When I meet people today, it’s often difficult for them to imagine that I was 100 pounds overweight in 2010.
The reasons why vary: I’m healthy and fit now; I own four Kaia FIT studios in Reno-Sparks; I’ve been a Kaia FIT coach for 11 years and counting; you name it.
But my journey to where I am now was not an easy one. In fact, losing 100 pounds while I was still a client, otherwise known as a “Kaia girl,” was one of the biggest challenges (and biggest changes) of my life
Only about 20 percent of Americans who lose weight are able to keep it off long term.
I’m one of the few, and I attribute all of it to Kaia FIT… its programming and its incredible community of strong, supportive women.
The following are six lessons I learned during my 12-year fitness journey with Kaia that will only continue into the future.
Showing up is more than half the battle
When I first heard of Kaia FIT, a co-worker was telling me about a free demo class that I could attend. I recently had expressed my frustration with my weight.
Earlier in 2010, I went to my annual doctor’s appointment like I always did. It was the only scale I would ever step on, and every year, that number on the scale would go up 10 to 20 pounds. Fortunately (or unfortunately), I gain (and lose) weight very evenly. So, when people would suggest that I looked like a size 12 but I was actually a size 22, I would take that as implicit permission to keep doing what I was doing𐆑which was very little movement and overeating processed foods.
But that year, when I had to step on my doctor’s scale, the number startled me. I was in the 270s. I quickly realized that at the rate I had been going, I would be over 300 pounds within two years. That small fact flipped a switch in my mindset.
I knew I had to make a change. I just didn’t have any tools in my toolkit to know what that looked like or should be.
Enter my co-worker with her suggestion of trying Kaia FIT. I was all in for anything that was free. But this demo class was scheduled for 6 a.m., and I worked nights at the time. Plus, throw in a winter blizzard that week in the Reno area, and I was truly on the fence. So much so that when my alarm went off at the insane-to-me time of a little after 5 a.m., I still questioned my decision to go.
But I still put on what workout-like sweats I had, tied some sort-of-like-sneakers shoes and headed out the door to drive nearly a half hour in the deep snow.
Despite being about 10 minutes late (thanks to a few wrong turns), walking through that door at this Kaia FIT demo class immediately felt like the right decision.
What I found was about a dozen women who (without knowing me) all stood up from whatever seated discussion they were all having and came over to hug and welcome me.
I was shocked.
No one cared that I was late. They were just so happy that I was there.
And then, that workout!
I remember it vividly, even 12 years later: a traveling partner circuit. I was paired up with the original owner of Kaia FIT Sierra, and I remember laughing, grunting and a whole lot of laughing.
Two days later, I was so sore trying to walk across a store parking lot that I knew that this was the place I needed to be. This was the place that was going to help me make the health changes I needed.
But showing up to anything new is the hardest part of starting any health and fitness journey. We don’t know what we’re walking into. We don’t know what to expect … or what will be expected of us.
You have to fight that fear. Spaces like those created by Kaia FIT are intended for women of all ages, shapes and ability levels. There also was something very comforting to me about an all-women environment. What surprised me most was that it wasn’t just comfortable, but every woman in there had my back and wanted to see me succeed. It was life-changing.
Of course, your first time is just the first time. It’s imperative to continue showing up to any fitness program. Show up for yourself, and show up for everyone else there. As simple as “showing up” sounds, it’s frought with challenges. Don’t let those hurdles get the best of you and prevent you from progressing in your own journey.
There’s such a thing as ‘my hard’
It’s easy to get in our heads and compare ourselves to each other.
“I can’t do a push-up like that.”
“There’s no way I can run as fast as that.”
But fitness is not all or nothing. You start as you are.
Of course, I didn’t fully realize this until I heard the following words from a Kaia coach during a workout: “Do your hard.”
That phrase changed my entire perspective. It didn’t matter what the Kaia girl next to me was doing. All that mattered was that I was going to my own hard in every exercise, whatever that might be that day.
Whether you’re an exercise newbie (like I was), injured or something else, always communicating with your coach and asking yourself what is challenging for you makes everything accessible.
Exercise is about progression, not perfection … especially not on Day 1. Be kind to yourself and remember to “go to your hard.”
Community equals accountability and more
Women in particular thrive in a community environment. But even more than that, accountability is a top request for women beginning a new fitness program.
When I first heard about Kaia FIT, all I know was that it was being described as a “boot camp” style fitness program. This description appealed to me because I figured if it works for the military, it should work for me, too.
What I ended up discovering, however, was that Kaia FIT was so much more than just the boot camp-style workouts that were described to me. It was a strong community of supportive women. I got an initial taste of that during my first-ever class, but over the course of weeks and months attending Kaia, I was connecting with women I never would have otherwise met. I was creating friendships with women who also wanted to feel better in their skin. I knew that if I didn’t show up to a class, I would receive a text message from someone telling me they missed me there.
And that natural community immediately gave me accountability throughout my 100-pound weight loss. They would point out the differences in my body that I was unwilling to notice. They cheered me on when I ran my first timed mile. And they expected me to work out next to them four days a week until Kaia FIT Sierra expanded to a fifth day … and then they expected to see me then, too.
Accountability is critical for reaching your fitness goals. In fact, ACCOUNTABILITY STATISTIC.
With a built-in community, accountability for me was never a question.
Fitness CAN be fun
If Kaia FIT workouts weren’t fun, I definitely would have burned out many years ago and likely gone back to old habits.
But one of the pleasant surprises that I experienced was that workouts felt like “playtime” to me. I was never bored. And I definitely never had to think about what my workout should be or how it should look. All the coaches did that for me.
And that was important. I had, on occasion, been to big-box gyms, and my memories of those experiences all involved apprehension, confusion, self-consciousness and boredom.
Kaia taught me that fitness could not only be fun, but so fun that I consider it my hobbie. Kaia taught me to fall in love with moving my body in different, challenging-to-me ways. That makes sustainable lifestyle changes that much easier to maintain.
Nutritional success comes down to simplicity
Before Kaia FIT, if you had asked me what eating healthy looked like, I would answer with “Chicken and broccoli, and probably an unsatisfying amount of it.”
My portion control was definitely out of wack, but even more so, I struggled with not having cheese, salt and any other vice heavily topping all my food choices.
Every bite had to be a party in my mouth.
Nutrition can be very personal. We link emotions and memories to many different foods based on childhood and more. For me, food was an emotional crutch. If I was happy, I would eat. If I was sad, I would eat. If I was bored, I would eat.
Plus, I never learned how to cook much, so eating out and snacking on chips, cookies and other processed snacks was just a way of life. And working nights at the time that I discovered Kaia was just one more excuse to resist change to my nutrition.
With all that in mind, my Kaia coach simply started by encouraging me to take things slow and make a small change here and a small change there.
My milk went from 2% to unsweetened almond milk.
My Flaming Hot Cheetos transformed into veggie chips.
And so on. Small changes.
And then, as we entered our first BRIK boot camp (where nutritional guidance is more on the forefront, as well as measurements and various special events), I was encouraged to at least read the full Kaia nutrition plan.
It was never about deprivation. It was about crowding out with the foods that truly served our bodies. Whole, nutrient-dense foods were key.
And so, I made the leap. I opted for the easiest recipes (like soup) that I felt would be hard to mess up. I batch cooked those recipes and stocked up on vegetables to snack on in between.
With the encouragement of my Kaia coaches, I focused on keeping my nutritional changes and efforts as simple as possible. I tracked everything I ate on an Excel document (remember, it was 2011 at this point), and I started to better understand portion sizes.
And simple won the day. The simpler I could keep it, the easier it was to stick with. Lifestyle changes don’t happy overnight. But the more you strive for them, the more they become long-term habits.
Enjoying the journey is critical
Spoiler: My fitness journey is not over. It continues to this day and beyond. If my journey was only about attaining a particular goal and being miserable until that happened, then I likely never would have reached my very first Kaia FIT goal.
That goal was to run my first 5K (the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure) in memory of my mother who passed away from breast cancer when I was 12 years old. I couldn’t even run a full mile at the time and had about eight months to make it happen. If I hated everything about the process of race training, attending Kaia workouts and eating better, I never would have achieved that goal. I would have thrown in the towel, if not the first morning that I didn’t want to wake up with my alarm clock, then definitely by the fifth time the Snooze button seemed like a much better option.
But keep this in mind: Fitness journeys should be (and are) lifelong. If you can’t find happiness in the here and now, then when?
Kaia FIT is a women’s fitness and nutrition program that empowers women to become the best version of themselves through personalized coaching in a group environment. We prioritize community to help connect women to each other for additional support and accountability. Caren Roblin is the owner of Kaia FIT Sierra, with four studio locations in Reno-Sparks.