Before studying kinesiology and becoming a personal trainer, I went to school for fashion design in hopes of moving to NY and pursuing a career as a designer. After school, I found myself very depressed and unhealthy –my sleeping was irregular, my life was high stress, I could not train, and I barely ate. The healthy lifestyle I had developed in high school and early adulthood was essentially impossible with my line of work. My depression was what prompted me to go back to school to pursue an occupation that would allow me to follow my previous way of life. I do, however, miss designing and love all things fashion. I always promised myself I would bring fashion back into my life, and I am not in the very early stages of my own clothing line now.
2) On your website, you mentioned you had an eating disorder when you were younger. Did the people around you have a lot to do with how you felt about your weight?
Absolutely. As a child, you notice differences around you quickly, particularly between you and your peers. I noticed right away as early as 7 years old that most of the girls in my class were thin and I was not. I was a highly active child. There was very little I enjoyed doing that did not involve running or playing outside. Therefore, I was around many other active kids/athletes who were fit. Unfortunately, being half Sicilian and half Mexican, eating was for us was a way to celebrate, and for me, overeating would happen at most every meal. Not until later in life did I realize that food was mostly for survival and proper health and functioning.
As a child, I saw eating as fun and celebration. I could not understand why I could not be thin even with all of my sports and activities. My friends from ages 7 through elementary would always say, “You have a pretty face but not a pretty body.” One girl once told me that I was fat. The most hurtful feeling was at age 8 when one of the boys in my class cringed and said, “ewww, no!” when someone teased him about having a crush on me. After this, I realized that people really saw me a certain way, being unattractive and gross, and I did not like that. I never really thought about it mattering what someone thought about your looks. All I knew was the fact that a person saw me as “gross” really hurt.
3) I know plenty of young girls who struggle with their weight, but they just sort of brush it off and think that it is who they are meant to be. What made you feel like you had to do something about your weight?
I think for most people in that situation (needing to lose weight) get to a point of saying, “enough”. My moment happened at the beginning of my Freshman year of high school. I tried on and off to “diet” and exercise dating back from age eight because I was chubby and had trouble finding clothes that fit me; this was probably the hardest part of being overweight, which was accompanied by embarrassment and just wanting to feel pretty.
What many people forget is that even at a young age, a person/kid wants to feel attractive. They see the difference between how their peers treat attractive people and unattractive people. I think that once I hit high school, I was “done” living chubby and hiding under sweatshirts in the summertime and hating the way I looked. When you are ready, you are ready.
4) How did you begin to overcome your eating disorder? Did you have any help from others like friends or family?
My parents tried to push me to get outside help from eating disorder clinics, specialists, etc. but I wanted to do it by myself. I assured them that I could do it. I told them that I knew I had a problem, and I was ready to be healthy again. I kept all of my emotions inside to be honest, which was a bad idea. My entire family knew of my problem (the visual was obvious in itself), but I was still too embarrassed to talk about it. In my cultures (Sicilian and Mexican Catholic), it is not customary to talk about uncomfortable or embarrassing situations. I dove into health and nutrition books to learn about proper nutrition and exercise balance for health.
My goal was to be okay with eating more, and be at a healthy weight. It was a very hard process, one filled with moments of binge eating and starving when I felt I lost control, mental relapses, and moments of lost hope. What finally sealed the deal for overcoming my eating disorder were sports. I played sports my entire life, and I decided to focus on eating to perform and recover. During my eating disorder, I picked up running. Oddly enough, I actually enjoyed it, even though I was doing it just to lose weight. I decided to try cross country for the first time, and found that with the intense, long practices, I could barely keep up with eating enough. I had to force feed myself to keep my weight up—something very new to me. That is when I finally had that “aha!” moment of balance.
5) How old were you when you wanted to start helping others who also struggled with their weight?
From the moment I got through my eating disorder, about 16 years old, I was like an eating disorder radar. I could quickly identify symptoms and behaviors of sufferers and would gently extend a hand any chance I could. I knew in my heart, I never wanted anyone to go through the mental and physical hell I went through, mostly in part that there was no one to talk to, no one who could understand.
6) What is some advice that you can give to young girls who are struggling with their weight so they will not turn to dangerous alternatives for comfort?
Do not be afraid to talk to someone about your feelings—ANY feelings. An eating disorder is based on emotions; fears, insecurity, low self-esteem, feelings of no control, and loneliness. If these emotions are not addressed, they will manifest themselves in different behaviors and disorders—an eating disorder is only one of many. Girls need a support system, friends and adults that they can trust and confide in. The most important things I want girls to know is, they are not alone. For years, I just did not want to feel alone in my struggles, and that is exactly how I felt.
7) Aside from health and fitness, you also have a passion for fashion. Tell us about it—when did it begin? Were you known by the people around you for being a “fashionista”?
Oh my! As a little girl as young as four, I would put on fashion shows by myself, always had to be matching and put together, even if I was going to play in the park. When I became chubby, I could not wear all of the fashions that I wished because they did not look good on me and/or fit. By the time I was in high school and had lost a lot of weight, I was finally able to wear any and everything I wanted without worrying about it not looking right. In high school, I was always matching from head to toe. I was known for coming out with original looks, never wearing the same hairstyle twice, and having flawless makeup.
8) As a makeup artist, what are your three favorite products that you can’t go a day without?
Tarte Amazonian clay 12 hour foundation, Nars blush, and Tarte lip stain.
9) As a personal trainer, what is your primary focus or specialty when training others?
This is a hard question, because my entire mantra is about training for YOUR life – for YOUR goals and preferences. I design my programs based on the person’s goals, personal training style preferences, and physical limitations. However, I can say that my focus for all clients involves core strength and balance in space and strength.
10) What are your keys to being successful inside and outside the gym?
GOALS – Set specific, realistic, and measureable goals, and alter them as needed.
PLAN—have a training plan before you walk into the gym, and have your meals planned and prepared as often as possible. Always keep healthy snacks with you or in your car at all times. Plan for the best and worst scenarios.
COMPROMISE—Life happens. Sometimes we cannot workout as planned, our workouts get cut short, do not have our food with us, need to eat out, etc. You need to be committed to your lifestyle and figure out how to troubleshoot situations. You need to have back up plans, such as finding healthy options at restaurants when you have no meals with you, or performing a small workout at home when you cannot go to the gym.
11) What advice do you give others to embrace a fit and healthy lifestyle?
Trust the process. It took you a while to get to where you are now (both inside and out), and it will take another while to be fit mentally and physically. I always tell my clients, “If you live fit, your body has no choice but to BE fit.” Have patience, and create a support system of friends and family who will support and help you in your journey. DO NOT let anyone bring you down.
12) When you opened your business as an independent personal trainer and freelance makeup artist, describe how you felt?
I was very excited and motivated. Honestly, I did not completely understand what a big deal it was then, because I was so new and did not have a following or much experience at all, so I was not very scared. I knew it was the beginning of a long process and was so eager to learn. I was determined to be the best trainer possible, and if there was something I did not know, I was committed to researching and studying to offer the best experience to my clients as possible. I was 21 and going back to school at the time as well, so I was able to redirect focus and not stress too much about my work.
13) Did you always have the goal of becoming your own boss?
YES! For years in customer service jobs and/or working under someone else’s name or brand, I struggled GREATLY. I was always praised and adored by customers for the hard work and commitment I gave, but had issues with authority over micromanaging – going 2 minutes over break, doing things my own way, etc. I was always concerned with getting the job done right and serving my customers, NOT necessarily about exact procedure and protocol as dictated by the company I was under. I had so much resentment for past jobs not appreciating my hard work, countless awards, but rather jumping down my throat for what seemed to me, minuscule issues. I left my last company job in early 2007 and I vowed never to work under anyone again.
14) What are your goals for the future?
My goals are to be a public speaker in middle and high schools, have my clothing line and a prominent overall fitness personality.
15) Any parting words for your readers?
Any and everything I do is from LOVE. My life’s mission has always been to touch and enhance people’s lives in some way—whether through body, mind or spirit. My commitment to humanity is what gives me drive and purpose—what makes me successful at what I do. Fear is what impairs us, and when you live through love, there is no room for fear.