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Kevin’s Stronger U Story

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Kenzie Faris

Community and Content Specialist

Tell us a little bit about yourself!:

I’m a concert pianist, and I chair the Gloria Narramore Moody Piano Area where I’m lucky to teach students from around the globe. I love having the opportunity to travel to share music with audiences and work with other piano teachers throughout the country and abroad. However, I also love being home with my partner of 15 years and our two cats—Tanda and Paulie. I also happen to be a huge Disney fan and love every chance I get to escape to Walt Disney World!

What did your life look like before Stronger U?:

My life before Stronger U was a big ball of stress and eating my emotions. Being on the road frequently, I typically opted for the easiest, fastest option whether on the highway or in an airport, and when I was home, the pizza delivery guys knew me by name. When I was finishing my doctorate in the early 2000’s, I was pretty fit and even taught group fitness a few days a week. However, looking back, I’m alarmed at how quickly I let those habits go in favor of convenience and ease once I got a job. When COVID hit, I at least had started regaining my fitness level with Orangetheory, but during Christmas 2020, I was depressed at how many of my Christmas traditions had to be shelved due to the pandemic. I ate those feelings, and when I went back to work in January 2021, I could not button my pants. I was quickly confronted with the painful reality that I could not out-exercise a poor diet, and it was time to get serious about getting control of my life again. On a personal level this became even more critical to me since I was planning to take my 9 and 12 year old nieces on an epic Disney World vacation in 2022. I wanted to be able to enjoy every moment of every ride and attraction with them comfortably, and I wanted to be able to keep up with them every step of the way. I had tried Noom with little success, and I worked with a nutritionist who I now realize seemed only focused on bulking, which wasn’t the focus on my workouts so I gained weight. I also had eaten low-fat diets in the past. However, I didn’t want a diet this time around. I wanted a program that seemed sustainable long-term because I was brutally aware that was what was necessary for me to live the quality of life I deserved.

What does your life look like now?:

I joined Stronger U in January 2021, and I was amazed at how quickly my energy levels dramatically increased by simply properly fueling my body. While I was already in a regular exercise routine, Derek helped me find a good balance between my workouts while also focusing on being aware of my activity outside of Orangetheory as the life of a pianist can be pretty sedentary. I now stand and walk around much more while I’m teaching, and I supplement my work at Orangetheory with spinning, yoga, and other activities to keep me moving more throughout the week.

My relationship with food and eating has changed dramatically over the past 1.5 years with Stronger U. First, I have become infinitely more aware of portion sizes, and I feel confident ordering from menus at restaurants when I’m out with friends or on the road. I’m not afraid to ask for accommodations on meals when I feel like I may need it, and I’ve learned to appreciate treats in moderation. I don’t love to cook, and I love that I have found ways of making my macros work at a few local restaurants that I trust. Also, I don’t recall feeling deprived since I started the program. While I don’t keep the same foods in the house, I have found foods that I love just as much as the junk I tended to eat before. I’ve also become much more aware of how foods impact my body and how I feel, particularly when my protein and carb balance may get off track a bit when traveling.

In terms of how my life has changed, there was a time in my life in recent years when friends would have worried that a wild animal or a murderer was on the loose if they saw me run. However, I ran my first 5K in April 2022, and it was easy!! I have another 5K lined up for November 2022 (my first RunDisney race!) and two 10K commitments in 2023. I don’t consider myself a runner, but I love that running these races is now something I look forward to. I’m also now adapting my schedule every day around my activity rather than adapting my exercise to my schedule. Learning to plan my meals really helped me learn to do this with my exercise as well. Additionally, it has helped me learn to put up boundaries in my life so that I can guiltlessly claim time for myself every day. When I was in my gaining phase, I too often would give to the point that I had no time left for me, and I feel keeping this in mind is critical for me to continue making my health my priority.

Why do you think Stronger U worked so well for you compared to other programs or diets?:

I was immediately struck by the fact that I felt like Derek was listening, and I have never sensed any judgment from him in the 1.5 years we have worked together. He meets me where I am from one week to the next, and I think that has helped me be consistent. He got a handle on my busy, stressful lifestyle very quickly as well, and I appreciate that even from the beginning I felt he was setting me up for success. Nothing he’s asked has ever felt unattainable, and he has always seemed to have a great handle on when it was a good time to play with my macros and when it was better to stay consistent. I also love that he has always been friendly and interested in me as a person, and he has always been willing to share about him and his family. While we have never had a chance to meet in person, I feel like I’m checking in with a supportive, intelligent friend each week, and one of my goals is to eventually get to Bermuda to thank him in person for transforming my life.

I also feel like part of the reason that Stronger U works so well is that there are no taboo foods. After a month with Stronger U, I felt like I was already establishing sustainable eating patterns, and I was learning a lot about smart eating. When I’ve been in situations where I could not track on trips where I was having to eat with a host family or in restaurants without posted nutritional facts, I’ve felt really affirmed because I didn’t see big weight swings. While I believe in tracking, I also love that this program has allowed me to become a much smarter intuitive eater.

What was something you regularly ate while on Stronger U that people wouldn’t expect you to eat on a diet?:

Pizza and eating lunch out most days

How much weight did you lose with Stronger U?:

128.6

How many inches did you lose off your waist?:

20

Did you have any favorite non-scale victories to share?:

Last week, I took my nieces on an epic 11 day (that became a 12 day, thanks to the airlines) trip to Universal and Walt Disney World. My mom and I had been planning this trip for awhile, and it was what ultimately motivated me to take the jump and start my Stronger U journey in January 2021. I knew I wanted to be able to experience every ride at Universal and Disney with them, and unless I made some changes, I knew that was not going to happen, especially at Universal. Over 120 lbs later, we had an incredible trip! I was easily able to ride every single ride at every park comfortably, and I would not trade the memories for anything. (I have to say that it’s totally amazing to be able to ride all of the crazy roller coasters again even if the nieces were not with me!) While a lot more goals have developed through the journey, it was incredibly satisfying to get to officially check this one off as met and met in spades. I also loved getting to model healthier eating for the girls since weight issues are common in my family, and I loved seeing them voluntarily reading serving sizes on packages by the end of the trip and being amazed at how small they can be relative to package sizes! Thanks to all of you for the daily inspiration and to my awesome coach Derek Hurdle for continuing to help me be a little better and stronger every day!

Has Stronger U positively impacted you professionally?:

Absolutely! I am performing better than I ever have. Having a good balance of fitness, nutrition, and 120+ less pounds allows me to move at the piano more efficiently, and my focus and energy for my teaching has increased significantly. I taught a huge overload of students during the 2021-2022 academic year, and I don’t think I would have survived the work load prior to starting Stronger U.

Has Stronger U improved your overall health? If so, how?:

My blood pressure has gone from elevated to normal.

If someone is thinking about joining Stronger U, what advice would you give them before beginning their journey?:

The only person who can keep you from succeeding is yourself. Use this as an opportunity to do a hard reset on your life because this is not just about food. It’s about the interaction of food with your personal and professional lives. Accept that you have to be open to change and be willing to try something new without judgment before outlining all of the reasons you might not be able to make the change.

Is there anything else you would like to add about your journey?:

I could not have done this without Derek’s coaching, friendship, and guidance, and I also would thank the Stronger U Facebook community. I have learned and been inspired by all of the posts!

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