A Little – or A Lot – of Change Can Do You Good

By AFM – February 1, 2014
Photography by Brian Fitzsimmons

Who doesn't love a transformation story? Isn't America built on the concept that anyone, at anytime, can make changes that will result in success and a better life? Each of these people took a brave, hard look at where they were and opted for something different; AFM has put a spotlight on the power of transformation through their personal stories. Whether a weight-loss success, a journey to find a community, or that step-up in effort required for competitive success, each story includes a healthy lifestyle and an inspiring voice.

EveDiscovering the Athlete Within

by Eve Richter

In January of 2013, I weighed 368 pounds. I didn’t feel like I ate that much; I ate mostly healthy foods, walked dogs as part of my living, and led a reasonably active life. Or so I felt.

I didn’t understand how I’d gotten so fat, or why I stayed so fat. I was in some ways even defiant about it—big and beautiful, fat but fit—but really, I was kidding myself. I did eat reasonably healthy, but clearly I was still out of balance.

Around that time, I was undergoing a lot of stress at my job and was in the process of leaving it. I found myself unable to eat or sleep, and was placed under a doctor’s care on anti-anxiety medication. I lost around 15 pounds; my stomach shrank. Ultimately, I was able to eat again (although, sadly sleep remains a challenge). I decided to use my reduced appetite as a jumping-off point, and began something I call “intuitive eating.” I made a conscious deal with my body to eat only when I was hungry, stop when I was full, eat whatever I truly craved, but surround myself with healthy choices. I began to steadily lose weight.  

In April, I heard that Brenda Porta was reopening Pink Gloves Boxing. I was very excited, since I had gone to Pink Gloves Boxing previously, and it was the only exercise program I’d ever stuck with for any length of time. I had been devastated when they closed. I immediately joined up and made it a priority in my life to make every single class offered.  

At first, I think I told myself I enjoyed it more than I actually did. I really was not in very good shape. I was still terribly overweight, and the exercise was difficult. But I stuck with it. And I did like it more than other forms of exercise, for sure. The variety of the movements—the punching, the dance-like moves, the circuit style of the class—all inspired me to keep going, learning, and improving my health. I loved the camaraderie of the other women and the trainers. It felt like a family. Heck, it is a family. I stuck with it, starting with just two days a week.

In the summer, Pink Gloves offered an intensive program: four mornings a week and 1.5-hour classes instead of the usual one hour. I decided to make it to as many of those as I could. I was working out four days a week for longer sessions, and I was getting stronger, seeing transformations in my body, my stamina, and my muscles. I was genuinely enjoying physical activity for the first time in my life.  

I became accustomed to the nearly daily routine of working out, and, when the summer intensive program ended, I found myself a little lost. Two days a week was no longer sufficient for me. I was losing 10–12 pounds a month, building muscle, watching my body change, and feeling a complete shift in my attitude toward exercise—I craved it, needed it. I joined Gold’s Gym and began working with a trainer as well as taking classes. I will admit that I went a little overboard for a while, sometimes working out two or three times a day. My trainers worried I was not eating enough to sustain my activity level.

This is where things got a little weird. I had lost nearly 100 pounds; I was transformed. And suddenly, my trainers were telling me I needed to work out less, eat more, and eat more fat. I was confused and defiant. I began using My Fitness Pal to track my eating, primarily to prove them wrong. That’s when I realized that I was consuming no more than 1,200 calories a day while sometimes burning that many calories exercising.

I had to make another major shift in my lifestyle. Eating had to become more intentional. I began making healthy smoothies in the morning to pack in some nutrients and calories—and fat. I cut back my exercise to a more reasonable six or seven times per week. Sometimes, I still work out twice a day, but if I do, I eat more. I feel that now I have power and control over what goes into my body as well as the way that I use it.  

I have now lost 130 pounds. While I still have a long way to go, I have made changes I can live with for the rest of my life. I do not diet. I do not deny myself anything. If I truly want to have a burger and fries, I do so. But I rarely seem to want those kinds of foods anymore. As I’ve shifted to eating almost exclusively whole, natural foods and making sure to balance my nutrition, I tend to crave those things that are better for my body. But, because there is no denial, there is never any cheating. That is a lifestyle change I can live with forever. My biggest challenge is ensuring that I eat enough every day to support the activity level I enjoy.  

As for the exercise—I can no longer imagine my life without it. My “rest” days are torture. It’s a challenge to keep myself from doing too much. I generally train two or three days a week, box with Pink Gloves two or three days a week, attend a Pink Gloves boot camp once a week, and do exercises from my trainer once or twice a week. My trainer at Gold’s knows how much I love to box and is training me as though I might become a real boxer someday. We are establishing fitness goals, such as being able to run some distance, and do “real” push-ups. And (ugh) burpees—I wonder if I ever won’t hate burpees?

As I write this, I am still in my workout clothes from an interval circuit I did at the gym not two hours ago, and I am seriously contemplating going to a boxing class in an hour and a half. Using my body, becoming strong, feeling and seeing my muscles grow, watching my body tone up—the exhilaration is indescribable. Every day I look at and touch my changing body, giving it appreciation for supporting and serving me all of these years. I recognize and acknowledge its beauty and power. I know it is beautiful. I am beautiful.

NickGaining a New Lifestyle Through Workout

by Nick Reed

I say that I was fortunate, that I got a little lucky. I just wanted to meet people, and CrossFit was a way to meet people.  

Born and raised in northwest Austin, I went to Westwood High School and the University of Texas before I left and went to law school in Miami for a few years. I moved from Miami to Orlando for a job with an aviation law firm. It was a whole new city, whole new group of people, and I had also just gone through a break-up. I wonder what percentage of people start working out after a break-up? It’s got to be huge.

I had never really been a fan of just going to the gym and lifting weights. So, I was a little skeptical of CrossFit—but the community of people, more than the workouts initially, kept me coming back. Then, at some point, there’s this transition, when your body starts telling you it needs more of these endorphins.  

Up to that point, I had played soccer for fun, and, as a sophomore in high school, I was "peer pressured" into running the marathon, but I had never done anything terribly athletic. I was fortunate that I could eat pretty much all the crap food I wanted to and still weigh 150 pounds.  

It didn’t shock me when I started lifting bigger weights. But what always surprises me, and it’s still the envelope I really like to push, is during a met-con (metabolic conditioning) workout, when the heart rate is through the roof—you’re just panting, but you find an ability to keep going. I had no idea my body could sustain work like that. I know that some people hate that feeling, but for other people, people like me, it’s a rush. I like pushing that. It’s a natural high, and that’s something I didn’t know my body would embrace.  

Accidental Design

Law school was a default choice for me. I got my pilot’s license in high school and really wanted to be a commercial pilot. I ended up in law school—and in law school, everybody tries exceedingly hard. It’s part of the culture, and it’s consuming.  

All anybody did was study, so I thought I better start studying hard also. It was more peer pressure. But I ended up doing well in law school, and it was the first time I had ever thought, “Man, if I had just tried that hard at something else.” But I guess everybody probably thinks that at some point.

Law school was cheap food, lots of nights out, and no working out. When I started working out after I moved to Orlando, I said I’d do the workouts, but the Paleo diet was for the birds. It just seemed crazy. But, as I got more into the workouts, I did clean up my eating a lot. I drank a lot less. I can’t tell you the last time I had a soft drink, and those were prevalent in law school. I had never eaten excessively—I was never one to sit around and just crush a bag of Oreos—but I became super conscious of eating chicken or fish and as many green things as possible.  

I didn’t feel the results as much as I saw them. I leaned out quickly.

Ultimately, the pull of Austin was too great to deny, and I wanted to move back close to my family and friends. I had been working in Orlando for a little more than a year. The Texas Bar will admit you if you’ve worked in another state for five years, but I knew I couldn’t go another three and a half years where I was. I’m 28 and single, and that would just be wasting time. So last year, right before the holidays, I packed up and moved home.

I just quit my job. It was terrifying. I had trust in my family and friends that I would land on my feet. I don’t doubt my abilities, but I knew the market was pretty intense for attorneys to find a job in a firm.

I moved back Dec. 15, 2012. It was the holidays, so I was doing all that family stuff and didn’t exercise for a couple weeks. I had heard about David de Leon and his gym, Of The Lion Fitness, through recommendations. I checked it out among a few other places, but that’s where I knew I wanted to train. I describe it as CrossFit-like, but there are no CrossFit workouts in David’s gym. David is obviously able. You get the feeling that, if he performed the workout with us, there is nobody in any class that could beat him. He would be the top of every class. What’s also appealing is how he’s always trying to learn something new. His programming has certainly evolved in the year that I’ve been there.  

I had a very linear plan. I wanted to take the bar exam once, so I didn’t work while studying for the exam. When I studied for the bar exam, I took it to a whole other level. I worked out and ate very clean because I had the luxury of needing distractions, like cooking. When I took the bar after those two months of intense working out and clean eating, I was in the best shape of my life. And probably not coincidentally, I passed the test the first time.  

After I took the bar exam, I got a job at the Capitol as an aide for a representative out of Dallas. It was policy work, and I loved it. I had such a good time that it probably paralyzed me a little bit going forward. I would like to give policy work a shot and see if it’s viable for the long-term. But, the legislature doesn’t meet every day, and I can’t go interview for a job and say I’m only available until the next session.  

In the meantime, I've started my own firm. I don’t market myself. It’s really word of mouth. I gave away a lot of work at first, but that led to my first clients.  

Active Plan  

At this point, I can’t imagine not working out regularly. I know I’ll lead an active life forever.  

Physically, I have put on weight — good weight. I was 150 pounds in high school, college, and law school. I went to the doctor in November and weighed 170…and I was still wearing the same pants I’d worn in high school.   

Working in the Capitol during the last session was grueling, full of long days and working essentially every day. You’re surrounded by excessive catered food, and I can’t say no to chips and queso. Plus, there’s no time to work out. I was so ready for the session to end so I could ramp everything up and get focused in the gym again. It was a relief. I knew that I missed it.

ErinErin Truslow Takes it to Eleven

by Erin Truslow

A friend recently asked me, “What are you doing different? What did you change?” with respect to the way I look and my recent triathlon success. “Nothing, just training hard,” I replied. Then I began to remember what has changed for me and realized that I did change something. I changed everything.

About 18 months ago, right before a two-race weekend, my boyfriend of three years told me he was calling it quits. I felt devastated. Yet I managed to pick myself up and pull out double age group wins, feeling as I crossed the finish line that I’d sure showed him.  

My determination to succeed became focused upon the idea that now I had something to prove to him, as he was also my coach. I now realize I was not racing for myself—I was racing to make him proud of me and to get that next  “Great job!” text that made me feel valued.  

In the middle of that summer, I moved from a small apartment to a house with a garage, yard, and a small swimming pool. Not exactly the change my friend was asking about, but it did have a significant affect on my time and responsibilities. I moved into a great neighborhood that has two lap pools, and one is heated, allowing me to swim in the winter. And I can make the most of the quiet neighborhood streets in the morning for my run training.

As the year wore on, I noticed that my back had begun to hurt after every long run and race. This led me to increase my amount of core focus, and I added in some basic body weight work: lunges, squats, push-ups, and pull-ups. I slowly became more determined, and the result of that simple body weight work was new strength and a pain-free back.  

At the end of winter, I was introduced to an online cycling training tool called PainCave. I found the 30- and 60-minute training videos to be really tough workouts. In fact, I’ve mimicked them in the cycling classes I teach, and my students and I have become much stronger cyclists as a result.  

I realized that having my ex-boyfriend as my coach might not be in my best interest. Once on my own, I was initially lost, trying to coach myself with plans written for the previous year. My first triathlon of the season did not go as I had planned or hoped. I decided I needed only to impress myself and to explore a new coach. After a few months of contemplation, I approached Jamie Cleveland. While some might have a problem coaching another coach, Jamie didn’t, and we began working together. Jamie’s coaching has lead to a multi-minute PR at every race.

I also met a woman who calls herself “The Betty Rocker,” and she introduced me to her fuel system, which involves “eating clean.” I hesitated to change my nutritional habits because of my specific needs as a triathlete; I also thought I was already eating a healthy diet. Even so, after a few weeks of looking into the program, I decided to give it a try.   

Two weeks into the Betty Rocker Fuel System, I was feeling great and had melted off a few pounds and 3 percent of my body fat. Was this change due to my new eating habits alone or the increased training and level of fitness my triathlon coach had developed? In hindsight, I chalk my success up to both changes because I have kept off the weight, and my body fat has stayed low.  

As time went on, I felt that a change in my occupation would help me make even more dynamic transformations.  Although I was teaching classes, had a few personal training clients, and loved coaching, I also worked a 40-hour management. With my family’s support, I quit the desk job and jumped into coaching and personal training full time.   

This final change in my life has inspired me every day. It’s given me control over my schedule so I can make more time for training. The reduced stress has made me feel peaceful and more in tune with and present for my clients. I am so very fortunate to be able to do what I love every day.

Ultimately, the question that my friend asked me recently—“What are you doing different? What did you change?”—is the tip of a much bigger iceberg. Yes, I’ve made many changes recently: a relationship change, an address change, new core work, harder cycling classes, an inspiring coach, new eating regime, shifting jobs. That’s a lot of change.

I remember telling Jamie at our first meeting, “The only thing I am consistent at is being inconsistent.” I believe my new body and my improved performance are due to the one thing I never had before, the biggest change I took on: consistency.

Although the last 18 months looked like change and upheaval on the outside, I consistently woke up and challenged myself to be better, stronger, fitter, and happier than the day before.  

Change is inevitable; consistency is a choice. Consistent change is challenging, but with the right attitude, you can do amazing things.



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