Tiffany Ellis is a former college teammate of mine (University of Michigan softball) who lives in Southern California, and works as a full-time registered nurse at Hoag Hospital in addition to taking classes in an accelerated ADN-BSN program at Grand Canyon University. During college, Tiffany was one of the best athletes on our national championship team and also in the country (two-time All American player). She was fairly health-conscious then, but I was AMAZED at how fit she looked when I ran into her at a teammate’s wedding last spring (six years after graduating).
So, I asked her what she was doing to stay in such great shape and her answer really surprised me! Her “fitness plan” doesn’t require a gym or fancy meal plan— just a pair of walking shoes and some quick, easy recipes. She took the time to answer some questions from me so I could share her simple tips on living a carefree, happy and healthy lifestyle!
RC: How do you stay and look fit without going to a gym?
Tiffany: I work 36 hours a week at the hospital. My fitness comes from speed walking at work on an almost non-stop basis. On my days off work, I make time to walk my dogs approximately one mile a day to support their physical and mental well-being, as well as mine. Walking outside helps me to unwind and jumpstart my day. Occasionally my husband Lloyd will walk with us, which is a fun bonding time and a way to enjoy the outdoors.
[For a person who is walking quickly, the number of steps per minute is approximately 152, which is equivalent to 9,120 steps in just one hour. This is about 4.5 miles! So, if Tiffany is walking for 18 of her 36 hours at the hospital, she is actually walking approximate 82 MILES/WEEK! That is the same as walking 3.1 marathons during her work week, plus the walking she does with her dogs and husband. Tiffany moves more in one week than the average American does over the span of two months. Americans take 2,300-3,000 steps a day on average, and the recommended amount is 10,000 steps a day to be considered active.]
RC: What does your typical nutrition plan look like?
Tiffany: I do not follow any strict meal plan, but do have some basic guidelines that I adhere to. I strive to eat clean foods— foods that are not processed, free from hormones and pesticides, low in saturated fat, and free of artificial/added sugars. In the last year, I have incorporated more coconut oil and olive oil when frying my egg whites, which I eat with whole grain toast. I stay away from most salad dressings except for olive oil and balsamic vinegar combo. Sometimes I replace this dressing preference with non-fat cottage cheese. I think of myself as a healthy convenience eater, which means I stock my refrigerator or food cabinet with healthy items I can grab and go, such as: a variety of apples, red/orange/yellow bell peppers, bananas, avocados, tomatoes, rotisserie chickens, whole grain crackers, pistachios, low-fat Greek yogurt, non-fat cottage cheese, almonds, clementine oranges and canned salmon in water.
When I make a meal, I focus on including one source of protein, one serving of carbohydrate and fresh vegetables with lunch/dinner. As far as drinks go, I do not drink sodas or juices. I drink water more than any other drink, substituted with vanilla almond milk from Trader Joe’s, or homemade smoothies.
I have to admit, I have a weakness for cereal— specifically cinnamon Puffins from Trader Joe’s. It is low in fat per serving and high in fiber. I allow myself two to four cups of Puffins for three to four breakfasts a week.
I’ve found that your body builds a liking to types of food you eat more often. So, if you eat a lot of sweets, lessen the amount of junk food and eat more fruits and veggies. The more often you eat fruits and veggies (and the less you eat junk food), the more your body won’t mind the taste of the healthy stuff.
RC: Do you have any favorite recipes that you can share?
Tiffany: When I cook, I use really simple recipes using the food available. These are two of my favorite recipes I frequently use:
Sweet Potato Waffles
1. Grate one sweet potato into a bowl.
2. For every one sweet potato, use one raw egg.
3. Fold in egg(s).
4. Spray waffle griddle surfaces with non-stick spray or ingredient you prefer.
5. Place sweet potato/egg combo onto griddle and cook until egg(s) are cooked and sweet potato golden brown.
6. Add desired toppings (such as agave syrup). Enjoy!
RC: What is your biggest challenge to sticking with your healthy eating?
Tiffany: Because of my busy schedule, my biggest challenge is reaching for convenience foods at my hospital that are high in sugar, fat and calories (e.g. doughnuts, Cheez-Its, Gatorade). I realize this is one of my common pitfalls, and here’s another one: If I go without eating for six hours or more, I ignore my usual healthy guidelines. It helps me to eat small healthy (oftentimes, protein-rich snacks) throughout the day, such as a Quest bar, handful of pistachios, or 4 oz of canned salmon, to prevent and reduce unhealthy cravings.”
RC: What keeps your motivated to stay fit?
Tiffany: I’m motivated by:
• Memories of watching my mother in her aerobics classes as a child and trying to mimic her exercises in front of her closet mirror while wearing her spandex pants, leotard and leg warmers (she was my greatest fitness role model growing up).
• I’m motivated by the thought of having more energy, maintaining positive self-esteem, potentially living longer and spending more time on this Earth with my loved ones.
• I’m motivated during and after caring for patients who have unhealthy or destructive eating, fitness habits and thought processes and seeing their lives negatively affected by those habits directly.
• I am motivated by the fact that I am a nurse, and I have to practice what I preach to my patients in hopes that they will live a healthier life.
• I am motivated to stay fit, so I don’t feel old. I’ve learned and witnessed the effects of not staying fit— usually muscle atrophy, lower bone density, increased pain, generalized weakness, activity intolerance, increased risk for obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and lower self-esteem, to name a few.”
RC: One of the things I’ve always admired about you, Tiffany, is how you are always so bright and positive. I’ve never heard you talk badly about another person or compare yourself to others or complain. How do you keep such a great attitude and not compare your own life or body to what others have?
Tiffany: My favorite quote is “Strive to be the best YOU can be.” And I remember that you can’t be your best self in one day— it takes time and consistency. I focus on being the best person I can be and to have a “P.M.A”— Positive Mental Attitude.
RC: Thank you so much, Tiffany, for taking the time to share your fit-living tips with FitnessRx for Women online!