Tiffany Sanders is the epitome of a badass mom. Tiffany is a personal trainer, nutritionist, and is about to embark on prime-badassery: competing in her first body building competition. She accomplishes all of this all while raising four girls with her husband.
Not only is she a badass because of her ability to successfully win in a fight against men and women twice her size, Tiffany is an emotionally strong and driven person. As a sexual assault survivor, Tiffany has endured more pain and heartache than any one person deserves. Meeting her, however, you’d never know it. She is constantly building up those around her. Her positivity and optimism are contagious. She is one mama I would not want to mess with, but I would instantly want to be her friend…and she will be, because she genuinely loves people.
When I walked into Lifetime Fitness to sit down with Tiffany, she rushed into the cafe first asking me how I was and to tell her all about my life. She is one who hates to talk about herself, but will tell you everything about her if it means helping you just a little bit.
Question: So, Tiffany. You are a personal trainer. What made you want to pursue that career?
Answer: I was that kid who was always active. I did a lot of sports growing up to keep me healthy. I could eat whatever I wanted without gaining weight. Fast-forward to being an adult and getting married and having my first kiddo. I put on 10 pounds of baby weight, you know, that weight none of us can get over […] We were nursing. We had a lot of struggles with that […] Baby number one–ten pounds, baby number two–another ten, plus I was training for a half-marathon, that’s another twenty. Finally, I was moving away from the type of lifestyle I wanted. I was eating and drinking every weekend and out eating my diet. So, I realized I needed a gym membership!
She goes on to describe how, at first, she had fears of “being bulky” instead of toned, but after her trainer sent an article about the importance of strength training, she realized the many misconceptions about health and fitness. She was so intrigued by it all, that she got a job working in the kid’s center at the gym while she learned “the difference between barbells and kettle bells” among many many other things. The rest is history.
I started feeling a sense of empowerment from being able to know that I could hold my own in a fight or flight situation. […] I started getting strong.
She explained the importance of being strong for her daughters. If she had to protect them, she now can. But it wasn’t easy.
I started asking questions about how I can work with nutrition at the same time. People started asking me questions. […] I said, well, I’ll share what I know…I would come across a lot of these quick fixes[…] So, then it became a level of determination to share the good information and dispel the myths of weight-lifting and nutrition, how it’s all relative to the person. […] So, I ended up learning with goal of sharing the RIGHT information. Even if I’m never going to see this person again, if I could just share one thing, I’ve done my job. Nothing is better than when someone goes, “That’s it! I get!” And I cheer them on saying, “That’s my baby!”
Overall, her goals are to build women up.
I don’t believe in the helpless little woman. I believe that women will tear you a new one if you cross her the wrong way.
Question: How do you keep up with all of the needs of your clients? Do you constantly research because you find it interesting or because you have to?
Answer: I’m a natural geek. I love to geek out on the science things we do. Why squats? Why would we adjust your diet this way? I’m a big believer of scientifically backed data. […] If I can’t answer your question why […] then why are we even doing it? I’m very passionate about this stuff. A lot of it is new exposure to new needs. I’m not into giving the bullshit answers […] I don’t believe in “just push through it.” You know your body better than anyone else. I say this a lot[…] It’s true! If you’re not respecting your current limitations […] then you’re doing your body a disservice […] You should never be forced into something that doesn’t work with your body.
After listening to Tiffany’s passionate explanation of WHY we need to listen to our bodies and train with someone knowledgeable and willing to adjust to our needs, we started talking about her “gaggle of girls” ages 9, 7, 4, and 2. This mom is a badass because of what she can do in the gym and what she does at home.
Question: How does your success impact your girls?
Answer: It’s kind of cool– they’re fearless. It freaks mommy out a little bit […] I think them seeing that mommy can be strong, and girls can be strong, and seeing that mommy helps people learn how to be strong and learn better and move better, they think, I can be strong, too! As a parent, you want your kids to be smarter, be stronger, be faster, be better than you could ever hope to be in your lifetime. I think it’s cool that they can be. We’ll do push-ups in the living room, and that’s so cool! I hope they’ll never know what it means to not be strong enough.
Question: How are you with snacks and food with your girls?
Answer: A lot of my background came from closet binge-eating […] I have had a lot of struggle with crash dieting. I struggled with feeling okay and not guilty about not following something 100% kosher or organic.
So, I wanted to research on why sugar is so evil. It’s in a lot of things we don’t expect it to be in. […] With my kids, there’s two methods of dealing with sugar or “junk food.” You can make the exposure constant so it’s not craved. So, the psychological aspect: if it’s around all the time, I won’t crave it all the time. Then, there’s intermittent exposure– if you never do any kind of “treat” or good-tasting stuff, then, when it is in the house, the kids are going to sneak it. A lot of the intermittent exposure fills that psychological need to fulfill that craving. With my kids, we have all things in moderation. We do the chips, we do the ice cream, popsicles, we do chocolate. It’s there. It’s not a big deal. Most of the time, I’m going to serve them the “good stuff”–leaner meats, vegetables, fruits. I encourage them to grab those snacks instead of Cheetos, but the Cheetos are there too! I limit them […] I’m not the all or nothing mom. You’ll run out of time, money, and patience. Just limit it.
She went on to tell me how awesome her husband is at making their meals for lunches. Shoutout to a super awesome dad.
Once the sugar conversation began to wane, Tiffany was willing to jump into some of the tougher topics– the ones that are hardest to discuss, but the ones that make her one of the strongest women I know.
Question: I know that you had a difficult childhood. You don’t hide behind it, you rise above it. You’re always optimistic. What is the driving force behind that optimism?
Answer: If you ask an adult who’s been sexually abused, how come you didn’t turn around and do it yourself? Ask another adult, why did you continue that cycle of abuse? There’s one of two paths. You choose to be positive. You choose to be optimistic. I try my best not to hold grudges because it only hurts me. That’s my driving force. I refuse to fall into that pessimism. I won’t have a bitter outlook on life. I have struggled with depression. I wish someone had smacked me and said, “It’s normal to feel this way! It’s okay to feel this way!” Viatmin D made a huge difference.
If I weren’t so inauthentic and fake “anti-GMOs,” I would’ve felt better and enjoyed my kids a lot better. It was until baby number three, through the gym, that I realized what worked for me.
I got a lot of good stuff from my childhood and what not to be.
Question: Let’s talk about some awesome stuff coming up. You’ve got your first body building competition. What’s it called?
Answer: It is Naturally Fit Federation. It’s a drug-tested organization that was started because people were fed up with people using enhancers to get that stage look, to get the super chiseled look that would not come naturally to someone. So, it’s my first one. I’ll probably stay there because I’m not planning on using anything that requires anything other than my good, old-fashioned elbow grease. Just work. It’s bikini division. […] It’s what people call “toned.”
When you see cover of Sports Illustrated, those people have worked really hard to get that definition. They’re also very lean. That type of look that you see in the magazines or in Instagram posts, they’re like that for maybe a couple of weeks. They take a lot of different photo shoots that they spread throughout the year. Then, they tone up and do it again.
I’m about three weeks out. I’ll probably maintain this level of leanness for three weeks at the most. I’ll go back to to my normal, sustainable, healthy body fat percentage. If you stay at a really really lean status for too long, you start messing with hormonal health, especially if you’re not doing it the healthy way.
No meal plans for me. I’m actually a flexible dieter, which means I have interchangeable foods. If I don’t want to have tilapia and asparagus every day for dinner, I don’t have to. If I want steak, I can have it. It’s just a matter of making room for the meat as long as it fits my macros.
Question: And you’re very pro flexible dieting for most people, I think. Would you say that’s your go-to for most clients?
Answer: Yeah, for 80-90% of people, that’s going to be the go-to. You have category 1-3 as far as nutrition placement. For someone who has never heard of a macro nutrient, you may not start them off that way. I’m constantly learning about the psychology of it– you may just need to work with someone on the habit tracker. You may just focus on calories, because that’s what it really comes down to when we’re talking about weight loss. For most people, a flexible approach is a better option. Could you lose weight with a cookie-cutter diet? Absolutely. For a certain period of time[…] Any diet will work as long as you work it. Then, you go into a maintenance plan. You have to have the maintenance.
If you’re not weight-lifting, though, you’re going to lose a lot of muscle weight and your metabolism slows down. Then, if you gain that weight back, you don’t have as much muscle as you did before. You have more fat now. You wonder why it’s harder to lose weight the second time around, the third time around. It’s because when you’re not incorporating strength training on top of losing weight, you lose muscle with it.
Flexible dieting allows someone to take care of the cravings as soon as you have it. Then, move on. You’re not going to have the deprivation mentality.
Question: If you could give a mom any advice, what would it be?
Answer: Wiggle more. Dance more. Park further. Everything adds up over time. Strength training doesn’t have to be getting a gym membership. It could be lifting your baby up, doing the airplane game, doing push-ups and kissing your baby’s forehead. Wiggle more. Have fun. If you don’t have the energy, which a lot of us don’t, TAKE THE VITAMIN D. DRINK MORE WATER. Just do something.
Make sure you’re not getting to a point where you’re not taking care of you. If you can take care of you, everything falls into place.
Don’t expect yourself to be perfect. If you could put a happy face on all of the days you did well, put a heart on all of the days you forgive yourself. If you have more happy faces than hearts at the end of the month, you’re doing great.
Be forgiving of yourself. Be loving of yourself when you do mess up.
You can check her out on instagram as @fitmommatiff. Wish her luck in her competition!