Back in 2000, Christian Smalls began a life-changing journey to embrace his own fitness and eventually become a personal trainer. A difficult, yet necessary, wake-up call to health hit him after his grandfather lost a leg to diabetes. Smalls knew there was a journey requiring personal strength, discipline and transformation ahead.
An IT professional at the time, Smalls weighed 300 pounds. He headed to the Cooper Institute in Dallas for help. “Once I took their training, I was able to apply that into my life,” he said. The nutritional knowledge led him to replace his favorite foods with a vegetarian, vegan and eventually pescatarian lifestyle. This diet, paired with an effective workout program, had Smalls well on his way.
“The first thing I had to change was the food addiction. Some of it is chemical, and some of it is habitual,” Smalls said. By focusing on foods that fuel the body, he successfully lost 80 pounds. “Certain foods release serotonin, which makes us feel good,” he explained. “Some people could have depression, and they will eat to mask the depression. We have to eat not just to feel good — but to be more healthy.”
Practice and motion form new habits, and while change doesn’t happen overnight, incremental and consistent actions drive results. “I love to cook, so I had to change the way I cooked,” he explained. Incorporating blood sugar-regulating foods like olive oil, colored vegetables and brown rice has helped Smalls avoid diabetes, and also reversed his acid reflux. “It was life changing,” he said.
His certification from the Cooper Institute opened the door for Smalls to pursue working as a personal trainer. He coaches clients ranging from 14-90 years of age, and is passionate about helping people build muscle to strengthen the integrity of their bodies. Through his business Changelfe, he offers memberships to those dabbling in improving their health — or fully committed to working hard and advancing their fitness goals.
“Observing my clients’ transformations is amazing,” Smalls said. The psychological aspects of self-esteem improvements are most noticeable to him and become monumental for certain clients. While some of his couple clients work out together — sometimes igniting a bit of healthy competition — individual clients or ones with more significant weight loss goals may prefer customized, private sessions, which are also available at Changelfe.
Either way, Smalls believes in the transformative power of his program, as Changelfe is truly helping others. “Thriving and living life, versus struggling and making it from day to day … that’s the most significant byproduct of a lifestyle change,” he said.
This year, Smalls took his training and passion for fitness to the next level and founded his own health and wellness conference in Corpus Christi, offering an interactive space with knowledge and expertise from speakers and vendors. Additionally, the Changelfe Youtube channel focuses on techniques and mechanics of injury prevention and proper form.
The next projects for Smalls — who grew up in and around ministry, with his grandfather a bishop and mother a minister — include launching a new clothing line with an insignia that hits close to home, featuring the words “I quit doubting God.” Reinforcing those basic principles with a little faith and perseverance can go a long way.