Getting Started into a Healthier Lifestyle: A conversation with Dawn Archer from Dawn Estelle Fitness.
We are almost through with the first month of 2014 and this is where most people lose inspiration and motivation to keep working towards their overall healthier lifestyle. If you need some motivation to keep going and never give up, read on. This story will inspire you.
Fat, overweight, broke, and no job. At 26 years old Dawn had hit rock bottom and fallen in a downward spiral of depression and unhealthy habits.
How do you battle such a draining emotional state and come out stronger than ever, inspiring people all over the world to become happier and healthier?
Dawn did it and this is her story.
Who is Dawn Archer?
I’m just a regular girl who one day decided that I was no longer going to be a victim and would never do anything for one more day that made me unhappy. Therefore, I quit my job and moved home to pursue my dream of helping people change their lives. My goal is to inspire, motivate, and help people achieve a healthier and happier version of themselves.
What was the “break point” or an AHA moment in your career that made you decide to start what you’re currently doing & how did you come up with that idea?
My journey started when I was 26 during a visit to my doctor. She told me straight to my face that I was obese and it was the first time I ever heard it out loud; she also told me that I was pre-diabetic. This moment really made me think about the way I was conducting my life and realize that nobody was going to help me eat the right things, go to the gym, and live an overall healthy lifestyle if I didn’t help myself first. After this harsh visit to the doctor and breaking up with my boyfriend after a 7-year relationship, I moved away from my family to Atlanta to try making some money as a graphic designer but the job market was tough and I couldn’t find a job. I would search and apply for jobs every day and struggle to make ends meet.
It didn’t really click until I moved away from my family to Atlanta. The culmination of everything that was going on in my life at this moment was really the kick in the gut I needed to start taking action towards my new self. Moving away from my family, breaking up with my boyfriend after a 7-year relationship, being broke and without a job, and having my doctor tell me to my face that I was obese; it’s really not easy to assimilate but having all these things going on in my life was what really kicked off my weight loss journey towards the best version of myself. I started concentrating my efforts towards eating healthy, exercising, and really taking control of myself.
Once you had your breakthrough, how did you keep yourself accountable and consistent?
I took a picture of myself right before stepping in the shower and I sent it to my sister and I asked her, “is this what people really see when they see me?” and she wrote me back a harsh message saying: “no one can get rid of that weight except you; sometimes we do let ourselves go and you need to do something about that.” I took a front and side picture and that’s what kept me motivated. People laugh at me because they say I have a naked picture of myself everywhere, but I remind them that it’s a motivation and accountability tool to remind myself never to go back there again.
I talk about this in my ebook (http://www.dawn-archer.com/#!ebooks/cgk5) on how when you first get started in your weight loss journey, those pictures serve as a reminder of never wanting to go back there again. I still have my first pictures posted on my refrigerator, in my wallet, by my cabinet, in my bathroom, and anywhere you can think of because you have these moments when you are by yourself tempted to go through the drive-through and who’s going to know, but when you have accountability tools like your first pictures, every time you look at them it brings out an emotion in you of never wanting to go back being unhealthy; it prompts questions like: Do I really need to eat this? Do I really need to sneak in these fries? I remember a valet got in my car when I went to a restaurant and he asked me “who’s that in the picture?” and I answered “that was me” and it sparked a conversation about my weight loss journey. You never know where life will take you and you need to keep yourself accountable.
A lot of people do these challenges, diets, programs, but in the end it’s all about a lifestyle change. After 2 months of working out I was having such a great time and seeing the results in my body that I stopped concentrating on my weight loss goal and just started to have fun with my new lifestyle. My decision was more towards changing my life rather than doing a 3-month temporary program.
How did you get started changing your exercise and eating habits?
I was driven and committed towards having a healthier lifestyle. I started going to Zumba, enrolling in different programs at the gym, doing stuff on my own using personal training apps on my phone, but I realized I wasn’t really having fun going to the gym and it came to a point where I was dreading it. What really made it fun for me was taking Zumba classes with my teacher Thea Dora Sierra and I took her class by chance one day. I remember I had just finished taking a Zumba class and one of the personal trainers came to me and said “You have to take her class” and I remember saying that I had just finished an hour class of Zumba and I was exhausted but she insisted on me taking the class with Thea and I did. From this day I was hooked going to every single one of her classes 6 days a week for almost a year. Her style of teaching and her personality really made it fun to participate in her classes and that’s exactly what I needed. It’s important to have fun in everything you do.
Eating is 80% of your weight loss journey, but before getting into the habit of healthy eating I started going to Barnes & Noble and read a whole bunch of books on health and fitness, took different pictures of several books, went to Walgreens to print the pictures out, and eventually I had this whole binder full of nutritional advice. I did my own research, built up my own informational binder, talked to different nutritionists at the gym, and I learned the right things to eat narrowing it down to 5 simple rules I follow and talk about in my ebook.
What is a SweatClass and who can participate in it?
A SweatClass is a combination of my choreography and Zumba; just having fun while dancing and losing weight in the process. The people who come to my classes are anyone who has seen me on Instagram, heard of me through word-of-mouth, or simply just driven by and seeing us dance. My classes are open to men, women, children, and people from all ages. I’ve had people as old as 60 years old and as young as 3 years old. The workout is very very easy and it’s simply moving your body, burning some calories, and feeling good about yourself.
How did the SweatClass idea come about?
It all started when I was living in Atlanta working as a graphic designer at this company and one day I told my coworker and good friend Rachel that I wasn’t really happy there crossing things of a to-do list, stressing about meeting deadlines, and didn’t really feel I was making a difference in people’s lives. I remember asking her “Am I crazy for thinking about putting my resignation, move home, and just teach Zumba classes in a parking lot having people work out with me?” and she said no you are not and I know you can do it. The next day I came in I put in my resignation and called my mom telling her I was coming home, quitting my job as a graphic designer, and sleeping on the couch.
When I came home I just posted on Instagram: “I’ll be at the park at 9:00a.m, bring $5, and come dance with me at this Zumba-like activity. Anyone is welcomed.” People started coming. At first we were doing 30 minutes of boot camp and 30 minutes of Zumba, but I later found out that people were enjoying the dancing portion more. Some people would even come in late just to get to the dancing portion of the program. It started growing so much that eventually we outgrew the space we were in, moved to another parking lot, and most recently we moved to a studio I got for 3 months, which is awesome because is secure and safe but we still have a few classes in parking lot because the amount of people that come to my classes have doubled since I moved to the studio.
My only goal with my classes was to help at least one person change his/her life by becoming healthier and it has now grown into a small community of people where we support each other on the weight loss journey. I’ve had several instances where people come to the studio and I sit down with someone for an hour because they need to talk, cry, or scream; I’ve had instances where I go to the grocery store with people and walk them through the right things to buy, and pretty much anything that can help them succeed in their journey to becoming the best version of themselves. I did this at the beginning and still doing it to this day.
From your experience, why do people struggle with implementing a healthy lifestyle?
I think there are misconceptions about needing a lot of money to eat healthy and doing these workout programs that are so intense, but you don’t need a lot of money to eat healthy and you just need to move your body every day to get some exercise in. In my case when I was overweight I was very lazy. I wanted to change but I didn’t want to get up and make the change and I was always looking at “quick weight loss” programs promising helping me lose weight in 2 weeks and this is a problem for a lot of people because they want results fast and when they don’t get them, they get frustrated and then stop; it’s just not realistic. It took me 2 months before I saw any inch come off my body. Once your body gets used to the exercise, it adapts and then you need to change it again to continue making progress.
People think it’s expensive to get started when in reality it’s not. I didn’t have a job when I first got started, cancelled my cable subscription for an entire year when I lived in Atlanta so I could afford going to the gym because I wanted to be surrounded by people living a healthy lifestyle and get as much information and inspiration as I could. I did meal preparation for under $30 a week, sure I was eating chicken, broccoli, tuna, and spinach every day but those are the kind of sacrifices you have to make if you want the results.
What is the one single thing people can implement right away to get them started into a healthier lifestyle?
Change the way you eat. If you just change the way that you eat you are immediately going to start noticing results within the first 2 weeks. My basic rules when you first get started into a healthier lifestyle are:
- Drink a gallon of water every day.
- Cut your salt and sugar intake.
- Eat every three hours the combination of lean protein, veggies, and a whole grain.
What is a typical day in the life of Dawn Archer?
I eat my first meal of the day within 1 hour of waking up, nanny my 6-month old little cousin, check emails, train clients on exercising, grocery shopping, meal preparation, etc; by 4:00p.m. I’m practicing songs for my routine and gathering all material I need for my class later in the evening. After I teach, I come home, relax, take a shower, and spend about 2 more hours answering emails and building relationship with my audience. I get a lot of people asking me for advice through email so I spend about 4 hours a day answering emails and providing counseling. I like to do this myself instead of having an intern sending a generic answer because to me it’s personal and I want to build a relationship with my audience. I know it can be time-consuming but when you are getting started building your brand there’s no other way around than putting in the hard work and lay out a strong foundation.
What projects are you working on in 2014?
My big project for 2014 is my Sweat Tour where I will be visiting (driving or flying) every state in USA teaching an hour long Zumba-like class for just $5. I will be funding this project from money I have saved up plus donations from awesome people. My purpose with this project is to reach as many people as possible giving them hope and inspiration on their journey.
Where do you see yourself a year from now?
Waking up healthy and happy everyday traveling the world inspiring people to become the best version of themselves that they can possibly be.
Ways to connect with Dawn: