Michelle was my professor at Columbia College Chicago for environmental concerns. When I took her class she quickly became my role model, she was smart, vegan, beautiful, and courageous. I stayed in contact with her via email and recently just became friends with her on Facebook. When people ask me who my role models are Michelle is still on the top of that list. I think it’s very important to find a collection of women who cultivate inspiration and teach us lessons in each stage of our lives.
In this interview Michelle opens up and gives honest advice that all women can connect with. Her message is powerful and motivational, she embodies strength, passion, and determination. Michelle brings light into this world, her story like star light guiding the way.
Q: Do you have a favorite mantra that you use?
- I adopt Bruce Lee’s mantra, most days: “Walk on!”. It reminds me to keep moving forward., no matter what.
Q: How do you balance your busy schedule?
- It is very difficult to balance my schedule, but I insist on making time for self-care. I’m a much better mom, teacher, wife, etc., if I take time to do things that excite and reinvigorate me.
Q: What do you do for fitness? What is your advice for busy women who want to workout as well?
- To keep fit, I study martial arts (taekwondo), yoga, dance, and strength train. I am extremely disciplined when it comes to my diet. I am vegetarian and eat clean 90% of the time. It’s easy for me to adhere to this lifestyle because I’m motivated by how good I look and feel. My advice to women who want to work out is to make yourself a priority. Find something you really like to do and do it regularly. Forcing yourself to run on the treadmill when you don’t enjoy it is not going to keep you motivated to exercise
Q: What is your relationship with food like?
- My relationship with food has always been rocky. For a good portion of my life, I had an eating disorder. I would often feel that my self-worth was determined by my weight…terrible! I ended up becoming 75 pounds overweight at one point in my life…this of course, led to some major health concerns. When I was faced with losing my uterus at the age of 35, I decided I needed to make a huge lifestyle change. I started to study martial arts and began eating a clean, vegan, organic diet. It took me a year, but I lost about 72 pounds and became extremely strong. Best of all, I no longer needed to have my uterus removed.
Q: Do you struggle with body image? How do you deal with it?
- I still struggle with body image issues to some degree…how can I not. Women are constantly confronted with the message that our self-worth is determined by how attractive we are to others. Nurturing your inner self is difficult for women. We are often told we are vain or selfish for taking time for ourselves…for saying no once in a while. We are taught to be so critical of ourselves. I try to remember to treat myself as I would treat someone I love. While meditating in my yoga class, I remind myself that this my time to treat and care for myself.
Q: What are your goals for 2016?
- One of my goals for 2016 is to put forth in the world more positive, pro-active energy. Since I quit my job at Columbia, I have been wanting to start some kind of initiative to empower women survivors of violence. I think I can make this happen, if I partner with my taekwondo master. She is also a survivor of violence and wants to teach some kind of personal safety workshop. Also, last year at Nationals, I qualified to try out for the US Olympic Sport Poomsae (taekwondo) team, but did not make it during the team trials. This year, I want a spot on that team. I have been training 6 days a week and cross training to compliment my martial arts training. I just think it would be amazing to travel all over the world and meet other amazing women studying martial arts.
Q: What advice do you give your daughter about self-love and being a woman?
- I try to model self-care/love for my daughter on a regular basis. I try not to say self-deprecating things about myself…this is hard in our culture. Lily is also exposed to other strong female role models on a regular basis. We just read I Am Malala together and then saw the movie. It’s essential for Lily to see women who work to transform the world with their hearts and minds. I tell Lily to speak her truth, set healthy boundaries with others, do nice things for herself, believe in herself, and be her own advocate.
Q: Any last words?
- Sarah, I’m so very happy that you are about to graduate! That is quite an accomplishment, especially nowadays. You are a powerful, beautiful force that will do great things in this world!