Flash back to when Anna was a 22-year-old college student in California. She was on her way to class when she suddenly keeled over and couldn’t walk. “The emergency room doctor told me, ‘Your digestive system isn’t functioning the way it should in someone your age,’” she remembers. “Basically, my diet of primarily junk food for breakfast, lunch and dinner since I was 16 had overloaded my body.”
But Anna never meant to eat so poorly. She was raised by a single dad who commuted two hours to work round-trip and was doing his best. “The funny thing is that he actually ate really healthily,” she laughs. “When I got my license, food became about two things: indulgence and convenience. I thought, Well, making a meal at home takes 30 minutes to an hour. Junk food was easier and my palate became addicted to it.”
Still, her hospital visit was an eye-opener. “My doctor at the time actually only gave me a prescription to clear things up,” she says. “There was no conversation about diet or about how active I was. Looking back, that’s the part that I was most upset about—that they didn’t make any effort to fix the root problem.”
It wasn’t until her now-husband Luca started questioning the food she was eating that she began to put two and two together. “He’s Italian and was coming from a Mediterranean Diet where everything is so fresh,” she says. “He would see me eating crackers for dinner or McDonald's and be like: ‘Anna, what are you doing?’"
When the pair relocated to China for Luca’s job, Anna decided there was no better time to make a change. “Fast food wasn’t as readily available, so I made a commitment to eat healthy and work out—and I hated it,” she says. “Growing up, I had this vision of the fitness industry as all vanity and it really turned me off. Eventually, I began to realize it wasn’t about the people I was working out next to. It was about my own journey.”
That’s when Instagram came in. Being in China and away from her family, Anna felt alone in what she was trying to do. “One of the great things about social media is that it connects people working toward a common goal,” she says. “I decided to create my own Instagram account to post what was motivating me to stay healthy. If it motivated someone else, too, great. When I started getting comments from people who felt inspired by me, it lit up a light in my heart.”
And it wasn’t long before Anna realized that her followers wanted more than just inspiration. They wanted concrete tips. “I was sending people individual notes with advice and maxing out the character counts in Instagram messages,” she says. “I had student loans and other bills to pay and it was starting to feel like a full-time job sharing my advice. That’s when I launched my fit body guides.”
Fast-forward to now and Anna (after a stint in Italy) is back in California with her own full-fledged fitness brand. “My main goal is that my plans are accessible,” she says. “They need to be attractive enough for someone used to a fast-food palate so I do a lot of research on the recipes and approaches I suggest.”
On her advice for someone just starting to work out. “Never compare your journey to anyone else’s. Because if you think: ‘Oh, my friend has been working out for four weeks and this is what she looks like,’ you set up unrealistic expectations for yourself. The only person you should be benchmarking yourself against is yourself.”
On how she handles junk food moments now. “I’m a huge believer in the 80/20 approach. Eighty percent of the time I focus on nourishing my body and eating healthy—the other 20 percent, I eat what I want. That 80 percent is important for your physical health, but that 20 percent is important for your emotional and mental health. No one can eat healthy 100 percent of the time—it’s boring, restrictive and will usually result in a yo-yo effect. You should be able to go out to McDonald’s if you want, then go right back to business as usual and eating healthy without letting that meal make you feel guilty.”
On her strategy for staying healthy on a super-busy day. “The snacks are what get me, so I always prepare them the night before or the morning of. I find that I eat about three main meals a day and then two to three snacks. The snacks in between meals are what help regulate my glucose and tide me over into lunch so that I’m able to make a more healthy mealtime decision versus being starving. That’s when all logic and reasoning go out the window.”
On how she resisted all the delicious pasta in Italy. “I didn’t. In Italy, the food is so fresh, so even if you are eating pasta, it’s so natural and has no preservatives. Even the sauces are fresh and healthy. Luca thinks it’s crazy that we make pasta sauce with cream here. They don’t do that there. When I lived in Italy, I learned so much about what a difference quality food makes.”
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