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Going Beyond Physical Strength in Fitness | Nathalia Melo

Episode 77, duration 1 hr 09 mins
Episode 77

Going Beyond Physical Strength in Fitness | Nathalia Melo

Nathalia is a fitness professional with over 15 years of experience, and no stranger to challenges as a former bikini Olympia champion, which is the biggest bodybuilding competition in the world. Her work and knowledge has allowed her to be featured in several national and international magazine covers and articles like: Muscle & Fitness Hers , Oxygen, Shape , Cosmopolitan, The Daily Mail, and Muscular Development to name a few.

Going Beyond Physical Strength in Fitness - Nathalia Melo

In this episode we discuss:
– Addressing body dysmorphia and disordered eating.
– Why you aren’t losing weight.
– How to go after your goals when nobody is cheering you on.
– The most important thing you need in addition to physical strength.

00:00:00 – Overcoming the Fear of Failure

00:04:37 – Nathalia’s Fitness Journey

00:08:39 – Finding Purpose in Competition

00:13:10 – The Mental Challenges of Bodybuilding

00:17:35 – The Nutrition Side of Competition

00:22:02 – Struggling with Body Image and Diets

00:26:17 – The Importance of Expertise and Specialization

00:31:03 – The Real Battle

00:34:50 – Overcoming Excuses and Taking Personal Responsibility

00:39:01 – Common Downfalls and Challenges

00:43:07 – Finding Balance in Fitness and Nutrition

00:47:13 – Customizing Training Goals

00:51:29 – Empowering Women

00:55:38 – Extreme Diets and Alcohol

00:59:57 – Personal Autonomy

01:04:17 – The Importance of Strength Training

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Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:00:01]

Welcome to the Dr. Gabrielle Lyon Show where I believe a healthy world is based on transparent conversations.

Welcome to the Dr. Gabrielle Lyon Show. In this episode, I bring to you a very special guest. She is the first athlete of her kind on the show, and her name is Nathalia Melo, former Miss Bikini Olympian. What are we talking about in this episode?We talked about how destructive cyclical fad dieting is. We also talk about why you’re not losing weight and finally, how to find the perfect plan. Those are just a few highlights. This episode, we dive deep into what it takes to go after your goals. It’s not what you think.It’s not always the physical. It starts with the mental. I know that you’re going to love this episode, and if you love it as much as I do, please remember that this is free content.The only price for it is that you push this message forward. This is a message of strength, and together, we can be forever strong.

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Nathalia Melo. I’m so excited to have you on the show.You happen to have been one of the best bodies in the world.By the way, you and I trained this morning, I think that you still are one of the best bodies in the world. You are a former Miss Olympia Bikini.

Nathalia Melo  [0:05:34]

Yes, andWorkout Today. I might have died a little bit, but I’m here. I didn’t fully die.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:05:41]

You survived.The reason I wanted to bring you on the show, number one, I just love your attitude and your fortitude. The other reason is what it takes to be the best body in the world and what that means in terms of how you maintain it, the transition, what is real life versus stage like, and the aspect of everything.Number one is you have two children, and you run a business. You have been at the top, and you have still maintained an excellent level of fitness and really seen it all. Tell me a little bit about your history of how you even got to the Olympia stage.

Nathalia Melo  [0:06:24]

Oh, that’s such a great question. First, thank you for having me here. I’m super excited. When you asked me, I’m like, ah.Anyway, I moved from Brazil—I’m originally from Brazil—to the US, and I had been working out since I was 14. I would save my allowance back in Brazilbecause my mom thought that gym was a waste of money. I was 14, and I would save my allowance for two months to be able to pay for one month of gym membership. I’m an old folk.At the time, there was no direct debit. I had to come in and literallygive the cash, so I could only go to the gym every other month. Fitness has always been a big part of my life, but then I went to law school. I don’t know if you knew that.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:07:06]

I didn’t knowthat. But why was fitness a big part of your life?

Nathalia Melo  [0:07:10]

I just feel like now in hindsightand my 39 years of age, I think whenever I look at it, it was almost like a form of control.Latino families, Latino momsespecially, they can be very controlling and overbearing. I think that fitness was my way of finding my own control of self. I just liked the physique, having more muscles and things like that, so I just started going to the gym on my own when I was 14. Fast forward, got in law school. Law school in Brazilis a bachelor’s degree. I got in law school when I was 17. In Brazil, you have two options.Latino families, they either allow you to be a doctor or a lawyer. I’m like, yeah, I don’t do well with bodily fluids,so I think I’m going to be a lawyer. I dropped out of law school halfway through, and then I moved to the US.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon[0:08:11]

Why? Why did you leave?

Nathalia Melo  [0:08:13]

I started doing an internship in the courthouse. I don’t know how much you know about Brazil,but justice is not really the first word that comes to mind whenever we’re talking about a country like Brazil. I started working in the courthouse, and I started to see a lot of things that I didn’t find that really aligned with my belief and the reason why I went into law.All jokes aside, I really was very interested in law.Whenever I start working in the courthouse, I saw a lot of things that I found that didn’t align, and I knew that I was going to have to become part of this system that I didn’t want to.I wanted to go somewhere else with more opportunities. There, youhave to know someone or come from a family that is known.Anyway, I just decided that I wanted to go somewhere else.That’s  when I came to the US. I came to the US with $350 to my name, sold my car, cleaned restaurants from midnight to seven in the morning for $35, lived in the hood. I mean, there were cockroaches climbing on my bed and things like that.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:09:23]

That’s a lot of fortitude. You were so determined.

Nathalia Melo  [0:09:27]

I was 20. But I just kept on pushing because I knew, and in hindsight, I’m like, how did I know?But I just felt it. You knowwhen you feel that if I keep on swimming, I’m going to get to a place where I’m going to look back, and it’s just going to be a season of life. I’m going to be telling that story, and here we are almost 20 years later. Slowly, I started to get my life in order.But fitness kept on being a part of it on and off, but always a part of it. I started bartending in a very known bar. I lived in South Florida at the time. I used to have a personal trainer. In the gym, they were like, why don’t you compete? My idea of competing was the big bodybuilders. Nothing against it, but it just wasn’t the look that I wanted to have.Then they’re like, no, there’s this new division called bikini, and I’m like, tell me more.Even bikini for me at the time was a lot. But for me, to compete was not about the body. The body was going to be a byproduct. It was about having a purposebecause at the time, I was bartending and getting white girl wasted every night.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:10:44]

Not the ideal pathway to health.

Nathalia Melo  [0:10:47]

No, and that’s where I was like, I really don’t think that I’m going to get to where I want to beif I keep on living this life. I decided to start competing more as a purposeyou wake up every single day.That’show I started competing. That was in 2008, 2009, and I won my first five competitions. I was in the first ever Olympia, which was in 2010.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:11:12]

It’s amazing. When you think about the purpose, was the purpose mental? Was it physical? How did you think about it?

Nathalia Melo  [0:11:21]

I started to look at my surroundings in a bar. You see, I think, the worst of everybody. It was a great bar, but you’re always seeing– I would see a guy with a woman in one night, and I would go to church on Sunday, and he would be with his wife. I’m like, that’s not the lady that I saw you last night in the bar with. You start to see a lot of things that I didn’t want to become normalized for me. I looked at it as a job, but we all know we become a product of our environment. Whenever I started to look at the environment in which I was in, I knew that I had to counterbalance that with something that was bigger than myself in order for me to not normalize that because I knew that it was wrong. That’sthe lack of purpose. I just felt adrift at the time like in a boat in the middle of the ocean, and you’re like, oh, shit what do I do next? That’show competing came. It wasn’t for the body. It wasn’t for the clout. It wasn’t for the trophy. It was really just to get my shit together and work towards something.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:12:32]

But what you worked towards was something extraordinary. For people that don’t know what Miss Olympia Bikini is, and again, it’s changed from the time that you did it, but the amount of discipline. I mean, you are stepping on stage in your bikini for people to judge you. You are putting yourself in a position to be physically judged.The preparation and training, talk to us about thatbecause my audience– again, you guys, one of the reasons why I wanted to tell you on here is because of the practical experience of being the best at what you did and really thinking about what it took. We’re not talking about a sport performance. We aretalking about bringing yourbody composition to a certain level of how the expectation was.How did you train for that? What were some of the things that you did? Just walk us through it.

Nathalia Melo  [0:13:32]

I find that bodybuilding as a whole, it’s much more mental than physical. I cannot even begin to tell you how many times I cried on top of a treadmilland eating my dried-ass chicken in the car.True story, I was eating my chicken in the car, andit was so dry, I start choking. I start crying, why am I doing this to myself? Later that day, somebody sends me a message on Facebook asking if I was okay because they saw me crying in the car with my dry chicken.But it was arduous.At the time, I worked three jobs as well. A lot of the ladies that were doing it, they had parents who support them or they had a partner to support them. I had myself to support myself. I was still bartending four or five days a week. I was personal training. I was working for a supplement company at the time. In addition to the preparation, which was incredibly arduous, and at that stage, at that level and at how new bikini was at the time, it was not very financially viable for you to make a living just from that. In hindsight now with many years– listen, we don’t know, but I find that a lot of the things that I did were incredibly unhealthy.That’s why I’m such a big advocate of balance and finding a level of sustainability for life because a lot of people try to replicate that. We’re talking aboutthree to four hours of cardio a day.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon[0:15:11]

How many days a week?

Nathalia Melo  [0:15:13]

Six, seven, 10.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:15:15]

Everyday a week to set us up for an Olympia prep,you’re talking about four to five hours of cardio a day.

Nathalia Melo  [0:15:21]

I was doing anywhere varying between three. It started with two and then my weight wasn’t dropping, and then it would be three,and then I was running12 miles a day because the coaches that I had at that time, very broapproach. It was like, just run because anything else is not going to be good for the muscles or whatever. So off I went and ran 12 miles a day.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon[0:15:53]

That’s a lot of discipline.

Nathalia Melo  [0:15:54]

Yes, I cried on top of a treadmill, too.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:15:58]

I think I would also cry on top of the treadmill.Four to five hours a day, and that’s just the cardio.What else?

Nathalia Melo  [0:16:05]

There was the weightlifting, very bro-like as well. I was told to wear two waist trainers, not just one but two. I could feel my hands going numb and white because of the circulation.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:16:23]

But you still pushed through. It didn’t matter. You still did it.

Nathalia Melo  [0:16:25]

No, and again, I did question some of those things. But you were justlike, oh, that’s what you do. I just kept on pushing because the only thing that came to mind is I can feel it. I can touch it. I can see it. If I give up now, if I’m on my deathbed, what conversation am I going to have with my younger self for giving up? That’show I kept on pushing forward.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:16:56]

What was the nutrition like?

Nathalia Melo  [0:16:59]

Oh, it was awful. There was a lot of orange roughy, a lot of orange roughy.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:17:04]

The listener is thinking, so what does it take to have the best body in the world?

Nathalia Melo  [0:17:11]

A lot of mental strength.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon[0:17:15]

Because you’re hungry, right? You’re very hungry.

Nathalia Melo  [0:17:17]

You’re hungry, especially for women.For the me, it’s the opposite. They have to eat a lot.For the women, you don’t eat very much.Because the bikini division has always been verysoft, but not too soft, symmetrical, not too symmetrical, vascular, not too vascular. It’s so incredibly subjective in a way that you don’t even know what the terms are. Everything is just so vague, so you’re just pushing yourself to the max.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon[0:17:48]

Of whatever is being asked of you.

Nathalia Melo  [0:17:51]

When you don’t even know what the being asked is.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon[0:17:53]

It’s a moving target.

Nathalia Melo  [0:17:54]

Yes, the goalpost is constantly moving. That was, I think, the biggest challenge and not really knowing what the ultimate physical goal was.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:18:05]

That’s major. The nutrition aspect, do you remember how many grams of protein, how it was all put together?

Nathalia Melo  [0:18:14]

That’s the interesting thing that there wasn’t a lot of education around what we were doing. We were just like, do this.Speed up your metabolism and all the buzzwords.There was a lot of orange roughy. There was a lot of chicken. There was a lot of asparagus, sweet potatoes, rice cakes, prunes, a bunch of freaking prunes. How sad is that? It was like, you can have six almonds. I remember so vividly this one plan—you’regoing to laugh at this. There were six penne noodles, six. My dumbass is there for counting six penne noodles, putting in a ziploc bag and dropping inthree cherry tomatoes, got it.Then you put the three cherry tomatoes. Everything is very measured.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:19:13]

Nowis that sustainable?

Nathalia Melo  [0:19:14]

No.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon[0:19:15]

What is the outcome? Because you’re being so physically judged, how does that change the relationship with your body, how you view it? What is normal versus what is abnormal? How did that just affect your psyche?

Nathalia Melo  [0:19:32]

Oh, my goodness.How much time have we got? No, it really is such a great impact and not in a good way. Because here’s one thing that you have to remember. You’re so restricted for such a long time. I find that in competition, that is just amplified. But this is variance of people who do fad diets now, also experience.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon[0:19:52]

I’m so glad that you brought that up.

Nathalia Melo  [0:19:54]

If we’re talking in a morelike, oh, but I’m never going to compete on stage, the stage is just a little bit of a more amplified version of what everybody who is doing the fad diets now experience because you have a beginning and an end.You’re like balls to the walls for that period. After that, you’re so deprived for that period that you forget. You’re just like, I’m just going to eat. Gabrielle, I haven’t told this to you like in many podcasts, but I actually had a sick bucket by my bed after winning the Olympia or after competing in shows.Again, can it be maybe because of the type of coaching that I had? Maybe, I don’t know. But I think that it is important to highlight this side of what many people perceived as healthy.Whenever I start to analyze and look at those things, I’m like, this is not normal. I don’t care how you want to frame it.

I think that a big come-to-Jesus moment for me was my husband was a professional rugby player, very accomplished high-level player.He played for Ireland.He played for what would be called the AllStars; it’s called the Barbarians. Roger was very respected in rugby.Whenever I started dating him, I started to look at his life as an elite athlete as well, and I’m like, hold on a second. This doesn’t feel right. What I was doing didn’t feel right because I saw him being able to live life, and there was an on and off switch. But with what I did, there was no on and off switch even if I didn’t have a competition. I was gaining15, 20 pounds, anywhere between 10 and 20 after a competition. I had the skinny wardrobe, and then I had the fat wardrobe. They were fluctuating four or five sizes.But then whenever I was competing or getting ready, I was miserable, so I didn’t want to do anything. But then whenever I was not competing, I was fat and sassy,and Ididn’t want to do anything because I was too embarrassed. In my mind, I had to meet this standard of health and fitness that people had set for me.If I show up looking like the way I am now, what are people going to think?Now even saying this, it’s like, who gives a shit? But people are looking at you in the cover ofmagazines, and they’re seeing you everywhere, and you don’t look like the girl in the magazine.It’s happened to me. It creates this crazy relationship with self.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:22:44]

Think about how many people that are struggling with different diets, weight loss diets, fad diets that they don’t even have to compete but still have that experience. When I was inmy second residency, I must have gained 10 pounds. I was so stressed. I wasn’t sleeping. I’m 5’1”, I’m a very tiny human. I had to purchase new clothes that was my new wardrobe.Then again, I had a smaller wardrobe and it oscillatedfor at least a year. I will tell you that I know that you’re not alone, I’m not alone, that tons of people, whether they are male or female listening, have gone through that. How did you begin to reconcile thein-between?What did you do?

Nathalia Melo  [0:23:39]

After winning the Olympia,I tried to compete a couple more times with an attempt of being quote unquote, normal, whatever normal is. But at that point, I didn’t even know what normal looked like. You become a product of your environment once again.Whenever you look everybody around you counting six penne noodles, you’re like, oh, that’s completely normal.But then I would come home, and my husband would be a normal person, although he was an elite athlete. I competed a couple more times, and I’m like, if I want to develop a better relationship with food, and most importantly, we knew that we want to have kids.Being from a Latino background, there is a big emphasis in appearance and diets. I was doing the cabbage soup diet with my mum since I was freaking 10.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon[0:24:33]

That’s young.

Nathalia Melo  [0:24:34]

Yes, and you’re very exposed to body dysmorphia and body appearance and all of that. I knew that I didn’t want to repeat that with my children.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:24:44]

Did you end up getting or having on the spectrum some kind of body dysmorphia?

Nathalia Melo  [0:24:50]

Oh, 100 and quadzillion percent. I remember taking a diuretic to go to a pool party because I didn’t think that I was enough, that I looked good in a bikini at 120 pounds.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:25:03]

How did you solve for that? How did you untangle that?

Nathalia Melo  [0:25:10]

I think that the first thing is really to acknowledge that there is a problem.For me, the solution was to step away from competing because it would automatically be a trigger tokeep on reverting to what I knew that worked. I find that’s what a lot of people do with different diets. They keep on reverting, oh, it works. Well, it works until it doesn’t.What is your definition of it works? If you keep on gaining the weight back and feeling like a bag of shit, does it work? It was acknowledging that and a lot of therapy to be able to come to terms with that and staying consistent, not trying to keep on going back to the extremes, just oh, but it’s just for that one vacation that I have to go because every time that you go back, you’re almost starting back from square one.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:26:02]

You coach clients now. I’m sure they all struggle with that.They have struggled with extremes. They have struggled with body dysmorphia, probably self-worth in terms of how to move the needle. How do you speak to them in a way that moves away from diet to more lifestyle?

Nathalia Melo  [0:26:26]

That’s a great question. That’s another thing that I saw a lot of in the bodybuilding space. Everybody tries to do everything. Everybody’s a jack of all trades, but they ended up being a master of none. I’ve always been very aware that I have my lane. I can speak from my experiences, but I’m not a mental health professional. Whenever we’re talking about body dysmorphiaand disordered eating and things like that,it isslightly above my paygrade, meaning my field of expertise. I can share my experience and talk about how I feel, but I’m not an expert. Just because it worked for me,surely there are different ways that might work for different people. I have a counselor on my team as well to help navigate the mindset piece of it and also the same thing with the nutrition piece. Do I know how to diet? Do I understand about food? Absolutely. But that’s not my lane.We have a registered dietician as well who has a lot of experience with extreme dietingbecause she was a national champion cheerleader and a flyer, so the whole relationship with food was something that she experienced firsthand. It’s not just about me trying to do all things, it’s me acknowledging that there are things that I’m good atand I can share my experience, but to solve these problems, it requires an added layer of professionalism and expertise and experience that I won’t be able to do it alone.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:28:02]

I think that’s an important point because you could give someone a perfect program, but unless that mental piece is together, and unless they understand on the spectrum of what is happening, it’s not going to matter. I could say, Nathalia, here you go, here’s the perfect diet. But if the–

Nathalia Melo  [0:28:18]

It’s perfect for who?

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon[0:28:21]

That’s a really good point.

Nathalia Melo  [0:28:22]

That’s one thing that I talk until my face turns blue, and it drives me absolutely crazy, is that people keep on going to the cookie cutter plan. I found this diet on Pinterest, on Instagram, and my favorite influencer on social media. First of all, your favorite influencer on social media, her job is to have a six-pack. Period.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:28:44]

The only thing you guys should be finding on Pinterest are containers for your kitchen and also decor. Can you talk a little bit about this impression of, I think that in social media, people feel that influencers or individuals walk around stage-ready, competition-ready, and that may not be the truth of itor the actual effort it takes to maintain that versus what is possible in real life.

Nathalia Melo  [0:29:21]

There is not only that, but there is also the layer of you have Photoshop. You have all the nonsense that people are doing nowadays and really understanding that somebody else’s reality is probably very different from yours. Not that you’re going to use that as a clutch and be like, oh, because she has it so much easier than me because then it can become just an excuse. But it’s acknowledging and processing that your experience and the length of time it’s going to take you to create change might be different from that of that person whose only job is to look good.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:29:59]

Would you say that the real battle is an internal one, and it’s not really about the nutrition or the diet or the training?

Nathalia Melo  [0:30:07]

That’s one thing that I always say. The mind is the setpoint for the body. If the body changes, but the mind doesn’t go with it, your body is going to keep on going back to where the mind is.We have enough of that with the data around the weightregain rates on bariatric surgery.Even whenever we look at the fitness industry per se in the competition world, people change their bodies, but their mind doesn’t really go in the extremes. It stays there, and then their bodies go back to where the mind is.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:30:35]

We see that all the time in individuals that unless you acknowledge the aspects of the brain, and whether it’s looking at old trauma, whether it’s examining self-talk, whether it is understanding where you are in terms of a worthiness spectrum, that you will continue to only go as high as you feel worthy of going. The good news is the brain can be leveraged. That part can be addressed. It takes time. It takes effort. It takes counseling. But once that falls into play, then perhaps the focus isn’t so much on the external. You leverage the external to really become something internally, whether it is disciplined or even strong mentally and physically.

Nathalia Melo  [0:31:23]

I love that we are very much on the same page about this because that change can only happen if the person acknowledges that the change needs to happen up here. I just recently was speaking to somebody, and whenever I told her about how my program worksand things like that, and she’s like, well, I don’t need all of that.This is the same person that has told me that she’s been trying to lose weight.She’s probably lost 100 pounds, the same 10 pounds 10 times for the past five years. Oh, I don’t need all that. I’m like, the fact that you don’t realize that there is a much bigger problem with the mindset and the relationship with food and thinking that you have to eat 800 calories shows me that’s what you need the most. But until the person is willing to acknowledge and address that, no amount of talking from me, you until our face turn blue is going to solve the problem.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:32:19]

You’reabsolutely right. People have to recognize and acknowledge where they are so that they can move forward.

Nathalia Melo  [0:32:26]

Yeah, and take ownership.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon[0:32:28]

Yes. Let’s talk about some of the biggest obstacles that you see.

Nathalia Melo  [0:32:31]

We had this conversation in private at our workouts, and one of the reasons that I personally look up to you very much is because you have had two kids, but I’ve never heard you–actually, let me take that back. I feel like your career has gone up and up and up in a much faster rate since you had your kids. So I admire the fact that you don’t use your kids as a reason why oh, I don’t have time. Oh, I’m too busy. Oh, because of my kids. Listen, your kids are not putting cake inside your mouth. You’re eating it yourself.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:33:22]

Well, technically, they sometimes try to,that and boogers and whatever else.

Nathalia Melo  [0:33:28]

The boogers, yes, the boogers. They’re great. But there has to be a layer of personal accountability. People are like, oh, I need accountability. Yes, external accountability is great, but until you take personal responsibility over your choices, no amount of external accountability is going to make up. Oh, it’s because my husband ordered pizza. All right. What about it? Does it make the journey a little bit more challenging? 100%. But if you keep on using that as the reason why you cannot accomplish your goals or move forward, you’re just going to stay where you are unhappy, which then is going to bleed because we also have plenty of research on that on how dissatisfaction with your physical appearance starts to impact your quality of life. You start to not want to be sexually active with your partner.You start to not want to go to social events, and you start to become more of an introvert not because you are, but just because you don’t want to be seen.

I find that people are oftentimes very short sighted on the side effects of not feeling good and feeling confidentand use everybody else as oh, I’m busy. Okay, but so is the person next door. I was just being nosy the other day, and I did a Google on the top female CEOs in the biggest companies in the world. If you look at every single one of them, you do not have any one of them severely obese. Doesn’t that tell you something? Are you going to tell me that because you have two dogsyou walk and one kid to feedthat your life isso much busier than a CEO of a Fortune 500 company? You know what I’m saying?

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:35:26]

Do you find that people, one of the biggest things that they run into is the obstacle of excuse?

Nathalia Melo  [0:35:36]

Yes, and that’s something that I talk often is the moment you start to put that responsibility on someone—one, it’s not fair to put that responsibility on your kids. But it’s because they’re so afraid of committing that they just start to create problems. I don’t know necessarily if the word would be excuse, butthey just start to create problems because people are so failureaversethat they’d rather stay in a place of mediocracy than to take things to the next level and take the chance.That’s something that I always think for myself.Imagine if I was afraid of failure back to when I was 20, and I didn’t move, where would I be right now? I think that whenever we’re talking about fitness and about investing in yourself and in your health, be that a financial investment or your time, whatever that looks like for each individual, everything is a 50/50 in life. One 50 is for you to stay the same.If you’re not happy with where you are, that’s the 50 that you’re going to choose to stay. Or you can take the 50% chance of creating change and live a life that is probably going to be much better than the one you have now.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:36:46]

One of the things is the personal responsibility, meaning don’t put the onus on anyone else. Don’t say you can’t have time because of your children, or you can’t have time because of your work. You have to make the time, and you have to execute.

Nathalia Melo  [0:37:00]

100%, and it’s about your priorities.Oh, but I feel guilty. Well, I understand that, but are you being able to show up your best for your work?

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:37:09]

What you’re saying though is real. For example, like you mentioned, I work a lot. If I miss a morning training session because I’m traveling, and I haven’t seen my kids that day, do you think that I’m going to hit that training session, or I’m going to go spend another extra hour with the kids? I’m actually going to hit that training session and bring them or involve them in it.You can find a way.The idea that a family member or the idea that something that is positive in your life would impede your capacity to show up as the best version of yourself, it doesn’t have to be that way.

I also think one of the other things is we’re very indoctrinated. We’re told that having kids is hard, which by the way, is it hard? Yes. There are certain aspects that are hard. Is it challenging? Yes. Are there always ways to get stuff done?Yes. Now, it’s interesting hearing you talk because you’ve worked three jobs. You’ve lived in really non-ideal environments.You have pushed. You are very self-made and very ambitious and very driven. I want to point that out because I think it’s a characteristic that we can learn from. It takes fortitudebecause again, we’re not just talking about fitness. We’re talking about the mindset of what it takes to get the job done.

What else would you say is an obstacle for people?The goal of you guys listening to this ishopefully, you see yourself in some aspect of what we’re talking about, whether you’ve been a chronic dieter, whether you are a very busy human, whatever it is that you are. My goal for bringing Nathalia on is so that you can see components of yourself within this messaging.

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What would you say is another challenge? Would it be a training challenge? Would it be a dieting challenge? What are some of the things that you thinkmess people up?

Nathalia Melo  [0:41:35]

I feel like the third component would be a combination of the two that we already spoke about. You have somebody who is used to doing the extremes.Then they’re struggling to be consistent and be accountable. The reason that the cycle happens is because they keep on reverting to the things that worked for them when they had a number of disposable hours in their day. Their life has changed.Theircircumstances have changed. They expect the same strategy that worked for them whenever they could spend five hours in the gym to work now.They keep on giving up not understanding that the reason why they’re giving up is because they are using a methodology that no longer suits them right now. I think that’s the biggest problem, and that’s something that I ask often to people. They’re like, I’m just like doing the plans that I did.But whenever you did those plans, did you have three kids? Did you have a career that required you to work 10 hours a day? No. How are you expecting that to work?

I used myself as an example, if I had to go back to the same strategies that I used when I competed at the Olympianow, I’ll be having a daily mental breakdown. I had to adapt. I think that the word that we’re looking for is adaptingand letting go of an idea that everything needs to be perfect at all times because it’s not, especially when you have people that depend on you, be that your team, be that your kids, be that your spouse.How many times have you been called by your kids at school and be like,they vomited,or this happened, or that happened. You know what I’m saying?You have to stop whatever it is that you’re doing, pivot, and go tend to those people that need you. I find that people let that get to them instead of adapting. Okay, so your training session is normally 45 minutes to an hour, and you only have 30 minutes today, and you’re like, so what’s the point? They throw their hands up in the air, and instead of doing the 30 that they can, they do nothing at all. It just becomes a snowball.

It’s the inability to adaptwhen circumstances are not perfect.It’s never going to be perfect. It’s funny because I have a member who is a pilot. I was asking her, how many times do you have to adjust the plane?Let’s say you’re flying from New York to California, how many times do you have to adjust the plane, even though you have that perfect mapput in the computer that you’re going to go from A to B? She’s like, loads of times. I’m like, exactly; you have to adapt.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:44:26]

Do you think there is a way where it can be less consuming, where it’s almost as if fitness and nutrition is not even something that you think about? 

Nathalia Melo  [0:44:42]

Yes.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon[0:44:43]

What does that look like? How does someone get there? Do they structure their nutrition plan? Do they structure their training? How does it become second nature?

Nathalia Melo  [0:44:50]

That’s such a great question. It’s not going to happen overnight.I think that’s something that we need to make very clear. It’s not going to be like, oh, and I’m cured. We’re not just addressing the physiological side of things. It’s not just like, let’s change your diet, let’s change your nutrition, let’s change your training, and that’s it. Call it a day. There is the psychological piece of it as well that we need to talk about because results might not be as fast in navigating that challenge of comparing to what used to be whenever you’re doing extremes. It’s a big layer of it.There is a little bit of a plateau.Navigating that part is probably going to be the biggest piece. But starting with a nutrition plan that works for your life, for example, I’m going to use my mom as a good example because my mom has tried every diet, you name it.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:45:53]

Did she try the LyonProtocolForever Strong yet?

Nathalia Melo  [0:45:57]

She doesn’t ask me for advice. I’m looking at her. She arrived in my house before it was in peak and was even a thing here in the US. She came from Brazil with it. I’m like,what is that? Oh, it’s going to make me lose weight.Then she would go to the bakery and come back with glazed doughnuts. I’m like, what are you doing? I digress.I called my mom, and she was into keto diet.She said, I lost 20 pounds.Great. What are you doing? I’m doing this thing called the keto diet. Tell me more, like I didn’t know. But just for context, my mum loves bread. In Brazil, we love rice.It’s just what we do. She’s telling me that she completely cut out bread and that she’s no longer eating rice.If you’re eating five or six French rolls that have 120 calories every single day, and you remove that, you can see how it’s not just that keto is a magic pill, you’re removing calories from your plan. I was like, do you miss bread?She’s like, oh my God, so much. I can’t wait to eat it again. How is that going to be something that is going to keep her weight off in the long run if she’s alreadytelling me that she can’t wait to have that again?

It’s really understanding, what is your lifestyle? What is something that you’re not going to dread? People have struggled to stay consistent with something when they completely dread. There is going to have to happen a level of, we’re going to have to meet somewhere in the middle. You can’t keep on doing what you’re doing, but if you keep on going to the extreme, the pendulum is going to keep on swinging on both hands. How can we find in the middle, find that happy medium? Even if there is,if we’re working with somebody who has water burger or Chick-fil-A or whatever it is five times a week, can we reduce that to three times a week? Take it one day at a time because it becomes very overwhelming for somebody to completely remove everything that they enjoy right out of the gate because they’re not bought in yet.They don’t trust you yet.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:48:17]

Do you feel that once they begin to see changes that potentially the shackles of what they felt like they needed or what they felt like they could never give up changes?

Nathalia Melo  [0:48:28]

100%, and that’s one of the biggest things that we do in the internal training with my coaches. We need to give them what they want in the first two months, so that we can deliver what we know that they need.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:48:40]

For example, food or results?

Nathalia Melo  [0:48:44]

Results. I hate to say this, but the truth is, even whenever we have somebody that comes to us, and it’s like, I don’t want to lose any weight, and if they don’t lose one pound in the first 10 days, you’re freaking out, this is not working. Really understand in between the lines. That is, I think, the biggest piece of coaching is to understand the words that haven’t been said so you can give people what they want.Once they are bought in, and they’re like oh my god, you’re the best thing ever. I’m like, okay, you trust me now. I think that’s the big misconception that many coaches have that just because somebody has joined your program or has purchased your services that they trust you. They don’t. They’re only going to trust you the moment that you give them the results that you promised them that you were or at least the tip, at least a little bit of it. That is the biggest piece I find from my experience of coaching that has been pivotal to understand people on that aspect.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:49:54]

It’s basically you have to be able to get a sense of what they want and then deliver what they need.Oftentimes, do they know what they want?

Nathalia Melo  [0:50:07]

I tried to become as clear as possible. But the thing is that oftentimes, they keep it very surface level.It goes back to what you were talking about that it’s like, oh, I want to lose weight.The more you start to peel, I want you to start to lose weight because I haven’t been able to have sex with my husband.Or I want to lose weight, I want to lose weight, I want to lose weightbecause I want to feel good. Why do you want to feel good?Because I haven’t taken photos with my kids in a year and a half.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:50:34]

It’s so heavy mentally, the burden of not being able to enjoy lifebecause of the constraints of weight or nutrition or lifestyle. It’s just heavy.

Nathalia Melo  [0:50:54]

I might go on a tangent because that’s something that pisses me off royally, and it’s whenever you have a woman that is like this, that finds herself in a position where she doesn’t want to be intimate with her husband. I’ve had ladies that canceled vacations with their family, won’t take their kids to the pool. We see this everywhere that we go. We were on the beach a couple months ago. I looked around, and it was just the dads playing with the kids because the women were wrapped in a whole bunch of clothes, sitting on a chair. Some of them were in leggings, and it’s 100 degrees. I’m like, girl.

What happens a lot of times that I see is that they put the power of decision in their husband’s hands from a financial standpoint. From a business perspective, I understand that a lot of times, it can just be a smokescreen.There have been several occasions.I’ve had a call with a lady who cried, and her husband basically told her that he wasn’t attracted to her. He was inthe call, and at the end of it, he was like, we’renot investing in a program for you that can help you. Why are you putting yourself in a position where other people are making decisions for what is taking your life away? You’re just existing at that point if you’re not taking photos with your kids, if you don’t want to be intimate with your husband, if you don’t want to go on vacation. There have been some ladies that told me that they didn’t even want to go to the park with their kids. If you’re living like that, and you’re putting the responsibility of making a choice on somebody else’s hands that has never lived a day in your life, that’s wrong.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:52:50]

That is, and the good news is it can be addressed. It can totally be addressed. What are some core nutrition fundamentals that you guys put into place? Like, do you prioritize protein?

Nathalia Melo  [0:53:07]

Yes, we always start with protein.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:53:09]

You guys, I am not setting her up here. I kind of am, but I’m not. She does a ton of weight loss with her clients, so I’m just curious as to some of the– and again, I’m not setting her up for this. Talk us through a little bit about how you guys think about nutrition.

Nathalia Melo  [0:53:27]

The delivery of that is going to ultimately depend on where each person is in their journey. But the first thing that we look at, especially when we’re working with more perimenopausal women, because they do come from a background of Jenny Craig or a lot of them are doing the OPTAVIAandNutrisystem, which is incredibly low in protein, and they are reporting all these issues and pains and aches, that they cannot keep muscle. I ask them how much protein they’re eating,and then we normally take it from there. Every plan that we’re creatingalways is created around the protein.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:54:14]

It’s crazy, right? It’scrazy that protein is even controversial at this point.How do you think about carbohydrates and fats?

Nathalia Melo  [0:54:33]

Again, it really comes back to where the person is in their journey, and that’sthe human psychology piece of it in the experience with coaching.If I get somebody that from the get-go was telling me oh, my body does terrible with carbs, and I hate carbs, I haven’t gotten their trust yet. If I put them to have bread and rice and potatoes and all that kind of stuff from the get-go, and if they’ve been depleting themselves from carbs for so long, chances are that in the first week or two, what’s going to happen is their weight is going to go up. What’s going to happen? I’m going to lose their trust.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:55:10]

Can you talk about that because you do see that, right? We see that those individuals that have been severely carbohydrate restricted over time or even calorie restricted, when you begin to add in more calories and carbohydrates, your weight goes up a little.

Nathalia Melo  [0:55:23]

That’s playing that dance of delivering what they want so we can gain their trust, but also not doing something that is going to harm them or make matters worse. It’s that constant dance of finding the happy medium at least in the initial two or three months. I find that those two and three months in the beginning are very crucial.It’s funny because I had somebody that came to me and said, I just lost four pounds. I was like, would you be that disappointed if you had gained four pounds? She was like, no, I would be freaking out.What is the difference?

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:56:05]

Another good point. I love that.

Nathalia Melo  [0:56:09]

I find that coaching is a lot about helping people see things from a different perspective, and you do have to give them what they want in the beginning. To answer your question, if I get somebody who is a carbo-phobe, I can’t put a whole bunch of carbohydrates right out of the gate. It’s going to be a lot of protein, moderate carbs, and then fat.Get results, cool.Then you start to incorporate some things that they thought was impossible to eat.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:56:38]

Do you see people come from dieting extremes, whether it’s ketoor all plants or all meats? Do you see dieting extremes?

Nathalia Melo  [0:56:49]

100%. We had a lady that was scared of eating dates. She binged on dates. She didn’t eat anything else. There are so many extremes that we see. I have a very good friend who is a vegan, and I roast her all the time, but I find that the miseducation around veganismthat it is somehow superior for health when we do not have concrete evidence.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:57:28]

No, there’s there is no evidence for that.In fact, there are nutrients like calcium and things that are at risk for children and other populations.

Nathalia Melo  [0:57:40]

Do we have some members who are vegan? Yes, we navigate that the best that we can. But I just find it interesting at the entry pointwhenever I’m talking to some people that is like, oh, I’m veganbecause it’s so much better, and oftentimes, we’re talking about the more late 40s, early 50s demographic, and I’m like, you are the person who should not be vegan right now.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:58:06]

Right. If you’re younger, go right ahead.

Nathalia Melo  [0:58:09]

I find that navigating those things are the dance.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:58:15]

What about alcohol? People always ask me alcohol.In your programs, have you found that alcohol is a slippery slope to other kinds of foods? How do you guys navigate that?

Nathalia Melo  [0:58:25]

I deal a lot with women who have a social life, a lot of corporates and corporate events. Is it realistic for me to tell a woman like this who’s always hosting clients,am I going to be giving her the best tools to be sustainable and to be consistent long term by telling her you can never drink again?What I can do as a coach is to give her the education around it, give some boundaries, and let her make the educated choice.This is not the Nathalia Melo daycare; I am not anybody’s babysitter. What I’m going to do, because I think that it is the job of a coach, is to give you the tools, and then with those tools and knowledge, you make the decision that you find most appropriate for you. If one of my clients wants to have alcohol and that is going to keep them on plan, because I’ve given her the opportunity to have that and I start to help her understand that she can have a glass of wine or she can have a bit of chocolate, and she has to make that choice.It’s a decision that she gets to make. What I found is that a lot of people that were just told alcohol is bad, don’t ever drink again, whenever they did drink—because it’s going to happen—they just went off the rails and then go white girl wasted and then feel bad because they thought that theyhad already fucked up, so they’re just going to keep on messing it up and then they make bad food choices. But if I tell them, hey, it’s fine.It’s a glass of wine, you’re cool. You can have a glass of wine or you can have some chocolate.They know that they can, and they’re empowered to make the decision on their own.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [1:00:13]

As opposed to being fully restricted and then going off the railsand never coming back and probably getting depressed, it’s this whole cycle that happens over time.

Nathalia Melo  [1:00:21]

Correct, and I find I don’t even like the whole idea of, I get asked all the time before I started speaking with somebody, they’re like, oh, am I allowed to do this? I’m like, you’re allowed to do whatever you want. It is not my job as your coach to tell you what you can or cannot do. I’m dealing with grown ass adults. I’m going to tell you what is more aligned with your ultimate goal, but I’m not going to tell you what you can or cannot do. I don’t think that is the job of a coach. My job is to educate people and point them in the right direction and allow them to make decisions. I think that that’s why people fail so much over and over againwhen it comes to their fitness and nutrition because there is no personal autonomy. The autonomy gets removedwhen a coach is telling the person that you can do this, you cannot do this. It’s bad. It’s good. Why does it have to be so dichotomous?

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [1:01:16]

That’s very well stated. What about training? Is that a piece of just exercises? Are there certain places that you guys start? I know that you probably have coaches that help design programs. Where do they typically start?

Nathalia Melo  [1:01:30]

Again, it’s going to be very personalized for each individual. For example, we have a lady who is a pilot for American Airlines. She’s gone all the time.Then we have another lady who has a full home gym who is 50, and she has an hour and a half to train every single day, six days a week.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [1:01:52]

Our girl, you better be looking smoking.

Nathalia Melo  [1:01:55]

Fly as hell. But these two individuals,can they have the exact same plan? No. This one, let’s say is 250 pounds, and this one is starting at 160 pounds.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [1:02:10]

I’m going to ask you another question.You guys, I’m not setting her up. Is there a core fundamental action or exercise modality that is not negotiable?

Nathalia Melo  [1:02:21]

What do you mean by that?

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [1:02:22]

Like, I don’t want to give it away, but cardiovascular training versus resistance training?

Nathalia Melo  [1:02:28]

We’re primarily going to focus on resistance training.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [1:02:34]

People,I did not set her up for this. Matthew,I did not set her up for this.Why resistance training?

Nathalia Melo  [1:02:41]

A lot of my demographic is 35 and above 35, 60, give and take.These women have kids. Cardio is not going to help those women be functional to pick up their kids from the floor.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [1:03:01]

Didn’t set you up for this. Yes, I agree.

Nathalia Melo  [1:03:03]

Whenever you’re looking at overall energy expenditure—and I know I’m preaching to the choir—and you have somebody who has a child and has to pick their child up from the floor, from an energy expenditure, even if we were obsessing over fat loss—fat loss, the best thing; let’s do cardio—that accounts for 5% or 7% of your total daily energy expenditure, how much you’re going to spend in the gym. Why are we not utilizing that time to make sure that you’re becoming physically strong to perform in life and to not depend on somebody to wipe your butt when you’re 70 or 80 years old?We focus on strength training because of the functionality of it, and two, for the longevity of it.As you age, we want to make sure that these ladies are able.We had a member who was 72, Norma, loved her, legend. She was through snowboarding with her grandchildren and had been strength training most of her life. If that is not a testimony to how important muscle strength and muscle development and strength training is for longevity and quality of life, I don’t know whatis.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [1:04:40]

Man, you said so many amazing things. I have one more question for you. Where do you think the biggest myth is or just the one thing that really rubs you the wrong way?By the way, you guys, I will tag Nathalia’s Instagram, it’s hilarious. It is hilarious.I mean, you guys just have to go see it. It’s so funny. I love it. Is there anything that just really irritates you aside from Karen?

Nathalia Melo  [1:05:18]

There is so much that annoy me. I think that the whole idea of, oh, it worked before, I’m going to go back to it, and it’s like someform of cookie-cutter plan. I really do feel that is what is setting people up for failure and the whole idea that people have not been able to define what is, quote, unquote, it worked. It worked. Why, because you lost 30 pounds? But then what happened after that?You gained 40.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon[1:05:43]

So it essentially didn’t work.

Nathalia Melo  [1:05:45]

Correct. But it’s just the idea of, you work short term, but then they keep on repeating that they want something long term. But they’re going to go back to the short-term fixand use some cookie-cutter $25 challenge that you’re like, oh, my God, it’s amazing. From women’s standpoint, I think that if we canpiggyback on that as well is I find that women take pride in cannibalizing themselves.It’s likethe martyr syndrome. There is a level of pride, oh,I can pay for my kid to do this, that, and the other. Meanwhile, they’re unhappy in not being able to be fully present and set an example for their kids. But hey, let’s spend 30k on cheer camp and do all those things when you don’t have one photo with your child. I’d much rather feel good to be present with my kids and to be active and to set an example for them because we also have plenty of research that shows that the kids are going to go much more by what they see at home than what you tell them. Oh, think positive. You’re so amazing. Meanwhile, that woman doesn’t even want to look at herself in the mirror. What do you think that your child is going to pick up while you’re telling her that she’s amazingand that she needs to be confident and a badass when you don’t even love yourself enough to look at yourself in the mirror? I think it’s the whole myth that you have to give everything to everybody at the cost of your own being, and then by the time you get to your deathbed, you don’t even have a photo with your children.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [1:07:36]

Nathalia Melo, this is verypowerful. I’m so grateful for you being on the show. It is just full of sass and information. I think that this can frame things for people so that they can see where their strengths are, where their weaknesses are, and what they need to do about it.

Nathalia Melo  [1:07:56]

100%, and thank you so much for having me here. It’s been a pleasure.It’s also so cool to havethis kind of conversation with somebody who really sees that I try to do the things that I’m talking about, so thank you.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [1:08:08]

Where can people find you?

Nathalia Melo  [1:08:10]

You alreadyteed it up on my socials, it’s @nathaliamelofit. I didn’t really think that one through when I created the handle, but here we are 10 years later.It’s Nathalia,N-A-T-H-A-L-I-A, Melo, M-E-L-O,Fit, F-I-T on Instagram and my website as well,nathaliamelofit.com. I also have a podcast, which will be coming once the book madnesschills.It’s a good craziness. It’scalled Unfiltered Fit Life because of course.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [1:08:44]

I love it, but we’re going to link everything, and again, thank you so much for your time.

Nathalia Melo  [1:08:49]

Thank you.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon[1:08:50]

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