Tell us a bit about yourself and your career.
I have been a nail tech for 12 years and I own a nail studio in Nashville, Tenn., called Melissa Stephens Nail Artistry.

What are your health challenges?
I knew I needed to make some changes when I had high cholesterol for the second year in a row. I had tried losing weight before, but I was simply counting calories. Sure, that helps you lose weight, but it doesn’t necessarily do anything for your overall health. I started my real wellness journey in December 2015 and knew my end goal wasn’t a specific weight; it was a feeling. I wanted to feel healthier.

What was/is your plan of action?
I started my health journey by making dietary changes only. Using My Fitness Pal, I learned how to count my macronutrients and track what I was eating. That helped me to realize how much fat and sugar I had been consuming. I cut back on sweets and carb-heavy pastas and traded them for healthier options. I traded rice for cauliflower rice and pasta for spiralized zucchini. I lost 20 pounds by June. Once I mastered my eating habits, I knew it was time to integrate working out. Jillian Michaels DVDs are my absolute favorite!

How long have you been working your plan and what has been your result so far?
I have been on my health journey for a year now. I have lost a little over 30 pounds and my cholesterol is in the healthy range. In fact, my blood work has never looked better!

How does your job as a nail tech affect your plan?
I swapped my sugar-laden coffee and pastry habit for coffee with almond milk and hazelnut-flavored stevia, and a protein shake. I also had to learn to make time for lunch. Most days, I try to carve out a half hour to eat a tofu, veggie, and cauliflower rice stir fry from home or roasted veggies with some form of protein for lunch. For really busy days, I graze between appointments on hard boiled eggs, string cheese, fruit, veggies, and hummus or peanut butter. I also plan and prep for meals. I don’t feel the need to stop and grab dinner on the fly now because I have an easy, healthy meal planned.

What has been the greatest challenge of your new healthy lifestyle?
My sweet tooth! I have swapped my usual desserts for Greek yogurt, cocoa dusted almonds, and Halo Top Ice Cream. I still indulge in my favorite treats from time to time. I have had some setbacks with my health that made it impossible to work out for a while, so instead, I started walking. I think the most important thing is doing something.

What’s your advice for other nail techs who want to embark on a healthy lifestyle?
As nail techs, we teach our clients about how important self-care is, but then we don’t practice what we preach. Start small and take it one step at a time. If you overhaul your habits slowly (taking a lunch break, prepping your meals for the week, or walking for a half hour a day) you are more likely to stick with it. Getting healthy is a marathon, not a sprint. There’s no finish line for healthy. It’s something we work toward every single day.

Are you a healthy nail tech? Every month, NAILS will feature one nail tech in a monthly column devoted to shining the spotlight on your health and fitness success! If you would like to share your success story (overcoming health issues, weight loss — any health-related triumph) with NAILS readers, email to find out more about how YOU can be featured as a NAILS Healthy Tech.

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