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Fitness Fridays

Source: Courtesy of Leslie Nelson / LN

If it weren’t for Leslie Nelson’s husband, she wouldn’t have been able to slim down. If it weren’t for her, he wouldn’t have been able to transform.

After giving birth to two children, Leslie found herself overweight and lacking motivation to take control of her health. When she would attempt to, she found that she didn’t have the support she needed to continuously eat clean and be active. It was too hard to stay on track when everyone else in her home was eating how they pleased.

It wasn’t until her husband, also dealing with obesity at the time, started to have health issues that they both realized they needed to get serious about making a change and would be better served going on a fitness journey together. As a couple, they decided to encourage one another to live a healthier lifestyle, and the results of their hard work is more than 185 pounds lost.

“I didn’t have that accountability before. I didn’t have someone watching,” she said. “He motivated me because I knew he was watching and I wanted him to succeed and my motivation came from that; wanting us to do this together and both succeed.”

Succeed they certainly did. Now the 35-year-old Bakersfield, Calif. resident is looking to get her kids in on the action.

“I tell them that I’m doing this to be healthy, so let’s eat this so we can be healthy because there’s a whole lot of chemicals in that. I use those words so that they look at it like, ‘You’re right, this isn’t healthy,'” she said. “I want to give them the tools to be able to make those healthy choices themselves.”

We talked to Leslie about switching from being an incessant snacker to a keto diet fan, sharing her weight-loss story in a transparent way with her nearly 70,000 Instagram followers, and the benefits of making health and wellness a family affair.

MadameNoire: What was your motivation to start this journey and make a change? I know you said you gained 100 pounds with both of your pregnancies, and for some time after, didn’t feel inspired to do something about it. What finally pushed you?

Leslie Nelson: Honestly, I had tried several diets and I was doing it alone. My husband was also overweight and when you have to make unhealthy food for a group of people and you don’t have the support, it’s hard to stay on track, so I didn’t stay on track. But then my husband started having health problems. He always wanted to lose weight, but the health problems really got him in gear. I kept trying to encouraging him like, “We’ll do this together,” and that’s what we decided to do.

In what ways have you kept each other on track?

Yesterday I was like, “I’m not going [to the gym]” and he was like, “What’s going on?” It makes me feel like, when I see him go, I’ve got to keep doing this. He doesn’t have it as hard as I do because I’m a snacker. I’ll be eating something and he’s like, “Do you want to do that?” It’s not in a negative way, but just trying to encourage me to stay on track. I’ll think, you’re right. What am I doing? Now even my kids are involved. They’re like, “Mom, you didn’t go to the gym!” [laughs] My family has been the key.

As someone who is a self-proclaimed snacker, how did you find yourself able to move away from processed, carb-y foods and go keto?

The best thing with keto is that there are a lot of options. Being able to have things like bacon is good and there are a lot of snacks you can do. I became Betty Crocker honestly. I’m like, we can combine this and make something like a cheesecake. I’m all for it! So it’s just compromising. If I absolutely felt like I needed it, sugarfree is not the best option, but I’ve found sugarfree gummy bears that I’m like, oh I can do this. Just cutting out and making those little alterations, tiny adjustments, makes such a world of difference.

It doesn’t get easier. I still struggle and I still want stuff, but you just start to think, I’ve come too far. I can’t go back.

You have talked about those moments where you slip up and in the past, a cheat meal would turn into a cheat day and a cheat day would turn into a cheat month. How important has it been in this journey to forgive yourself and keep pushing forward with your goals?

That’s my new slogan, not letting one bad day turn into a bad month. We get into such an unhealthy relationship with food where we’re hard on ourselves if we eat it and we’re hard on ourselves if we don’t eat. You struggle one way or the other. Finding that healthy medium and saying I’m going to allow myself one cheat meal a week is necessary. I plan it out. It is a planned occurrence: This is what I’m having on Thursday night. That makes a big difference because I used to feel like, well I already messed up for the day so I’m going to continue to do bad and I’ll get back on track. Well, you never get back on track. Telling yourself before, I’m going to allow myself this one cheat meal is better. I also always make sure I go to the gym on the days I have my cheat meal. When I go to the gym, it motivates me. After I have my cheat meal I feel horrible physically because my body is used to eating healthy. It makes me feel bloated and sluggish. When I work out afterward, one, I don’t feel so bad for having that meal, and then two, it reminds me that I have to stay on track because I don’t like how I feel when I eat that way.

Can you also speak on the importance of being transparent with your followers? You have been open about having loose skin around your stomach and stretch marks and feeling like you needed to look like other women you would see. There are people out there who follow women who give the impression that their journey is perfect, their body is perfect and even sometimes that they worked hard for their body to look a certain way when they actually paid for it.

That was important to me because I was comparing myself to all of these girls I see. Let’s be honest, in society, if you don’t have hips and a big booty, you’re made to not feel beautiful. People will say, “I squatted my way to this booty” and it’s like, no you didn’t. You did not. You are going to have these girls in the gym doing 1,000 squats. So I focus on telling people to build the best version of yourself, not somebody else’s best version. Her best version could be from Dr. Miami and most of ’em are.

You see some women and they’re scared to show their stretch marks. They’re scared to show that they have a pooch or loose skin or whatever you call it. It was very hard because I’l tell you, people are rude. Someone said, “If my stomach’s going to look like that I’ll never have kids,” and you’re like, really? I try to remember how many people are motivated by it and just forget the negative comments, but it’s hard. Still, being transparent has helped me on my journey to learn how to love myself again.

How have you prioritized yourself and your health when it was an issue for you in the past as a wife and mother of two kids?

That’s probably my number one struggle. Each and every day I try to do one thing that’s just for myself. Before, I thought that was selfish, but I realized that’s self-love and the happier I am, the happier my kids are. I put it in that perspective of yes I’m doing this for me, but I’m still doing it for my kids, because like I said, if I’m happy, they’re happy. It made me feel not so selfish about doing that. I’m doing this for all of us. Is everybody going to be okay if I go to the gym for an hour? Yes! Everybody survives and I had to realize that. Sometimes I have a babysitter, sometimes I don’t. Yesterday I didn’t have a babysitter so I worked out at home. Whatever you do, make time to do something for yourself. I like to say that self-love isn’t selfish.

What advice would you give to new moms trying to get back to working out but feel the progress is not happening as quickly as they want or they’re not inspired?

This isn’t going to be temporary. This has to be a lifestyle change. You have to be consistent, having more good days than bad days. You’re going to mess up. You’re going to have days where you ate like crap and you didn’t go to the gym, but my rule of thumb is, I’m going to for sure do good five days out of the week. I only have one cheat meal a week right now, but for sure, five days out of seven that I’ve done good is great. So focus on the positive, stop focusing on the negative. Stay patient and consistent, and like I said, have more good days than bad days. Try to find that healthy balance. And don’t compare yourself to others. I do it and I think we’re all guilty of it. I’ll see somebody and be like “Damn, I wish I looked like that,” but I try to talk myself out of that because it’s not healthy. It’s not about how you look, it’s about how you feel. Take this journey so you feel good. I promise you, no one’s going to say, “I lost weight or I started working out and I feel horrible.” No, you’re going to feel good and you’re going to want to maintain that life. You have to do it for how it’s going to make you feel, not how it’s going to make you look because if you go by looks alone you’re going to give up. The results don’t come fast, it’s a process. So if you’re doing it for the wrong reasons, you’re going to fail.

Be sure to follow Leslie on Instagram and check out the rest of our inspirational Fitness Fridays profiles here

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