My story starts a very long time ago.
I was born and raised in Russia (Soviet Union before 1991). I had a mom, a dad and a younger sister. We were not rich, nor were we poor. A usual Soviet family. Everyone was the same back then. We always ate a lot of potatoes and bread, because that was what everyone ate, and sweets were not often available as a treat.
When I was 14, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. In Russia, there weren’t many treatment centers, and my dad did his best to find the best treatment available. She got a little better but eventually the cancer came back, and in November of 2002 I lost my mom.
A year after my mom passed away I came to the United states, in June of 2004. I had exactly $300 in my pocket. The company that sent us here had arrangements for us to work at McDonalds. Given my “perfect” english, I was put on a french fry machine where I was making fries for 6 hrs a day. They tried to have me at the cash register but I simply did not understand a word of english. For a week that I worked there, I ate chicken nuggets for breakfast lunch and dinner. I have never eaten fries from McDonalds since.
We stayed at the hostel in San Diego for a week, but since we had no money we had to hide and come in late at night and leave with sunrise. After a week, the management found us and threw our suitcases to the street and kicked us out.
We had no money, no jobs, no connections and no place to sleep. That was a very hard summer for me. Sometimes we had a chance to spend a night at some random people’s houses who offered us a mattress on the floor to sleep on, and sometimes we slept on a bench at a local park. Sometimes we had food and sometimes we had nothing to eat for two days.
After a while living in America and being forced to eat VERY unusual foods (because we didn’t have a kitchen, didn’t know the language and didn’t know where to find the foods we knew and liked), it was no surprise that I gained some weight. It was somewhere around 40 pounds.
At one point I decided that I was too fat, and decided to go on a diet. Wine diet it was. I would go without food for days, drinking a bottle of wine every night after work. By then I already had a job at one of the restaurants downtown and worked 60-70 hours per week.
During that time I met some people that I am still great friends with, and I am very grateful for that. In fact one of these friends made the greatest impact on my life, and I’m going to share this story.
My friend Kate and I went to the gym together on our days off or before work. One of those days we were about to go to the gym, and she said: “let’s stop at my friend’s workshop and have a cup of coffee”. I really didn’t want to go there, but after about 20 minutes of her convincing me, I finally agreed. The guy, Kate’s friend I met, is my future husband and a father of my three children. Kate died in a car accident 2 years later. I still think of her every day and I am forever grateful that she convinced me to go to this guy’s work that day. Thank you Kate, you are always in my heart…
We didn’t start to date right away, but I will fast forward and make my story a little shorter, because this is where it takes a very interesting turn.
My husband and I had our first son in January of 2010. We called him Ivan. He was perfect, and I loved being a mom even though a year prior to getting pregnant I didn’t have any urge to become a mother and never even wanted to have kids at all. Incredible how your life changes in an instant, and you just get used to the changes and adjust.
Having a baby, especially the first one, is very new and challenging. You shift all of your focus from yourself onto this little human that you carried inside of your body for nearly 10 months and then spent almost two days trying to kick him out. It is worth mentioning that I did not take very good care of myself during the pregnancy simply because there weren’t that many resources back then and I did not have a mother- person in my life who could give me advice, so I ate all I wanted and didn’t exercise at all. Which caused me to weigh 190 pounds on the day my son was born. I quickly lost about 30 pounds after the birth, and it was only natural that I wanted to lose more so I started to try diets. It is now I know that diets don’t work, and the reason I know is because I have tried them all. Like seriously ALL of them. I would lose 5 lbs and then give up and gain 10. Lose 5 more but gain 10 more. By the end of 2012 I was wearing pants in size 16 and they were becoming too small for me.
This is when it all happened. I reached my bottom, and I was ready for the change.
Every year my husband and I have a New Year’s dinner with his older kids from his first marriage. We were sitting at the table, and we had a wide variety of foods: traditional russian potato salad with mayo (Olivier), chicken drumsticks with potatoes baked in mayo and sour cream, a loaf of white bread, butter and herring with beets and mayo (also a traditional New Year’s dinner dish). In the middle of the dinner my husband looks at me and says: I think you have gained a little too much weight, it would be great if you could lose a pound or two. The way he said it, it wasn’t like an insult, he just always says what is on his mind. But truth always hurts the most. I felt my heart sink. I felt so little yet so big. I wanted to cry but couldn’t do it in front of his older kids.
I got myself together, got up and said: “I promise that by the next New year’s eve I will weigh no more than 165 lbs”. I had no idea how much I weighed then, but for some reason I had that “magic” number in my head. He looked at me and said ok great. But his eyes said it all. He did not believe the word I said because I had said it so many times before. After I saw that look, I swore to myself that I would keep my word and do anything in my power to reach that goal.
Next day I stepped on the scale, and the number I saw was nothing I expected to see. 217 lbs. I could not believe I was over 200 pounds. I wiped the tears away, took all the bread and threw it away. Got on the computer and searched for the best fast diet. This is how my weight loss journey really started.
Over the next 6 months I tried about a hundred diets and even more workouts. I tried low carb and low fat. I tried a soup diet and a cabbage diet. Kefir diet didn’t work and neither did the keto.
What kept me sticking to the goal was a friend of mine, Irina. Right on the day, January first, when I weighed myself, she sent me a message and offered me to be in it together and to check in on each other every single day. We exchanged messages every day, telling each other about what we ate and what type of a workout we completed. After about a month, she brought me to the Total Woman gym she belonged to. To this day, I am still friends with people from that gym. I felt like I was a part of something bigger there rather than just going in, doing a workout and leaving. What was different there, was a community of women who supported each other and treated each other as family. It was a big family of women of all different sizes, shapes, colors and backgrounds, but what united us was the commitment and support.
As I already mentioned above, I had tried many different diets, but I never went off track because I had a friend for accountability, and then I became a part of an amazing fitness community for women. About three-four months into my weight loss journey I realized that the mainstream diets and their restrictions did not work for me and that I needed to find my own way to get rid of fat without saying goodbye to my favorite foods that were the part of my culture and that I grew up on. This is how I started learning about macros and flexible eating.
I also learned that a ton of cardio workouts made me very hungry, and even though I grew to love running after not being able to run even one mile 3 months before, I realized that strength workouts or lifting was what was bringing me the results, and combining 2-3 strength workouts per week with 1-2 cardio sessions was the sustainable way of exercising for me that was bringing the results without me having to spend hours at the gym.
The new approach seemed to be working very well, I didn’t starve myself, I never felt hungry yet I still had the ability to eat bread and potatoes. Girls at the gym started noticing my progress (I had lost about 40 pounds by then) and started to ask me about what method I had been following. That made me feel important, and I started to learn even more about nutrition and fitness so I could give legitimate advice to those who asked me. By the end of June I had lost 60 lbs, and reached my goal of being 165 pounds and actually below that, way sooner than I promised to my husband. That is when I planned my trip to Russia to see my family, so I was working very hard to look my best. I had a short term goal, and was not giving up on it. I won a Biggest Loser challenge at the gym, and was featured as a Transformation story in the gym’s monthly email. It felt so great, to be seen, heard and admired, that I was only inspired to work even harder. The community love was a huge influence on my transformation.
At the end of July, I went to Russia for almost two months, and shortly after my return to the States I became pregnant with our second son.
What I did not mention anywhere was that my husband and I really wanted to have a second baby, and we tried for about a year without success. This was when I was still considered obese with a body fat percentage of 42%, high cholesterol levels, high blood sugar levels and low progesterone. Finally we gave up and stopped trying. I made peace with the realization I would never become a mom once again.
I came back from my trip, and was running with the girls from our gym running group (we started to train for a half marathon) when I felt pain in my lower back and had to stop my running workout. I blamed it on the period that was supposed to come sometime that week and moved on with my life.
So it was a huge surprise when the period never came and I took a pregnancy test just because, without any hopes. And then I saw two lines. I could not believe my eyes. I was pregnant again, and I am convinced that the huge shift in my lifestyle played an important role in it. At my first doctor’s check up my cholesterol levels were normal, and so was the blood sugar level. I was shocked. I learned that losing body fat not only helped me look and feel better, but it also improved my health and helped me conceive a baby. That was another reason I decided to learn more about nutrition and fitness. I made a promise to myself that I would have a very healthy pregnancy and would take care of myself and my new child the best I could. I kept that promise and ended up gaining only about 20 pounds. I chose the healthiest foods and stayed very active. I Continued to go to the gym and take the classes I liked and completing 2-3 strength workouts per week. I also kept running (or jogging) when I felt like without having a very strict running schedule.
I delivered my second son on Aug 8th of 2013 without a single drug. No anesthesia, no pain killers, nothing. It was a very happy natural birth, and the recovery was incredibly fast. My efforts in sticking to good nutrition and exercising paid off 100%. My body was strong enough to support a natural birth. It was an eye opening experience.
I recovered from the birth of my second son Michael fairly quickly, started to walk again and resumed my strength workouts. We moved to a different area of San Diego close to the end of my pregnancy and I had to cancel my Total Woman gym membership unfortunately, so I joined a different gym. However, it did not have any sort of community support, so I ended up cancelling it very soon.
Right before the New Year of 2014 I registered for an online course to become a certified personal trainer. When I received the workbook, I wanted to cancel the course and send the book back. It was huge, and everything looked so complicated. Considering I had no background in fitness and I had a bachelor’s degree in Finance, I was terrified by this course. I put the book on a shelf and pretended I didn’t have it. Procrastination at its best.
On the New Year’s of 2014 I made a New Year’s resolution – to study and learn everything about personal training. I read the book 4 times, and in June of 2014 I passed the test. It was super easy. Because I knew EVERYTHING I needed. Because it was important to me.
And then I got pregnant AGAIN! On June 13th (EXACTLY one year later on the same day after my CPT test) of 2015, I delivered a healthy tiny little girl we named Olivia in honor of my mother. It was a beautiful natural birth, no drugs again. My body handled everything perfectly, and I was home the next day. Staying fit and active and nourishing my body with healthy foods paid off once again. My family was complete now, and so was my life. Everything was falling right into its place.
The goals I was setting for myself were being achieved. I planned for natural birth and my body made it happen. I set a goal to complete a triathlon after the baby’s birth and I had it done 3 months after Olivia was born. Considering I did not know how to swim 6 weeks prior to the triathlon, that was a huge achievement. In fact, there are many races I have competed to date, you can see the whole list on the right side.
Lots of people ask me how I have so much time to be able to do so many things at once – raise children, managing my own fitness studio, writing books. It is not about “having” time – we all have the same 24 hours in a day. It is about seeing your dreams very clearly and working very hard on making them come true.
Weight loss is not about being easy or being hard. It is not about I can or I can’t. It is about sticking to what you believe in and doing your goddamn best to get to where you want to be. It is about CHOOSING the best for YOU and doing anything in your power to make it happen.
Weight loss can be easy and it can be hard – it is up to you how you want to make it.
I can show you how to do weight loss in an easier and more fun way. Come and see for yourself.
Nicole (Nicky) teaches power yoga, candle lit relaxation, beginner and intermediate levels of yoga. Her passion for yoga started after the first few classes she took. She noticed the physical and mental benefits and was instantly hooked! Being able to share this with others is what drove her to become a certified instructor. Nicole started her RYT-200 training in May 2013 and immediately continued her RYT-500 training, both at Yoga and Meditation Center with Shashi Pottathil (E-RYT-500). She is a certified RYT-500 yoga instructor through Yoga Alliance. Balance, breathing and movement all come together during her class to help your body and mind become stronger, aligned and relaxed.
Besides doing yoga, feng shui consultations, and traveling all over the world, Nicky enjoys spending time outdoors either hiking or at the beach.
Carmen is very passionate about her yoga practice. She started practicing 5 years ago, at first only for her own benefit, but after a while the urge to share this beautiful discipline with others urged her to begin a teacher training program.
Carmen is a certified Yoga Alliance teacher, and did her training at the Yoga and Meditation Center in San Diego.
“Doing yoga has helped me overcome aches and pains that I thought were permanent, and it has also helped me to continue to grow as a person. We can all do yoga and move our body to bring it back to its natural balance and this way have a more balanced life physically and emotionally”, says Carmen.
Carmen lives with her husband in Escondido. In her spare time, you will most likely find her working in the garden with her husband, spoiling her newborn grandson and spending time with family and friends.