This Is More Than Weight Loss!
Hello everyone! My name is Calista Pappas Co-Creator of Respond Fitness. I wanted to personally share my transformation and weight loss story with you as inspiration and to be transparent. So, if you're in need of a little motivation to tweak your lifestyle for the better, you're in exactly the right place.
First, let’s all agree that all body transformations are more than 'before' and 'after' pictures. They are incredible journeys, and behind there's inspiring stories about how we all embarked on our own journey to a healthier self.
My story is not one of overnight success. I didn’t take a magic pill. My results were not from a fad diet or a product from an infomercial. My journey has been more like a roller coaster ride of trials, many errors, and a collection of small milestones along the way, eventually leading to more than I ever expected to gain.
In 2016, I was an unhappy college girl with no self-esteem, trapped beneath a baggy t-shirts and yoga pants and desperate to lose weight to just be normal. I had no idea that the next couple years would turn into a journey of self-discovery, freedom, and finding joy.
It took many years of me trying to lose weight, I tried a lot of different weight loss diets, programs, and even some gimmicks. I had stuck in a pattern of unhealthy starving and binging where I would not eat until dinner and then eat large portions of somewhat healthy food. I didn’t know anything about eating cues and portion sizes. During this period, I became incredibly self-conscious. I felt like my weight defined me. To make matters worse, it got to the point where I was undervaluing myself in relationships and friendships. Soon enough, I'd dug myself into a deep dark hole where I felt completely and utterly alone.
It wasn’t until my car accident in the summer of 2016 where I really began to appreciate my body and work on strengthening it.
MY WAKE-UP CALL
In July of 2016 I had my big wake-up call. While out running around the FSU campus, I was hit while crossing in a crosswalk. I rolled onto the front of the truck and fell on the ground. All I really remember is the agonizing pain I felt when I became conscious and the EMTs and police told me not to move. When I got to the hospital, which I don’t remember at all, I immediately had surgery to fixate my femur and a previous incision that had reopened. When I awakened, I couldn’t move my lower body at all because I had broken my pelvis in two places. For the next three days I had to wait in the hospital bed for the orthopedic surgeon to be available. This was the worst pain I have ever experienced in my whole life.
After three days, I received an external fixator that held my hips in place that I had to wear for eight weeks. At this point, I had lost so much strength and muscle and just standing was difficult. It would take weeks for me to be able to walk with a walker without immense pain or assistance. What really pushed me forward through those initial difficult weeks was the unwavering support of my friends and family. I felt so lucky to have so many people care about me, but the reality of my situation and being completely reliant on my mom and nurses for support caused me to become pretty depressed at times.
Through the next couple months, I struggled with my inability to exercise, to run, to function as a normal person without a walker. I felt weak and isolated. But as I got stronger and I had the external fixator removed, I began to learn how to use strength training and nutrition to make my body better and healthier.
Before the accident, I thought skinny meant healthy and happy, but I didn’t know it at the time, my deep insecurities had led me into an emotionally abusive mindset, lacking self-love. I didn’t feel like I fit anywhere. I felt completely inadequate and just wanted to hide. Finally, I realized that changing my attitude toward food and exercise was something I needed to work on not for weeks, months, or years, but my whole life. I needed to learn how to focus on what I want most versus what I want now. I was exercising for all the wrong reasons including focusing on other people’s body’s and not appreciating my own.
My next goal was to establish a fitness routine and build that into my lifestyle. The problem was, I was too scared to try most of the classes offered at my gym. Gym people always seem to know what they’re doing and I just…didn’t. I just didn’t understand how to have a structured workout routine. I was still stuck in the mindset that cardio meant skinny and skinny meant happiness and attractiveness. So, I would just do hours of the Stairmaster and spinning per week. However, with a broken hip my body started the alarm signals and I suffered immense back pain. I would usually spend at least half an hour a day just lying on the floor because my back hurt so badly.
Once the pain became too much for me to bear and I realized I was continuing habits of unhealthy starving and binging, I actually started researching nutrition and exercise.
THE ‘AHA’ MOMENT
A friend suggested doing a psychological exercise to determine my core values in life. To my surprise my health was number one. However, I realized that I was doing my best to destroy my number one priority in life. I was shocked and had a moment of clarity. This ‘Aha’ Moment planted a seed and the changes didn’t happen overnight, but my journey to better health and life was started.
TAKING HEALTH AND FITNESS TO THE NEXT LEVEL
That’s when I decided to start strength training. I used to think I always had to be running or doing some other form of cardio to be healthy. I didn’t understand the importance of muscle to hold bones in place and that muscle uses energy from food too.
Strength training had started to give me confidence. I didn’t feel like hiding anymore. I still didn’t want all of the attention drawn to me, but I dabbled in a variety of exercises that year and was always working on something to keep myself healthy. I tried a variety of strength training exercises I would have never tried before the accident! I can honestly say I never tried to do a deadlift or a barbell squat until I was 21. I started noticing the decreased pain from working on my glute and hip strength.
Outside of exercise, my social confidence was building, too. I left my comfort zone and went on adventures by myself. I started striking up conversations with neighbors and people in the grocery store. I was officially done hiding and starting to believe in myself and I had value. I began to feel comfortable in my own skin, which meant I didn’t have to seek out value from others.
I have always been a lover of all foods. All throughout high school and in college, I had committed to an unhealthy style of eating where I would restrict and binge. In 2018, I started improving my diet and diving into research about nutrition, weight-loss and health. I read soooo many books about foods and nutrition. I applied the knowledge I had learned in my nutrition and metabolism courses to my own day to day life. I also enrolled to a master’s program to study public health and learn more about helping others make healthy lifestyle changes.
I started buying spaghetti squash, Greek yogurt, zucchini, baby spinach, quinoa, and fish. I slowly began to adapt an intuitive eating diet, eating mostly healthy and nutritious foods, and soon began I craved it and ate it often! And, unless I was meeting friends, I didn’t eat out.
I used to dream about Chinese food and chocolate chip cookie dough out of the sleeve and Papa John’s pizza and then when I actually had the freedom to go to those places whenever I wanted to, it turned out I really didn’t want to. I switched to a high-protein, low fat diet that was included nutritious and whole foods. I had to learn how to make food taste good because I was one of those people who couldn’t eat bland and tasteless food. Through hours and hours of researching and experimenting in the kitchen, I found the tricks on how to make healthy meals taste absolutely delicious. You don’t need to sacrifice a flavor or your health.
I still eat Life Saver Gummies, chocolate, and french fries when I want to, but now, instead of a box of girl scout thin mints (oh, how I love them) disappearing in one night, they were lasting me a month or more. Most of the time I balance between all these approaches above and incorporating some new cooked foods in my diet. My energy and health improved dramatically. I no longer suffered from pain or fatigue or hunger. During my independent research and studies at school I have gained invaluable knowledge which I felt I had to share with the world. What I went through inspired me to become a certified American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Personal Trainer and Health Coach so that I could help others. It also motivated me to step up to new challenges.
I EXPOSE MYSELF BECAUSE WE NEED MORE HONESTY
For me, the key to success was one small change at a time. Going from soda to lemonade. Then to light lemonade, flavored water, fruit infused water, and finally plain water. Going from no vegetables to a few microwaved frozen vegetables then learning to cook fresh vegetables and now I pack my meals full of vegetables. I expose myself because we need more honesty.
It’s so scary! But I feel that there are so many women out there who are struggling with their weight and body image, and they’re tired of hearing these stories that all you need to do is just eat clean, exercise a little bit and it’s enough to get and stay in shape!
Well, it may be true for some people, but for most regular women and men it’s not the case! And I’m going to show that it’s normal to face challenges in life sometimes, it’s OK to stumble and fall, and that no matter what, you can get up and glean incredible wisdom from your failures.
Every diet or exercise program I tried, I learned something from it that I carried on with me to create a healthy lifestyle I genuinely love living. Now, nothing is off limits to me and that actually was the key for me to eat everything in moderation. As a result of all of those small changes in my healthy eating and exercise, I dropped 30 pounds that year. And I’ve kept it off ever since. No more dieting. No more forcing myself to go through the motions. I had worked my way, one step at a time, to food freedom.
Now, those healthy habits I developed in my fitness weight loss journey are just my normal, a normal I happen to absolutely love living. I eat what I love, I have the energy and stamina to do the things I enjoy, and I just feel good. Even though it’s about the weight, it’s not really about the weight. It’s really not even about my goal weight anymore.
It’s about freedom.
I’m doing things I never thought I was capable of. It’s about being healthy and active and taking care of myself so that I can build the life I want to live. It’s about seizing the day, instead of trying to hide, hoping no one will notice me. It’s about being confident in who I’ve become and embracing both my strengths and my weaknesses. Instead of being scared to try new things, I’m eager to take advantage of new experiences. It’s about making good choices most of the time when it comes to both movement and nutrition, but not being a slave to counting calories or forbidding foods from my diet. And now, I want to pass that on to others. I want you to know that, no matter what your starting place is, you can find that freedom, too. Sometimes you just need someone to believe in you and help you take the first step.
You can lose the weight and live a healthier life, no matter how far away you feel from that goal right now. One step, one small change at a time, transform your life. You can do this! Start right now. Just Respond!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Calista Pappas is a Transformation Coach who helps women and men revolutionize their lives by using unique tools to change their identity, tap into their limitless potential and connect to their purpose in life.Weight before: 162 lbs
Weight now: 130 lbs
Location: Tallahassee, FL
Occupation: Personal Trainer
Words of Wisdom: "If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you!”
Proudest moment: "When I was able to run a mile without pain!"
Favorite exercise: Hip Thrust
CALISTA TOP TIPS TO START FRESH:
- Never give up on yourself. I constantly told myself that if it were easy, everyone would be doing it. I needed to be patient, because change doesn’t happen overnight. Your body is a tool—listen to it. Observe how it reacts to different foods and cut out those that don’t make you thrive physically, mentally and emotionally.
- Start in your comfort zone. So I started walking around my block instead—something I was already comfortable doing. She worked her way up from 30-minute sessions to two-hour walks, lacing up five or six times a week. Build confidence with baby steps. One small step kicked off some bigger changes and confidence in my ability to stick to something.
- Stay in your lane. Do what works for you and don’t compare yourself to others,” she says. Everyone is different and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Keep it simple.
- Want it—for realz. Do weights before cardio so you're not depleting your energy before you start lifting.
- Do not fear the weight room. Go heavy. "If I can do more than ten reps, I bump the weight up."
- Perform intervals instead of steady-state cardio. "I go as hard as I can, then recover and repeat. If I get to 20 minutes, it's a rare day!"
- Immediately after your workout, consume a whey isolate protein shake and a fast-acting carb. Lighten up on carbs—without ditching them. Instead of giving up carbs entirely—as if!—she reached for low-calorie or low-carb versions of staples like bread and tortillas.
- Skip soda. Pound that water. Once I realized that soda was nothing but empty calories, I swapped my beverage of choice to water instead. It was super uncomfortable at first, but after eight years, I can honestly say I no longer crave soda like I used to.
- Eat! If you don't eat enough, you won't build muscle. Cancel the whole “all-or-nothing” thing.
- Shout your goal from the rooftops. It helped keep me accountable because I knew others were watching,” she says, noting that private people can still follow suit by sharing with just one other person.
- Log your intake. It turns out that the “written word” can be powerful when it comes to shedding pounds. In a study funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health, researchers found that people who kept a food diary lost twice as much weight as those who didn’t track anything.
HELP ME CHOOSE
There’s no such thing as a stupid question. Empower yourself to ask for help and fight for the person you want to become. Each day chip away at your goals. You don’t need to start with a leap: just baby steps. If you need any fitness help, send me a DM and tell me a little bit about yourself and what you're looking to achieve, I would love to help! Health and fitness are my passion. Just Respond.
Co-Founder Respond Fitness
American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Personal Trainer
University of North Florida: Master of Public Health ~ MPH, Global Health Policy and Economics
Florida State University: Bachelor of Science ~ BS, Exercise Physiology