Alpha Female Friday – Melissa Boufounos

Every Friday I am going to feature a woman that I adore. They exude all the qualities of an Alpha Female and I want to dig into their lives to get some nuggets of knowledge to help us all live happier, healthier lives balancing life & work.

Definition of an Alpha Female

An Alpha Female is a powerful and assertive woman. Her confidence is due to being an intelligent and intellectual problem-solver. Being an Alpha Female is a State of Mind based on choosing ambition and being proud of it. She strives for a happy and healthy work/life harmony.

She is the brightest star in her constellation.  When an Alpha Female stays true to their authentic selves and their missions they shine.  An Alpha Female puts herself first so that she can fill up her cup and then have more energy for her friends, family, and coworkers. She strives for synergy with the world around her. She knows that work/life harmony is found by staying true to your priorities and what makes you happy. She is never complacent about striving for better and nurtures relationships with all the people in her life.

Meet Melissa Boufounos!

Melissa Boufounos is a Certified Holistic Nutritionist who coaches OCR athletes to optimize their performance and improve their race times by making sure they are nourished on a cellular level. She has personally competed in over 30 races, including the 2016 OCR World Championships, a top 15 finish in her age group at Battlefrog Toronto in 2016, a top 10 finish for females in the elite heat at Prison Break Toronto in 2015, a top 5 finish in her age group at the Spartan Sprint Ottawa in 2014 and a top 20 finish in her age group at the Spartan Beast Ottawa in 2014. She has also completed two Spartan Trifectas (2014, 2015). Along with her education in Natural Nutrition from the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition, Melissa is currently taking the Precision Nutrition Level 1 course. She has a diploma in Broadcast Journalism from Seneca College and a post-graduate diploma in Sports Journalism from Centennial College. She is also CanFitPro certified as a Personal Trainer Specialist.

What do you think of the definition and how are you an Alpha Female?

I think it’s a fantastic definition. I resonate with most of it, but I still struggle with some aspects of the definition. I struggle with putting myself first all the time – I definitely neglected this a lot in the past but it has been getting MUCH better. I had my “AHA” moment with being an Alpha Female when I read Elite Daily’s article about the 18 Qualities every Alpha Woman Should Look For in a Boyfriend. I think I always knew I was an Alpha Female, but that really put things into perspective and made me proud of the strong, assertive female that I am and made me realize while past relationships hadn’t worked.

What are you most passionate about?

Definitely nutrition. I have been since I was about 10 years old. I was the one reading labels at the grocery store and at home, and looking up recipes. I loved to cook. My step dad had had a heart attack and he didn’t really eat well. Never packed a lunch. I remember waking up early (I am NOT a morning person) so that I could pack him a lunch every morning before he went to work, with a salad and an apple and some other healthy snacks. All through high school I wanted to be a nutritionist or personal trainer but my parents talked me out of it, saying I was “too smart” to do that with my life. So I went a different route (journalism) and wasn’t happy with where my life went. When my step dad passed away in 2013 from brain cancer, my mom approached me and apologized for them pushing me away from my passion, and told me to go back to school. So in 2014 I enrolled in the Natural Nutrition program and the rest, as they say, is history. When I start talking about nutrition, it just flows so easily, and I’ve had many people tell me that they see this spark light up in me when I get to talking about certain topics.. ha ha.. A big one that lights me up is the “nutrition” products for athletes that are actually so crap. It is my mission to educate more athletes to stop using these products and start paying attention to the ingredients and not just assuming products geared to athletes are healthy…

What does work/life harmony look like for you?

Right now, it doesn’t really exist to be honest. I had a major setback with post-concussion syndrome right around the time I was decided to start my business, so I have really had to honour my health and my brain and only work when I could handle it. So sometimes that meant 2 weeks of sitting around watching 4-5 hours of TV and hanging out with my boyfriend and getting very minimal work done, sometimes that meant working a 12 hour day when my head felt okay. I also tend to have the attitude that my work is my life, since I am so passionate about, it just kind of follows me everywhere. So even when I am hanging out with my boyfriend, Colin, we’re listening to nutrition and health podcasts, we are watching nutrition documentaries, we are talking about or reading about nutrition. When I am out with friends, the topic always seems to come up and then I am doing some form of educating. But, I have set up my schedule in a way that allows me to enjoy life a lot more than if I was working for someone else. I fit my workouts in when I want to, and if my morning doesn’t go as planned and I can’t get my butt to the gym, I move my schedule around and do it later in the day. I love that flexibility. In the summer I don’t work on Friday/Sat/Sun so that I can be at my races.

Share with us a time when work/life balance was out of whack? What was your aha moment that taught you it was ok to take care of yourself first.

Dealing with post-concussion syndrome is my biggest aha moment. I have always been one to put others ahead of myself but this past 14 months I have really centered in on self-care and putting my needs and health first. I have said no to people I would normally say yes to. I have not done work even when I knew it was important for my business, because my brain wasn’t ready for that kind of stimulation.

How do you nourish yourself?

I eat about 80% plant-based. We do eat meat, but not at every meal, and we go vegan at least one whole day per week. At every meal I include at least a palm-size portion of protein, 2 fist-size portions of veggies and at most meals I am also including a cupped handful of carbs and a thumb or two of healthy fats. If I am still feeling hungry, I opt for more veggies and protein. Most mornings I start my day with lemon water. I take a few supplements for post-concussion support (high dosages of vitamin D, fish oil and magnesium as well as a regular dose of iron. I have probiotics but I am terrible at remembering them since they’re in the fridge away from the rest of my supplements). I eat very intuitively, so some days my body wants more meat than usual, other days I don’t want any meat. I don’t restrict myself from anything other than the foods I am intolerant to (dairy, eggs, pineapple and banana) and I limit gluten because I do notice a difference. I have dark chocolate or a hot chocolate almost every day, or when I want it anyway. Again, sometimes I can go a few days without it. We don’t eat too much processed foods, and even then we are careful in our selections. Once we move into our own place and have more space, there are a few things we’ll start to make ourselves too. But for the most part, we make as much from scratch as possible.

What is your weekly fitness routine like?

Well for the longest time, I didn’t have one. But now I am starting to workout again, very slowly. I have to be very careful not to over-exert myself and I am still not cleared for high impact so I have to be careful with running/jumping, which is a challenge considering I am training for OCR season. I “run” Mon, Wed, Fri and Sat following a program in RunKeeper. But right now I am only letting myself run 35 minutes at a time, so then I finish my mileage on the bike or on the rowing machine. After my cardio session I always go work on my grip strength for 5-10 minutes. I do a few sets of full dips between the dip bars, dead hangs, chin-ups, frenchies etc. I try to go to hot yoga on Tuesdays and Sundays. I haven’t started too much other strength training yet, because again, I am just starting to get back into working out, so I wanted to start with the cardio first. In February I am going to start getting back into more of a strength training routine, specific to OCR with a lot of focus on my upper body, back and core.

What are your daily habits for winding down at night and reducing stress?

Ha! I know what I need to do, but I don’t typically do it. I’ve always worked better at night than in the morning, so I struggle with this as an entrepreneur because I am trying to force myself into becoming a morning person so that my schedule also aligns with Colin. But right now, I end up being really focused on work around 6pm-8 or 9 pm and could easily stay up past midnight working. We’ve gotten into the routine of starting to brush teeth, get ready for bed around 9:30 pm and trying to be IN bed at 10 pm so we can be asleep by 10:30PM the latest. I have my phone on do not disturb, but I am on my phone in bed until I go to sleep. My biggest trick for winding down and reducing stress is cuddling with Colin. We have a chest cuddle session. I melt as soon as I am in his arms. I also diffuse essential oils. My favourite blend is cedarwood, ylang ylang, orange and northern black spruce.

What are some pain points of being an Alpha Female that you have to problem solve for? 

Oh this could go WAY back. When I was a kid, I was very badly bullied but then the same people who bullied me always wanted to be my partner for assignments and projects at school because of my work ethic, good marks and because I would end up taking over and doing the whole project when they’d bail on the work they were supposed to do. Even through college I would get stuck with partners who would leave me hanging. And then it happened at work too. Now you can kind of see why I work for myself. I hated being docked marks when someone else neglected their part of a project. I hated being paid less than someone else whose job I ended up doing on top of my own. In relationships, I always had problems. My ex husband was very much a beta male and he was intimidated by my success and intellect. He would actually get MAD at me when I would come home and show him a good grade on a school assignment. He felt threatened when I was making as much money as him. And even though he was a beta and I was the alpha, I still put his needs ahead of my own and neglected my happiness until I finally got a divorce. That’s the very short story, leaving out some very private information. I struggle with taking on way too much at a time, but am starting to get much better at that thanks to the post-concussion syndrome. I always used to be go, go, go with a PACKED schedule and I was very stressed out if something wouldn’t play out as I had it scheduled (including the time line I had in my head for my life).

What is your definition of happiness?

It’s taken me 26 years to get here but I would have to say finding true love is one of them. I’ve been in a number of relationships, including a marriage, where the L word was thrown around and I know that what I felt then was not love but just settling for the idea of that relationship and aligning it with the timeline I had in my head. They were also relationships to get me out of personal situations I was in, so I felt “better” there then where I was so I thought I was happy and in love, when I wasn’t. Just like I believed those guys were in love with me, when now I know they weren’t based on how they treated me. Things are sooo different with Colin. I am never looking for ways to fill my schedule so I can avoid being home with him, it’s the opposite. I try to empty my schedule so I can spend all my time with him and vice versa. We’ve been dating for 2 years and living together for about a year and a half and we honestly spent about a year of that time together 24/7 and even if one of us ran out to do an errand or go workout and we were apart for an hour or two, I would miss him. Now that he’s out of the house more, I am counting down the minutes until he comes back home every day. My heart is very full, and I know our future will only bring more happiness as we grow our family. Aside from that, I would say following my passion has definitely led me to a happiness I had never experienced before from a job/career.

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