We exist in a time where there is so much to be excited for in the fitness industry. With a seemingly inexhaustible stream of information, podcasts, sound bites, and videos to be consumed, it has become increasingly difficult to find truly valuable and accurate content. With countless websites, blogs, and Instagram accounts dedicated to dieting and fitness, where can someone who is totally green to these concepts go? Insert: Simply Mander and her YouTube channel: a vlog about all things macros and fitness. From product reviews, to the best finds at Trader Joe’s, and a sprinkling of her adorable doggos, this girl brings charisma while staying real and relatable to her audience. Since Amanda gets to decide what goes on her vlog, I thought her audience and even those who have never tuned in would appreciate a candid dialogue about her arrival onto the vlog scene and into the CrossFit® community.
Amanda Marie, or Simply Mander has created an audience through simply being herself. In her words, here is how it all began.
Mander is not a professional athlete. She is a highly relatable, normal person, creating a voice for everyday athletes trying to get fitter and dial in their nutrition. On the professional front Mander is a macro coach for Black Iron Nutrition (with a pretty lengthy waiting list), coaches CrossFit® three times per week, and is on the road to becoming a clinical registered dietitian. Girl is busy. However, she continues to create amazing content weekly through her channel that has attracted over 40k subscribers. The vlog is constantly evolving with production and content as Mander develops as a producer, athlete, and coach. So, did she just wake up one day and decide to record herself weighing and measuring her food?
“I grew up in theatre,” she states. “At first I was just helping people on the side [counting macros], but I began to realize that there was so much misinformation out there on nutrition and fitness. Like don’t eat after 7pm, lose 7 lbs in 7 days, etc. Most people were trying to lose weight by doing the least amount of work possible.”
Mander began searching for a more realistic way to look at health and fitness.
“I realized really fast that there wasn’t any voice out there at the time discussing these things. Beauty vloggers had just gotten really big back then.”
Mander was looking for someone relatable on the internet. Someone who had to balance work, school, and a family, while also being healthy. She couldn’t find anything of value that hit on those criteria.
In February 2016 when she started her vlog, Simply Mander, she may have had 1000 Instagram followers. That quickly grew to 10k within the first three months as she started vlogging about cutting, bulking, macros.
“Suddenly, it turned into this educational and lifestyle vlog. I went through a bulk and a cut on my channel for a weightlifting meet but, it also showed other aspects of my life that had nothing to do with dieting.”
Mander’s episodes are clean. They are beautiful to watch and they are informative. When I asked her if she would ever consider turning the vlog into a full-time business and monetize it, her response came without hesitation- she has never been in it for that.
“Turning this into career has never been my driving factor. I knew right off the bat I was never going to make a ton of money with it. Not only do you need millions of followers, but you also need to also pay out the royalties for partially copyrighted songs, which takes money away from making content.”
Mander also would like to keep the vlog as a side hustle because she thinks that content begins to suffer when you monetize it.
“You can tell the people who are doing this for a living and those just putting out content to get money from it. When someone is forced to make content you’re not as passionate about it.”
Much of Mander’s interest in nutrition has stemmed from her own digestive issues as a child that followed her into adulthood. Mander had a stomach infection caused by bacteria that went undetected during her adolescence. Since then, she struggles to digest foods that are high in fat.
“The way I eat now leaves me feeling really, really good. I truly enjoy what I’m eating. If I didn’t I wouldn’t continue counting [macros]. It’s just a normal part of my routine now.”
Mander adds that she has never been in a cut or caloric deficit for such a long time that she would develop and unhealthy relationship with food. She began counting macros in 2012 when IIFYM (if it fits your macros) was just becoming popular. At the time, Mander was going to a “regular” gym and not even 100 pounds soaking wet. Her whole motivation was to build muscle because she was, in her words- “so small”.
“I remember seeing a picture of Christmas Abbot saying, I want to look like her. What does she do? That’s when I discovered CrossFit®.”
While counting macros came before CrossFit® (Mander started in 2015), the more she fell in love with functional fitness, the more she realized she needed to eat a lot more to fuel her workouts.
Inserting yourself into an arena as a smaller athlete who has just begun their journey in a community full of extremely muscular woman was intimidating, to say the least. Even with her small frame, Mander saw a void in the conversation that needed to be addressed.
“In comparison to other vloggers I get the least amount of hate. Every now and then there will be a person with a stick up their ass and it’s like, why are you even on here watching my video? This person is clearly not happy with themselves. Or ridiculous comments about how my straws are ruining the environment. Like oh yeah, I’m ruining the environment alone with my straws.”
Putting yourself out there in such a public way like Amanda does makes her an obvious target for internet trolls. It has also made her acutely aware of the ways in which she says things and how it can affect an entire group of people.
“I titled a video ‘Almost Vegan Pancakes’, of course I pissed off all the vegans. With those kinds of things, it just gets to the point where it’s like leave me alone- everything is insulting or offensive and it makes me not want to do this anymore.”
Of course, she does. Ultimately, she is creating and sharing free content. Even more than that she is helping thousands of people understand the foods that they are eating and the impact their nutrition plays on exercise, health, and overall well-being.
“I teach people who don’t know. People who have eaten fast food their whole lives and know nothing about nutrition. Those are the kinds of people I really enjoy teaching. “
Most people know less than we realize. Many of us are so saturated in the communities we have formed and the boxes that we go to, it’s hard to imagine the majority of the population is wreaking havoc on their well-being with their diets simply because, they know no different.
I asked Mander if she ever suffers from imposter syndrome: that persistent, internalized fear of being a fraud which so many successful women feel.
“The things that people usually chastise me for are not knowledge-related. It’s usually about my straws, my paper plates, or having small boobs. When they say negative comments about nothing of substance, I would actually prefer that rather than insulting my intelligence because I’m not an RD yet.”
Mander is not yet a registered dietitian, which is a fact she has always been open about. She has coached thousands of clients, and what she has learned along the way is based on her own experience and schooling in combination with coaching over the last four years.
“I say it right up front. I’m not a doctor. I can’t work with you if you have Diabetes and you want a meal plan. I can’t write meal plans. This is just me sharing what I know as far as learning it over the past four years.”
Mander has become such a coveted coach for Black Iron Nutrition that there is a long wait to work with her. Her ever-growing following speaks volumes about her character and her relatable-ness makes it easy for clients to want to work with her.
Amanda describes herself as an extroverted introvert. It’s because she puts so much of her life online that by the end of the day she feels overstimulated. She craves peace and quiet and alone time. So, what does her tribe look like?
“My closest friends here are Sandra and Danielle [from the gym] they are both humble, cool, down to earth girls. They are the girls I spend the most time with. Other than them it’s just me and my dogs. I really don’t have a ton of people I hang out with.
“I feel more connected to the people online, as weird as that sounds. They are the ones seeing the true Manders. It’s my actual day to day- there aren’t many people around to see that.”
This is a girl who lives for routine. Pajamas on by 7pm, oatmeal in hand a half hour later, and in bed by 9:30 pm. Sounds like a life I could get behind.
“I love my routine and my peace and quiet because I put so much online.”
Mander typically spends 4 to 6 hours with client check-ins, taking online classes to complete her degree, and coaching CrossFit® classes. All of this makes for constant stimulation and an intense desire for alone time.
“A good Friday night for me would be PJs, oatmeal, and a face mask. After I get done with my second session on Friday I’m like ‘fuck yeah’, I’m going to bed with my oatmeal and Netflix. I’m a Saturday at home kind of girl. I don’t like bars and I don’t drink because of my stomach issues.”
In fact, Mander has never drank. Growing up with anxiety issues there was always something about not being fully in control that she never liked. When she found out she had IBS, the doctors told her flat out not to drink because of the additional irritation it would cause to her intestines.
“If I’m going to waste calories on something it better be a big ass donut or something delicious. A lot of people drink to let loose or have fun and I don’t need that. If I’m going to blow those calories I would rather have it be on pizza. If I’m going to get sick, it better be worth it.”
All of us need a break. Even the most serious macro counters and gym goers need time to reset their mind and body. I wondered if there were times when Mander wasn’t logging. Based on her channel, her viewers might think she is logging all the time.
“I honestly track most of the time and keep it consistent because it’s just part of my routine. I also enjoy it. I’m not sitting there trying to lose weight and getting overwhelmed. When I am cutting for a meet I absolutely need to be strict, but on a day to day basis when I’m logging I am definitely taking extra bites of things.”
It does get to a point with this lifestyle of maintaining a certain weight for a while, you know how much you should be eating. With clients, I asked if she sells this as a short-term tool or a long-term lifestyle change. Realistically speaking, most people are not going to want to weigh and measure their food for the rest of their lives.
“It really depends on the needs of the client. If someone is severely obese, they would want to look at it as a long-term change, not really tracking everything for the rest of their lives. Learning proper nutrition is ideal for someone who has a lot of weight to lose and this lifestyle is a tool to help accomplish that.”
Regardless of what your goals are - from severe obesity to gaining muscle mass - it is extremely beneficial for people to track for at least a short period of time. In doing so, they learn about what kinds of food they are putting into their body and what will help them to gain, lose, or maintain.
“If you have been doing this for a long time you know what 4 ounces of chicken looks like or what meals have a ton of fat,” she states.
That in and of itself, is more than most people have for baseline nutrition knowledge.
What does Mander do with clients who begin to compare themselves to her? How does she reel them back into reality and the fact that it took her a very long time to get from where she was to where she is now?
“I try to remind them of just that. I feel like people forget. They think I just woke up and decided to track macros and I look like this. It was a long process. People have this misconception that they are going to track macros and get ripped. You can mass, go through a fluffy stage, and then maintain. Or you can stay on maintenance and have slow body composition changes. There are a ton of different ways to go about it, but there is no quick fix.”
A lot of the reason Mander feels that her channel is important is because of fad diets that are consistently bombarding our screens and social media feeds. Think: the keto diet and intermittent fasting - a few buzz words floating around the fitness community right now. People are going to great, sometimes unhealthy, lengths to lose weight with diets that aren’t sustainable in the long-term.
The trends and the gimmicks are all nicely packaged and sold as health. Mander talks about them and exposes them, with verbiage we can all relate to. Very few vloggers are recreating that kind of content and that is why she has been so successful.
What has this lifestyle done for her over the years, mind, body, and soul?
“I was really skinny. I wanted to keep up. I would see guys at the gym telling girls what they should and shouldn’t be. That they are skinny and they aren’t supposed to have muscles. I was drawn to the physical aspect of gaining muscle and feeling more confident in myself.”
Functional fitness and the depths of pain you allow yourself to explore offer a type of mental fortitude seen in few other forms of organized fitness. It makes overcoming things in life easier. Many people don’t realize how uplifting that environment can be, and how those around you can ignite a fire in you that forces you to believe in yourself in ways you didn’t think were possible.
That is why Mander works out as hard as she does. Because of all those feels.
“The other day I was on the assault bike and I was almost to the point of dry heaving and I was just asking myself why do we do this? I want to conquer something and I love the feeling of accomplishment when I do.”
Amanda’s big goal would be to go team to regionals. The gym she works out of now, CrossFit® Boynton Beach, has two female team athletes that have been going to regionals for the past 7 years. These fierce ladies are approaching their fifties. As CrossFit® becomes more competitive, it’s becoming harder and harder for these masters athletes to continue without getting burnt out.
“We have been talking about getting a second team together like CrossFit® Soul. I’m almost right there. My gymnastics are getting good. My strength isn’t something I can do much more about because I’m a small person.”
Side note: Mander cleans 185# and snatches over 150#.
“The goal would be just to pull my weight being the small person I am. I don’t know if it will happen next year but maybe the year after that. Our gym is competitive - we have some great athletes. “
Although Amanda is at a competitive gym, most of her training sessions happen solo. The owners of her gym are both Masters athletes who have been to the games.
“The level of competition here is really good for me. It makes me try harder.”
What if she were in a different gym, with different athletes?
“Regardless of them I would still be doing what I’m doing. I don’t know that my goals to get to regionals would be the same though. I don’t know that it would be possible if I wasn’t in this environment.”
Interview and article by The Chestee Blog Editor, Genevieve Gyulavary.