My Fitness Transformation Story

Hi, I’m Heidi

I’m Heidi Dehnel or, as those who follow me on Instagram know me as, FlyingPurplePeopleEater.

Why that name you might ask?

It was one of my favorite songs in college and to my credit, I thought Instagram was going to be a flop. Hence the comically yet poorly thought out username. 

Ironically, the name has been a success. At least, that’s what I think when someone recognizes me and says “Hey, you’re Flying Purple People Eater!!”

Makes me laugh every time.

Who Am I

I’m a mother of 3 little beautiful boogers, a wife to a handsome beefcake husband and a fitness professional for the better part of the decade. I’m the lady that loves to help men & women live stronger, happier, healthy lives. But I’m also the lady that use to smoke Marlboro Menthol Lights and drink Jack & Cokes till 4am.

You could say life was different for me in the early 2000s.

The Life

Growing up, my mother always told me “Heidi, do what you love, and money will follow”. I have always tried to live by these words and pursue a career in my passion. I feel fortunate enough to say that I am doing something I love to do. However, prior to my life as a coach, I was really overweight, out of shape and completely unhealthy. I smoked like a chimney, prided myself with handling my liquor and gave little attention to my health.

I’d stay up late bar hoping till the early mornings, often choosing Jack ‘n Box at 4am since there were few places open on the Waikiki strip.  I really didn’t care what I ate, though I was very aware of how I looked. I’m sure you can paint a picture but let me give you more context.

I was now pushing a size 11… on a 5’1 frame. 

Though I graduated from the University Of Hawaii Hilo with a degree in Health & Physical Education, I lived a life of overindulgences and unhealthy behavior. I was a total hypocrite. Soon however, my life as I knew it would come to a screeching halt.

Turning Point

The fall of ’08 lots of things changed in my life. I found out I was having a baby AND my father would suddenly be battling Stage 3 Colon Cancer. My dad was the last person I ever thought would be diagnosed with cancer. He wasn’t overweight, sick or had any underlying health issues. I always remember him taking care of his body, waking up at 4am to go to the gym before heading to work. He bought books on Taichi and Kettlebell Strength Training. I mean, I attribute a lot of my strength & fitness interest to my dad’s influence growing up.

The cancer diagnosis shocked my whole family.

The possible loss of my father was devastating and the thought of letting my daughter be motherless scared the life out of me. I wanted to provide her with the best example of health & nutrition and that meant changing everything.

From that day forward, I began my journey to a healthier me.

I became obsessed and happily surrounded myself with all types of information ranging from advanced weight loss to competitive powerlifting. I read, researched and practiced every workout routine and diet you can imagine. I admired those fitness models that graced the magazines, cutting their images and pasting them on my fridge, my planner, my cabinets…anywhere I’d have to look at!

Those fitness models looked so healthy & confident. They all had 6-pack abs and weren’t afraid to walk around strutting their stuff. I wanted that. 

So I did what any rational woman would do when they feel insecure about their body,

…Enter a fitness competition.

Yes, judge me purely on how I look in a scad bikini. Great confidence builder.

My Realization

After conquering the initial fears of stepping on stage, I ended up competing in several bodybuilding shows over the following years. I became friends with many competitors just like “those models” and there are 2 things I can say with certainty:

1. Their lives aren’t always what they appear to be.

2. Looking up to them can either help you OR totally cripple you. 

I realized that many of them had the same secret struggles, insecurities, and food obsessions I had BEFORE I competed. Though I had come so far from that unhealthy party-goer, I realized I still couldn’t get it together consistently.

I struggled to find a happy balance between competition lean (which isn’t long term) and pushing overweight. 

Competing burnt me out and I found myself overindulging post shows (once again) this time loaded of excuses as to why I “deserved it”. 

Frustrated, I finally took a step back and asked myself, why did I start this journey in the first place? Was it for washboard abs? Was it to be admired like I admired those models? 

No. It was for my children. It was for my family. It was to be a better, healthy me.

So instead of worrying and comparing myself to those physiques in the magazine, I learned to accept my imperfections. 

That’s where I believe I really started my journey to a healthier me.

I stopped extreme dieting and restrictive eating in order to just look good and started looking at food as a way to FEEL GOOD and live well. I stopped obsessing with calories and I started creating healthy habits I could stick to every week.

I kept it simple, stopped trying to rush the process and celebrated my behavior rather than just the weight coming off. I also transitioned from Bodybuilding (Figure) competitor to powerlifter. It felt good to see my strength go up week after week and it felt great to value PERFORMANCE gains rather than just AESTHETIC gains.

You see, strength is not objective. It is not an opinion or a preference.

It won’t say “ Your waist is too thick” or  “You should style your hair different to win”. That is an opinion and a preference that is purely objective, what they think looks good.

Strength doesn’t know what a waist trainer is.

And yes, if you’re competing in a strength-based competition, then you do compare to others in your respective class or group. But no one is saying “it kinda looked like you benched 135lbs”. You either did or didn’t. Feel me?

Don’t get me wrong, I still want to look good. It wasn’t an all or nothing decision with bodybuilding and powerlifting. 

Stereotypes run rapid in the fitness community and I think generally speaking, people assume powerlifters are huge, rotund strong guys and bodybuilders are buff, chiseled men with just “show” muscles. I squat 265lbs, bench around 165lbs and deadlift over 350lbs at a weight of 132lbs. They’re not world record numbers but respectable enough and more importantly, they prove my point.

You can be strong AND look good.

I found the stronger I got, the better my body looked. Heavy squats and deadlifts, guess what? They build everything in the back, including your legs and bum. I don’t care who you are, every woman wants a nice toosh.

I tell my clients, you can’t look “tone” if theres no muscle there to actually “tone”. You have to build muscle.

Present Day Craziness

It’s been 2 &1/2 years since my last figure competition and we’ve added a little person to the our once 4 member household.

Insert baby girl #3.

 Adorable, utterly chubby baby Kaimana.

I know, I know….her cuteness is almost unbearable.

Along with the Kaimana bear, I entered a USPA powerlifting meet, the first 6 months after I gave birth. It was a lofty goal knowing I would have to stay focused even with a newborn. I thought of it as a win-win since I had no expectation to be a superstar rather just hit numbers I knew I could manage and enjoy getting back to moving the real weight.

After years of searching, I added a habit-based nutrition certification to my name that I could stand by. It embodied everything I believed in and offered software I could use to help MORE people and with better success. In fact, they’ve already helped over 45,000 people lose over 1 million lbs. It didn’t boast overnight weight loss rather long term success which normally does not happen overnight. You can check it out here.

Now, I sit here 4 weeks away from opening Core Strength & Performance, LLC. Our veteran owned and operated small group training facility in Huntsville, Alabama. We will be the only USPA Certified Training Facility in Alabama and I feel privileged to say I am one of the only USPA Coach Practitioners in the state as well. I sometimes need time to pause and reflect on how awesome this whole experience is for our family.

As coaches, we pride ourselves in communicating with our clients so that each individual receives the attention and guidance they need to reach their personal fitness & health goals. We’re excited to help others make their own transformation through smart, strength-based training and habit changing nutrition choices that will help them escape the yo-yo dieting and dismal results.

We believe in this combination so much we’re offering the first 25 founding members of CSP an exclusive offer just for choosing us to help them on their fitness transformation.

It’s pretty much $600 worth of value for $199 when they join. You can hear more about it here.

Performance For Life

Take it from me, move towards a building a healthier, fit you today. It doesn’t mean you have to work out 6x a week and throw out every box of cereal in the kitchen. In fact, you SHOULD NOT do that because that extreme behavior probably only helped temporarily in the past. We want long term change, not short term. Moving forward means doing ONE small thing today that works towards your goal. And when you’ve done that consistently for a few weeks, do one more thing.

Not two or three, ONE. One thing daily and consistently.

Research has shown that integrating little daily practices into your life can actually change the way your brain works.

As a parting gift, I’d like to give you something FREE to start your journey with. It’s some of the concepts and material I use with my clients. With the “Nutrition & Fitness For Busy Professionals” download, you will learn:

  • 3 Steps to Fix Broken Diet.
  • How to stay in shape when you’re busy using this minimalist workout.
  • And finally, the all-important, power of sleep. The most overlooked secret!

I believe you can never have too many good resources handy…You can download a printer-friendly one here.

Remember: If you ever have any questions about the “how” or “why” of any of the points I discussed, I am available. I hope you will consider me your own personal resource when it comes to your nutrition and your health in general.


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