Fitness Fridays: How NissaFit Used Heartbreak And Her Haters To Get To Her Best Body (And Booty)
Before Manissa became “NissaFit,” she was a 19-year-old woman trying to deal with heartbreak. She hadn’t struggled with obesity all her life, or been frail and required some weight. She just had low self-esteem and needed a way to let out her anguish.
The man Nissa loved her told her he wanted to be with someone else after cheating on her, and it began a period of downspiral, but also an opportunity for a breakthrough. To help her move forward, she thought she would start exercising. Studies have shown that being active not only has a major impact on the physical but the mental as well. Eventually, she started posting pictures of her transformation and people were taking notice. Before she knew it, she had become a major fitness enthusiast and expert on Instagram.
Now 25 and touting more than 250,000 IG followers, her own health and wellness app and a bevvy of clients, the Brooklyn-born beauty has come a long way. During our conversation, I found that she is incredibly intelligent (she has degrees in political science and economics with a history minor, y’all), and offers some very helpful advice for those new to their own fitness journey, and those trying to steer theirs back in the right direction. Find out what it took to take her body to the next level the natural way, the importance of organized eating, the key to finally having control over your body, and why she would very much like for people to stop asking her if her butt is real.
MadameNoire: When did your fitness journey begin, and what was the catalyst for you deciding to embrace a more healthier lifestyle?
NissaFit: So it started in September 2013 when I was 19. I was with my ex. We were together since I was 17 and he ended up cheating on me and leaving me. He dumped me for some girl while he was on vacation.
[laughs] Yeah. So I started going to therapy because I realized I had seen all the signs that he wasn’t that good for me, but I stayed because I felt like I needed him for my happiness. I realized I had really low self-esteem. So I went to therapy and I started going to the gym at the mall. He worked at the mall too, so I would run into him and the new girl. Just to cope with it, I would go the gym and cry on the treadmill [laughs].
I kept doing that every day after work because at the time I had no other friends or anything else to do. Then when people started complimenting me, they saw differences in me, even just from doing cardio. I had bad posture so my posture got better. My legs got stronger. I started getting a lot of compliments. It was something I just stuck with for my mental health and my physical health — and for aesthetics.
I know you were saying you had low self-esteem at a certain time. How did this new regimen help you change that?
I definitely learned more discipline. I learned what I’m capable of. I realized that people will look to you for guidance, so I felt like, I have to be confident in what I’m doing. Also, I feel a lot more beautiful. I like how my body looks. I like how I feel in clothes. When I walk into a room, I feel like I stand out. So it’s helped a lot. I used to feel like I was hiding in the corner. People didn’t really notice me, or there was nothing special about me I guess.
You said there was a moment where you went through weight fluctuations during a particularly rough period of time. For a lot of people, that is a make-or-break, beginning of the end situation. You often feel like, “You know what? I can’t do this.” So how did you get back on track and not fall into that way of thinking?
So when I was 14, I got fired from my first job because I had really bad work ethic. I remember the lady who fired me, she was another Black woman, and at the time, I was just blaming everyone for my problems and the things going wrong in my life. And she told me I could use those things as a crutch or a propeller — but either way, I was fired [laughs]. So from that day on, you know how you have those moments you never forget? It was a turning point for me.
It was really rough for me, even some of the comments I was getting at the time [after gaining weight] were so bad that I would get off Instagram at a point. It was so hurtful. So I literally just took time to myself and really prioritized my health more. I had to cut out a lot of things. I also made a lot of lifestyle changes. I stopped going out as much. I went into solitude. I got a new assault bike, or cardio bike. I had to reinvest. I used all of those mean comments — I literally screenshot some and I have an album that I use as motivation when I’m on my bike.
So using the negativity, even the kind that came from your own mind about your body, you used that to motivate yourself to get back to work?
Oh yeah. Absolutely.
Nice! That’s good advice. And how important is organized eating for you and people trying to reach their goals? Does that mean you can’t have sweets and snacks? What’s the best way to go about it?
For me, organized eating is not like no sweets or no snacks because your physical health should align with your mental health. I don’t think starving yourself or taking away all of your favorite foods is going to do it. I think it’s about having balance, but also being disciplined. So you can throw in some of your favorite unhealthy foods and snacks, but to me, organized eating, literally even from a financial standpoint, is putting money aside for that week and saying, “This is what I’m going to eat.” Even if you have to write it down, actually stick to it. And of course, when you do that, you can have room to throw in one of your favorite extra snacks because, you ate great all week.
I’m a huge fan of meal prepping. I started doing it my senior year of college. I saved so much money by doing it, and I was actually able to eat healthier. But even if you don’t meal prep, plan out your meals: “I’m bringing this apple, I’m going to Panera Bread for lunch, and then for dinner I’m going to go to Boston Market and have baked chicken with a side of broccoli.” It’s just being organized in the sense of knowing what you’re going to eat at this time, on this day. And even if it takes you an extra hour to plan out your meals for the week, keep your word to yourself and stick to it.
Can you also speak on this idea of making an effort to affirm yourself? I know you said you affirm yourself every day. For some of us, what we consume via media can penetrate our spirit and the way we look at ourselves, and that can have an impact on our mental and physical health. So why is it so important to go out of your way to reaffirm yourself as often as possible?
I think it’s so important and I do it so often because it’s literally just reminding yourself that you’re worthy, and you have the potential to be anything you want to be. I think in this day and age of social media — I also try to be introspective about what I put out there and what message I’m sending to people. Am I making people feel good or am I making people feel bad about themselves?
But it’s basically taking the time out to remind yourself that you’re that girl. You’re poppin’ regardless. And sometimes you have to say it out loud. I’ll be in the shower like, “I got this. I’m really that girl!” Literally [laughs]. My friends are the same way. My best friend always tells me to write in my journal. Wake up in the morning and write something good about yourself. What are you grateful for? It’s keeping positivity in the forefront of your mind when it’s so easy to get so lost and see negativity at every angle.
What is the key to getting “control of your body”? That is something you mentioned on your page, that what you look like now is due to the fact that you finally have control of your vessel. How does that happen? Because sometimes we feel out of control of our body. We look in the mirror and we’re like, “What happened?”
I think the best way is finding your sweet spot and finding a balance between your physical health and your mental health. You still want to have a life but you want to love how you look and love how you feel. So I think control is finding time throughout your week to work out and make your physical health a priority, but also finding time for your friends and doing activities you enjoy and finding a way to enjoy how you look, but also not obsessing to the point where you’re unhappy.
I know you said you were super sick of people asking you whether or not your butt was real last year. Why did that bother you so much? And for those trying to work towards a perkier, stronger butt, what’s the best way to get to that?
It bothered me because I really worked hard for my body. In some ways I get it. Some people aren’t sure because it’s the Internet, but I also feel like it looks kind of obvious that my legs match perfectly with my butt. I don’t think my butt looks like it’s been altered or that a doctor can give me muscular legs. And also, as a Black woman, though I know other Black women get surgery as well, seeing other people trying to get our features and then naturally working for it only to have people say, “Yours must be fake,” it’s really insulting.
And I’m definitely more of a free weights person when it comes to my butt and my legs. I know a lot of people say squats. Squats are amazing and they do work not only your butt but your legs. I love deadlifts. I also love hip thrusts. These are all free-weight exercises. My favorite thing to do is box jumps. Box jumps are amazing! I like a challenge. It’s something you can always work towards, getting heavier if you choose to use weights or you’re just jumping higher and higher. And you never know when you’re going to have to hop a fence, to be honest [laughs].
It’s a great skill to have.
Lastly, I wanted to ask you, for people struggling to get on or stay on their fitness regimen and eat healthier, what would you say is the key to cultivating discipline to have success with this?
I think it’s blocking out the noise. Get your motivation and then get off the Internet and really go do something. Also, having your tribe hold you accountable if you’re lucky enough to have great people around you. Also, ask them, “Hey, can you help me?” “Remind me to go the gym.” “Push me to do this.” “Can you come and do this with me?” Having accountability around you, whether that’s an online community or in your real life. And basically, just making it some type of priority. Organize your life, period. If you have some kind of calendar, organization is so important. And put it in your schedule to actually work out, whether that’s starting small and getting a home workout in, even if it’s only 20 minutes. The most important thing is creating habits and healthy habits. That’s something that has gotten me to where I am now. I just kind of force myself to do it until it feels unnatural that I’m not doing it.