Celeste- Owner & Certified Personal Trainer

Every time I looked in the mirror, I didn't see ME!  The me that I remember me as… Before having children.

Now that my ‘baby’ is was nearly 10 years old, I needed to do something to get back to ME again.  At 193 pounds and 5′ nothing, I was obese and didn't feel good about myself.  I just wasn't me…  I was too big and out of shape to play the neighborhood kickball game and was easily out of breath going up and down stairs.  Household chores were increasingly difficult with the weight.  I generally felt bloated and uncomfortable.

I was 43 years old... with 2 children (girl 12, boy 10.5 at the time).  My son was born with medical challenges which impacted his ability to eat.  Throughout his life, he has been a very challenging child... medically and emotionally.  He had failure to thrive and needed to be fed by NG tube at 3 months, then he had a g-tube placed at 9 months old.  Even to this day, my son struggles with feeding.  You can only imagine how this affected me as his mother... not being able to feed my child as an infant... and still having eating challenges as a school-aged child.  Throughout his life, I have always felt responsible for not being a "good enough" mother.

Anyway, I decided to partner up with a friend to get healthy.  The plan was to start in January 2013…  But that didn’t happen.  After visiting my parents over spring break, I saw the path that my obese self was headed.  I have my mother’s body type and my father’s stature.  And, a family history of Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.  I was already on blood pressure medication for my creeping up blood pressure.

That was it…  I was going to make a change!  My friend and I joined Weight Watchers in April 2013 and I lost 20 pounds in 2 months by really being conscious of everything going past my lips.  I began to plan ahead with food.  Snacks, dinners, a total eating makeover that revolutionized my whole outlook on food.  If it is not nutritious food for my body, I will not consume it…  Only real food with making major cuts in dairy, wheat, and sugar.  I went through a very difficult 2.5 day withdrawal phase, but now I’m so thankful to not be a slave to quick carb pick-me-ups and a sugar addiction.

After losing 18.5 pounds, I could finally fit into my biggest pair of exercise shorts and I decided to combine my new eating strategy with exercise.  I signed up for a boot camp program.  At first, my schedule was crazy!  It was June and end of school events kept me from starting.   Finally, on the last day of school, June 18, 2013, I met with a trainer for my initial evaluation, measurements and goal setting.  As part of this session, the trainer had me do some exercises similar to a boot camp class.  I could barely do anything…  Squats, jumping jacks, planks… I was laughing at myself incredulous of my pathetic state.  I kept telling myself, I can’t get any worse than this, but now I have a program to help me through the exercise journey.

I started attending 2 classes per week, but quickly moved to 3 as I felt myself get stronger with every class.  I went at my own pace, pushing myself to MY ability and not to anyone else’s.  The women in the class were all like me…  Trying to get healthy, and we were all supportive of each other.

Each week I saw the changes in my body.  At first, it wasn’t so major at the scale, but in the way my clothes fit and how I felt.  I sleep better, can play kickball with my kids, go up and down stairs without getting out of breath, and shockingly picked up a 24 case of water at the grocery store with ease!

Each month, I continued my focused eating plan of real food along with attending boot camp classes.  I found the heart rate monitor that I purchased long ago during my Gold’s Gym days when I would slave away on an elliptical machine and started using it during class.  I loved the instant feedback I got when I felt myself working at peak intensity.  I felt the progress in my skill level and form, and the trainers encouraged me to challenge myself with heavier weight and more intense positions for exercises.

I felt my confidence soar as month after month I saw the measurable results of my hard work in the gym and in my food consumption.  I continued to lose weight and decrease my body fat percentage.

As I continued to lose weight, my confidence soared and I was determined to continue my journey even as the new school year started.  I knew it would be challenging… especially with all the unhealthy food that is in schools.  I made it a priority to provide healthy options to staff whenever food was provided.

My co-workers noticed… my friends noticed… and most importantly, I started to feel like myself.  I knew I still had more work to do, but as the snowball effect of others noticing my progress, I began to develop a larger support system and that kept me focused. Whenever I was tempted by food, I would dig deep and remember why I was on this journey. Each item we eat is a choice. And, the choice to provide nutrition to our bodies or to provide chemicals and preservatives that our bodies have no idea what to do with.

I discovered many things about food along this journey.  Food was comfort.  I ate when the children would tantrum, when I was bored, when I was lonely, when I was stressed.  Certain foods were triggers for me to over-indulge (popcorn is a biggie for me).  Other foods, like foods with wheat and/or sugar, caused me to crave more and more all day long.

I started researching lots of books and cookbooks to find healthy choices that had lots of flavor.  I was not willing to compromise taste for health.  Being from New Orleans, food is very important to me!  In my research, I discovered that a combination of “diets” were a good fit for me.  I incorporate Paleo, plant-strong, wheat free, refined sugar free, dairy free recipes.  Most importantly, I eat yummy foods… so yummy, that I would prefer to eat my home cooked meals to going out to eat!

In mid-October 2013, my mother got very ill and was in the hospital.  I flew home to be with her.  This trip was a real test to my new healthy lifestyle.  In the past, a trip home meant unlimited meals out, drinks, no exercise, etc.  I was determined to make this trip different.  Without feeling guilty about taking time away from helping my mother and father, I went for a run/walk every morning at sunrise in the neighborhood where I grew up.  I went to the grocery store and purchased healthy options to have available.  I packed lunches and snacks for the long days at the hospital.  My new found confidence allowed me to prepare and succeed even though my routine and space were completely different.

I continued to get stronger with the progressive weight training in the boot camp classes and I also added personal training. My weight loss after 6 months...54 pounds!!! and 13% body fat!!! It was a GREAT Christmas present to myself! Unlike last Christmas, I wanted to be in family pictures!

I was only 2 pounds from my Lifetime Weight Watchers goal and the whole family traveled to New Orleans to visit my parents over the Winter break.  Again, I made sure to prepare by making groceries, cooking, and going for morning runs all the way to and around the Audubon Park Trail.  My parents were so proud of the progress I had made in my journey since my October visit and I was proud of myself.

I made Weight Watchers Lifetime on February 22!!!  Even though I could see these amazing results in my clothes, in pictures, and in the mirror, achieving this goal made my journey so very real to me!  I accomplished my mission… I have made a permanent change in my relationship with food and have transformed my body physically through exercise.

After achieving my weight loss goal, I felt compelled to share my journey with other women who struggle with weight loss just like I did.  I tried EVERYTHING... DVDs, gym memberships, walks, runs, diets, you name it... and NOTHING worked until this time... I started a small Facebook Blog called Celebrating the Journey to Health.  I share my personal experiences about my journey, recipes, inspiration, and pictures to help motivate anyone who is interested.

I continued to become more and more passionate about helping and supporting other women achieve their weight loss goals.  I decided to become a Certified Personal Trainer to not just share... but to help coach these women as well.  I studied all summer... at the pool... at the library... on my vacation.  On August 15, I passed the CPT exam through NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine) on the 1st try!!!  I was so excited I was screaming in the testing center and hugged the proctor several times!

I started training women in the boot camp program that helped me so much.  Even though I loved training at that boot camp program, I came to the realization that my heart was called to help women in a different way than what that program had to offer.  A friend asked me why I train women and spontaneously, I sent her the following: "I coach and share my story because I want to help women get healthy...to help them reach their goals....to believe in them when they feel like no one else does....to allow them to feel worthy and successful...to feel strong and confident...to provide a safe place where they can focus on themselves, because so often, they are entirely focused on caring for someone else."

Little did I know that the response to my friend would become the vision statement for a new program for women!  In the summer of 2015, Empower Fitness VA became a reality... My dream to provide support and inspire women has become a reality!  I feel blessed that I am able to reach women who so often feel they can't achieve health.

I have lost 70 pounds and over 15% body fat.  I feel like myself again!  I feel strong!  I feel confident!  I feel HEALTHY!  And, you can too!


Kelly Nyman- Certified Personal Trainer

I began my fitness and weight loss journey almost two years ago. I was inspired by Celeste who I knew through our kids and for some reason I decided to take a leap of faith and start on this journey that has led me to be healthier, happier and has given me an extremely rewarding job (though it hardly feels like work). Like many mom's, I had accumulated weight in the years since my children were born (and I wasn't tiny to start I might add) and though I paid monthly to a big box gym, I never went. I had tried many diets and I just could not give up bread or my beloved diet coke. I just couldn't find the motivation and I was so tired all the time! However, in March 2014 I started training with Donald and Celeste. I started my first Whole30 and have not looked back. 

From my heaviest, I have lost 55 lbs (40 of those pounds being in the last 2 years) and 4-5 sizes. Who doesn't love being smaller, but most of all I am thankful I have more energy and can be the mom, wife and friend I want to be. When Donald first asked me why I wanted to work out and lose weight, I specifically remember saying "I am so tired of being so tired." I am definitely still tired, but I do 5x more than I ever did then!

I feel stronger and have more energy than I did in my 20s and early 30s and felt pretty confident turning 40 in December! I know many people say, "if I can do it, anyone can do it," but I truly believe this to be true. I became a trainer this past summer because I felt drawn to learning how our bodies can change and transform (even as middle aged women) and I wanted to help others learn through my own experience. I am still a work in progress and being part of something as phenomenal as Empower Fitness motivates me every day to keep working hard and learning more to help you. I absolutely LOVE seeing women become stronger every week and I appreciate all the support and enthusiasm!