U.S. Army veteran and physical trainer Valetta SuRae Stewart talks fitness

Jan 24, 2014

Chat with former drill sergeant Valetta SuRae Stewart, who has put her Army skills to work in a new career as a fitness trainer. She was the subject of reporter Lenny Bernstein's Local Living cover story on Jan. 23, "Army strong."

It's wonderful to have an opportunity to share this online forum with you. 

I am an experienced and certified Raw Food Chef and Teacher.  I offer workshops, in-home get togethers and Live Food Nutrition Consulting to help with integrating more natural whole foods into the diet.

I am a Certified Personal Trainer, TaiJiFit Instructor and qualified as Master Fitness Trainer in the Army.  I really enjoy helping people get a clear vision and goal and then achieving it. 

Strength, Power, Flow and Balance can give you alot but the nutrition part will make hard work pay off or stop it in its tracks.

So, Lets Eat Live, Live Well and get Fit!

How do I contact you? I would like to meet and see if I could get lessons from you. I really liked your approach. Ethel

Hi Ethyl.  my email is reacz@yahoo.com I can be reached there and my web presence is getting updated as we speak.  www.valettasurae.com

Do you offer raw food certifications?

Yes, I do.  I was trained by Alissa Cohen at Living on Live Foods.  I do 2 day trainings in level 1 or  level 2 Raw Food Chef

Ms. Stewart, How would motivate someone to change a unhealthy lifestyle that is sedentary with bad eating habits? Why do you think the USA has such a high obesity rate compare to other countries? Do you think it is poor eating habits or lack of exercise?

It has been my eperience that is a culprit of changing requirement of fitness in schools.  Children dont play anymore.  they sit and eat and do video games.  Adults sit at work and sit in the car on 2 hour commutes.  its often difficult to take care of oneself unless youre sick and laid out.  I hope to help people feel better by makiing small successes in eating so they will feel better and see the need to move and make lifelong changes

What advice to you have for Semper Fi Fund's wounded and recovering service members as they transition to the civilian community and strive to find a "new normal" in their fitness routines?

The new normal for any adjusting warrior is to simply find what you love.  I used to love running track and particiating in the long jump and hurdles.  I love Tai Chi now.  I get the peace I found as a competitive runner but I have gained strength power and flexibility.  there are doxens of oportunities to train specifically for a new normal.  Flow fit is another favorite of mine by Scott sonnon

Do you think going into personal training is a good idea for people who have been away from the job market for a while (i.e. a stay-at-home mom)? What has your training been like?

ABSOLUTELY!  if you already love fitness or if you are just already good at it.  Being a trainer id wonderful.  If you  have kids even better.  Kids boot camps are springing up all over and making a great impact.  kid boxing camps.  baby yoga.  skys the limit

What is the best piece of advice do you give to people just starting to exercise or who haven't exercised in a long time?

begin where you are and go from there.  you are not in a competition.  you are improving the quality of your life.  You have a chance to make a lifelong change in the life you are now living for the better.  dont jump in the deep end.  put floaties on your arm and enter slowly.

How does one contact you and set up an appointment for consultation? Thanks!

my email is reacz@yahoo.com and my website is www.valettasurae.com

the site will be set up for questions and online consults very shortly. 

What's the best exercise for weight loss?

moving in any manner regularily until you raise a sweat and making clean and natural eating choices.  The best exercise program in the world will not out pace poor dietary choices

How do you feel about nutritional supplements ?

I really depens on how you eat as a whole.  For instance I consider myself a Flexitarian.  I flex between vegetarian, vegan and raw foodist.  depending on where in the world the military sends me it is not always possible to eat raw produce due to their fertilizing techniques (wink wink), therefore I will do mostly cooked vegan fare.  I know I need calcium because I dont use dairy products and I also need B12.  so, again it depends on what you eat and what you might be missing or are short on

Any winter fitness or workout tips? I know you're working in a gym, but do you like to go outside too?

I love training outside.  cross country skiing, snowshoeing in the Poconos,  sledding, my two sons and I all love skiing.  they snowboard, I have not gotten up the nerve for that yet though!  LOL but if its cold and not bitter, winterdrills can be safe and fun if you love the great outdoors

I want to lose weight and I know what bad foods I should avoid, but after that I'm not sure how to build a healthy menu, particularly with sweets at work all the time. What is the easiest way to start?

If you make your own treats you know exactly what is in it.  come to a raw food intro and you will learn a ton of great recipes.  oh and I have a blog site with recipes too. . .


Hello Chef Su'Rae this is Tempie Satcher founder of the DC love Locs expo! How do you make kale chips?

Hey Tempie.  Good to see you on here.  as a matter of fact I'm making kale chips for the DC Love locs Raw food demo im doing at your show in April.   I use a dehydrator for mine but it you dint have one use your oven with the door left ajar and the temp on the lowest setting.  destem wash and tear your kale into pretty big pieces since they will shrink.  i spin them dry and put in a ziplock bag.  I add grapeseed or olivve oil bout two tablespoons and i zip it up and squeeze/massage the greens till they are saturated and softened.  lay them out on cookie sheets and sprinkle with mrs dash garlic spices and put in the oven till nice and dried turning once if needed.  then I CRUNCH AND MUNCH away!!! Bon Appetit

Is it true that many spouses and children of active duty military members don't have adequate access to fitness facilities? How do you think improving their access to opportunities to stay physically active could improve their lives?

I am not so sure about not having access to a gym.  the majority of my workouts are not in a gym.  I do mostly bodyweight workouts and TaiChi neither of which require a gym.  I am certified with ShaunT in his STRIDE program which is dance and participate with the DC Go-Go Fit which again is not a gym activity.  Staying active or becoming active is amazing for all members of the family.  children gain self confidence and a lifelong love of feeling strong and resilient.  adults can improve BP, cholesterol levels and improve stamina and endurance.  it also helps with sleep patterns and incorporating dietary upgrades.  the icing on the lifestyle cake.

What has been your biggest challenge transitioning from active duty life to civilian life and what is your advice to other military or former military that you learned in the process.

to be honest it was hard for me.  I got out after being a Drill Sergeant so, thats still how I talked to people and treated them.  I had a BIG learning and readjustment curve.  In the Army term I had to" tighten up my shot group post haste!"  LOL  I started school for cosmetology and that was a good transition because I had to relate to people that had a need and expected me to fill it by my skill and not my words.  I learned fast.  Its difficult for us sometime to feel like people relate to us and some of the things we have been through.  the good thing though is the military teaches you to persevere. to be more than you thought and to accomplish more before 8am then most eople do all day.  (i just threw that part in).  But serioiusly. do what you love.  Find  those things.  they will see you through. 

Do you have any advice for keeping up a workout routine in the winter? I do belong to a gym, but even getting over there seems like such an ordeal when there's ice and snow everywhere.

I agree.  Luckkily we have the internet and DVD's.  In a pinch I have old bodyweight workouts that I 'Thought" I out grew until I did them after 6 or 7 months and they kicked my butt for real.  so pushups to failure.  50 jumping jacks (stepping jacks if you cannot jump), i min plank, 25 windmils (r hand to left foot/alternate). and then 50 air squats.  rest 1 minute and repeat 4 more times for 5 rounds.  no gym not in the cold.  but feeling smoked and sweaty

Thanks so much for your time today! I work out from home about 5 days per week. Right now I have a yoga mat, free weights in 1, 2, 3, and 5 pounds, and exercise bands. I usually work out to a DVD (I did Insanity once) but usually use a Jillian Michaels or a workout off amazon prime. I have good playlists and I enjoy working out, so I don't really get bored. But is it bad for my muscles to have this much repetitive workouts? If so, what DVD's should I add? Group classes are not an option in my area, as they do not fit into my work schedule. Thanks again!

if you are not seeing cuontinual change I would switchit up a bit.  if your goal is strength or flexibility, body reconfuiguration, power or endurance.  tailor your workouts to that means.  I would look into heavy duty bands if you are leaning toward strength (which I think is an important piece in any fitness routime for improvement.) or heavieer dumbbells.  Unless you are just maintaining.

Hello...loved your article. Are you accepting investors for your business expansion?

Absolutely, this industry is growing by landslides.  Fitness among our nations baby boomers are at a high right now and the more that enter that arena it just goes up. Studies show that modifying your fitness level and nutritioon choices lowers inuirance costs and Corporations globally are looking into incentives for those that are practicing preventive helathcare (self-care) versus sick care.  The new paradigm in health and fitness  is wellness led by those that want to improve the quality of their lives. . .for LIFE

Thank you Valetta for your time today and for sharing your story. You are truly an inspiration to others. Whitney

Thank you Whitney!!!  Eat Live, Live Well and Thrive

If a person wants to start changing eating slowly which one unhealthy food would be best to remove from eating? for example margarine

we as a people dont do restriction well.  I prefer to work on additions.  Add in the things that will make a marked improvement in an aspect and then move on form there.  I suggest to everyone to implment real juices into their diet.  It seems simple and insignificant but it makes a huge difference to your body internally.  to eat an avocado a day for some.  for others to write down your daily consumption (everything)  because we rarely realize just how much we snack and fill up on costly calories (to our fat levels) that are empty calories for our nutritional needs. 

What are the benefits of eating a raw food diet? I'm worried I might not have the budget for it, either.

there is no need or a rush to go fully raw unless you are dying and your immediate life depends on it.  That said  adding in what you can where you can is a gerat wat to start.  I never knew how many ways I could make apples  applesauce, pineapple/apple charoset/apple granola drop candies/apples gloria/ apples diane.  incredible.  a little goes a long way to your health and happiness..  Eating to live should not be a chore or break the bank.  we will do shopping field trips to show you how to BARGIN SHOP RAW!!!!

Wait, you eat mostly vegetables, which I assume includes tons of leafy greens, yet you still feel like you need a calcium supplement? Can you elaborate? It's a HUGE misconception that dairy is the only calcium-dense food out there.

love leafy greens but because of my level of exertion and being on mission sometimes I am not always in charge of what I have available to eat in abundance.  I prefer to be safe than sorry,  I have seen the resulting damage calcium deficiency reaks on the body.  not my plan for this body. 

Thank you so much for the great questions and e4verything.  I hope I did not make too many typos.  I look forward to having many of you joining me on my quest to make a change.  I started with the face I see in the mirror.  Thats where you can start too.  FB me.  ChefV,Surae  or on my website www.valettasurae.com with a lot more things to come for the Vegetarian, the Vegan, the Raw. . . and the Curious.   www.RawKravings.blogspot.com has recipes and delicious tibits.

reacz@yahoo.com if you want to conneect by email

I hope to see you in class very soon

I am Chef V. SuRae

Eat Live, to Look Good in the Raw.  

In This Chat
Valetta SuRae Stewart
After a 23-year career in the U.S. Army, Valetta SuRae Stewart is embarking on a new career as a fitness trainer. As a young drill sergeant at Fort Dix, N.J., she had stripped 60 pounds off recruits who joined the Army woefully out of shape. Later, she helped train other soldiers who needed help maintaining their fitness to meet the Army’s standards. Along the way, she learned the art of helping people attain goals they believed were impossibly out of reach.
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