Shaping Up

Keeping Fit with the Obamas

AP Photo

President Barack Obama is arguably one of the world’s most powerful men. With this title comes the load of being quite busy managing the affairs of the free world, the first family and … his food and fitness!

I caught up with Cornell McClellan, trainer to the First Family and member of the President’s Council on Fitness Sports and Nutrition, and Chef Daniel W. Thomas, celebrity chef to the world’s most powerful appetites and Regional Executive Chef for the American Diabetes Association, to find out how our president and first lady manage to stay so fit despite their whirlwind of a schedule.

Fitness trainer Cornell McClellan leads the first lady and local children in plank exercises.

Fitness trainer Cornell McClellan leads the first lady and local children in plank exercises.

Managing a healthy diet and a consistent exercise routine can be tough in the busy lifestyle of any professional. But even with demanding jobs, McClellan says the Obamas try to workout daily for at least an hour. McClellan keeps their routine well-rounded, working on functional training, cardiovascular training, and flexibility.

“We might go from weights to interval training, [and incorporate] movements of the body from all angles such as boxing and kicking,” he says.

As with any other client, McClellan says that sometimes things “come up” when a workout has to be cancelled or cut short. According to McClellan, the Obamas take short workout routines with them on travel, and he emphasized “the shorter the time, the greater the intensity [of the workout].”

As a NIKE trainer myself, I love blasting clients with shorter workouts and higher intensities! McClellan also notes that when time is short with the Obamas, he will usually limit rest times and really mix it up by incorporating sprints, weight lifting, body weight movements, weighted rope jumping, and medicine ball exercises.

When I asked Mr. McClellan the one piece of advice he had for the busy professional struggling to balance work and personal life with an active and healthy lifestyle, he responded: “Don’t find time, make time and commit. Know that when you are fit and healthy everything will improve.”

Chef Daniel Thomas poses with President Barack Obama.

Chef Daniel Thomas poses with President Barack Obama.

When it comes to President Obama’s diet, no one healthily satiates this powerful appetite better than chef Daniel Thomas. Chef Thomas was head chef to the United States Senate, all foreign heads of state and dignitaries, Vice-President  Joe Biden and President Obama while visiting the Capitol. With a new cooking TV show in the works and a new book titled Recipes For a New You! Healthy Eating At Its Best, he sure knows how to keep a busy professional on a clean diet.

During the inaugural brunch, Chef Thomas prepared poached salmon, steamed broccoli and brown rice for the first couple. He notes that although he cooks for some pretty powerful people, they are still regular people who like regular food. His most favorite healthy and quick meal he has prepared for the president during a meeting with the Democratic senators at the Capitol was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole wheat bread. “He thought it was delicious!”

When I asked Chef Thomas his healthy eating tips for the busy professional, he noted, “It’s okay to push the plate away and listen to your body when it says no more.” He also suggested these tips:

• At a restaurant, have the server box up half of the food so you only see and eat half.
• Pack your lunch and snacks for the day, filled with protein.
• Do not eat a large dinner because you will become a couch potato by the end of the meal.
• Try not to eat three hours before your bedtime.
• Avoid sugary beverages and drink more water.

If the world’s most powerful man can manage to balance a healthy active lifestyle, than so can all of the busy professionals. Set your mind to it and make it happen! After all, you can’t feed million-dollar ideas on a dollar-menu diet and your creative juices won’t move until you do!

For more information on Cornell McClellan, visit or follow him on Twitter at @naturallyfitinc. For Daniel Thomas, visit or follow him on Twitter at @chefdwthomas.

About Deanna Jefferson


Deanna Jefferson is a certified Health and Fitness Expert, celebrity trainer, Nike Trainer, and owner of the Fab Body Factory in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. Keep up with her fitness advice via Twitter and Instagram @deannajefferson and her website at Want to see Deanna in action? Join her on her Fit Trip in Cancun next May! Learn more and reserve your spot HERE.