Caribbean News and Views | Jungle Jabber -
Train for life with Vanessa Grace Gilkes by Stephen Choo Quan
By Stephen aka Original Lime Flavour
Published on 11-Mar-17
I was talking to my friend Shannon and seeing some of her pictures when I was caught up with Vanessa Grace Gilkes.  As you can see from the photos she is clearly an inspiration to anyone seeking to improve their body image and overall health.  We at TJJ caught up with this mother of 2 children and creative director at BeSocial an advertising agency in Barbados to get some insider secrets.  Join our conversation to explore the inner workings of this “BEST BODIES” series.

Stephen: Your carnival photos are phenomenal.  We are curious to know what special preparation you did for the week of carnival.  We see in your profile that pole dancing was on your activity list.

Vanessa: Thank you! lol... Yes I do teach pole dancing in Barbados for Vertical Performance Studios, operating out of Surfside Wellness,  but not recently, as I not too long ago had my second baby. I’m now getting back into it. But I train for life... not just for carnival. I have very good pointers that I have implemented over the years that keep me well on track.

Stephen: What are some of these pointers?
Vanessa: There are so many! And i owe this knowledge to a team of friends and wellness professionals that have supported my fitness journey over the years. (Michelle, Amena, George, Keisha, Levar…my core trainers over the past 8 years) At the moment I do heavy weights... I am naturally skinny with a fast metabolism, so i spend most gym time trying to get what curves I can…eating enough of the right foods is a big part of that. I enjoy life to the fullest... I don’t diet, but i certainly eat good healthy meals.

Stephen:  You got to be kidding me? You eat freely?
Vanessa: I eat a healthy all round diet.  I have trained my body to enjoy foods that are good for me... and I eat a lot of those foods.

Stephen: Do you consider French fries or ice cream at all?
Vanessa:  I did mash up two pizzas this week... but that was only a reset for my body after carnival... lol. I was back in training from this morning.  My body no longer feels like it needs junk. I have trained it well. That does not mean that i don’t indulge, it just means that i don't crave craziness as often. Fast food is hardly an option... as it is just that, a FAST way to unhealthy.  I do fall off the wagon occasionally, who doesn’t?…but I get back on just as quick.
i drink plenty water

Stephen: How much sleep do you get since many of us seem to get less and less in the modern life style?
Vanessa: Sleep has been difficult for me as I have two children, one being only a year old, but that will get better as she gets older.

Stephen: Your recovery rate is off the charts, does age factor in?
Vanessa; Yes it does, but I work hard for it.  Once you hit about 25... you can no longer bank on genetics. True story. Sorry young tings!

Stephen: is consistency the one thing everyone needs to take away from this article?
Vanessa: For sure. I don't train for Carnival or Crop Over 3 months before, I train for life.  It also keeps me sane in today's hectic world. It’s time for myself... as tiring as it may be at times.  My goal is never to be skinny either,  I like muscles, and a womanly figure. I'm not in the business of starving myself... ever.  In fact, I could probably put down more food that most men I know, but because I'm so active, my body needs it to fuel itself,  if not, I get headaches and feel ‘off' so to speak.

Stephen: Your core and hip to waist ratio is really outstanding, what focus do you do to sculpt that?
Vanessa; Gosh.. lol  it's hard to say exactly what is responsible for my ‘hip to waist ratio’... ha, but it’s an all-round weekly exercise regime. Of course I do ab workouts, but I'm never focused on just one aspect. More than anything, I think I’m simply in love with how great a workout makes me feel - it releases endorphins - sets my days on the right track, and a healthy toned body is of course a great bonus!  

Stephen: Do you cut your salt and carbs just before the road?
Vanessa: No I don't cut carbs or salt and I don’t do juice cleanses or any of those crazy things that women think they have to do.. I just make healthy eating decisions. Decisions that I have learnt are right for my body. Not saying that I eat an entire bag of potatoes covered in salt for dinner either... just everything in moderation.  I do cut down on the sugar though... if I want that extra lean look. Every woman is different, it’s not for me to say what works or what doesn’t work for another woman, it's for that woman to want it badly enough, and take the steps in figuring out what works for them. Knowledge is key.

Stephen: Do you drink Juices or anything other than water?
Vanessa: No. I only drink water

Stephen: What do you consider some good basic healthy eating decisions?
Vanessa: I try to eat often. 6 times a day. 3 decent meals & 3 healthy snacks . I incorporate all food groups in these. I try not to eat preservatives, but that’s very difficult in today’s world. I admire people who are die hard organics. I drink unsweetened almond milk with everything, I thought I would give it a go a couple years back, and now I honestly prefer how it tastes to regular milk. A friend sent me a muffin recipe once using oat flour. So now I’m oat flour crazy, and grind my own to use for healthy baking recipes. I leave bananas out of my shakes…. humm what else? ... I hate when I stop eating sugar. I have such a sweet tooth, but after a week, my palate changes, and I hardly notice anymore. In fact, it’s not until I get back to eating my mothers corn pie, and i find it way too sweet, that I realise how MUCH your taste buds can change. I could sit here and write a book on what I do and do not eat, and when, and how... Truth is, like I said already, I think it all comes down to everything in moderation. :-) 

Stephen: big question. How do you carve out the time in such a busy day?  Do you build your day around your work out or just try to fit it in?
Vanessa:  No way! lol I have two children and a full time job.  It's a commitment. My trainer would probably tell you I fly through the front door like a crazy woman most mornings, trying to convince her that my warm up consisted of juggling the children and yelling at traffic. It never works.

Stephen: Wow, many crumble under the time constraints so what hints can you provide to motivate people to get it on the calendar?  Things that can be the game changer between the couch and the gym
Vanessa: Oh man... it’s so hard to provide 'hints and tips for a better lifestyle’. I am no professional, the bug just hit me.  I love how great it makes me feel. I love meeting new friends. People who i have that one thing in common with - The will to live a healthy and active lifestyle. I go to the gym with 18 year olds, and i go to the gym with 80 year olds. All different body shapes and sizes. It doesn't matter. I look at all of them as being inspiration, because i always say i admire their dedication... And now here i am... someone admiring mine. I would never have thought. So thanks. lol. You have to want it. Don’t put off for tomorrow, what you can do today. ‘Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday’ - I can’t remember who said that to me once, but it’s kinda true. You only have one body, and one life to live, so treat it well, and you will never regret it. I promise.  Get up and go for it! :-)

Vanessa thanks for inspiring and sharing with us. We take away with us that we need to be consistent and train for life.  Train to eat the right foods, train to drink as much water as we can and lastly train to admire all those on this journey.  We love you Vanessa, keep pumping!!!

Stephen Choo Quan