Erika Gravato before (left) and now (right).

Erika Gravato before (left) and now (right).

Tell us a bit about yourself and your career.
Being a nail tech was a complete change in careers for me. I started out as a high school English teacher. When the state of teaching took a drastic turn here in N.J., I decided to leave the profession and enroll in nail school. I graduated in 2011 and immediately went to work in a salon. Being a nail tech is extremely rewarding. It’s not only about pretty nails and feet; it’s about connecting with other human beings and helping them feel good about themselves.  

What are your health challenges?
Back in 2012, I decided I’d had enough of being fat. I was turning 40 in October of that year and decided I was going to be 40 and fabulous. I started eating healthy and working out, and by the time I turned 40, I was definitely feeling fabulous. Unfortunately, Hurricane Sandy struck New Jersey shortly after that and left me without power for 15 days. Eating healthy and exercise took a backseat. I got back on track for a while afterward, but soon tore my left Achilles tendon. I had surgery on it, followed by months of physical therapy and continued pain. Working out left me in tears. I was so disheartened that I started eating crap again. It wasn’t until early last year that I once again hit a breaking point. I had been using the pain as an excuse and realized that unless I started using my body the way it was meant to be used, I would always be in pain.  

What was/is your plan of action?
I eat clean: nothing processed, no sugar, no artificial sweeteners, no bread, no pasta, no rice. I follow a ketogenic diet, which focuses on healthy fats along with moderate protein and very limited carbohydrates. It triggers the body to burn fat stores for energy. This, combined with my workouts, has kept the scale moving in a downward direction. I work out at least five times a week, usually at 4 a.m. Working out in the early hours charges me for the day, and the gym is never crowded. I always do some cardio and then alternate days of strength and core training. I do work with a trainer and yes, it’s expensive, but it’s an investment I’m making in myself.  

How long have you been working your “plan” and what has been your result so far? What further health and fitness goals do you have and how do you intend to reach them?
I started clean eating in April 2015 and have been working out since July 2015. My results have been great; I should reach my ultimate goal by July 2016. I haven’t really had any setbacks yet, and I just shake off discouragement. I’m lucky to be surrounded by positive and encouraging people.  I intend to reach my goals for health and fitness doing exactly what I’m doing now and changing things up when I have to. My goals are simply focused on being the best possible version of myself. I owe that to myself and my daughter. She deserves to have me around for a very long time.   

What are your best fitness tips and advice for other nail techs who need encouragement to embark on a healthy lifestyle?
Stay away from the scale. I weigh myself once a month just to keep myself aware. Daily weigh-ins can mess with your head. Weekly is OK, but even that can be an issue, especially once you start replacing fat with muscle. Muscle is denser and takes up less space than fat.  So, as you build muscle tissue and kick the fat out of the way, your body becomes leaner.  And yes, you need to lift weights!  Muscle continues to burn fat long after the workout is over.  Ladies, don’t worry about becoming big or bulky. We don’t have enough testosterone for that. Also, drink at least a gallon of water daily — it’s so important on any weight loss plan. The most important piece of advice, though, is that whatever you do, do it for YOU.  

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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