooling rack until cool enough to handle.

(You can also cook your spaghetti squash in a slow cooker. For a small or medium squash it takes about 1.5-2 hours on high. The first time you may need to keep an eye on it to see how long your particular cooker takes. It’s done when you can poke with a fork fairly easily.)
While the squash is roasting, warm the olive oil in a high-sided skillet or saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in the onions and cook until translucent, 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant for 30 seconds. Add the ground beef or turkey and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook until well-browned, breaking up the meat into small crumbles for 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in the crushed tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Continue simmering the sauce until the squashes are ready, 5 to 20 minutes. Taste the sauce and add more salt if desired.

Use a fork to shred the inside of the squash, leaving about a half-inch of squash left in the shell. Mix the shredded squash into the tomato sauce. In a separate bowl, mix together the ricotta cheese, the parsley and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

Wipe out the roasting pan and arrange the squash shells inside, like bowls. Divide half of the ricotta mixture between the shells, using a spoon to spread the ricotta evenly over the bottom of the shells. Divide half the tomato sauce between the shells, spooning over top of the ricotta. Top with another layer of ricotta and tomato sauce.