The story of Kristi Youngdahl’s journey from shopping at Lane Bryant to posing for Oxygen Magazine is one of faith and strength—a powerful source of hope and inspiration for every woman struggling through weight gain and depression. Once the average overweight mom, Kristi is now gratefully living out her Divine Purpose as a personal trainer, fitness model, motivational speaker, and ambassador for health and fitness icons Tosca Reno and Cathy Savage. Through the Inspired Fitness online personal training program, Kristi empowers women everywhere to follow in her footsteps and start writing a new chapter of their own. What she has to offer is unique, because she knows first hand just how challenging the path to health and healing can be…
Kristi grew up in rural Minnesota, and, like any true country girl, she loved horses. A competitive rodeo athlete in high school, she maintained a lean figure with little effort. She was vibrant, positive and full of life and love. But as her circumstances changed, so did her body—and her outlook soon followed. After the birth of her first child, Kristi found herself 85 pounds overweight, stuck in a spiral of negativity, and completely overwhelmed.
My obesity was just an outward sign of what I was feeling on the inside. I no longer knew who I was or even who I wanted to be. I felt lost.
Kristi loved her daughter Morgan and her husband Todd deeply, and she thought she was expressing that love by neglecting her own needs to care for them. But, as she later realized, putting herself aside left her with less and less to give to them. Instead of meeting the day with excitement as she once had, Kristi now had to battle depression just to get herself out of bed in the morning. Every day it became harder to find joy in her life, even with the family she loved so much. She struggled through nearly five years feeling ashamed and hopeless until a moment of clarity in front of the mirror started her down a new path.
I looked deep inside myself that day, and instead of despair, what I found was hope. I wanted health and happiness. I deserved health and happiness. And I knew I would have to work hard to get it back. But I also knew that God had more planned for me and my family, and I trusted him to give me what I needed to make a change.
At first Kristi tried dramatically cutting calories and eating nothing but “lean” microwave dinners, followed by hours on the treadmill. But when that approach landed her in the hospital with heart palpitations, she knew she had to find a better way—a way that didn’t threaten to take her away from the family she loved so dearly. She needed knowledge and guidance from someone who had walked the road before her. That’s when she found Tosca Reno’s The Eat-Clean Diet and fell in love with a new way of seeing her body, her health and herself.
As soon as she got home with the book, Kristi cleaned out her kitchen. Every cupboard, every shelf in the pantry, every inch of the fridge and freezer was stripped, until all she had left was a few apples and a bag of frozen peas.
As I sat there looking at my empty cupboards, it hit me just how hard this was going to be. But I had faith. From the very moment I opened Tosca’s book, everything in me said, ‘This is it. This is what you’ve been looking for.’ How could I argue with that? So I kept moving forward.
Kristi restocked her kitchen with clean food, ditched the treadmill for a set of weights, and started nurturing her body and soul with a new attitude. She quickly learned to prepare nutritious meals for her whole family, and, to her surprise, it wasn’t long before the dark circles under her five-year-old daughter’s eyes disappeared and her husband had more energy. She was the only one who was overweight, but she wasn’t the only one suffering the effects of an unhealthy diet.
Every day she saw new evidence that clean eating was making the whole family healthier, and she became even more committed to her goal. What started as a weight loss journey soon turned into a whole-life transformation. She was not only eating clean and training hard, she was also practicing gratitude, positivity, and self-love. And as she nourished herself with this new lifestyle, her vibrancy and joy were restored right along with her health and her figure. She was back!
This is who I was meant to be—who I have always been. I’m so thankful for those difficult years that helped me find clarity and direction.
Kristi knew she had found her calling. This was the Divine Purpose God had for her life! She became a certified personal trainer to help other women pave a path to wellness in their own way—but she wasn’t like the average trainer. She didn’t care much about the number on the scale, because she didn’t measure success that way anymore. Kristi was more interested in her clients’ health and happiness, their self-respect and self-worth. And without fail, the weight loss followed. This was her secret to success, and it made her a sought-after trainer in her area.
The Youngdahl family grew when Kristi’s second daughter Dru was born, and again when her son Hunter arrived. But this time things were different. Kristi had the tools she needed for a healthy pregnancy and she quickly returned to her pre-baby weight. Depression and obesity were nowhere to be seen. Instead she experienced more love and gratitude than ever before, and she reveled in her most important role: devoted mother to her three cherished children.
A few years later, Kristi decided to step outside her comfort zone to compete on a national stage, an intimidating but exciting goal. She joined the Cathy Savage Fitness team to prepare for Fitness Universe and Fitness America and, after months of hard work, was ecstatic to place at both shows.
Getting up on that stage for the first time was terrifying! But I knew in that moment that I had achieved my goal. I felt happy, confident, and proud.
It wasn’t long after she stepped off the competition stage in Vegas that Kristi decided to take a new leap, bringing her to yet another turning point in her journey. A faithful Oxygen reader, Kristi submitted her before and after photos to the magazine and was featured in the Future of Fitness column in February, 2011. Then Oxygen chose to publish her Success Story in July. The outpouring of support and gratitude she received from Oxygen readers revealed the power of her story and the impact she could have on other women by sharing it.
Her success and reputation as a trainer and now as a fitness competitor helped Kristi land a spokesmodeling contract with FitPro Milk. She loved being in front of the camera—something she couldn’t have imagined just a few years earlier—and this experience, along with the letters she continued to receive from women who had read and identified with her story, stirred her heart toward another passion.
Kristi’s desire to continue touching women’s lives on a grand scale led her to pursue fitness modeling, and she can now be found on the pages of Oxygen Magazine’s Off The Couch! 2012 Collector’s Issue as a model and contributor. Kristi was also recently included in Oxygen’s 10 Most Inspiring Success Stories. Her success confirms that the difficult years she weathered were all part of God’s plan to bring her to where she is today.
Kristi now shares her passion for clean eating as one of Tosca Reno’s Eat-Clean Ambassadors, and she’s helping other women prepare to hit the fitness competition stage with poise and confidence as an Ambassador for Cathy Savage Fitness. And, while you might think a personal trainer’s life would revolve around health and fitness, Kristi’s passion and dreams don’t end there.
Every woman has a purpose. Every woman has infinite value. And every woman has the innate power to create a fulfilling life for herself. I simply offer the guidance and support she needs to find her way.
Kristi longs to see Love Without Boundaries grow and continue to touch lives around the world. For more information about the organization, or to make a charitable donation, please visit www.lovewithoutboundaries.com.