Trainer Fallon Mercedes On How Gaining 45 Pounds Helped Her to Understand the Struggle of Obesity
Human Interest

Trainer Fallon Mercedes On How Gaining 45 Pounds Helped Her to Understand the Struggle of Obesity

Let’s be real—it’s hard losing weight. Trading carbs for abs may sound nice in theory, but so does pizza, pasta and those delicious theme park funnel cakes that love to leave evidence of your gluttony all over your face (powered sugar is a hell of a drug!). Not to mention that if you’re not a fitness buff, rolling out of bed for an early morning gym session or dragging yourself to workout after working that draining 9 to 5 job can easily turn into one of those chores that you do half-heartedly just to check it off the list instead of giving it your all.

But if you ask any personal trainer it’s all mind over matter—a simple act of trading in your excuses for a pair of Nike’s and just doing it! But the reality is that for many people, eating healthy and getting fit is more psychological than anything. At least that’s what personal trainer and celebrity fitness correspondent Fallon Mercedes found out after signing up to work with a client weighing in at 445 pounds for Fit to Fat to Fit—a new show where professional fitness trainers gain an extreme amount of weight in order to understand the struggle of losing weight alongside their obese clients.

"Fit" Fallon

At 5’0, Fallon admits to never having tipped the scale of obesity, but for the show packed on 45 pounds just to fit into her client JD’s shoes.

“I would get frustrated with him when he wasn’t following my nutritional plan. And I had to step back and realize that this isn’t an addiction for him, this is almost like it’s a disease,” Fallon says. “People are sensitive to people who are alcoholics and drug addicts, but I feel like we’re not as sensitive to people who are obese.”

Working with JD wasn’t just a wake-up call concerning her clients, but also to herself. Gaining over 40 pounds took a toll on Fallon’s health and at one point the fitness lover was scared that the excess weight would affect her fertility. Not to mention that despite her years of training and healthy eating, she struggled to lose the weight that eating her beloved sweets and Dominican food afforded her. “When I was losing the weight I got really frustrated when I would step on the scale. All of that hard work that I put in and I only lost a pound?”

Yeah, that’s exactly how many people feel when they bust their behinds in the gym and nibble on cucumbers and carrots, only to see the numbers creep up on the scale.

With a newfound understanding and appreciation of the struggles surrounding weight loss and obesity, Fallon chatted with us about her journey of gaining and losing weight, how it changed her perception as a personal trainer, and shares weight loss tips for those who are still fighting the good the good fight of having a healthy and fit body.

Here's what she learned:

You Have to Constantly Love Yourself Through the Process of Losing Weight

"A casting director contacted me and told me the premise of the show. It’s funny because I read the book that this is based off of, Drew Manning’s book, and he got fat and lost the weight with his client, so I knew what he was talking about but I was like 'I don’t know if I want to get fat, I kind of want to do this bikini competition' and he’s like no trust me, you should do it!"

Fallon and her client JD

"For me it was just like am I really going to do this, am I really going to put on the weight? So I decided to just go for it, and test myself to go to a place I’ve never ever been. I wondered if I still could love myself and be confident at a bigger size because I train a lot of clients and a lot of women suffer or have a hard time with their confidence and loving themselves because you don’t lose the weight overnight, it takes time. So I have to constantly tell them you have to love yourself through the process. I wondered if I could love myself during the process. Would I have enough confidence in my relationship to be secure even at my biggest? So it was definitely a challenge."

Being overweight looks different on everybody

"My goal was 40 and I went over, but I think like every girl I’ve been 5 – 10 pounds fluctuating, but I’ve never gotten fat. I’m short–I’m 5 feet–so even 5 or 10 lbs shows up on me, and I think I’m a little different from most trainers like the ideal body type. I am curvy and like I said, I’m Dominican. I like having curves, but I consider myself fit curvy. But to gain 45 lbs, that took my curves to another level. I really looked like I was pregnant once I put that weight on; it looked like I’d gained 75 lbs because I was so short."

Eating the "typical" American diet can cause migraines and other serious health issues

"We weren't allowed to work out for four months and we had to eat a typical American diet. They didn’t really give us a nutrition plan to gain weight so basically I did whatever I could. I would go to McDonald’s or Taco Bell or I would do the fast food thing, the pizza. I started cooking the meals that I grew up loving the rice and beans, the fried plantains and then I have a sweet tooth so I was eating a lot of sweet foods like chocolate and cookies. But I think overdid it in the beginning with the sweets because I was getting constant migraines and constant nausea because I was trying to eat over 3,500-4,000 calories a day and it was just intense. And then after that we had to start incorporating healthier meals and not so much sugar.

"I can understand that fast food documentary [Super Size Me], I get it because within my first month, I was like I have to peel back, this was insane."

Carrying extra weight can affect your fertility and menstrual cycle

"There were doctors on the show to monitor us, but what really freaked me out was not so much the headaches and nausea, but I was getting my menstrual cycle every two weeks. I don’t have any children, and you know I really want to get married and have kids one day so at that point I almost passed out and told the producers listen, if this is going to affect my fertility and my reproductive system I’m out.

"So I had to sit with the doctors and they had to monitor me and check me and they told me because it was just for a short amount of time I would bounce back and get my menstrual cycle regularly once I started eating clean and working out. But what a lot of people don’t realize, and I get a lot of clients who have trouble conceiving and it’s because their body fat percentage is too high, and they’re living and eating unhealthy. So once my body fat percentage got to a certain percent, I think that’s when I started having those issues. I think within the first two or three weeks of me eating clean again my menstrual cycle regulated."

"I get a lot of clients who have trouble conceiving and it’s because their body fat percentage is too high."

Being "skinny fat" doesn't mean you're healthy--you can still be pre-diabetic

"You’d be surprised, there are a lot of people who—you hear the term skinny fat—and you look at them and they’re like I’m good, I’m not overweight. But muscle weighs more than fat so you can’t really get on the scale and judge. You really have to take your measurements and get your body fat percentage then because that’s what’s really going to tell you. Because you want to be in the range of 20-25%, anything over that, and a lot of people think that fat is on the outside, but there’s something called visceral and that’s fat surrounding the organs, and when you have too much fat, you know a lot of people that are obese you see it in their stomach first, that’s because there’s so much fat surrounding their organs that it’s protruding from their stomach.

"And that’s the dangerous fat, and that’s when it starts affecting your organs and for women it starts affecting your fertility. And you become pre-diabetic and have high cholesterol and all of those things, so not just for aesthetics, you want your body fat percentage low for your health."

Obesity can affect fertility in men as well

Fallon and her client, JD.

"When JD came to me they told me he was 375 or in the 300s so I sat down and asked him let me know your history and do you have any issues and he’s like no my doctor says I’m pretty healthy for a fat guy and I’m like okay, so I put him on the scale and he’s like 455 lbs. and he’s like wow I haven’t weighed myself in 10 years and I’m doing his measurements and literally the measuring piece I couldn’t even get all the way around him and when I assessed him later on after I gained weight, I learned that he was pretty agile for a man that size but he definitely was the most out of shape.

"But it wasn’t until two months in that I took him to the doctor because he wasn’t taking it seriously when I was training him and he wasn’t losing as much weight as he should’ve, he was going up and down on the scale and cheating on his diet so I took him to get his blood labs read and he was pre-diabetic, high cholesterol and his testosterone was so low that basically, he was in male menopause. So that just shows you that weight gain not only affected my reproductive system, but even as men when you’re overweight it can affect you having children and affect your testosterone levels.

Obesity isn't just a habit, it's an addiction

I’ve worked with obese people before, but never severely obese of his size. What this experiment really taught me is that a lot of it is psychological. I would get frustrated with him when he wasn’t following my nutritional plan, and I had to step back and realize that this isn’t an addiction for him, this is almost like it’s a disease. People are sensitive to people who are alcoholics and drug addicts, but I feel like we’re not as sensitive to people who are obese. That’s what I really learned with him was that I have to tread lightly, he’s in this shape because it’s more of an addiction and disease, he doesn’t want to be this way it’s a behavioral habit.

"People are sensitive to people who are alcoholics and drug addicts, but we’re not as sensitive to people who are obese."

Losing weight is an emotional journey

"I remember the first workout that we did together I was just like whoa, I couldn’t even do half of the pushups and half of the workouts that I was able to do before. So it definitely opened my eyes that first workout at 40+ pounds on my back I was like okay this is going to be work.

"Then I was emotional, too. I had a lot going on wondering if my menstrual cycle would be regulated and wondering if I was going to bounce back and lose all the weight. It was definitely an emotional journey for me, and then I also had to be the strong one to support and motivate and push him to lose weight so it was hard."

Finding a way to make exercise fun is the key to consistency

"Nutrition is 75% of losing weight. The first thing I did was a food journal, and that made me really aware of what I was eating and along with that I did a lot of plyometrics at high-intensity intervals. I teach a class called 'Body Shred' so I lost a lot of weight doing that class, and I did things I loved like going to fun classes, dancing, hiking, paddle boarding.

"I worked out five days a week and for the majority, I would do at least an hour a day, some days two hours. I had to work, too, during this process, so I was working my real job, training clients and then also training myself."

Losing Weight Is Psychological, And You Have to Be Ready In Order to Stay Committed

"I think what I learned from the situation is like I said earlier, it's psychological, too. You have to want it; you have to be ready. As a trainer I learned that I have to be a little more empathetic and sympathetic with my clients. I didn’t realize how hard it is."

Having a support system can help you get through the hard times

"You know what’s funny is I would still would dress up and put makeup on when I’d go out on a date with my boyfriend and I would put Spanx on and I would just act like even though my confidence level has not been the same, I still portrayed that I’m just as beautiful as I was before. I was still the same person, nothing inside me changed. And I feel like I kind of fooled my boyfriend, my boyfriend never once commented that I wasn’t beautiful. And I think that helped my confidence level.

"He never waivered with his affection or made any comments to me about getting too big, he was just supportive. I guess having a supportive person you’re dating that helps, and faking it ‘til you make it. I convinced even myself that I was still the same person, still beautiful regardless of what size I was."

Losing Weight Is About Patience and Enjoying the Process

"I think the first place to start with is to just get moving. I think sometimes people will put it off like, 'oh I’ll do it when my money’s right, I’ll do it when my kids are in daycare, I’ll do it when I have the time.' I feel like just get moving, do things that you are motivated by or excited to do. If you love hanging out with your girlfriends instead of going to a restaurant to eat with them, do girlfriend catch up time on the elliptical next to each other and get that cardio in or go hiking together. Or plan activities that you do like. If you love to dance try a dance workout class or Zumba or if you like the beach, try like a surf sport workout, something like that. I think the first thing is to start moving, and then you can kind of figure it out from there.

"I would encourage people just to take it one day at a time. Even when I was losing the weight I got really frustrated when I would step on the scale. All of that hard work that I put in and I only lost a pound? So it takes time, you know. Even for me, I’m a trainer and certified in nutrition and I had all of the tools, and even I couldn’t lose 10 lbs in a week, so it’s really about patience and trying to enjoy the process. They say it’s a lifestyle and that’s what’s really going to keep the weight off, incorporating it into your life and with your friends and your family and your job."

Check out a preview of Fit to Fat to Fit and be sure to tune in tonight at 10 PM/9c on A&E.

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