Whether it’s athletic performance, mental stamina, or emotional well-being, there’s no denying the impact of food. It’s no wonder, then, that so many badass women prioritize meals that work for them, choosing foods that will bring them the energy, nutrition, and satisfaction to continue in their badass ways. Of course, health doesn’t have to—and often should not—look like the menu from an elite detox retreat. Happiness, balance, and success almost always look less glamorous than they appear on Instagram. (Artful rose latte made from raw dairy, coconut nectar, bee pollen, and crushed rose petals, anyone?) To paint a clearer picture of the diverse ways go-getter women are fueling their workdays, HealthyWay asked for a peek into the menus powering the daily grinds of a fitness trainer and model in Toronto, a mother and pastry chef in Little Rock, and an Olympic athlete and consultant in New York City. [Editorial note: These interviews have been edited for length and clarity.]
Edith Werbel is a Toronto-based certified personal and group fitness trainer, model, entrepreneur, and “crazy cat lady” with a very informative fitness blog and a BootyFull training program that promises a more shapely backside in eight weeks. How long have you worked as a fitness trainer and a model? My first job out of university was an office job—and I hated it. I thought to myself “what’s the opposite of this s**t?” And that’s how I became a trainer! I’ve been a full-time trainer for about eight years now, and I’ve modeled for more than 15 years. I started as a fashion model in my teens and have since transitioned to more fitness modeling.
How would you describe what you do? The pros: I practically get paid to stay fit, have fun, and hang out with cool clients all day. And what’s more, I feel I genuinely help people, and it’s incredibly rewarding. The cons: The hours are long, the work unstable, and it’s very tiring in more than one way. What are you most proud of accomplishing so far? I think the one thing I’m most proud of is my BootyFull eight-week glute training program that I sell on my site. Glutes are my area of specialty, and I’ve helped shaped many a beautiful backside. I’m proud of this program I’ve put together that is both popular and effective and helps pull in some extra passive income. What are three terms that pop in your mind when you think of your eating philosophy? Intuitive, enjoyable, and healthy
Edith’s Daily Grind Menu
I start each morning with a coffee protein shake: coffee, coconut water, half a banana, and a scoop of vanilla protein powder. It’s a pretty light breakfast. I look forward to it every day and it keeps me fueled for a workout.
Lunch is usually after my workout and usually consists of a salad with chicken.
And dinner again is often a protein with some roasted vegetables. I eat healthy and moderately most of the time, without overly obsessing or restricting myself. Once a week, I have a properly dirty meal of something like a burger and fries.
Zara Abbasi is a lawyer, pastry chef, entrepreneur, and mother of three living in Little Rock. How long have you been a lawyer, pastry chef, mother (and any other amazing things you are up to)? I graduated from law school in 2013 and have been a pastry chef for five years. I have not had any professional training in the culinary department so I feel like maybe the title of pastry chef may be too important for me. I have been a mother for nine years now, and out of all the hats I wear, that is by far my favorite. I do all these “amazing” things for my kids so that they can believe in the positivity of this world and can see that someone who works hard can achieve anything. How would you describe what you do? I’m a Jane of all trades. I love working different positions and learning about the world through the different challenges placed before me. But if I had to describe who I am at heart, it’s an entrepreneur.
What are you most proud of accomplishing so far, and what do you hope to someday accomplish? Professionally, I’m really proud of finishing law school and passing the bar. I had two of my kids while I was in school and there were days I felt I would never pull through. I love being on the other side of that feeling, seeing how all the hard work paid off. Creatively, I’m so proud to have made a name for myself in our small city by throwing caution to the wind and following through with my creative visions. It’s been remarkable to see how supportive people can be when you put yourself out there. Physically, I’m proud of taking care of myself. I used to put my health and well-being last like most women do. But this year, I’ve made it a priority to get enough sleep, drink plenty of water, exercise, and most importantly, say “no” and guard my mental energy. What I hope to accomplish: I hope that the hard work I’ve put forth in my business venture really pays off and I’m able to create a sustainable line of products that makes the business successful. What are three terms that pop in your mind when you think of your eating philosophy? Balanced, fun, homemade
Zara’s Daily Grind Menu
I have a pretty erratic schedule. I have a small 10-month-old baby, so I tend to follow her lead on the day sometimes. Breakfast usually consists of a cup of chai, first and foremost. I feel it has the same effect on me as does a cup of coffee on most other people. I find that I cannot start my day without it. When I have my first cup of chai, it’s usually when I’m making some breakfast for the baby and simultaneously checking emails and messages. When it is my turn to eat, I usually stick to pretty basic breakfast staples such as oatmeal, eggs, and a fruit. I change up the type of eggs based on my mood but find that I like a healthy combo of both protein and carbs.
For lunch, I usually have more time to myself, because it usually coincides with the baby’s nap. This is where I really like to take care of myself. I usually make myself a salad of some sort. I’ve been known to stock my pantry and fridge with ingredients to make no less than seven varieties of salad at any given time. It makes lunch less boring, and [having] the staples on hand keeps me from noshing on things I probably shouldn’t. I follow up my lunch with plain Greek yogurt (FAGE is my absolute favorite) with a little brown sugar sprinkled on top.
I usually snack in between lunch and dinner and head to our dry pantry for those snacks. I find myself going to pretzels, cheddar popcorn, and roasted nuts around that time because I find I need something salty before I need anything sweet.
For dinner, I like to plan pretty elaborate meals sometimes. Some nights we’ll have handmade pasta and meatballs, other nights we’ll have a full French three-course meal including coq au vin, roasted vegetables, and crème brûlée. And then on other nights, we will have something simple like chicken and dumplings or a pot of chili. We like to keep dinner interactive with the kids and keep it rotating so we don’t fall into meal ruts.
Nzingha Prescod is a foil fencer—a 2012 and 2016 U.S. Olympian, a 2015 Senior World Championships bronze medalist, and four-time world champion—and a consultant for a Big Four accounting firm in New York City. How long have you been a professional athlete? I have been on the senior national team for nine years—through high school, college, and right now as I balance my athlete life with a career in business. I’m a consultant at EY [formerly Ernst & Young], so my schedule is a bit packed. As the games approach, I’m looking to dedicate more time to fencing and everything that comes with it (speaking engagements, photo shoots, clinics, etc.).
How would you describe what you do? Consulting is really mastering learning on the job. I am aligned to the data analytics practice so I’m primarily assigned to projects where my team helps the business structure their data and report/present it in the most intelligible way. Every client has different data and systems, so each engagement requires different skills! What are you most proud of accomplishing so far and what do you hope to someday accomplish? I’m most proud at any moment I overcome self-doubt, especially in uncomfortable situations, i.e., competitions! Every time me or my team has medaled at world championships, I’ve been able to affirm to myself for the entire day that I am capable. I hope to continue sharing what I’ve learned through sport and opening doors for children to have similar opportunities and experiences as I did. What are three terms that pop in your mind when you think of your eating philosophy? Balance, moderation, and experimenting!
Nzingha’s Daily Grind Menu
If I have time to eat a bowl of cereal I’ll have Alpen and Honey Bunches of Oats with skim milk. I always add in a couple of walnuts and coconut flakes so my bites are more exciting. I really look forward to it most days when I wake up. If I am heading in to the office, I’ll get a bowl of oatmeal with peanut butter, granola, blueberries, brown sugar, raisins, and coconuts flakes in the cafeteria. If I’m looking for something more savory, I’ll have bacon, egg whites, and pepper jack cheese on multigrain bread. If I have an early workout and need some sustenance quickly, I’ll have Belvita breakfast cookies with Greek yogurt. Whatever I’m having, I make sure it’s balanced between protein and carbs. I switch my carb intake for breakfast depending on my activity for the day. So I’ll have less cereal or only one slice of toast if I’m not as active that day. https://youtu.be/_SHavgDUrPI
If my meal was more than two or three hours before my workout, I’ll have a snack like apple or banana with peanut butter, seed crackers with hummus, or piece of banana bread. If my meals aren’t awkwardly spaced I may just have some fruit to snack on throughout the day. Post strenuous workouts, I’ll have a scoop of protein powder with skim milk to promote recovery and prevent soreness.
For lunch and dinner I try to have some form of vegetables in both meals. I aim for half a plate of veggies, quarter protein, quarter carbs. This isn’t always the case, but whenever a meal is heavier on one spectrum, I try to even it out later in the day!
I have been eating a lot of Oreos (no cream) and milk!
Takeaways: Protein, Veggies, Enjoyment, Balance
As you can see, there are a handful of common threads running through the menus. All of these women prioritize protein and vegetables, they consume fruit in at least one of their meals, they talk about enjoying something that they eat every day, and they aim for balance, whether between macronutrients like carbohydrates and protein or nutrient-dense foods and “junk” foods. Most of them also mention hydration and regular exercise. This is smart living. As we know, water is literally life, and the benefits of exercise are as infinite as the internet. It’s smart nutrition, too. “Protein is essential for building and maintenance throughout the body,” registered dietitian Christeena Haynes (full disclosure: also my sister) tells HealthyWay. “Vegetables, fruits, and other complex carbohydrates are the body’s largest source of energy and provide fiber, vitamins, and minerals the body needs to keep things running smoothly. Fiber and protein also help you stay fuller longer, meaning you’re less likely to overeat and fill your body with empty calories.” This balancing of proteins and carbs mentioned gives “your body what it needs to function well…so you’re not overeating carbs, which affect blood sugar levels more,” says Haynes. What’s more, some research suggests that the combo may be better suited to improving athletic performance and recovery than carbs alone. The fulfillment these women seek in their noms is also good practice. “If you don’t enjoy what you’re eating, just from my own experience, you’re probably not going to maintain what you’re doing,” says Haynes. Beyond the intuitive component of eating bites you find exciting, it also makes physiological sense. In his book The Gospel of Food: Everything You Think You Know About Food Is Wrong, sociologist Barry Glassner references a study from the 1970s that suggests we might actually absorb more nutrients from foods that please us. “In one of my favorite studies, Swedish and Thai women were fed a Thai dish that the Swedes found overly spicy,” Glassner wrote. “The Thai women, who liked the dish, absorbed more iron from the meal. When the researchers reversed the experiment and served hamburger, potatoes, and beans, the Swedes, who like this food, absorbed more iron. Most telling was a third variation of the experiment, in which both the Swedes and the Thais were given food that was high in nutrients but consisted of a sticky, savorless paste. In this case, neither group absorbed much iron.” We’d love to see a more recent reproduction of the above study, but until then, we’ll stand by one takeaway: Pursue pleasure in your diet. It’s easy to let the prescriptiveness of “healthy eating” erase desire. Nutrition does not equal dull and flavorless meals. The way food looks and smells, its taste and texture in your mouth, how it makes you feel after you eat it, and the rituals surrounding mealtime—these are part of living, and they’re worth your attention. Stay hungry, boss Bs.