Take one look at rising fitness star Natalie Jill, and it is immediately apparent that the woman in front of you is a serious healthy lifestyle expert: Natalie rocks powerfully sculpted abs, toned legs, and super-strong arms. But her body didn’t always look this way — a fact about which she is inspiringly honest. Jill is completely open about her journey into the health and fitness world, which has been filled with many speed bumps and setbacks. It is that perseverance that makes her so relatable to her 450k+ faithful Instagram fans, and is arguably the key to her success.

Fit Nation: On your website, you note that your fitness journey began with some big losses, saying, “I lost my house, my retirement, my marriage ended and I gained a lot of weight. I turned it all around …” We would like to especially highlight the “I turned it all around” part. Did you have a particular moment or experience (that ah-ha! moment) that made you want to turn it all around?

Natalie Jill: Yes! And I remember that day so clearly. I was walking with my daughter and my dogs, and I caught a glimpse of my reflection in a window. When I saw myself, I saw things hanging on me that I didn’t recognize. I will never forget that moment — it has been imprinted in my memory forever. I was out of shape, depressed, going through a divorce, and working through terrible financial times.

I thought to myself, “Who is this person, and how did I let myself get here?” Me, of all people! I  cared about nutrition, had a passion for working out, and was always strong and healthy — but I had become someone I didn’t even recognize. I think that, because I was so depressed at the time, I didn’t want to deal with it, let alone believe it.

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I thought, “I’m so out of shape right now, but I guess in my dream world I always knew I wanted to do something with fitness.” I made a vision board and put up pictures of a fit lifestyle, happiness, and a house by the beach. I decided to start my life over, make a change for myself, and move into fitness and nutrition full-time.

FN: What inspires you every morning to wake up and live your healthiest life possible?

NJ: Knowing that even though there is so much we can’t control, there is also so much that we can, just by choosing our actions and attitude. I know that my choices affect my day and, ultimately, my life. I decide every morning to add positive people into my life and to engage in healthy habits throughout the day.

FN: What is the best lesson you’ve learned from your newfound career? Is there anything in particular you learned about yourself that you hadn’t known before?

NJ: I learned that being real and myself is good enough and will inspire others. I spent so much of my life trying to be what I thought other people wanted. When I finally just starting being me, and sharing what I do and like, that is when my true calling emerged. I encourage others to work towards building their unique strengths and becoming the best version of themselves, as opposed to trying to be what they think others want them to be.

FN: Which fitness program would you deem best for a fitness “newbie” visiting your site for the first time? Is there a certain beginner-style plan that newcomers wouldn’t be so intimidated about trying?

NJ: I would definitely suggest starting with my 7-Day Jump Start, as it will teach them the basics and get them started with the right nutrition and lifestyle habits.

For working out, I recommend my newest DVD, Total Body Weight Workouts for Beginners. This is for those who have never worked out before, have a lot of weight to lose (50+ lbs), or have trouble laying down and getting up from the ground, or have injuries that prevent them from regular workouts. No weights, no equipment, no gym membership needed. You can do this all in their home for approximately 10–15 minutes per day.

FN: Can you tell us a few things about yourself that your fan base may not know?

NJ: I have had back issues that have prevented me from doing the workouts I used to love and thrive on! All of my new programs are designed to prevent back pain and lessen symptoms. I also have an autoimmune disease called Celiac Sprue—my body can’t process gluten, so I have been gluten-free for 15+ years now.

Related: Gluten-Free Gingersnaps Recipe

I did not do any fitness modeling until the age of 39! I gained over 50 pounds while I was pregnant, and am now 60 pounds lighter than my pregnancy weight. It helps that I have a type-A personality and am obsessed with making lists and checking things off. 

FN: Do you have a guilty pleasure you sometimes indulge in when it comes to food, and if so, what is it?

NJ: Loaded baked potatoes — with the works!

FN: What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given, and what is the best advice you like to give to your clientele?

NJ: My best advice is something that dates back to my childhood and has stuck with me throughout my 43 years. It’s a saying that can be applied to almost every aspect of life — business, relationships, finances, etc. — and it’s something I work to teach my daughter daily: “It is no one else’s fault!” I’m not sure who the first person was to say that to me; maybe it was my nursery school teacher, or maybe it was my dad, but it stuck throughout my life and has become my mantra. When you accept that it is no one else’s fault, you accept accountability, start looking for solutions, and start accomplishing everything you want to achieve.

FN: What are the next steps for Natalie Jill Fitness? What can we look forward to in the future from you?

NJ: So many great things are coming up! The biggest new project right now is the launch of my new Stronger Program this September.

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