A Personal Trainer Reveals Her Story
As a master trainer at 24 Hour Fitness (Kapiolani branch), Alana Ayat helps people achieve their health and fitness goals. Since joining the company in 2006, she’s logged 8,000 training sessions and has worked with hundreds of clients, including herself. Looking at her now, it’s hard to believe she once weighed 208 pounds.
“That was in the summer of 2000, at my sister’s wedding,” she recalls. “But I was 200 pounds in seventh grade. I was a very picky eater — fast food, cereal, something kid-friendly, no vegetables. Luckily, my dad put me in sports in eighth grade and I lost a substantial amount of weight, I think 40 pounds.
But I stopped playing sports when I was 17 (even with colleges recruiting her for volleyball) and gained most of my weight back.
“The turning point was my sister’s wedding. She was in this amazing shape and there was me at my heaviest again. I saw a picture of me and it clicked. I compared myself to the rest of my family and realized, wow, I’m real big and I’m only 17. I was going to start at University of Hawaii, and said, ‘I need to change my life. I wanted to be married one day, and I wanted to look in really good shape.’ I didn’t want to be heavy and uncomfortable my whole life because that’s how I felt at her wedding.”
Born and raised in San Diego, Ayat moved to Hawaii for the surf. And while the waves were good, she found that she didn’t enjoy her time in the water because she didn’t feel comfortable in a bikini, which, she notes, is what most girls wear here versus boardshorts. Fortunately, through her studies at UH, she learned about nutrition and weight training.
“I would talk to some of my professors and fellow gym-goers, and that’s when I realized people really don’t know what they’re doing. It’s really confusing, and that’s when I knew I wanted to be a trainer,” says Ayat, who graduated with a degree in exercise science in 2005. “I was able to recognize science and fads, and I really wanted to educate myself. I slowly lost 35 pounds, and then when I became a trainer at 24 Hour Fitness, I lost another 15 pounds. I was my first client.
“Today, I feel probably the best I’ve felt in a long time. I look at the workouts I do, and I’m in better shape at 33 than when I was at 18. I want people to know that it’s never too late. You can do the things you’ve always dreamed of. You just have to start and not be afraid, and if you don’t have the education, get help from someone who is experienced and knowledgeable.”
So, how did she lose the weight? She changed her diet from fast, junk and processed foods to a more-balanced diet of whole foods, fruits, vegetables and protein. She also incorporated exercise into her morning routine, doing 20 to 30 minutes of interval training for cardio followed by another 30 minutes of weight training.
She also made sure to eat breakfast every morning, and paid attention to calories — not just the amount of calories, but the type of foods those calories were coming from. “There are calories that come from nutrient-rich foods, and calories from nutrient-empty or calorie-rich foods,” she explains. “There’s a big difference.”
In 2012, Ayat took her fitness training to another level and entered the Paradise Cup bikini competition. “I did it to feel comfortable in a bikini for the first time in my life,” she says. “I never wore one, or if I did, it was with family and I would be in a coverup the whole time. My family flew out, and they were all crying because I’ve never done anything like this. People who knew my story (including her husband, former UH football kicker Justin Ayat) were very supportive and proud. I was proud of myself.”
She also hopes to continue to inspire others to live a healthy lifestyle, especially parents.
“I have a soft spot for overweight children,” she says.