'Biggest Loser' trainer Erica Lugo shares how Latina moms can teach our kids to be healthier

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Fitness changed Erica Lugo's life and now she's using it to help others do the same. The trainer has been documenting her weight loss journey on Instagram for years. That, along with her work at her own FitLove Studio in Ohio, has made her the perfect trainer to join the USA Network's hit show The Biggest Loser, which helps contestants get in better shape. The Mexican fitness expert has some personal experience with weight loss. After weighing more than 300 pounds after she welcomed her son, Connor, she decided to change her life by exercising and changing her eating habits and lost 160 pounds in two years.

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She did it all while being a single mom, battling thyroid cancer, and managing her boutique fitness studio. "Anything is possible. I weighed 322 pounds five and a half years ago, I filed bankruptcy when I was 23 years old, I was penniless and didn't know how to feed my child, I got a divorce, I became a single mom and didn't know how I was going to survive on my own with a 3-year-old," she shared with MamásLatinas. "I started a business with my own money, I beat cancer, and now here I am on a national TV show being a weight loss trainer. If you want something, you can chase it if you want it bad enough!" Get to know more about Erica below. 

Growing up in a Mexican household affected her relationship with food.

Erica's upbringing is similar to most Latinos. Our families' love for food and drinking is part of our culture, but it often takes a toll on our waistlines. "I tell everyone I grew up in a Mexican family--we eat, we drink, we eat some more. We show love by feeding each other and that's how I grew up. I remember, growing up, my grandmother visiting from Texas and the way she would show her love and excitement when she visited is she would carry tamales--tamales would be in her carry-on on the plane," she told MamásLatinas. "I just grew up with food being the way people showed love. Nutrition and exercise was never talked about in our household. I come from a house where we just eat all the time, snacks were always available, and my mother is the reason why I constantly think I need dessert after dinner because that's just what we did. I thought it was normal to eat ice cream and brownies after dinner every day of the week."

Her weight struggles began to worsen once she started college and continued on through different phases of her life. "I went to college and my eating habits just got worse. My freshmen 15 were more like the freshmen 40," she shared. "Then I got married which made happy pounds come on and then I had a baby and I had terrible postpartum depression. The weight just kept coming on at every stage of my life and then I ended up at 322 pounds." 


She wants Latina moms to understand that self-care is not selfish.

"The biggest thing is to understand that self-care is not selfish," she shared for other moms. "I think for so many, especially in the Latino culture, is that we constantly want to give, give, give. That's how we show our love and that's how we were raised. And that's our culture honestly, to constantly give and deplete yourself and instead what that does, it just makes our generation suffer like we did in not taking care of ourselves." 


Teaching our kids to be healthier starts with ourselves.

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Forever my ‘why’ and gym buddy

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Erica has learned that taking care of yourself sets a good example for your kids, and now her son, Connor, sees her love of fitness as an essential part of life. "I am very thankful that I started my weight loss journey when Connor was 3. So now because I take care of myself, Connor sees that as a normal way of life so I don't feel guilty for taking time to go to the gym, cooking healthy meals, and spending the extra money on healthy ingredients because the sooner you teach your kids that, the sooner they are going to understand that that's a normal part of life. Connor thinks that working out is just like brushing your teeth, he thinks it's an everyday routine. He doesn't think anything different of it, he doesn't think it's something unique or special, he doesn't think it's something you have to make time to do." 

Life is sometimes tough to balance for hardworking single moms like Erica.

A lot of moms tend to spread themselves thin, and it's not healthy. Erica recommends that busy moms like her make choices that simplify their lives and learn to set boundaries for themselves. She is getting married in April, but before this relationship she was a single mom, a business owner of her fitness studio, a gym fanatic, and also involved in her son's school. "Between Biggest Loser, planning a wedding, raising my son and taking care of my own fitness goals, you tend to get so overwhelmed but I've learned how to say 'No,'" she said. "That's my biggest piece of advice for people. Connor's Valentine's Day party, instead of being the mom that makes the homemade cookies, that are personalized and go all out, I'll donate plates and napkins."

She added: "That's easier for me but I'm still being a part of the party and that gives me the opportunity to not stress about homemade cookies that are to the nines but learning how to say 'no,'  and when it comes to this show and life in general, stretching ourselves thin, especially in the Latina culture, we want to say 'yes, yes, yes,' all the time. Learn to say no, it's only going to help you in the long run."


Being a trainer on 'Biggest Loser' reminded her that losing weight is really a mental battle.

"Having trained people for as long as I have, I feel like honestly, it's our minds and our hearts that tank us versus our bodies. Our head and our hearts are going to stop us before our bodies really do," she said. She even shared that she had a meltdown while filming where she felt like she wasn't good enough or worthy to be a trainer on the show. "This show taught me so much about that inner dialogue, that inner critic that I have, because if I would have succumbed to that, and if I would have listened to that and believed it after talking to myself so poorly for so long I wouldn't be here today." 

Erica continued: "It's learning to fight back against that inner critic. On average, as a woman, if you count how many times you talk so negatively or poorly about yourself, you would be floored on how many times you talk poorly to yourself but we think that that's normal and we need to understand and rewire and relearn that that's not normal, it's not OK. We have to be kinder to ourselves and when your kinder to yourself, and you change the inside, the outside is going to naturally follow."

She believes fitness can change all aspects of your life.

"Something about fitness is so vulnerable for people," she said. "You start to feel that results-driven mentality and what that does is it starts opening the doors for the feelings of accomplishment, and feelings of self-drive, and the feelings of pride--and that's just physically. I just feel like fitness is just opening the doorways for that kind of mentality to start to spill over to other aspects of your life." 

Watch Erica get to work with her team on The Biggest Loser on Tuesdays at 9 p.m on the USA network. 

Topics: children  diets  healthy eating  healthy habits  health  inspiration  fitness