In our series Fit Chicks, we chat with female fitness bloggers and trainers from all over the country. Equipped with their collective experience, expertise and practical tips, you’ll be happy to know that a healthier lifestyle is right around the corner.
Name: Wendy Ida, 64
Business/Blog: Wendy Ida Enterprises
After leaving an abusive situation, Wendy Ida decided to turn her life around at age 43. After losing a total of 80 pounds and leaving her former world of accounting, she has become not only a renowned personal trainer, but also holds two Guinness World Records for fitness. Wendy is getting ready to celebrate her 65th birthday this May and is already planning a huge workout party for all her friends, family and clients.
You’re obviously in incredible shape and most people assume you’re a lot younger than you are. How did you do it? How did you get here?
Wendy Ida: I have a huge story. I am a Domestic Violence Survivor. On the east coast, I was literally drowning in despair and hopelessness. I left my abusive situation twice before going to California. I left to go to New Jersey where I’m from. When I did leave, I didn’t escape far enough because I was being abused from afar, tracked down like an animal and brought back and abused again. It was a horrible situation. Finally I decided I had to go really far away. I had 6-10 minutes to get out and escape because I was being watched because I had left twice already. With that, sometimes my child might be held hostage as a means of keeping me. If I had to leave my child, I would never have left. So I was able to have my two children and myself and had 10 minutes to get out. We left with the clothes on our backs and that was it, to get on a plane to come to California and start life over. I left my home and everything in it. The best thing that came out of it was that we escaped and I was alive because I almost died a couple of times just being in that situation.
I had gained 40-50 pounds from my first child and never got it all off. I was 80 pounds overweight at one time. We started over in California but I was still a victim for at least 5 years where I was afraid of my shadow just walking down the street because I was afraid to be taken back to New Jersey. I got my kids restarted and I was left with a lot of baggage and not feeling good about myself. I had a lot of emotional scars, and those last longer than the physical. Finally I was able to finish my college degree while I was here because I wasn’t allowed to do it while I was [on the east coast]. I was able to get a job but I still wasn’t feeling good, so I started doing what everyone else was doing, because everyone goes to the gym in California. I had no intention of making any headway. I thought I was destined to be like my mom’s generation: Mommy was big-boned, so me and sis are destined to be that way as well. Until an earth angel came into my life and changed it, and I feel so grateful for him even in this moment. If that hadn’t happened, I don’t know what would have happened to me. This gentleman, still my friend today, is a trainer in the gym and he kept bugging me when he saw me at the gym. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing so finally, to make him stop bugging me, I said, “I’ll do a couple of sessions with you. I don’t really believe you or that anything is going to change.” I was that narcissistic about it. After 3-4 weeks I didn’t notice it but other people started making comments about my body. I started examining my body and then I thought “maybe there’s something to this.”
Long story short, I was my trainer’s understudy. I didn’t train with him long because a spark happened in me where I had to know everything he knew and more. I winded up getting certified in personal training and finding out about nutrition. He did commercials on the side, so that’s what I did too all while holding a full-time accounting position at a corporate entity in the entertainment industry and working with my kids. I started training myself hard and started seeing changes in myself I never dreamed were possible in this world. It was an awakening. I was finally waking up in this life and got my second wind like never before. I grew up in the projects in New Jersey, my mom died early and I went straight to a husband. I got married early and didn’t know anything about being myself. So this was a whole new awakening. I started pushing my body to another level. I winded up leaving accounting because it was taking more of my time from training so I opened my own business and brand and it grew from there. I pushed my body to competitions and now to being a Guinness World Record holder. I am such a happy camper and don’t want to go to sleep at night because this is too exciting. I can’t wait to wake up, I’m like a kid in a candy store. It’s the reason I was born.
Why do you think it can be a burden for women to start living a healthy lifestyle? Sometimes we get so obsessive about it and it takes our joy away—why do you think that is?
WI: Society is pumping up this fantabulous image and the media is all in your face with these beautiful women and beautiful bodies. It’s not an overnight thing, first of all. It gets pushed into women’s faces that they start to feel desperate. They start to do all these quick-fix diets that are no more than a fly-by-night kind of thing. The desperation stems from there and it snowballs because diets are not meant to make you healthy and well for any period of time. They’re designed to not really have you succeed in the long run. As the result, people don’t get the proper guidance they need. They yo-yo their lives without knowing these fad diets really work against them. It slows your metabolism down, which is the direct opposite of what you want. Systematically, it causes appetite increases and your body gains weight more quickly. That’s the yo-yo cycle, and it’s a depressing cycle for women—they feel like they can’t measure up. Depression becomes clinical depression and then hopelessness sets in.
Just last week, the CDC did a number of tests and the thing that ran through the article was that women are giving up. The stakes are higher and the obesity rates are going up. Because of the social dilemma of “bigger” is more socially acceptable, which I think is an excuse, they feel like women are giving up. I look at it differently—you don’t have to be a skinny mini. You just have to be healthy. Statistics say you’re less healthy with more body fat—diabetes and so many other diseases come up. Society has a discrimination against obesity and this depresses the obese person even more. It has been proven that when someone is overweight and they feel this discrimination, they are more susceptible to not only diabetes but heart disease. Women either try to fit in and say “this is okay now,” not thinking of the health side, or they are just so tired of it and depressed because they think their bodies can’t change. I know that because I used to feel that way. I didn’t think I could change.
What has been some differences you’ve seen in your clients? What has been their reaction?
WI: A lot of women come to me and say, “I just want to lose weight,” or “I want to be like you when I grow up,” or “I want your abs, your arms,” whatever. When they do this and come to me, a lot of them are thinking physically. It’s not about that. My programs are comprehensive. It starts with the emotional self because that’s where it stems from. For one of my new clients, 90% of our working together is all emotional and mental, not even the body. There are certain things I told her she’s not ready for. My clients, in the end it’s important to me and important to them whether they know it or not, that they come out with a different mental and emotional lifestyle because that’s what’s going to give them the longevity in the physical that they need and want. It has to be sustained. It doesn’t happen overnight. Then the physical comes in and it starts to be easier to manage. So I see them with better attitudes. Their talk is starting to match their walk, which is extremely important to me because I pride myself on that. I walk my talk and practice what I preach and I try to get my clients to be aware of the body-mind connection in order to go forward so that they can be present with the change. Their language starts to be more positive, not only for themselves but for the people outside of their world. It’s important to me for judgement to decrease and then you make a happier person and then you attract the right kind of people in your life.
What’s your favorite healthy snack and what’s a treat you can’t pass up?
WI: Two things that are hard for me to pass up are banana bread and pumpkin pie. I love those things but they can be the death of me. I’ll only have them once a year. There will be times I’ll have an inkling of wanting them and I’m okay with that—I don’t put the pressure on myself. Be 80% good most of the time and 20% of the time, go outside the box. I have a cheat once a week and my cheat is a graham cracker with peanut butter on it. That’s from childhood and, oh my god, I’m head-over-heels in love with it. If you let me, I’ll eat the whole box, so I have to restrain myself. But when I have it—I’m partying like a maniac.
What’s your favorite form of exercise?
WI: I love dance. Period. Each move is exciting to me. If you’re talking about strict cardio, at the top of my list besides dance is running. I love it. Nothing gives me a better wind pipe, better endurance that clears out my lungs than running. I get a high off of that. Now keep in mind, I never did that growing up. I didn’t start this road until age 43. So it’s been an evolution, a transformation if you will. That’s exactly what gives me my energy. Life, love, feeling. Feeling the strength and youthfulness of my body, feeling sexy. I didn’t feel sexy in my 30s. Then the running, the wind, the endorphins—all of that gives me my energy. I am always forever grateful to be where I am now, to have triumphed. It motivates me to do more and help more people, which is why I’m in the business that I’m in. I have favor and the wherewithal to do what I do and to lead others to do the same. That keeps me bubbling over and going through the roof.
McGee Nall is a freelance writer based out of Athens, Georgia. She was probably eating Nilla wafers and Nutella while writing this.