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Featured Client: Danielle Stephens


What motivated you to start at AFS?

Until last year, I never considered my fitness to be a priority.

See, here’s the thing: I’ve always hated the way I looked and the way I felt when I looked in a mirror. In my mind, being skinny was more important than being healthy, so my relationship with food was a big-ol’ “It’s Complicated.” Ever since I was little, food had always been what I turned to when I was upset. I would over-eat and then immediately feel shame. This shame lead to cycles of more eating, eating nothing, and eventually to middle-of-the-night gym sessions to try to get rid of some of the calories I’d consumed.

Binge-eating was a way of life for me. Being a biology student, I knew what I was doing to my body was destructive and I needed to change. Enter: Applied Fitness Solutions.

My mom is also a client at AFS and asked me if I wanted to join her for a class. I knew I needed change, so I decided to try it out. I’ll never forget that first class; Kate was teaching and, by the time the third station was over with, I got sick. Guess who didn’t have enough to eat before class? (Hint: it was me)

Despite not feeling well that first class, I loved (and still love) the structure that AFS gave me. There was no worrying about planning a workout for myself and making sure that there was variety in the exercises I was doing. I was nervous, but I had enjoyed myself. I signed up that first day.

What keeps you coming back to AFS?

I come back to AFS for the challenge. One of my favorite things about WLS classes is that no two workouts are ever the same. Like many people, I cannot stand monotony. When things become repetitive, I get bored and my motivation goes out the window. This is far from how AFS makes me feel. Every day I go, I look forward to the surprise of what the workout will entail and what new things I will learn.

On top of new exercises, the practitioners make sure I’m really pushing myself on exercises I’ve done before. Brooke’s always coming over with a big smile on her face and motioning for me to take two steps back on the straps…that’s what I’m here for. To be challenged; to feel believed in.

Another, more significant thing that makes AFS unlike any other gym is the people. As soon as you enter AFS, you’re greeted with a smile and a ‘Hello, how are you?’. (Allison even noticed I got a few inches cut off of my “Rapunzel hair” before my own family did…)

Every practitioner at AFS genuinely cares about your life and how you are doing. They are a powerful support system that push you to be your best in and outside of the gym. From doing a hack-squat hold with you, to emailing you easy-to-prepare lunch ideas, these people are there for you. I have never received so many high-fives and fist-bumps in my entire life.

“Since I’ve started at AFS, I have been learning to look at life through a more positive lens. When I find myself in a negative mind-space, I take a moment to remember the good things that happened that day.”

At the end of every weight-loss class, when everyone is clapping…in that moment, I am proud. I know that for the past hour, we sweat, we pushed ourselves, and we accomplished things we never thought we could (stability-ball hamstring things, I’m lookin’ at you) and the best part is, we did it all together. AFS is a team, whether classes are small or at capacity, we’re all there for a reason.

What was your biggest fear before you started working out at AFS?

My biggest fear with beginning a regular fitness routine was judgement. I have pretty bad anxiety when it comes to trying new things because I’m always afraid of looking silly or failing completely. This is another thing I’ve learned to overcome at AFS. Everyone here works at their own pace and skill level, and the practitioners will help you without making you feel stupid.

How is your life different since you started with AFS?

Since I’ve started at AFS, I have been learning to look at life through a more positive lens. When I find myself in a negative mind-space, I take a moment to remember the good things that happened that day. Is the sun shining? Was my dog excited to see me? Did I get a funny text from a friend? Those days that I find it hard to get out of bed, I push myself to go for a walk or to the gym. I’ve learned that I never regret being active.

The gym is now I place I feel at home. I can walk into any gym and feel like I know what I am doing—I have lost that fear of looking clueless. I’ve started to treat exercise as a healthy hobby instead of an unhealthy burden; something I find joy in now instead of only exercising out of guilt.

I no longer focus on being “skinny”. I’ve learned that my health and my happiness go together like popcorn and a movie. Sure, I still have those off-days when I snack a little too hard, but the difference now is that I no longer feel like the world is going to end. I’ve learned to pick myself up and use that extra fuel (because food is fuel) to have a better day tomorrow.

What advice would you give others looking to start with AFS?

Little changes make a big difference.

Making small goals is something I had to get used to…I was always the type to set monumental goals and get frustrated/quit when I wasn’t seeing progress. Starting out at AFS, my goals were to drink more water, come to Weight Loss Solutions twice a week, and take a multivitamin. Once I was able to get that under control, Brooke and I added strength classes and supplemental workouts. I am seeing more progress now than I ever have before, and for once, I am happy with the list of things I have accomplished.

In general, AFS is still changing my life one class at a time. I am thinking so much more positively about life, and seeing myself progress is the biggest self-esteem booster there is. I love that when I walk in those doors, the rest of the world (and stress/worries/anxiety) kind of fades out. That’s the kind of place AFS is.

I’m Danielle’s trainer, Brooke

Brooke McCartney, Fitness Practitioner at Applied Fitness Solutions

Danielle’s progress has been nothing short of extraordinary! I remember the first day she sat in my office; she was very anxious about taking class in a group setting and wasn’t sure if she would feel comfortable. When she went to her first class, she became so anxious that she had to leave early. I followed up with her and she made a commitment to try to make it through a full class the following week… oh, how things have changed!

Danielle started focusing on small, daily improvements in class. Today, she’s one of the most talkative people in the room, always has a huge smile on her face, and loves herself (in a good way!). Not to mention, she’s SUPER fit! Danielle has truly become an inspiration to so many people at AFS (myself included) and I couldn’t be more proud of her. Awesome job Danielle; we love you!

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