Meet Alexandrian Betsy Weissman, owner of sculp’d pilates studio in Old Town. Betsy talks about her path to wellness, which included changes to her nutrition and fitness routines.
What prompted you to zero in on your health?
It’s been a long journey for me. I started teaching exercise classes in college and continued to teach alongside my legal career because I enjoyed it so much. I decided to open my own studio in my mid-40s for a variety of reasons, mostly because I wanted to focus on health and wellness for the next chapter in my life.
How did your health take a wrong turn?
The irony of my story is that I opened a fitness studio and wrecked my health. After 20 years as a practicing attorney in big companies, launching my own business was so stressful for me. I had to now manage employees, payroll, rent, supplies, operations, etc. I have always had a great team behind me but I am also very hands on, so I was consumed with those first year stressors and anxieties.
Two years into sculp’d, my body was showing some pretty serious signs of being chronically stressed and overworked. I was constantly sick to my stomach, my skin and hair were suffering, my sleep was awful and I was just so fatigued I couldn’t function well after 4 p.m. I saw a few doctors who honestly brushed me off, told me to avoid fruit (as if that was the problem!) and to stay away from caffeine. My stomach pains and discomfort were so bad, I just had to do something different to get a better result. I finally found a doctor who took an integrative, full body approach to my situation and helped me slowly get my health back. It took 10-plus months, but we started with my gut and have been working from there.
Do you think there are a lot of people out there who are in the same boat?
In all honesty — yes. From my experience and from what I see, people try to a la carte their health. Meaning, they will hone in on one thing — for example, working out every day really hard. But ignore their nutrition, skimp on their sleep, and/or not minimize their stress.
Overall wellness is a multi-legged stool that needs to stay on balance. It requires a steady, conscious effort every single day. It takes a lot of commitment and follow-through to do the right things most of the time. And by “right things” I mean get good sleep (which is a conscious effort, especially as you get older), eat properly for you (I got tested and found that while I don’t have celiac, I don’t tolerate gluten or dairy well and respond with chronic inflammation and gut impermeability), better manage stress and exercise appropriately.
How did you discover that “killing it” at the gym was creating internal stress in your body?
The good things of exercise — increasing my metabolism and muscle, boosting brain performance, feeling happier — were missing. Instead, I was always sore, tired, stressed out and so forgetful. With all that was going on in my life, I was also overtraining. As a result, my body was holding onto fat. I had reached a point of diminishing returns. I was chronically stressed out and needed to give my body a rest.
What was the new game plan?
I went into each class at my studio sculp’d with a healthier mind set. I didn’t need to be the strongest or best in the class. I listened to my body — did I have a good night’s rest? Was anything sore or bothering me? Was I properly fueled for class? And then adjusted my efforts. I also made time for our fabulous stretch and restore yoga class to help bring down my cortisol levels on those days when I wasn’t feeling at the top of my game.
Did you also change your diet?
With some customized blood testing I found that I had to completely cut gluten and all dairy out of my diet. Sticking with that was a total game changer for me. Once I healed my gut, I was able to have a little bit of these no-no’s in my diet, but for the most part, I completely avoid it. And with all the gluten-free and dairy-free items out there, I really don’t find it hard to maintain. And if I want to eat these things, I recognize that I may pay the price later, so it better be one good piece of pizza!
What other health tips did you pick up?
I was always able to eat what I want and not think about it. This came to a crashing halt in my mid-40s. Through our studio detox program, I finally got the message — I can no longer eat whatever I want and simply work out the next day to burn those extra calories. You have to make a “food budget” and think about how much and when you are eating. Being in my mid-40s, I can only eat two full meals a day. For me, three full meals is too much food and causes me to gain weight. I transitioned over to intermittent fasting and drink Bulletproof coffee every morning that keeps me full until lunchtime.
Secondly, I always ask myself: Is this choice elevating me or depleting me? I even wear a yellow string bracelet to remind myself to make healthy choices. So, I can have that cup of coffee at 3 p.m., but also know that it will likely affect my sleep that night.
Tell us about your business.
sculp’d offers machine-based, pilates-inspired group classes. And as a full service, total body studio, we also offer hiit (high-intensity interval training), yoga and barre classes. We are the only boutique studio in Old Town providing a balanced approach to achieving optimal health and wellness through movement and nutrition. Clients love our Total Body Pilates reformer class. Think of CrossFit on a reformer machine. We focus on controlled, resistance-based movement and work every muscle to failure resulting in strong, long and lean muscle development within a safe and low-impact workout.
What advice would you give to others?
It’s all about movement and nutrition. Grab a friend and take one new class. Find a sustainable workout that is effective, low impact yet continues to challenge you every time. At sculp’d, we pride our-selves on providing an attainable and sustainable workout for every person. Once you find that, then focus on your nutrition and what you are putting in your body on a regular basis. Start with that, movement and nutrition, and I guarantee you that 2020 will be your best year yet!