As told to Victoria Moorhouse. I never set out to be a trainer or social media fitness chick, I did all this because I wanted it for me. I wanted to be legitimately healthy, honestly strong, see what my body was capable of, and be the best version of myself. I’m still deep in this pursuit: to create the best Melissa I can be regardless of my past or present. Now, I work with other people who want it just as bad as I do. In order to do this, you have to want it for yourself and do it whether you’re motivated or not. Motivation is just like a muscle, it grows and gets stronger with every passing day you put in the work.
I grew up in the Bronx, New York. [It’s] very hood, especially when I was growing up there. I love where I come from, but it wasn’t easy — my mom worked two jobs in order to support myself, my brother, and sister. To top it all, we had the stereotypical drug addict and alcoholic father who wasn’t there or was there to make everyone’s life more difficult.
Once you take all that into consideration, you can imagine what eating and health habits I became used to seeing around me. The bad part of all this is simply that I carried all these imbalances into my adult life. I thought what I was eating (pure shit) and drinking (mostly juice and alcohol) was OK, and “health” meant eating lettuce with my rice and beans once in a while.
On what changed her habits...
It took pregnancy to really bring reality down on me, and it seriously poured painful truths over my mind and my body. I gained something like 70 lbs during pregnancy. After that, I had a beautiful baby and family support. But, all my bad habits had caught up and I just felt depressed, overweight, and didn’t know where to start. I did Weight Watchers, Insanity, Crossfit, Jiu Jitsu, Yoga, all sorts of classes and eventually dedicated myself almost exclusively to bodybuilding as my way to train my body; my mind had already the materials needed to train and focus on my goals. One thing that growing up in chaos taught me was that no matter what happens in your life, you have got to fight.
On working with Kim...
I don’t believe in easy hacks especially when it comes to a healthy diet. I'm talking eating nutrition rather than obsessing over calories and exercise. There’s just no way around it. It’s the exact reason Kim [Kardashian] contacted me. She realized she needed a change — a real change. She needed it as a lifestyle. One day while browsing through Instagram at like 4 a.m., she found one of my transformation images. Something told her that she needed to contact me. Kim wanted to be strong and healthy and do it the right way — AKA, the hard way. Three days later, we were chatting at her apartment in New York City. I used to live in Brooklyn, and we really connected on a personal level. I told her that we were actually moving to LA in about a month from the time we met, which worked perfectly because she wanted to train with me and embark on this fitness adventure together. The rest is history. Kim is my homegirl and we push each other to do better every single day.
On the reality of a healthy diet...
Women think that if they pick up a dumbbell they'll turn into men. This is utterly ridiculous, the human body doesn't work that way. To make things worse, we have made people believe that eating carbs is bad and that you should eat just protein and veggies to lose unneeded fat. Carbs are needed, and some people actually need a lot more carbs than other depending on certain factors such as their genetic type etc. But, I'm talking about real carbs like sweet potatoes and quinoa, rice cakes and fiber crips are NOT carbs, they're just processed food.
Women are doing detox teas, skipping carbs and loading on crazy amounts of protein, and perpetually doing endless hours of cardio...I want to end this nonsense, we all know it doesn't work but for a short period of time and you end up literally starving yourself to lose weight; the worse part is that this approach ends up making you gain all the weight back plus some right after you stop starving. This approach is hormonally taxing to our bodies, it's just not sustainable and quite unhealthy.
This article originally appeared on InStyle U.S.