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We chat to the #strongwoman behind @sugarfreesundays

Sugarfreesundays lady

To celebrate women’s month, we’ll profile a different #strongwoman every week in August.

#Strongwoman Maxine Schuiling is a Chem graduate, founder and CEO of Macro Mixes, and an evidence-based health blogger on Sugarfree Sundays. She shares content on her website, through her podcast as well as on Instagram. She shared a little about her journey with health and fitness. 

What has been some of your challenges and triumphs throughout your journey? How did you discover your passion for healthy living and how did your fitness journey start?

I have pretty much always exercised as I played sports and loved running at school. But I went through some of those lame phases of following soul-destroying workout programs I dreaded the whole way though before really discovering my passion for weight training. It was such an empowering feeling to realise exercise existed that could make me strong, fast, and that I didn’t have to do 104 jump squats to get fit if I didn’t want to. Newbie gains are real and I feel like that is the time my fitness journey really solidified. Much has changed since then. I have dabbled in other sports I never thought I’d enjoy, like cycling and swimming, and I have developed a whole new appreciation for exercise and my body.

Injury is probably the biggest challenge! I throw myself into whatever I do but unfortunately your mind can adapt to something much quicker than your ligaments, tendons and muscles. And with some sports, especially ones like running, injury is par for the course if you aren’t very well adapted, strict with rehab exercises and slow to increase volume. My triumphs are, ironically, all the fun races I have taken part in. I did my first marathon last year (the Cape Town Marathon), and it was one of the best and most invigorating days of my life! 

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Tomorrow we RUN! 🏃🏻‍♀️🦓 . Cannot WAIT to get together tomorrow morning and start the day RUNNING (or walking!) for change! . Young and old, girls and guys and people of all different walks of life will be donning stripes of some kind and JOINING THE TRIBE! 🦓 . @elanameyer66 will kick things off just after 8am with a quick chat about WHY we are running, and then we will head off down the beautiful prom. There will be goodie bags, coffee, lucky draws for @asics_za and @nuhealthfood vouchers, spot prizes, @endurocad and some of their athletes and an opportunity to ask @ctmarathon any Qs you may have if you still want to sign up for a 10km or a 42km in September! . See y’all tomorrow – let’s make a difference 👊🏼

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What are your views on exercise and nutrition as part of a healthy and balanced lifestyle?

My views are probably the most genuinely balanced they have ever been. I don’t rely on exercise for anything because I know what it feels like to have it taken away. Too often people rely on controlling their exercise and nutrition to give them an illusion of control over their entire lives. This can mask underlying emotional work that needs to be done in order to ensure any exercise and nutrition choices they make are truly healthy and in their best interest. So while they are both imperative to a balanced and fulfilled life, they need to be kept within the correct context and not used as a crutch. Fulfil yourself first. Let being mindful in the present moment be enough. Then you’ll see what an awesome cherry on top of your already full cake life exercise and nutrition can be. 

How do you find motivation and the energy to pursue your passions and your business and still stay active and healthy?

They all feed one another! Moving my body makes me feel good and empowered, and this in turn makes me want to go and smash out my work for the day. And vice versa. Focusing and getting work done motivates me and puts me in the mood to work out. Honestly, it sounds lame, but doing the basics to take care of yourself allows you to fire on all cylinders and that is the best feeling. Forward momentum is everything. Get enough sleep, eat enough food (and a varied diet, too!), move your body (not too much either!), call a friend, meditate, drink water and spend some time outside in nature. Inside out, that’s what keeps you going.

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WHY WEIGHTS? 💪🏼 . I do realise I am posting this off the bat of 6 months of the bare minimum being done weights wise – but that doesn’t refute the facts 🤣. So no, pic is not to illustrate efficacy of weight training. 🤣 I just felt compelled to chat about this again based off a few recent convos that reminded me that unfortunately the cardio bunny hype of the 90’s hasn’t disappeared. . TOOOO many people (esp women) think that they need to sweat it out on an elliptical to ‘tone up’, and this is NOT THE CASE. . 👉🏼 RESISTANCE TRAINING will NOT make you bulky (you can dream 😂) and is in fact an extremely healthy form of exercise, esp for women. . I don’t want to make it about aesthetics because to reduce the benefits of exercise to that does both it and you a SERIOUS DISSERVICE! 🖐🏻 . Beyond the general benefits of exercise on health, resistance training is a way to preserve and increase lean body mass and muscle strength, and if feeling stronger and looking more ‘toned’ is your goal, it’s pretty much essential. . 🏃🏻‍♀️What about cardio? . SS cardio without the inclusion of any resistance training can actually have the OPPOSITE effect. ESP if you’re not getting in adequate nutrition, you risk both muscle and strength loss. . 🐝Often times people beeline for the cardio machines as they think it is preferable (esp ito calorie burning) but there is SO much more to consider than just that: . – What is going to benefit you metabolically long term (ie having more muscle). – “After burn” effect ie you burn more calories recovering from weight training generally speaking. – The small part of your TDEE that exercise actually makes up. – Exercise compensation (tendency to dec NEAT and inc energy intake) and drive for homeostasis. – Adherence – actually ENJOYING whatever you do so you can stick to it long term. . As always there is SO MUCH more to all of this, but I hope this at least shed some light on it. Also, there is a more in depth podcast on this – @maxichats episode 2. . 🕺🏽This is not to demonise cardio IN ANY WAY, rather to empower so that if you don’t enjoy it you see heaps of it aren’t necessary. (Don’t skip it completely either tho- heart health yo)!

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Why do you think it is important to have balance?

Without it nothing is sustainable. You go, go, go until something breaks. And something always breaks. Don’t let it get to that point. “Take a break before you break,” is one of my favourite quotes.

Take us through a day in your life.

I wake up early, without an alarm, usually because getting enough sleep is extremely important to me and I inevitably wake up earlier than I’d like to anyway. I grab a cup of coffee and a lil’ snack and climb back into bed and savour those first few moments of the day when I can hear all the birds waking up and the sun starts to peek through my shutters. I then journal and do a mindfulness mediation. I might skip the journalling if I am in a rush and keep the mediation short, but I aim for consistency in those habits over perfect execution. I also write my to-do list for the day at this point so that I remember to prioritise my needs and make choices that align with my values. 

My days are all completely different depending on what is going on. So I have zero routine apart from that, which is why I value it so highly, I think. It really sets me up to face whatever my day holds. I head into the Macro Mixes office most days. My mornings usually involve emails, admin, and perhaps a meeting. At midday, I like to take a couple minutes breather and sit in the sun or do a short refocusing of my day just to touch base with myself. Afternoons are really a continuation of the morning and inevitably everything is not yet done. I try to focus on one or two particular areas of the company that need attention when I can. This can involve anything from researching, website things, finances, content-related things or meetings. But I literally have the most diverse job so no two days are alike, and my tasks are varied and ever changing! As evening nears, I try to sort out a post for Sugarfree Sundays. I love it so much but struggle to find the time to dedicate to it that I’d like.

If I didn’t exercise in the morning I will get that done in the evening. Once this is done, it usually around 8 pm, so I quickly make some dinner and shower, or, if I am lucky, I will grab dinner at my family or Norman (my boyf) will have cooked for us. Then I usually work until bed time, which is around 10:30 pm for me. I do want to change this when circumstances allow, but for now that’s how we roll. In my ideal life there is zero tech, work related or not, after 8 pm.

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CARB FEAR YO 🍌🥪 . I never knew how few carbs I ate at one point in my life until I can look back in retrospect and see. When I was 18 I actually tried keto. Back then I thought 1/2 a banana counted as a lot of carbs in a meal 😂. I mean it counts as some but that is MINIMAL. . Diet culture and lots of NON evidence based info has left people with misinformed ideas about food, one being that carbs are bad/make you fat/should be avoided in order to lose weight. . 👉🏼 This is categorically untrue. Research has shown us that diets matched for calories and protein yield THE SAME results whether they are high carb low fat or high fat low carb. . This is not to say that low carb diets are bad/don’t work, but rather to say that avoiding carbs like fruit, grains and starchy veg is UNNECCESSARY (and often detrimental) in your persuit of health. 🍞🍇🍠 . The sugars found in fruit, veg and dairy are not to be feared! Because with those whole foods come nutrients, fiber, vitamins and NOURISHMENT!🍓🍓🍓 . There’s obviously a lot more to this topic – such as why high refined sugar consumption can make managing overconsumption difficult, but how even refined sugar should not be demonised in isolation. . 🕺🏽 But yes – I certainly would not always have happily munched all the carbs I do now simply due to not understanding energy balance fully and also just some weird underlying fear that I couldn’t properly pinpoint. And my health, happiness and certainly fitness is so much better for it. . Seriously, I’ll bet you cash it’s not the two slices of toast at lunch that’s the bad guy. . ♥️ It’s a nuanced topic, with many other facets, but today’s message is this: if you like carbs, eat some carbs. Cutting out entire food groups or denying yourself foods you feel good on and enjoy due to a fear that is simply incorrect isn’t worth it!

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What does your diet look like?

It varies. I eat a high-protein diet in general but my eating changes a lot based on what I am up to, and how busy I am. This doesn’t bother me as the fundamentals of a wholesome diet are lots of fruits and veg with an adequate fibre intake and sufficient protein. And if you are eating enough food overall and from a variety of sources, you should be good with this! And I most definitely do.

What does your training look like? What kind of training do you believe in and why?

I think the best training is the one that gets you out the door. So enjoyment and sustainability are the most important factors. I wouldn’t push a single modality of exercise as it won’t work for everyone and the beauty of it is when you find what both suits your lifestyle and brings you joy. That being said, I would say, especially to women, to try and include some kind of resistance training somewhere if you can. You don’t have to pant and jump up and down to get an effective workout. In fact, there are a variety of health-related reasons we should lift some weights! 

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In the words of a wise old philosopher, . “I feel good, sometimes I don’t, ay, don’t.” – Drake. 🎼 . HAHAHAHAH. . Ft series of top 3/47 early morning mirror selfies with the only clothes I bothered getting dressed into today and the knee I bruised after falling down some steps on Friyay night. 😂 . 👉🏼 Anyone else have a funky ass feeling Monday emotion wise? GAH, when I resist and don’t feel my feels that resistance leaches into everything and affects my mental health, productivity and presence. 🙅🏻‍♀️ . 🌱🌱🌱 SO I STARTED AGAIN this morn. And again a bit later on. And again now. 🌱 . 💛 ARE WE NOT ALL SO BLESSED TO BE GRANTED A MILLION NEW MOMENTS EACH DAY? . Every time I remember that I am filled with hope. Now. And Now. And now again are new, fresh moments, filled to the brim with opportunity to think, feel and act differently. . 👉🏼 You might want to interject here and say, “HEY! Okay I get that but what about if I feel like I stuff up every single moment I am given? What will be different this next moment?” . Well, I can’t answer that. Maybe you will. . All I can say is that the only sure way of failure I know of is to stop trying new things. 🧚‍♀️ . Also, have you tried adding a hefty dose of self compassion to your reality and thinking? . That tends to aid beneficial outcomes.💛 . ♥️♥️♥️ Keep going, you. Keep latching on to fresh moments. Don’t let anyone scorn simply because they’ve lost hope in their own and you haven’t in yours. . You know that there is something fiery and alive deep down inside of you, and that is why you’ll keep seizing. . Never CEASE to SEIZE, yo. . Now THAT is a quote worthy of a rap song. Drake, HMU?

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How do you stay mentally healthy and strong?

I think it is very important to do the uncomfortable inner work that comes through therapy, or just journaling and being introspective. And then maintaining that with strong boundaries, mindfulness practice and taking care of yourself overall. Surrounding yourself with solid people helps a lot as well. I think people underestimate the impact the company they hold has on them.

What message do you aim to portray to your followers? How do you aim to inspire them?

Just that life is so short! Getting overly wrapped up with how you look or every morsel of food you put into your mouth is a shame and a waste. Yet it is also so understandable given the society we live in. The truth is that health-promoting choices are easier made from a place of self compassion. So take your one life by the horns, be kind to yourself and disassociate from things that make you focus too much on what is completely unimportant (ie your appearance). 

Who or what inspires you?

Fearless women. Women who live loudly and boldy and don’t bend to satisfy norms that don’t serve them. 

What is your favourite #strongwomen quote?

“Empowered women empower women.”

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MOTHER’S DAY! 💕 . Taking a break from the usual content to make a quick APPRECIATION POST for my mama bear 🐻. . I was so stoked to finally be able to spoil HER for once at the @goodhousekeepingsa Mother’s Day High Tea. ☕️ #GHMothersday. 💕 . There is no ones advice I value, approval I appreciate or deep wisdom I admire more than my mamas. 💫 . 🌻 She has made me believe ANYTHING is possible. Hence me attempting to start a detective agency at the age of 12 or believing that I could one day cycle the Tour de France (This was before I actually started cycling – now, no amount of encouragement from my mom could ever make me believe that is possible 🤣🤣💕). . She has taught me the value of human relationships over ALL things, while remaining steadfast in your own identity and not being defined by others opinions of you. She has demonstrated to me the virtuous cycle of giving and receiving, and the importance of a humble and generous spirit. At the end of the day all you have is the people in your life and the memories you’ve made, and nothing is worth compromising that for. . But ultimately she has modeled what it means to live with resilience and love wholly without condition. . I am forever grateful. Thank you, mom. 💕 Happy Mother’s Day. 👩‍❤️‍💋‍👩

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Who inspires you to be a strong woman?

Probably my mom! She lives loudly, speaks her mind and teaches me over and over again that it really is none of my business what other people think about me. 

Do you have a #strongwoman moment to share with us?

Gosh. Every single day at work hahaha. I feel like I have to give myself a little strong woman pep talk in the mirror hourly. I’m joking. To be honest, I think my strong woman moments are subtle and soft. They appear as weakness, but truthfully they require the most strength. And these are moments when I decide to close my laptop and leave some stuff to be solved the following day. Or the moments when I say no to something I want to say yes to, but doing so would be compromising my wellbeing. Or when I stick to my small commitments to myself, like meditating and drinking enough water. In those small daily moments, when I make the choice that best serves my long term self, I’m being a strong woman. 

Author: Logan Leigh Rix

Logan blends her passion and profession by working as a digital and social media marketer and content creator in the fitness, health and wellness industry. She’s also a former Face of Fitness finalist and Fitness Magazine featured athlete.

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