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Creating Healthy Habits for Mental Wellness With Dietician Gabriela Barreto

Wellness • May 28, 2020

In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, we’re sharing experiences and perspectives from our FHITfam and community to help promote awareness, empathy and understanding. In this blog post, we spoke with frequent FHIXer and Dietician, Gabriela Barreto, on how she’s staying strong, FHIT, happy, and healthy in quarantine. 

Fhitting Room’s vision “to help people realize their strongest self” extends beyond just physical health —  there’s no question that mental and physical health work together and are equally important.

Get to know our nutrition and exercise expert, Gabriela, as she shares her best tips for wellness with our FHIT community.

Hi Gabriela! Thank you so much for being a part of our Mental Health Awareness Month campaign. Please introduce yourself and your background in diet and nutrition.

I’m Gabriela Barreto, a Registered Dietitian and Fitness Professional with an MS in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology. Coming from a disorder eating background, I help athletes and active women break free from rigid rules around diet and exercise to feel confident in their bodies and perform their best. I am currently the Dietitian for the Hofstra University Dance Team and work as a Clinical Dietitian in a psychiatric facility.  

How long have you been getting your FHIX with Fhitting Room?

I discovered Fhitting Room in 2018, introduced by a friend. One day we hopped in a car and drove to the city and I got my first FHIX with not one but two Bens. [FHITpros Ben L. and Ben W.] I love the fun vibe with a mix of serious, smart fitness. Although I live on Long Island, I’ll pop in from time to time to swing, clean and snatch with you all.

How does getting your FHIX support your mental health, pre-COVID and during COVID?

Staying physically active is essential to my mental health, especially now during this pandemic. While I have a healthy relationship with exercise now, I battled with a disordered relationship with exercise and food. My training used to focus on “burning off the cals” and pursuing thinness to the point where I suffered many physical and mental health consequences. I was more preoccupied with changing my body that I missed out on much of life.

What motivates you to stay strong and FHIT, mentally and physically?

Despite my past, I have been able to learn to use fitness in a health supportive way, both physically and mentally. What motivates me to stay strong and FHIT is how fitness has played a positive role in my recovery. As someone who really struggled with feeling insecure and body image, building physical strength has really helped me feel comfortable and confident in my own skin. Over time fitness has shifted from a means to fuel my obsession with thinness to being a tool to overcome difficulties, becoming more resilient to life’s challenges. Strength training, along with therapy, has transformed me into a woman I am proud to be. With that I can truly deliver a healthy message to my clients, friends, family and the fitness community.

There’s a lot of anxiety and panic going on right now given the current pandemic. What tips do you have for how to best cope in quarantine

Having healed my relationship with exercise, I can really use it for its benefits now, when it is needed more than ever. Exercise has this amazing ability to help us fight and combat stress by building resilience, or mental toughness. When we overcome something tough or challenging, like 100 snatches in five minutes, we adapt and recover. Then, when we experience a stressful situation (i.e. COVID-19 Quarantine) we are better able to thrive as a result of challenging ourselves in training.

For anyone dealing with anxiety or stress from this pause on life, I encourage them to find or reestablish some sort of routine that is realistic for them. Here are some tips I am recommending to my clients and community:

Join LIVE classes.

LIVE classes build structure and accountability, which is helpful for those who can feel disorganized or anxious. Life is chaotic and maintaining some semblance of reality is crucial.

Build a schedule.

And schedule in work time and down time. Whether you are working or not, we need both productive time and down time. Some people can find success with a simple to do list, others need to break it down by hour. Do what works for you.

Don’t ignore your feelings.

Things can change from day to day, from feeling hopeful to states of despair. This may be a trigger for many people with anxiety, depression, disordered eating and other mental health issues. My favorite tools are pen and paper. Writing out how you’re feeling, thinking or behaving can bring real clarity. Feelings aren’t always facts and getting it out on paper can allow you to see some truths.  

While this is not an easy situation to navigate, and may be affecting some more than others, never feel that you cannot reach out for help. My DM’s are always wide open to help those who are struggling with dieting and burnt relationships with food, exercise and their bodies. No one needs to continue to struggle, and we definitely do not need to do this alone.

To read more in our Mental Health Awareness Month series, check out this blog posts:

Mental Health Tips from Our FHITpros

mental health