Total Wellness with the Experts

Locals Jared Britto, Candice McCoy, and Lee Cotton weigh in on keeping your body, mind, and soul in balance

Jared Britto at 1Fitness in Stuart. Photo by Steven Martine
Jared Britto at 1Fitness in Stuart. Photo by Steven Martine

Get Physical

Jared Britto’s no-nonsense training approach is simple: Work hard, no excuses. In 2013, after cutting his teeth at LA Fitness, where he developed training plans and honed his coaching skills, the Plymouth, Massachusetts native opened his first gym. Two years later, he launched 1Fitness, a 6,500-square-foot health and fitness facility in Stuart that offers an array of group boot camp workouts, plyometrics, agility training, and more. Here, the Port St. Lucie resident offers five tips to keep your body in check.

Eat before exercising. Britto says it’s beneficial to eat something nutritious 30 minutes to an hour before beginning your workout routine. “I don’t care if it’s only a protein bar, but you do need carbs and calories to move and run,” he says. “Think of them as gasoline for your body.” He suggests fueling up with meals that combine healthy carbs, proteins, and fats to energize the body and brain, repair muscle tissue, and burn fat. (Think salmon with brown rice or chicken and a sweet potato.)

Keep your workout balanced. New gym-goers often think they can reach their fitness goals by performing cardio nonstop—and that’s a big mistake, says Britto. “If you want a sculpted physique, you have to add weight training to increase strength and muscles and burn fat.” High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, brings additional benefits. “These workouts are great for boosting cardio-respiratory health by alternating hard-charging intervals with periods of less intense exercise and rest,” he says.

Be wise about water. Water really does do the body good. It increases stamina, regulates body temp, metabolizes energy, and much more. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends consuming 8 to 12 ounces of water 10 to 15 minutes before exercising and, during a workout, another 3 to 8 ounces every 20 minutes. Post-workout, Britto suggests a formulated sports beverage like BodyArmor to replace the sodium and electrolytes lost through sweat. 

Embrace weights. Don’t be afraid of weights. They won’t “bulk you up”—their only objective is to make you look and feel better. When done properly, lifting weights can strengthen your back, tone your arms, and build you a better derriere. “Weights are good for building muscle mass,” says Britto. “The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn. The more calories you burn, the faster your metabolism. That’s how you get skinny.” 

Keep pushing. When Muhammad Ali was asked how many sit-ups he did,
he said, “I don’t count my sit-ups. I only start counting when it starts to hurt.” Britto believes that achieving physical success begins by surpassing our  personal limits. For example, say you commit to doing 20 sit-ups. “The first 18 might not be easy, and the last two may hurt,” he says. “But don’t stop at 20 when you could have done 7 or 8 more. The ones you push yourself to complete are the ones that really count.”

Jared’s List

3 home gym essentials

Resistance bands: They challenge muscles and are good for low-impact rehab

Dumbbells: They’re versatile enough to strengthen any muscle (start with 5-pound weights and go from there) 

An exercise mat: This is crucial for comfort and support during stretching and floor exercises

Candice McCoy on the beach outside House of Refuge in Stuart. Photo by Steven Martine
Candice McCoy on the beach outside House of Refuge in Stuart. Photo by Steven Martine

Strengthen Your Mind

Candice McCoy began her self-described spiritual journey after a difficult divorce led her to seek professional counseling. Through therapy, she reconnected with her inner self and stopped focusing on the superficial side of life. She also became a certified yoga instructor and, in 2016, she founded The Healing House, a Stuart-based nonprofit with wellness programs designed to minimize stress and strengthen emotional well-being. Here, the South Fork High School teacher and mother of three weighs in on how to practice mindfulness and be completely invested in the present. 

Meditate in the morning. “Meditation is a calming and productive way to start the day,” says McCoy, who likes to meditate silently right after she wakes up. She’s not alone. According to a OnePoll study, 36 percent of Americans include some form of meditation on their morning to-do lists. Meditating offers a bevy of mental health benefits ranging from increased focus to lowered levels of anxiety and stress. In men, cortisol released during meditation increases testosterone that nets added energy for workouts and other activities. 

Take time to breathe. “When I focus on my breathing, I recognize that one day I won’t have that breath,” says McCoy. “It may sound morbid, but thinking about death helps me appreciate my life and those connected with it.” Breathing does more than keep our hearts ticking. Mindful breathing anchors us in the present. To practice, find a comfortable seat away from distractions. As you breathe, concentrate on how your body is feeling. If your mind wanders, acknowledge it, then return to your breathing. Says McCoy: “The goal is to slow the mind and let go of things like negative thinking.” 

Embrace your inner child. Resuming the hobbies we once cherished as children is a healthy way to connect your present with the past. “If you liked to draw, get back into drawing,” McCoy advises. “If you loved dancing, take a dance class.” Spending time in nature watching a sunrise at the beach or walking in the woods also brings added healing. “Making time for the things that bring us joy is what’s really important,” says McCoy. 

Restore with yoga. Ancient yogis considered the imitation of wildlife an enlightening experience. But yoga is more than twisting the body into asanas, or poses, with animal names. Besides helping to perfect posture and tone muscles, practicing yoga also has psychological benefits ranging from increased confidence to a sunnier outlook. “In my restorative yoga class, we sit for an hour in different poses,” McCoy says. “It’s about slowing down and not doing, which can be challenging for people who are always on the go. But this is when our cognition improves and we make better decisions. This is when we heal.”

Practice self-love. McCoy started The Healing House as a way to help others strengthen their mind-body bond. “When we get to know what’s good for us and what’s not, and we start loving who we are, our lives become better,” she says. Self-love is about accepting who you are completely, warts and all. Learn self-love by practicing gratitude, not expecting perfection, and being kind to yourself.

Candice’s  List

3 mindfulness essentials

5-minute meditation: Listening to a guided exercise can alter your heart rhythm and generate appreciation, love, and caring 

Daily affirmation: Choose one you enjoy, then print it out, frame it, and put it where you’ll see it every day 

Gratitude journal: Make gratitude a daily habit by recording what you’re thankful for in a journal 

Lee Cotton outside in the garden at her Stuart home. Photo by Steven Martine
Lee Cotton outside in the garden at her Stuart home. Photo by Steven Martine

Nourish Your Soul

Stuart-based registered dietitian and nutritionist Lee Cotton uses empathy, education, and an intuitive eating approach to solve her patients’ dietary conundrums. After graduating from Keiser University with a degree in nutrition and dietetics (and Florida State with a degree in communications), the former PR pro and Pilates instructor worked as a health educator for the Hippocrates Health Institute in West Palm Beach and learned to prepare delicious, plant-based cuisine at the Matthew Kenney Culinary Academy. In 2018, she launched Lee Cotton Nutrition, a private practice in Stuart with services ranging from medical nutritional therapy to meal planning and support. Here, she shares five suggestions to keep your health on track. 

Go on a “non-diet” diet plan. Cotton isn’t an advocate of most diets. “They are not long-term, and research indicates that most fail and have low adherence,” she says. Diet plans that are too restrictive can cause chronic inflammation and result in weight gain or difficulty losing weight. Cotton suggests following a non-diet approach instead. “A non-diet is not ‘anti-health,’” she explains. “It’s about embracing our body’s hunger and fullness cues, not putting restrictive rules on intake, and accepting that no food is off-limits.” 

Eat more color. Fruits and vegetables derive their vibrant chromaticity from phytochemicals, bioactive compounds that serve a variety of nutrimental purposes. When choosing what to eat, Cotton says color is key. “Foods with the brightest shades will be the most nutrient-dense,” she says. She also recommends filling your plate with plant foods that are high in dietary fiber and antioxidants such as passion fruit and sweet potatoes, which protect the body from cancer, stroke, and cardiovascular disease. 

Eat mindfully. Savor your food more by dining with intention. The practice of mindful eating is not about counting calories or shedding pounds. “It’s about staying present with your meal, being more aware of things like texture and taste, and knowing when your body is full,” says Cotton. This includes eliminating distractions and listening to your body’s hunger cues. “Try to hit the pause button halfway through your meal and just sit with yourself. Understand where you are in terms of satiety before continuing on.”

Don’t label food. Says Cotton: “We live in a diet-obsessed culture, where there is always a new fad diet that labels certain foods as being ‘bad.’” Throwing shade on certain foods that may be high in carbs, proteins, or fats not only makes them more desirable, but their consumption can also then lead to shame and other stressors. “Placing restrictions, or creating fear, can result in a disordered eating pattern,” says Cotton. She believes all foods have a place in a healthy and balanced diet: “When we look at the definition of normalized eating—eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full—it’s having variety, balance, and nutritional advocacy.”

Be wary of dietary supplements. Vitamin supplements aren’t for everyone. In fact, many health professionals question whether we need them at all. “Research supports that some supplements are of benefit during certain life spans,” Cotton says. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, studies have shown that taking a supplement like melatonin for jet lag has merit, while others don’t live up to the hype. Echinacea, for example, can’t cure a cold, and ginkgo biloba doesn’t prevent dementia. Always talk with your doctor before starting on any supplement, especially if you’re taking medications or are pregnant.

Lee’s List

3 nutrition essentials

Chia and flax seeds: They help keep our hearts and brains healthy

Yogurt: It contains ingredients that support immune function and bone health

Berries and dark leafy greens: They protect us from cancer while boosting heart health and cognitive function

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