Melissa Alcantara, who has trained Kim Kardashian ever since the reality star found her on Instagram a few years ago, knows what it takes to transform your bod from head to toe.
Seven years ago, Melissa—a new mom at the time—starting working out in her kitchen. At first, she just wanted to lose the weight she’d gained during and after her pregnancy, but her journey quickly became about so much more.
“It morphed from me just wanting to have abs to me saying ‘yes’ to myself, choosing myself, and putting love into myself every single day,” Melissa tells Women’s Health. “And that was a whole new ball game for me.'”
Well, years of hard work (and, yes, the shredded abs to show for it) later, Melissa—who goes by @fitgurlmel on Instagram—is a completely different person.
“I truly believe that I can do anything,” she says. “The work and the transformation spills over into every aspect of your life, from your relationship to your job.”
These days, when she’s not helping Kim K. crush 6 a.m. workouts, you’ll find Melissa squatting crazy amounts of weight during her own training sessions or sharing her mind-blowing booty before-and-afters on Instagram.
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In her new book, Fit Gurl: The Total-Body Turnaround Program, Melissa shares the mindset, nutrition, and workout tips that fueled her transformation—plus a complete training program that’ll help you jumpstart your own fitness journey.
Here are five tips that helped Melissa obtain fitness superhero status.
1. Cut the BS.
Melissa makes it clear in her book and on her Instagram feed: Don’t expect waist trainers, supplements, or quick fixes to replace hard-ass work.
“You think you need all of these things but they just become excuses that will keep you from really committing,” Melissa says. “You have to cut out all of the BS if you want to succeed long-term. You have to take full responsibility for your own life.”
To Melissa, that means two simple things: Move your body and put clean, real food on your plate—every day.
2. Play the long game.
After experiencing the dreaded health and fitness yo-yo herself, Melissa realized she had to completely shift her perspective on her lifestyle.
“If you just say, ‘oh, I want to lose five pounds, ASAP,’ you will never have a sustainable mentality,” she says. “If you want to truly find balance and be comfortable with yourself, you have to think about how you want to feel and look in 30 years.”
In other words, instead of spending your time chasing instant gratification, focus on the long-term gains you’d like to see. “You don’t have to kill yourself every day,” she says. “You have to be patient and think about what you can maintain for the rest of your life.”
3. Carbs are workout fuel.
Perhaps one of the most surprising (and important) lessons Melissa learned on her quest to build muscle and get ripped was to fuel her body with carbs.
“Carbs give you energy, and you want to have plenty of energy to work out and do things,” she says. “I used to blame my weight on carbs, but it’s not about the carbs, it’s about eating crappy foods that don’t fuel you or make you feel satisfied.”
Now, Melissa avoids processed food at all costs and incorporates plenty of whole, healthy carbs—like quinoa and sweet potatoes—into her meals, especially before and after workouts.
4. Set SUPER specific goals.
Setting goals is ~key~ to turning around your fitness, but most people set benchmarks that are too vague—and ultimately fail as a result, Melissa says.
“Instead of saying, ‘I want to lose weight,’ say ‘I’m going to work out three times per week,'” she explains. “Don’t try to be an over-achiever and just stick to simple, attainable goals. As you achieve them, you’re going to feel so damn good about yourself and motivated to keep going.”
5. Embrace building muscle.
If Melissa had to credit one type of workout for her fitness transformation, it’d be strength training. “Lifting weights has been insanely empowering for me,” she says. “Not only am I physically stronger, but I’m mentally stronger, too. I feel like a boss bitch.”
Another positive side effect? Lifting weights is also responsible for her crazy-toned arms (and entire bod, for that matter). “If you want to see those nice lines in your abs or shape up your arms, you have to build muscle,” she says. It’s that simple.
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