Local musicians share their inspirational stories about health and fitness

BY JULIA CIRIGNANO

Sex, drugs & rock n’ roll. That’s all you need to be a successful musician, right? Not so much. Twenty-first century women know better. In 2016, musicians and humans alike are beginning to realize that a healthy body leads to a healthy mind. Confidence and happiness is created through self-love and respect for your own body. If you are nice to your body, it will be nice to you in return.

Limelight Magazine recently spoke to three female musicians from Massachusetts (Amy Marie, Amanda Lee McCarthy and Erin Elizabeth Ollis) who candidly shared their personal stories about weight loss and physical fitness. These three women took control of their own lives and proved that eating health and exercising actually does work. We also spoke to a personal trainer (Nina McGoff) who offered expert advice for this story.

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Amy Marie (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

Amy Marie (of Just Like That)

Amy Marie is singer/songwriter from the band Just Like That. This spring, she won “Female Vocalist of the Year” at the 8th Annual Limelight Magazine Music Awards in April 2016. With raw, honest lyrics, Amy Marie has inspired her fans to be open and honest. She has also inspired people to be physically healthy because she believes physical health leads to one’s mental health.

Amy Marie spoke with Limelight Magazine about her journey in becoming the healthy, happy woman that she is today.

Amy Marie started the interview by talking about her band Just Like That and how being in the band has changed her as a person. Before auditioning for the band, she had had experience as a classical singer yet she didn’t have any experience fronting a rock band.

“I had zero experience in fronting a band and my appreciation and respect for the energy it takes to be a working performer has exponentially increased,” Amy Marie began. “It’s helped hone my communication skills as well since we all know being in a working band is kind of like a marriage and takes a lot of non-verbal as well as verbal discussion to make things really work in a ‘band family’. Because of my bandmates support as well as countless hard working hours performing I most importantly gained the experience I needed as a vocalist and an artist to branch into writing and performing my own music. I credit my experience with Just Like That to helping me find that big part of myself.”

Amy Marie talked about her former writing partner and how he helped her to open up and become the raw, honest musician she is today. She explained how she uses singing and songwriting in a self-healing way.

“I was at first really apprehensive that audiences wouldn’t listen to them as I don’t hold back anything when the lyrics would come out of me,” she said. “Sometimes my lyrics come from really traumatic incidents. Sometimes the songs would be so painful to perform I wouldn’t be able to sing them for months after they were written because emotionally they would be too intense for me. However, eventually I learned letting go of those emotions and just let the songs take on lives of their own really helped me with self-healing. The first song I ever wrote with him, ‘Stay Awake’ saved my life, a few times. Eventually I realized that people like that kind of emotional rawness and confidence to put it all out there when it comes to song writers. So I kept writing.”

Amy Marie explained why she doesn’t believe that staying healthy while being a musician is difficult.

“I think that the choice to live a healthy lifestyle is all about maintaining balance and finding out what your body can and cannot tolerate,” she said. “Do I like to eat healthy and exercise regularly? Yes. Do I always? No, but I know my limitations. Some nights after a late gig I’m starving and the only place that’s open for a snack is McDonalds. Do I enjoy it? Yep. Do I feel it the next day? You bet your ass. I know my body well and know what it needs to get the energy and ‘good’ feeling back so I take a few days and get back on track. Those kinds of nights make me hope that I’ll remember to grab a protein bar to bring when I’m working a gig more than an hour away next time but it doesn’t always happen! Finding time to exercise is hard enough. Working a full-time job, being a mom, as well as working gigs, but somehow I find it because I know that I need to work out a certain amount a week to maintain my weight as well as have the energy level to do all of those fun jobs.”

Amy Marie talked about the specific ways in which she balances her career and healthy body. While she has the additional struggle of being a musician, she also realizes that everyone has a job and life will always get in the way. Everyone has excuses why they can’t work out and Amy Marie explains how she overcomes her own excuses.

“When it comes to working out I try to schedule my ‘rest’ workout days on the days I have gigs,” she said. “My other full-time career is running a gym/personal training studio here on the Cape and I find the best way for me to stay motivated to eat healthy and workout is being held accountable by my members there. They look to me for inspiration and ideas on how to balance ‘life’ with being healthy so I try my best to set a good example.”

Amy Marie has many good tips for musicians and also anybody who is trying to balance a busy schedule with a healthy body.

“Twice a week I do a meal prep and make myself plenty of quick meals to have during the week,” Amy Marie said. “For example I cook three chicken breasts, chop all of my lettuce/veggies for my salads, make a couple cups of quinoa or brown rice or sweet potato. I mostly try to follow a balanced macro flexible diet although I tend to eat the same things pretty often. This keeps it easy, especially when I’m not a very picky eater. Once or twice a week I have a treat like some ice cream with my son or some kind of alcoholic beverage after a gig with my band. Some weeks I have more, some I have less.”

Although eating well is a huge part of in staying healthy, Amy Marie also explained her workout schedule.

“I workout at least every other day but probably about five days a week,” she said. “I switch up my routine every few weeks. Being that I work at a gym, Koko FitClub, my training is very easy since most of the time I follow my SmartTraining protocol that I’ve set up for myself based on my fitness goals with our equipment. However, I like to switch it up with at home workouts that I set up with my trainer. They are quick and very intense and help when I need to shred down the pounds quick. I also love to run outdoors a couple of times a week, it’s very good for the body and spirit.”

Moreover, Amy Marie discussed her journey in becoming the healthy, happy woman she is today. Although she first decided to live a healthier life because she was overweight, she believes that what comes first is self-esteem, self-worth, and self-respect. Once you empower yourself, you can achieve the weight loss you want.

“In 2011, I was an overweight, miserable human being with no self-esteem, a very inaccurate body image and very unhealthy lifestyle,” she began. “Up until that point, I had never learned to take care of myself as I spent the majority of my time taking care of others (I became a mother at 20 years old and have three beautiful children). This led me down a very dark path of self-destruction to try and make myself happy. The truth was that happiness was never anyone else’s responsibility but my own. To get to this point I had to hit rock bottom. I realized that the only thing that was truly in my control was two things: what I put in my mouth and how I moved my body.”

“What I realized during that time is that everyone has a set of skills, talents and qualities they can offer to other people that can either help, inspire, motivate or make them have an overall sense of wellness,” Amy Marie continued. “You can make others happy without sacrificing your own happiness just by being yourself. I found these qualities about myself at that time. When I started to take control of what I put in my mouth and how much I moved, I started small: ‘eat less, move more’ was my policy.”

Eventually, Amy Marie started noticing a difference in her body.

“When the weight started dropping off (I was my heaviest at 247 pounds) and others saw me diligently working at it, it became infective and others started following me and asking for advice,” she said. “This accountability has become one of my strongest motivators to stay in shape and continue the healthy lifestyle I’ve adopted.”

Amy Marie concluded with a few more tips for anyone struggling with their weight.

“Anything is possible if you want it bad enough,” she said. “Having a solid support system is essential for any lifestyle change as well as the belief that you are capable and worthy of your own attention and respect. Making time for yourself and your health is as essential for your new physical self as your emotional and mental health. Learn to embrace a healthy relationship with food and fake it until you make it. Even if you hate exercise with a passion, do it anyway and tell yourself you love it. Eventually it becomes habit and before you know it you’re teaching a Zumba class and preaching the benefits of quinoa. It happens.”

Amanda McCarthy (PHOTO BY ATHEL ROGERS, SUBMITTED BY AMANDA MCCARTHY)
Amanda McCarthy (PHOTO BY ATHEL ROGERS, SUBMITTED BY AMANDA MCCARTHY)

Amanda Lee McCarthy 

Amanda Lee McCarthy is a singer/songwriter from New Hampshire. She has released two EP’s consisting of all original music. While her music is mostly pop, she also incorporates alternative, rock, country, indie, and blues. McCarthy has won many awards including “Singer/Songwriter of the Year” by Limelight Magazine in 2013.

McCarthy recently spoke with Limelight about her new lifestyle. She explains how she balances the life of being a busy musician with keeping a healthy body. McCarthy acknowledged that staying healthy is hard for a lot of people but it’s especially difficult for musicians due to their chaotic schedules.

“I definitely think there is a challenge that comes along with staying healthy, especially with me in particular,” McCarthy said. “I am on the road driving to gigs very often and when I am at my busiest, it feels as though I live in my car. Not having a lot of time to prepare healthy meals, I used to find myself constantly in the drive thru line at McDonald’s, Dunkin Donuts, etc. It took a lot of discipline to snap out of that habit and choose healthier snacks and meals when I am on the run.’

McCarthy talked about her personal journey towards the happy, healthy woman she is today.

“I was personally very unhappy with my body and my appearance,” she began. “It really clicked with me when I started performing with my band members as opposed to only playing acoustic shows. I realized that always having my guitar in front of me was almost like a safety net and a shield to hide the parts of my body I was insecure about. It made me nervous to really open up and perform to the best of my ability when singing with my band.”

Once McCarthy realized she was unhappy with her appearance, she made a change. Her first step was eating healthier. She went pescatarian for a while and eventually settled on a diet that she was happy with.

“I’ve lost almost thirty pounds and feel much more comfortable on stage now,” she said. “It’s much easier to let loose and get into the music without being so insecure about my appearance, and even off stage, my confidence in my body and myself has skyrocketed.”

McCarthy talked about the strategies she uses to stay healthy while actively pursuing her musical career. She started by talking about the black hole of snacking. Although snacking can be one of weight loss’s biggest enemies, McCarthy explained some ways in which she snacks in a healthy way.

“All gas station marts, in addition to junk food, offer granola/energy bars, trail mix, nuts, peanut butter crackers, (most offer) bananas, and many more great options if you are hungry and need a snack,” she said. “If you feel the need to munch on something, I highly recommend Harvest Snaps. Also, Dunkin Donuts offers their DDSmart menu which has some healthier options lower in fat and calories. I also really enjoy ProSnax snack packs, which I have seen available in both Walmart and Hannaford’s. My final advice, if you have an early start to your day, is to wake up even 20 minutes earlier and eat breakfast at home as opposed to grabbing something on the run. Not only is it better for you but you save money as well!”

Eating well is the most important challenge for someone trying to lose weight but so is working out. McCarthy said that she wishes she had more time to workout but can only fit in some formal walking workouts since she is also a full-time mom to a beautiful two year old daughter. For musicians, or anybody with a busy schedule, McCarthy recommends making diet changes the priority, especially at first. She also recommends switching things up and keeping your diet interesting so you don’t stray.

“I know it’s so tough to balance the on-the-run lifestyle with healthy lifestyle choices,” McCarthy began. “My best advice, especially with food and snacks, is to mix it up. When I eat the same things, I find myself craving a default to a cheeseburger or a bacon filled breakfast sandwich. Mix up your snacks: granola bar one day, fruit the next, nuts the day after. Meals: Don’t just eat salad. Include different vegetables, rices, and a variety of protein. Even if you don’t eat meats, you can find great amounts of protein in fish, beans and avocados.”

McCarthy also spoke about the connection between a healthy body and a healthy mind.

“For me personally, having a healthier body led to me having a healthier mind but it was because of an unhealthy mind that I had an unhealthy body with unhealthy habits,” she said. “However, I’d say that a healthy body can lead to a healthy mind quicker than the other way around. All it takes is the inspiration to start, willpower to avoid the cravings, and the courage to stick it out until you start to see a difference in your body. From there, the inspiration is natural and will carry you through to whatever your own personal health goal may be.”

Erin Ollis ( (PHOTO BY SYDNEY ROSE PHOTOGRAPHY, SUBMITTED BY ERIN OLLIS)
Erin Ollis ( (PHOTO BY SYDNEY ROSE PHOTOGRAPHY, SUBMITTED BY ERIN OLLIS)

Erin Elizabeth Ollis (of Thirty 6 Red)

Erin Ollis is a local singer/songwriter born and raised in central Mass. She is both a solo artist and country singer in the band Thirty 6 Red. With a passion for music and also fashion, Ollis told Limelight Magazine about her journey in becoming the confident, healthy woman she is today.

Ollis has joined Thirty 6 Red two years ago, and since then has grown both as a persona and as a musician.

“I couldn’t be happier with how my life has evolved though joining the band,” Ollis said. “I have gained a tremendous amount of confidence and better stage presence. The songs that we perform are a variety of country and rock and, specifically with the rocks songs, I had to completely break out of my shell. My band members knew that I had the potential to break that shell and with their help and guidance, I certainly have.”

As Ollis began to break out of her shell and thrive within the music scene, she noticed one thing that was holding her back. While she wasn’t drastically overweight, she wasn’t happy with the way she was being portrayed as a musician on social media. This pressure was all she needed to start treating her body better by both eating right and exercising.

“I became very disappointed with the way I physically looked in mostly all of the pictures of me on social media,” she said.

Ollis now had the impending pressure of being a touring musician, on top of being a female touring musician. She knew she needed to make a change within her lifestyle but she didn’t know how.

“I then turned to Weight Watchers which really helped me in a positive way,” Ollis said. “Yes, it is a diet plan but it was easy to follow and I became really good at watching my ‘food points.’ I made it a habit to weigh in at their facility every Sunday to track my progress. With the diet came the workout routines. It definitely took time to stick to a specific routine but after a while, it became easier. I stopped looking at it as a ‘diet’ and thought of it more as a lifestyle change.”

Once Ollis committed to her new workout and eating habit she began to lead a far healthier life. Although she doesn’t use Weight Watchers anymore, they taught her how to create a healthy, long-term lifestyle.

“Soon enough people started commenting on my weight loss and it was exciting to tell them how much weight I actually lost,” Ollis said. “I am currently down 39 pounds. I’ve learned how to have more self-control and what I should and shouldn’t be eating. I owe all of my motivation and dedication to Thirty 6 Red. My band members have supported me through it all and without them, I’m not sure what I would be doing today.”

Ollis spoke about how she managed to stay healthy while pursuing her career in music and also her full time job in the Healthcare industry.

 “It’s definitely a challenge to get in a workout when the band travels for shows, so if I can’t fit a workout in, I do make sure that I’m not eating junk food all day long,” she said. “Of course, I will still indulge here and there, but I still have a weight goal for myself and don’t want to lose focus.”

When Ollis does have time to workout, she has a very specific routine. One thing she has also discovered is the benefits to doing all different types of workouts.

 “I try to workout about four to five times a week, sometimes more,” Ollis said. “I do mix up my workout routines because I’ve noticed that from doing the same type of routine, my body stopped showing results. I recently started taking barre classes, which are really fun. I couldn’t walk for about two days afterwards, but it is definitely one of my favorite workouts.”

Over time, Ollis has gotten into a habit that works for her.

“I’m usually up at 5:20 a.m. to workout before I go to work. I found that this is the best time for me personally to workout because it gets me energized and ready for the day,” Ollis explained. “I’ve definitely become a fan of a few of the Beachbody workouts because even though they are about 30 to 45 minute workouts, they are definitely effective. I also belong to Worcester Fitness, which offers great workout classes such as spin, cardio sport and morning pump, to name a few of my favorites.”

 Ollis has great tips for her fellow musicians who struggle with staying healthy on the road.

“If you know that your band will be ordering a bunch of appetizers, be sure to bring your own healthy snacks and keep busy while everyone else is chowing down,” she said. “Whether you’re practicing through your set list for the show or just listening to some new tunes, keep your eye on the prize and stay focused!”

 Ollis is now a new woman with even better fashion.

“After I shed a lot of my weight, I knew it was time for a fashion makeover,” she said. “I ended up connecting with my friend and personal stylist, Danielle Marie. She is also the “fashionista Gemini” behind, A Chic Voyage, which is an awesome site where she shares amazing fashion tips and the latest fashion trends. By answering a few questions for her, she was able to transform me into a more confident version of myself. She taught me that it’s okay to show a little skin here and there and to always dress to impress! With her guidance, I’m now not afraid to wear certain outfits that I was too scared to before the weight loss. She has definitely been an inspiration to me!”

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Nina McGoff

Nina McGoff has been a group fitness instructor for eight years and a personal trainer for four years. She has several group fitness certifications such as Group Fitness Certification, AFAA 2007, BodyCombat, LesMills, BodyPump, LesMills BodyAttack, LesMills Spinning, and MADDOGG. She also has the following training certifications: TRX Suspension Trainer, Personal Trainer, NASM, and TRX Rip Trainer, and is certified as a level 1 Nutrition Coach, Precision Nutrition.

McGoff has a true passion for the work she does and spoke with Limelight Magazine about what inspired her to become a personal trainer and what keeps her passionate about her work.

 “After teaching a class one day, a woman approached me and told me that my class was the best part of her day and that she has been feeling great since attending regularly and I knew right there and then that I wanted to do it full-time,” McGoff said. “I love being part of someone’s journey to a better self.  Helping people fall in love with fitness, that’s inspiring.”

 Many touring musicians struggle with balancing their career and healthy bodies. McGoff spoke about this struggle.

“The challenging schedule is probably the biggest hurdle,” she said. “It’s hard to make healthy choices  when constantly on the road or on the go.  It can be done, but it takes a very conscious effort.”

McGoff had great advice to give musicians struggling with staying healthy while on tour.

“Start focusing on making better choices no matter what your options or situation is,” McGoff said. “If fast food is the only option, ask for a side of fruit instead of fries, chose a bottled water instead of a sugary fountain drink.  Protein bars and drinks can be great on the go options.  Make an effort to hit the hotel gym (if available) or get out and exercise even if it’s just for 15-20 minutes daily when on the road.  A little can make a big difference.”

McGoff loves music and uses it to pump her up while working out. She talked about what she likes to listen to and why,

 “Anything that inspires me to work harder, run faster,” McGoff said. “When I’m running I like anything with a beat that builds up and drops an intense beat for a short amount time, it pushes me to go faster even if just for 10 seconds. And, I love listening to old school hip-hop and reggae when I’m strength training.”

Visit “FIT with Nina” on Facebook by clicking HERE.  This page is loaded with helpful tips on how to eat healthy and exercise regularly.

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