A new healthier life doesn’t start with a program. It starts with an emotional commitment to becoming your best self. That’s right, a new healthier life is your choice. Vanessa Bogenholm has watched clients make that choice with astounding results. She’s seen people lose more than 100 pounds and keep that weight off. She’s seen middle-aged men stopped needing medications, they expected to take for the rest of their lives and has even seen people in wheelchairs get up and walk again.
These results, they’re not miraculous. Her new book, It’s Your Body, shows you step-by-step, how to slow down and understand how the body works so you too can get the results you want. Filled with inspirational stories of real people who made tremendous transformations— from 13-year-old kids to CEOs— It’s Your Body, proves that anyone can have the body they want and deserve.
Drew Appelbaum: Hey, Listeners. My name is Drew Appelbaum and I’m excited to be here today with Vanessa Bogenholm, author of It’s Your Body: Move It, Love It, Live. Vanessa, thank you for joining! Welcome to The Author Hour Podcast.
Vanessa Bogenholm: Thank you so much. I feel pleasure to be here.
Drew Appelbaum: Let’s kick this off. Can you give us a brief rundown of your professional background?
Vanessa Bogenholm: I am a personal trainer. I have a fitness studio Train with V, here in San Jose, California. I also have more of a traditional gym but this is based on boxing and kickboxing and group classes in Las Vegas, Nevada. I have a nonprofit called Exercise in the Streets that we do run clinics at Juvenile Hall and for kids that are in foster care that get running shoes and bags and sweatshirts. I do a lot of things in the fitness realm but it’s all around me being a personal trainer.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, why was now the time to share the stories in the book? Was there something truly inspiring out there? Did you have that “aha moment” or did enough people come up to you and say, “Hey Vanessa, you need to write this down, you need to spread the word”?
Vanessa Bogenholm: Well, it was a couple of things. The main one was, I worked mostly one-on-one with people and as my business got more successful, I became more expensive and more exclusive. And it kind of started to bug me, honestly. I had a woman in a grocery store that was following me around and she was overweight and just looked horrible, honestly. She asked about me and heard a conversation I had.
I realized that I needed to be able to touch more people and to help them to realize that they could actually change their bodies without spending a ton of money, with just doing some minor things and getting some inspiration. I had written things before. I always wanted to show… this wasn’t really – I think when people think about personal training, they think of that athlete going to somebody or a beautiful person. That’s not what this book is about. This book is about getting people out of wheelchairs, this is about helping people lose a hundred pounds, this is about teenagers who felt like they had nothing and were suicidal. And I use exercise to get them out of that mental state.
I think that what people thought about personal training and what it really is are two different things. I wanted to show how normal people can actually love their bodies.
Positive Changes That Don’t Take a Lot of Time or Effort
Drew Appelbaum: Now, clearly you’ve lived in this world for a long time but sometimes, authors during the writing process— sometimes by digging deeper to some subjects and sometimes by just doing some research— they’ll come to some major breakthroughs and learnings. Did you have any major breakthroughs or learnings during your writing journey?
Vanessa Bogenholm: During my writing journey, I think it was really apparent about how difficult it is for people to actually admit their food habits and their exercise habits. I think the most important thing really to realize is that everybody’s in pain. Their shoulders hurt, their backs hurt, they have too much weight, their stomachs are always upset and they never want to admit it. They use that, “I’m fine, everything’s fine! It’s okay, it doesn’t bother me! I’m 40 pounds overweight and my knees always hurt.”
We’ve just kind of accepted the pain aspect of our lives and we don’t have to. I really want people to realize, you can get out of pain, you can move your body and you can eat well and enjoy life so much better.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, when you sat down to write the book you mentioned a few people you had in mind, who you’d love to read the book but specifically, were you writing this book for women? Was it men? Is it young people, old people or can everybody have takeaways here?
Vanessa Bogenholm: Everybody can have takeaways from this book because I’ve really divided it into a few different kinds of people. I’ve divided it into people needing to lose over a hundred pounds and the obesity epidemic we are definitely in, in the United States. I’ve divided into people that were over 70 and never get any exercise and were having trouble with their bodies, being stuck in a wheelchair, or not able to get out of bed comfortably. Into women over 40 who just thought like everything was falling apart in their bodies, to men who are very successful but taking six medications a day.
I really divided into all these groups of people— to teenagers both athletic and non-athletic. So, that it really helped a lot of different kinds of people and show different kinds of people are out there who need help with their bodies and can actually take serious joy out of running that first 5K or learning how to spiral a football or just being able to fit into their clothes comfortably.
I mean, one of the most amazing things to me is that people can become incredibly successful in life, take all these medications, and think that that was going to be a way to live and not realize how much they hurt. Somehow, our medical industry got into the fact that “Okay, you’re overweight, you’re diabetic, we’ve got to give you insulin.” How about if we take the weight off and I don’t know, maybe learn how to eat correctly first and do some exercise? That’s never the lifestyle changes aren’t the first options that people look for.
They look for a pill to fix that. Or just the, “Oh it’s okay, it’s no big deal” but it’s always a big deal. I really wanted people to realize, it’s okay not to be perfect, everyone’s got a problem and we all can fix these problems.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, you mentioned your professional background here but I’d love to just dig a little bit more into your life. What in your history makes you a bit of an expert here?
Vanessa Bogenholm: Well, as a 13-year-old, I was pushing 200 pounds. I was that bullied child who couldn’t do anything. I was last to be picked and the boys— I’m 55 years old and the boys in my grade school would play dodgeball and throw the ball as hard as they could at me. It was horrifying. I didn’t know I was fat. Everybody in my world was fat, so it just didn’t strike me that way.
I just had a coach, a basketball coach and he was incredibly nice. He didn’t say, “Vanessa, lose weight.” He just said, “Maybe you want to get fit before high school starts?” I started to run and my first run was literally 23 steps, that was all I could do. I went on from there to a couple of years after that, you know, being down 70 pounds and winning my first marathon as a 15-year-old, way back when women didn’t even run. Just someone’s slight little encouragement changed my entire life.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, digging into the book itself, you start the book answering this question so I’d love for you to answer it here as well. How is this book different from other books like this on the subject?
Vanessa Bogenholm: When I was a kid and I was trying to figure out how to fix my body and to get happier in life, I never saw a book like this. I never saw a book that really discussed what happens to people in obesity, how their legs ooze from all the weight and the puss that comes out of them, and the medical problems they have. I never saw a book talk about people that just couldn’t move and their knees hurt all the time and how they work to get out of that.
Never! All I ever saw were athletes who were winning Olympic medals or beautiful fitness models doing fitness books. This is a book about reality, about average people getting fit and doing things to their bodies they never expected they could.
Drew Appelbaum: How hard is it for someone to recognize where they’re really at and how harmful their behaviors are and to then really say, “I want to get healthy”?
Vanessa Bogenholm: It’s so difficult. One of the most amazing parts of my job, that I would never have known before I started this, was the most important thing for me to do is to listen and to not make judgments. People come in all the time and it’s very common for people to say, “I don’t know how I got this heavy, I don’t eat very much.” or “All I eat is vegetables. How could I possibly be this fat?” It’s so interesting when you really break down into what someone’s diet is or what their movement pattern is.
Greatest example; I got a high-tech guy— fantastic guy. Super smart, super successful, nice family. We’ve been working together for a year and he’s not losing any weight and I can’t figure it out. He’s working out, he’s running, everything’s great. Get this, he was literally drinking eight cappuccinos a day. A day! A year later I go, “Woah, woah dude! How did I miss all those calories? How did I miss this when I was telling you to do a journal for me?” And we would talk about this.
He never even thought about that as an aspect of his weight gain. Literally! He’s dropped 30 pounds in four months, by taking away those eight cappuccinos a day. People do things like that but they don’t realize. If you do simple things like parking at the end of a parking lot which makes you have to walk five or six minutes more every day, that kind of simple stuff can change your life and it needs to be incorporated into your life.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, I do want to point this out, there’s a difference between shaming yourself and by just being honest about your health and habits, right?
Vanessa Bogenholm: Very much so. I mean, there is no shame, I think in any of this, which is the most amazing thing. I mean, most of my clients had been with me for a really long time and I’d never want to shame somebody. I want to embrace the fact that you’re alive and you’re moving forward. One of the things most people don’t really understand, this is your body. You own this body. You live in it 24/7. You have control of it, it is not in control of you.
You could actually make decisions about what you want to do with it. That’s really my whole focus. You can decide today, “I’m going to eat healthier food that doesn’t come out of a bag or a box. I’m going to make myself walk just 10 minutes a day.” Those are serious positive changes that don’t take a lot of time or effort and that you can do and you will feel better, for a couple of reasons. One, that you actually set a goal for yourself and did it.
And two, because your body actually will embrace the fact that you took care of it. We take care of things. If you buy a brand new car, you’re going to wash it every week and make sure it has gas in it and you’re going to park it somewhere where it’s safe. Do the same with your body.
Set Realistic and Obtainable Goals
Drew Appelbaum: Once you make that decision, which is of course a huge decision, how do you know exactly what you need to do to start becoming healthy?
Vanessa Bogenholm: Such a great question. I mean, a lot of times making that decision is huge. People will take months or years and say, “I should do something, I should do something” and then they reach out to someone like me or they start a class at a local gym. You may start five different things that don’t fit but do not stop. Figure out what is going to help you and in the meantime, give yourself a very small goal. I always with my clients make every goal achievable. If I wake up tomorrow and say, “I really want to start walking,” it could be just five minutes a day. It doesn’t have to say, “I’m going to walk an hour a day.” If you say that, you will fail every time.
If a client comes up to me and says, “I want to lose 10 pounds in a month” I say, “See ya!” because that’s not realistic. I only give realistic goals and life happens. You have to figure out how it’s going to fit in your life. If you’re working from, let’s say eight in the morning until 6:00 at night. You’re working 10 hours a day, you’re traveling for two or three hours for your job every day. There is no way you’re going to work out in that timeframe. None.
You cannot set yourself up for failure by trying to put one more hour into a day that’s already exhausting to you. Just can’t.
Drew Appelbaum: What do you say to folks who are embarrassed when they start the process, when they think they’re too big to be in the gym or they used to be an athlete and run a nine-minute mile and now they’re running 12, 15-minute miles? How do you help them overcome that?
Vanessa Bogenholm: In my San Jose operation, I’m a fully private studio so I just see clients one-on-one, which is amazing because you are not in that gym with other people looking at you. It’s just me and you and there is no – I just make you laugh the whole time. Most people don’t even realize an hour has gone by. If you are that person, I would really suggest you find someone to work with privately in a private situation where all of those barriers can be done and out of the way, and you can feel really confident with who you’re working with.
Now, it’s expensive to have a personal trainer one-on-one. Maybe you can only afford to have that person once or twice a month, that’s fantastic. And then you can do the rest of your stuff at home. We have lots of other Zoom classes, we have videos, we have recessed TV, we have all kinds of things but find someone who’s going to help you get accountable and give you a direction. Really figure out how you can do that in a timeframe that works for you to do that.
Drew Appelbaum: How do you teach that patience, though? You talked about finding the timeframe, you talked about starting small, but some people really think getting healthy is like flipping a switch. How do you teach patience and how do you teach that incremental build up?
Vanessa Bogenholm: It’s really important that people have goals and know that they reach those goals. I have a calendar system that I put all my clients on and most of them don’t even want to look at it very often. I may give them workouts on the days I don’t see them, all that kind of stuff, but then I could go back and say, “Hey, so remember we did this exercise and it took you this long and now it takes this long.”
“Remember you could never do—”. Maybe you were a really fit guy and really wanted to be able to do 15 pull-ups and now you can do it. I put it in the calendar so they can back and see it. I think the most amazing thing too is to really see the weight loss in people, to see the strength buildup, to see a woman get that 22-inch waist. I mean, because, it happens and they don’t even realize. They go, “Oh my gosh, look how far I’ve come in six months. What a difference.”
When you haven’t written down— like literally at the end of the night, I write down everything that happened with my clients, what I plan for them to do the next few days and I don’t even think about it anymore. Then I show them and they go, “Oh my gosh, I lost 30 pounds” or “Oh dear, I can do all these now.” Seeing what happened and where they came from is so important.
There Isn’t A One-Size-Fits-All Solution For Weight Loss
Drew Appelbaum: Now, is there one playbook, is there one plan, for losing 100 pounds? Or does it differ for everybody, depending on their unique situation?
Vanessa Bogenholm: I wish there was one plan, boy, that would make my life easy. No, there is not actually a plan that even stays consistent. What someone I may start them with may not work after two or three months. We may have to modify that. That’s why I think working with somebody is so important because you have to have that ability of someone else to help you look and say, “You know what? This isn’t working. What are we going to do differently?”
Many times, I’d start someone on some kind of diet program and then we change. It happens all the time to fit your life. The most important thing is that it makes the rest of your life better. You are fixing your body so that you can do the things in life you want to, not just to spend time in a gym.
Drew Appelbaum: You actually break it down really well in the book between male, female, overweight, age difference. Can you talk about those specific groups that you actually break down in a group, so if there is a listener out there, they know that there is a bit of a plan for them within the book?
Vanessa Bogenholm: Sure. Obviously, with overweight people, I can get you to move and sweat and sitting in a chair. I can get overweight people of any size, any body damage they’ve done, moving and feeling better, and understanding how their body works. So, that’s a huge thing for me. I’ve helped, I think, almost 20 people lose over 100 pounds now. That’s incredible. I have a woman that’s lost 140, she’s going to run her first marathon at the end of this month. My gosh, right?
I mean that’s just crazy stuff. I’ve had really successful men in their 60s, CEOs of major tech companies on six medications. I mean, wow, how healthy is that? Their shoulders is all crooked and their back is hurting all the time and I can get them out of pain and looking 10 years younger just by doing exercises to get them flexible again, get their hearts pumping in a realistic level, and learning to not do the things in life that make you stressed out all the time physically and mentally to get you off those drugs.
If you’re female and you’ve got three kids and you work all the time and you are always exhausted, you have to figure out how to structure your life so that you can get the exercise you need to feel better and to get the rest you need. Rest is such an important part of life and it doesn’t just mean lying down and stressing about things but actually learn how to get some sleep. And honestly, everyone knew the kids who were athletic in school and they were super great, and they’ve had fathers who taught them how to do all kinds of things. But guess what? That’s not the majority of the kids.
Most kids are very self-conscious about their bodies, don’t know what to do with them. It is so important to show these kids too, how important exercise and health is so they can be successful as they move forward in life.
Drew Appelbaum: You just mentioned a really busy mother and so for those who are listening or want to buy the book and pick it up and they say, “You know what? I just don’t have time.” When people are transitioning from their current state into a healthier state, how much time per day do you think folks need to put aside when they first start?
Vanessa Bogenholm: Well, I think this is a very interesting thing and I have to tell you, if you put aside one hour a day, that’s four percent of your day. And you can’t tell me you can’t find one hour a day. I don’t mean you have to find one hour all at one time either. You may say, I wake up at 6:00 in the morning. From 6:00 to 6:20 is my private time where I’m going to do some stretching and some exercises and drink my water.
Whatever it is it may be, put aside one hour a day that you actually take care of your health. That’s all it takes five days a week. Now, it has to be a priority! Because when you’re not there for your body, you cannot be there for your family and that is apparent all the time. I really suggest to everybody, you figure out what time works for you. If you are a busy mom with kids, it is probably going to be midday. If you are someone who works until late at night, then it’s probably going to be morning.
Figure out the time that you feel best to do that time for yourself, workout, figure out your structure for your meals and figure out how to get the sleep. But take the time and it’ll make the rest of your life better.
Drew Appelbaum: I think it’s really interesting when people start working out and they start getting consistent with it, they actually end up being hungrier, right? But they are also want to eat a little bit less in their minds. What does that balance look like between your body saying, “Hey, I’m burning so many calories now, we need to put some more stuff in it” and not going back into overeating territory?
Vanessa Bogenholm: This is interesting because I have a newer client with the exact same situation happening and I can see it because he is a client who never learned how to eat properly. The reason that we overeat things like chips— that you take a bag of chips, you eat the whole bag it’s because it has no nutritional value. If the food you’re eating don’t give your body what it craves, your body just says eat more, eat more, eat more.
One of the things that I commonly crave— I actually listen to my body so I know after an eight-mile run in the morning, the first thing my body craves is vitamin C. I could feel it, I need a glass of juice right away. So I eat that. I know it takes two days to break down beef in a human body and I’m going to need those amino acids. If I am going to run a marathon on the weekend, I’m eating that beef on Thursday or Friday a couple of days before to get ready.
I learned to structure a diet for my client and for myself around what I’m going to do with my body or how to help my body repair but don’t ignore when you have cravings. There is a reason you have cravings for certain foods. Listen to them but realize if it is coming out of a bag or a box and it’s processed, it is not going to have nutritional value.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, after finishing the book, what impact do you hope it will have on the reader, and what are the first steps you hope they’ll take in their life?
Vanessa Bogenholm: I hope that someone reads the book and says, “Wow, that person she talks about is me.” In the book, I go through 30 or 40 different clients and I’ve changed their names, of course, but I talk about how or they were when they got to me and they were when they finished. I hope that you find someone like you in the book, you take steps to get better to become the person you want to be, and feel good about yourself.
There is no reason why someone needs to feel like they’re in pain all the time and really acknowledge the pain and get out of the pain.
Drew Appelbaum: Well Vanessa, we just touched on the surface of the book here but I want to say that just writing a book where you’re educating folks on how to live better and healthier lives is no small feat. So, congratulations on having your book published.
Vanessa Bogenholm: Thank you.
Drew Appelbaum: I do have one question left, it is the hot seat question. If readers could take away only one single thing from the book, what would you want it to be?
Vanessa Bogenholm: One single thing from the book. The one single thing is this is your body. Yours. It is your responsibility. Take care of it and love it. And if you love it, you will not abuse it and you will want it to be the best it can be.
Drew Appelbaum: Vanessa, this has been a pleasure and I’m excited for people to check out the book. Everyone, the book is called, It’s Your Body, and you could find it on Amazon. Vanessa, besides checking out the book, where else can people connect with you?
Vanessa Bogenholm: As you’ve heard from the beginning of the podcast, I have lots of companies and fitness-23.com will get you to everything that I have. I hope you can stop by my gym in San Jose or in Las Vegas and say hi or just shoot me an email anytime from that website, it would be great.
Drew Appelbaum: Wonderful. Well, Vanessa, thank you so much for giving us some of your time today and best of luck with your new book.
Vanessa Bogenholm: Thanks so much. Bye.