Can you tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Dawn Marie O’Brien. I am the president/founder of “Dawn’s Heartfelt Corner.” I am a fitness model/model that brings encouragement to others. In 2000, I was in a very dangerous car crash and almost died. A drunk driver hit me and almost killed me. I had to have brain surgery on the right side of my brain because I was hemorrhaging real badly. The doctors shaved the whole right side of my hair and told my husband that I may not live. They said if I did I would remember nothing but I can remember everything from my past. There is no trace of amnesia! It’s a miracle I am alive. Go on my website and read my whole testimony. I keep very busy with my non-profit organization and I have over 25 books soon to be published. You may go on my website and check it out at DawnsHeartFeltCorner.org
God has been very gracious to me. I cook, clean, exercise and I walk 4-8 miles weekly doing errands. I share what has happened to me on TV, Radio and Magazines. I have spoken for MADD, SADD, the Safety Council of Central Florida and Others. Maybe you would like to feature me in your fitness, health, fashion magazine, website or have me come and speak. I want models to know that God loves them no matter what they look like. They maybe fat, thin, blonde, brunette, black, white, blue eyes or brown eyes. It does not matter because it is the beauty of a person’s heart and character that makes up a person. Our bodies will all fade as we age and get older. I have been through a lot of hardships and mishaps in my daily life and our value does not come from man’s approval but from God. For God said in His word he will never leave you nor forsake you. The world may walk out on you but God never does. They may judge you and form their own opinion about you but God loves you just the way you are! I am here to encourage others that it does not matter what you go through in life you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you, Philippians 4:13.
How did you get started in the fitness field?
Physical fitness has always played a very important role in my life, staying healthy and in shape. We need to nurture and take care of our bodies. When I was in high school I started exercising and I have never stopped. I use to not like it but now it is just a part of my daily routine. Maybe you want to start a regimen but don’t know where to begin. Just start moving, the rest will follow and you will be on your way to a healthy new lifestyle.
What is the #1 thing you like best about being into fitness?
Being fit and in shape gives me self-esteem, makes me feel good about myself. People that exercise have a lot more energy and are able to do more throughout the day without getting tired real easily. You know how that saying goes: you are what you eat and that is so true. We in America are very unhealthy and obese. Our lives are so busy with work, children, school and family. So, what do we grab when we are in a hurry? We go to the nearest drive in restaurant and grab a quick meal that is filled with fat and calories. Exercise is out of the picture because we never have any time. When you do not exercise and are overweight you become depressed and sick with all kinds of ailments. A lot of times we are eating late and going to bed with a full stomach that is the worst time you should eat your biggest meal. Your biggest meal should be at breakfast time. You then have all day to burn those calories off and your body can have a peaceful rest at night so your body is not concentrating on digesting that meal you just ate.
What has been your biggest accomplishment in the fitness field?
My biggest accomplishment I think has just been to help others. I am an encourager and I enjoy being a blessing. When I was younger I spent a lot of time in the gym, reading books or magazines on nutrition and fitness. It is a lot of hard work and dedication. I also taught two classes of step aerobics and I would go out dancing afterwards. My nickname is Sparky. My dad nick named me that because I am like the bunny advertised from energize batteries I keep on going and never quit. I am a person that always has a lot of energy. People always ask me for advice more so now because I have managed to keep in shape especially since my car crash. My goal is to be in a fitness magazine because I want to encourage others that no matter what hardship they come against in life they can keep their spirits high.
What is the best way to get started in the fitness modeling industry? Should I just contact the photographers directly or should I use an agency? I contacted a photographer and one thing lead to another. People told me I was photogenic and I really never pursued modeling when I was younger. Before I knew it I started gaining more experience and more photographers wanted to take my picture. Losing weight has helped me tremendously to get more involved in the fitness field and now I want to take this a step further. It is such a blessing to be alive and to share encouragement with fitness models/models. Modeling is a very competitive industry and it’s important to realize thousands of girls want to become models. Don’t become discouraged and give up on your dream. I know when I had my car crash I became very depressed, gained weight and didn’t like myself. It was easy for me to feel sorry for myself and sit around doing nothing. But I was determined to keep going and you must to! Maybe you have hit a dead end rope and you feel discouraged because nothing seems to be going your way. Well put one foot in front of the other get up and get moving. The world will make you feel insufficient and no good. It does not matter if you are white, black, fat, thin, tall or short. You are a significant person and God loves you just the way you are! You cannot let the world and people dictate your life. You have to know you are somebody unique and special in God’s eyes. We are all going to age and get older. That is a part of life and there is nothing we can do to change it. These bodies are not made to last. That is why people today get face lifts, tummy tucks, breast augmentation, etc. Life has its ups and downs. We all go through different challenges that we have to make the best of. It is very important you like yourself for you. We are all made differently and have beautiful qualities. If not you will go through life being miserable and unhappy. I would like to share this poem with you I wrote.
We are a unique creation for all to see No one is like you or me. Some are tall, short, fat, thin, black or white. There is no two alike. God has made all his creation unique With different qualities like no other. We are not like our sister, mother, Father or brother. Thank the dear Lord for this day For tomorrow may never come Oh what may. Laugh a little and tell a riddle. Enjoy the person you are. Don’t try to be like someone else Be who God created you to be Let the world see a manifestation This thing called unique creation!
Please describe a typical day for you. What is your daily routine like?
I wake up very early in the morning a lot of days between 4:30 am-5 am. My sleeping patterns are in increments of 4 ½-5 hours of sleep. I do not recommend that to people. Everyone needs to try to get at least 8 hours of sleep but because of my car accident I am not able to sleep a full 8 hours. A lot of days I take a quick cat nap here and there. My day begins with prayer then I exercise in the morning and evening. Early in the morning around 6:30 am, I have small soy shake about 1 cup of plain soy milk and 1 Tbs. of soy protein. This seems to get my metabolism going first thing in the morning. I do some stretching about 10 minutes before I start jogging. I do a light jog for about 30 minutes it seems to get my metabolism moving first thing in the morning. My diet consists of a lot of protein whether it is egg whites, almonds, tuna or soy protein. I want to get my 6 pack abs and more lean because my objective is to get into a fitness magazine. I have been on TV, Radio and in Magazines for what I do but fitness modeling is another area I am pursuing. I have always loved eating healthy and working out.
I don’t have that much time during the day to workout, so I really want to burn major calories in a short amount of time. What is the #1 “bang for the buck” cardio exercise I should do to burn serious calories?
What you can do if you do not have a lot of time because I know your busy with work, your kids and family is do some walking on your lunch hour or break. Park the car further at work or at the grocery store. Climb the stairs when you have the opportunity instead of taking the elevator, watch your calories, portion sizes and fat intake. Eat more fruits and vegetables and less sugary coke drinks, fried foods, doughnuts and pizza. Eat salads with low-calorie dressing with plain tuna or chicken breast. Snack on carrots, celery sticks with peanut butter or rice cakes. Remember watch your sodium intake so you do not retain water and especially ladies around your monthly period. What you eat and how much food you take in plays an important role in weight loss.
How much weight (pounds) should I focus on losing every week? What is a safe amount to make sure I keep it off?
1 or 2 pounds you want to lose, anything more than that is not safe. You may get a quick fix but trying to keep it off and maintaining it will be impossible. You may lose a lot at first but that usually is water gain. There is no quick way to lose weight. We put it on a lot faster than we take it off. The key word is patience. I know when I had my car crash I gained weight and got very discouraged. I could not get into any of my old clothes and I had to buy bigger jeans. There were days I did not exercise or even come out and see the world. But as I started I became more disciplined and had motivation. I was determined to lose weight and you must too. Don’t let anything or people stop you. I did not even allow my husband to encourage me to eat the wrong foods and sometimes you have to do it alone and be strong. Do it for yourself! I promise you that in time you will feel better about yourself, healthy and be able to wear clothes you have not worn in a while.
What type of food or supplements should I take before and after my workouts to help me see results in gaining lean muscle and losing fat?
There are so many vitamins you can take but I recommend start with a good multi-vitamin. My favorite is all in one. It is a powder vitamin you mix in your apple juice or orange juice. It contains all the major vitamins and mineral supplements your body needs so you don’t need to take a bunch of pills or capsules. The powder vitamin can be a little expensive but would you rather have the cost of vitamins or health bills? You will have to pay in some way. I do take some other vitamins too. I like to take vitamins to help me lose weight. Cayenne Fruit, Lecithin, Chromium , Green Tea with Acai Berry, Apple-Cider Vinegar. Women need more B-vitamins so I take a 100 B-Complex vitamin. Also, I take Evening Primrose Oil twice daily it helps a women’s monthly period with depression and moodiness. Apple-Cider Vinegar is good for digestion and weight loss. I mix 2 Tsp. of Apple-Cider vinegar with 16 oz. of water and sip this through out the day. I also like to take 1000-2000 mg Calcium/Magnesium. Women need more Calcium for their bones than men need. Every morning I take a liquid joint movement 2000 mg of Glucosamine, 1200 mg of Chondrotin and 500 mg of MSM. I would recommend this supplement for anyone that has joint problems. My right ankle use to bother me a lot where I could not jog for months. I bought me a good pair of running shoes with sole inserts and I take this joint supplement. It has helped me tremendously. Make sure you have a good pair of running shoes because your feet are very important because you need to walk on them every day. After you work out you may want to drink a protein shake to replenish your body. Protein is one of the body’s main building blocks for muscle, bone, skin, and other tissues. I like to drink a vanilla or chocolate soy powder one mixed in my plain soy milk that is low in sugar. That is another key element make sure your sugars are low in the foods you eat. You do not want to be drinking sugary sodas and eating candy loaded with sugar.
How do you deal with cravings for junk foods, sweets and salty food? I can stay on a diet for maybe a few weeks but I eventually get really bad cravings and binge on snacks and fast foods.
When you start dieting make sure you are eating 5 or 6 small meals. I use to get cravings a lot but the more I started eating healthier they diminished. You need to use some will power. If I were you I would choose one day a week that you can just splurge because if you don’t you are likely to start cheating ever day. Make that day at the end of the week. It is like your reward for all your hard work during the week. But don’t over do it! Now, I still have cravings once a month. During that time I usually do not do a lot but rest, watch a movie and eat my favorite junk foods whether it is a salty craving or sweet craving in moderation. Notice I said once a month in moderation! I did not say you can eat it every day. You are what you eat. If you eat healthy then you will look thin and healthy but if you eat unhealthy you will be overweight and obese. In a few days I feel better and back to my normal self. Remember, you are going to have down days just don’t make it every day.
I’m trying to create a healthy shopping list to stick with. What are some of the main foods I should include to maintain a lean and muscular physique?
Include lots of fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, whole wheat breads, whole wheat pasta, oatmeal, whole grain cereals, nuts and seeds. Drink skim milk or soy milk and eat egg whites. Don’t forget to order your vitamins and drink plenty of H2O.
I’m about 35 pounds overweight. I have never started an exercise program and really don’t know where to start. What tips can you give me to get started on the right track?
Don’t do anything strenuous. Make sure you always check with your doctor before starting a weight loss program. Get some good exercise books and videos and learn the proper critique before starting. You do not want to pull a muscle. It is very important you stretch out good before starting any routine. I suggest taking a brisk walk 15 or 20 minutes and doing some crunches to tighten up the abs. Don’t forget make sure you purchase a good pair of walking shoes so you do not hurt your feet.
I tend to eat out most of the time and really don’t know what healthy foods to order from the menu. What tips do you recommend for eating out at restaurants to make sure my diet will not suffer?
When you eat out stay away from the bread and butter. Usually bread in restaurants is made with white flour which is not good for you to eat. Watch the dressing. Ask for them to put it on the side and order light. Don’t order anything breaded or fried and if it is baked don’t use butter maybe a little olive oil with some seasoning hold the salt. A good choice is cooked salmon or a salad with chicken breast but watch the dressing. Eating out with friends and family can be enjoyable. Drink lots of water it will keep you full longer. Say no to the dessert tray and ask for fruit instead or a flavored tea or coffee. Use a little honey or splenda sweetener.
What exercises do you recommend for getting a bigger, rounder and fuller butt?
There are a lot of different butt exercises you can do. Get a good exercise book or video because it will show you the right way to work your butt so you can get the results you want. I do squats, lunges and I do some butt exercises on the floor to give me a tight, heart-shaped butt.
What is the most challenging thing you deal with about consistently staying in top shape?
Considering I was in a car crash I would have to say my balance. I have to be very careful when I do light jogging or aerobics because I tend to lose my balance. Also, because I do not sleep very good and I stay very busy I get tired a lot. So, this is a challenge for me. I just want to say the older you get it is harder to say in shape because our metabolism slows down. Choosing to eat right and exercise has to be a daily decision. It does not come easy. Like the saying goes, no pain no gain. You cannot expect to gain results with out a little pain. It is going to cost you having to say no to those fried French fries, Pizza, Crispy Crème Doughnuts, Ice-cream Sundaes, Burgers, etc. when your friends are indulging in them but just think of all the weight you are losing and the results you are gaining. Soon you will be in that 2 piece bikini or wear that strapless dress you have always wanted to wear but could not get in to.
Please describe your normal diet. What do you eat in a typical day to stay in shape?
Breakfast: I drink 20 ounces of water with my vitamins. The water helps me flush my system of toxins and impurities. If I am in a hurry I make a smoothie with either plain soy milk or orange juice and mix it with vanilla or chocolate soy powder. If I have time I like to make a fruit smoothie in the blender using a banana, strawberries, peaches, or blueberries. You can use your favorite fruit. These smoothies are very refreshing and filling. Other mornings after my jog I have one packet splenda maple-sugar oatmeal, strawberries, blueberries or pineapple and watermelon. (Depending on the fruit in season. I also like peaches or pears.), I have 4 egg-whites for protein. Breakfast should be your biggest meal and make sure you have something with protein every time you eat. I recommend cooking eggs on a Sunday for the week.
Mid-Morning Snack: rice cakes, carrot sticks, mozzarella stick, fruit, yogurt or a smoothie. (Make sure you have either just a yogurt or a smoothie. You may also have carrot sticks with a mozzarella stick or peanut butter and celery is good too.
Lunch: small spinach nut/fruit salad or I have a small salad with tuna. Sometimes I like a bake piece of fish, brown rice takes 5 minutes and a small salad with balsamic dressing.
Mid-Afternoon Snack: trail mix or almonds.
Dinner: garden veggie burger & steamed vegetables or salad or chicken breast-no skin, steamed veggies and maybe some brown steamed rice. If I do not want meat I may just have a salad and a soy protein shake with Vanilla or Chocolate.
Note: Before I go to bed I have a very small bowl of shredded wheat and plain soy milk with ½ of banana. This seems to keep me full until the morning.
What type of exercises do you include in your routine to stay in shape?
Strength Training Exercises: I do a mixture of exercises and cannot name them all. I do butterfly presses either on the machine or just using my arms, bicep curls, tricep curls, sitting row, lat pull down, seated lat row, leg extension, leg presses
Cardio Exercises: I either jog outside or the treadmill, do light aerobics, ride stationary bike or fast pace walking.
Additional Training: I do push ups, squats, lunges, a mixture of crunches to tone the abs, butt exercise and leg exercise on the floor. I climb up a small 2 step ladder to work my butt and legs. But I need to be careful I do not fall.
What are the top 5 tips (specific exercises, diet advice, etc) you recommend for developing toned and defined arms?
1. Doing a mixture of bicep curls and tricep curls will define your arms. Tricep curls are good for toning up the back of your arms that are sometimes flabby and you do not want to wear sleeveless shirts. Toning up the back of your arms will do the trick with tricep curls.
2. Remember, if you want to tone you need to use less weight and more reps.
3. As you lose weight your arms will become more defined and toned. They will not be flabby.
4. Push ups are a good way to tone up your arms and give them a more define look with out bulking up.
5. A lot of times I will do bicep curls, tricep curls and arms exercise using two cans of beans or corn. You can also use 2 pd arm weights when you brisk walk but you need to be careful when using weights, because if you use too much weight you can cause ligaments and/or joint pulls and/or tears.
What are your top 5 tips for losing unwanted body fat?
1. Decrease your calorie intake.
2. Watch your fat grams.
3. Exercise, exercise and exercise! Whether you are taking a short walk around the block, climbing the stairs, jogging, walking to the store or mail box do some type of physical exercise to get your blood pumping and to keep yourself in shape. Don’t become sedentary.
4. How big is your portion size? Control portion sizes. Check a pyramid guide to see what the portion sizes are for certain meats, vegetables, fruits and fats. Use your hand as a guide – Generally, a serving size portion is what can fit into the palm of a person’s hand.
5. Eat healthy and wholesome. Remember you are what you eat. If you eat healthy you will look healthy and toned but if you eat only junk food then you will look fat and obese.
What are your top 5 tips for gaining lean muscle mass?
1. You gain muscle mass by lifting less weight and more reps. This will give you a defined and toned body and you will not look bulky.
2. Make sure you eat lean meats not fatty. Eat a lot of tuna, fish, chicken breast no skin, turkey meat and egg whites. Don’t eat beef and pork.
3. Watch your fat intake. Don’t cook with butter cook with olive oil and use seasoning without salt. Dressing is fattening too so use it sparingly. Use
fat-free mayonnaise or mustard on your sandwich and only use whole grain bread not white bread made with flour.
4. Also your calories. Figure out how many calories you need to eat to lose a pound. Find out your BMI-body mass index. BMI is a measure which takes a person’s weight and height into account to find the total fat in adults. When a person’s BMI is high they are at greater risk of developing additional health problems.
5. Eat lots of fiber and drink water to detox your body. Eat fiber rich grains like whole wheat bread, pasta, oatmeal, vegetables and fruits. Soybeans are a good source of protein and low in fat. Soy beans build muscle and low in fat. Drink lots of water because when you exercise your body gets depleted natural body fluids and drinking a lot of water helps keep your body purified from toxins building up.
What are the top 5 tips you recommend for staying motivated on a fitness plan and truly making a healthy lifestyle change?
1. You need to be determined that this is something you really want to do and go after it. It is going to cost you and you will have to sacrifice and give up those things you enjoy eating if you want to see hard earned results.
2. If you can find a good fitness partner whether it is a friend, husband, wife, girl friend or boy friend that each of you will be accountable to that would be something I recommend but if not that does not mean you cannot do this alone. Where there is a will there is a way. You need to stay positive and motivated. Keep your head up. You can do this!
3. Make sure you keep yourself busy away from the refrigerator. Take a walk, exercise class, go to church, read a book, pray, see a relative or friend but find something to keep your mind active.
4. Ladies I know once a month we feel bloated and depressed. Try to control yourself. I know you may have cravings to eat salt or sugar but do it in moderation. Don’t let this prevent you from going back to your routine where you left off. If you mess up a day or two with your goals get back on track and start where you left off. Allow nothing to stop you in your tracks.
5. Reward yourself and go clothes shopping. Try on a new dress or pair of jeans. Look at yourself in the mirror you are part way there. Be encouraged to press on! Maybe get your hair or nails done. Be happy and joyful. There is a lot to be thankful for.
What is your training routine like? (Please include a few details – training split, sets/reps, exercises, types of cardio, etc.)
Monday: In the morning I jog 30 for minutes outside. Then I go back in the gym in the evening and I work on abs, push ups, biceps, and chest exercises. I jog for another 30 minutes on the treadmill.
Tuesday: In the morning I jog 30 for minutes outside. Then I go back in the gym in the evening and I work on abs, push ups, legs and butt. I jog for another 30 minutes on the treadmill. I also use my small 2 step ladder.
Thursday: In the morning I jog 30 for minutes outside. Then I go back in the gym in the evening and I work on abs, push ups, shoulders and triceps. I jog for another 30 minutes on the treadmill.
Friday: In the morning I jog 30 for minutes outside. Then I go back in the gym in the evening and I work on abs, push ups, squats, lunges, butt and leg exercises. I may do a few chest exercises too.
Saturday: In the morning I jog 30-45 minutes outside or on the treadmill, push ups and ab exercises.
Note: My exercise program can be a little strenuous for the beginner or maybe someone who does not have the time. You may jog, walk or ride the stationary bicycle once a day. When you do strength training exercises to gain muscle and bulk up you need to increase your weight gradually. Women that just want to tone and strengthen their muscles need to do low reps. To bulk it is recommended you do 3 sets of 6 reps and to tone do 10-12 reps in 3 sets.
The Mayo Clinic recommends:
At least two hours and 30 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity (think brisk walking or swimming) or one hour and 15 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity (such as running) – preferably spread throughout the week.
Strength training exercises at least twice a week.
My objective right now is to get more ripped and toned. So, I have a tendency to push myself to get the maximum results that I am trying to do. THIS IS SOMETHING I DO NOT RECOMMEND FOR EVERYONE! Especially since my sleeping patterns are so awkward and I keep so busy. Please check with your doctor before starting any fitness program. What works well for me may not work well for you. Everyone is different and they need to work at their own pace. I change my fitness program accordingly to fit my needs and how I feel. You can too! Staying healthy is important but it is not everything. Make time to rest, pray, enjoy the day, nature and all that God freely gives us. Any exercise is better than none. It is very important you get your sleep and rest. Do not overdue it! Your muscles need time to heal.
What are the top 5 tips (specific exercises, diet advice, etc) you recommend for losing fat around the stomach and developing a toned and defined midsection?
1. Diet plays an important role. We tend to eat more food then the body requires. As you lose weight you will lose fat around the stomach. Eat lean meats such as tuna, salmon, turkey and chicken breast.
2. Drink lots of water. It rids your body of toxins and impurities. You also will lose any water gain sometimes held in your belly.
3. Stomach crunches and AB exercises that work the stomach muscles are important. When you build muscle mass you are helping the body to burn calories and shrink the fat storage.
4. Stress causes you to gain weight around the stomach and it causes stomach problems with bloating and gas.
5. Avoid junk food and sugar all together whether it be cakes or cookies. No sugar is good for you and you will gain belly fat.
What are the top 5 tips (specific exercises, diet advice, etc) you recommend for toning the thighs, hips and butt?
1. Women tend to gain weight in their hips, thighs and butt especially after they have had a baby. Gaining weight is very hard to lose which must occur gradually. You must not feel discouraged or want to give up.
2. Having a high cardio work out is important. For me walking and jogging has helped me tone my thighs and hips down. I have had to workout very hard to get the weight off and I am still trying for more. It is easier to put the weight on then get it off.
3. I believe the high reps of butt exercises I do 5-6 days a week has helped me insignificantly. I do a series of squats and lunges too. Some day I do 15-20 minutes of low-density aerobics with leg lifts.
4. Watching my calorie intake, portion sizes and changing my eating habits has also helped me tremendously. Not eating whatever I want, when I want and eating real late at night. I slowed down my metabolism down because I use to skip breakfast and I would not get hungry until after 3 p.m. Then I would eat dinner late with my husband and stay up late snaking. That is where I believed I gained a lot of my weight and kept it on.
5. Every day I take a weight loss supplement that helps burn the fat in my hips, thighs and buttocks. I take a capsule that contains green tea with acai berry, lecithin, cayenne fruit and chromium picolinate. I take lecithin 2-3 times a day, the green tea with acai 2 times a day and cayenne fruit 2-3 times a day. There are so many weight loss vitamins you can take but you want to find out which ones work for you because not everyone should mix them. Different things work on different people. Always ask your physician before starting any exercise plan taking vitamin.
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