Losing A Mother At An Early Age, Body Shaming, & Inspiring Health & Wellness

I’m so excited to introduce The Chic Series community to a very special & inspiring individual: Christina Canterino.

Christina and I initially connected through a mutual friend.  Someone forwarded on a class that I was teaching for The Movemeant Foundation – a charity that raises money to help promote positive body image through working out – onto Christina.

The class couldn’t have been more fitting for Christina’s mission in life.  After exchanging emails she unfortunately couldn’t attend but we realized that there were so many similarities in our lives.  Both from NY having grown up on Long Island I needed to hear more about why she was down here in Charlotte, so I started asking questions.  Our email exchange lead me to realize that Christina is not only someone that you want to be around but someone that you want in your life.

Her energy and passion to live everyday to the fullest is infectious and her love for working out is a full mind body experience that she passes on to others inspiring people along the way.  Even though she is living in the south her NY attitude which I love so much is still very much there – that makes two of us.  She is strong yet so sweet something that is most likely unrelated to where she resides but more likely due to her upbringing.

Christina and I were finally able to connect in person at the inspirational meet-up I held a few months back.  If you are unfamiliar with this relatively new series you can read more here. Thankfully, Christina is allowing me to share my story with everyone so you can be inspired to try and find the positive light in your next negative experience in life.

Christina you are an inspiration on so many levels and here is why….

Meet Christina Canterino:

If your best friend was to describe you, what would she say?

I actually did ask two of my best friends to describe me and this is what they said:

Alla – “In the years that I have known Christina I have seen her go through some difficult seasons and come out on the other side stronger, hopeful and positive. She is incredibly driven and determined,  pushing herself and motivating others around her to be their best selves. Christina has been a great friend to me and my world would be a little bleaker if she wasn’t a part of it. I am so proud of Christina and all her accomplishments thus far, her future is bright and I believe wholeheartedly she will achieve whatever goals she sets for herself!”

Amanda – “I would say that you’re hilarious, highly motivated, great friend and love your family.”

What was your relationship like with your mom?

My relationship with my mom was amazing, and as all mother/daughter relationships, ever evolving. Of course when I was 16 I thought I knew everything and my mom knew nothing. Then at 25 we became best friends. The two of us went on a girls trip to Paris for my 25th birthday and we had just started hanging out, grabbing drinks, and going on double dates. I wish I could have seen what the next phase of our relationship would have been…

Losing A Mother At An Early Age:

While I’m sure this is still emotional for you, can you please share your story?

Tuesday, February 4th 2014 was the worst day of my life.

My brother texted me around 8am that morning to tell me my mom passed out in the shower and was waiting for an ambulance to come pick her up. She had had an abdominoplasty about 5 days prior. It only went downhill the rest of the morning after his text.

My aunt called me around 10am to tell me my mom was in the ICU because she had blood clots that had traveled to her lungs. She told me that I should head back to my apartment and my uncle would come pick me up shortly. After I let my boss know what was going on I get another call from my aunt, more desperate this time… Uncle Christian is on his way.

What felt like hours later… no one responding to texts… no one picking up their phones… my uncle finally arrives at my apartment. The look on his face when he got to my door said everything.

I remember my legs giving out on me and falling to the floor hysterical. The 45 minute ride from Astoria to the hospital on Long Island was brutal.

When we finally got there and I finally saw her it still was not real. It still isn’t real. I have just “accepted” it. Mostly. The days following were all a blur. Planning a funeral is not something a 26 year old girl, her 23 year old brother and 50 year old father should ever have to do for their 49 year old mother.

The part that I found the hardest was picking out a coffin. I don’t know why out of the whole process why that hit me the hardest but I would never wish that task upon anyone. Since my mother passed away I have completely changed the trajectory of my life. Working out became my outlet and once I started there was no turning back. When I realized how great it made me feel, I wanted to make others feel the same way.

Tell us about your mom.

She was the best mom ever. Period.

She loved her family and I knew we were always her number one priority. She had just been promoted to a big job as Head of Office Administration at a private equity firm in New York City. We were lucky enough to work right across the street from each other on Park Avenue so we were able to have lunch together often. She was the type of person you could always depend on and rarely had anything negative to say about anyone. She let me make all of my own decisions, even if she knew I was wrong. I always had to find out for myself.

“She loved to travel and loved to shop even more.”

I remember her telling me one day “If I ever see a piece of DVF for under $150, I am buying it”. To this day I hear her saying that whenever I see any DVF on sale. She loved a good sale, even if the sale price was $500. She could always rationalize it in her head. Also, she made the best guacamole ever and you could always count her in for a shaker or 2 of cosmopolitan’s.

My mom loved her life and lived it to the fullest. Although most of her career she was an extremely busy assistant to high powered CEOs, I felt like she was always great at making time for herself and doing things that made her happy. She truly was amazing and that was definitely shown by the amount of people who came to her funeral. It was overwhelming how long the lines were out the door with all of the people who she had touched in her all too short life. Billy Joel said “only the good die young” and in this case he was 100% correct. She was as close to perfect as you can get so I truly believe she was taken from me because she was needed for a much bigger role…

If you were given one more day together what would you do?

This is a hard question because one more day is just not enough. I wish I had 18,000 more days. Going to London was going to be our next trip together so if I had to pick one thing I would fly over for a day of shopping at Harrods and afternoon tea followed by some Scotch eggs, fish and chips and a beer. That would be the perfect London day for us.

“She was as close to perfect as you can get so I truly believe she was taken from me because she was needed for a much bigger role.”

What has this experience taught you in life?

DO NOT STRESS ABOUT THE SMALL THINGS… and to stress MUCH less about the big ones. Life is too short to worry. Everything will end up as it should. You just have to have faith….

Is there a quote that you live by in life?

Everything happens for a reason… so cliché but so true. You may not know the reason right away but time will tell.

Fill in the blank – When life hands you lemons….

find some vodka and make a lemon drop martini!

You already have a demanding job at Wells Fargo and you decided to take on the role of teaching and training people.  Why is this something you are so passionate about?

I started my weight loss journey in 2013. I have since then lost about 60lbs. After my mom passed away I decided that I needed to make some life changes. Living a happy and healthy life was on the top of my list. I joined the amazing gym, Equinox, and started taking Tabata and other high intensity interval classes that they offered. I was hooked early on because the group trainer, Greg James, and class style, were awesome.

It was actually in these classes that I decided I wanted to become a personal trainer and motivate others the way that Greg motivated me. I started to see changes and feel significantly better overall. It was addicting and wanted others to feel the same way that I did. I am one of the few people who actually LOVE to workout. I do not know what I would do without it in my life. It is so rewarding to watch my clients at Elite Functional Performance get stronger, lose weight and become so much happier with themselves.

Finding the light in dark alley is never easy.

You are helping women look and feel beautiful when they might not be able to see it.  Thank you for pursuing this project.  While rocking your own self-confidence you had an interesting run in with a gym owner “body-sharing/shaming”.  How are you working to change this mentality?

The loss of my mother has completely changed my life. I’m now devoted to bettering myself and others both physically and mentally. I want to help every woman feel confident in their own body. I want to encourage them to feel comfortable while they are working out. Personally, I strive to lead by example. Showing confidence in my body and even in the clothes that I wear while I work out. It is my goal to make women conquer their insecurities and body image issues. I believe this will help them live a happier, more self-fulfilling life.

In almost every single fitness ad in magazines and even on television the model is primary pictured in just a sports bra. Heck, almost every female athlete in the Olympics wore just their sports bra to compete. That being said,

“I just don’t think it’s right to impose any kind of restriction on what a women can and cannot wear (within the lines of decency).”

Especially at a gym. With that being said, I have an unfortunate story about a couple of women who do not agree with my lifestyle…

Never in my 29 years have I ever heard of someone being told at their gym that your midriff is not allowed to be visible while working out. I especially wouldn’t think about it at a UFC branded gym. Their walls are plastered with life sized photos of popular male UFC fighters shirtless alongside Rhonda Rousey and other amazing female UFC fighters. All dressed in their typical gym attire – sports bras. Even when you pull up the website the first thing you see on the homepage is a women being trained in a UFC weight room dressed in, you guessed it, a sports bra and short shorts.

At first, I had no idea how to react after the owner of this UFC Gym franchise pulled me to the side to tell me that…

“I was not allowed to work out in my sports bra and my midriff had to be covered at all times.”

I was dumbfounded. Honestly, I was so unprepared for something like that to come out of another woman’s mouth that I literally had no words. The franchise is actually owned by not only one, but 2 middle-aged sisters.

I had been working out there for a few weeks, getting into my groove, taking my tank off when it inevitably became soaked with sweat. I didn’t hear a peep from anyone. The main female owner who runs the day to day business didn’t seem to mind. However, when her sister took a class one Saturday while I was doing Tabata in the corner, all I felt was her staring at me the entire time. She must not have been focusing on her own workout because every time I looked up I saw her glaring. The next time I went in to work out, in a place I view as a health sanctuary, I was told this ridiculous news. Which inevitably mean, I could no longer dress like this to my gym…

“My body-shaming experience actually gained momentum and was picked up by Well + Good as other women around the country had been experiencing something similar.”

I honestly didn’t realize how passionate I was about this issue until I let what happened resonate in my head for a bit. I realized my right to work out in just a sports bra was important to me. Some people may think: What’s the big deal? You can’t work out without your abs showing? But I see a much larger social issue here.  My body-shaming experience actually gained momentum and was picked up by Well + Good. Other women around the country had been experiencing something similar.

What are they going to tell us we can or cannot wear next? And how will that make women feel about their body, if they cannot express themselves with confidence. Being told to cover up is not empowering, especially in a place you go to chisel your body. I can’t decide if what happened to me is a form of oppression or body shaming or a mixture of both, but I am very upset by the major step back this is for women.

Why did you want to participate in this Series of Inspirational Stories?

I wanted to inspire women that you can always bounce back when life takes a unexpectedly bad turn. You should always stay positive and know that everything really does happen for a reason. It may not be the route you thought your life would take or even what you wanted. But you always have to live your life to the fullest. You never know when it is going to be taken from you.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

The amount of tears there were shed while answering these questions makes me realize it never gets easier. It is just different. I think of her in different ways now. I am much stronger than I have ever been but the hurt never goes away. Some days I can talk about it and feel totally fine. I can disconnect myself, tell my story and get my point across. Other times the second someone asks me how my parents are when I tell them I went home, I can’t keep it together long enough to walk away. It is a journey… and it is evolving. Always stay strong. Always do YOU. And never take you family for granted.

Can people reach out to you and if so where?

You can reach me on my Instagram… ccfitproclt… shoot me a DM and we will connect!

Thank you to Christina for sharing her incredible story.  You are such an inspiration and the world is lucky to have people like you that find the light in a what seems like a hole of darkness.

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