The Midlife Feast

#108 - Breaking Down Barriers to Fitness in Midlife & Beyond with Michael Ulloa

April 15, 2024 Jenn Salib Huber RD ND Season 4 Episode 108
#108 - Breaking Down Barriers to Fitness in Midlife & Beyond with Michael Ulloa
The Midlife Feast
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The Midlife Feast
#108 - Breaking Down Barriers to Fitness in Midlife & Beyond with Michael Ulloa
Apr 15, 2024 Season 4 Episode 108
Jenn Salib Huber RD ND

What did you think of this episode? Send me a text message and let me know!

Building and maintaining new movement habits can feel daunting, especially if you don’t enjoy moving as much as you did in the past, or are learning to navigate changes to your physical abilities in midlife. But as my guest and I both agree, fitness culture has way overcomplicated what counts as success when it comes to fitness goals.

In this episode, personal trainer and nutrition coach, Michael Ulloa joins me to share his inclusive (and refreshing) perspective on fitness.  We peel back the layers of industry myths, especially those that relate to us in midlife and menopause, and reveal just how achievable and personal fitness can be.

We have a great chat about the overwhelming mess of health and fitness messaging. If you’re ready to normalize making intuitive and informed decisions that prioritize body autonomy, join us! We’ll also discover what Michael type of movement packs the biggest punch for your mind and body, even if you only have eight minutes a day!

To learn more about Michael and the work he does, be sure to check out his website at www.michaelulloa.com or follow him on IG @michaelulloapt.

Looking for a place to learn more about midlife, menopause nutrition, and intuitive eating? Click here to grab one of my free resources and learn what I've got "on the menu" including my 1:1 and group programs. https://www.menopausenutritionist.ca/links

Show Notes Transcript

What did you think of this episode? Send me a text message and let me know!

Building and maintaining new movement habits can feel daunting, especially if you don’t enjoy moving as much as you did in the past, or are learning to navigate changes to your physical abilities in midlife. But as my guest and I both agree, fitness culture has way overcomplicated what counts as success when it comes to fitness goals.

In this episode, personal trainer and nutrition coach, Michael Ulloa joins me to share his inclusive (and refreshing) perspective on fitness.  We peel back the layers of industry myths, especially those that relate to us in midlife and menopause, and reveal just how achievable and personal fitness can be.

We have a great chat about the overwhelming mess of health and fitness messaging. If you’re ready to normalize making intuitive and informed decisions that prioritize body autonomy, join us! We’ll also discover what Michael type of movement packs the biggest punch for your mind and body, even if you only have eight minutes a day!

To learn more about Michael and the work he does, be sure to check out his website at www.michaelulloa.com or follow him on IG @michaelulloapt.

Looking for a place to learn more about midlife, menopause nutrition, and intuitive eating? Click here to grab one of my free resources and learn what I've got "on the menu" including my 1:1 and group programs. https://www.menopausenutritionist.ca/links

Jenn Salib Huber :

Hi and welcome to the Midlife Feast, the podcast for women who are hungry for more in this season of life. I'm your host, Dr. Jenn Salib-Huber. I'm an intuitive eating dietitian and naturopathic doctor and I help women manage menopause without dieting and food rules. Come to my table, listen and learn from me trusted guest experts in women's health and interviews with women just like you. Each episode brings to the table juicy conversations designed to help you feast on midlife. And if you're looking for more information about menopause, nutrition and intuitive eating, check out the Midlife Feast Community, my monthly membership that combines my no-nonsense approach that you all love to nutrition with community, so that you can learn from me and others who can relate to the cheers and challenges of midlife. Hey everyone, welcome to this week's episode of the Midlife Feast.

Jenn Salib Huber :

My guest today is Michael Ujoa. I started following Michael on Instagram probably about a year ago, maybe a little more, and I just started to notice that his messaging was really in line with a lot of the things that I say about food and nutrition and movement, and I really appreciate his funny kind of approach to it, but also just his very factual, no-nonsense approach about what actually matters, and so he always does a great job of distilling down a lot of the bullshit essentially around fitness and movement and fitspo culture and what you should and shouldn't be doing, and I appreciated this conversation that we had, where we talked a little bit about some of the problems in in the fitness culture and some of the things that he thinks are important and he shared some tips for getting started. If maybe you have not felt welcome in a gym, or if you have, you know, found it hard to just kind of get in that health related goal mindset with movement. So have a listen, I think you'll enjoy this one. Hi Michael, welcome to the midlife feast.

Michael Ulloa:

Thank you so much for having me. I'm excited.

Jenn Salib Huber :

I'm excited to. You are a small. You're one of a small group of people who do not have a uterus, who has been on this show.

Michael Ulloa:

I feel honored. Thank you.

Jenn Salib Huber :

You know, I think I love kind of trying to include as much diversity as I can in the voices into this space, and so, even though we talk a lot about midlife and menopause, we talk a lot about health and nutrition and intuitive eating and fitness, a lot about health and nutrition and intuitive eating and fitness. And anybody who follows you on Instagram will know that you do a really great job of trying to be inclusive about messages around fitness and trying to break down a lot of the stereotypes and the barriers. So, yeah, so I'd love to hear. Tell me a little bit about your journey, how you got to do this thing that you're doing.

Michael Ulloa:

Yeah, so it's just very where um usually when the fitness industry is like white, straight male um being told that I'm here to like improve the diversity of a podcast.

Michael Ulloa:

There we go, Absolutely. So, yeah, I I've been a personal trainer for a while now. I've been coaching people for around 10 years coming up to now. Um, in the personal training world, that is kind of in the veteran category really. It's yeah, I love it. I truly feel like I've got the best job in the world. I definitely sit in a very weird camp in the personal trainer world where I kind of I don't really sit in any camp specifically. I just like to annoy every camp by telling everyone that they're wrong, by always telling people that they are right. So I uh, yeah.

Jenn Salib Huber :

I sit waiting for us actually to watch this.

Michael Ulloa:

Yeah, it's funny, I'll. I'll get people follow me because they think I'm like part of their tribe, and then I criticize something that they're really passionate about because I'm very evidence-based. I don't kind of pick a side at all. I always follow the research. And then, yeah, I'll have people that were kind of behind me championing me, then being like, oh hey, you're, you're not all in on this thing. That I really love, even though it's probably not best for everyone. So, yeah, I'd like to sit in the messy middle.

Jenn Salib Huber :

Which is my favorite saying, which you probably don't know that, but that I say that all the time, so that's great.

Michael Ulloa:

There we go. So that's me. Yeah, I don't think there's any best way to eat. I don't think there's any best way to exercise. I truly feel like everyone needs to take an individualized approach to their exercise and nutrition, and that's what I'm here to do. My goal through social media is to kind of break down barriers around fitness, around nutrition. It can be very intimidating, very off-putting to the everyday person. If you're a regular exerciser, if exercise comes quite easy to you, that seems to be who the fitness industry caters for, Whereas the everyday person that just maybe wants to feel a little bit better, improve their chance of living a longer, healthier life, those people tend to get pushed out. So that's what I'm here to do basically just break down barriers and create content that kind of takes the mickey out of myself to make it feel a bit friendlier and it seems to go down quite well.

Jenn Salib Huber :

Yeah, you do a great job of making it relatable because you do pull out a lot of those stereotypes, preconceived notions that end up being barriers. Like you say, you know people who maybe have a well established lifelong history with relationship with movement probably don't need a trainer, you know in the sense. But people especially, you know, in my age bracket, you know, kind of mid late forties or, you know, give or take 10 years, we're entering an age and stage of life where we're starting to think about our habits and for people who have been very much entrenched in diet culture, wellness culture, fitspo culture, it can start to feel inaccessible to meet those expectations. What are some of the biggest kind of barriers that you see to people maybe who haven't had a relationship with movement, who are now approaching it in kind of this middle life, of middle stage of life? What are some of the barriers?

Michael Ulloa:

I'd say the biggest one is just the fact that everyone over complicates things, like like I. I always love it when I've worked with someone for a little period of time and they realize how simple and how small the changes can be and have such a massive impact. And I think that the best thing is when I give someone an exercise and nutrition plan and they're like, oh, like, is that it? And that's what I love about fitness. And, yeah, I would say that's the biggest barrier actually of everything.

Michael Ulloa:

Everyone believes that everything has to be perfect, like the timing has to be perfect, the exercise plan has to be perfect, the nutrition plan has to be perfect and it doesn't Like if you can kind of hit 60, 70 percent of things being pretty good, you're most of the way there. Like, my exercise routine isn't perfect. I, um, eat absolutely every food. I don't think any food should be off limit as part of a healthy diet. I eat um, most of my diet is pretty healthy kind of nourishing foods, but then I eat a lot of takeaways, junk food I'm using air quotation marks here Um, and I always like to show people that, yes, you can just have so much flexibility and still make so much progress and unfortunately that's kind of where the biggest issue is like.

Jenn Salib Huber :

What? What's some of the worst advice you see on social media about exercise? I didn't ask this at the time, but it just came to me.

Michael Ulloa:

No, so much. I'm trying to pick a few that you kind of see. Quite often Kind of cardio is bad for building muscle. You have to do HIIT to burn body fat. Doing cardio on an empty stomach burns body fat better, like they always come down to burning body fat, because I think this is all the fitness industry likes to focus on. It's the, the kind of sexy thing that sells, um, and it's all about these little hacks and tips and this one exercise will kind of burn tummy fat and kind of add 10 years onto your life or whatever it is like there's. There's all these little random things that the fitness industry does and says that are just complete nonsense. So, um, oh yeah, I could be here all day listing the things that people say say are rubbish.

Jenn Salib Huber :

And the idea that we can optimize things, like there's a way to, to, to tweak things that break the laws of, like thermodynamics, and physics right that there's like something that's going to supercharge what you're doing. That is very much entrenched, I think, in both diet and fitness culture and it's hard, I think, for people to think that I mean, it's not sexy to talk about the boring stuff that works, and I think it's so true.

Michael Ulloa:

Yeah, it's always the challenge with social media, right, like, the content I create, like the messaging at its core of everything I do, is actually pretty boring, like if I was just kind of like writing out what my nutrition and fitness advice is. It's very dull. It's why I create stupid videos and make fun of myself and kind of call people out for their nonsense, because it is really boring. Um and I appreciate that can be very difficult for personal trainers when they first start up like how do you tell people that you know what you're talking about? And usually that comes in the form of before and after photos or, um, promising body transformations in 6, 10, 12 weeks, like all these things are very easy to package and um, yeah, it's. It's always the challenge that I have of kind of trying to make my content, trying to make my messaging sound as sexy as those other things you see on social media. But it's tough, it's really really tough.

Jenn Salib Huber :

It is. I mean, one of the principles of intuitive eating is joyful movement, and so you know, the language that I use when I'm talking to people is I try and use the word exercises the least amount possible. I don't have any issues with the word in general, but it's often used in a way that doesn't really kind of land with people, and so when I when I think about movements and when I talk about movement, what I'm trying to get people to focus on is how they feel when they're moving their bodies, but that's not as measurable as steps and kilometers and distance. How do you have that conversation with people about trying to shift the metrics?

Michael Ulloa:

It's really difficult and I think I probably adapt the way that I explain it depending on the person that I'm talking to and what their background's like.

Michael Ulloa:

I do it so often I'll write an Instagram story and I'll write the word exercise or write the word diet And'll be like, oh, that's kind of not what it is what I mean, but it's not what I mean to certain demographics of the fitness industry. So I feel like we have to just constantly adapt things to the audience and it's it's, once again, why I don't like sitting in one camp of being like I'm anti-diet or I'm, uh, kind of health at every size, or like I think by putting ourselves in that bracket, it sometimes puts people off because they kind of misinterpret what you really mean by being in that space. So I feel like it's um, I think I've got better at it over time of kind of trying to adapt my messaging depending on who I'm talking to, but then, once again, that means that everything that I put out there, there's always going to be people that are going to jump on it and criticize you because you're not kind of going all in on their, their approach, enough for them.

Jenn Salib Huber :

So, yeah, I think you just have to accept that if you're creating especially social media content, and no matter what you do, you're always going to annoy someone, and I've kind of just got used to that now yeah, always, always, there's some things when I talk about, when I talk about carbohydrates, when I talk about sugar um, you know, even sometimes, things like soy foods, foods there are people who have very strong feelings about their opinions and want to make sure that you know what their opinions are.

Jenn Salib Huber :

We're all entitled to our opinions, but, yeah, I is that they hear anti-health and so they think that you can't or shouldn't be making health related goals if you are not counting, measuring and tracking all your food Right, and so I think that that's that's the part that we need more language around, that we need, like an expanded definition that maybe is more friendly to all the camps and doesn't like scare people off because there's just so much, there's so much to it that I think benefits everyone, not just chronic dieters, not just people who are looking for quote, you know food freedom, but it's just a more inclusive way of talking about everything. Really, if you're focused on health, like that's the point right.

Michael Ulloa:

Absolutely it's. It's funny what I did a post the other day about smart watches I was. I've recently changed the smart watch I'm using. Um, I don't.

Michael Ulloa:

I don't like to use them too much because sometimes they can make exercise obsessive. If you're worrying about step count too much, once again, no matter what you talk about, you're going to annoy people. And just the fact that I was speaking about smart watches on my instagram Instagram stories, I had a few messages from people being like oh, this is going to encourage people to have a really disordered relationship with movement and exercise and it's, it is very frustrating and the I think the not the issue I have with the anti-diet space. I don't have an issue with it. It can be people who are not kind of in that camp, or if anyone ever has a goal that includes altering the way that their body is, it can, it can become quite people can feel attacked by that slightly as if they're doing something incredibly wrong or bad. Um, and yeah, I'm yet to kind of figure out a way to fully get my messaging across that that keeps everyone happy on that front, but it's, it's very difficult.

Jenn Salib Huber :

It's an absolute minefield um it is, I mean, and there's turf wars really that are happening right Um, where people are protecting and I'm not saying this in a critical way, but you know they're they're protecting their own interests and and and they're they're not able to to let that barrier down when they're having bigger picture conversations, and so it's you know it's my way, or the highway, you know, and that's challenging. I've had those conversations too, so I know exactly what you're talking about.

Michael Ulloa:

Yeah, but they're good to have right, Because I think it can be great for people to listen to that, Because I think sometimes people can feel I've had people who have been in a certain group and then they kind of wanted to dip their toe outside of it and then people have criticized them and made them feel really bad for it, and then that just has a really negative impact. So, yeah, it's, I think I think these discussions are healthy, even if we are going to annoy a few people.

Jenn Salib Huber :

Yeah, and at the end of the day, I think that what anybody who is, you know, health focused, regardless of how you want to identify what you're not into but if you're health focused, I think that the real focus has to be on body autonomy and that helping people to feel like they have true autonomy over the decisions that they make about their health. In the same breath, I would say it has to be informed right, like they have to have the right information to make those decisions, to feel confident in them and to get whatever result it is that they want. And that's where the health, fitness, nutrition industry is just so full of misinformation that people don't actually have real, true, factual information that they're making their decisions on. And when you actually boil it down, the facts are very easy to follow, right. They're? You know they're. They're pretty straightforward. They're not magical. They don't require magical thinking. They don't require you to like stand on one foot and turn around three times and pat your head and your stomach at the same time, which is what it feels like sometimes.

Michael Ulloa:

Yeah.

Jenn Salib Huber :

Okay, so I would love to talk a little bit too about, you know, thinking about the bigger picture of this. You know, fitness industry. Why is it such a hard sell to Fitspo Gymbros, you know, like that whole culture that has dominated the fitness conversation? Why is this idea that people can have health, movement, strength goals that leave weight out of the conversation? Why is that such a hard sell to mainstream industry?

Michael Ulloa:

It's something I've thought about quite a lot and I don't know if I have the exact answer here, but I think a lot of it comes down to the fact that, unfortunately, a lot of people get into the fitness industry, working within the fitness industry, usually because of something that's happened or a journey that they've been through that has kind of promised them health and happiness at the end of it right, and usually that is big muscles, that is being incredibly lean for a photo shoot or whatever it is, and a lot of people, therefore, are working within the fitness industry doing that. So that's usually kind of a big part of their personality and also a lot of their beliefs around health are completely wrapped up in that too. And I think as soon as you start I wouldn't say attacking, because I like to think that I do it in a kind of nice way that isn't too attacking but when someone comes in and criticizes or questions their approach, that means so much to them and is so much part of their identity people just push back and they can't deal with it. Like nearly every post that I do, I have someone usually male personal trainers wear their pictures of them with their top off, like it's always the same thing, unfortunately, and I feel like there's such a large section of that demographic that just cannot cope with the fact that, oh actually, you can improve your health by completely removing the aspect of aesthetics, when that seems to be everything that they really like.

Michael Ulloa:

Focusing on, um, and also it kind of is their income, because they sell weight loss to their clients and everything is about their image, and and I truly believe that that is probably where a lot of the issues stem from, um and it's infuriating. Um, I get called many, many mean things by people in the fitness industry because I don't show pictures with my top off, I don't post lots of videos of what my athletic performance is or anything. I just don't think that's important. I made a conscious decision a long time ago to remove myself from the content that I create, because how I look, how I perform, doesn't really help or inspire people. I always like to make it about the kind of behavior changes that we should be focusing on, because that's where you get your biggest bang for buck and, for whatever reason, that just seems to really annoy people.

Jenn Salib Huber :

I think you've hit the nail on the head. I think what is so enjoyable really about your content is that you're not selling your body. Your body is not your business card in what you share, and that is very refreshing. You know, especially, I think you know younger men and women, for sure, but at least kind of what, what I see and you know, which is always somewhat filtered through whatever algorithm, whatever that is, but you know it does tend to be a lot of look at my body, do what I do, and yeah, we can't diet and exercise our way into someone else's body.

Michael Ulloa:

Exactly that. Like, I think people don't like to accept the fact that genetics, socioeconomic impacts and all these different things impact the way that someone looks to such a huge extent. And the fitness industry will have you believe, because it's easier to sell, that you are 100% in control of your health and the way that your body looks. And it just isn't. It just isn't the truth at all. Um, I've I've trained with clients, met up with clients in the past and they're like oh, you're actually quite strong, like I don't. I didn't know what your performance and stuff was like, because I just don't shout about it and I and I truly don't think that's important and I wish that more personal trainers would start separating themselves away from um the way that they sell health and fitness. I truly don't think it's important at all. Um, I also apologize if you can occasionally hear my son in the background. He is downstairs at home at the moment we have a 13 month old son and he just likes to shout, that's good, okay, perfect, just wanted to.

Michael Ulloa:

Just wanted to make sure, in case people were worried, what was going on.

Jenn Salib Huber :

Not a problem at all. You know. I think that that that is really one of the most refreshing things about your message and your content is that you really do, I think, a great job of not using your personal body as a business card. As a dietician, people are sometimes surprised that I'm also not like sharing my food all the time and it's like, well, what I eat actually isn't all that relevant to what you eat and what you want to eat, and you shouldn't want to eat what I'm eating just because I'm a dietician eating this food.

Michael Ulloa:

Right Completely agree.

Jenn Salib Huber :

Sometimes, sure, if it tastes really good, Like I share food, but I'm definitely never going to do it like what I eat in a day post. Like to me those are.

Michael Ulloa:

Whilst flexing your muscles during the start of the video. Yeah, okay.

Jenn Salib Huber :

So I would love to get one or two little tidbits of wisdom for people who are trying to develop a new relationship with exercise and movement that is not based on moving the scale, that is, you know, trying to really build in these behaviors, and they often will have a really hard time lowering the bar, giving themselves credit for, you know, the little things, but really what they struggle with the most is feeling like it's enough, feeling like it's worth it, feeling like they're doing a good job. So I would love if you could share, just maybe, a couple of tips. Or what would you say to someone who came to you with that kind of situation?

Michael Ulloa:

So I'm a big advocate of strength training. I'll say that off the bat here, simply because I enjoy strength training as a foundation of my training. So I'm definitely slightly biased there, I will happily admit. But also just because the health benefits are so huge. I cannot emphasize that enough. So no matter who comes to me, I'm always yes, I'm absolutely saying right, let's find what you enjoy and let's find some consistency in that. That is the most important thing. But if you're open to some suggestions, I'm up for finding a way to fit in some strength training into that.

Michael Ulloa:

The great thing about strength training is it usually becomes like a performance based thing. We're not focusing on dropping the numbers on the scale or getting smaller. We always make it about performance, like getting stronger, feeling really good, and that's very, very important. So, yeah, I would kind of bring it back to my message. I said at the very start of this episode of the fact that you can actually do a really small amount of exercise and make so much progress, and I on my podcast as well, we recently actually did a chat about kind of how much socioeconomic factors, genetics, everything played a part and you can do 15 minutes a day huge impact for lowering mortality risk. You can even lower that and do something a little bit higher. Intensity and eight minutes a day is more than enough to have a significant impact on lowering your mortality risk.

Michael Ulloa:

So people think, like I have to go to the gym and train for an hour, an hour and a half, two hours. Whatever it is, I have to finish my workout really sweaty, I need to be exhausted, and it just doesn't need to be like that. The bar is actually very, very, very low to have a really big impact there. And so I think once you start highlighting to people like how small of an impact, how big of an impact a small amount of exercise can be, how good you'll feel from doing strength training, whether that is body weight exercises, resistance bands, dumbbell work, getting in the gym using machines, trx, like there's so many different ways that you can do it.

Michael Ulloa:

I am always confident that there's something I can find with every person they work with that they'll even find like the smallest bit of enjoyment in to build some consistency. And then it does tend to snowball. When we start seeing numbers climb up on weights that we're lifting, we can start doing a few more reps. We start thinking, oh, posture feels a bit better, or oh, I got that box off the top shelf and it didn't feel as tough as it did when I did it a few weeks ago, and and all these little things will, will all kind of add up and it's yeah it's.

Michael Ulloa:

I hope that answers your question correctly but I'm. Perfect, Perfect okay.

Jenn Salib Huber :

And I love talking about how we can lower the bar, because I do think that the industry in general has set the bar way too high for people, especially people who are new to moving their bodies. Right, you know, they think that they have to join a CrossFit gym and like be doing box jumps in a week. Right, and it just feels like completely unattainable are so many ways, um, to move your body. I I'm a big fan of strength training too, and we talk about it a lot in my community because it is the number one thing that will help you to feel better in your body. Number one like I can't not feel better after I've lifted weights. It's impossible, it's literally impossible. So it's the guarantee, like it's the, every single time I will feel better. And you know it's not just feeling better today, it's, as I always joke, it's being able to carry my groceries when I'm 80. That's how I, that's my goal, that's what I want to focus on.

Michael Ulloa:

It's huge and the kind of link between grip strength and mortality risk as we move into older age is huge. They argue that it's kind of a closer representation than using blood pressure as a marker. So if you can find a way to increase strength somehow, yeah, I really can't recommend it enough.

Jenn Salib Huber :

Thank you so much for taking the time today. Funny question for a guy, but what do you think is the missing ingredient in midlife, even though you're far from that, given a 13 month old? Probably?

Michael Ulloa:

Yeah, so I am 33, full disclaimer. So everyone knows how old I am. I just stopped taking everything so seriously. I feel like this is something that I've come into my own with over the last maybe just like one or two years, maybe since having my son and I don't know. I used to think with my work I was like I want to be the best trainer, I want to grow a really big following so I can have a big impact, and I'm actually I'm okay with not being either of those things you know like. I just think there's so much more to life than constantly striving to be the best or be better at everything, and I'm actually happy with just taking it easy, enjoying time with my wife and my son and my dog, and just enjoying life a bit more. So that's probably the answer I'd give for someone who's maybe not quite in the midlife bracket, but yeah.

Jenn Salib Huber :

I love it, Thank you. And so how can people find out more about you, learn from you? All that kind of stuff.

Michael Ulloa:

Yeah, so most of the content I put out is through Instagram, so my surname is a bit of a bizarre one. So it's Michael Ujoa PT is my Instagram handle. I'm also on TikTok. I don't really post that much on it, but I'm on TikTok A little bit on threads as well. But, yeah, that's mostly where I put all of my content out, or you can find more info about me and my personal training at michaelyejoacom.

Jenn Salib Huber :

Perfect, and we'll have all those links in the show notes as well. Thank you so much for taking the time. I love this conversation and keep doing what you're doing. You're doing a great job.

Michael Ulloa:

Thank you so much for having me.

Jenn Salib Huber :

Thanks for tuning in to this week's episode of the midlife feast. For more non-diet, health, hormone and general midlife support, click the link in the show notes to learn how you can work and learn from me. And if you enjoyed this episode and found it helpful, please consider leaving a review or subscribing, because it helps other women just like you find us and feel supported in midlife.