Dr. Sara Solomon On Becoming Strong From Weak By Leaving Dieting Behind
Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.”
In 2008, Sara launched her company, DrSaraSolomon.com Inc., an online fitness empire born from her own personal journey towards health and wellness. Her passion is inspiring women to stop dieting and exercising to shrink themselves, and replace this with fuelling and training to become stronger, to become more.
She is a Bodybuilding.com and BSN sponsored athlete, a CrossFit L1 trainer, a Buddy Lee Jump Ropes Ambassador, a PRO fitness model, and has degrees in dentistry (DMD) and physiotherapy (B.Sc) from McGill University.
Women Fitness is #CelebratingWomen this International Women’s Day, with a new story of an inspirational woman going out every day. Lets check out this one about the fitness and nutrition expert Dr. Sara Solomon.
What motivated you to start your own company, DrSaraSolomon.com Inc.?
DrSaraSolomon.com Inc. was born from my own personal journey towards health and wellness. I was struggling to improve my body composition and I wanted to understand why I was not succeeding. Every time I tried following a diet method, I would fail miserably and I’d end up regaining the weight (and more). Every time I amped up my exercise regime, I would end up injuring my knee, neck, shoulder and lower back. I knew something was horribly amiss because I was not receiving a reasonable return for the time I was investing in my diet and training. Years had passed and I still couldn’t do a single pull-up and I was struggling daily just to prevent myself from gaining weight.
My motivation came from a desire to overcome. I wanted to understand WHY I was struggling with fat loss, WHY I wasn’t getting stronger, and WHY I kept getting injured when exercising. I was on a mission to find solutions to my problems. I went back to school and accomplished my mission.
At the time, I was practicing dentistry full-time, but my true passion was helping other people who were struggling with fitness by sharing my daily diet and training revelations on my social media. I discovered that I wasn’t the only one who was struggling. That’s when I realized I needed to launch DrSaraSolomon.com Inc. My brand is the story of how I overcame dieting and exercising. I help people stop spinning their wheels. When it comes to nutrition and training, I don’t tell people what to do. Rather, I teach them “the WHY”. This way they can find value in working hard at doing the right things.
How were you able to learn and improve from the mistakes in your own fitness journey?
I used to be a PRO bikini competitor. At first it was fun, but it eventually started to take its toll on me physically and mentally. My world revolved around my appearance, the number on the bathroom scale, meal prep, dieting, cardio training, and contrived photo shoots. I knew I wasn’t happy, but I struggled to walk away because I didn’t want to admit to myself that I had wasted years of my life doing something that was failing my mind and body. I was scared because being a PRO bikini model defined my existence … it’s how I grew my social media, it’s how I validated myself, it’s why I got sponsorships and magazine covers… it was my WHY … so I kept doing it … until I finally hit rock bottom.
I had hit rock bottom with injuries, plateaus, chronic hunger, and mental anguish. I was ready to redefine my life’s WHY. I was ready to work on increasing my daily self-awareness so that I could start tackling my new WHY.
Along the way, I learned that the biggest mistake is being afraid to make mistakes. Mistakes are not the same as failure. My mistakes helped me find a better WHY and a better way to approach fitness and nutrition.
Growth mandates willingness to experiment and step outside your comfort zone. It requires tremendous self-awareness so that you can identify your current reality and make decisions that will maximize your potential. This means wanting what you need, instead of needing what you want. How willing are you to let go of old habits and behaviors that are causing you to stagnate? If you stay within what rewards you now, nothing will ever change for you.
To walk away from something that isn’t in the best interest of your life’s WHY is very hard to do … and that’s when narcissism comes into the equation: it’s the reason why you continue doing things the way you have always done them, even when you know it’s not in your best interest. The more time you invest in something, the greater the narcissism you will face when it’s time to reconsider. Basically, we find comfort in our daily habits, even if they are bad for us.
The key is to find VALUE in your mistakes and then QUICKLY MOVE ON from them. That is how you learn and change.
Elaborate to us your philosophy “to fuel and train”.
I used to diet and exercise to shrink myself. To be less. For me, it was all about what my body looked like. Let me explain:
When I was a PRO fitness model, I dieted and exercised to be as lean as possible. I used to rely on my appearance for false confidence. My goal was to weigh 120 pounds, even if it meant eating 1200 calories a day and doing 60 minutes of daily cardio. I was miserable, weak, insecure and felt like a constant failure because I was always bingeing and gaining weight.
Today, I fuel and train to be a strong badass. To be more. It’s no longer about what my body looks like. Now it’s about what my body can do.
I gradually added more calories back into my diet and started training to get stronger. Properly fuelling my body allowed me to build muscle and strength. I currently weigh 140 pounds and I eat over 2000 calories a day. I’m pretty sure the thought of a 20-pound weight gain is making you freak out, but I want you to know that I am leaner (more chiselled) today than I was when I was only 120 pounds. I feel strong and confident, and I’m no longer in pain.
Training to get stronger has had such a positive impact on my well-being. I can eat more calories, I feel more comfortable in my skin, and I’m more capable in life. It’s also a wonderful outlet for me … it’s cathartic to train like a badass …. it keeps me calm and productive. I also feel safer being strong. So regarding my WHY: I’m not worried about the end game anymore. I’m putting all my energy into loving the process. I’ve never been more motivated to be consistent in my entire life!
That’s why I encourage women to train to get stronger and fitter (instead of exercising to burn calories). It’s motivating and empowering. Plus, it’s the secret to never having to diet again. That’s why I have no issues maintaining my weight (because I’m not restricting my calories).
If you are not sure how to go about adding more calories back into your diet, I explain how in my Fat Loss Fast eBook.
Tell us about your top 5 fitness tips to enjoy fitness pain-free.
By the time I was in my mid-thirties, my body had hit rock bottom. My body felt like it was 70 years old. I had chronic left low back spasm, excruciating right knee pain and decreased mobility in my left shoulder. I was visibly asymmetrical. I couldn’t lock my left arm out overhead, I couldn’t deadlift without hurting my low back and I couldn’t squat or go up and down stairs without experiencing horrid knee pain. I was always getting injured when exercising because I had many muscle imbalances. I had been using the wrong muscles for decades. The wrong muscles were overworked, hypertrophied and sore, and the correct muscles were weak (they weren’t doing their job).
i) Don’t Train through Pain
If an exercise causes you pain, stop doing it immediately. That’s a red flag that there are major muscles in your body that aren’t doing their job. Don’t waste time getting frustrated. Instead, get excited because now you have a new plan of action: to immediately get to work on strengthening the weak muscles!
ii) Plug Your Holes
To be strong, you need a very solid foundation. Trying to add strength to a faulty foundation is like trying to build a house on sand. Remember that you are only as strong as your weakest link. Devote time to plugging the holes in your foundation’s structure if you want to get stronger instead of injured.
Most of us have weak external obliques. These are the keystone of your body. If they are weak, they can cause a lot of problems such as low back pain.
Other commonly weak muscles include the inner hamstrings and glutes, as well as the pec majors (chest muscles) and teres majors (upper lats). I used to suffer from upper trap dominance until I strengthened my pecs and teres majors. I’m a huge fan of pec flyes and rope pulls. Try them!
iii) Prioritize Mobility
There’s a difference between flexibility and mobility.
Flexibility is your passive range of motion (PROM). It’s how far your joint can BE MOVED regardless of muscular control.
Mobility is your active range of motion (AROM). It’s how far you can move a joint with muscular control. In other words, mobility is range of motion under tension. Think of mobility as a synonym for strength. People who can generate torque at the end of their range of motion are the strongest.
You can have full PROM even if you don’t have full AROM. When there is a large gap between the two, it means you can be taken to a range that you cannot control, which increases your risk for injury.
If you want to minimize your risk of injury, then learn how to generate tension in your inner hamstrings, glutes max, external obliques, pec majors, teres majors and short head biceps through their full range of motion. Doing this will improve your ankle, hip, T-spine and shoulder mobility. It will make you a strong beast! If you are not sure how to do this, then I’d be happy to help you in my Strength Academy!
iv) Patience, Self-Awareness, and Realistic Expectations
How long does it take to fix muscle imbalances that are causing pain and stalled progress? As long as it takes! Ditch the six week guarantees, and think bigger picture. Is it more important to deadlift 200 pounds right now even if it blows out your back, or is it more important to spend time strengthening your external obliques, inner hamstrings and glutes max so that you will be able to properly hinge at the hips without implicating your low back? Again, this boils down to wanting what you need, instead of needing what you want.
Sometimes the hardest part is accepting where you are right now, but if you do, then you will be able to make choices that will maximize your potential in the long run. Yes, you will inevitably encounter setbacks along the way. Focus on your daily wins and the magnitude and frequency of your setbacks will diminish over time. You’ll also enjoy the process much more, which is important since the daily process represents the majority of the time you devote to training. Learn to love the day-to-day process of tackling your weaknesses and attempting to get a little better with each passing day. Humility and adjusted expectations go a long way in that process.
Always remember why you’re doing this: to become more balanced and capable, both physically and mentally.
v) Don’t say you suck. Acknowledge your daily win
Please don’t say you suck! You are learning how to be better than you were yesterday. Why are you being so hard on yourself for trying to become a better version of yourself? You should be proud of yourself for having the guts to try something that is challenging you. So stop saying “I suck at this”. You know who sucks? People who never try stepping outside of their comfort zones.
Don’t wait until you’ve reached your goals to be proud of yourself. Be proud of every step you take toward reaching your goals. That’s why I want you to focus on your daily win. Do this every single day. That is how you end up winning in life. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, but move on from them quickly. Don’t dwell on what didn’t go well. Extract value from each workout so you can apply it to your next session.
Remember that strength doesn’t come from what you can do, it comes from overcoming what you thought you couldn’t do.
This International Women’s Day, what advice would you like to give to the women out there?
I used to view exercise as a form of instant gratification. I expected it to give me immediate rewards. Today, I relish in the entire process. I embrace failure as an opportunity for learning, growth, and evolution.
Fitness is so much more than physical appearance and once I stopped equating the two, my life became instantly better.
My goal is to become more capable. I want to become a better human. The rest will take care of itself.
I know so many of you want to lose weight and have a fear of gaining weight (because I get hundreds of messages like this from ya’ll daily). Stop worrying about your weight, stop criticizing your body, stop comparing yourself to scantily-clad fitness models, and for goodness’ sake, stop going on diets! If I knew then what I know now, I never would have dieted to lose weight. Tying your happiness to an aesthetic outcome that requires a lot of strict dieting to attain is dangerous. If you don’t enjoy the process, you won’t be able to keep it up.
Instead, pick a healthy and empowering goal and go for it! Maybe that’s adding some calories back into your diet so you can start working towards athletic goals, such as mastering handstands and pull-ups. It’s never too late to go after a goal … I learned how to hold handstands at 40 years of age!
What may be preventing you from moving on is just the sheer amount of energy required. But this is a good a time as any to begin. Prove to yourself that you call the shots! So take the bull by the horns because you can achieve anything you desire. Believe in yourself.
Women’s Day Video
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