“I think everyone should be free to be comfortable. I was never comfortable carrying extra weight. I got tired, I couldn’t shop just anywhere, and I felt like nothing ever fit me right.”
My name is Jacqi and I am an amateur fitness and kettlebell enthusiast living in Georgia. Fitness, healthy eating, biohacking, and kettlebells training have literally saved my life, and I’m on a mission to share my story with others who are feeling stagnant, stuck and fed up with their circumstances. I have 3 children, an 11-month-old, a 23-month-old, and 12 years old. We’re a homeschooling family full of strong personalities with a passion for life and learning!
I ate the SAD (standard American diet) for almost 20 years. Plenty of trans fats, refined carbohydrates, and a complete deficiency in fresh fruits and veggies. The only thing that made my early diet unique was my parents’ rather unique ethnic cuisine and cooking obsession (my dad homebrews beer, and once made 100-year-old eggs. Both stank!). While I avoided the shitake mushrooms, capers, and curries, I filled up on Hot Pockets, instant mashed potatoes, and good old Kraft mac n’ cheese out of a blue box. The most ironic fact is that now I love all types of ethnic cuisine, Mexican, Indian, Pan-Asian, etc. I would kill for a sample of half the dishes I rejected as a child! But instead, I drank can after can of delicious Coca-Cola, and microwaved countless platefuls of pizza rolls while watching MTV.
“Sometimes you have to let go of what is leaving you, accept things as they are, and allow yourself to embrace change, even if you’re afraid.”
When I hit puberty I grew into a full-grown woman’s body and gym class became like hell for me. I felt so uncomfortable running in front of other people (especially boys) that I once skipped class for a month in seventh grade. I played basketball and ran cross country because I was required to, but in my personal life, I avoided all physical activity because I hated how I looked and how I felt in my body. This feeling followed me into adulthood.
By the time I was 18 I was sneaking up on obesity. My steady diet of white pasta, full-fat dairy products, and fast food from jack in the crack was sending me speeding down the road toward diabetes, atherosclerosis, and high blood pressure.
Thankfully for me, when I was 19 I had a few “OH, NO!” moments. I got pulled over for speeding and the police officer estimated my weight at 200 lb. I said…”WHAT?!” I certainly do not look like I weigh 200 pounds! To be honest, I had no idea how much I weighed, and I did not want to know. Throughout high school I hovered around 150 pounds, at a height of 5’2″. One day I went to Target and happened to stand on a scale…I was 210 pounds. That number shocked me!
Then, I attempted rock-climbing with my then-boyfriend, now-husband, Kassper, as part of a team-building exercise for work. I was so embarrassed when I could scarcely hold up my own body weight. I was literally shaking, trying so hard to hold on. We were tied to each other, so he was forced to carry my dead weight across the wall. I was mortified once again.
I officially became fed up when my dad took me skiing in New Mexico that year. I was excited to try skiing, so it was very disappointing when I found myself completely winded after only a few minutes of instruction. Once we started actually moving down small slopes, my legs felt like they were encased in cement. I retired to the lodge with a bruised ego and drank cocoa. I felt really bad about myself! I had never outright failed at a physical task before. In the past I’d always been good at anything sporty or competitive. I couldn’t believe that someone who was always athletic, played basketball, ran cross country could get so out of shape so fast. I was only 20 years old!
My family has a history of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and obesity. My grandma passed away of congestive heart failure when she was only 57 years old. I made a decision that I was not going to give up on my health.
While I had been active as a child, I had become almost completely sedentary. The most I moved was when I was playing Dance Dance Revolution on the PlayStation. I had tried Tae Bo in the past, and it was fun, so I got myself some videos (yes, videotapes). I also had a 15-minute pilates video. The lady on the pilates video said something that stuck in my head: “if you do this every day for a month, you will see a change in your body.” That became a mantra for me. “Keep it up, and you will see changes.” Daily exercise actually became a habit, to my surprise. I walked quite a bit. Eventually I would walk, then jog, then walk, then jog. I thought I was being lazy but that is actually a great way to exercise, in intervals. When I finally felt comfortable running, it felt great.
At the time, I had some luck on my side. I worked at Whole Foods Market as a cashier, so I had access to health-minded people, nutritional information, and some of the best food you can find. The South Beach Diet was popular at the time, and as a cashier I got to see what people on that diet bought. Just being in this atmosphere of enlightenment was helpful to me and my goals.
I read the book, did the induction phase, and promptly dropped 10 pounds. That was all the motivation I needed. Honestly, just seeing a small change was so encouraging that I was excited to continue. I learned a lot about nutrition, and I started eating fruits and vegetables, which had always turned me off. The food was delicious, and I had fun trying low carb recipes.
Suddenly I was losing weight, feeling better, and could shop wherever I wanted and fit into anything. All my customers at Whole Foods were so impressed with my rapid change, and the compliments were motivation to keep going.
Upon losing the weight, I immediately became pregnant with my daughter Celeste, probably because I got healthier. Unfortunately, I didn’t maintain a very healthy diet during my pregnancy. I put on fifty pounds and was blissfully sedentary, save for long, quiet walks with my belly. After giving birth it was easy to take the weight off just doing a repeat of the South Beach induction phase and hitting the gym again.
I became a devotee of exercise DVDs. I loved the really hard ones, like Jillian’s, Billy Blanks’ Tae Bo, and Bob Harper’s killer routines. I liked Amy Bento, Exhale Core Fusion, Crunch, Yoga Booty Ballet, and the 10-minute solution videos. I had quite a few in my library and by rotating them, I rarely got bored. I got pretty strong doing the circuit style workouts in Jillian’s Banish Fat, Boost Metabolism, because she does plenty of squatting, jumping and planks. I really liked her DVDs, and I owned almost all of them.
I used to read reviews of fitness DVDs on religiously on Collage Fitness, and I kept hearing about kettlebells. Many people were very excited about Iron Core with Sarah Lurie and a few other popular videos.
I became obsessed with watching videos of women performing Olympic barbell lifts, doing CrossFit, and kettlebell exercises. It looked fun. I talked about kettlebells so much that my dad bought me a set for my birthday last year. A former DVD workout junkie, I switched over to nothing but kettlebell and body weight interval workouts quickly and never looked back. I also liked medicine ball, jump rope, and sandbag training.
Lifting kettlebells felt empowering and made me so much stronger so quickly. I taught myself the major lifts by reading Enter the Kettlebell, by Pavel Tsatsouline. I watched tutorials on youtube and discovered myomytv.com. Marianne Kane has put together an awesome free website where she regularly posts hellish new kettlebell workouts. I had all her workouts copied into a little blue notebook that I kept in my gymbag, and they really challenged me!
I think everyone should be free to be comfortable. I was never comfortable carrying extra weight. I got tired, I couldn’t shop just anywhere, and I felt like nothing ever fit me right. When I freed my mind of thinking things like:
“I will never exercise, it’s not for me.”
“I like bread too much, I won’t be able to cut back.”
“I LOVE PASTA, how can I live without it?”
“I’ll always look like this.”
“People who are thin are intrinsically different from me.”
“People who are into fitness are weirdos.”
“Fruits and vegetables? HAHAHA…booooring.”
I realized I could change. I could be whatever I wanted. I had to stop thinking “I can’t”, and believe in myself. My self-esteem soared when I saw myself changing, and I was so proud of myself.
Since then I’ve had two more children, and once again kettlebells and a healthy diet have helped me get back in shape effortlessly. I love spreading the word about how magical kettlebell training is for fat loss and body sculpting.
I’ve dealt with depression throughout my adult life, anxiety, and borderline personality disorder. I truly believe that fitness and nutrition have been the key to managing these challenges naturally, without medications. I’m a different person when I’m taking care of the biggies: rest, exercise, nutrition, and getting outdoors.
Throughout the years I learned to make room in my life for fitness and for other lifestyle practices for wellness. I am always reading and learning about strength training, nutrition, biohacking, fat loss, and longevity. I listen to podcasts, subscribe to many email lists, read blogs, watch YouTube videos, follow fitness personalities on Instagram, and am a member of lots of fitness groups on Facebook. I surround myself with interesting information and positive inspiration.
I think one of the reasons I’ve maintained my weight loss and stayed active is because of all the positive habits I’ve developed. Eating whole foods, with an emphasis on a low carb, high-fat approach, getting outdoors frequently, being more active overall, intermittent fasting, drinking lots of water, not drinking too much alcohol, prioritizing sleep, managing stress, stretching, meditating, journaling, and regularly challenging my nervous system. All these small habits add up to a better quality of life.
Be part of something fun, join our Unconventional Kettlebell Competitions for all levels, novice to expert.
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Kettlebells, movement, and strength training are the biggest piece of the wellness puzzle for me. As a mom, making time for sweat, time for me is important. When I used DVD’s, I needed an hour to challenge me, to get my endorphins pumping. With kettlebells, 10-20 minutes of swings, snatches, or complexes can give me an awesome challenge! I love training outdoors, and I still love the empowerment and joy of practicing kettlebells. A bicep curl is just a rep, just a static lift. A kettlebell swing makes your heart rate soar and awakens every part of the body.
Today I’m using my Instagram and social media to share my primal lifestyle with the world. I love seeing others’ strength practices, getting and sharing recipe ideas, and hopefully inspiring others to live like humans, climb trees, get sweaty, grow their own foods, and not be afraid to explore new paradigms.
I believe stepping outside of your comfort zone is the first step toward greatness.
A little over a year ago my family and I were on the verge of homelessness. I was having a difficult third pregnancy with my son, Kalil, and my daughter, Soleil was 7 months old. Just standing up was difficult, I had to rest a lot due to an irritable uterus. I had been cooking at a private preschool, but I couldn’t work, much less workout. We were behind on all of our bills. My husband was driving for Uber to try to help ends meet. My demons were taking hold of me in my weakened circumstances. It’s probably the lowest point I’ve had in my life.
I was packing a bag to take to a homeless shelter when my husband told me that his mom (who I’d never met in person) had invited us to stay with his grandma in Georgia (where I’d never been). We packed our car with everything we could fit in it and drove through the night, through Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi. Of course under all our belongings, in the back seat, were my kettlebells, 25 lb., 16kg, and 20kg, no way I was leaving those.
Coming here was terrifying, leaving behind Texas, where I’d lived for 20 years. Going from living in a 2 bedroom apartment in Dallas to a hundred-year-old house in the rural south. Leading my growing family into the unknown. Not being in control of anything. It was scary, and uncomfortable, and felt vulnerable.
We’re still here in that house. My husband’s grandma bought herself a smaller house on her daughter’s land, which was her dream, and we are living an idyllic life in the country. We have a garden, and last year we grew our own veggies. I went fishing for the first time. We have 3 cats and 2 puppies. There are five acres of land for my kids to run and play and for me to walk, commune with nature, and play with my kettlebells. Life is slower, and, to me, more natural. I walk barefoot outside, I stay at home with my kids now and cook even more.
My life took turns I couldn’t have anticipated and put me in uncomfortable situations that I would have given anything to change. I fought and raged against what I thought was my misfortune and my burden, just like when I was overweight and felt out of control of my life. But I ended up exactly where I need to be, doing exactly what I want to be doing. Sometimes you have to let go of what is leaving you, accept things as they are, and allow yourself to embrace change, even if you’re afraid. These are the times in life where we truly grow stronger, and evolve as people. These are the moments that set us apart from others, and teach us the meaning of strength.
Check out the other nominated athletes:
- March 2018: Adam Tonkin
- February 2018: Sandy Doyle
- January 2018: Taco Fleur
- December 2017: Jerry Gray
- November 2017: Jeff Bott
- October 2017: Leo Urquides
- September 2017: Maurizio Tangari
- August 2017: Russel Godwin
- July 2017: Eric Leija
- June 2017: Shawn Powers
- May 2017: Jessica Huttig
- April 2017: Kirsten Tulloch
- March 2017: Henk Bakker
- February 2017: Rik Brown
- January 2017: Kelly Manzone
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