Kelly Potter is a nurse, teacher, Ph.D. student, blogger and fitness inspo with over 20,000 followers on Instagram. Kelly began her journey into health and fitness after she tore her ACL skiing in Colorado in January of 2016. She felt the call after being in a heavy-duty knee brace for 6 months. She had been working night shifts and gained weight after her wedding. She wasn’t super happy with how she was feeling and how she looked. At that time she weighed close to 200 pounds.
After she tore her ACL and was in a knee brace, she was told she couldn’t do things. She hated feeling limited so she starting thinking about how she could make changes right away. She started making little changes with cooking more and walking and that evolved to joining the Tone It Up community in the summer of 2016. She was sick of feeling like she couldn’t do something and was ready to prove herself and everyone else wrong.
That’s where I met Kelly. We joined the TIU program that same summer and I always gravitated towards her posts. They were funny as hell and real. I was like I need to get to get to know this girl better! She went on to win the TIU challenge that summer and lost 50 pounds, but more importantly, changed her mentality around her heath and learned to love herself. And her journey was only just getting started!
This inspired her to get her Ph.D. studying nursing interventions for individuals with morbid obesity and start her blog KP-ingitsimple to share her journey with others. On her blog and her Instagram, she shares inspiring posts about health, nutrition, science and her love for sushi and her dog Duke. She has gone from eating mostly take-out & convenience foods, to tracking every gram of food, to be able to live her life the way she wants to. Finding the balance between eating healthy and treating herself comes with having a healthy mentality around food and health.
She’s been inspiring me since 2016 on my own journey with health and fitness and it was such a privilege to get to interview her for my blog. Kelly is exactly the way she is on Instagram. Funny, warm, down to earth, and knows her shit. I hope you enjoy getting to know Kelly as much as I did.
JC – What’s the biggest lesson you have learned on your journey so far?
KP- You don’t have to be like everyone else. Everyone is different, has different genetics and just because someone you see or idolize does one thing doesn’t mean you have to. So I tore my ACL, I started eating healthier and being more active. I was convinced I needed to be a runner and always envisioned someone who runs long distance and can do marathons. I tried so hard to run, had a return to run program with my physical therapist I was working with because of my tear and you know I had such bad tendentious because of overuse trying to be a runner. I hated every moment of being a runner. I never had a moment where I enjoyed it but that’s the only way I thought about being healthy. I eventually found that I really liked spin and I was really into that for a while. I prefer strength training now. I just had this picture in my mind what healthy had to be. It was actually unhealthier and not beneficial to run than it was to just walk. I had terrible tendentious in my ankles where it was painful to stand at times. You don’t have to be like everyone else.
JC – It took me so long to figure out that the key is to finding a workout you enjoy. It’s trying a few different things and seeing what feels right to you. I used to HATE the gym, but then I found yoga and I was hooked, I was going 5 days a week. Then I found that my body needed a different kind of movement, so I got into lifting weights and boxing and am loving that. It’s a lot of trial and error and being ok with change.
JC – What is the most frequently asked question you get from women who follow you?
KP- How did you know that you needed to change what you were doing. Because I made this very, well, other people think of it as more drastic and maybe it was but I made a switch from using the Tone It Up program and following a meal plan, and then to not tracking my food to tracking my food, to not doing cardio unless I wasn’t too, to strength training and lifting heavy. Like powerlifting Olympic lifting type heavy and how I knew I wanted to do that. I was thinking about growth mentality and I think it happened organically is the best way to describe it. You know you go through changes and you learn things and I had seen and experienced this change in my body and I was like wow that’s amazing. Everything I learned in science class, in my nutrition pre-recs, everything I did in my nursing school makes sense. I was like duh Kelly, so silly. Before this I couldn’t apply these concepts to myself yet, I just wasn’t in that mentality yet. So I was like oh man what else could I learn. I learned that I really needed to nurture my metabolism but giving myself adequate fuel, and I learned that if I wanted to preserve muscle mass and kind of have that aesthetic and function that I wanted that I was more muscular or lean looking that I needed to change the way that I was working out. All that cardio wasn’t doing me any good. I was doing a spin class for seven days a week. I didn’t know a whole lot about how I should train so I got a personal trainer. It wasn’t like I got all the answers right away it was a learning process the entire time. As I learned more it helped me guide my decisions.
JC – It sounds like you listened to your body and your intuition, It told you when you were ready to learn the next thing.
KP– You have to learn how to listen to your body. You can’t let your brain take over. It’s easy to think I am really tired but if I work out I am going to feel so much better. That’s not always the case; sometimes you are really tired and need to not work out. I think you have to be; it is a talent and strength and requires you really being in tune to listen to your body. We tell people all the time to listen but you have to learn how to do that.
JC- Obviously your body had changed a lot but how has your mindset changed during this journey?
KP- Oh man, a lot…. My mindset about food and how strict I need to be. My perception of food has changed the most I think. I went from eating a lot of prepared food, convenience food. I would go to a coffee shop in the morning and get a pastry and a latte. For lunch, I would have hospital food which was typically going to be comfort food or chicken strips and French fries. I would have candy or chips or popcorn for a snack or dessert. Then for dinner, I would get takeout, I would eat fast food sometimes, not like McDonald’s but like fast casual. A lot of chipotle-esk food, a lot of sushi or Mexican, a lot of Chinese. So I went from eating like that to getting on a meal plan. It was very structured; it was eating this at this time of every day and eat this amount of every time of every day. Then I found this wasn’t really enough for me so I made my portions a little bit bigger. Then I was like I need to eat more, how do I figure out how much I need to eat? Well, I started counting my macros. I was so strict; I hit my macros to the gram every single day. I refused to go out to eat, my poor husband. I mean I hit them to the gram. Then over the summer, I had to travel so I had to go to South Carolina for my Ph.D. and I was living out of a hotel room for a week and was like how am I going to do this? I considered getting an extended stay so I had a kitchen so I could cook my meals and have that structure. I considering getting a meal prep service, and I was like Kelly you’re crazy. Before I started eating so strict I loved traveling because I loved eating food from the location or region where I was traveling. Food is culture. You get to enjoy and experience that area’s culture through trying different restaurants. You have never been to Charleston before you need to go out and experience the local food. So I had to give that up a little bit and I had to be ok with it. So my perception of what I was eating and my, the way that I handled that, I just had to let it go. I knew that it wasn’t going to be perfect but I could still be close to what I wanted to achieve. I was still trying to hit my numbers but I knew they weren’t perfect and I am ok with that. This fall I have gone out to eat more than I have the past two years. I am too darn busy to cook all my meals. I cooked all my meals for at least a year. I rarely went out to eat. I remember bringing snacks and eating in the bathroom because I was embarrassed to bring my own food places, I mean that’s absurd. My perception of what is flexible, tracking macros is supposed to be flexible. It’s called flexible dieting. Well, it’s not flexible if your mentality surrounding it is so strict that you can’t let go a little bit. You know thinking about it people forever have been able to achieve their goals without tracking every little bite of every little food they are taking in. Being realistic with myself eating on such a strict level is not doing me any good even when I am eating a good amount of food. It’s not a healthy mentality to want to control every aspect of your nutrition. That’s the scientist and nurse in me.
JC – What do you love most about sharing your story with others?
KP – I think it’s fun. Sometimes I get these really long emails from girls who have said, you know I was doing this and you made me believe in myself to try something new. To go against the grain on things, to be not afraid to be my own self and that’s really cool. I read these emails and I am like wow I did this. I am a normal human and what I say in my pictures of food or what I ramble on about it connects with people. It helps them feel comfortable in their own skin, in choosing their own path. It’s just really neat.
JC – Putting your journey on social media can be so vulnerable and scary. But I think it’s so important to show women, especially young women that its ok to be you. Sometimes people on Instagram only show the highlight reels so people who are looking at them believe they’re perfect and that they have to be too. But even more, I love how you show the imperfect sides of you because you give women permission to be themselves.
KP- Yea I posted something a few weeks ago about having a bowl of cereal for dinner because I was too tired to cook. It got the biggest response of women thanking me for showing them that sometimes its ok to not cook and just have a bowl of cereal for dinner. It’s cool to just be real. It’s crazy how you connect with people.
JC – What is the one thing you want women to know or understand?
KP – They don’t have to follow a brand, a company or be all into only one thing. They can be everything; they can be dynamic and change. They can change their mind and they don’t need to feel bad about it. There is this loyalty that comes along with programs. People feel like they have to explain themselves when they change their goals. Everyone is very dynamic and you don’t have to explain yourself, it’s to try something new.
JC – If you could go back and tell yourself one thing before you started all this what would it be?
KP – If I could go back and tell myself something because I have learned so much, I would say just be open. Because there were certainly times that I wasn’t open to hearing other ideas. But I was not getting a whole lot of options presented to me. So I think just reminding myself to stick with it because it’s so worth it. It’s amazing how this has evolved. I mean the evolution of my mindset and how I felt about myself and how I let other people treat me as well. I have changed so much, not only has my body but the way that I let people talk to me is so different. Sticking with it. I’ve just learned so much along the way that I don’t know that I would. The evolution is just so amazing to me. I think that I would tell myself to be open-minded. I wish I had someone at the beginning to tell me that there was more out there because I don’t think I would have stuck with one thing so long had I known differently. I think you know, expanding my community other than the one I was already in I would say, be open to different things from the start would be the advice. Just to learn more. Just to learn. It’s so tough you know because people ask me what would you change, what would you do differently and there is a lot of things. If I would have done what I am doing now from that start who knows maybe I would have loved it, maybe I would have gotten burnt out. It would all be different, my whole journey, my whole evolution would be different. I feel like this evolution has allowed me to teach others the way I do.
JC – Yes, I totally believe that everything happens in the order it does for a reason. You had to go through the ups and downs in order to learn the important lessons. So many women gravitate towards you, not just because you’re so authentic in what you share, but also because you’ve gone through it. You’ve been in their shoes and you know how it feels. It wasn’t a straight shot. There were a lot of twists and turns and a major learning curve and I think that just makes you a better teacher.
KP- Yes! Definitely!