by Jacqueline Rupp
“I’ve been in several bad relationships in my life, but none as lengthy as the bad relationship I had with food,” confesses Anya Lindsey, owner of STEAM Personal Fitness in Germantown. Sound familiar? With 35% of Americans currently obese and more than two-thirds significantly overweight, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s obvious that most Americans struggle with a dysfunctional relationship with food. Lindsey has been there.
Now Anya, who gave her age as “30-something,” is sharing her experiences with the local community, stepping out of her gym to teach at the Mt. Airy Learning Tree. The class, set for Thursday, March 6, 6 p.m., at Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting, 20 E. Mermaid Lane, will focus on developing a healthy, functional relationship with food. This isn’t about mastering a diet in Lindsey’s method, but overcoming the bad eating habits that make most Americans fat. This selfdescribed “former fat girl” knows all about the struggle.
“For as long as I can remember, I’ve been in love with sweets. Cookies, cakes, candy, you name it; I ate it. I found myself indulging in these sugary treats so often that at times, I would have them as meals,” Lindsey admits. “Once my scale tipped over 300 pounds, I stop counting. I would ignore every part of my body except my face. I figured, as long as I wore makeup and had beautiful hair, people would disregard my size.”
Lindsey said her struggle with obesity dates back to childhood. “I remember having to shop in the prettyplus section in stores because I was too big to wear regularsized children’s clothing. I suffered from depression, which caused me to eat and seclude myself from family and friends. I always felt like an outcast, and I built up a wall around me with a nasty attitude to match.”
The effects of her weight weren’t just emotional, though. Lindsey suffered from high blood pressure, was borderline diabetic and had chronic issues with her knees and feet. “It wasn’t until I lost my grandmother, mother and uncle to heart disease that I decided I needed to end my love affair with food. I was faced with a harsh reality; it was time to break up with food.”
But knowing there was a problem and knowing what to do about it are two radically different things. “At first, I had no clue where to start, All I knew was that I LOVED food. It made me feel good. When everything else in the world was falling down around me, I knew food would be there to comfort me. It tasted heavenly and even thinking about breaking up with it was causing a serious case of anxiety.” So instead of just going on a diet, Lindsey decided to dig a little deeper. “I needed to examine it as I did any other relationship. I needed to figure out when and how it became as toxic as it was for me.”
The strategy worked, and to date Lindsey has lost over 150 pounds and 17 inches off her waist. Weight loss has morphed from a problem into Lindsey’s life work. The first 130 pounds took her 13 months to lose, while the last 20 pounds took another year to lose. “I was focusing more on toning and tightening after I lost the 130 pounds,” said Lindsey.
“ I lost 80 pounds with zumba, spinning, flip fitness and running. After losing 80 pounds I decided that I needed to hire a personal trainer, and it was then that I fell in love with exercise. I loved feeling strong. I lift weights, do core exercises and plyometrics, agility. For the first time in my life I felt alive. I even started to play touch football.”
Anya grew up in the city’s Overbrook section and attended Overbrook High School. The eight-year Germantown resident has a B.A. in Journalism from Temple and a Masters in Health Education from St. Joseph’s University, and she has worked as a school counselor and health and wellness educator for nearly a decade. Recently, she has become a celebrity weight loss coach and weight loss expert, with her story being featured on The Chew, Dr. Oz and The Bethenny Frankel Show. Aside from being the coowner of STEAM, this mohawksporting crusader also teaches a gym program at local charter schools and a toddler fitness program, “FIT Kids Rock.”
Lindsey says it helps that she has been in her clients’ shoes. “I always tell my clients that this journey is a lifelong one. It doesn’t stop when you lose the weight. You really have to change your relationship with food and realize when it becomes toxic, how to bounce back from a relapse without losing motivation or hope.”
She says one of the biggest mistakes people make is giving up. “There are days when you may just feel totally defeated. Give yourself a time frame: a day or maybe even two. But you have to be strong enough to get back up, dust yourself off and keep moving. Motivation and focus is everything when it comes to weight loss.”
Lindsey has a few other tips:
• Focus on changing your relationship with food, not your weight. “I don’t focus on weight loss numbers, because they are just that — numbers.”
• Make better food choices, Lindsey says to avoid processed foods as much as possible. “Focus on fresh food; vegetables and lean meats, whole grains, beans and legumes. Drink close to a gallon of water a day to continuously flush your system and keep your metabolism burning. No sodas or sugar juices or drinks.”
• Forget the myth that eating healthy has to be expensive. “There is this misconception that eating healthy costs a lot of money. I have shown my clients how to make healthy choices on a budget of $50 a week. If there are ingredients that you can’t pronounce, then you shouldn’t eat it. Your body is your temple, so treat it as such.”
• Use affirmations to stay focused at mealtime. “Ask yourself during every meal, ‘what purpose does this meal serve in creating the healthy life that I want?’”
• Obviously, a regular program of vigorous physical exercise is essential.
Local residents can benefit from the life lessons and professional knowledge Lindsey brings to the subject of weight loss with her debut class for the Mt. Airy Learning Tree. Appropriately named “Confessions of a Former Fat Girl,” the class aims to open an honest dialogue about food. “Students are going to get down and dirty and confess their personal relationship with food, learn to understand the relationship and most importantly how to change it.”