Blog - Our Continuing Journey

Project TransformationI will persist until I succeed

I started my fitness journey on July 3, 2014. I started for so many reasons. First, my daughter was nagging me to join a gym. Second, my Uncle Larry was posting on Facebook how he was walking every day and how much weight he had lost and the medicine that he now had to take. Third, I needed to do it for me. I set my own personal goals that had nothing to do with total weight lost. I wanted to be able to ref soccer in the Spring of 2015 and I wanted to be in the same shape I was in while in college by the time I turned 50 (December, 2015). I felt like I had set realistic goals. The toughest part of this was walking into Gold’s Gym the first time. Jessica was with me and we sat in the car for at least 10 minutes before I was brave enough to walk into the door. I had to see what kind of people were walking in there. I felt comfortable enough that there was a mixture of people. I would be able to blend in. We signed up and I started working out with some cardio and the weight machines. I avoided the free weights since it was very intimating to me AND I felt very sad and ashamed of how out of shape I was and how much fat I was carrying around. I went every day, the few days Jessica went with me but she quickly got tired of going to the gym so I was on my own. I posted my training on Facebook so I held myself accountable. I started to get stronger with my cardio, I could go for 20-25 miles on the bike with random hills (I built up to 45-60 minutes, some times longer) and the treadmill was about 30 minutes. I started to see differences in the way my clothes fit. I wanted my work to be a reflection of them. I was on a mission to get my life/health back. By January, I was addicted to the environment and I wanted to be a part of it, so I started studying to become a personal trainer. I wanted to help other people feel the way I felt. I wanted to let others know that they can do it. It takes time but if you do it the right way, it is healthy and it will stay off. Around this time, I also started to do Debbie’s cardio class on Saturdays. I was getting addicted to the training. I felt great, I wanted to do more. By end of 1st full month with John & Debbie I had lost 17 lbs and 7 inches off my waist. People began to notice my weight loss, I had to buy new clothes, my old ones were just hanging off of me. 2nd month with them, I lost another 15 lbs and had to buy new clothes. At the end of February, I had my body fat tested and basic strength assessment (I wanted to compare it to the one I had done at the end of July to see how much if any I had improved). I had almost doubled everything in all categories that I had done before. I didn’t let her take my weight or body fat before because I didn’t want to know. At that time I was 38% bodyfat, Debbie took it again in June I was 26%, I had gone down 12% in 4 months. From Mid February through Mid May I lost another 28.5 lbs, I was almost to the 100 lb marker and I had lost 7 inches off my waist since working with John and Debbie, 15 if you count where I started in July. The inches literally were melting off my body. Chest 7 inches lost, Thighs 4 inches, calves 2.5 inches, biceps 2.5 inches, hips 7 inches. This is all with proper nutrition and exercise. I was did this while being healthy and eating. Yes, I ate while doing this. Debbie increased my food along the way. By end of May, I hit the 102 lbs lost marker. I have gone from size 20 to almost a size 6, my size 8s are getting big. I wore a 2XL top, now I can wear a Medium, may need a small soon. Now, rather than focus on weight loss, I am focused on the changes that my body is making, the muscle definition, the strength I have, the increased muscle endurance. I focus on what I can do now that I couldn’t do before. I couldn’t do lunges when I start with John, now I am doing different versions of lunges as well as walking lunges. Squats, leg presses, upper body strength, everything has increased to such a great level that I now feel like I belong in any gym around. I don’t worry about what other people think. I train with confidence, knowing that I learned from the best and I know what I am doing. I train alongside body builders and I can hold my own. I am able to ref soccer games, a year ago, I couldn’t spring to save my life, now I am running lines of U16 boys. My transformation is a work in progress but I will be forever thankful for John and Debbie for showing me how to properly train and eat healthy. I no longer eat because I want to eat, I eat because I know that it is what my body needs to keep growing and fight off disease. I train hard so I can see the change in my body. I have changed my life and I refuse to allow myself to go back to my old ways.
I was eating pretty healthy and stayed away from all fast food, chips, soda, cookies, cakes, etc. By then of November I had lost 40 pounds, nobody noticed, but I didn’t lose faith. I could tell that I was making changes and I was starting to feel better. I was sore all of the time but it was a good sore, it meant I was doing something good after being so inactive for such a long time. I kept at it, I wanted to be back to the athletic person I had always been. I was very driven as any 2 sport ex- college athlete would be, I had made it to the gym every day from July to the beginning of December. That is when the next step of my journey began. I really wanted to use the Nutrition coach that my sister had used and also add personal training to the mix. End of November, I was able to line it up so I could do both. I started working with John on December 10 (3 times a week) and Debbie on December 17th. I did everything that they told me to do. Debbie told me how much cardio to do, how much food to eat and when. I didn’t stray from anything. I foam rolled every day, I did my stretching every day. I didn’t want to let either of them down.

I WILL PERSIST UNTIL I SUCCEED (this is what I told myself through this whole process, I have a tank top with this saying, it means so much to me and what I am all about)

Mental transformation
I started this journey feeling horrible about myself (outside appearance). I hated to look in a mirror, to have my picture taken. I didn’t want to go out to any social events outside of soccer events. I didn’t wear anything form fitting. I hated to shop for clothes, I wore the same things over and over again. As I began to train with John and do the Nutrition with Debbie, I started to change. As I started to feel better, I started to have more energy. I could do more things during the day, I didn’t want to sleep of the time like I did before I started this journey. With this new energy and the feeling of being productive, my demeanor changed. People at work noticed that I was happier, they noticed that I was losing weight. They wanted to know what I was doing and wanted my input. I gave them encouragement and as I did this, I realized that this was very motivating, helping other people. It added to my feeling better about myself. It felt good to help other people. To give them words of
encouragement. By posting my journey on Facebook, I was able to help other people start to work out, watch they ate, how to make small changes so they stick to it. My outside was starting to match my inside. I knew what I had on the inside but I felt ugly on the outside. Physical appearance is a powerful thing. Yes, I was comfortable with who I was but once I started to lose weight and get healthy, I was just a different person. I was friendlier, I smiled more. I was more engaging. I felt like
I was the college athlete again, the captain of the soccer and softball teams, the leader that I knew I could be. As a coach, I was more confident, the girls noticed the difference. I feel like I am a better example to them. I have such passion for fitness and nutrition that it attracts people to me. People just want to be helped. I passed by NASM test because I want to help other people get rid of the disease in their body. Help them become happy with themselves. Help them feel confident. After a year, I can finally look in the mirrors at the gym, I can work out alongside people I would have never been brave enough to train next to. I can finally smile when I get my picture taken. This journey has been as mentally challenging as it was physically challenging. I had road blocks along the way that could have derailed this journey but I had strong, wonderful people helping me. God truly placed John and Debbie in my life to change it. In turn, I hope that I can make the same changes in other people’s lives. Being healthy is a powerful thing. It is contagious and want everyone to be infected by it. My journey is ongoing but I WILL PERSIST UNTIL I SUCCEED!!!!

[ Fitspiration & Motivation by Tracey Mathis ]


Another amazing transformation! Meet Dan, a client
of Integrity Training Systems. With the right trainer and
nutrition you too can see amazing results!


Did you hear John Morris's testimonial on
"Healthy Living with Integrity Fitness" Sunday? 
Check out his amazing transformation!


Integrity Training System's very own Ali Mayer featured in 

Fall 2013 "John & Becky Arnold's Natural Build fitness eMagazine!

Courtesy of:  John & Becky Arnold's Natural Build fitness eMagazine


Food is Fuel: Diana Pitts

A Weight Loss Journey Guide

So, here it is, August already. What have I been up to all summer?  I have been gearing up for the IFPA Pro Galaxy Elite on August 17th in Troy, Alabama. I selected this show in hopes to qualify for the Yorton again this year. Along with an intense training program with Debbie Portell's Integrity Training Systems & competition diet plan with Roger Schemp out of Powerhouse Gym in St. Louis, I have been working part time as a registered nurse at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis and part time as a personal trainer at Complete Fitness in Lake St Louis, Mo.  I've had the privilege of representing one of my sponsors,, at a couple of shows in the midwest this year. It truly has been an honor to hand out trophies to so many well deserving athletes.

At times as a single parent, I have found it to be challenging to find time to meal prep, train, take care of my boys and keep the house clean. I'd have to say it's a delicate balance. I'm always finding creative ways to multitask and prioritize.  I certainly am excited to step on stage again. I also have a few photo shoots lined up this fall. 

Competing and fitness modeling at age 39, mother of two, just goes to show anything can be done if you put your mind to it. For so many, the mind limits the body. Don't let fear get in the way of your dreams. 

Diana Pitts, RN BSN
IFPA figure professional athlete
ACSM certified personal trainer

"Force fear and frustration out of your mind.....favor fortitude."

Food is Fuel: Adrienne Hood

A Weight Loss Journey Guide

So let’s fast forward to the beginning of Fall. I’d worked hard ALL Summer during my husband’s deployment and it was finally coming to a close. He was coming HOME!! I’d gone from my heaviest weight, 180 pounds in a size 16, before working with Debbie to almost 120 pounds in a size 4. I couldn’t believe it!! It’s hard to describe that feeling of FINALLY conquering something that’d weighed on me, no pun intended, almost my entire life.  Anyone who is or has been overweight, you know what I’m talking about. The burning desire to lose the weight that’s coupled with a crippling inability to accomplish it. It’s a maddening circle of failure. It crushes your hopes until that fire in you dies down to almost nothing until you get fed up and repeat the cycle. Well, no more! I did it. I finally did it! I was free and happy and healthy! It made me think of all those times I’d watched a weight loss show or commercial on TV and tried to imagine that elated feeling those success stories must be feeling. How much I wanted to grab onto that, to have that for myself.  Well, it was mine. 

Over the Summer, I think the biggest realization I had to make was that excuses are just that, excuses. I always had an excuse for why I ate this or that like being stressed or bored, or that I was simply a victim of my circumstances like the influences that were around me. So the family wants to go to the Chinese buffet? Well, I shouldn’t but they want me to. Who am I to say no? Forget the fact that I could at least make some healthy choices at the buffet. That’s not what everyone else was doing. This was an extremely hard habit to break. Our family loved to gather around food as I know lots of families do.  You don’t have to eat what everyone else does. You DON’T.  Stop it!

People gather around food to socialize and talk. While food is the excuse, the focus is not for people to monitor what you eat during those gatherings so make HEALTHY choices, not excuses. No one will notice. However, you will when you get on that scale. When you look in the mirror. When you feel that huge wave of guilt rushing over you because you failed AGAIN. Why is it so hard? Because you let other people’s priorities become your own. You can undo this! It’s a difficult mental roadblock that is engrained in a lot of us but you can break through. How do you do that? By having someone in your corner.

Debbie was that person. Because of my healthy lifestyle, that circle of people in my corner has grown over the years but it all started with just ONE person. Debbie Portell. Find your person. Find a trainer. You will NOT regret it. Stop that maddening cycle of failure once and for all. You don’t have to do it all by yourself. You don’t have to try to be strong all the time, all by yourself because, let’s face it, you can’t. You’ve proven that to yourself time and time again. You simply don’t yet possess the tools to empower yourself so, please, let someone help you! This is not some ridiculous, quick-fix diet pill commercial on TV. None of that works. None of it. All those lies just help feed the cycle that I know you want to finally break out of. This is how you change your life. You get someone in your corner. Someone with knowledge, experience, and the fire to drive you to succeed. YOU can be that success story! It’s not some faraway dream that only exists on TV! Plus, I’d be willing to guess that almost all those success stories had trainers. So join the club! I would’ve never made it without Debbie and that’s the truth!

I don’t know if I can really put into words that feeling of not only seeing my husband after being gone for months of deployment but with the added joy of knowing that he is FINALLY seeing me like I should’ve always been. He’d never seen me like this. Ever. It makes me want to cry. Not just because of all the time I wasted being unhappy with myself, but also because I was so proud and happy to finally be where I always wanted to be. In my husband’s arms, I was finally the way I’ve always seen myself but never been able to realize on my own.  

So, like I said in an earlier blog, some people need that big life changing moment to realize that it’s time to make a change. My husband’s deployment was mine. Don’t wait and wait and wait around for yours. Stop wasting your life! Make that change NOW! 


Food is Fuel: Rich Wood

A Journey Through Weight Gain, Weight Loss, Diabetes and Lifestyle Change

I think the statement “I need to lose weight” is filled with negativity. It already has the word “lose” in it. Same as “I’m going on a diet.” You have said these words a million times. Try saying “I’m going to get healthy.” There is no way to think negatively about this. No one could say anything negative back to you if you say this. When you say “diet,” your friends will start coming up with reasons why you shouldn’t, but why would anyone be against you getting healthy.

Every day is precious, so start living your life in a way to be proud and healthy. Getting on the path takes incredible strength and commitment. These are powerful words. Can you think of any reason not to put time and effort into your own health? Who else is going to take care of that for you? The people I train are proud of themselves for what they are achieving. They let me know through positive words and actions. They thank me – but they are the ones putting in the hard work. I am humbled and grateful to be a part of it. I am thankful for them. One little lifestyle change can be the tip of the iceberg that will change everything. When you start working out and eating healthy, you will be no longer want bad food or alcohol. This statement is based on specific people I have watched completely change their relationship with food and alcohol. They no longer want to change how great they are feeling ALL the time, for short term unhealthy pleasure. Weight loss is part of it, but the way you feel everyday is the key. 

I write this blog to remind you that it is never too late. It’s not hard to start. There is nothing to fear. It’s time to stop talking about getting healthy and start doing it. Have you looked to see how inexpensive it is to join a gym? I’m so lucky that I get to work in an environment where people’s lives are changed everyday for the better. Come and change yours. The gyms I work in offer a free assessment. What excuse can you have about something free? There are no gimmicks in the training and nutrition program. It only takes your commitment and determination. The next time you are walking around looking for an unhealthy snack, or you can’t find the TV remote, think if there is a better way you could be spending your time. Next time you walk a flight of stairs and at the top you ask yourself “am I really this short of breath?” remember reading this. 

Start believing in yourself and start changing your life right now. Making excuses can no longer be a factor. You can no longer be weak minded and be controlled by food or laziness. My life is changed and enriched everyday by the people brave enough to take the first step. It’s going to be ok!!

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