When Monique, or Moe (as her more than 70,000 Instagram followers know her) first started her fitness journey in 2009, she, like many people, was doing it for the wrong reasons.
“I felt like people would treat me differently or maybe value me more if I looked a certain way or appealed to what they wanted to see,” she told me over the phone. With her weight fluctuating since she hit puberty, she got that impression not only from her romantic relationships, but also from her friends and even family at times.
“It seemed like every time something went wrong, people wanted to throw my weight out there,” she said. “And then I was sort of raised in a household where, I won’t say who, but I was verbally abused a lot. I was told my weight was the reason why I was always in trouble or something like that.”
So she started to make an effort to shed the weight. She didn’t do it for overall good health, or because she weighted around 240 pounds and was dealing with a Polycystic ovary syndrome [PCOS] diagnosis. Instead, she got started so that she could finally look the way other people wanted to see her. When she did that, she found some success, but not the kind that she could maintain, and not anything that she truly felt good about. When Moe changed her “why,” the reason behind her fitness journey, everything changed for the better.
Now 29 and down more than 80 pounds, the Laurel, Maryland native has a body, and a life, she never imagined for herself. She is a successful trainer (and offers online training if you’re not in her area) who finally has the right support and mindset to not only help herself stay fit and fabulous, but to also help others do some serious physical, emotional and even spiritual work, too. We talked with Moe about her journey, the importance of having a deeper “why,” and how the secret to long-term health and wellness is to tune the world out and listen to your own mind and body.
MadameNoire: Looking back, you said you initially went about losing weight for the wrong reasons. Once you started shedding pounds, I know you were also going about things in the wrong ways in terms of your dieting. I saw you said in a throwback photo that you would just eat really clean during the week and when the weekends would come, you would eat what you felt like. That’s very common. How did you come to the realization that that wasn’t going to work for you?
Moe: I can’t speak for anyone else, but I know for me, it was more of a task, more of like a job. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed working out, I enjoyed lifting, I enjoyed eating right, but I was doing everything to reach a final, superficial thing. I knew Monday through Friday, I needed to do this so that I could look good in my dress through the weekend. It wasn’t because I was looking at the long term and I wanted to be healthy and live a long life and feel good. It was still about someone else. It wasn’t about me —
It was about how other people would see you.
Speaking on that, you said you initially weren’t doing it with the long term in mind. You said you didn’t know where you were necessarily going with your efforts. For our readers who may be on or are trying to start their own fitness journey, how important is it to have a vision or a plan when it comes to doing this, as opposed to just saying, “I want to lose 20 pounds so I can get back in this dress” or that kind of thing?
I think it’s important to have — I wouldn’t necessarily say a plan. When I realized all of that about myself, I made a plan, and God laughed at me. I would say it’s very important to have structure, and a very valid “why,” as in the reason as to why you’re going about it. If your why doesn’t match up with what you’re doing, then more than likely, you’re going to find on your road to success you’re getting knocked down a lot and you’re not understanding why. It’s often because you don’t have the structure you need, you don’t have a why behind what you’re doing. For a lot of people, their “why” is generally for someone else or for financial gain. We all do things for financial gain because we need money to live, but your “why” should be something deeper. This is the way I view things: Helping myself helped me to help someone else. In return, it helped those people not just in their nutrition and healthy lifestyle, but I even brought together people who ended up needing each other. It’s not just fitness. I look at the overall impact. Like, I ended up talking one of my clients out of committing suicide. I believe in that moment in time, even though she came to me for one thing, she came to me for something else, too. So you have to look at the bigger picture, if I’m making sense.
What role did your faith play in the success you’ve had?
I never would have thought I’d be fit. This isn’t something, when I was young, that I had a passion for. Don’t get me wrong, before I moved up North and I was in Florida, I ran. I was probably one of the fastest girls on my team. So when I did get up here, I thought I was going to run track, but puberty hit. I have PCOS, so a lot of people have the fertility issues, the period issues. I didn’t know it because I had a regular cycle, but I was heavy. I ended up having the issues as far as the weight gain, so my diet is very important. But I didn’t see myself doing any of this. You couldn’t tell me when you met me at 19 or 20 that I would be doing what I’m doing now. In my mind, I thought I was going to be either a police officer or working for the government in an office. I thought I would be married with children by 25. I didn’t see it this way. I had no idea it would be this. And even when I got into it, I still didn’t see it being this. So overall, this is just what God wanted for me.
How did going on this journey change you aside from just the physical?
Meeting other people who have gone through the things that you’ve gone through, it touches you. When you realize someone is depending on you, because I have days that I just don’t want to get up and do it, you remember that people are looking at you for motivation. They even tell me that and it moves me. I’m like, “Jesus, I never would have thought someone would be motivated by me.” [laughs]
What is the work you’re doing now in terms of your diet and fitness and how does that compare to where you started? I see you do a lot of things, including plyo, rock climbing, rope climbing — all kinds of stuff.
I like to challenge myself. I used to say, “One day I want to try those things.” I was just scared to do it. I started with cardio, plyometrics and calisthenics. I hated lifting weights, and to this day I honestly dread it. But if I have a mirror in front of me and I’m looking at myself, for some reason, it just helps me push myself and get through it. I don’t mind it then. Before, if I wanted to look lean, I would switch to cardio and plyo and more power movements. If I wanted bulk, I would switch over to heavier lifting, but I would still keep my cardio because I’m addicted to it. Sprints I will never give up. I didn’t like weightlifting, but to get the butt I desired, I knew I had to weightlift. If I wanted my arms to look a certain way, I knew I had to cut back on my heavier lifting and switch to smaller weights with longer reps.
With the dieting, that was my problem before. I stopped dieting altogether especially with the [PCOS] I have. I just started listening to my body, because not everybody needs to eat the same amount of food. When I started listening to my body, that helped me. I knew I needed a lot of vegetables for the condition I have. I want to go vegan for the benefits, but my body likes chicken — or maybe my mind likes chicken [laughs]. For my schedule, it’s hard for me to cook how I want and make the vegan meals I want. I had to be considerate of my time, my partner’s time because I try and do everything and sometimes it takes away from home, and I also work full-time. So I had to find a balance in my workouts and my nutrition. I listened to my body, I made sure what I’m eating is good enough for the goals I’ve set for myself, versus trying something temporarily. Everything that I eat is consistent. Instead of spinach one week I might eat broccoli, but it’s all food I’m always eating.
What’s the best advice you would offer people starting their fitness journey who are struggling to stay on track?
Tune the world out. When I say tune the world out, it’s because everyone’s looking at social media, everyone’s looking at what someone else did. Find what it is that you want for yourself physically, mentally and emotionally. Find out your “why,” find out what it is that you want for yourself when it comes to it. That’s going to help you stick to it. That’s what’s going to help you push through. It’s going to help you not just see your end goals but actually maintain them. Find out if you want a trainer or if you’re going to take the time to do the research on your own. But even when you get a trainer, there’s still research involved. Make sure you know proper form and technique, because lot of people get hurt.
You don’t have to be a nutritionist, but also do your research when it comes to your food because a lot of the things you think are good for your body that you’re putting in it are not good for you. Don’t just do a quick fix because it’s going to lead to a quick gain right back [laughs]. And value your time during your journey, because you don’t get time back. You’ll waste a lot of time, your time and someone else’s time, when you’re not really ready.
Overall, know that things are going to happen, but stay focused, stay motivated, and stay determined. I would say stay prayed up, but I know some people don’t like to pray [laughs].