Rea Frey is a world traveler, author, nutrition specialist, trainer, gymnast, and mother. She is always on the go whether it is with writing, clients, or playing with her daughter. We were able to pick her brain about becoming an author, what it’s like being an entrepreneur, and what her view of the term “plant-based” is. Please meet, Rea!
BB: What are some of your greatest achievements and how did you reach them?
At nineteen, I became an amateur boxer. I loved the sport and was gearing up for my first competition. Thanks to boxing, I was alerted to an arachnoid cyst on the left parietal lobe of my brain that was on the verge of hemorrhaging. If I had entered that competition and gotten struck in the head, it would have been lights out. So, I opted to undergo brain surgery at 19. It was terrifying for many reasons, but especially because I was away at college and it was my first surgery. I came away from that surgery with four titanium plates and sixteen screws and was back in school a week later. So, for me, that was a great achievement. It gave me a story to tell and reminded me of what’s really important.
Graduating valedictorian of my college was something I was incredibly proud of too. I’ve always been a bit of a nerd and getting good grades was important to me. Not because of grades in general or because my parents pressured me – it was more about work ethic for me. I wanted to prove to myself that I could rise to the occasion, that I could get work done, that I could learn, that I could push harder. That attitude both helps and hinders me at certain times. I’m someone who likes a lot on my plate. My husband jokes that when I am immersed in a project, he could be on fire and I wouldn’t notice (which is totally true).
I’ve always liked to have my hands in different pots. Because of that, I had my first book published when I was 22; I became a reporter on two death row cases; I flew to Switzerland on a whim for a ghostwriting job; I’ve had four books published (soon to be five) at the age of 33. And perhaps my greatest achievement is giving birth to my daughter, Sophie. I went through 52 hours of labor with her. I had to fight to get her into this world safely. After that experience, I can get through anything. These are just a few things I’m proud of. I feel like I reached them all the same way – by staying focused on the goal in front of me, by accepting the up days and the down days and learning from failure and rejection. I think we improve the most when we learn something. We can’t just be great all the time.
BB: How did you get to where you are today?
I grew up in the gym. My parents were extremely active, and my brother and I tried several different sports. I was a gymnast for thirteen years. I ran track and danced and became an amateur boxer during college. I’ve been a certified personal trainer and nutrition specialist for the past 15 years. At the same time, I always had an intense love for writing. I went to Columbia for fiction writing (started off as a journalism major) and had a novel published before I graduated in 2004. I worked as a trainer all through college, and after, I wanted to meld my love for health and wellness into writing. I quickly found a love for nonfiction and began freelancing everywhere I could, building my writing portfolio. I have since written three other books. I’ve been an editor, content manager, blogger and ghostwriter. The projects that inspire me the most are ones that are entrenched in health and wellness.
BB: How do you lead an entrepreneurial life?
I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit. From a young age, I declared that I would never work a 9 to 5 job. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad, as I sometimes envy people who can leave work at the office; who have built-in health insurance and other great benefits and a team of people to work with everyday. But I love the freedom to do what I want, when I want. I don’t feel creatively inspired the same way everyday. Some days I need a break. Other days I need to work nonstop, even late into the night. My mind doesn’t work on a 9 to 5 basis (though sometimes I wish it would). I find that I can get going by 6 a.m. and work well into the night, but if I want or need to take breaks to let my mind rest, I can.
Exercise, training and creating nutrition guidelines for clients, traveling, spending time with my husband and daughter…These are all things that help me in my writing/editing career and in my personal life. I think it makes me a more well-rounded entrepreneur, as my life isn’t just about one thing.
BB: What is your advice for women who want to write their own book?
1. Start writing. I know that sounds so silly, but it’s true. I can’t tell you how many people I talk to who have amazing ideas, but then they say, “But I’m not a writer.” Or they just don’t get around to it. They want to write, they plan to write, but they don’t make time for it. (Yet we can all peruse Facebook for hours everyday or sit in front of reality television at night!) It’s all about priorities and passion. You have to make time for the things you want to do.
2. Find your process. I think writers often put a lot of pressure on themselves to write every day or reach a certain word count. That mentality doesn’t work for me. I’ve become flexible in my process and know that everyday is probably going to look a bit different (especially since having a child). For some people, dictating their stories works better than actually writing them down. However you do it, just find your voice and process. Do you work better on deadlines? Do you have a goal in mind? I’ve always had extremely tight deadlines with my books (3-6 months), and I usually get them done in 1-2 months. I take a month or two to think about it, to organize my thoughts, and then I delve in. Not everyone works like this, but I do better getting a lot done in a short amount of time. It’s important to find what works best for you; to create an environment that inspires you. I also love my office. My husband made us both this incredible 10-foot desk. I can put my typewriter on it, my books and whatever else I need to get to work done and stay focused.
3. Do your research. If you want to get published, figure out what books you love to read and see what sells. What are these authors doing effectively? What do they have in common? Look at the acknowledgments page and see who writers thank in terms of editors and agents. Look at those client lists and see if you might fit in. In the land of nonfiction, it’s all about your brand. This is something I struggle with, because I have a writer’s spirit. I just want to write. I dislike social media and what it’s become. I don’t want to be tweeting and Instagramming and Facebooking all day and working tirelessly to get a million and one followers. While I admire people who do that, it’s not me, and I definitely suffer a little because I don’t play the game. But it just doesn’t feel authentic to me, so I don’t put the pressure on myself to do something that feels forced. I want to write and enjoy the process and hopefully touch people along the way.
BB: Let’s talk fitness & nutrition now…what do you think is the most effective way to reach your goals?
Well, it’s vital to remember that everyone is different. What works for you isn’t going to work for me. So I think we need to stop looking for that one perfect diet or fitness craze that will fix all of our problems. We are all made for variety. It’s important to vary your exercise and your diet. We consistently reach for the same handfuls of foods at the grocery store or when dining out, and our bodies get used to what we’re feeding them and will stop reaping the gains (even with healthy foods). So, for me, variety is number one.
I think knowing your resting metabolic rate (how many calories you burn at rest) is crucial to knowing how efficiently your body burns calories. Otherwise it’s a guessing game. I’ve had so many clients who have done this, and it’s literally been life changing to get the proper testing that provides a basis to create their diets around. It’s also important to know what your vices are. What are your bad habits that keep you from getting you to your ultimate goal? Do you always reach for dessert? Do you constantly try and make time for exercise but put it at the end of your priority list? What are you not willing to do or give up?
I discuss this concept in my book, Detox Before You’re Expecting, but toggling your calories is also an effective way to jumpstart your metabolism and “detox” naturally without fasting. You first need to find your baseline. (I discuss this process in the book.) This is the amount of calories you consume where you don’t gain weight and you don’t lose weight. Then, for two days every three weeks to a month, you would reduce that number by 25%. That’s it.
When we diet, we usually reduce our calories and stay there. This creates a new, lower baseline, which isn’t sustainable. By toggling calories every so often, you can “reset” your system naturally and safely.
BB: What is your view on the term “plant-based” do you think it should be considered veganism, or do you think it should simply promote the inclusion of more plant-based products in your diet?
There’s so much emphasis on labels these days. Who we are, what we eat, what we believe…Though I wrote a book in 2013 called Power Vegan: Plant-Fueled Nutrition for Maximum Health and Fitness, it was about the inclusion of plant-based foods into your diet, not the exclusion of animal products. I think the term plant-based is wonderful, because it really focuses on what you can incorporate into your diet. We could all use more whole foods in our diets, more variety, and more foods without massive ingredient lists. Plant-based foods heal the body. They boost immunity and provide all those valuable micronutrients we don’t get from animal foods. I always say to make veggies the star players of every meal. If you eat meat, make that a side dish and not the main component.
BB: How do you maintain a Balanced Babe lifestyle?
I have a tendency to get immersed in projects, but since I had my daughter, balance has to be a part of my daily life. Working from home can be challenging as you always have something to do. But when my toddler tells me to stop working so I can come dance or play with her, that’s exactly what I do. Because we are constantly available to our employers now, I think it’s vital to set a time each day or night where you are disconnected from work (or even thinking about work). Recharging the batteries is such an important part of staying balanced. I find my “recharge” through yoga, coming up with new, creative ways to move my body, cooking, reading, or writing for pleasure. I think finding equal times for work, mental health, spirituality, romance, friendship, family, etc. is one of the hardest parts of being a woman today. We can do so much. We can do anything…Just make sure that anything includes taking time for yourself, even in small doses. It makes a difference.
BB: If we could take a peek into your daily life, what would it look like?
It goes a little something like this: wake up at 6 a.m. and make a green smoothie for the family. Make my daughter’s lunch, fight with her to get her dressed and ready for school. Once she’s out the door, I go to the gym. I maybe film a short video of a new workout move. Then I come back, make my decaf coffee and dive into the projects for the day. I return emails and handle deadlines. I make lunch and possibly train clients or complete a nutrition analysis. I pick my daughter up from school and entertain her for the afternoon then finish more projects or teach boot camp. My hubby and I make dinner or go out. After we wrangle Sophie into bed, we unwind with scintillating conversation or bad reality TV. Super glamorous, right??
BB: What’s next?
Well, my new book, Detox Before You’re Expecting, just hit bookshelves, so I am drumming up promotions for that. This book is for anyone who wants to reach optimal levels of health using whole foods instead of drastic detox strategies (even if you don’t want to conceive). There are three different detox plans, lists of ingredients to avoid in your food, recipes, infant and toddler recipes, a post-pregnancy guide, and my favorite chapter, Detox Your Life, which targets all the junk in our cosmetics and cleaning supplies and shows you how to replace them with natural products. I am also currently writing the Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis Healing Diet book and getting back into personal training full-time. We just moved to a much quieter neighborhood close to my daughter’s school, so we are reveling in a slightly quieter life.
BB: How can people find out more about what you do?
Feel free to visit www.reafrey.com. You can contact me for detailed nutrition assessments, personal training, or if you just have specific health and wellness questions. One of my favorite things in life is helping people reach their health goals, so don’t hesitate to reach out.