Dietitian Leslie Urbas: Getting An Upgrade; How Anyone Can Build Habits For Optimal Wellness, Performance, & Focus
Positive thinking and self-talk 5–10 times a day in the mirror. Every single day I look in the mirror and look myself in the eye telling myself positive things. “You are pretty Leslie. You are in amazing shape. You have reached your business goals. You are ….” The list goes on and on.
As a part of our series about “How Anyone Can Build Habits For Optimal Wellness, Performance, & Focus”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Leslie Urbas.
Leslie Urbas is a Registered Dietitian and Personal Trainer. She is originally from St. Louis Missouri where she received her Bachelors in Nutrition and Dietetics from Fontbonne University. After her Bachelors, she finished her internship at St. Louis University majoring in Sports Nutrition. Immediately after college, she joined the United States Navy as a Dietitian. She served 3 years active duty and 6 years in the Reserves. During her time in the Navy, she received her Master’s in Science and Nutrition from the University of North Florida. She now runs her own company called Fit and Fabulous Family Nutrition, specializing in helping bad ass, powerhouse women and their families effectively lose weight, eat healthy, eat on meal plan for the entire family, and make it sustainable for life.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
Of Course! I was born in St. Louis Missouri. I was raised by my dad Neil Fiala, a baseball coach and former professional baseball player, and my mother Kim Fiala, a reservationist for an airline and a high school office director. I have two sisters, one who is in Heaven and another is a school counselor in Fort Myers, Florida I grew up loving all sports. My sisters and I were very active and very competitive growing up. We participated in every sport imaginable. During high school, I took my activity to a new level. At the age of 16, I decided to start working out every morning. I would wake up at 5am and workout before I went to school. I have been working out every day between the hours of 3–6am since that age. I loved all forms of working out, and I had a passion for making a workout video myself. Due to this love of exercise, I had a lot of questions about nutrition and fitness, so I decided to go to college for nutrition to allow me to tie all my passions together. During college, I knew I wanted to help the people where nutrition and fitness mattered the most, so I became a dietitian in the Navy. I would say the major reason I am so into nutrition and fitness is due to my parents who always kept us active and provided us with well-rounded family meals.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
I would say three people helped me choose this career path. First of all my mother. My mother and I did a ton of various workout videos at home. This began my passion for fitness and love of fitness videos. Second of all my sister Lori. She was very competitive and very much into sports. She was also going to go to Fontbonne, my alma matter, for nutrition, but chose another path. Without her, I am not sure I would have even thought to go that route. Lastly, I would say myself. Seems weird to include me, however I am the most determined person I know. Nothing will derail my vision. I have been called fat, a slow runner, and someone who would never achieve her ultimate dreams. When someone says that to me, I ultimately have to prove them wrong.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
I would say the person who encouraged me to be I am today has always been my mom. From a young age she could see I was destined to shine. When I was 5 years old my family and I were climbing the Rocky Mountains in Colorado I was so bored. I was complaining to my mom for the first 15 minutes. So she sent me to the front of the group of 10 of us climbing to be with my dad. When I got to the front, I started running up the mountain. My dad kept thinking “Oh gosh, she is going to fall and I am going to have to go down after her.” Well, I did not fall and I made it to the top with my dad first. I was so ecstatic! I have never been one to just follow the pack or follow the rules. I create my way even if it is a zig zag. My mother saw that in me and to this day she encourages me to achieve my dreams.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
Funniest mistake. I never knew that you had to do an internship in nutrition to be a dietitian. I was 3 years into the degree when I found that out. I was super angry that I had to do another year, but I knew this is where I wanted to be so I sucked it up.
The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?
When someone tells you “You can’t” prove them wrong and send them a picture with the caption … next time give me a bigger challenge.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
“Creating Money Attracting Abundance” By Sanay Roman. This book changed my small-minded view of the universe. It helped me to see that anything you want is out there and will come to you in abundance. The mediations, the activities, and the questions the book provides for you will change the way you see the world.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
“Do not sweat the small stuff. Remember everything is small stuff.” Just when you think that you cannot go any further or the world can’t give you anything worse, it eases up and then that BIG thing that was holding you back was actually really just small stuff.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
Currently I am working on developing a personalized program for women who are looking to lose weight and keep it off. We do so through mediations, diet changes with no diet plan, exercise, and a lifestyle change that is fit for the whole family. Every diet out there wants you to change your life for a diet, or change how your family eats, or worse, makes you make a separate meal for yourself and a meal for your family. I plan to change that. Every family out there deserves to eat well on one diet fit for their family. Diets are not mainstream, they are very personal. Every woman out there deserves to look in the mirror and love how she looks. Every family out there deserves peace of mind they are eating as healthy as they need to live a long, healthy life.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. This will be intuitive to you but it will be helpful to spell this out directly. Can you help explain a few reasons why it is so important to create good habits? Can you share a story or give some examples?
Habits are the basis of a strong person. Let’s look at someone like Tom Brady. He has achieved such high accolades. He has won five Superbowls in his career. He did not get there by accident. Tom has a ton of habits and routines. If you look at his life, he is dedicated to healthy eating, working out, sleep, and self-care. He did not start these habits when he began his NFL career. NOPE! He started young.
The sooner we develop habits, the sooner we will arrive at our success. Personally, for me, habits provide you the structure, the momentum, and the strength to achieve your goals.
Habits, such as working out daily for 30 minutes, take time to develop. They take planning. They take dedication, but once you start working out and make it a part of your day, it becomes a habit. Then the habit sticks. When you skip the workout you feel off, less happy, and unfulfilled, so now you decide not to ever skip the exercise. The healthy habit produces positive results. The positive results give you the body you want, the health you want, and the ability to show up as your bad ass self daily.
Each habit we develop will help us build to the next level.
How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?
Along my journey I have realized that without habits that are positive and uplifting, I would give up immediately. Literally, if you walk around saying, “I want to lose weight,” and all you do is look in the mirror and tell yourself, “Gosh you are fat, ugly, and will never meet someone who will love you for you,” you are right.. You have to be positive and have a positive mind to achieve your goals.
Here are some habits that I have developed to be a total bad ass healthy woman:
1) Positive thinking and self-talk 5–10 times a day in the mirror. Every single day I look in the mirror and look myself in the eye telling myself positive things. “You are pretty Leslie. You are in amazing shape. You have reached your business goals. You are ….” The list goes on and on.
2) Meditation, guided and alone, to change your subconscious mind. Once or twice a day I take 10–20 minutes to listen to a guided mediation. I focus on the thing I need most that day, whether it is expanding my mind to believe in abundance, listening to a positive mind mediation, or listening to a gratitude mediation. Some days, unfortunately, I do get too busy and have to miss my meditation time, and on those days I find my mindset really suffers.
3) Healthy eating habits that remove the labels of “good food” and “bad food.” As soon as you say “I cannot eat ice cream, it is bad for me” everywhere you look there is ice cream, an ad for ice cream, the ice cream truck, etc. Whatever it might be that you label as “bad food” is causing you to continue to struggle with eating healthy. Food is food. Some has more health benefits than others, but all food does one thing: provide our bodies with calories so we can sustain life. The end. There are no foods that are “bad foods.”
4) Self-care like massages, time alone, coffee on the beach, looking at beautiful sunrise. Spending at least 10 minutes a day to provide yourself with care is important. I am sure we have all heard we cannot fill others cups up if ours is empty. As a mom, one of the most important things I have learned is I need that workout, that coffee, that book alone for at least 10 minutes a day. It allows me to come back and give my all. This applies to being a parent, a business owner, etc.
5) Setting goals and reviewing them daily to obtain your ultimate fit life. We all set work goals, school goals, and life goals, but what about health goals? What about exercise goals? We need to set these goals and, just like our work and school goals, we need to review and change them and grow to a new level with them.
6) Exercise daily. As I stated before, I exercise every single day before the sun rises. I have not missed a day (unless I was injured or recovering from having a baby). It is a non-negotiable. This fuels you. It energizes you. Without exercise we are only kidding ourselves that we are “healthy.”
7) Nutrition crafted for you. We have all heard the mainstream diets, right? Things like Keto, Intermittent Fasting, Weight Watchers, Noom, and the list goes on, but for those high scaling people like Tony Robbins, Tom Brady, Albert Pujols, a mainstream diet would never suffice. Why? Because nutrition is specific for you. You need a diet made for you. One that takes into consideration your family history, your health and fitness goals, your family, your job, your whole life. Nutrition is specific to you. You should never conform to a mainstream diet to get results. You are the best of the best right? So why would you every follow something designed for everyone. You need something 100% catered to you if you want to continue to be the bad ass you are.
Speaking in general, what is the best way to develop good habits? Conversely, how can one stop bad habits?
Repetition. Literally set an alarm on your phone for every 2 hours when you are awake and when it goes off perform one of the habits written above. You will then be conditioned to keep yourself in a positive state throughout your entire day.
Affirmations. At that two-hour alarm, also tell yourself three positive things you love about who you are and who you are becoming. You will feel so much better.
Get a coach. Let’s face it the people at the top of their fields like Tony Robbins and Tom Brady got there from help. They have coaches for every aspect of their life. You can continue to say, “I will just do it on my own,” but we all know the best results come with help.
Let’s talk about creating good habits in three areas, Wellness, Performance, and Focus. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum wellness. Please share a story or example for each.
- Ditching the lie that there are good and bad foods. So many of us live a life of “I will eat that and not this,” but where lies the fun? I mean, do you want to live with guilt for days because you ate ice cream? Do you want to skip out on the family fun because you feel like eating those hot dogs will destroy your diet? All of that is just some mainstream way of trying to get us to conform to something we were never designed to do. The best way to lose weight and live healthy is to ditch the diet and learn how to eat for life. And not just life but your life. It depends on you knowing you are doing the best for you.
- Working with the best of the best. Dietitians are nutrition professionals who know how to cater a diet to you. When you decide you want to be promoted or make more money, you do not get help from the janitor. You go straight to the President of the company and say, “I want to one day have your job.” You learn from the best of the best to get the greatest results. So, when you want to perform better, focus better, and have a better life you want to find the best of the best. Dietitians like myself are designed to help you do that.
- Plan it out. Know what you are eating that week. Know when you are going to have to dine out. Know what you are going to order at the restaurant . Know when you are going to work out. Know your game plan for eating and exercise. If you do not know how to get started, go back to number 2 and make sure you have someone who is the best of the best to get you there.
Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?
To learn how to ditch the labeling of good and bad foods, follow dietitians on Instagram, Facebook, etc. who are preaching these diets. Read books about healthy eating. Take nutrition classes. Better yet, do this while working with the best of the best. Dietitians are the cream of the crop and they will not lead you down a road you do not need to go. Lastly, take the time to plan out your week. Set a date with yourself for when you will eat, what you will eat, when you will work out, and what that workout looks like. The more specific the better.
Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal performance at work or sport? Please share a story or example for each.
- Visualize and day dream daily. Spend 10–15 minutes a day or more imagining you are where you want to be in detailed amounts. I have a vision of when I make 30k a month that my husband and I will take this 7-day trip to St. Lucia and literally do everything we want. A hundred-dollar bottle of wine? No Problem! Sky diving into the ocean? No problem! Then we will come home and take the kids and my parents on a week-long vacation to the West Coast. I want to take my kids and husband into the Grand Canyon, Four Corners, and so much more. I can see the hotels. I can see the water. I can see the car. I can see the smiles. I can taste the drinks, the food. I can laugh out loud. The more in depth and in detail I can imagine it the more it will happen.
- Develop a skill that is not related to your work or sport. Research done by Brendon Burchard shows that if you actually develop a skill unrelated to your work it will help you perform better in your main tasks. Learn how to play the guitar. Take a painting class. Learn a new sport.
- Let go of the previous tasks. Imagine that on your way to work you get stuck in a 30-minute traffic jam. You are heated, you are mad. You go into work and scream at your boss. What happens next? Probably not something good, right? So, learn how you best let go of the bad. For me, I jam to a loud song on the radio in the car or at my house. I also count backwards from 10, taking deep breathes before I start a new task. The jamming out to music sets my brain at ease and the deep breathing allows me to relax before I head to the next item on the list of things to do.
Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?
To begin to perform these habits start small. Start daydreaming with music on in the background for 5 minutes a day and increase until you get to 15–20 minutes. Plan out everything you want in detail. Write it down. Read it daily. Reread it daily. Whatever it takes. Start trying new things you have never tried before. When you find one you like, take a class and learn it until you are fulfilled and then find a new one. Lastly, scroll through your favorite songs and find some that totally clear your mind and set you up for success.
Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal focus? Please share a story or example for each.
- Plan every minute of every day. At 16 years old, when I decided I wanted to work out in the morning every single day, I knew I would need enough sleep, enough time to do homework, and enough time to have fun. If you looked at my planner back then you would see something like:
0430 Wake up and prepare for the day
0700–0745 Pick up carpool and get to school
1500–1600 Drive carpool home and get home
1600–1630 Math homework
1630–1700 English homework
1700–1800 History homework
1800–1900 Eat dinner and spend time with mom and dad
1900–1930 Study whatever is left
1930–2000 TV with mom
2000–2100 Prep for tomorrow make lunch, get workout stuff ready
Today my planner looks very much the same. I plan time with my family. I plan time with my friends. I plan to the exact minute so I am never at a loss what to do. I also plan so when I am just watching that TV show with my husband there is 0 guilt. It is what I am choosing to do and I do not have to think about anything else.
2. Retrain your brain. Focus comes through meditation. Learn to focus on your breathing. Take the time to be able to tune out all other things around you. At the moment when the kids are screaming, the trash has to go out, your work is calling you, and the world is falling down, you can count your breaths and control it. In for 5 seconds and out for 5 seconds. This will allow you to control your focus, come back to your center, and refocus your energy.
3. Actively listen. Every single day. If you can learn to actively listen to someone and live in that moment, you will develop the skill of always being able to focus on the task at hand. It is like in the movie “For the Love of the Game” when Kevin Costner says “crowd off” and it is like the stadium is silent. Learning to actively listen will allow you to tune out all the other stuff in the background.
Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?
How to learn to practice these:
- Buy a planner so that you can plan every day to the hour. Plan your week ahead. Take 60–90 minutes every Sunday to plan and review your goals.
- Mediate daily. Start small with guided mediation and then get to where you can meditate alone just focusing on your breath. Try to get up to 10–30 minute increment.
- Spend at least 20 minutes a day actively listening to someone talk about something. positive, something that motivates you, something that brings you up Then increase to 40, 60, 80 … and so on every single day until you can actually always listen to what someone else is saying. I even plan out TV time with my husband, so I can enjoy watching our favorite show with zero guilt.
As a leader, you likely experience times when you are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a state of Flow more often in our lives?
Try new things often. We all have those “I really want to try….” moments, but we never pursue them. I mean it’s crazy. When we were little and we told our mom or dad we wanted to try golfing or dancing or bike riding or whatever it may was, we tried and sometimes it was right and sometimes it was wrong; however the older we get, when we have the thought to do something new, we talk ourselves out it. But what if that thing we never try is the thing that provides us the most flow? In my experience, everything I have always wanted to do turns out to be the best thing I ever did. I truly believe the Universe puts these ideas into our head because these new experiences will provide us with the most flow.
Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Drop the food guilt. My movement would be all about removing the labels from foods that call certain foods good and bad. The labels would read the truth. No claims. No BS. Just straight nutrition facts and ingredients. Based on science this is how a product will affect or benefit you. No nonsense. Just the truth so people actually know what they are eating. I would also force supplements to do the same. All claims would be science based and not just mainstream diet. .
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them :-)
If I could have a private lunch with Tony Robbins, I would probably lose my mind. Just to get 10–20 minutes directly learning from him would change my life.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Leslie Urbas MS RDN LDN CDE Personal Trainer
Fit and Fab Nutrition
Leslie Fiala Urbas — FB
Join my Facebook Group: Women Who Eat and Lose Weight
@FitFabFamNutrition — Instagram
Leslie Urbas — you tube https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCTV3lTNHRk1hNhOsp7XQdFw
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.