8 Questions About Living an Authentic Life With Emmy-Award Winning Filmmaker Dana Michelle Cook

Recently, I interviewed Emmy-award winning filmmaker Dana Michelle Cook for my podcast “The Elements of Being." Here are her eight thought-provoking answers to my questions about how she aligned her life with her purpose. Take a read…It may inspire you to pivot the direction of your career or personal life (no matter how old you are or where you live).

Were you always running around with a video camera as a child?

Dana M. Cook: I did! My parents had a video camera, and I would recruit all of my friends to make skits. I would write a script…a skit for us-like lifestyles of the rich and famous….or play teacher and student and then record. Anything from long storylines to little blips. I'd recruit my aunt to pretend like she was evicting us. I don't even know where I got these ideas. I felt like I had a wild imagination and I loved filming. I loved it. I loved telling stories through film. When I was in college, I thought, “Well, I live in LA, the opportunities are sort of endless-Maybe I DO want to get into film and television!”

What do you think about the stories often portrayed in the media?

Dana M. Cook: I now understand that there is so much power in the platform and the story that you're telling….and how easily that story can be seen in a thousand different perspectives. When I worked for Fox News, the reporters were going out to tell the stories, and I was there to support them. The story was being told through their eyes. I remember going into the edit bay at Fox and seeing the story that was being cut…and it was SO different than the story I would have told. It was a moment where I thought, “Wow, as a storyteller you have to take responsibility in what you're creating because that is going out into the world!”

Did any mentors guide you through your career? What led you in this career direction?

Dana M. Cook: I can't say that I had mentors early in my life. When I became a producer, though, I had a bunch of mentors. I think what led me to that moment was curiosity. I feel curiosity is the root of finding your purpose. I think we can stand in our own way because of fear of failing or looking stupid. For me, it was just curiosity and having an open mind….knowing that if my eyes are open to the world around me, there are answers. I also think that--like a very Oprah moment right now--it sort of comes to you like a whisper…having the recognition “Oh, this feels really good.” When I imagined myself working on a set with people as a producer, I asked myself “What does this feel like in my body? Does it feel good or bad?” I found myself really drawn to the idea of doing THIS, and I think it's really aligned with who I am in my core. That's not me trying to be someone else….It's who I feel I am.

Do you think this curiosity has just always been like you said, a part of you? Or is this something that has been fostered over time?

Dana M. Cook: I think it's always been a part of me. It might be a result of being raised in a household with parents that have always been encouraging, though. I'm an only child-I had a lot of that attention, love, and encouragement to go out and pursue what made me happy. I thank my parents for that…I know a lot of situations that don’t have THAT kind of encouragement. We never worried financially. Both of my parents had blue-collar jobs, though. My dad is a mailman, and my mom worked for the phone company. We didn’t come from a very rich existence, but we were always comfortable. Because we were comfortable, I didn't have to take a bunch of jobs growing up to help my family, and I think that created space for me to be curious.

How do you reflect on your experience producing the reality television show “Strange Addictions”?

Dana M. Cook: Well… kind of soul search a little bit-especially when you're working on shows like this, and you're around people that feel broken. You sort of take the responsibility on and say, “What's my role here? What am I doing? How am I creating good in a bad situation?” That show was really exploitative to people even though they signed up for it. The guests responded to a casting call, and they said yes every step of the way. At the end of the day, we were creating a story…and exploiting THEIR story (and that episode lives on and on and on and on). I think it's on Hulu or Netflix right now. I know it became a challenge for some of the people profiled as they moved on in life. Many asked, "Is there a way to take this off the air? I just went in for a job interview, and the person recognized me for eating toilet paper.” Even though they signed up for it…it was becoming a barrier as they moved on in life.

That was an internal conflict for you (and I witnessed some part of that). Can you share some of the things that were happening at that time when you switched directions?

Dana M. Cook: Well, here we are at my first documentaries, "Girls On The Run" and "The Empowerment Project." Up to that point, I felt like I was working on content that I wasn't proud of. You should take responsibility for the work that you're putting out into the world. If you have control over what you're creating as a content creator, you need to understand morally how you're looped into that. The things that I was working on did not reflect who I was, and I only had so much control over how something was cut together in the edit bay.

At that time, I was overseeing projects that were being screened to 190 million people on Netflix, including "Toddlers in Tiaras"-which was not uplifting. Maybe somebody would think that that is, but to me it wasn't. It just wasn't who I was. It was a very dark time in my life, but also a very interesting time to say, “What is the voice in my head saying?” And it was saying, “This path doesn't serve you.” Telling stories like this….they don't serve you…and they're not serving the world. If you look at it in a meta-way, I care too much about humanity to continue doing this.

How long did this mental narrative take place?

Dana M. Cook: It was years…It was years. I would say that for two years I was constantly checking in with myself. I'm on shoots…flying all over the country…looking in the mirror and saying, “This doesn't feel right. This doesn't feel right. This feels terrible.” I felt that the way I was taking care of myself was sort of in the wind. I was always on a plane and working with people who were having a nervous breakdown in front of me. Week after week, after week, after week. It was a combination of these things.

So I decided to leave. There was a moment when I said, “Okay, this is it.” I was working on "Toddlers in Tiaras" and witnessing a little girl in a dressing room having an out-of-body experience. I'm filming a five-year-old getting a fake mouthpiece shoved in her mouth, and then she walks around a stage full of glitz (as they called it)…parading around a room full of old men. The whole thing was awful. And then, of course, working on 26 episodes of "My Strange Addiction" and just watching people suffer.

At the time I was also working with my friend, Sarah Marshman. We met through a teen filmmaking program. That was another project that I worked on that was so amazing in Chicago. The company name was Dreaming Tree Films. Sarah had also been working in reality TV and was burning out. She mentioned an idea to take a road trip with female filmmakers (there aren't a lot of us in the industry…It's a male-dominated industry) and wanted to interview women in different careers. I thought, “That's incredible. Let's do it.”

That was the first documentary that I'd ever been a part of creating. I don't know if I ever saw myself as a documentary filmmaker. I don't know if I had it on my vision board as a dream. I just knew that I loved telling stories. But for Sarah, she always wanted to do that. I thought that's sort of interesting…to know your entire life what you want to do and to achieve that. My path has been very different, but to arrive at this space is sort of a testament that there is no right or wrong way to do life. If you end up listening to the voices….where you're meant to be…you're going to be there.

Do most people ignore the internal voice that screams, “I need change”?

Dana M. Cook: I think you have to be driven to a breaking point. Often, when people make a big life decision of walking away from a career that isn't serving them it's because they've hit rock bottom. You might've been thinking about it for a very long time-to leave your job…to leave that person….to leave an abusive relationship…whatever it is, it takes time. It takes time to wear you down. You would hope that isn't the case. We hear about entrepreneurs that quit their job and walk out the door to pursue something new. It feels like it happens in a moment for them, but we know it isn’t always the case.

Article Credit:

Author: Michael Moody Fitness
8 Questions About Living an Authentic Life With Emmy-Award Winning Filmmaker Dana Michelle Cook
Learn how to lose weight from a personal trainer in Chicago.

Want to listen to the unedited full version of the interview with Dana Michelle Cook or other past guests? Find them on Apple, Spotify, Overcast, Castbox, Stitcher, or on your favorite podcast platform. You can also find it in our podcast section.


7 Kitchen Tools that Will Cut Your Cooking Time in Half

Do you avoid cooking because of the prep time? Avoid no more. Here is the list of kitchen tools I use to speed up the cooking process. In many cases, the total time will decrease by 50 percent. Cook away, Chef!!!!


Instant Pot

Personal Trainer Wisdom: The Instant Pot is basically a crock pot with pressure cooker attributes. Like a Crock Pot, you can simply throw an array of ingredients into the pot and cook with little extra work. The big difference: The Instant Pot only takes a fraction of the cooking time. Your 8-hour Crock Pot simmer will turn into a 20-minute pressure-cooked phenomenon. Either method will save you time from constant stirring stoveside. You may use the Instant Pot to sautee onions and garlic prior to cooking your stew, soup, or chili as well (which also saves cleanup time-less dishes).


PL8 Professional Mandoline (Food Slicer)

Personal Trainer Wisdom: Cutting with a knife is soooooo prehistoric! With 4 cutting options (thick slice, thin slice, julienne and waffle) and 4 adjustable thickness settings for each cutting option, you will save time perfecting your slice and adding more shape to your life!


Apple Slicer

Personal Trainer Wisdom: You can core and section fruits in one swift motion (8 wedges all at the same time). Less mess and time. “But it only saves you 30-60 seconds, Michael,” you say. Tell that to my screaming 2-year old son, Preston….


Collapsible Salad Spinner

Personal Trainer Wisdom: As described on Bed, Bath, & Beyond, “This salad spinner is so versatile as it expands for use as a large salad spinner and collapses in an instant for easy storage. Its high velocity pull-cord mechanism dries your fruits or veggies quickly and efficiently.” Sold! Not enough? I also use the spinner to evenly coat a dressing or citrus onto my veggies. Essentially, you’re spinning away the excess while coating each piece of nutritarian goodness. Perfection!


Stick Mixer

Personal Trainer Wisdom: I typically avoided recipes that required pureeing because of the food processor cleanup. With the stick mixer, you can quickly and easily puree a soup in the same pot you cooked it in. It’s lightweight and a quick wash compared to the many parts of the food processor or blender.


Kale Slicer

Personal Trainer Wisdom: This kale slicer is more of a kale destemmer than anything else. It makes pulling the leaves off the stem one easy swoop (a big convenience when using several stems in your recipe).


OXO Vegetable Chopper

Personal Trainer Wisdom: Many of my personal training clients will avoid cooking because of the preparation (especially the chopping). Although you need to slice an apple, onion, or green pepper in thirds, this chopper will make the remainder of your chop a breeze. Simply place the thick slices under the stainless steel blades and press down. Easy to dump into your dish and easy to clean.

Photo Credit:
Photo 1: williams-sonoma .com–Life may never be the same with the Instantpot.
Photo 2: mighty ape– PL8 Professional Mandoline (food slicer)
Photo 3: kitchenettejen .com–Apple Slicer
Photo 4: blogtemplates. Info—Collapsible Salad Spinner
Photo 5: promotion. com–Stick Mixer
Photo 6: target. Com—Kale Slicer
Photo 7: crate and barrel .com– OXO Vegetable Chopper

Article Credit:
Author: Michael Moody Fitness
7 Kitchen Tools that Will Cut Your Cooking Time in Half
Learn how to lose weight from a personal trainer in Chicago.

4 Ways to Avoid the Same Poor Posture as Michael Cohen during the House Hearing

Don't be like Mike! Whether testifying in a House hearing or presenting at a board meeting, poor posture will not only send unintended nonverbal cues but also lead to poor physical health. Putting aside, the "look" of poor posture, anything beyond the neutral spine while sitting (think of your body naturally and symmetrically stacked in the neutral position) may put you at serious, long-term risk of injury. I've included tips from my interview with Wayfair to help you reverse this effect and redefine the way you sit at work.

Wayfair: How can you tell if you have bad posture during your day to day?

Personal Trainer Wisdom: Most likely, you are experiencing many symptoms, including lower back, hip, and shoulder discomfort and pain, that are surefire tells of your bad posture. Considering the constant distractions, it's not a surprise that you don't recognize these symptoms or realize how you shift your weight to one hip while speaking to someone or round your back while working on the computer 8-10 hours per day. In small amounts, your body is adaptable and can function out of a neutral zone (Translation: Pick up light objects with a rounded back). When reinforced repetitively, though, you are creating an imbalanced, inefficient system that can eventually lead to rounded shoulders or a posterior hip tilt (rounded lower back).

Wayfair: What are some tips to improve posture while at your desk?

Personal Trainer Wisdom: The number one key to your best physical health and perfect posture is awareness. Simple check-ins throughout the day can minimize or eliminate most chronic problems. Although the human body isn't meant to sit for extended periods of time, most industries require it. If you're going to do it, you must do it well. Essentially, you're fighting nature while maintaining a flexed position at your desk under quite a bit of sustained stress. Our bodies are meant to move in a neutral position, however, and you're most likely guilty of doing the opposite up to this point.

While it's not realistic to assume that you'll walk and type on a Stairmaster at the office, you can take several measures to maintain a neutral spine--the natural position of the spine that doesn't place unnecessary stress on your disks and maintains the natural curve of your neck and lower back. First, adjust your seat to the appropriate height to reduce a tilt in your hips or a round in your lower back. Your knees should directly extend from your hips at a 90 angle or lower. Second, maintain a neutral position while seated. Keep your ears above your shoulders, shoulders above your hips, heels under your knees, and your feet flat on the floor. Third, stand up and/or walk when you fidget or reposition your body while seated. If you begin to shift in your seat, listen to your body! It's time to move! It takes muscle activation and strength to fight gravity and maintain perfect posture. Although you may be using the right muscles, they will fatigue too! With this being said, relight the system and find a reason to walk around.

Wayfair: Are there any tools, accessories, or furniture that are best suited for having good posture throughout a workday?

Personal Trainer Wisdom: Your best tool for maintaining good posture is self-awareness. No matter what system you would put in place, you may unconsciously compensate in one way or another. An adjustable, ergonomic chair that allows you the fit for your neutral spine and the adjustable height to find the appropriate level for your hips is a priority. An adjustable desk will also help you find the proper height for your computer keyboard and the placement of the screen to limit any slouching. In the case your desk doesn't offer an adjustable function, you may want to simply elevate your computer screen to eye level instead.

Wayfair: For offices with raiseable desks, how much time should someone switch between sitting and standing for the most comfortability?

Personal Trainer Wisdom: In response to the constant demand on your body (gravity counts), it's important to move or change position every 20-30 minutes. The same principle applies when utilizing a raiseable desk. As mentioned before, your muscles will fatigue while maintaining perfect posture. Not surprisingly, ambitious people have bought the raisable desks with hopes of resolving their postural issues but still end up compensating by shifting their weight while standing and placing themselves in compromising positions. When you shift, it isn't a failure! It's just a cue to reposition. Sitting, standing, or walking may be the most appropriate response.

Photo Credit:
abc 17 news .com – Don't be guilty of poor posture!

Article Credit:
Author: Michael Moody Fitness
4 Ways to Avoid the Same Poor Posture as Michael Cohen during the House Hearing
Learn how to lose weight from a personal trainer in Chicago.

The Personal Trainer's Guide to Staying Healthy While Traveling

Many of my personal training clients fear that they will sacrifice their health and weight loss goals while traveling. Fear not! Here is my quick guide to maintaining what you worked so hard for!

Don’t touch your face without washing your hands

Whether traveling by planes, trains, or automobiles, you most likely are hanging out in well-populated public places….which increases your exposure to bacteria and viruses. While I don’t think you should hole yourself in a closet for the rest of your life, I do advocate some boundaries. The first rule of staying healthy on the road is resisting the urge to touch your face without washing your hands. You might be surprised to learn how often you touch your lips, nose, and eyes each day. Each swipe of your hand gives germs access to your system. Considering that you’re sharing doorknobs, railings, counters, and faucet handles, your hands are constantly in contact with the world. Do yourself a favor and resist the urge to touch your face until you wash your hands.

Use disinfecting wipes while flying

Have you ever witnessed airline staff members wiping down tray tables and seat belts? Me neither. On average, each plane will see at least 2 flights each day (and we don’t know what special germs were left behind for us). Most likely, you will eat and/or drink off of the tray table….which makes cross-contamination easy. Before you sit, quickly wipe the seatbelt and the top and bottom of the tray table for 20 seconds. The little things that we overlook are the ones that affect us the most.

Always carry a water bottle

Too often, a cause of our exhaustion and hunger is dehydration. With the constant access of junk food on the road, it’s easy to convince yourself that you need an indulgence as a remedy (when all you need is a simple sip). Make yourself a rule: Any time you’re tired or hungry, drink 4-8 ounces of water and reassess. You might be surprised what you’ll find.


Usually your vacations are jam-packed with tourists activities….which rarely meet your minimum requirements of healthy physical movement. While I wouldn’t expect you (or my personal training clients) to exercise several hours per day during your break from reality, replacing your cab/uber rides with walks will still help you maintain your health and possibly weight loss. Believe it or not, walkers do lose weight while eating their way through Italy. Walking is the easiest way to move on the road and a great way to immerse yourself in new neighborhoods while keeping your engine revved up. Keep your senses alive and rise beyond the seat!

Split food

Enjoy the best of a dining experience while shrinking your portions: Split with a buddy! Instead of ordering 2 separate entrees (which are probably big enough for 3), share an entrée and an appetizer. This foodie approach is an easy way to enjoy more than one taste of the local culture while avoiding a belt-busting experience.

Finding a running group in the city that you’re visiting or signup for a 5k

Running is a global phenomenon that connects many cultures. Find another way to connect with the community that you’re visiting and find a local meetup for runners. What a neat way to participate in a social workout in a new environment! Google “running groups (insert location)” or “running clubs (insert location)” and extend yourself! You can also signup for a random 5k to enhance your workout too!

Make your food count with the ChefsFeed phone app

I always say that if you’re going to do it, do it well. Since my wife Sammy is an event sales manager in the restaurant industry, you probably know that I’m referring to restaurants. Exploring new dishes is a way of life-my life-and it tends to direct my travel choices. I can give you my normal personal trainer speel on following a true vegan lifestyle to achieve optimal health (even though all of us should). Instead, I’d rather try to persuade you to change your relationship with food. Stop eating just to fill up and eat with intent instead. Use the ChefsFeed phone app to strategically celebrate the favorite dishes and restaurants chosen by local chefs. Type in your location and sift through the many recommendations from the host culinary experts. It is possible to still meet your health goals while enjoying the best of life. You just need to be mindful and selective. Thanks for this suggestion, Carol!

Photo Credit:
Wanderlove. com –Can you wander and still keep your health in mind?

Article Credit:
Author: Michael Moody Fitness
The Personal Trainer's Guide to Staying Healthy While Traveling
Learn how to lose weight from a personal trainer in Chicago.

7 Ways that Keep My Personal Training Clients Motivated

After 12 years of personal training, I can confidently say that there isn’t a standard method of motivation that works for everyone. To make life more challenging, all tools of motivation are only effective 3-6 weeks even if the strategy is perfectly in-line with the person’s drive, wants, needs, schedule, and personal/professional demands (a lot of factors to consider…always).

So, how can YOU motivate yourself and maintain motivation and sanity while trying to achieve your neverending list of goals? First, understand yourself. Are you the ambitious, self-driven person that is self-employed or self-directed at home or in the office? You’re always focused on something, but you haven’t figured why another important goal is a priority. You don’t always need someone to tell you to show up; you just need her or him to tell you how to do efficiently and effectively.

Or are you more effective and efficient under the direction of someone else? You’d rather focus on what you need to do and allow other people to take on the burden of the big picture (no problem with specializing, though). While doing something effectively and efficiently is important, you need a leader to keep your sights on the target.

Either way, both personalities need to add value to a goal to justify its course. Do you truly value the goal? Why do you want to achieve this goal? Is it your choice to pursue this goal? Do you believe in this goal?

They must also recognize the potential obstacles: The perceived demands, real personal and professional demands, lack of education or guidance, etc.

Your personality and the potential obstacles will definitely steer whatever approach you integrate into life. Keep them in mind while you choose a strategy from the list below:

Tips from my Personal Training Clients

Create a Fitness Calendar

JK keeps a calendar of the current month on her fridge. If she exercises, she describes the activity on that day. If JK can’t workout, then she draws a big X in the box instead. Seeing multiple Xs within a given period is motivation to start moving again!

Set Rules

CK sets two hardline rules to keep herself from overworking. No matter the professional demand, she never touches work-related projects on Saturdays and cuts out all electronic work-related activities in the evening as well. As a self-employed producer, CK could work around-the-clock. These rules help her maintain sanity while allowing ample time for creative thought and other personal focuses.

Align Your Behaviors with Your Ideal Self

MJ routinely does a check-in with himself to see if his current habits are aligned with his ideal self. Common questions he may ask himself: Does this activity help me achieve my overall goals? Am I on the correct path to my goals? Are my habits conflicting with who I am or my most important goals? What new goals do I need to create to achieve or maintain my ideal self again?

Carry a Book

“Always carry a real book that either:

a) is part of research for a current project
b) is part of research for a future project
c) has nothing to do with anything, is just for fun and allowing the mind to make new connections

Instead of looking at your phone while waiting in line or being bored while your date is in the bathroom, look at this book. Even better, from my fave comic writer Keiron Gillen--he recommends to always be reading three books that fall into these different categories at once. Most important! Tablets do not count. These must be actual paper books--your mind doesn't think in the same ways connected to the internet, and you will also be tempted to just look at social media.” - DK

Maintain Close Relationships with Family and Friends

“I find that preventative measures are effective. By staying in touch and involved with family (throughout the country even) and friends, I keep a balanced life and outlook where it becomes more difficult for any one thing which comes up to cloud my perspective on what is truly important. As such, any one thing, which may want to unnecessarily steal time and energy from other goals, becomes much harder to have an affect on me.” - RA

Tips from a Personal Trainer

Create a Routine

Simplify to pursue. Eliminate your decision fatigue by creating a consistent routine on how you wake, how you eat, how you work, and how you prepare for bed. It will free up important mental energy to focus on your new goal.

Plaster Unconscious Cues

I always plaster post-it notes with my goals on a wall that I see every day…like the inside of my closet (we don’t need the world to see my goals!). Every time I grab my clothes I consciously and unconsciously see them, and the more I see them, the more likely I will live consciously and unconsciously in line with these goals. I’ve also posted a picture of an important written goal on the wallpaper of my phone to remind myself every time I open it. Although I won’t consciously take the time to read it every time, my mind will certainly recognize it as a reminder.

Photo Credit:–Will writing down your goals be enough to achieve them?

Article Credit:

Author: Michael Moody Fitness
7 Ways that Keep My Personal Training Clients Motivated
Learn how to lose weight from a personal trainer in Chicago.