Fitness Fridays: Samone McNeil Is In The Best Shape Of Her Life And Didn’t Have To Give Up Carbs To Make It Happen
Samone McNeil’s story of what it took to get in the best health and shape of her life is a familiar one. She, like many of us, returned home from college much bigger than she expected. Granted, she had grown up as a bigger kid, but post-collegiate studies, the weight she was carrying was a bit more noticeable than she would have liked. So the Cary, North Carolina native obtained a gym membership, started working out, followed inspiring fitness enthusiasts, took part in challenges, cleaned up her diet, and before she knew it, the body she wanted to see when she looked in the mirror belonged to her. It wasn’t something that happened overnight though, and there were plenty of stops and starts, but the journey Samone has been on has been a successful one. Now 28, she is a personal trainer and health coach, and the brains behind the program, the Lose to Gain Method. We spoke with Samone, and she was honest about bouncing back from plateaus, the importance in maintaining momentum, and why you don’t have to give up carbs to shed pounds.
MadameNoire: When did your fitness journey begin and what was the catalyst for you to make a change when it came to your health and wellness?
Samone McNeil: My fitness journey started back in 2014, which is right after I graduated from college. So I graduated college in 2013, moved back home with my grandparents and my parents, and I was kind of just sitting around the house bored. I was overweight at the time. I had grown up as the chubby kid. I was always overweight and short, so any weight I packed on, it was easily noticeable. And so one day I was just like, you know what? I’m tired of feeling this way, not liking how I look in my clothes or to look in the mirror, and I decided, I’m going to go work out. What I ended up doing is creating my Instagram, a separate Instagram for fitness and accountability; motivation type things, and I started posting on there. I got a gym membership, started working out. Didn’t really know what I was doing, but I would like go on the treadmill, do cardio stuff. I came across another fitness influencer on Instagram, and she was running these challenges, seasonal challenges, so I joined that. That’s when I really started lifting weights and I really fell in love with fitness, so that’s kind of where it all started.
You said on your page that you got serious about fitness again around 2017. What caused you to kind of go off of your plan and regimen and how did you bounce back to get back on track?
I think for me, when I first started, around the first years up until 2017, I was doing a lot of the fad diets and trying a lot of different things that just weren’t sustainable for me. I would do really well for about a month or so and then I would just kind of fall off. Around that time, I did get into a relationship and I was kind of too focused on that. I stopped working out, and I think that was a big part of it, too. Again, it was like I had this pair of jeans I would wear and they weren’t fitting the same anymore. When I started noticing that, really noticing it, that’s when I was like, you need to snap out of it and get back to it. Also, stepping on the scale and seeing myself in the mid-150s, which is not okay for me, I was like, I really, really, really need to get back on track. Any amount of weight I gain you can see it really quickly because I’m short. It was really difficult to look at myself and see all this extra weight. It was like an up and down thing for me depending on what was going on in my life.
Yeah, that’s relatable. Speaking from experience, sometimes when you hit a plateau or something depressing happens you can fall off and damn near stay off. So the fact that you didn’t stay down is commendable.
Once you get out of that momentum — I hate taking rest days because I’ll get comfortable really easy, so I try to only do one rest day in between workouts. If I stay home for three or more days, I’ll get used to it, just getting comfortable going back to the couch. I love when I get going ’cause once I get going, I keep doing it and build that momentum.
That goes into my next question: How have you cultivated the discipline to maintain your momentum?
I would say by looking at the long-term picture and knowing what I really want. If I’m craving a cookie or ice cream or something, that’s just a short-term gain for me. It always goes back to, why did I start doing this? I picked up this passion for fitness because I want to live healthy and I want to lose weight, I want to like the way I look in my clothes, like the way I look in the mirror, and that cookie, just because I want it, is not going to help me get there. I treat it as something I do every day, like brushing your teeth. You just need to do it, it’s essential, and that’s the way I look at working out. I look at it as part of my job. I’m going to go to the gym no matter how I feel. For me it’s like, you never have a bad workout. Even if you half-ass it or you’re slacking off, if you still went there and you still did your workout, sometimes, when you don’t feel like going, those are some of the best workouts. I always feel good after it. It’s just about getting in there, so I treat it like a job. You have to show up. You can’t quit on yourself.
When you say, “This cookie isn’t going to help me reach the goals that I want,” does that mean you don’t really give in from time to time to your sweet tooth or indulgences? Having to cut off certain things completely tends to be what pushes people away from committing to these types of journeys, so how does that work for you?
Oh no, if I want something I’m going to have it just because, for me, life is too short and I’m not going to restrict myself 100 percent from the stuff that I like. Literally, today, I got some gummy worms because I wanted them. I don’t care [laughs]. I’m still going to enjoy food that I love, but the thing is, it has to be balanced out. Ninety percent of what I eat is healthy. I meal prep, and even when I meal prep, I’m not just eating broccoli and rice. I try to incorporate a lot of whole foods and proteins, things that I actually enjoy, not just stuff that is deemed healthy. So because I’m mostly balanced with the healthy part, 10 percent or five percent of the stuff I eat may be a little unhealthy or processed. I just try to keep that balance. I can have a cookie today, I can have a cookie tomorrow, but you know, if you count seven days in a week and you’re eating cookies four out of seven days, that adds up eventually. I just have to tell myself, if I haven’t had a cookie all week, sure, that’s fine. You just have to be mindful about how you’re digging into those cravings and eating stuff. I’m not just activating my cravings anytime I want something. If I know I had something two days before, I’m not going to dig into it again, but I am pretty balanced about that.
What type of diet would you say you consume at this point?
I don’t really consider it a diet, but I eat a lot of whole foods. Stuff like lean meats, complex carbs, healthy fats, and just incorporating greens into every meal works for me. I just make sure I’m eating foods that are on the outside aisles. When I work with clients, I like to tell them when they go grocery shopping to shop on the outside, because if you’re going into these aisles, nine times out of 10, that food is processed. When you look at the ingredient label, there are a lot of words you don’t understand. I try to stick with foods that just have a couple of ingredients, and they’re ingredients I know. So if I go to the frozen section, I’m picking up a bag of broccoli and I should literally only see broccoli in it. So that’s just kind of what I do. This past week I meal prepped ground beef, ground chicken, cauliflower rice, carrots, stuff like that. Even regular rice is fine for me. I know people say “No, too many carbs!” but I’m a big advocate for carbs.
How are you able to have success while still being a fan of carbs? People are often told to avoid them like the plague.
When I first started, I did track my macros, my macronutrients, which are proteins, carbs and fats. Basically, I knew the amount of carbs I had to eat for the day so I was really detailed with it. I bought a scale and I would weigh my carbs back then. Now, I kind of know how much carbs per day I should be eating. I know my daily intake, so I base it off of that, and I also base it off how many times I’m working out a week. You absolutely have to have carbs if you’re lifting weights, even if you’re just doing cardio, because that’s our energy. So without it, you’re going to the gym and you feel tired. You have to think about, ‘Why am I feeling tired?’ Nine times out of 10 you didn’t have enough carbs in your system. So carbs help fuel my workout because it’s being converted into energy, it just burns right off. It’s not something that is bad for you in any way. I don’t try to overeat carbs. My portion size is just right for my body and it’s worked out for me.
Tell me more about your Lose to Gain method.
It’s something really new. I created it for busy women who are looking to shed stubborn fat and find that balance in their life and just get fit overall. The clients that I’ve been taking on have tried working out in the past but kind of feel lost and don’t have structure. They are just like I was, lacking confidence and wanting to feel more confident in themselves. I teach them how to build healthy habits. It’s a 90-day program, 12 weeks, and we kind of go through building a good mindset, setting smart goals and creating healthy habits. It’s also a workout and training program, so it’s very intensive. It’s not like, I’m going to hand you this workout program and I’m going to give you a meal plan because a lot of the time we don’t realize that we’re not successful because of the things we think and your thoughts are very powerful. So if you tell yourself that you’re not good at something or you’ll never be able to reach a certain weight because of whatever reasons, it’s going to happen. We can think things into existence, so I focus a lot on mindset and building those habits you need for long-term success.
What advice would you offer for women, in general, who want to change things but get discouraged to the point that they want to give up?
I know 100 percent you’re going to hit a wall, we all do. There’s always going to be something that happens and when that does happen, of course, depending on the situation, you have to live in the moment and let it happen. But I always go back to something I said earlier, thinking about your “why” and asking yourself why you’re trying to lose that weight. Why are you reaching out to a coach in the first place? Why do you want to get fit in the first place? Is it because of your kids? Is it because of your health? Are you just fed up with the way your clothes are fitting when you look in the mirror? Always go back to that. Hold onto that. That should drive you to keep going.
Another thing I would say is definitely to start slow. That was a problem I had when I first started. I was trying to meal prep for the week: breakfast, lunch and dinner. I was trying to drink a gallon of water a day, work out five times a week, and it got overwhelming really fast. I quit after two weeks because that was just too much for me. So I always say start with small habits. Even if it’s waking up 30 minutes earlier, going to the gym for 20 minutes a day and that’s your workout, that’s a small win, but it’s also something that will add up to something bigger. You’re going to train your body to say, well if I can wake up 30 minutes earlier and do a 20-minute workout three days a week, that’s a good start! This is a habit I’m creating so let me try and do more. As you do that, you’ll start building more and more habits towards your healthy lifestyle, towards your fitness journey.
Also, don’t be too restrictive. We’re going to have our cravings and there’s nothing wrong with that. We should have that balance. Life is way too short. I truly don’t believe in fad diets because they’re not long-term. A 30-day no-sugar challenge, that’s great and all, but is it something you’re going to stick with forever? No. I don’t like saying, “Oh you’re falling off track,” it’s a life-long journey. Stuff is going to come up and stuff is going to happen. You just have to keep that balance in your life and, you know, make sure you’re eating whole foods most of the time, but also make sure you’re enjoying your cake, your ice cream. That’s life.