Ashleigh Magee is currently serving in the Navy, and as a wellness life coach, she brings a holistic view of health and wellness to those she works with.
In this episode, we talk about her fitness journey, going from a swimmer to serving in the Navy, oftentimes with limited healthy meal choices, especially while deployed. Ashleigh offers tips and advice for those who are deployed and need to find time for achieving their own health and fitness goals.
Links & Resources
- Ashleigh’s free clean eating challenge
- Ashleigh Magee on Instagram
- Ashleigh Magee on Facebook
- Healthy Women Warriors Facebook Group
Scott DeLuzio 00:00:00 Thanks for tuning in to the Drive On Podcast, where we’re focused on giving hope and strength to the entire military community, whether you’re a veteran, active duty, guard, reserve, or a family member, this podcast we’ll share inspirational stories and resources that are useful to you. I’m your host, Scott DeLuzio. And now let’s get on with the show. Welcome back to the Drive On Podcast. Today, my guest is Ashley Magee. Ashley is a Navy veteran and military spouse who encountered a lot of ups and downs in her health and wellness journey while in the military. Welcome to the show. Ashley, I want to get into your journey a little bit, but first, could you tell us a little bit about yourself and a little bit about who you are and your background?
Ashleigh Magee 00:00:46 So minor correction, I’m actually still on active duty. So I have about another year left. I’m going to be transitioning out this next year. I am still working active duty. I am an engineering duty officer in the Navy and then I’m also a health coach for women in the military community. That’s kind of the actual love and dream that I have that I’m building up on the side as I get ready to transition out.
Scott DeLuzio 00:01:18 Okay. Yeah. Sorry about that. I thought I had seen that you were a veteran, but that’s no worry. That’s okay. So we got that clarified. We talked a little bit about this journey that you had with your own health and wellness while you were serving, and you struggled with this. But your health and wellness, your weight, your fitness, all that kind of stuff is pretty important. Parts of being in the military. Depending on the job that you have, I mean, it could be a crucial part of what you’re doing. The struggle that you had had to have affected you more than just your own physical health, your emotional health and your job satisfaction, your, your overall well-being. So what was that experience like for you? While you’re going through that struggle?
Ashleigh Magee 00:02:19 I think this is really common with a lot of people, especially once you get out of high school college. For me in high school, I was a competitive swimmer year-round. So I had my sport that kind of anchored me. and then when I got to the Naval academy, that’s where I did my undergrad. you suddenly don’t have control over what you’re eating. The PT regimen is not really great. And as a swimmer that suddenly was running a lot. I actually got stress fractures, I ended up injured, and that kind of started a snowball effect. So my whole time throughout the academy, it was a struggle. I am not a runner, so passing that PRT was not fun for me. And you wrap up a lot of your self-worth into your way and your ability to perform.
Ashleigh Magee 00:03:21 And even then doing amazing on my physical readiness tests I’m passing them, but I didn’t like icing them. That took me out of the running for some opportunities, even while I was there some internship and things like that because it factored over into your overall military performance. I made it through graduation. And my first tour was, on a ship out of Hawaii. And I was so excited to be in the Navy, so excited to be hitting the fleet. Really bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, ready to go. And my job, I was an engineering Devo. I’m working a lot of long weekends, and it took about six months for everything to kind of catch up with me. Because again, I still hadn’t really learned how to take care of myself in the Navy setting.
Ashleigh Magee 00:04:26 I didn’t have a lot of time, which is the first excuse that all of us give. My job was really starting to weigh on me. So physical health wasn’t great, PRT standards. Well, now I was allowed to swim in it. So I was fine, from a fitness perspective from the weigh-ins. But my overall health was declining to the point that I actually struggled, started struggling with depression, and I’m trying to put on a good face for work, but I was leaving the ship every night and just crying in my car. I don’t know how familiar you are with Hawaii, but I used to drive home at because I lived on the Windward side and thought to myself, “What if I just went over the guardrail?” And that was kind of the point for me, okay, we need to change something here because what, what I’m doing now is, is not good. It’s not working and it’s not going to sustain me.
Scott DeLuzio 00:05:43 Right. And, so you had that, that rock bottom moment, right? Where you are starting to feel, well, maybe it would be a better option to just drive off the cliff and just be done with that. Right. So what did you do, that was kind of the moment that you realize, okay, something needs to change, but what did you end up doing to make that change? What, what was the first step that you took?
Ashleigh Magee 00:06:14 Yeah, I, for me, it was kind of letting go of trying to do everything perfectly. And again, limited time, limited resources, limited energy. So what can I do? I started making workouts non-negotiable but making only 30 minutes or so because I’d been taught for years. That if it was under an hour, didn’t count, well, that’s not actually true. When I was in port really trying to focus, I wasn’t even eating healthier food yet, but I was limiting serving sizes of things that I knew weren’t necessarily beneficial for my body. Most people think that they have to do all of these huge changes all at once, but that’s how you stay in this diet cycle, all or nothing. and that’s where I lived for years. And so when I finally, okay, I’m just going to have to take this one little piece at a time and build up over time. That’s when I started actually creating habits that were a little bit more sustainable and that I could make work, even when I deployed,
Scott DeLuzio 00:07:36 Well, two things that I noticed or that I thought about while you were talking there first is swimmers tend to have a pretty intense diet where they are burning a lot of calories. So they’re eating a lot of calories, typically, at least on the higher, more competitive levels. And so if that’s how you were used to eating, and then all of a sudden, you’re no longer burning that many calories during swimming and everything, and you’re continuing to eat that way. You’re going to just naturally gain weight and have all of those issues that are associated with that, and so I think that with the change in the lifestyle, there needed to be that, that change in the diet or you needed to figure out a way to get back in the pool and burn all those calories again.
Scott DeLuzio 00:08:36 But, like you said, time is limited and that becomes an excuse. And that’s I’m guilty of that too. I sleep in a little bit later than I should have and, oh, well, I got to start working in a little while and I don’t have time for the exercise I was going to normally do. And so I just scrap for the day and I decide not to do it where I could have maybe fit in a half-hour jog or something like that just to, just to do something. But, sometimes I just scrap it and choose a lazy route. That’s not always the best option, but, the other thing that came across my mind while you were talking, is the book Atomic Habits.
Scott DeLuzio 00:09:17 And that’s exactly what you’re talking about. And, in the book for anyone who’s listening, who isn’t familiar with that book and that mindset is that you don’t need to make these huge sweeping changes in your life to make them make an impact in your life. When you have small incremental changes, you’re more likely to stick with those changes versus, going in and just saying, okay, I’m going to exercise four hours a day. I’ve never, I’ve been sitting on the couch for the last six years. I’ve never done anything. And now I’m going to just get up and I’m going to, I’m going to go out and exercise like crazy. You’re probably, you’re probably going to do it for a day or two, but then you’re probably going to quit because this sucks.
Scott DeLuzio 00:10:06 This is hard or injures yourself. Right. And then you’re going to be sidelined because of the injury. You shouldn’t push it through an injury, but you’re going to end up having more problems and that’s just not right either. And then that’ll put you off even more and you’re not going to end up making those improvements in your own fitness. But it’s the same thing with anything in life: really small little changes will get you there a whole lot better.
Ashleigh Magee 00:10:35 Well, I love that you brought up Atomic Habits because when I read that book, oh, this gives language to things that I haven’t been practicing and teaching for a while. And in my program today, I talk about the four laws of habit change. Because again, it’s really powerful and you can apply it to any aspect of your life, not just health and wellness.
Scott DeLuzio 00:11:01 Yeah, for sure. I mean, if there’s something that you want to start doing more of, or doing less of, a bad habit that you have. You work the opposite way too. Maybe you’re a smoker or a drinker or something, and you want to reduce how much you’re doing that. You can do those small incremental changes until you eventually get down to nothing or to the desired level or whatever it is that you’re looking for. So I mean, all of that is really good. And is that kind of the core of your teaching method is to kind of focus on those, those small changes? Or is there something, some other magic sauce that you use in your work?
Ashleigh Magee 00:11:47 Yeah, that’s definitely a core component. But my coaching is based around what I call the four pillars of health which are very simple. It’s food, fitness, sleep, and mindset. It sounds simple, but people don’t implement it. Most people are focusing on maybe one to two pillars, typically food and or fitness. Right. But if you picture a roof on, on these pillars, right, you only have two, you have a wobbly roof. It’s falling off. It’s not a good time. And so I focus on helping people create sustainable habits, right? So that’s where the atomic habit piece comes in in each of those four pillars. So they can get out of the diet cycle, get out of this it’s recording this around new years, right? Get out of that perpetual,” I’m going to have the same new year’s resolution to lose 20 pounds every single year”. Right? And actually learn how to make healthy living a lifestyle, not something that you have to constantly be thinking about, worrying about keeping you up at night,
Scott DeLuzio 00:12:58 Right. And New Year’s resolutions when people set those New Year’s resolutions, I forget what the exact number is, but the vast majority of them- they fail by mid-February and it’s almost not even worth doing.
Ashleigh Magee 00:13:16 Anyone that regularly goes to a gym. Okay, January, this is going to suck for about a month and a half. And then it’s going to clear out again, which as a coach that’s not what I want for you. But as someone that wants to go on the weight rack, it happens. It’s a reality,
Scott DeLuzio 00:13:35 Right? It is. It is. And I was talking with my wife about joining a gym the other day. And I was well, maybe I’ll wait a month or two and, and wait for this whole New Year’s crowd to die down before I just go in and not be able to find any weights or machines or anything to use. So the whole fitness journey could be overwhelming to some people. But if you’re not looking at it from those small incremental improvements, it could be overwhelming and you might feel stuck because you’re not seeing the improvements or the weight loss or whatever it is that your goal is. You’re not seeing the progress towards that goal right away. So what are some steps that people can take to work towards improving their overall health?
Ashleigh Magee 00:14:32 Yeah. I love that you asked this, and my first piece of advice is to throw your scale out your freaking window. I say this as someone who likes a big part of my business, is helping military women pass their weigh-ins. I understand that the scale is going to be a part of your life, but if you are weighing yourself daily or weekly. That’s actually a really good way to demotivate yourself, get frustrated, and quit. If you must once a month, if you must, but really throw it out the window. So that’s the first piece. And it comes back to a motivation piece, but, when it comes to really just those small things that you can immediately improve your health, there are some, there’s a couple of things that are relatively simple to do that are quick wins, and have major impacts.
Ashleigh Magee 00:15:34 So again, I base everything around pillars. So go into the food pillar, focusing on non-processed whole foods. Clean eating, because what it ultimately does is lowers inflammation in your body. And what a lot of people don’t realize, especially in the calories in, calories out diet culture that we have is not all calories are created equal. And if your body isn’t using food as fuel, it’s basically a toxin that is stopping you from achieving the results you want. So that’s actually why I have a clean eating challenge, just free on my website for people to start walking through that, because it’s one of the biggest ways that you can make some small changes and see major impact, and it will improve everything else. It will improve your energy levels, how well you’re sleeping, how well your brain functions, all of these things.
Ashleigh Magee 00:16:38 So that’s one. The second one is daily movement, not exercise but movement. And for people who have an apple watch. It’s nice, the rings break it down for you. There’s a difference between movement, exercise, and standing. and so even if you don’t get that workout in because you slept in a little bit later, can you take a 20-minute walk? Can you get some yoga and stretch something restorative, learn to be in tune with your body, and think about, okay, what is some, what is one thing I can do today that is beneficial for my body?
Scott DeLuzio 00:17:15 Those are, again, they’re simple steps to do. And I like that you have that clean eating challenge because I think some people probably aren’t necessarily sure what the right things to eat are. I mean, we all know each are fruits and vegetables and that kind of stuff. And they had the whole food pyramid back when, when I was younger and I don’t know what it is now, they changed that.
Ashleigh Magee 00:17:41 It’s still not, I mean, they changed it, but it’s still not actually good. And it’s basically funded by lobbyists.
Scott DeLuzio 00:17:49 Right. Right. And it’s, it’s not ideal for what you want to actually be eating, but so what, what are some of the steps that you could take in this clean eating challenge to get yourself eating better foods and the right kind of foods for your health?
Ashleigh Magee 00:18:11 So one of my favorite tricks that I love. I learned this actually from my, my registered dietician. So within my business, I contract to a registered dietician since I don’t hold that certification. I don’t hold that expertise. I want to provide that to my clients and a big myth when it comes to clean eating is that it has to be expensive. In the military community too, we don’t necessarily have huge incomes. When you’re looking at trying to get more of your vegetables in, for example, don’t be afraid of implementing frozen veggies. They’re typically relatively inexpensive and you can sneak them into a lot of stuff. One of my favorites is frozen spinach. You can put it in pasta sauce, there’s just, there’s a lot of waste to do that.
Ashleigh Magee 00:19:11 I pretty much always have a bag of frozen cauliflower rice in my freezer. What am I going to make as a side tonight? I know I’ll season that up. It makes it really easy to create more of that balance. So that’s like one of the biggest ones, when you’re looking at food limiting, how many steps have been taken between it coming from nature and you consuming it? Because sometimes it’s like, what does processed even mean? But if someone had to put chemicals in it, do something to it, it’s processing. That’s why fruits and vegetables it’s easy. But you also want to be looking at the quality of your meats. So meat that comes from your normal, industrial, conventional feedlots is actually not going to be very beneficial for your body. That is one place where you do want to splurge a little, on quality. It does matter
Scott DeLuzio 00:20:30 Well. And, and more, in addition to the health benefits of it being better for you, it often tastes better to splurge a little bit more on that type of stuff. I know, my wife and I found a local farm that had the fresh, fresh-cut beef and all that other stuff that they offered. And it was so much better. It was like the restaurant run quality, better than restaurant quality meat that you’re getting from these places. And it wasn’t that much more expensive than what you would get in a grocery store or whatever. So, it does make a big difference and we try to stop by there as often as we can and pick up that kind of stuff. So when you’re talking about finding the right kind of foods and in everything I know, especially when deployed, when I was deployed to Afghanistan, it wasn’t always easy to take care of my health and fitness.
Scott DeLuzio 00:21:37 We were working 12-hour shifts, always doing some sort of mission or, some sort of security or we’re doing something constantly. We had a small gym on the base, which was good for workouts, but, but our meals were often pretty small portions and not always the best food, with the stuff that just the way they have to ship it to those remote basis. It’s not always the most fresh fruits and vegetables and all that kind of stuff. That stuff is just hard to come by, to begin with. I even had my family ship food out to us because we were just starving. We’re hungry. But like you were talking about a lot of that stuff was the packaged foods, the processed, not, definitely not fresh food for fruits and vegetables that wouldn’t have lasted too long in the mail. So how can people who are deployed, how can they work on their health and their fitness and, and keep up on that while, while they’re there in a remote area.
Ashleigh Magee 00:22:48 That is the question that not enough people are asking. One that I love to talk about. So the first piece is don’t be afraid to supplement. and this is where I kind of rail against again, the traditional health and wellness industry, because they give you all this advice. Oh, eat your vegetables and get eight hours of sleep. And you’re like, Hey, I’m on deployment. That’s not frigging happening. So what do I do now? How do I achieve maybe not optimum health, but at least decent health while on deployment supplements are key. There’s so much good stuff now. Like you can get superfoods in a powder it’s glorious, but that was one of the key things I learned on my first deployment. I found a protein powder company that had a lot of acids and micronutrients in it.
Ashleigh Magee 00:23:47 Especially when you get to the point where you’re in the middle of the Gulf and you don’t have anything green anymore, like, okay, well I’ll have a shake. And I know at least I’ve done something beneficial for my body today. Right. So supplementation is, I think, a non-negotiable if you’re when you’re looking at deploying and, and having in balancing that out. Also with that, like having a plan for, I’m gonna say cleaner caffeine consumption. I don’t know about you Scott, but, let’s see, first deployment got addicted to Kickstart energy drinks, second deployment, and got addicted to Diet Coke. Do I drink either of those now? No, I do not. And partially because I don’t drink coffee, but finding ways that are, that can give you your caffeine kick, that aren’t chock-full of chemicals, iis really important.
Scott DeLuzio 00:24:55 So when I was in Afghanistan, in addition to all the snacks and other food that my family sent, I had my wife send me a coffee pot and Dunkin donuts coffee, the sugar packets and the powdered creamer and everything. I had to send all of that stuff to me because I drank coffee all the time back then. And that was, that was my caffeine, but we had the Monsters drinks
Scott DeLuzio 00:25:24 Red bull and everything else that we poured into ourselves because sometimes we’re working through the night and. We’re trying to keep ourselves awake and that’s just one way of doing it. And at the time you’re not really thinking about yourself, your health and what impact is this having on my body, and what chemicals are in this? You just care if this is going to keep me awake and alert so that I don’t die from some sort of attack or whatever. I definitely see where you’re coming from. It’s not an easy thing to do on a deployment but if you’re paying attention to it and you’re trying to figure that out it might be something that’s doable
Ashleigh Magee 00:26:11 Plan ahead, try to time it as much as possible. And obviously like my deployments were on ships, so I was able to carry quite a bit onboard. And then, Amazon was relatively reliable, underway when we got our raises. And, but one thing too, I wanted to mention, and I wish I had this tool, like the skillset, when I was still deploying, I was something I didn’t discover until afterwards, but with sleep. You may not get sleep. Sometimes it’s just part of the job. It’s part of the nature of it. Meditation as a supplement to sleep is a game-changer. So personally, and I know this sounds so crazy, but it’s legit. I promise. But personally, I practice transcendental meditation and in 20 minutes you are actually getting some of the benefits of deep sleep. I would take like 10-minute floor naps. I had a floor pillow and everything. In some doing that like now I would think, oh my gosh, I just meditate for 20 minutes and you can actually get some of that restorative benefit, more so than you may be able to with a power nap if you’re able to fit one in.
Scott DeLuzio 00:27:42 Okay, well, that’s, that’s another way of, of doing that. I haven’t even considered that as an alternative, sleep is definitely a factor. When you’re on deployment, you just might not get to sleep some nights, even, the job just might be taking you all night long, and next morning, you still have to go back to going and doing whatever else you were planning on doing. And so, it can definitely be hard to come by. I know there was one night where we were supposed to be out on a mission until I don’t know, eight or nine o’clock at night, and we ended up not coming back until around six in the morning or so. And then we had to turn around and go back out a few hours later and sleep was just not going to happen that day.
Scott DeLuzio 00:28:40 We had other stuff that we had to clean, take care of and maintain. And so we just didn’t go to sleep back then that day. And, there were other days like that, where it just became an almost 24 plus hour day, and you don’t go to sleep. So being able to do something like that, meditate and, and get some of those benefits of, of sleep: to refresh and restore yourself to be more alert and awake when you need to be is probably pretty important. It’s definitely worth the 15, 20 minutes or so of doing, just to get that benefit, out of the way, when, especially when you’re not going to have time for a full power nap or a good deep sleep anyways.
Ashleigh Magee 00:29:28 Yeah, absolutely.
Scott DeLuzio 00:29:30 So, tell us a little bit about what it is that you do on the coaching side and how you help people with their own fitness and everything.
Ashleigh Magee 00:29:43. So, as I mentioned, I basically help people create those habits and in each of the four pillars, where the coaching side of it really comes in. I am a certified wellness life coach. And the biggest piece that we dig into is the mindset piece, which again, people talk about mindset as like this arbitrary thing that we should all aspire to having a good mindset, positive mindset, whatever that means. But we have so many stories that we tell ourselves about our bodies, about our worthiness, about food. When you start digging into this work and you realize. I remember once I had a client with, and this is actually the first time I’d ever talked to her and she was telling me that she was struggling with kind of following through getting motivated.
Ashleigh Magee 00:30:44 I asked a few powerful questions as a coach. Well, no, she actually has a really terrible relationship with food and was bullied in high school for her body. And she’s carried that into her thirties. Unpacking kind of what the story is that they’re telling themselves, and then moving forward to, to healing that and to being that person that you want to show up as, confident uniform or for my events. A lot of the clients say I let myself go when I got out and now I don’t feel like I’m representing the veteran community well. So digging into that, okay. But even if you’re not where you’re at right now, first of all, health is a journey. It’s not like a finish line. We’re, we’re all in the process constantly. You’re still worthy of love and respect. And when you figure out how to do that for yourself, how to treat yourself like, and believe it, that you are worthy of those things, it’s a lot easier to follow through with actions that back up that identity. You are worthy of yourself, kind of going back to atomic habits. Your actions are in alignment with your identity. And so if you need to change your actions, you need to craft a new identity of what you want to be and how you want to show up as
Scott DeLuzio 00:32:19 Right. You’re not going to have a lean muscular fit physique. If your boss of yourself is this couch potato who sits around and eats potato chips and binges on Netflix shows all day, instead of getting your butt off the couch and going and doing something totally.
Ashleigh Magee 00:32:44 And if, even if you do, commit to something, lose the weight you want to lose. If you haven’t done that inner work you’re still going to have something in the back of your head that’s going to sabotage. And if it doesn’t show up in your health, it will show up somewhere else in your life. Usually, relationships are like the next place. It goes if it doesn’t show up in your health.
Scott DeLuzio 00:33:07 Yeah. For sure that that definitely will take place as well with your relationships, with your spouse, or other people in your life. Whoever it happens to be that those things will trickle down into those relationships as well. And I don’t think you want that happening. So, well, Ashley, it’s been a pleasure speaking with you today. Where can people go to get in touch with you and find out more about your coaching and the clean eating challenge and everything else?
Ashleigh Magee 00:33:42 The one-stop-shop for everything is my website. Ashley mcgee.com. Very easy to remember, as long as you can spell my name correctly, which is A S H L E I G H M A G E E., Ashleymagee.com/cleaneatingchallenge is where you can get enrolled in that clean eating challenge. I have a weekly podcast as well, the healthy woman warriors podcast, a Facebook group by the same name. And that’s really for women in the military community that wants to improve their health and wellness. That’s where I show up the most. I am on Instagram and, the things, but as far as where I’m the most, you that Facebook group, the podcast, and then, I have several freebies on my website and also have all of my coaching on there. So folks want more information and I’m always open to, a DM just say, Hey, interested in what you, what you do. Like tell me more, because if I’m not the right fit for you or, I’ll point you to someone that is
Scott DeLuzio 00:34:57 Well, that’s excellent. I’ll have links to your website and social media, the Facebook group, your podcasts, all of that stuff in the show notes. So anyone who’s looking to get in touch with you don’t have to worry about spelling your name. It’ll be spelled correctly for you and everything will be in there. so you can check all that stuff out, but again, thank you for joining me and sharing a little bit about your journey and what it is that you do, really happy to have you on. And I’m glad you came on, to share.
Ashleigh Magee 00:35:28 Thank you so much for having me on, I really appreciate it. This was a super fun conversation, and I can clearly nerd out about health for a long time.
Scott DeLuzio 00:35:37 Well, maybe, maybe we’ll have you back on it, another time. And we, we can, we can go a little bit deeper in some of these topics as well and, and nerd out big time that so we’d love to all right,
Scott DeLuzio 00:35:53 Thanks for listening to the Drive On Podcast. If you want to check out more episodes or learn more about the show, you can visit our website driveonpodcast.com. We’re also on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube at driveonpodcast.