The Stronger U Member Spotlight: Nicole Barbato

family at dinner table with woman laughing

This week, the Stronger U Member Spotlight is shining down on Nicole Barbato, who worked with Coach Robbie Farlow. Congrats, Nicole!

What’s your name? (First and last names, pretty please)

Nicole Barbato

Tell us a little about you in 5 sentences or less. Where are you from? Are you a parent? What are your hobbies? Anything unique about your life that you want to share?

Let’s start with basics: I’m 36 yrs old, 6′ tall, happily single, soon to be first-time homeowner, and a cat mom, originally from Northern NJ and I now live in Upstate NY. By day, I work at a biotechnology company developing in-process controls for manufacturing (SCIENCE!). I also I have a huge love for the brewery industry (also SCIENCE! And also an amazing community.) and I spend some of my free time working at my wonderful friend’s brewery and it’s the best job ever.

What led you to join Stronger U?

A gal that goes to my old Crossfit gym in NJ posted a before / after photo of herself on Instagram, and she mentioned Stronger U in her caption. I was so blown away by how amazing she looked that I reached out to ask her for more information. That was pretty much the only conversation I had prior to signing up. I think I was at a point where I was just ready. I was tired, heavy, I felt terrible most of the time, and I KNEW it was time to get myself back to being where I was happy.

What dieting experience have you had previous to Stronger U? Was there a reason you were or were not successful? Why did you stop?

Oh man, I have struggled with my weight since I was an early teen so it started way back in high school with programs like Atkins, Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, to bodybuilder prep diets when I was in my 20’s, adding in fat burners and crazy supplements, jumping on the paleo/keto/etc. craze. If it’s been out there, I’ve probably tried it at some point over the past 20 years.

It’s clear Stronger U worked for you. Why do you think Stronger U worked so well when other programs or diets may have not?

For me personally, the accountability of having someone to talk to and discuss things with was what tipped the scales, literally haha (so punny – I know). Initially, I think a big part of sticking to my numbers was me not wanting to “disappoint” Robbie. That’s 100% a me thing — Robbie never would have been disappointed in me for anything! But having that person to answer to every week was crucial for me, and it kept me accountable because I DID have to report back and face my decisions and actions from the past week. I didn’t want to feel like I was having the “I screwed up” convo — I hate that — so I tried to stay as close as possible or under as often as I could. Once I started really seeing the progress, it made it that much easier to keep going.

Can you give some insight into your eating habits BEFORE joining Stronger U?

I have always had a HUUUUUUGE appetite and a serious love of food, which has been ingrained since I was a little girl. I am first generation American – both sides of my family are from Europe – so the world revolves around food. It’s the center of all gatherings and holidays and, especially, comfort. While I was never exposed to many convenient or heavily processed food items, portions were always an issue. At home, we would make a pound and a half of pasta for dinner for three PEOPLE! And there would rarely be more than enough left for one serving of lunch leftovers the next day. It didn’t matter that things were always homemade from scratch — eating 3/4 of a pound of pasta with fresh sauce and a heavy dusting of parmigiano is still 3/4 of a pound of pasta and a boatload of cheese. Or a GIANT rib-eye steak that “should” easily feed 2-3 people. These portion habits definitely carried through my childhood straight into adulthood.

Now that you’ve joined Stronger U, how have your eating habits changed?

Tracking macros has given me a sense of control. I was CLUELESS about how much food I was actually taking in every day, and even though 80% of the time I ate “healthy foods” I didn’t understand why I kept gaining weight. Tracking had improved my portion control issues without a doubt, and it also made me realize that I can still eat everything I used to eat before, just not all the time, and just within reason. I don’t like being hungry at ALL. So with that comes a lot of conscious decisions to eat food items that deliver more volume for the macro.

If you exercise or train for a sport, what does a typical week look like? Did Stronger U have any impact on your decision to start exercising or training for a sport?

I actually haven’t really exercised while being with SU, but that is changing in the coming weeks. I suppose we can take this as a testament that if you want to lose weight, regardless of your activity level, you need to be in a caloric deficit without question. Now that I have dropped a lot of excess weight with SU, I am looking forward to getting myself back into a general fitness regimen, possibly dropping a little more body fat and building back some of the muscle you inevitable lose while focusing only on fat loss. We’ll see – I am leaving the future state end goal open. I don’t want to get hung up on a specific number or size.

How much weight did you lose with Stronger U?

In 8mos – 50lbs and still going!

How did your waist measurements change with Stronger U?

I have dropped 9″ in my waist since starting. Down from 39″ to 30″.

What were 3 major non-scale victories you experienced with Stronger U?

Hmmm NSV. So, saying “No” to food-related things is a big one. Just because it’s free food doesn’t mean you have to have it. You don’t need to eat the cookies that so and so brought in. I can also say no to things that I don’t have planned into my day. Just because someone asks me to go out for a drink or dinner last minute, doesn’t mean I need to blow my day (or week) because of it. Rescheduling for a day when I can plan better is always an option, or I can go and be mindful that I am working with limited number’s.

Another is that I can still enjoy beer from time to time and be perfectly happy having just one, which is huge. Previously, I would have anywhere from 5-10 beers a week and probably would have gone to every single beer event in the capital region. I thought cutting that down would be impossible – it wasn’t. It just makes me enjoy the few I do drink that much more when I do have them, and I still get to enjoy the community that I love so much.

Lastly – learning that, yes, while we have number’s to hit, there are times when it’s important to not stress about them for your own sanity. Yes – you need to stick to your macros because not paying attention to what you stick in your face is what got you here in the first place. But if you’re good week after week, and you have one shit meal or day and that blip means you have two beers or glasses of wine and a burger because that is what kept you from strangling someone that day – it’s OKAY! Stressing over that one blip isn’t going to do anything beneficial – it just adds to the stress that got you to that point in the first place. In the 8 months I have been with SU now, I have had my share of “whoops” days and “screw it I am eating that” days, and I am still down 50lbs. The key here is knowing those days are ok, as long as they aren’t typical, and I think it gives us a reason to find other ways to manage our daily stresses instead of immediately running to food. You can’t plan for everything. But you CAN plan to make good decisions about what you fuel your body with.

Has your change in body weight or composition improved other areas of your life? If so, explain what areas and how.

It’s a funny thing to realize, one random day, that it is SO MUCH EASIER to get up off the floor when you lose 50lbs haha. On a serious note, outside of that, it feels like everything improves when you feel better about yourself! Overall confidence has improved for sure. I feel like I carry myself just better. How I feel getting dressed in the morning for work is a big one — there are SO MANY FEWER days now where I swap outfits because I just feel disgusting and fat in everything I put on. I honestly can’t remember the last time I had a morning like that, and it used to happen at least once or twice a week previously.

Are there any tips or advice you’d give to new members of Stronger U to help them succeed early on?

TALK. TO. YOUR. COACH. Have an open dialogue with them. I can not stress this enough. If you are happy, unhappy, feel like you’re going to starve and die because you haven’t had a snack in 36 minutes, feel like you’re so full you think you’re gonna explode, have concerns about new numbers, have thoughts about current / old numbers, feel under-fueled during workouts, feel like food timing is an issue, feel like you literally might drown yourself in wine/beer/booze and ice cream because you are stressed out and it’s either that or jail time for murder. I mean the list can go on and on here people. Your coach is your resource. Your coach is there for you. Even if you think it might seem petty, or if you feel like you might be second-guessing them – talk to them anyway. That’s why they are here and it might make all the difference in the world in your mindset and how you move forward every week!

If someone is thinking about joining Stronger U, what would you tell them?

I would tell them, without a doubt, that it’s 100% worth it. 100%. HOWEVER, being 100% worth it comes with a caveat: You MUST be willing to be honest with your coach AND yourself. If you aren’t ready to be honest, then you are doing both yourself and your coach a disservice.

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