Building Healthy Habits For Life –– A Guest Post From Brigitte Theriault

Brigitte Theriault works in the Bay Area as a professional chef AND as a personal chef, where she runs cooking workshops and meal planning services from her White Apron Chef kitchen, while also using her well-honed culinary skills to keep the designers, makers, and builders of San Francisco’s tech scene happy and well fed.

By the way, I was just about the write the phrase “…fat, happy, and well fed,”  but that wouldn’t have been in keeping with the nature of this blog, nor in line with the title of this post: “Building Healthy Habits For Life.”

Brigitte recently reached out to me, asking if she could write a guest post for the Fit Fifties –– a post highlighting the exercise and activity changes she’s implemented in her life, and the impact these changes have had on her overall health.

I have to admit, I was a bit hesitant at first because…  Well…  Brigitte is nowhere even close to being fifty.  She’s got a looooong way to go before she’ll even get close to my age and, after all, this site is called The Fit Fifties.  On the other hand, after reading her story and hearing about all her accomplishments, I just knew that I had to feature Ms. Theriault as a guest author.

I think you’ll enjoy what she has to say, too.


You all know that one kid who was picked last in gym class, right? Well, that was me –– I was that kid. Short, skinny, unathletic, borderline anorexic, and not in any way the sort of person who’d help you score goals.

Young Brigitte Theriault











I also hated gym class –– every single gym class I was in –– and felt like dying whenever a teacher or coach made me go out and run, even if it was only for 500 feet or so.

Not being able to hit a ball –– or to run without puking –– it wasn’t the best introduction to fitness. I felt like a loser for sucking at sports.

My mom did put me into dance, gymnastics, and skiing, but two of these three activities just made me feel clumsy, disjointed, inflexible, and generally shitty. I could slide down a hill and get some pleasure from it, but doing a split, or even simple choreography? Never.

That imprint of sucking at most things physical took two decades to reverse.

It wasn’t until I reached my 20’s where I realized that I didn’t want my body to slowly deteriorate or even end up crippled.  I cringed whenever I saw people whose bodies were feeling the weight –– literally, feeling the weight –– of never having exercised, and clearly on the brink of breaking down.  The sight of them was a not-to-subtle reminder to me that I should, at some point, start to exercise before it was too late.

Except I hated exercise.

I was in my 20’s, but I still had the emotional memory of being that kid in gym class.

I was holding myself back with a limiting belief: that all forms of exercise were torture.

Living in a big city (New York City, in the early 2000’s) did get me involved with one exercise trend of that era –– hot yoga –– and I certainly put in a good amount of time just walking around.  With my burgeoning career as a personal chef, I was definitely not a 9-to-5 desk jockey –– immobile in some office cubicle.   In fact, I was picking up a good amount of exercise (and working my ass off in the process) carrying 40 pound sacks of groceries from Lexington to 5th Avenue each and every day

But still, the concept of running, lifting weights, basic cardio, or (fancy word) plyometrics was not only foreign, but downright repulsive.

Let’s jump ahead a few years…

In 2008, I made the move to San Francisco.  I was young (I still am young, by the way), and hadn’t yet hit age 30.

Brigitte Theriault in San Francisco










If you’re not familiar with San Francisco, I just want to let you know that calling it a “City of Hills” is a total understatement.  My first introduction to the city involved a hill so tall and so steep that it left me stunned, sweating, and defeated.  But I was living in a city of hills!  Going anywhere in the city meant that I had to deal with inclines and obstacles.  It didn’t take too long before I end up buying a car, and vowing that I’d never climb another San Francisco hill again.

As fate would have things –– and fate is a funny thing –– I ended up with a roommate who had a personal trainer.

Funny enough, my roommate forced me to exercise with her.

At first I pleaded “no,” and made every excuse in the book not to join my roommate and her trainer.  I was in my 20’s –– a grown woman –– but in my head I was still that kid who sucked at sports.

Sure, I’d try to make an effort of some sort with the two of them –– my roommate and her trainer –– though I ended up simply huffing up and down the city’s hills like some 60 year-old smoker.

Together, we walked, we ran, we lifted weights, we sweated…  And I felt sick and hated every single moment of it.

I knew –– KNEW –– that I’d have to keep exercising, even though I hated it: I didn’t want to end up old and withered away.

Well, a short while later, I moved out.  And because fate is such a funny thing, not having that personal trainer around meant no peer pressure, which meant no exercise for me.  Oh sure… I took up a membership at a nearby gym (like every twenty-something woman in San Francisco) and I’d occasionally go to do yoga there (like every twenty-something woman in San Francisco).  But truth be told, I had no idea what to do at the gym, or even what I was doing at the gym.  The treadmill was boring, and I felt embarrassed and self conscious every time I tried to use a weight machine, because I had no idea what to do when I was on one.

Fast forward a few months…

I ended making a new friend through some connections –– a woman who had once been a competitive swimmer, and was putting in the time to get back to her normal (outstanding) level of fitness.  I really enjoyed her company and so –– when she invited me to work out with her at one of the higher-end clubs (not the stinky 24 hour fitness center I was used to) –– I was a bit hesitant at first (again, I was that kid), but I also knew that my longterm health was dependent on my nearterm actions.  And I really enjoyed being around her and her healthy energy.

We started off with a basic weightlifting circuit, using a set of machines where she really took the time to show me how the worked, what the proper weight for a beginner like me should be set at, and –– most importantly –– what proper form and technique looked like.

For the first time, I didn’t want to puke.

And over time, I got stronger.

Gym time became our girl time together.  She would get me onto the treadmill for 20 minutes or more, and then we’d do a big girl weightlifting session –– lasting anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes using free weights.

I’ve got to be honest, I still hated running –– but every week, my body felt stronger.  And I liked feeling strong.  With all of this exercise (and I give so much credit those hour long weight lifting sessions) my body started to take a new shape.

Seeing the change in my body, THAT was one of the best feelings I’d had in my life.

Though it took a while, my friend eventually convinced me to get me into the pool.  I was more than just a bit afraid at first, because I didn’t know how to swim.  Really!  I was a successful, professional woman in her 20’s, and I was afraid to get into pool.  But patience and determination (and a bit of peer pressure) is the best teacher, and my friend taught me how to do basic kicks and swim strokes, which –– with patience and determination lead to the back stroke, flips, and doing multiple laps.

I liked swimming.

I really liked swimming.

Being in the water and getting that exercise made me feel great, and I was exhilarated after our workouts.

And you know what else?  I could feel so much of life’s stress leave my body as I did these workouts –– as I swam laps, and as I lifted weights.

Feeling stronger –– both physically and emotionally –– I began to lift ever heavier weights.  My body was more capable and better than ever.   And it wasn’t take too long before I realized that all my life I’d been going after the wrong forms of exercise.  Yes, I would always suck at “regular” sports.  But I absolutely loved lifting weights and swimming.

It was about another year later –– I’d been getting stronger from all the time in the pool and the “girl time gym time” –– and my friend and I decided to do sprint triathlon together.  You have to understand that I’d gone from having a passionate hate affair with exercise (because, after all, I’d always been that kid), and now I was signing up for a sprint triathlon.










THIS was a huge feat.

And I was no longer that kid.

In fact, I knew that I would never ever be that kid again.

Let’s jump forward to today…

I. Love. Exercise.

I love that feeling of being strong.

I love the feeling of strength that comes from dead-lifts, kettlebell swings, and the bench press.

I love the calmness of yoga –– every kind of yoga.

I love swimming.

I like biking.

Ugh…  I still hate running.

I wish I’d realized earlier that I loved moving my body –– that it was just a matter of finding the kind of exercises that would light me up and made my body feel good –– and that not all exercise is created equal.

In the end, it’s all about experimenting and trying different modalities: going out and doing a variety of activities (and possibly sucking at a whole lot of them), until you eventually you find ones that suit you.  When that happens, it will change the way you see yourself and how you see the world.

I’m a little bit older now –– just a little –– but my bones don’t feel brittle. My frame is strong.  And there’s no way I’ll be be hunched over at age 60.

Honestly, it’s never to late to learn to love to exercise, even if you were that kid.

You’ll get strong.

Everything will seem more vital

You’ll end up so much happier.

And it doesn’t have to suck.

And you don’t have to be that kid.

Brigitte Theriault in the kitchen









Brigitte Thériault is a personal chef, master meal planner and personal chef business coach. She has 10 years of experience as a personal chef in New York and San Francisco. She believes eating good food is a basic, hedonistic pleasure that demands good, simple ingredients to nourish body and soul. She also believes in entrepreneurship as a way of life and thrives on helping people figure out how to make more money doing what they love. Visit Brigitte at White Apron Chef, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.