We were lucky enough to be able to chat with Stacy Toth of Paleo Parents about her various endeavors into the worlds of Paleo nutrition, Strong Woman training, and her path to empower women with self-love. She couldn't have been kinder, and we are so thrilled to share all her words of advice with our readers today.
So go grab a cup of coffee, take a seat, get comfy, and settle in to this lengthy interview with one of the strongest and most inspirational women in the Paleo community- And know you'll have a fresh and urgent motivation to go get after your own goals at the end!
YOUR NEW COOKBOOK REAL LIFE PALEO IS A COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO MAKING THE PALEO LIFESTYLE EASY AND SUSTAINABLE. THAT BEING SAID, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE TO YOUR PERSONAL PALEO LIFESTYLE, AND HOW DO YOU OVERCOME IT?
I would say navigating social situations is our biggest challenge. And not just with the kids, but for me as well. I work in an office environment where people bring bagels and doughnuts to work all the time, so navigating these situations in a way where you’re not insulting anyone, while often getting pressure from the people around you to “just have a bite” can be tough, especially since those situations never go away. The thing about being diffrerent in a food-related way is that you can never just take a day off- you always have to eat! So it becomes an ongoing thing that you constantly have to deal with. Learning how to navigate these situations is important, like for example giving yourself a gray area with some foods, learning when to roll with it, knowing where your lines and limits are, and when and how to stick to them is the hard part.
This is also especially difficult for kids- I can’t imagine being a 6 year old boy and not being able to have birthday cake, or not being able to have the Skittles that the teacher is using to teach math, and not being able to even relax and sit down at lunch with your favorite vegetable because it happens to be green, and the boy next to you thinks that that’s gross. That’s really difficult! They have learn to deal with these situations just as we do, and so I would say that’s the constant battle we’re always facing.
WHAT IS YOUR NUMBER ONE TIP FOR TRANSITIONING KIDS TO PALEO?
Get them involved! There’s certainly a lot of things that need to happen to set yourself up for success, like being prepared, not bringing non-paleo food into the house, etc, but nothing is going to help someone be as long-term successful as getting their kids involved in the process and engaged. From planning to prepping to buying to cooking food, if your kids are involved in that then they’re invested in it and much more likely to try it, to understand why you’re eating this way, and so on. It’s one thing to start a newborn off on the Paleo path, but when you’re talking about say, my 9 year old, who is becoming his own person and making his own choices, the best thing I can do as a parent is set them up for success so that when they’re in a position to make food choices themselves, they make the right ones.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO BE A STRONG WOMAN WHO IS RAISING THREE YOUNG BOYS?
Wow, great question. It means to me that I strive to be a role model for all people. I actually minored in Women’s Studies, and even though I’m not a "card carrying member", I do consider myself a feminist and feel very strongly about equality and women being empowered.. and that ultimately translated into me wanting everyone to be empowered. As a mother, I want my kids to know that they’re not always going to be the biggest or the strongest or the best, and that that’s ok! We can all individually be really great at something. I hope that the ability I have to be role model for my boys makes them want to be strong, but mostly I want them to respect the fact that there will be women who are stronger than they are, and that’s ok! I think their dad is a great example, as I’m stronger than Matt in a lot of the “mechanical movements”, and he is wonderfully supportive and encouraging of me. Sure we have some friendly competitiveness sometimes, but we’re also “rah rah-ing” for one another all along the way, which I think is important for our kids to see. No matter what, I hope I can teach my boys to always be respectful, and to always treat other human beings (including women) with that same respect.
YOUR AMAZING BLOG POST I AM STRONG STARTS WITH THE DECISION YOU MADE TO STOP WORRYING ABOUT LOSING WEIGHT AND INSTEAD FOCUS ON GETTING STRONG. WHAT LED YOU TO THIS DECISION? WHAT WORDS OF GUIDANCE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER WOMEN WHO ARE STRIVING TO MAKE THAT SAME MENTAL SHIFT?
I just stopped caring what I looked like. I had this realization when I was having an emotional conversation with Matt one night, where I was saying things like, “I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to be a leader in a health movement”, and expressing how annoyed I was that I wasn’t losing any more weight.. And Matt just said, “Why do you care?”. He was so nonchalant about it that it struck me- it had never occurred to me that that was something that I didn’t need to care about. And the more I thought about it, I remembered that I had lost and maintained an 100 pound weightloss, I was at the top of the leaderboard at my CrossFit gym, I had improved all my health markers so much that my doctors were recommending Paleo to other patients- I had all these amazing things going for me, and if it wasn’t for the fact that I wasn’t happy when I looked in the mirror, then I would feel like the most perfect person in the world!
I realized what I needed to work on was my perception of myself in the mirror, and not caring what other people thought, or what I was “supposed” to look like, and instead focus on how I felt, what I wanted to be and what I wanted to do. As soon as I reframed that mindset, it became what I wanted my body to be able to feel like, or what I wanted my body to be able to do. And what I wanted more than anything was to be strong. I decided I wanted to set goals for myself that aren’t related to how I look, and I wanted to do it for me.
I knew that even if I got to some “perfect” weight, I’d still look in the mirror and see something I’d want to fix or improve. So instead of obsessing about the weight, it became more important for me to feel good about my body.
This idea of self respect is a big one, and I think it transfers to training in the sense of, “what can my body do” vs “what does my body look like”. I really love setting a big goal for myself (right now I have a goal of a 350 lb back squat). Everyone’s personal goals for themselves might be different, but they all have the ability to decide what it is they want their body to be able to do, and then it just becomes a matter of executing it. For some people that may be becoming healthy enough to carry a baby, for others it may be resolving an auto-immune condition, and for me, in my current phase of life, I want to be STRONG.
For other women out there: Find people who accept you for who you are- you can only be as strong as the people around you. Even if you’re set up for success but you don’t have a good support network, it’s going to be much harder to succeed with that mental shift. It’s also important to have self respect. I encourage women to not carry guilt or shame about foods they’ve eaten, workouts they’ve skipped, choices they’ve made, etc. Keeping self respect and remembering my goals are what allow me to make the right choices in various situations- I’m not turning down the Ben and Jerry’s because I want to be skinny, I’m doing it because it won’t help me hit my goals for health and strength.
WHAT DOES THE TATTOO ON YOUR SHOULDER REPRESENT TO YOU?
Adeira is a Pheonix, rising out of the ashes, and I feel like I have risen out of the ashes with my health conditions from five years ago, to where I am today. I literally struggled to go up stairs, and had generally just given up on the idea of being a healthy or fit person. My goal with Paleo was to be able to lose enough weight so that I had the energy to play with my kids. So today, to be a competitive athlete is amazing to me. I got the tattoo as a marker of the transition into my Stong Woman training, to remind myself what I used to feel like, and how great I feel now.
WHAT DID IT MEAN TO YOU TO TAKE FIRST PLACE AT THREE BIG COMPETITIONS LAST YEAR, AND EVEN SNAG AN INVITE TO THE NORTH AMERICAN STRONGMAN NATIONALS? WHAT OTHER ATHLETIC GOLAS ARE ON THE HORIZON FOR YOU?
I don’t know if I’ve really comprehended it all yet, honestly. To be up against all these incredible athletes who have been gymnasts or lifters for years upon years, and here I am, this thirty-something mom of three, who just got off the couch and lost a bunch of weight and decided to give it a go is wonderful. The community is really incredible too, and being around such a positive energy has been a part of what allowed be to reframe my whole mentality on life. Crossfit, Strongman, weightlifting, etc, has all been such a huge positive force on my life that I could never have anticipated.
Aside from my 350 lb back squat goal, I’d love to be able to make it to the Arnold, so I’m working a lot on my static movements and powerlifting right now.
ANY WORDS FOR WOMEN OUT THERE WHO ARE ON THE FENCE ABOUT STARTING WEIGHTLIFTING, CROSSFIT, OR STRENGTH TRAINING?
Just do it. The stars are never going to align, you’re never going to feel perfectly comfortable- that first time walking into a gym is always going to feel nerve wracking and scary- But if you’ve vetted your gym properly and find a place that has an on-ramp or fundamentals program, and coaches that are dedicated to help you learn, and if you’re ready to really take it on in your life, I think what you’ll find is your people.
YOUR LOVE FOR YOUR OWN BODY DIDN'T NECESSARILY COME EASILY- IT'S BEEN A JOURNEY, LIKE IT IS FOR MOST WOMEN. WHAT WORDS OF ADVICE WOULD YOU HAVE FOR WOMEN WHO ARE ON THIS JOURNEY OF SELF LOVE?
Go easy on yourself. It’s not going to happen overnight, and the best you can do is to think positively as often as you can, and if you do that, eventually it will become your default. Find things to love and appreciate about yourself, things to be proud of, things you do well, and feel proud. Make good choices, and feel good about every choice you make.