Inspires Her Latina Social Media Following to Do The Same
Carmen Melgoza had a successful accounting career, but a sedentary lifestyle and a broken relationship took their toll. Her fitness journey and absolute determination to lose 50 pounds are nothing short of inspirational. Driven by unbounded passion and a work ethic shaped by a migrant farmworker family, a side gig as a fitness and wellness coach eventually took off and became a full-time endeavor and business. She founded the Latino Fit Club, an online publication with an emphasis on health, nutrition, fitness and well-being for the Hispanic community in the US and Latin America. Carmen has been featured on Univision’s “Primer Impacto,” La Opinion, Latina Magazine, CNN, Telemundo, and Dr. Oz The Good Life magazine. She is a proud American Heart Association Ambassador sharing valuable heart and health-related content with thousands of followers on social media and is also a life-time contributor to the non-profit Orphaned Earring, which gives support to impoverished communities in Central and South America.
How did growing up on a ranch in Mexico with a large family shape the values you hold today?
I am the second youngest of 12 siblings, so you can imagine all the different personalities everyone has. Having that many siblings has allowed me to relate to others and empathize with every person I encounter. As part of a big family, we were not used to large portions of food. We ate a lot of locally grown produce my father and uncles cultivated as farmers. Eating small portions of food was a natural thing because there were so many mouths to feed. Little did I know this way of eating is the best way to stay healthy.
Tell us a little about your transition from living in Mexico to migrating to the US. What was this change like for you?
I was 17 years old when I arrived in the US. My younger siblings all came along with me while others stayed in Mexico and immigrated at a later time. Arriving in the US was a culture shock because I did not know the language. I felt like I didn’t belong here and it was very difficult to adapt to a brand new experience. Little by little, I began learning English, but it was difficult to learn a new language at 17 years old. The food was also very different. Everything was fast-food and we were not accustomed to that in Mexico.
After graduating from college with a BA in accounting, you led a sedentary office lifestyle. What effects did this have on your body and emotional well-being?
Working at a corporate office job made me gain undesired weight and I began to not recognize myself. I couldn’t believe how my life had turned, always eating out, not making smart choices with food and sometimes skipping meals. I would turn to unhealthy food for comfort because of my very demanding and stressful job in accounting. I would sometimes work 10-12 hours a day and even more during tax season.
During this time in your life, your father died of a heart attack. Do you believe unhealthy habits contributed to his condition?
To a certain extent carrying unhealthy habits in our family did contribute to my father suffering a heart attack. I could see that all of us as a family were not carrying the best habits, but this was a wake-up call for us to change our health habits. I also believe that his work-related stress that he endured caused him to suffer a heart attack.
Can you describe the “ah-ha” moment when you decided to change your life and start focusing on your overall health?
The “ah-ha” moment definitely came when I lost my father to a heart attack and when I was living with all that work stress myself. I did not want the same thing to happen to me if I continued on that path. I had to make a switch. So I did because I knew I wanted to live a healthy life and begin inspiring others.
Why did you decide to share your weight loss journey on social media?
I knew that there was a lot of misinformation and a lack of information on how to create healthy habits, especially in my Latino community. While I was trying to find easy to understand information on how I could adopt a healthy lifestyle, I could not find anything that would help me make gradual changes. That was the perfect time for me to make a change for myself, but also be the change that I was not finding on the internet. So I decided to document what I was doing on social media. Little did I know that years later I would be helping thousands of women change their lifestyle thanks to social media.
How has the support of an online community encouraged and pushed you to keep with your health and fitness goals?
We all know what to do to live healthy, exercise and eat a balanced diet, however without the support and accountability of a community it’s very easy to ride the weight loss rollercoaster. So being a part of an online community has helped me along with thousands of other women to stay committed to their health and fitness goals.
What did you have to learn to become a wellness and fitness coach?
I had to learn the importance of good nutrition without dieting or sacrificing the food that you love to eat with only a healthy twist to recipes allowing you to still enjoy them. Living this lifestyle has become a passion. It’s so easy for me to help others to start a healthy journey.
Tell us about the Latino Fit Club (LFC) and what are some of the biggest success stories coming out of LFC?
There are so many success stories that I can talk about, but I will focus on two of them. A single mom and owner of a beauty salon struggled so much to lose weight, and when we started working together, everything changed for her. She was able to lose over fifty pounds in three months by following my advice and being part of the Latino Fit Club online community. There’s another story of a 65-year-old woman who suffers from arthritis, was pre-diabetic for over 30 years, and always tried to follow a diet only to find out that her pre-diabetic condition was still there. Through her participation in LFC, she has improved her condition and is no longer pre-diabetic, her arthritis has lessened and she works out four to six days a week without any pain. Along the way, she has lost thirty pounds and is an extremely healthy grandmother.
What does being a “Jefa Latina” mean to you?
Being a Jefa Latina embodies independence, resilience and being a badass in a positive context. I love that I can inspire other women to thrive as their own boss without the need to work in Corporate America. There’s nothing wrong with working in a corporate job, but we are a new generation that simply enjoys having more flexibility in our schedule. We do not want to be confined to a cubicle, and we are hungry for new daily experiences that an office job setting can’t provide. Being a Jefa Latina also means empowerment. There are very few Latina owned businesses, and knowing that I am part of this new trend is invigorating and exciting.
Your husband, Gustavo is also into fitness. What kinds of fitness activities do you do together?
My husband and I met through the love of fitness. In August 2014, when I was training for the San Francisco Nike Marathon, I would train in downtown Los Angeles. Gustavo and I had just met on social media, and I invited him to come run with me since he worked less than a mile away from where I would be training. He said yes, and our first date was running in downtown Los Angeles. I will never forget that day. Before having our son, we would always workout together. Now each one of us does it in their own time. We enjoy our daily walks as a family around the neighborhood, hiking and swimming.
How do you encourage each other to be at your best physically and mentally?
At first, I would remind Gustavo to do his workouts and remind him of the importance of having a balanced diet, but now we both keep each other on our toes, and I love that. We are firm believers that motivation comes from within, but we do motivate each other to listen to self-development content and audio books to be mentally prepared for whatever obstacle life might throw at us. We invest at least one to two hours in listening to positive self-development daily. When we are driving, we hardly ever listen to the radio, we’d rather put on some podcasts, and our time watching television is limited to one hour a day.
How old is your son, Adriel now and what are some of his favorite healthy foods you prepare for him?
My son is 14 months old, and he loves everything I prepare for him. He’s been eating home-cooked meals from six months old, and I look forward to preparing all of his food at home every single day. I make sure it’s healthy, he eats according to his age and that I know all of the ingredients in each meal. His favorite foods are spinach crepes and sweet potato pancakes. Oh, right now, he’s big on strawberries too.
How do you create healthy versions of traditional Latin foods for your family?
There are so many ways to make unhealthy Latin dishes healthy. You simply learn to switch some ingredients for others and learn that not everything needs to be saturated with salt or other ingredients that our parents would use, which were not always the most healthy options. I love creating Latin dishes that are a spin-off of my mom’s food but in a healthier version.
What’s one of your favorite “mommy and me” exercises?
I always advocate for moms to do their workouts with their children around because it’s always so much more fun. From a young age, we are teaching them the importance of moving and staying active. My favorite “mommy and me” exercise would be squats. My 14-month-old son will stand next to me and do them along with me. He loves to see mom and dad working out, and he always joins. It’s the cutest thing ever.
How did you get your start doing guest spots on TV as a fitness expert?
Being a positive role model in the community has allowed me to be featured in several Spanish-language programs for my fitness knowledge. Staying consistent on my social media has allowed producers to find me and ask me to be a part of their programming. When I’ve been invited as a guest on some of these programs producers have mentioned that my story is relatable to that of the immigrant community.
What was one of your favorite experiences being on TV?
My favorite experience being on TV was the first time I appeared on a local newscast. Who would’ve thought that a humble girl from a ranch in Mexico would be invited to be part of a newscast? My family was very proud of me and so was my community. After this experience, I was later invited to appear on countless other TV programs throughout my career.
How did you get involved with the American Heart Association, and how did you become an ambassador for them?
The American Heart Association of Los Angeles reached out to me thanks to my consistent social media platform and being an influencer who promotes health and wellness. They asked me to be a speaker at one of their events to talk about keeping healthy habits, making small changes and not sacrificing your well-being to be healthy. After that event, we continued to stay in touch and I’ve been invited to many other events organized by the American Heart Association. In 2018 they launched their very first ambassador program in Los Angeles, and my husband and I were both invited to be Ambassadors promoting key messaging from the American
Heart Association on our social media outlets.
What does your typical daily workout look like?
I follow home fitness workouts. I do at least 20 minutes a day of exercise and more some days. My fitness routines have changed dramatically since becoming a mom. I used to be the girl waking up at 5 a.m. to work out, now I sleep in with my baby and do my workout in the afternoon. I will always make time to work out because that is my “me time.” For me, working out is a de-stressor, and it’s a way for me to re-fill my tank so that I can be more present, energized and relaxed.
What projects are you excited about and working on now?
I recently launched a baby recipe ebook and an ebook of healthy recipes using an air fryer. I am preparing a second edition for both books because they have been extremely successful, and my followers want more. I am always working on my mentorship program helping women to find their best version of themselves and start working hard towards their dreams. Once we get over this pandemic, I am planning on getting out more in my new community of Fresno, California to partner with local community organizations.
You can read this in our Summer 2020 issue