Interview by Sandy Joy Weston
Zoe Huff is a recent graduate from Syracuse University with a B.S. in Media Communication and technology, which we definitely need that now. Her goal is to create a career path that combines her undergraduate degree with her passion for fitness and entrepreneurship. In this collaboration with “Let’s Keep It Real” podcast, Sandy Joy Weston sits down with Zoe for a socially distanced interview.
Sandy Joy Weston: Zoe, welcome.
Zoe Huff: Thank you, Sandy, so much for having me.
SW: When did you graduate Syracuse?
ZH: I graduated the first week of May. Yeah. Pretty recent
SW: Woo. Welcome to the world, Zoe.
ZH: What a welcoming, but yes.
SW: Well, it’s preparing you for I don’t know what. Where do you live?
ZH: I’m from Poughkeepsie, New York. Well, not from, but I’m from Dutchess County, New York. I live in Arlington, New York with my mother, but I stayed up in Syracuse, extended my lease, because I figured quarantining up here was a whole lot safer, fewer cases. I knew a lot of people here so I was able to quarantine with my friends.
SW: What a smart girl you are. All right, Zoe. I would like to start out with words. I love words. I love movement. If you follow me at all, people, you know that’s my thing. If you could pick a word to best describe, good, bad and ugly, doesn’t matter, how you felt in the last 30 days. Now I know a lot of people say to me, Zoe, “Well, oh my goodness. My emotions have been all over the place.” I get it. If it’s really 50/50, you can give me two words. Some guy said, “Elated, depressed.” I’m like, “Okay, I could go with that.” But majority of the time, what would the word be?
ZH: I would say stagnant, not because I’m not doing anything to better myself, but because I feel like the world is on hold and I can’t exactly be out and socializing and networking in the way that I had hoped to post-grad. But I can also say that I feel appreciative because this is a time that I feel like I could utilize to focus on myself, which I’m not sure I would have the same amount of focus or time if I didn’t have the pandemic.
SW: Oh, okay. I like that. You’re looking at it like, “Yeah, this is sucky, but I can’t do anything about it. Now I’m going to take the opportunity to work on me.”
SW: Movement is a big part of your life. In the last few months, what has been your movement?
ZH: Well, I have a trainer friend that I used to know through a few mutual people by going to Powerhouse, which is a gym that I go to in Syracuse. Of course, it’s not open right now, but in the last few months we’ve been able to train together. I’ve been doing pull ups at the park, pushups, lots of calisthenics. He has some free weights. I’ve been able to keep up my fitness regimen as best as possible, which has been really helpful for my mental health during this time. I’ve been seeing some gains. I’ve been able to kind of push some of my friends and post on social media on my story to show people that just because it’s a pandemic, just because you don’t have the same resources that you normally would have, you can still put your mind to it and accomplish things.
SW: Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Right? I know for a lot of my friends, they’re like, “Oh, my God.” But many of them were not runners or bikers. My neighborhood now is filled, I don’t know about you, with tons of runners and bikers, which is great.
ZH: Yeah, it’s nice to see people still staying active in some way.
SW: When did you get into it? How old were you when you really got into the fitness stuff?
ZH: Well, the funny thing is, I thought about this a few times and I continue to date it back to when I was eight. When I was eight years old, I was obsessed with Beyonce and I heard that she did a thousand crunches as a part of her fitness regimen, so I decided that’s something I wanted to do. It was the summer before, or right after I went to eighth grade. My friend and I, we would go on Skype and we would break down the thousand crunches throughout the day, just Skype each other, do them. I felt empowered to be able to do that many crunches in the first place. I feel like that’s where it kicked off the motivation to continue to push beyond.
SW: Because of Beyonce.
SW: You know what? They have the power to influence so many people in a positive way. Don’t they? Especially as a young girl looking up to her. When you did … Now, there’s been a lot of different apps I’ve seen around where, okay, maybe not a thousand, but they’ll say, “Make sure you get a hundred pushups in throughout the day,” or whatever the goal is. I think that’s really great. Most people need something to motivate them. You need to have a game plan, I call it. You need to have a goal. If it’s getting a thousand in, get a thousand in. Now, what’d you do, a hundred at a time? Or would you bang out 500?
ZH: It was more like a hundred at a time or whatever we felt we could do in the moment. But we just knew, by the end of the day, we had to have a thousand. We used to do multiple calls throughout the day because we could not do that many. We were pretty young.
SW: How were your abs?
ZH: Well, actually they weren’t what I expected. Of course they weren’t what I expected because I wasn’t eating the way I should be eating. There were a lot of things that went into the look that I was looking to attain. But after seeing that I didn’t get the results that I wanted, that’s when I got more into nutrition. One thing led to another.
SW: I’m so happy you said that. Now when you’re young it’s, I don’t think it’s even as important as as you get older, but so many people come in and they think they can just work off the yuck that they ate all weekend. What ends up happening, if you really work out hard but even with the young people, I found, young people stayed status quo. Right? They didn’t make any gains. They didn’t fall back, but by having at it all weekend long … You know what I mean? Going out. Okay. Maybe you’re not this way, but a lot of people that worked out at my gym, they would go out, they would drink more than normal. I’m not saying they got drunk, but you know? Then all the restrictions they had on themselves, all the things they were like, “I’m going eat this, this and this,” it fell out the window. Right? You’re getting home late, you’re going to have more junk food than normal. I think that’s pretty typical. Right?
SW: Nutrition is so important. I used to tell people, “Depending on who you are, it could be like 80%.” You know?
ZH: Yeah. A lot of the people, some of my peers while I was in college, they watched my body change from year to year so they were asking me questions, advice. A lot of them just didn’t have the nutrition piece. I tried to emphasize how important that was because the people that I trained, one girl I trained, she lost 35 pounds, but it was because we had created an easy nutrition plan for her. But a lot of the people that I train, they were looking for quick results, but they weren’t eating right, so it’s difficult.
SW: Really difficult. What’d you eat?
ZH: Well, right now I eat very basic, lots of salmon, grilled chicken, shrimp, brown rice, quinoa, lots of fruits and vegetables. For breakfast, I like omelets, oats, things like that.
SW: Do you give each individual, if you work with them or you were training them, a different food plan or do you basically have a steady philosophy?
ZH: Well, sometimes I felt a little uncomfortable making a whole food plan because I’m not a nutritionist. Based on my experience of what I knew and what I had researched and what I learned, I would give them similar advice. Each person, you just … I would also give them a website for a macros calculator because I feel like that’s important to know. But just eating clean foods. Whole foods is a great place to start. I think any “diet” people go after it should be something that you can sustain. It should be more of a lifestyle practice.
SW: Yeah. Right, right. You don’t want to start something and then not be able to stick to it. Now, unless I know there’s a 30 day whole program or cleanse for 10 or 20 days. I do get them. They’re saying, “Okay, we want to clean your body out to move forward.” But moving forward, I know my body resonates more with the Mediterranean way. I don’t even like to say diet, I hate that word, but way of eating. Where somebody else might be paleo. I don’t know that much, I have to be honest, about keto. I don’t know if you could live like that your whole life and be healthy.
ZH: No. I think living on keto could be really bad for your body. I think it’s supposed to be a short term cutting type of diet.
SW: Have you ever struggled with your weight?
ZH: Well, I actually did struggle with an eating disorder when I was in high school. So, yeah. I struggled with my weight in terms of my image. That was a tough thing because I think that’s where I developed the idea that, if you’re going to get into the fitness industry and you’re going to work out, you need to do it for you. Whenever I’m in the gym now, it’s more a me versus me. I’m not comparing myself to anybody else. I’m more appreciative of my efforts in that respect. Definitely when I was younger, it was more comparing my body to other people and it wasn’t helping me.
SW: Yeah. Well, it’s so hard. It really is so hard. Being in high school and college, it definitely can rock your world because you see all these people on social media. I know people say, “Oh, they’re airbrushed, and it’s the way you pose and the way you sit.” But still in all … You know? It’s a lot to deal with. How did you get out of it, then? What sparked you and out of really having a tough time with that?
ZH: Well, it sounds funny, but I love myself. I realized that I was causing more harm than good. I was like, “Well, if I continue doing this internally, I’m not going to be healthy. My goal is not only to look good, but to be healthy, too.” It was just mind over matter. I had to go cold turkey, just stop what I was doing, and go back to eating healthy. I did more research, just get a nutritionist. I just completely changed my lifestyle.
SW: For my young listeners out there, what advice would you have for them? Because I know a lot of them deal with it. I know a lot of people, by the way, in the fitness industry that deal with it. That’s why they got into the profession because they wanted to understand themselves. They first wanted to figure themselves out and they then found out what worked for them and they want to share it with the world. You know?
ZH: Well, one thing, I think journaling is important. Whenever you feel the need to restrict or binge or whatever it is, write down what you’re feeling in that moment and maybe why you’re feeling that way. I think it’s important to look back on that. But also try to look at why you’re doing the things that you’re doing. Maybe therapy will help. But I think more introspection is just really important because if you’re bingeing or whatever you’re doing, there’s a reason behind it. It’s important to understand what that reason is.
SW: Yeah. Well, I love that you said journaling because I’m a big fan of journaling, but also not being embarrassed or being ashamed because so many people go through it. Even if you don’t want to share it with your close friends, getting help or getting therapy, nothing, nothing to be ashamed of reaching out for help because it’s a big part of a lot of people’s lives that you would never even know. Right? They could look all together on the outside.
ZH: Right. Exactly. It’s really frightening. It’s sad.
SW: Yeah. But thank you for sharing that. I’m really glad that you shared that with us because you’ve come a long way.
Like you said, you love yourself, too, which I love me. I was reading this tip from you because I always ask my guests for tips and it was me versus me attitude. Okay, Zoe. I read it. I don’t know if I fully comprehend it, so go at it.
ZH: Well, I played sports a lot throughout middle school, high school. It was always, you work as a team to compete against the other group because you want to be better than them. I’ve adapted that mentality, but internally, so whoever I am today, my goal is to be a better person tomorrow. Even if it’s incremental changes or small, it’s just small improvements to yourself to be better than you were in the past, basically. It’s a competition with yourself.
SW: I get it. Don’t compare yourself to others, more or less look at yourself and what you … Is that like saying, “Think about what you really want and what you’re going after and make sure it’s for you and not to please other people.”
ZH: Yeah, that’s exactly it.
SW: Listen. I’m much older than you and every day I remind myself of that because it’s so easy to get caught up in, “Hey, is this really what I want? Am I doing this for me or am I doing it to get approval or to please people or to keep the peace?” To keep the peace. Every single day I have words and my mission statement to remind me of what I really want, which sounds like you do, too. If you’re a big journaler you must have things written all over the place.Do you write just to get it out or do you also write your goals and your game plan and your focus and your mission?
ZH: I do both. Yeah. I write to get out my feelings on paper, but I also write my goals and my mission because I feel like once it’s on paper, now it has to happen. It’s a little bit clearer once it’s in words rather than just in my head.
SW: All right, Zoe. What’s one thing that you can tell us that nobody might know about you?
ZH:My guilty pleasure is watching Family Guy. That’s the perfect way to me to wind down after the gym. That’s what I watch. A lot of people look at me funny because, I don’t know, they don’t expect it, but adult cartoons, that’s really where my guilty pleasure is.
SW: You know what? I’m so glad you said that because I would have never picked Family Guy for you.
I think that it makes sense that you’re saying most people wouldn’t get that because you are definitely someone that focuses on continuous improvement. I was reading your point, “But acknowledge every fear and accomplishment on the way.” Is that like, “Enjoy where you are, but also always have something to look forward to.”
ZH: Yeah. That’s basically it because, for me in the past, I would accomplish a goal let’s just say in the gym, I’d PR, I would completely be like, “Okay, that’s great. On to the next thing.” But I think it’s important to look at that and be like, “Wow. I really worked hard to get there. Proud of myself, but now I want to do this,” because, I don’t know, I think you get lost in the journey when you don’t appreciate every step. Then you start to get hard on yourself for certain things when you’re not putting everything in perspective.
SW: I call it milk it. Milk the moment. You know? Milk it, because so many people will say, “Oh yeah, we finally,” even in business, “I got that deal. I got that writing assignment. I accomplished this. I’ve always wanted to do 20 pushups,” and then they just go right off to the next thing.
SW: I’m like, “Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Let’s do a happy dance here or something.” Celebrate it, celebrate it, and then move on to the next. You and I would get along very well. I can’t wait until the gyms open up.
ZH:Yes. I’m very excited.
SW: How often do you work out a week? Is it every day?
ZH: It’s basically six times a week. Six times. For about 90 minutes to two hours.
SW: Well, we’re calling dedication here, Zoe. Are you a bodybuilder?
ZH: Aspiring, yeah. I wanted to compete this year in a bodybuilding competition, but even if I do it in the winter, if that’s even possible, I don’t think I would be ready. I think I’m going to push it off until next summer, but I definitely want to compete.
SW: There’s a lot of different types, would it be a Miss Fit competition or a bodybuilding competition?
ZH: It would be like a WBFF for bodybuilding.
SW: Yeah. I’ve gone to them with friends and I had to spray them down with an oil so that their muscles would shine. It was so cool. You know what? When people would say, “Oh, those people are so vain.” I’m like, “No they’re not. They’re so dedicated.” I really appreciated the mental toughness and discipline to get that. You know what I mean? People can be vain in any profession, but I don’t know about you, but when I meet people that have done that much with their body, it’s almost like, “Wow. The body really is limitless.” Right?
ZH: Yeah. It’s amazing It’s like a whole science. Looking back from where I started, and I know a lot of people who are into fitness can do the same comparison, but it’s amazing how the body can change and how just the change of your attitude and your mind can really alter your outcome.
SW: Yeah. Yeah. All right. Here we go. When you say your body is your best friend, is that because you take it everywhere with you? If your body feels good, you feel good?
ZH: Well, I say that to say that it’s your best friend so you should treat it with care. It’s the one thing that is always with you. You are your body so there’s no reason not to eat right, not to go for a short run. Whatever makes your body feel good, I think you should do.
SW: If you were going to think of a word that you want to describe you moving forward in the next few months, what would the word be? Hopefully not stagnant.
ZH:No, definitely the opposite of that. Progressive. I want to make great strides in the next six to 12 months. I definitely want change. I’ve been dying for change. I want newness, a new slate, so definitely progressive.
SW: Well, Zoe, this has been refreshing. You’ve been motivating me more to lift. Is there anything we didn’t get in that you want to say to the world, Zoe?
ZH:I just want to say just continue to push on. Whatever your goals are, write them down and chase after them because they’re possible. We have more than enough time right now to focus on them.
SW: That’s true. That’s true. If somebody wanted to reach you, how would they reach you on social media?
ZH: I have an Instagram account, which I’m currently turning over to not just personal, but completely fitness related content @zozofit
Zoe, have fun. I don’t know if I’m going to be doing the thousand situps, but you made me think about, I should have a fun little goal.
THIS INTERVIEW IS A COLLABORATION BETWEEN SANDY JOY WESTON and THE FLORENCE BELSKY CHARITABLE FOUNDATION.
SANDY JOY WESTON
Founder of Weston Fitness & SJW Productions
Author of Train Your Head & Your Body Will Follow & My 30-Day Reset Journal
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