“The experience I had overcoming my weight challenges helped define me." – Amy Kiser, certified personal trainer & fitness instructor
Last week, I had the privilege of speaking with Amy Kiser, a Los Angeles-based certified personal trainer and fitness instructor. Last year, Amy was a top five finalist to become Women's Health Magazine's Next Fitness Star. She just wrapped up a Core Flyte workout video for her Body Fit by Amy YouTube Channel, and I’m excited for you all to check it out – it’s awesome!
We often celebrate fit and attractive trainers like Amy, and act like they are super-human, as if they were molded that way and haven’t had to deal with the day-to-day challenges many of us face battling weight. Amy’s life has not lacked such challenges. It’s safe to say in today’s Instagram / selfie / body image-obsessed culture that all of us are affected by body weight issues. Girls and women, no doubt, are affected the most. A recent Common Sense Media study found that 80 percent of ten-year-old girls have been on a diet. Amy suffered from weight challenges during college and learned from her experience to help improve the lives of others.
Early Years in a Healthy & Active Family
Amy grew up in Marion, Virginia, a small town in the mountains of Virginia. Although Marion didn’t have a gym within a 40-mile radius, Amy grew up in an active family. She recalls, “I always learned that exercise was part of a normal, everyday way of life. It was fun and we liked it.” Amy played sports, danced, ran, and partook in various outdoor adventures with her older sister and younger brother. Her family home was a healthy place, where she ate “something green” with each meal and candy was reserved for special occasions. Exercise, Amy says, “was never a means to an end, like burning calories,” it was for fun. It was part of her active lifestyle.
Battling Weight Gain in College
Amy left her hometown of about 5,000 to attend Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, which had built a new gym. Like a lot of college freshmen, Amy put on the “freshman 15,” which then turned into 20, 25, and 30 pounds of additional weight by the end of her first year. What is different about Amy’s case as compared with many college students that battle weight issues is that Amy was working out… a lot. Amy recalls, “I was working out the whole time. I was cycling between trying really strict diets, and over-exercising, and having days where I just didn’t care. It was the first time in my life that I was putting on weight and I just couldn’t understand it. I thought I was doing everything right but I hated my body.”
Amy got into a routine which she refers to as “obsessive,” in which she regularly spent nearly two hours at the gym daily. She was afraid of bulking up, and avoided weight training. Her focus was on cardio… and she did a lot of it. Amy says, “I did a lot of cardio machines and classes at the gym… the treadmill, elliptical, cardio classes...”
She was hard on herself and constantly put pressure on herself to exercise more and more. Amy says, “I felt I had to account for what I was eating. If I felt I had a bad day of eating, I did more cardio. If I missed time at the gym, I felt like I had to make up for it the next day. It was a really bad brain space to be in because everything was negative. I had loved running before and I wasn’t running because I loved it anymore. I was running because I felt I had to do it.”
Intervention: A Turning Point
One day after a two-and-a-half hour long session at the gym, she returned to her dorm and her two roommates, who were (and still are) close friends of hers, confronted her. “They said they were worried about me,” Amy says. “I broke down in tears pretty quickly and told them I was unhappy. I knew I wasn’t living and I wasn’t living a healthy lifestyle. They were very supportive of me and offered to help.” Amy opened up to more friends and her family and sought the help of a counselor on campus. She realized that she was working so hard to lose weight and was being miserable in the process.
Amy credits three specific things to becoming a healthier person. First, she began celebrating her body even though she was overweight. She took pride in running races, including a half marathon. She gradually reduced her negative perception of her body, focusing on her positive accomplishments. Secondly, her diet became more balanced. She shifted from eating highly-processed “diet foods,” such as low-calorie microwave meals and diet soda, to tasty food rich in nutrients. She didn’t punish herself for having a piece of cake or a few drinks at a party. Those were no longer considered indiscretions, but rather part of a “normal life.” Finally, she began strengthening her muscles by performing weight training exercises.
During a summer break later in college, a wellness center affiliated with the local hospital opened up in Amy’s hometown. Amy was an active member of the gym, and was asked to teach a class. Initially unsure, she decided to give it a try and loved it. She became certified in both group fitness and personal training right after college and started her career.
Living a Balanced Lifestyle
Amy says, “The experience I had overcoming my weight challenges helped define me.” Today, Amy keeps photos from her overweight period in her gym spaces for her clients to see. “A lot of people think I was always in great shape,” Amy says, “but that’s not the case. As a trainer, I want people to learn to love their bodies, to be active because it’s fun, healthy, and good for them, and eat well without beating themselves up or depriving themselves. I’m not about quick results or negative reinforcement.”
Thinking positive, cutting yourself breaks, and being balanced are all very important for Amy. Amy says, “If you can’t learn to work out because you love your body and you want to take care of it, you’re not going to see long-term success.”
Battling An-Oft Superficial Industry
Amy is in an industry that can be viewed by many in a very superficial way. It’s a balancing act showing that you can help change bodies without over-emphasizing weight as the most important goal. Amy says, “The number one thing that clients tell me, when I ask what their goals are, is either ‘I want to look better’ or ‘I want to be a certain size.’ My hope is that we can change things and focus more on health.” One way that Amy helps push back against the “looks-focused” goals is by providing her clients with non-weight loss-focused challenges, such as increasing the number of pushups they do or improving their endurance. Not surprisingly, once these goals are met, weight usually follows.
Motivation Through Variety & Options
Amy launched her YouTube channel, which has over 12,000 subscribers. She frequently gets thanked for providing her audience with options and modifications. Amy does so because she believes “everyone is on their own journey.” Unlike her college years when she embraced a “more is better” attitude towards exercise, Amy now says that balance is critical. Discussing her Core Flyte experience, Amy says, “Working out is all about variety and using your muscles in new ways. I’m big on safety and I’m big on form. The Core Flyte gives you more control, better form, and safer movements. Working your body in different planes of motion improves results and it’s fun!” I know you’re all excited to see Amy’s Core Flyte workout video and I hope you enjoy it!
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Posted on 5/26/2015 at 9:19:00 AM