Name: Nikki Whitehead
Occupation: Mom of 3, Wife and Personal Trainer
Favorite Quote: “Get comfortable with the uncomfortable”,
“The task ahead of you is never greater than the strength within you.”
Growing up as a teen I never worried once about my weight or nutrition. I ate whatever I wanted without a care in the world and at the time it didn’t seem to matter or do anything to my body composition. It wasn’t until I got pregnant with my first child that I realized my weight might become a problem in my life. I continued to eat anything and everything thinking I was nourishing that little babe but I was shocked when the 60 lbs I gained during that pregnancy didn’t come off with that little 7 pound baby. That’s when the “Oh, No, what have I done to myself” cycle of dieting and exercising began. I started buying all the different diet books out there and ordering all the infomercial workout videos. I would try one out for a while and as soon as it got boring and hard because the cinnamon rolls and chocolate chip cookies overpowered any hard workout I did, then I would fall right back into my comfort zone of eating until I felt even more horrible about myself. The next new diet fad would come out and I would go at it again. I would take a few 20 pounds off here and there but give up way too easily and put it right back on. This was the cycle I lived in for about 10 years all while having more kids and gaining even more pregnancy weight. As you can imagine, as with anything you have been trying to do for so long and not succeed at it, it chips away at your self worth and makes you feel like a failure. Slowly, my love and belief in myself seemed to be getting dimmer and dimmer. I started to realize that if I am going to do this and succeed at this, I am going to need some help, be pushed beyond my own comfort some, and most importantly be accountable to someone else.
In 2012 I decided it was time to really invest in my health. I decided enough was enough and I was done with not being happy with myself and not being able to take the weight off. I made some serious promises and commitments to myself that I was going to finally do this no matter how hard it was going to be. I found a nutritionist and a few trainers that would help hold me accountable. Having to report back to them for every bite I put in my mouth and showing up for a paid workout session was exactly what I needed. My trainers pushed my body to limits I didn’t even know I had. My nutritionist helped me fight through my bad eating habits and help me understand more about how food is the fuel that can benefit my hard workouts and also work for my body instead of against it. The weight came off slowly, week by week and by the end of 9 months I had lost a total of 70 lbs. I was stronger and doing things I never imagined possible.
One of the trainers I hired was so that my husband and I could learn how to swim. We walked in at our highest weight, terrified of the water and without any skills. I thought I knew how to swim, but turns out I knew nothing. It was a big fear of ours. One thing led to another, and we started biking and running together too. Over the course of 18 months of being pushed physically, being held accountable nutritionally, and starting to believe in myself again, I completed multiple half marathons. 1 marathon, 4 sprint triathlons, 1 olympic triathlons, 2 half Ironmans and 1 full Ironman along with my husband. I have since gone on to run 2 more marathons. The lessons I learned from that time in my life about the amazing gift of the human body and the incredible strength of the human spirit has been life changing. So much so that I have wanted to pay it forward and help those who have ever felt or been in the same situation as me. To help them know and understand they have a strength inside of them to accomplish anything no matter how overwhelming, scary, or impossible it seems. And that their human, imperfect, body is truly a gift. That it can go through so much agony and pain and in the process get stronger and stronger. That with some self love and commitment to take care of it, it will forever carry us around this life to feel an abundance of joy.
This is why I decided to become a personal trainer at the young age of 40 years old and open a small, private gym called Tough Love Training (a name that holds special meaning to me in my life). You are never too old or too young to encourage and inspire others to find their own strength.
A regular day in my life:
I wake up at 5:00 a.m. to train a 5 am or 6 am class at the gym. I’m home by 7:00 a.m. to send my Jr High child off to school. I pack lunches and make breakfast for my elementary kids and out the door they go at 8:20 am. Then I am off to teach another class at 9 am. I get my workout in after that class and come home. Depending on the day I am either running errands, cleaning up around the house or taking care of all the books for my husband’s landscaping company. The time flies by and before I know it, the kids are home from school. As soon as they get home it’s homework time. then it’s off to basketball practices, activity days, young women’s and scouts. If I’m lucky and prepared I’ll have dinner in the crockpot. Otherwise it’s tacos, spaghetti, leftovers or just super easy throw together dinners (I’m all about simple and easy dinners. We are creatures of habit around here so if we like something, we will keep eating it.) All the family is usually home by 8 pm. We just sit around and chill, watch America Ninja Warrior, America’s Got Talent or Shark Tank (those are a few of our favorites)…oh ya..and how could I forget…Football. Around 9:00 we are reading scriptures, praying and sending our kids off to bed. I usually stay up til around 10 or 11 and plan workouts for my clients. I hit the sack every night exhausted and ready for a new day.
The toughest part of my story:
Since I consider myself a food addict, figuring out my nutrition and learning how to have control over food has by far been the toughest party of my journey. I am not picky at all when it comes to food and love all different kinds. I can also easily down a dozen chocolate chip cookies, all the Texas Roadhouse rolls, or a whole box of mac and cheese. Whenever I went out to eat or to a party or on vacation, It took everything I had in me to stay in control, order smart off the menu and not give in and have a free for all like I had done so many times before. Now don’t get me wrong, I definitely had treats and ate pizza, hamburgers and fries, but every once in a while is different then every single opportunity, all day long, or for the entire vacation. Since that was the toughest part for me, every time I would walk out of any of those situations victorious, in control and making the wiser choice it was SO rewarding and those were extremely powerful moments for me.
The toughest things I encounter in my day to day life:
Balance, Balance, Balance! I have found that it is very easy to get obsessed with the whole weight loss exercise thing. There’s a fear maybe that if you miss a workout or eat a treat or 2 or 3 that you are going to undue all that hard work, when in reality eating a few treats and skipping a workout every now and then is a healthy thing. Although exercise and eating healthy has become a big important part of my life…it is not the only big important part. I am a wife and a mom and a friend and have other important responsibilities. Yes, taking care of myself is important and there is always time for that, but I never want my kids or my husband or my friends to think that ther are more important things than them. SO every single day I have to decide what is most important that day… how I am going to balance my time and how is it going to make the people I love feel. Whether it’s skipping a workout to go on a field trip, or cleaning the house and making an after school treat instead of scrolling through facebook, or going to lunch with my husband instead of eating my planned healthy meal. I have to decide that some moments and things are just more important and take priority. I am zero percent perfect at this which is why it’s so tough for me. It’s something I am always working on.
Are there any stereotypes that you find bothersome or unfair? Any helpful information for other people to know when interacting with you or people in your situation?:
My personal perception and something I have noticed is that since I have accomplished losing weight, finishing a marathon or an Ironman and more recently becoming a personal trainer, etc. is that other people think that eating healthy and exercising now comes easy to me and I don’t struggle any more like they might be. When I see others at the grocery store for example, they feel like they have to explain why they have Oreos in their cart or tell me how they haven’t worked out in a while. Or vice versa…when someone else sees me eating something totally unhealthy (like a cougar tail at a BYU game…yummy) they are shocked and can’t believe I would do such a thing. When the true reality is…I am just like everyone else. While yes, some things do get easier because you become more knowledgeable, but you still always have your choices and more often than not I want to choose the unhealthy one out of ease and comfort. I make poor eating choices all the time. Some I don’t feel bad about at all, and some go on and on for weeks and I have to force myself to snap out of it. I also go weeks, or sometimes months at a time not working out and feel completely unmotivated. All of the advice that I give my clients and others is the same advice I need to hear and remind myself of. I became a personal trainer to not only help others but to help motivate me. Personal trainers and people who lose weight or accomplish crazy things aren’t invincible. They have to fight the same as everyone else every single day to train hard and eat healthy.
What gets you through the tough days?:
When it came to exercise and training, it was no doubt my husband and my friends. Having a group of people to train with makes a world of difference. On days I didn’t want to work out, knowing that I had others counting on me to be there got me out the door. During the workout they were the ones who pushed me. If they were right next to me not giving up on a hard treadmill workout or biking up Squaw Peak, there was no way I was stopping either no matter how bad I wanted to.
When it came to nutrition, it was being held accountable to someone else. Knowing that I had to report what I ate to someone I did not want to let them down either. I did not want to report that I didn’t or couldn’t do it.
But even more than these two reasons, the main thing that got me through the tough days was that little value called Integrity. I would always go back to the promises and commitments I made to myself that no matter how hard it got, I was going to do what I said I was going to do…at losing weight and at becoming an Ironman…the 2 things I thought were impossible to do in my life at one time. Sticking to my promises and commitments no matter how hard was a way that I was “Tough Love”ing myself. Telling myself that I was worth it. That I could do it. That I loved myself and my body enough to take care of it…not in a vain and prideful way but in a grateful and “proud”ful way. Doing these hard things made me gain a better appreciation for the gift of my body and what it was capable of and made me feel proud of myself for learning to overcoming some really hard things.
How have you overcome obstacles and challenges in your way:
This is a hard one, because while I think that I have overcome a huge obstacle or challenge in my life, the “overcoming” of those things actually happened in the daily moments. It’s not like all of a sudden we overcome something. We overcome little by little, day by day, moment by moment, choice by choice! Whenever we are faced with a challenge or an obstacle (like a smorgasbord of delicious treats at a buffet or a party) we always have a choice in those moments to determine if we are going to overcome that temptation. Are we going to just have one bite, try everything or walk away? Our little choices in those moments over time build on each other until we have overcome a big challenge.
I learned early on that I was never going to tell myself there were certain foods off limits. That I was able to have whatever I wanted to have at any time. However, It was going to be MY choice and on MY terms when and where I was going to have them. It didn’t matter how many times we went through the Swig drive through, I didn’t have to order anything just because we were going. I got to choose when I wanted something. Sometimes I would and sometimes I wouldn’t just on purpose to help me gain control and power over my choices. It’s the same concept at a party. Just because there is a lot of food in front of you doesn’t mean you have to eat it. It is always your choice on what you put on your plate and in your mouth. I kept reminding myself of that when I got tempted. I would say to myself, “No, I’m not going to have that right now. It’s not that I can’t, I am just choosing not to in this moment.”
I have also learned there are certain foods that I just don’t have any control over whatsoever no matter how strong I feel. It’s these foods (like peanut butter M&M’s and chocolate covered almonds to name a few) that I just can’t have in my house so I won’t buy them. I figure that I will have them eventually, somewhere, every once in a while on a special occasion so I just never buy them and bring them into my temptation zone. Making these small choices helps me work daily on overcoming my unhealthy habits and gaining power over my weakness of food.
Any advice to give to others?
Never, ever, EVER GIVE UP! The daunting task of losing weight or the fear of leaving your comfort zone to pursue a goal is completely overwhelming. I totally understand that. You obviously have to start somewhere but baby steps are all you need. I vividly remember the first time I ran for 5 minutes straight on my treadmill. It was the biggest vIctory of my life at the time. Celebrate those little victories. Be proud of yourself for doing something new for the first time. I also remember when I finally got up the courage to take my running to the streets where all my neighbors would see me in all my imperfect running form going at a snails pace. The moment I decided to not care about what others thought about me was so exhilarating and freeing. Do things for YOU, It’s your life, your health, your choices. You are the most important person who will ever care about what YOU do. My biggest advice is to do what you love and enjoy the journey. When you set a goal, don’t think of it having an end. Think of it as a life experience. Enjoy the process and the experience and think of it as a learning process and a lifestyle that you want to live forever. When I was learning how to eat better, I wasn’t learning just to get me to a certain weight, I was learning for a lifetime of healthy living.
I am also a big believer in that there is a time and a season for everything. We are all in different time and seasons. Some may have the time and money to join a gym, others may have little kids and are lucky to get in 5 minutes of running in. Don’t compare your time and season with others. There will come a time when you will have more time to dedicate to health and fitness, and there will come a time when walking with a friend in your 60’s is all you can give. Enjoy whatever time and season you are in and do the best you can with that phase of your life. But always, always, ALWAYS remember….You have a strength inside of you that allows you to become and do anything you want in life. The more you tap into that, the more power you will have. You are deserving and worthy of incredible JOY in this life. It’s your choice to go and grab it.
Facebook: Tough Love Training