Meet a Health Hero: Kiera Smalls

Read more about City Fit Girls founder Kiera Smalls, a semi-finalist in our 2013 Health Hero Challenge!

>> You can vote for Kiera on our Facebook page September 10-16. Mark your calendar!

Name: Kiera Smalls

Occupation: Personal trainer and founder/blogger at City Fit Girls

Who or what motivates you to be healthy?
I am motivated to be healthy by my experiences growing up in a household where health and fitness was not a priority. My immediate family wasn’t physically active and they didn’t know much about fitness or nutrition. Meals were often unhealthy, processed junk foods and frozen vegetables. My school lunch was mostly composed of chips, soda and candy from the corner store. I battled with obesity and asthma throughout my childhood and much of my young adult life due to my family’s unhealthy eating and smoking habits. As an adult, I learned that I could take charge of my health by changing my diet, choosing not to smoke, and making fitness a part of my daily life. I then realized that by changing my habits, I could inspire my family and friends to do the same.

Describe a health or fitness related turning point?
During my senior year of college, I won an award at a National Student Conference in Virginia. As I walked up to the stage to accept my award, I realized that my shirt fit too tight and my pants were very uncomfortable. It had been a while since I wore this outfit so I had not noticed how much weight I really gained until that moment. I was so embarrassed! After the ceremony, I vowed to take my health more seriously. I never wanted to feel so uncomfortable and self-conscious again.

What “policy” would you institute to make Greater Philadelphia a healthier region?
I would institute a policy that requires companies with at least 100 employees to offer a workplace wellness program that promotes healthy lifestyles in the office and in the home. Although employee participation would be voluntary, it is important for companies to make a wellness program an option since many of our decisions regarding breakfast, lunch and dinner or physical activity is scheduled around our workday.

As the leader of the wellness program at my office, I witness firsthand how unhealthy lifestyle choices impact the workday; from rising health insurance costs to employee absenteeism. Accessibility to information surrounding nutrition, work-life balance, preventative health and physical activity can help increase productivity in the workplace.

What is the most important part of your health and fitness regimen?
Maintaining a healthy diet. I’ve adopted a plant-based diet of mostly fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and legumes, and it has made tremendous improvement to my overall health. I have seen improvements in many aspects of my life, including my ability to stay active longer, a decrease in emergency room visits due to asthma attacks, and feeling energetic after meals instead of feeling tired or drowsy.

What is your number one piece of health-related advice?
Sometimes your friends, family or coworkers may poke fun at you; they can’t understand why you bring your own food to a cookout or count calories at every meal. That’s okay. Let them know that you’re taking control of your health and this is what you need to do in order to stay focused. You never know what you can accomplish or who you will inspire when you stay true to yourself and your health.