Building a Healthy Body
Article by Kay Stothart Rector, Photography by Martin G Meyers
Shannon Dahlum Gives Tips and Tools on How to Build A Healthy Body in The New Year
Fitness and nutrition coach Shannon Dahlum believes that gradually developing and maintaining healthy habits is the key to a lean, healthy body. With this philosophy, she has been able to achieve her personal fitness goals and build a successful career helping others to look and feel their best. Dahlum is a wife and mother of three busy teenagers. She is also a business owner, a fitness instructor and personal trainer with multiple certifications, and a nutrition coach with extensive knowledge about the relationship between food and body health.
Dahlum grew up in northern Virginia. After high school, she attended George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, where she studied art and graphic design. As a child, Dahlum was a natural athlete and enjoyed participating in sports. Dahlum says that although she was blessed with an athletic build, she did not always consider her muscular body to be an asset. As a teenager, she wanted more than anything to be skinny. In her efforts to be thin, Dahlum adhered to strict diets drastically low in calories and followed the low-fat and aerobic trends that were popular at the time, but could never achieve the waif-like figure she thought was ideal. Her dissatisfaction with her body eventually led to an eating disorder and cycles of binging and purging that left her emotionally frustrated and physically ill.
Dahlum was in 11th grade when she met her husband, a native of Monroe, Louisiana, who was living near Washington, D.C. With his support and encouragement, Dahlum says she slowly began to accept and value herself and her own body type. As her perspective and way of thinking changed, her self-esteem and body image improved. Eventually, with the right approach and an attitude of self-acceptance, Dahlum was able to achieve a level of personal health and fitness that most only dream about. “If you can change your mindset, the changes in your body will follow,” Dahlum insists. It was, she says, a gradual process.
Following the birth of their youngest child, Dahlum began visiting a gym regularly with her husband. Their workouts became a way for the couple to spend time together while the kids played in the gym’s childcare center. As their family grew, they continued to make exercise a priority, despite their busy schedules. Dahlum found that she enjoyed and exceled at body building.
Several years ago, at her husband’s urging, Dahlum entered a figure competition. “I wound up loving the process of training for the competition, especially figuring out the nutrition part of it,” Dahlum says. “It was like I was my own science project. It also gave me something to focus on at a time when my life otherwise revolved around taking care of our small children.”
After moving to her husband’s hometown of Monroe in 2007, Dahlum joined the Monroe Athletic Club and began working there as a fitness instructor and trainer. She attended the Cooper Institute in Dallas and became a certified personal trainer. With her friend Chad Jones, Dahlum created High Octane Bootcamp, leading group classes at several locations throughout Monroe. Their success with that program led to the opening of Octane Training with a gym facility in Sterlington.
Now the sole owner of Octane Training, Dahlum leads group classes, which focus on strength training and conditioning as well as mobility. Many of her classes utilize Russian kettlebells. “Kettlebell training is a really efficient way of building muscle, getting a cardio workout without any impact, and increasing mobility and flexibility all at the same time,” Dahlum says. “A lot of people don’t move well,” Dahlum notes, stressing the importance of mobility. “A lack of mobility can create problems and injuries later in life.”
Octane Training also offers yoga classes, including Yoga for Athletes taught by Candy Latiolais. Dahlum recently completed a 200 hour yoga training regimen and is now a yoga instructor as well. Dahlum says she really enjoys the group dynamic as well as outdoor fitness classes. Combining these elements, she has resumed her outdoor boot camps in Monroe.
At the gym in Sterlington, Octane Training is introducing a new heart rate monitoring system this January. “Everyone in the class will have a heart rate monitor on,” explains Dahlum. “You will be able to see on our monitor what zone you are in and rack up points based on how hard you’re working. It kind of levels the playing field for everyone, and makes the workout fun and challenging.”
Dahlum stresses that regardless of fitness level, an individual’s performance, health and body composition depend not only on exercise, but on proper nutrition. “You can’t achieve results in the gym without also eating well,” says Dahlum. “For lasting change, the most success comes from improving food quality first. This just means getting rid of most foods that come from a factory and including foods as they are found in nature. Body composition isn’t only a result of calories in versus calories out. It also comes down to maintaining a healthy hormonal balance and metabolism. Whole foods provide the nutrients that your body needs to optimize these functions.”
For those wanting to start the New Year off with resolutions for better health, Octane Training will kick off 2018 with an eight-week nutrition challenge designed by Dahlum called “BodEvolve.” BodEvolve is a habit-based program that will introduce a new habit each week for members to work on. “With BodEvolve, we’ll be creating lifestyle and nutrition habits together to help our members achieve maximum results,” Dahlum says. “It’s a great way to be held accountable and get support, while implementing new habits.”
Dahlum finds habit-based coaching to be most successful. Rather than focusing on forcing the body to lose weight by following a restrictive diet and working out more and more, Dahlum suggests thinking of food and exercise as a tool to nourish and strengthen the body. “When people can make that flip in their mind and concentrate on nourishing themselves rather than depriving themselves, they will naturally arrive at a healthy weight,” Dahlum insists. “It really comes down to respecting and taking care of yourself, and changing habits little by little.” With a holistic approach to health, Dahlum also emphasizes balance and the importance of rest and recovery.
According to Dahlum, lifestyle changes are more likely to become permanent if they are adopted gradually. “Rather than trying to change everything at once, change just one habit at a time,” Dahlum advises. “Take a good look at everything that you are doing and try to determine what is stopping you from being where you want to be. Instead of trying to make drastic changes, slowly remove obstacles, one at a time.”
For those looking to adopt healthy habits for the New Year, Dahlum suggests starting with these three:
1. Include a serving of protein at every meal, 3 to 4 times per day. Protein dense foods can include meat, fish, eggs, dairy or beans. For women, one serving consists of a palm-sized portion of any of these foods. For men, two palm-sized portions equals one serving. A diet with adequate protein helps optimize cell repair and maintain muscle mass.
2. Gradually move bedtime back 15 minutes at a time. While eight hours per night is ideal, seven hours of sleep is the minimum the body needs. A good night’s sleep is the foundation for a healthy circadian rhythm, the natural fluctuation for hormones. Sleep is also important for repair and muscle recovery. Without healthy sleep, the body’s ability to grow muscle and lose fat is compromised.
3. Slow down and eat without distractions.
Make mealtime a priority and gradually increase the amount of time it takes to eat a meal. Pay attention to the meal, without the distractions of TV, cell phone or a computer screen. Chew each bite completely, pay attention to taste and be aware of feeling full and satisfied. This allows digestion to work more efficiently and decreases the desire to continue snacking throughout the day.
For more tips and information on health, nutrition and fitness, visit Shannon Dahlum’s website at www.shannondahlum.com and Octane Training at www.trainoctane.com.