Self-Care & Mental Wellness: Batista Gremaud Of Dr Fitness International On The Top Five Selfcare Practices That Improve Mental Wellness

An Interview With Maria Angelova


Forgive and Forget

Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die!

Forgiveness is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you!

Let’s face it. It seems that everyone is under a great deal of stress these days. This takes a toll on our mental wellness. What are some of the best self-care practices that we can use to help improve our mental wellness and mental wellbeing? In this interview series, we are talking to medical doctors, mental health professionals, health and wellness professionals, and experts about self-care or mental health who can share insights from their experience about How Each Of Us Can Use Self Care To Improve Our Mental Wellness. As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Batista Gremaud.

Batista Gremaud is the co-founder and CEO of Dr Fitness International, @, the number one best-selling author of Feminine Body Design, Empowering Fitness For A Pain-Free Life, and the host of Dr Fitness USA’s show. In addition, she is a weekly column in the Health section of the Heart of Hollywood Magazine.

Thank you so much for doing this interview with us. It is a great honor. Our readers would love to learn more about you and your personal background. Can you please share your personal story? What has brought you to this point in your life?

I am a former professional ballet and flamenco dancer. Unfortunately, like many dancers, I suffered multiple injuries, which became chronic over the years. I had sciatica, a frozen shoulder, a torn calf muscle, knee pain, and Achilles tendinitis. I was also gaining weight uncontrollably regardless of my dietary restrictions. I had resigned myself to accepting pain as a permanent condition as I had tried everything to get relief, physical therapy, chiropractic, acupuncture, massages, and hypnosis. Finally, I faced the end of a successful dance career and the daunting vision of old age knocking prematurely.

I was a successful woman business owner and thriving professionally, but I was physically, emotionally, and mentally bankrupt. Yet, my inner warrior compelled me to go on regardless of how injured or defeated I felt.

At that time, I met International Body Designer Stephen Hercy, a body transformation mentor, ergonomic expert, and postural alignment specialist globally known as Dr Fitness USA.

Stephen’s distinctive philosophy, especially his Yin Yang’s and Carl Jung’s approach to strength training, intrigued me.

“My system, he explained, provides ergonomic platforms supporting redesigning and reshaping the body from the inside out, once thought impossible, while reinforcing proper spinal alignment. As a result of altering your anatomy, one day, you will, without even thinking about it, stand tall, empowered, and pain-free, and will have transformed not only your physique but also your entire life.”

While bodybuilding never entered my consciousness as an answer for healing my injuries, the holistic approach introduced gave me a glimpse of hope.

I hired him.

During the first 20 minutes of the first training session, I was leg pressing over 350 lbs. easily, with no discomfort whatsoever, and regardless of my frozen shoulder, I could chest press 25 lbs. Dumbbells without pain!

Within a few weeks, my injuries started to heal, and within a few months, I became pain-free; my weight stabilized; I got my body and life back.

I was fascinated and wanted to know why and how this seemingly miraculous recovery was possible through the Dr Fitness USA method. So I spent the next several years studying and becoming a prolific researcher in exercise and strength training protocols.

Through the process of working so closely together, we fell madly in love and married. Soon after that, we co-founded the Dr Fitness International Company.

What is your “WHY” behind what you do? What fuels you?

I suffered significant losses in my life.

Had I known what I know now, I could have avoided a lot of unnecessary pain. Loss and suffering can be tough to overcome, but finding resilience within ourselves can give us the strength to carry on.

Today I am enjoying a beautiful life free of pain because of this resilience. What I have learned along the way makes me want to help others facing similar challenges. By sharing my own experiences and offering support and tools to overcome them, I can help others to find their resilience and hope. So I walk the talk and lead by example.

Sometimes our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about a mistake or failure which you now appreciate has taught you a valuable lesson?

I had a very successful dance studio. Tragically, it caught on fire and burned to the ground, where I lost everything. I didn’t have insurance and had to rebuild my entire business from scratch. It taught me to prepare for the unthinkable and not to take anything for granted by not having proper insurance when running a business.

You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

I am a visionary: I see the bigger picture and focus on the target. However, the more we think we know, the more we realize that we don’t know anything. So I stay flexible to adjust my vision and expand as I progress through life. I’ve had to rebuild my life from scratch several times. For example, when my dance studio caught on fire, I needed to figure out what to do next. I knew intuitively that I needed to do something different. A series of circumstances led me to start an arts education program, which became a successful and fulfilling endeavor.

Similarly, later in life, when my injuries got the best of me, and I faced the end of my dancing career, I embraced Dr Fitness USA’s system even though it was scary. My willingness to learn and flexibility of perspective led me to acquire a new body and life, becoming a number 1 best-selling author and an expert in a field I knew very little about before that.

I also got a fantastic husband, whom I adore!

I don’t believe anything happens by mistake: My philosophy is that we are all a work in progress, and there is no such thing as a mistake, even though we might not understand the reason right away. There are no problems, only solutions, and it’s up to me to find them, which is not always easy;

For example, I had a heartbreaking upbringing! Why me? My upbringing and my pain led me to a lifelong quest for answers. Today I am who I am because of that, and it’s only the beginning. There is so much more to achieve!

Similarly, later in life, when my injuries got the best of me, and I faced the end of my dancing career, I embraced Dr Fitness USA’s system even though it was scary. My willingness to learn and flexibility of perspective led me to acquire a new body and life, becoming a number 1 best-selling author and an expert in a field of exercise that I knew very little about before.

And the best of all, I got a husband whom I adore.

I love to learn: I research and seek to understand. But I’ve discovered early on in life that the best way to learn something is to teach it. So, for example, when I was ten, I started instructing younger kids’ dance classes at my mother’s dance academy.

Similarly, when I met Stephen, I wanted to know everything there was to know about his method. So first, I became a personal trainer at the famous mecca of bodybuilding, Gold’s Gym, Venice, California. I wanted to understand the difference between personal training and what he did. Then, I started teaching his clients, developing the programs myself, and comparing them with his approach. Since the beginning, I have researched and read extensively about the topic. Because of that, I am a recognized leader in the field of strength training and body design.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting new projects you are working on now? How do you think that will help people?

The Dr Fitness USA’ show is in pre-production and scheduled to launch in January 2023. It aims to raise awareness about the anti-aging benefits of strength training for mental, emotional, and physical health. Our motto is: Exercise is Medicine — Strength Training is Stronger Medicine.

One of our guest speakers, a medical doctor in geriatric, closed our interview by saying:

“Unfortunately, our society lacks physical literacy. Our vision of exercise is simplified; we must interface it with medicine. How can we bridge the gap between fitness and medical professionals?”

To this intent, we are interviewing outstanding individuals from all walks of life who incorporate strength training as a personal and professional success strategy.

Our guests consist of three categories.

  • Doctors, scientists, neuroscientists, and researchers who have the data that sustains the benefit claims.
  • Those who have overcome tragedies and disabilities.
  • Business leaders, entrepreneurs, and corporate leaders who understand that health is wealth, our greatest asset, and who lead by example.

There are plenty of misconceptions about the sport. However, the stories of the people in our show educate and inspire while eradicating excuses by providing practical tools for change. Bringing these outstanding experts together is an enriching experience.

I am also working on completing my next book: “Stronger Than Medicine, Missing Links To Fitness Consciousness.” The book is based on my personal story about mental health and the tools and philosophy I’ve acquired along the way. It unveils the secret to upgrading our human potential with strength training, a holistic approach to transforming our life through bodybuilding.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview, about the interface between self-care and mental health. From where you stand personally or professionally, why are you so passionate about mental wellbeing?

I grew up on a farm in Switzerland; we ate fresh vegetables from our garden. Milk and eggs came directly from the farm. The chickens ran freely around the property, and the cows ate green grass from the land around the farm. We did not eat GMO or artificial ingredients.

My mother was a ballet dancer, and my father a mime. We were all physically active. It would have been the most idealistic upbringing anyone could dream of having.

However, my family was plagued with mental illnesses, which became heartbreaking over time.

I was 16 when my sister was diagnosed with schizophrenia; she was 20. Unfortunately, she passed away a couple of years ago after spending her entire life in a mental institution.

My brother has been mentally challenged since birth and is still institutionalized.

My parent also suffered mental incidents during my upbringing.

I left home at 18 to travel worldwide as a flamenco dancer to escape my fate and avoid drowning in my sorrows.

When I reached my thirties, my inner turmoil became unbearable. So I started researching ways to help protect myself and maintain my mental sanity to avoid ending up like my family. I searched high and low, far and near, through various spiritual practices and modalities. Then, one day I was in a meditation class. The topic was body, mind, and spirit integration.

I reflected on my upbringing with all the mental illness challenges my family endured, then I reflected on my physical challenges with my injuries. I looked around the room, and I witnessed a lot of suffering. I saw that I was far from being alone in that struggle of integrating the body into the mind and spirit equation. I had a brilliant moment of clarity. I realized I was missing a piece of the puzzle to answer my physical pain and mental anguish. I made an inner commitment to finding that piece missing. The next day, I met Stephen Hercy, AKA Dr Fitness USA.

Mental, emotional, and physical health is all connected. I found my answers with strength training.

At 62 years young, I am more robust physically, mentally, and emotionally than ever before. I leg press 650lbs, which makes the boys cry at the gym! I am injury free and mentally well-adjusted.

Based on your research or experience, how exactly does self-care impact our mental wellness?

Generally speaking, there are countless benefits of self-care for mental health. However, I will specifically talk about the benefits of strength training since it is my passion and a less widespread subject.

Strength training fertilizes the brain.

Research shows that contracting skeletal muscles through strength training:

  • Releases oxygen to the brain.
  • Enhances neural tissue recovery.
  • Stimulate cellular growth that supports cognitive and mental functions.

Strength training produces hundreds of myokines throughout the entire body; one of them is called a brain-drive neurotropic factor, which is like a fertilizer to the brain.

Strength training strengthens the nervous system.

Another study found that before we see any physical improvements from strength training, our nervous system is already getting more robust as the neural input to the muscles increases (brain-muscle connection).

The neural pathways from the spinal cord to the brain become stronger, typically associated with maintaining posture. Incredibly, a few months of weight training strengthens the nervous system, which controls every aspect of the body, physical, emotional, and mental.

Strength training halts and repairs brain degeneration.

Strength training helps improve brain synapses and create new neurons.

This is because when you strength train, you are causing micro-tears in your muscle fibers. For these tears to repair themselves, your body must create new proteins. Making new proteins requires the help of new brain cells or neurons. Therefore, strength training not only improves existing brain cells but also helps to create new ones.

A well-functioning brain keeps electrical signals moving smoothly through synapses from neuron to neuron and to other cells in the body. This requires the brain to constantly replace worn-out proteins in those synapses while ensuring they are correctly balanced and regulated.

A study published by the Karger Journal of Gerontology found that six months of lifting weights protects brain areas especially vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease up to one year after the fact. Professor Valenzuela from the Sydney Medical School in the Faculty of Medicine and Health says:

“It is the first time any medical or lifestyle intervention has slowed and even halted degeneration in brain areas particularly vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease over such a long time. The message is clear: Resistance exercise must become a standard part of dementia risk-reduction strategies.”

Here is our primary question. Can you please share your “Top Five Self Care Practices That Each Of Us Can Use To Improve Our Mental Wellness”?

1. Strong Body — Strong Mind

Aside from all the research above, strength training is good for mental health because it improves mood and cognitive function, reduces stress and anxiety, and helps to promote better sleep. Furthermore, a healthy gym environment, where people are being proactive about their health, creates a sense of community and belonging, which helps improve mental wellbeing.

2. Clean Eating — Clear Thinking

Did you know that the gut is often called the second gut? The gut is home to trillions of bacteria, which benefit our health. This community of microbes is essential for digestion, immune function, and more. Studies have shown that gut microbiota influences the brain’s activity and that a healthy gut promotes better mental health. A diet rich in fermented foods, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables promotes a healthy gut. Conversely, a diet high in processed foods, sugar, and unhealthy fats can dysregulate the gut microbiota and lead to inflammation.

Inflammation is a risk factor for many mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression. Therefore, eating a clean diet that promotes gut health may help to reduce the risk of developing mental health problems.

An underestimated factor is that muscles need protein to be healthy. Skeletal muscles provide all organs of the body with the necessary amino acids to regenerate and repair. Therefore, eating enough high-quality protein is a must to restore and repair all tissues and organs.

3. Sleep — Rest — Recovery

There are several reasons why getting more sleep improves mental health. It can help reduce stress, stabilize mood behavior, and enhance cognitive function and judgment. On the other hand, sleep deprivation can cause or worsen anxiety, depression, and psychosis.

Meditation can also be a form of recovery and help to clear your mind, focus your thoughts, and calm your emotions.

The body rests and rejuvenates while the mind relaxes and reflects. This is a time for the body and mind to heal and prepare for the next day.

4. Breath Fresh Air — Get Outdoors

  • Fresh air improves focus and concentration,
  • Boost energy levels.
  • Being in nature reduces stress and anxiety levels and provides a sense of calm and relaxation.
  • Time outdoors enhances sleep quality and quantity.
  • Exposure to natural light helps to improve mood and regulate the body’s natural circadian rhythms.
  • Finally, being in nature can also help increase physical activity levels, further promoting mental well-being.

5. Forgive and Forget

Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die!

Forgiveness is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you!

The act of forgiveness has positive effects on mental health. It relieves stress, anxiety, and depression while improving relationships and overall well-being.

It is often hard to forgive others, but self-forgiveness is frequently the hardest. We all make mistakes; we’re only human, after all. And forgiving ourselves for our mistakes is essential to moving on from them and keeping a clear mind. If we don’t, we’ll only keep dwelling on what we did wrong, making it harder for us to move on. So forgive yourself, learn from your mistakes and move on.

  • Understand why you need to forgive yourself.
  • Acknowledge the hurt you feel.
  • Choose to forgive yourself.
  • Let go of the resentment and bitterness.
  • Commit to moving forward.
  • Practice self-compassion.
  • Create a forgiveness ritual.
  • Seek professional help if needed.

Forgiveness is a choice we make, sometimes daily, and it is not always easy. However, the benefits of forgiveness are worth the effort.

Can you please share a few of the main roadblocks that prevent people from making better self-care choices? What would you suggest can be done to overcome those roadblocks?

Some of the most common roadblocks to better self-care include:

Lack of time: Many people juggle work, family, and other obligations, so they think they have no time for self-care. Often they are in busyville, going nowhere and wasting time spinning their wheels. This is because they live in their heads and lack grounding. They are disconnected from the center of their being.

You cannot pour from an empty cup, and being healthier and stronger makes you more efficient and saves you time in the long run.

Sometimes people think it’s all or nothing, but significant changes come from small, consistent positive action steps. For example, commit to adding one to three 30-minute strength -training sessions per week and witness your mood and energy level change.

2. Lack of resources: Often, people think of self-care as expensive. However, taking a walk is free, getting an hour more sleep a night is free, shutting down electronics an hour before bedtime is free, and nowadays, eating healthier food does not have to break the bank either. In addition, many gyms offer affordable monthly memberships; if you don’t like the gym, a set of workout bands is very reasonable.

So when people say they can’t afford it, my eyebrows raise because, generally speaking, people do spend money on what they want. It’s just a matter of priorities. I suggest prioritizing self-care over Starbucks,

because eventually, you will pay the price in medical bills. Losing your health will cost a lot more, potentially your life.

3. Lack of motivation:

When people say they are not motivated, their body has deteriorated to the point where emotional issues overpower and sap their physical strength. When a person’s strength drops below 50%, their nervous system becomes over-inundated with stress, and for some people, this weakness or lack of strength cancels out the thought of exercise.

So when they increase their physical strength with strength training, it overrides their nervous system, making them feel successful. The positive feelings produced by this success override the emotional inertia and reawaken archetypal images of strength that lie dormant in the unconscious mind. Increased physical strength leads to motivation that results from the reawakening of self-esteem.

While making self-care a priority can be challenging, it’s important to remember that taking care of oneself is not selfish. On the contrary, it leads to a happier, healthier life and benefits everyone around you.

In one sentence, what would you say to someone who doesn’t prioritize their mental wellbeing?

Those who think they have no time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.” Earl Of Derby

Thank you for all that great insight! Let’s start wrapping up. Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does this quote resonate with you so much?

“Whether You Think You Can, or Think You Can’t… You’re Right”

Henry Ford

Either way, we create what we believe. But it’s hard to keep a positive mindset when everything goes wrong and stress and pressure overtake you. This is why I love the approach of strengthening the nervous system with strength training first because it overrides the nervous system and enables a person to stay more grounded and positive as a result.

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? They might just see this, especially if we both tag them :-)

Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder.

At 57 Jeff Bezos chose to improve his health and appearance by embracing strength training and a healthier lifestyle. The world needs more such leaders. I would love to have him as a guest on our Dr Fitness USA show.

I truly appreciate your time and valuable contribution. One last question. How can our readers best reach or follow you?

Through our website

And social media sites @DrFitnessUSA

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.

About The Interviewer: Maria Angelova, MBA is a disruptor, author, motivational speaker, body-mind expert, Pilates teacher and founder and CEO of Rebellious Intl. As a disruptor, Maria is on a mission to change the face of the wellness industry by shifting the self-care mindset for consumers and providers alike. As a mind-body coach, Maria’s superpower is alignment which helps clients create a strong body and a calm mind so they can live a life of freedom, happiness and fulfillment. Prior to founding Rebellious Intl, Maria was a Finance Director and a professional with 17+ years of progressive corporate experience in the Telecommunications, Finance, and Insurance industries. Born in Bulgaria, Maria moved to the United States in 1992. She graduated summa cum laude from both Georgia State University (MBA, Finance) and the University of Georgia (BBA, Finance). Maria’s favorite job is being a mom. Maria enjoys learning, coaching, creating authentic connections, working out, Latin dancing, traveling, and spending time with her tribe. To contact Maria, email her at To schedule a free consultation, click here.



Maria Angelova, CEO of Rebellious Intl.
Authority Magazine

Maria Angelova, MBA is a disruptor, author, motivational speaker, body-mind expert, Pilates teacher and founder and CEO of Rebellious Intl.