From My Coffee to my Career: This is How I Changed Everything
DISCLAIMER: This article is not about nutrition or workouts. It's a little more personal and the kind of thing I don't normally share. Honestly it feels a little indulgent, like, "Oh hey, let me write about myself for a few thousand words."
So first off, if you're reading this - thanks. That's super cool of you. And second, I'm sharing this because I want you to know I had a life "before fitness" where I worked a full-time office job, had a fairly sedentary lifestyle, hated exercise, hated my body, and chased fad diets like my dog chases my cat (which is to say: daily - and with a tinge of insanity). I changed everything and this is how I did it. It's a long story, so grab a cup of coffee and settle in. Thank you - always - for reading...
XO - Leslie Ann
If you've followed me on social media for more than 5 minutes, you know that there are few things I love more than coffee. It's kind of my thing, okay? You will rarely if EVER find me at an instructor training or teaching a morning class without my Tall Pike Place coffee in hand.
I remember exactly when coffee became a regular part of my life. I was a very different person in a very different place then. In fact, you probably wouldn't recognize me.
It was the Summer of 2000, and every morning, I crammed into a car with my roommates and we drove from Alexandria to Arlington, Virginia, for our political science internship.
We stopped at Starbucks almost every morning, but at this point, I just waited in the car since I didn’t like coffee that much. I was also on an internship stipend budget and knew there was free coffee at the office if I wanted it.
But over that Summer, my fellow interns showed me the ways of the coffee world and I soon discovered my weakness, my gateway drug into coffee obsession: The iced mocha. That drink converted me from coffee ambivalence to coffee lover.
After my internship ended, I stayed in D.C. to start my political career early.
I landed my first real job in politics and did what everyone does: I started going to Starbucks every morning.
But I quickly learned that you can't work long hours in an office and make twice-daily Starbucks visits without soon out-growing your pants - and I was. My clothes no longer fit and my sugar cravings were out of control. While I had shared clothes with size 4 roommates that summer, I was now buying size 12 pants for the winter.
Something had to change, so I started with my first meal of the day: my breakfast and coffee. I started my journey because I just wanted to fit into my clothes and feel good about how I looked.
What I didn't know then was that changing my coffee was just the first domino. It was EASY compared to the other changes I was in for.
STEP 1: CHANGE HOW I DRINK MY COFFEE
I started the process of fitting back into my pants by slowly reducing the amount of sugar in my morning coffee. I can't go cold turkey with anything, so I started small: I asked for half the syrup and light whip on my Caramel Macchiato.
"Voilah. Instantly healthier," I thought.
Then, I graduated to even less syrup, no whip, no drizzle. Then, I tried a plain latte and I remember realizing that for the first time ever, I could actually taste the espresso! It tasted like caramel - but there was no caramel.
Now that my palate had changed, I wondered - could I finally like plain coffee? Because lattes are freaking expensive!. Thankfully, the answer was yes. A tall coffee with a splash of half & half was now all I needed to be totally satisfied.
Over the span of a few months, I had gone from Candy Coffee to unsweetened coffee - and liking it.
I took it one step at a time. I didn't set some arbitrary deadline. I gave myself permission to go at my own pace, experimenting along the way. It gave me the motivation and momentum to ask myself, "What can I change next?"
STEP 2: CHANGE HOW I TRAIN
I used to be the girl slogging away in misery on the elliptical trainer, counting down the seconds until my 30 minutes of cardio was up. I would listen to music and read a magazine and watch re-runs of "Friends" to distract myself from how much I hated what I was doing. I tried to become a runner and signed up for 5k races, hoping the promise of a free t-shirt would motivate me.
My results from only doing cardio were less than stellar. There had to be another way, because "hating my way to fit" was not working.
One fateful Saturday morning, I got up the courage to walk into a Les Mills BODYPUMP® class at Gold's Gym, and no joke - the entire course of my life changed in. that. class. The hour flew by because the instructor was amazing and the music was amazing and I didn't even realize I was working out really hard! I was lifting weights and I didn't feel like a total idiot! I couldn't walk for four days after that first class, but I couldn't wait to go back because whatever that "BODYPUMP"-thing was, I needed it in my life.
I became a group exercise class front row-regular, adding more classes into my weekly routine. Then in 2007 at the urging of my first BODYPUMP® instructor, I made the huge leap to becoming a BODYPUMP® instructor.
I haven't done 30 minutes on the elliptical trainer since.
STEP 3: CHANGE HOW I EAT
Now that I was teaching group fitness classes, eating tiny bird-like portions and Lean Cuisines was no longer cutting it. Fueled with bits of knowledge pieced together from women's fitness magazines, I started trying different diets. Weight Watchers. Eating Clean. The Atkins Diet. The South Beach Diet. French Women Don't Get Fat. Basically, ALL THE DIETS.
Some of my dieting highlights included:
- Eating as little as possible on Friday nights so I could have a good weigh in on Saturday mornings at Weight Watchers, then eating a pastry from Starbucks immediately afterwards.
- Scraping burnt cheese out of my George Foreman grill while making cheeseburgers, which I dipped in full-fat mayo because HEY IT'S ZERO CARBS.
- Stealing my sister's sugar-free jello with Cool Whip out of the fridge at work one afternoon. At the very least she wanted to disown me, and she may have tried to have me fired for workplace violence.
- Setting a timer for three hours after eating a bowl of plain oatmeal because the Eat Clean lady said to eat oatmeal every morning and to eat every 3 hours. I was hungry 30 minutes after eating the oatmeal, BUT 3 hours was apparently magic so...
The diets always worked - temporarily. But they were still diets, I was still hungry, and despite how much I was working out, I still didn't look very fit.
STEP 4: BURN EVERYTHING DOWN AND START OVER
Thanks to the miracle of this new internet thing called Facebook, I discovered Metabolic Effect, a fitness and nutrition company that taught me the science of hormonal fat loss.
Their philosophy took everything I thought I knew about fitness and nutrition and turned it on its head.
I started learning things like, "All calories are not created equal" and "Calories do matter for fat loss, but hormones matter more." Metabolic Effect (ME for short) argued that hormones determine whether we are burning fat or storing fat - not calories. They favored short intense workouts over long, steady-state ones.
All of this new knowledge rocked my world because it all made sense: why I was hungry all the time and why I wasn't getting results even though I was burning eleventy-million calories per week at the gym.
I slowly started implementing this new philosophy and, for the first time in as long as I could remember, I wasn't hungry or obsessing about my next meal all day. I was eating more protein and WAY more veggies. I was eating more often. I started getting leaner - a size 10, then 8, then 6 - and sometimes even a 4 - even though the number on the scale hadn't changed that much. My formerly skinny-fat bod was starting to get some definition and I actually LOOKED FIT.
Better yet, I was learning how my body actually worked. How metabolism worked. I was creating something that was uniquely my own. I would never have to "shop" for a nutrition program or diet again. I was free.
STEP 5: CHANGE MY CAREER
Did I mention I was also SO OVER MY POLITICAL CAREER?!
I made a plan: to use my full-time political job salary for a safety net. To use my cushy government paycheck to finance my fledgling fitness career until it was strong enough to stand on its own.
I got more group fitness certifications. I became a certified personal trainer. I took a part-time job as a group fitness manager. I took the Level 1 and 2 Metabolic Effect nutrition certifications.
More and more doors opened for me in the fitness world, and in 2011, I quit my last political job doing Legislative Affairs for the State of Texas and took the leap to fitness.
I got a lot of, "You'll never make money in fitness!" and "You're leaving a good stable government job with benefits!?"
Have you watched the news lately? Who's laughing now?
STEP 6: CHANGE THE GAME
Working in a gym all day was amazing, but the personal trainer life is non-stop hustle and grind. I was working early mornings, late into the night, and weekends. I threw every ounce of myself into my little part-time group fitness manager job, planning elaborate themed fitness launch parties, making sure our decorations were THE BEST (lol). I made sure every class was covered, even if I had to teach it myself.
I charged hard because - well, what other option is there? Going back to politics? NO way.
Going at that pace, I knew I was going to burn out soon, so I hired a mentor/business coach to help me get my shit together. She had escaped the fitness hustle and I knew I had to do the same. She introduced me to the world of online business and taught me how to take everything I was doing in person and put it on the internet. I needed to learn to work smarter, not harder.
I got really specific about what I enjoyed and what I was good at, and stopping doing things I didn't like. I started only training women. (Sorry, dudes.) Then, I started only training women who wanted to get leaner and build some lean muscle. (Sorry, I can't train you for a marathon.) I shared my recipes with my training clients. They LOVED them and asked for more. We started doing 30- and 45-minute training sessions - not hours. I lead small group personal training sessions where I could train several women at once.
During a one-on-one coaching day with my mentor, she helped me name my business and set up a website. She had an idea for a name:
"You should be Fat Loss Foodies. "
Me: "Okaaaay...sure." (Meanwhile, I'm thinking, "I'm not sure I really like that name..." lol!)
I got a business license. I set up an LLC. I was in business. I was in business for myself.
And that is how Fat Loss Foodies was born. That is how I changed the game and got out of the commercial gym trap, trading hours for money and training one person at a time all day long. It's how I stopped running around with my hair on fire 7 days a week.
This is the story of who I was before I was a fitness person and how I got to where I am now. All you know is the end result and what I show you on the internet. Now you know the back story. There were so many jobs. So many dead-ends. Several failed relationships. One divorce. One "I know we looked at rings, but do not ask me to marry you in Hawaii." I moved so many times. I called my mom crying - a lot.
But I would do every single bit of it over again to get where I am now.
I've analyzed my path a million times and it always comes down to this:
It all happened because I was willing to change. I refused to settle.
I started with changing one small thing (my coffee!) because I realized that I deserved to feel good, look good, and be freaking happy. I had a vision - a vague, blurry vision - of who I wanted to be, and I was not her. I had to roll up my sleeves, get honest, and start doing hard things, otherwise I would stay exactly where I was.
Change is messy. Change is hard. It often makes you look really crazy, and people will definitely judge you and talk about you behind your back when you step up and take big chances. You know what I say to that?
BRING IT. And it sucks to be them, because they obviously don't have anything big enough or interesting enough going on in their lives. That's why they're talking about you, because you're the one doing the shit they're scared of.
I also had friends tell me it seemed like I was, "All over the place."
Well, shit yeah I was!!! I was trying to find my place, and that process is not easy or simple and it sucks - but what's the alternative?
As FLF ramps up for our Fall 2017 Fat Loss Cooking School, I wanted to share more of my story with you. I don't do this. I'm introverted and private, and that's why most of what I share online is food, my pets, or the old classic: me holding a cup of coffee.
But in spite of the discomfort I'm feeling as I press "publish" on this post, I really just want you to know that you can change anything you want, too. It may be something small like how you drink your coffee. It may be something big like your relationships or your career.
Change is never easy, but it can't be. Easy doesn't change you. There's zero opportunity for growth there. You have to do the big, scary, "holy shit am I seriously doing this right now?!" stuff because that's where your path is created. That's where you're tested and molded and stretched into who you need to be to do the job you're supposed to do in your brief time here on this earth.
Don't do shit you hate.
Don't listen to people who tell you, "You'll never make money doing X."
Be okay with people not liking you.
Be okay with looking crazy.
Your dreams are your dreams for a reason.
Anything is possible.
I'm living proof.
Ahhhhh it's scary/awesome to put this story out there. So tell me: does it resonate with you? Are you struggling with some big area of your life and wanting to change, but maybe you're too scared? I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment below or send me an email at LeslieAnn (at) FatLossFoodies.com. Feel free to share this with friends on social media, too! We need more women stepping up and doing what they were born to do.