Where do I begin? I want to start by saying…”If I can do it, ANYONE can.” I’m going to tell you everything about what makes me ME…So here’s my story.
I will start by saying that I fell in love with fitness in high school… I got introduced to it by one of my guy friends…I was always into sports…kind of a tomboy. I always thought, in the back of mind, that I would love to work in a gym so I could be there all day. What I was going to do, I didn’t know. I just knew I was hooked.
After high school, I had no idea what to do… I was struggling with what would be accepted by my family. I went to college and got into different things. I started working at 16 yrs. old….food store, clothing store, office supplies…then I worked for advertising company as an assistant, hoping to eventually do sales mainly because it was “approved” by my family. I then started waitressing, managing restaurants, helping open restaurants and eventually (almost) opening my own, but all the while dreaming of the gym. At 18yrs. old I started to struggle with major stomach issues. The doctors never performed any tests, they just kept blaming my “attacks” on stress.
My weight fluctuated… I was overweight, then underweight. At 20yrs. old (after tremendous support from my cousin Dina…yelling at me to get more tests) the doctors finally ran a “series” of test on me and found out that I had Crohn’s Disease. This is an extremely painful condition, especially when aggravated, stressed and trigger with certain foods. I started taking medication for my condition (include steroids for a short period of time, which thankfully it didnt work, so I was taken off them). For 2 years I was on medication, but I was determined to get off. I was hospitalized 2 times within my first year. I was on IV for 3-5days each time. At that point, I was even more determined to get off the medication.
I started researching food and exercise. I was reading different philosophies. I started putting things together and testing different things. During those first 2 years I ALSO found out that I had a thyroid problem (hypo). I was briefly on medication for that as well. I was so stressed and frustrated. Constantly thinking “why me” and “what else”? I struggled with my conditions, stressfull life, lack of direction. Then it happened, I finally got myself into remmission, where I was strong enough (internally) to get off my medication. I did it with extremely strict eating and training. I was still occasionally having attacks because I STILL struggled with “LIFE”.
I grew up in a family that fed their problem. Typical italian family, quiet mother, male chauvinistic father who was abusive in so many ways…physically, emotionally, psychologically.
During the time of waitressing and managing, I starting dating a man… A man my family loved and accepted because he was the typical Italian man (as I am 100% italian), so you can see why they loved him. I was slowly falling apart while dating him. I had mentioned to him and my family, at one point, my desire to be a personal trainer. Both he and my father said they would be embarrassed to admit that their girlfriend/daughter was ONLY a personal trainer. My boyfriend and I then bought a restaurant together. A restaurant that I didn’t want. I was feeling like I was losing control. I met someone that introduced me to bulimia. I started experimenting. I made me feel like I had control of “something”. But I didn’t.
I believe everything happens for a reason. Perfect timing that my jealous boyfriend (I forgot to mention that about him), whom I was living with at the time, beat me up 2 weeks before the restaurant was scheduled to open. That was the first and last time. It was a horrible experience…. my wake up call. My father was there within minutes and the first thing he said to me (after sending me to my mom’s and spending 2 hours with him) was “at least it was this once and he’s sorry and said he would never do it again”.
I guess I should have a expected that, having grown up how I did. I left my boyfriend, signed the restaurant entirely over to him and I didn’t speak to my father for a year. I moved a back in with my mother (who had divorced my father during the time I was living with my ex). She only had room for me in her attic since she bought a small house, not expecting her 22 year old daughter would ever be living with her again. She was incredibly supportive during the time that I was slowly falling apart.
I started working in New York City, managing a restaurant. I know I know…why was I doing that again? One day I was about to get on the train to go from Long Island to Manhattan when one of the twin towers was hit. While on the train, the other tower was hit. I could see it from the train. I was at Penn Station shortly after. As soon as we arrived, they stopped all transportation to and from NYC. I spent the entire day standing outside on the street. Later that afternoon, I ran into friends that had walked from the area covered in white powder from the debris. I had no cell service and the streets were filled. At 2pm, I decided to walk home with 4 people I had just met that day. I walked accross the bridge and then got on a working train on the other side. I must say that it was a beautiful sight to see all those volunteers handing out water for us on the other side. I got home at 7pm. My mother was the first person I spoke to…I had 30 messages on my voicemail (24 of them were from her). Needless to say, that was my SECOND wake up call. I quit the restaurant. I helped them find another manager and never went back.
At that point, I was totally lost. I became seriously depressed and the bulimia was now happening eveyday. I was out of work, living in my mother’s attic and for a month and a half bingeing and purging. My mother and my sister tried SO HARD but I was just not there yet. I was terribly stubborn until one day, when I finally had a nervous breakdown and asked my mother to take me to the hospital. I wanted help. I NEEDED help…professional help. I was in the hospital for 7 days. I had amazing support from mysister (she’s my best friend), mother, cousin, aunt and uncle, but at the time, it wasn’t enough. They were the only ones that knew about it at the time. I then did extremely intense out-patient therapy from 8am-3pm, that I started as soon as I was released from the hospital. While I was in the hospital, I realized that I was living my life for EVERYONE ELSE…NOT ME. As soon as I got out (while in the out-patient program), I registered to become a personal trainer. I was attending a personal training school (ECITS…the best) at night and on the weekends. I was so excited and happy…and recovering. After 2 months of intensive therapy, I went to half-days, then 1hr per day, then 1hr a week… then I stopped.
I was certified in 3 months and working at New York Sports Club. I started training in april. Within my first year (9months) of working there, I went from Floor Trainer to Trainer to Pro Trainer to Master Trainer. I was ranked 20th in the company of TSI (Town Sport International)…that consisted of 7 states and 4000 trainers. My second year I was ranked 7th, my third year I was ranked 6th, my forth year I was 6th. Then I left in the middle of my fifth year and moved to California. I have to be honest… throughout the years, I still struggled with stress (other family issues). I did learn a lot of coping skills in therapy but still struggling with condition and my weigh was very low. I refused to go back on medication and I was affecting me.
I was very skinny. One of the things with Crohn’s Disease is that your body doesn’t absorb all the nutrients from the foods you eat, especially when stressed. I was eating extremely strict and exercising regularly but I was only 9% body fat. I decided that I needed a change and I wanted to move. I had an opportunity to move and I took it. I was offered a position as a personal trainer at Bally Total Fitness in California (where a friend was working and got the interview for me). I was also promised the opportunity to be mentored for Finess Manager position…which I had wanted because I didn’t just love helping people get healthy, I wanted to metor other trainers to success and get their clients success.
Within 3 months of living in California, I put on 15 pounds of healthy weight (muscle and a little healthy body fat). …I was happier. I then met my husband (now). Before we were married or engaged (while both working as trainers at Bally), I was given my chance. I was offered an position at a small club as a Fitness Manager. My husband was also offered a position at another club. 11 months later I was promoted to a much bigger club. During my time as a Manager, I was ranked #1 in the nation…more than once. Throughout that time, we were engaged and then married. Shortly after getting married while trying to get pregnant, I put on some weight.
I gained 15pounds because I needed to get my body fat a little higher to be able to get pregnant. I ended up getting sick and was hospitalized to then find out that I had Colitis (something I couldn’t control). Of course the doctors wanted to put me back on medication. I refused. I got it under control the way I had before…my way. I then got pregnant….(weighing 147lbs).
During my first trimester, I had morning sickness, which lead to my eating foods I shouldn’t have eaten with my condition, and then having complications. I was put on IV and on bed rest for 1 month. After that I was fine. I worked out everyday… I even worked out the day before giving birth (weighing in at 182lb., which is exactly 35lb weight gain).
My labor was not bad, but here’s a little side note. This is how bad Crohn’s disease is… I was having labor pains and telling the nurses and my husband that I would take labor pains over a Crohn’s attack ANY DAY.
Within 2 weeks of giving birth, I was back to working out. I was doing double days of cardio and training. My husband and I were trading off and on with my son (my husband took maternity leave at the same time). Did I mention what an amazing man he is? Within 2&1/2 months (right before I went back to work as a Manager), I was 135lbs. and had my six pack back. I was in the best shape EVER. A little over 9 months later, someone asked me if I was doing a figure show that was coming up in 3 weeks…At the time I said “no”…but then I thought “well?”. I decided to do it just for the heck of it. I won 1st place.
Soon after that I decided to leave Bally. I was getting sick of the corporate world. There was too much attention to the “business” and conference calls and statistics instead of why I originally wanted the position. There was not enough focus on helping the members, motivating the clients and mentoring trainers to success. I missed the closeness to the clients.
My husband started the business and website as I was finishing my time at Bally (which was 1month notice because I didn’t want to abandon my clients and staff without a good replacement). My husband and I found a location and committed to a program of helping people get results and changing people’s lives. We really want to teach people that there is always a way. No matter what is going on in your life, THERE IS A WAY. We help with functional training, cardio knowledge (what counts and what doesn’t) and nutrition education and support (info, videos, emails)…an extremely thorough program. You will learn everything that you need to know about fitness and a healthy and realistic lifestyle. I have clients seeing incredible results (with family and friends that told them they wished they were closer so they could work with me). Old clients from New York have contacted me and family members commented on my success. I then decided that I wanted to help MORE people…people that are not close enough to come TO ME.. So I started other programs. Virtual programs.
I am the happiest I’ve ever been. I have a great (better) relationship with my family back home in New York. I actually feel like we have a closer bond, although I wish we could see each other more often…now that we all have kids that could play together. My mother is a new woman and she is the happiest I’ve ever seen her. And as much as I really really miss ALL my crazy, New York, Italian family but California is my home. I would also like to add that I have come to peace with my father… I’ve forgiven him…NOT FORGOT but forgive. I truly believe that you can not grow (or move forward) when you hold on to unfortunate things that happened in your life. Everything happens for a reason and from everything negative there is ALWAYS something positive. Where there is a will there is a way. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.