Lisa Raleigh on marriage, motherhood and money

It’s been a magical year so far for celebrity fitness trainer and wellness coach Lisa Raleigh. She’s pregnant (due on 8 August) with her first child and she recently married tech entrepreneur Stafford Masie  in a stunning, intimate beach wedding in Cambodia in April.

Lisa is most renowned for her television roles as the blue team trainer on South Africa’s The Biggest Loser, co-presenter on Doctor’s Orders and has regularly appeared on SABC 3’s daily morning show, Expresso as their health and wellness consultant.

However, being a presenter and fitness expert is not all she packs into her busy life. She’s set to publish a book next year and when she’s not exercising and boosting her step count on her FitBit she’s also blogging on her new Mumentoes website, which is packed with handy, healthy tips and tricks to follow if you have a growing family.

She speaks to Moneybags editor, Angelique Ruzicka, about her marriage in Cambodia, her journey to motherhood, and offers some well-thought fitness and money advice:

Congratulations on getting married how did you and Stafford Masie enjoy your time away and the ceremony?

Thank you! We had the most incredible trip. It was a dream come true to get married on that specific private Island called Song Saa (meaning sweet hearts in Khmer) to the man of my dreams! Then having my two step  daughters there as bridesmaids and our baby girl-to-be being there too was just magical. We both adore Cambodia- the happy spirtual people, the culture, the food, the rawness and realness of the villages – still unspoilt by huge groups of  visiting tourists. The ceremony was perfect- understated but fairytale like. It was exactly what we dreamed of in every way.

Who designed your wedding dress?

My wedding dress was designed by myself and by the dress designer Casey Jeanne in Durban. It was a joint effort to have the goddess-like feel I wanted that  was comfortable and still catered for my baby bump and generous curves at the moment! We got it just right at the first fitting and from that day it slowly evolved into our perfect preggie gown masterpiece. The skirt of the dress was pure silk making it cool and flowing ( Cambodia was experiencing their  summer in April  with temperatures above 36 degrees every day) and the bodice was made from hand made lace and embroidered beads from India. These were hand sown onto the flesh coloured mesh by Casey herself. This is one of her specialiaties- her incredible attention to detail.

You’re expecting – how have you been coping so far? Any morning sickness?

Yes I am now 28 weeks pregnant- just into my third trimester. I fell pregnant at the beginning of Novemeber last year in Washington DC- one of my all-time favourite cities. Our baby girl was not planned at all, but what a blessing she is turning out to be!  We only found out that I was pregnant in week 11- almost past the whole first trimester! I hardly had any morning sickness and so far I have breezed through the pregnancy by remaining healthy, busy and active. These last few weeks things have started to change and I am feeling more tired and heavy all round. I am in bed most nights now by 8.30pm and I have to move positions every 15 mins to ease the aches and pains in my back and hips!  My body forces me to be active everyday now- it’s the only way that I feel relief from the aches and get a good nights sleep on top of it.

You’ve recently started a new online platform called Mumentoes, which helps moms with pregnancy friendly workouts, healthy meals for the family, baby friendly products, etc. How has this been received so far?

I think my viewers are really enjoying the content! We’re up to over 20 000 likes on Facebook and counting. Reproduction is a never-ending cycle of life, so the content is always in demand, and I think families are trying harder than ever to create and raise children more healthily.

Did you find out any interesting facts about pregnancy and nutrition that you didn’t know about before you fell pregnant?

Oh gosh there are so many facts and jaw dropping “ no ways” moments. I read a lot of books and blogs and articles on the subject daily to keep my mind at ease, and I am fascinated by how much a woman’s body changes over this time. It is a miracle what happens every week in preparation for the baby’s arrival and the actual labour itself. Then weekly the baby shows a new development to go with that. It really is such teamwork! The key is to surrender to the fact that you have little control over it. Enjoy it, embrace it, do you best to keep active and healthy throughout and the rest you can and will fix when your blessing arrives.

We’ve seen you provide some healthy recipe tips on social media. What are your favourite snacks and treats?

Some of my most frequent healthy snacks include boiled eggs, veggie and cheese sticks with hummus and other healthy dips, falafels and rice cakes with an assortment of heathy toppings. If we’re talking indulgent snacks, my weakness is an ultra-fresh, high quality vanilla sponge cake with plenty of icing – nothing beats the real thing.

What’s your advice for women who are pregnant and who still want to exercise? Do extremely fit women, like you, have to tone it down at all or make any other adaptations?

Firstly, exercise is extremely beneficial and important in your pregnancy. Cardiovascular health, body strength, balanced hormones and regulated sleep are all important parts of sustaining health – pregnant or not. Secondly, the general rule is that you can maintain the exercise regime you had before your pregnancy, with just a few precautionary modifications – providing you have gotten your doctor’s go-ahead.If you were lifting weights and running frequently before conceiving, you can – and should – continue to do so. There are definitely some no-no’s – contact sports, horse riding and certain strength moves are out – and the idea is to continue your pre-pregnancy routine, not build upon it. Towards your final few weeks is when you will have to scale back on your usual training.

Your next book is due for release in March 2017 and is titledThe Belly Book. While the title does give us some idea can you give us some more information about the book? 

To date, belly fat remains the chief concern of most health queries I receive. In addition to this being the body part men and women are most conscious of, it’s also the most dangerous area to store fat. Belly fat puts strain on all the vital internal organs, affecting our health in a multitude of ways. The Belly Book will be a multi-faceted but still simple approach to targeting belly fat – through nutrition, through exercise, through managing stress, and acknowledging a few other key influencers.

Tell us a little about the ‘well i am’ challenge. 

The well i am challenge launched in February 2013. Here, corporates and consumers enter an online holistic 100-day wellness transformation challenge with all the luxuries thrown in, the tools and skills to create life-long change and an online community of resources to keep you motivated. Well i am’s fifth challenge launched 9th March 2016. We really pride ourselves on BIG value for money – over R2000 worth of freebies upon sign up, and individual cash prizes of R40 000 are up for grabs. On average, we get over 1000 entries per challenge.

You recently posted an article up about diet soda and the dangers of aspartame. What’s your stance on diet drinks? 

Anything labelled a ‘diet drink’or a ‘diet food’ is bound to be laden with unhealthy additives. These products typically take out the ingredients that make it delicious – like fat or sugar – and replace it with unnatural additives and sweeteners. Whilst there is a big move away from unhealthy sweeteners, and many of these products are being enriched with safer alternatives, I feel that processed foods – deemed healthy or not – that have a lengthy list of ingredients on the back are better avoided in general. We should be focusing on eating more whole, unrefined foods versus ‘diet foods’. And when the craving hits and you simply must indulge in that food you love, have the original product and factor it into your eating and exercising plan.

What’s your stance on the sugar tax?

It is a great step in the right direction, as the cheapness of sugar production makes it such an easy and tasty – never mind addictive – ingredient to throw carelessly into many foods. I feel, however, that education is still the primary goal towards improving nutritional health. When fully understanding what the body needs is a mainstream versus an ‘alternative’ interest, we as consumers will be able to discern between products more easily.

You have your own Fitbit and promote the product too – how has this device changed the way you exercise? 

Motivation is a huge part of reaching any goal, and my Fitbit is one of the best all-in-one motivators you get. I love tracking my steps, seeing how many calories I’ve burned – and then also keeping an eye on things like my heart rate and sleep quality. I can confidently say I wear my Fitbit every day, round-the-clock, and it is my constant reminder to put my health first. Now that I’m pregnant, I average between 7000 and 10 000 steps – if I go for a walk or jog then I always reach the 10 000 mark.

What’s your advice for those of us who find it hard to motivate ourselves to exercise after a long, hard day at work? 

Looking after your body should be one of your non-negotiables. The quality of your body determines the quality of your life, and we only get one to carry us through it.Every aspect of your life is affected by your physical health, so it’s easy for me to keep it high on my list of priorities. You also need to set a weekly goal of how much exercise you want to get in, whether that’s three sessions a week or a daily walk – if you haven’t set the bar anywhere, you won’t move it. A specific health goal plus a specific strategy for getting there is a motivational must.

Do you have any money-saving tips for us?

With exercise – train at home. I almost always workout from my home gym, but it doesn’t take a lot of equipment to build one. A few sets of dumbbells is all it takes to train at home effectively. With pregnancy – I have great aspirations to make most of my own baby foods but I haven’t yet crossed that bridge. With diets – plan, plan, plan. Buying and cooking in bulk, skipping convenience foods and preparing your own meals and snacks can help you save dramatically. With weddings – downscale. This isn’t for everyone, but we chose to have the most intimate of ceremonies with only a handful of loved ones, with a fun, informal no-price-per-head celebration to follow.