Brand Hero - Paige Miller
My clients are my heroes. They bring a vibrancy and fulfillment to my life and livelihood, and their stories and perseverance continually amaze me. This Brand Hero series is dedicated to telling their stories and celebrating their successes.
Paige Miller, 26
Friend of honeybees and badass powerlifter
Paige was my first client and is my first Brand Hero. I am lucky to now call her one of my dearest friends. I catch myself talking about her to friends, to new clients, to anybody who will listen to me gush over this wonderful, beautiful, and amazing woman.
Paige set a goal to transform into a leaner and stronger self, and showed up to our first session with a positive attitude and a million questions. Her interest and engagement in her own fitness and lifestyle journey was evident from the start. She listened and trusted that I had her best interest at heart and would do everything in my power to help her achieve her goal.
Did it work? Let’s find out.
Hi Paige, can you share a bit about yourself?
I was born and raised in Southern California in a really boring suburban town. I graduated from high school at 17 and moved to the Bay Area for college and studied Political Science. I actually worked for a senator at a political consulting firm and learned that it wasn’t something I wanted to pursue as a career. I’ve been trying to find my passion ever since, and then we met at a Weekend Warrior class at the gym. We had a lot of fun in that class - I remember leaving exhausted but empowered! I’m still not sure where I’m going professionally, but I found a hobby that I love in weightlifting. It sparked something in my brain that not only made me want to pursue being more active but also a well rounded person.
How did that start exactly?
I’ve always had really bad body issues, but the breakdown where I finally snapped and said, “This is it, I’m changing my life!”, was when I was hired to work for Dianne Feinstein and needed to buy professional clothing like suits. I remember trying stuff on and I was a size 18. I was 20 years old and sobbing by myself in the changing room. I called my mom and signed up for a gym membership and for Weight Watchers that day. I dropped a good amount of weight over the next few months, but I didn’t have any education around fitness and nutrition. I thought that tracking points would work. Really, I was just eating garbage processed food because it fit the points formula. When I stopped Weight Watchers I gained it all back and then some.
I decided that I would at least be active, so I went to the gym and started cardio because that was all I knew how to do. Weights were intimidating and I didn’t want to hurt myself or look like an idiot. I felt clumsy and wasn't sure what I was doing. I kept going to the gym on and off over the next three years and did cardio without any real progress. I was approached by a number of trainers and tried free sessions that were offered, but never worked with anyone because they didn’t seem worth the money.
But when I met you you didn't strike me as totally overweight and unable to exercise.
I used to go to Weekend Warrior classes at Crunch, which is where I met you. I also took spin classes and was pretty dedicated, but I still only felt comfortable doing cardio. I was also a vegetarian. I tried to not eat crap but my weight never really dropped past a certain point. When I met you I was about 163, and my highest was 187.
A year before we met I started a new job that provided breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. I also drank a lot with my co-workers and gained a bunch of weight. I switched jobs and promised myself that I would not let myself go like that again. I cooked for myself and brought my lunch to work and gradually started to lose some of the weight that I had gained, but still didn’t understand how to optimize nutrition to speed up fat loss. As a vegetarian I thought, “How much healthier can I get? I’m eating fucking plants”. It was discouraging and frustrating to lose only a pound every two months. I managed to maintain but still stayed chubby.
Fortunately, this new job also provided a gym membership, and I decided to go back on a regular basis. I started taking a class and learned about weighted HIIT, and it felt almost like a personal training session because very few people showed up. I didn’t gain any real muscle mass and I still didn’t know how to eat well, but it was fun, I was determined, and I started to mimic what I learned on my own time. It felt like I was doing ok, and personal training still seemed like a luxury that I couldn’t afford
We met shortly after that at the gym and had a blast. I remember being the only two people who were excited to do extra sets, and the death glares that we got from everyone.
I saw you as a strong, lean, beautiful cut woman. I wondered what the fuck you were doing in that class, and didn’t realize that you worked there as a trainer until we started talking after. It was the first time ever that I had a conversation with a trainer who was not pushing sessions. Our conversation felt easy and natural. We just clicked, and for the first time I realized that I was open to the idea of personal training. I saved up and eventually bought a bunch of sessions with you. You seemed worth it and you clearly fucking were. The money that I spent working with you is literally the best money I’ve ever spent on any single thing. Our sessions changed my life.
I’m so happy to hear that. Thank you! We started training three times a week. What did you want to get out of our sessions? What was your goal?
I’ve been overweight my entire life. I love food. I was lazy. I’ve always wanted to feel comfortable in my body. One goal I set was to one day be able to walk around in a crop top without feeling like everyone around me was looking in disgust. I wanted to do a pull-up, and I wanted to do a Spartan type race. I wanted to prove to myself that I was not some overweight wheezing person.
The way I viewed myself and the way I felt in my body affected a lot of things in my life. It impacted how I ate, my relationship with my boyfriend, and my relationship with my family. Not feeling comfortable in my body really fucked with me.
How did it impact your relationship with your boyfriend?
I felt bad that he would have to look at me naked. It was a really unhealthy way to view myself. I am a strong person, but I never felt beautiful or confident in my skin. I did not want to go out. I felt like people would look at us together and wonder what he was doing with someone like me. I carried an air of confidence about me but it was something that I learned to fake. I wanted to feel proud of my body and not hate what I saw in the mirror.
Was there a moment when you knew that this time was different? When did you know that your life and the way you view exercise and nutrition had changed for good?
Working with you gave me accountability. I learned that I had to be patient and stick to the plan and not give up. Before I would exercise and eat right for three weeks, not see the desired progress and give up.
We worked together for about a week, and then you sat me down and said that you needed concrete goals from me. You said that losing weight is great, but asked if I had specific goals and/or an event that I wanted to work towards. I had this music festival and pool party coming up two months later. I’ve been to it every year, and every year I wore full clothing instead of a swim suit. My goal was to feel comfortable with my body in a bathing suit. You said, “Okay, let’s do this”.
Right. That's when we really changed your meal plan. I remember that you resisted at first because you were vegetarian and didn't like the idea of eating meat. But then you decided to fully commit and do what it takes to reach your goal.
Yeah, because I trusted you! I wasn’t completely against eating meat, but my boyfriend at the time was vegetarian and my roommate was vegan so eating meat just did not happen at my house. I just didn’t buy meat. I thought it would be more expensive and I didn’t really know how to cook it so I just avoided it. But again I trusted you and I did exactly what you said.
Yes, you did! You became stronger, you lost weight and you learned how to fuel your body. I had to leave Crunch after that, and you had a bunch of sessions left. It was unfortunate, but you worked with another trainer you specializes in powerlifting to finish your session and I promised to continue helping you out however I could outside of training.
I stuck with my meal plan and started working with Vince and we mostly powerlifted. I remembered what you had taught me and I continued to bodybuild and train the way I had learned from you when I worked out on my own. I finished my remaining sessions and switched gyms to work with you again. We continued for about three more months and then realized that I had learned enough and was confident enough to do well on my own.
By that time you knew that I was much more interested in powerlifting than bodybuilding. I remember you bringing it up several times but I didn’t want to admit it (at least not out loud), because I really loved our time together and I loved seeing you in the morning and talking to you and working out with you. It was comforting to be around you but at some point you said, “I don’t think you need to be working with me anymore.” I remember thinking, “But I like it!”
I was certainly sad to lose you as a client as I enjoyed our sessions as well, but by that time we were friends and I knew that we would continue to see each other and hang out. It was absolutely clear that powerlifting was in your future. I was happy that you understood the importance of accessory work but powerlifting was definitely your thing. Anyway, tell me about the music festival.
IT FELT SO FUCKING GOOD!!! Showing up and seeing people that I would see every year since this music festival started was amazing. I remember showing up and setting up my tent and putting on my costumes. I had a feathered headdress and sparkling bathing suit and all my hippy shit and went to the pool and saw people I hadn’t seen in a year. Hearing them say, “Holy shit, you look great!” was incredible.
One of my friends even told me, ”You looked like a Greek goddess. You just glowed and you were strong and so confident.” I felt happy. It was the first time in my life that I was in a bikini and I felt sexy and attractive and I could dance and I didn’t worry about anything jiggling because they really wasn’t much to jiggle. It was awesome! I enjoyed the music I enjoyed my friends I was able to sit down without the concern of having to bring a towel to cover my tummy. I remember I walked around the grounds in jeans and a crop top (!!!), which was one of my goals, and people will comment on how great I looked and ask me what it was doing. It just felt good! I felt comfortable! I felt great! Yay!
I remember a text that you sent me shortly before you went to the music festival. You were shopping for a swim suit and it was the first time that you looked at yourself in a bikini and didn't cry.
I went to Victoria’s Secret. They had a killer sale and I was super stoked that my bra size went from a 38 to 34. I bought three really cute bikinis instead of having to dig through the less desirable stuff. Nobody should ever have to wear a tankini.
I was so proud of you what you had accomplished! So, tell me where you're at now - 18 months later.
I can confidently say that I have learned how to train and fuel my body the right way. I am currently preparing for my first powerlifting competition that is coming up in August. I have a real chance to do well which is amazing because I was never athletic. Any medal I have ever won was a participation medal. I never even enjoyed playing sports. It’s pretty cool to have something that I am good at, and I’ve only really seriously been training for the past six months.
When we started training I weighed 163 pounds. I now weigh 143 pounds. I was recently looking at pictures and that my mom sent me and my face was so much more round! I’m also now part of The Seventh Circle, one of the coolest gyms for strength athletes in the city. It’s incredibly inspiring to train with like-minded people.
In my office or in my life in general I am the person my friends talk with about health. It still feels a little weird. I don’t party any more. My life now is lifting and being healthy and that’s what I get the most joy out of and that’s what my identity kind of evolves around now. That’s something I’m really satisfied with. This lifestyle has also helped my mom, it’s helped several of my friends, it even helped a bunch of my acquaintances. People tell me often that I have inspired them to start working out and to not be afraid of being a woman and lifting weights. It’s really cool to hear that!
Ha, right. You are lifting heavy for one year now and you still look like a woman and not bulky at all.
Yes, exactly. My legs have gotten stronger and my biceps have gotten bigger but I don’t look manly in any sense of the word. I have a nice butt. My waist is smaller. My boobs are little deflated, but that’s okay. Funny enough I feel more feminine now than I ever have before because I know how my body works. I think my muscles are gorgeous and feminine. I definitely look better in dresses now than I ever have. That’s really nice!
So, before we wrap this up I want to quickly bring up one incident that I remember so vividly. We were not working together, but you started to get into powerlifting and had just reached a new Deadlift Personal Record.
I watched the video on social media and was so proud... but I was also was a bit concerned with your form and thought to myself, “How do I tell her without sounding like a total ass?” Also, I knew you were working with Vince and that he probably would address that during your next session.
It was shit! I watched the video the other day and my form was crap.
Well, I didn’t see it THAT way but I wanted to mention my concern without raining on your parade because I thought you did amazing. I wanted you to be aware that it could lead to injuries. I wanted to bring it up but didn’t quite know how because I had a feeling you’d be upset.
Yeah, I was really upset. I felt so guilty that I was working with Vince at that time. I felt like I was cheating on you. Even though it wasn’t your fault or mine that we couldn’t train together back then it still felt wrong. As silly as it sounds I literally felt stressed about it because I did not want you to think that was ungrateful. I also felt bad that I was enjoying working with Vince and that I loved powerlifting. Anyway, I looked at that video a few days ago and my form was definitely not nearly as good as I thought it was back then. I realize that I was rounding my back and that I could have hurt myself if I continued to lift that way. I was trying to hit the number and was lifting with my ego, rather than paying attention to my form.
Even though I was upset, that conversation taught me how to listen to people who are trying to help me and not take it personally. I learned that people that I am close to are not giving advice because they want to nitpick, but because they are concerned and they want to help me. Looking back I feel very bad about the way I reacted. It was a combination of the guilt that I was not able to work with you and that I enjoyed working with someone else. It was knowing that you were right. And that the thing that I was so proud of wasn’t as perfect as it should have been.
I don’t think there is a reason to feel bad. Part of what I like is that we have been able to overcome these things. We trust each other and trust that we have each other’s best interest in mind. Ok, to wrap this up. Looking back what has working with me done for you?
You have seriously changed my fucking life, I’ve never been this happy with myself both mentally and physically. I really mean that. Being a woman in the weight room is awesome! I look back at my life before meeting you and I have no idea what I was doing with my time. You are one of the most influential and amazing people I’ve ever met.
I understand the importance of discipline over motivation, because I learned that discipline was really the only way that you ever get anywhere. I have learned that I am in control of my body and how I feel. I don’t have to feel shitty. I don’t have to be unhappy with my body. If I don’t like the way I look or feel I can change that. If I look or feel a certain way it’s because I’ve made that happen.
For a long time I felt trapped in a body that I did not like and I didn’t know how to change that. It is incredibly liberating to feel beautiful in my own skin. When I walk past a mirror I sometimes think, “Hey, beautiful, looking good today.” (laughter)
Yes, it is comforting to know that you know what you need to do to feel good about yourself. Even if you fall off the wagon so to speak and get caught in eating shitty because of something life throws at you, you can always jump right back on.
Yes, it’s nice. It’s empowering! The world gets a little lighter. And that’s a great fucking feeling. Because the world can get heavy. And it’s just one less thing to worry about.
Paige has more than achieved her initial goals. She successfully participated in three Spartan races,...
...she can do (more than) one pull up,...
...and she is now totally excited to wear a crop top (We couldn’t find a photo of her in such attire so we show you a snapshots with her brother instead - badass clearly runs in the family).
Update August 2016
Paige wins 1st place in her first powerlifting competition!
Update December 2016
Paige wins 1st place in her second powerlifting competition!
Update May 2017
Paige wins 1st place in her third powerlifting competition! Notice a pattern here... So badass!