This interview is part of the Real Talk Real Women interview series, where we bring you the life-changing, heart-warming and inspirational stories behind the most successful women in health and fitness. Make sure to follow us on Instagram for the latest interviews! For this installment, we are joined by Nicci Lee.
Let’s start off with a general introduction. How would you describe yourself, what are you all about and how did you get involved in health and fitness?
My name is Nicci Lee. I was born and raised in Calgary, Alberta along side my twin sister 28 years ago. Above everything I am mom and dad to my two beautiful daughters ages 9 and 7. Everything I do - all of my motivation has been because of my girls. After having my second daughter at 21 their father's addictions skyrocketed which ultimately was what ended our relationship shortly after my youngest was born.
I got into fitness as my get away from all the stress in my life at that time. I wanted to show my girls that even though addiction is very real and runs in their family that they can choose a life of health. I fell in love with weightlifting and went on to compete in my first fitness competition which I ended up winning the 1st place and my pro card against over 100 girls in my category.
From there I fell in love with helping women reaching their health and fitness goals - watching their transformations not only on the outside but the inside as well! Their confidence and self growth, the ability that fitness has on changing their mindsets and helping them overcome the stressful obstacles in their lives was so rewarding for me.
4 years after starting my first personal training business I was able to open up my own gym Iron Empire. I would say that I am extremely loving, motivated, driven, caring, loyal, confident and patient.
Where does your motivation come from?
I definitely answered this question in my first question. My daughters! Everything I do is because of them. I constantly want to keep moving forward for them. I cannot sit still.
What’s your perspective on the importance of self-care?
I think it is extremely important. People that take care of themselves are proven to be more successful at everything in life.
What are some of the biggest misconceptions about women lifting weight?
I'm scared to lift weights because I don't want to look like a bodybuilder. A lot of women don't realize that weights build the curves we are after. They give shape to our bodies not just strength. It's extremely hard unless a woman is taking illegal substitutes that you would ever look like a bodybuilder.
Many young women who want to lose weight believe that not eating is the way to do it, without realising the consequences of that kind of behavior.
Why do you think this is and what’s your perspective on educating society on healthy nutrition habits?
I think it's all under education. It's children in junior high or high school that develop self confidence issues and that don't have money or interest in finding a nutritionist or personal trainer to help them with their body issues and try and do it on their own. They focus on the numbers on the scale which in turn ends up meaning nothing! They think the less they eat the lower the numbers goes not realizing the effects this has on their metabolism and mindset which can carry on into their adult years.
I think it is extremely important for parents and school systems to start educating kids at a very early age about the importance of food and staying active. I do see that the school system has changed with both of my daughters being in elementary which makes me extremely happy. I know it is going in the right direction and hopefully school systems that are not on board yet begin to realize the importance of education in nutrition and being active truly has on kids.
What are the most unexpected lessons you’ve learned on your health and fitness journey this far?
I've been through it all when it comes to different dieting methods until I starting doing research and courses on my own. I've followed plans from coaches which turned out to be extremely low calories with high cardio and ended up destroying my metabolism which I never expected when hiring a coach.
It took me years to rebuild my metabolism and reverse the damage that was done on my body. I've learned that food is like medicine for our bodies. It's great to eat just for the taste but it's extremely important to look at your food as a form of medicine. Food can either keep you healthy or it can cause deadly diseases. We have control over everything that goes into our bodies and realizing the effects of bad eating like the swelling, bloating, stomach pain, tiredness, no confidence, not having the energy or clarity. This opened my eyes hugely!
How important have the people around you been when it comes to your success?
The importance of the people around me when it comes to my success has been HUGE! They say if you want to be successful to surround yourself with people who are where you want to be and I believe that! I couldn't have done everything I have without my family's support, love and understanding, my nanny who has helped take care of my daughters for four years. My best friend who has helped educate me more than any schooling I have done (I call him the book of knowledge) and who has never let me give up on my worst days when it comes to my own fitness and health goals.
My team at Iron Empire who has believed in this business as much as I do. I wouldn't have the business I have without them and it keeps my fire burning even when I feel like my candle is burning out. And my friends - I have a very small circle of them but man can I tell you they are all inspiring and driven. They all have qualities that I strive to have to keep pushing me forward and growing into the business woman and family woman I am striving to be.
What do you do to maintain balance in your life?
Oh gosh. This goes to the people in my life. My life between being a single parent and owning two businesses is absolutely crazy. If I didn't have T, Ging, my parents, sister, cousin and my Iron Empire family to help keep me sane I honestly don't know how I would balance out my life the way I do.
How do you stay productive?
There is no other option. I just keep going. Everyday I have a plan for that day. I have so much going on in my life I usually have my calendar filled out for up to two months at a time. I cannot sit still so this helps me to always stay productive. Right now my mind is set on money so the business keeps growing, as well as my family and my health so I just always have a plan and execute it each day.
Can you give a breakdown of your current diet, training and supplementation regimen and the thinking behind it?
The supplements I take are multivitamins, fish oils, magnesium, zinc, VIT C, VIT D, ZMA, gluten free and lactose free protein powder.
I use IIFYM style of dieting or flexible dieting as some may know it. I have my carbs, fats and protein macros done for the day and choose foods full of nutrients to hit those macros each day. I eat my carbs pre and post workout on most days and use my fats, veggies and proteins to fill up the majority of my meals during the rest of the day. When I am trying to cut I do a metabolic boost in the morning on an empty stomach and then will weight train in the afternoon after a good carb and protein meal for energy.
Name 3 things people don’t know about you.
Hmmm. I am extremely open about myself and love to be open and honest about anything people ask me so this question is hard.
1. My clients will know this but people outside of the gym will not. I have extreme OCD when it comes to weighted plates. I can't tell you how many times in a day that I work that I go around to all the machines and plate trees to make sure all the colours and weights of the plates are stacked together. It drives me nuts when any of them are out of place.
2. I am extremely sensitive- I am told I hold so much confidence that I come across extremely strong and will rarely ever cry in front of anyone but only the closest people know how sensitive my heart is and that comes from caring for everyone I meet.
3. I love to sing in the shower, the car, while I am working out and at the grocery stores. Basically anywhere I think I am alone or just with my kids because my voice is terrible but I absolutely love music and the way it's helped me through a lot of different times in my life.
If you could only choose one thing, what would you tell your younger self?
I think the biggest thing is to not trust everybody. I tend to think everyone has the best interest for others when it's very untrue. I've been burned by the people I considered family worse than anyone in my life. So if I could go back to my younger self I would make sure I wasn't so naive.
What are your biggest goals for 2017?
BUSINESS - BUSINESS - BUSINESS! Of course as long as my family is taken care of. I am just about to launch my second business and the goals for both my gym and my new company are huge for 2017. I want to be a self made billionaire so you can just imagine what that entails ;).
Where can people go to learn more about you online?
Stay tuned for the next interview of Real Talk Real Women!