It was a pleasure to meet Katy Van Hem in Cheltenham, an intelligent young woman who is inspiringly beautiful. What I admired most was her honesty and sincere commitment to help people transform in a healthy and sustainable way.
Katy Van Hem was once unhappy with her body, so took steps to change her lifestyle. She strongly believes that you should not change how you look to please someone else, specifically a partner, and speaks with passion about always changing for the right reasons, not because someone else has suggested how you ‘should’ look.
I couldn’t agree more and highly value of mission Katy Van Hem, which is to help people improve their health without having to compromise on taste, enjoy the process and get into the best shape of their lives.
Tell me a little about your background, where is Katy Van Hem from originally?
I’m Cheltenham born and raised.
Cheltenham is a beautiful town, I have so many memories here having grown up on Leckhampton hill. It’s a nice balance of country and town life, with lots of events throughout the year, there isn’t anywhere else that I’d rather be. It’s home to me.
I originally trained to be a primary school teacher, studying at Gloucestershire University, but I didn’t love it enough to make it what you need to make it, which is basically your whole life. If it wasn’t for encouragement from my father, I wouldn’t have finished my degree, I’m pleased that I did.
I don’t think you should do a job that isn’t your heart and soul, because you’re not going to be giving it your best, which is extremely important when it’s a job that directly affects people’s lives like teaching does. It wouldn’t have been fair on the children, as I’d have been working on their futures.
Working in fitness now, I’m doing more hours than I would have been teaching (for less money!) as the health boot camp that I’m developing with my partner Chris, is still within its early stages.
Where does the journey of your new found healthy lifestyle begin?
I think it begins when I took a gap year when at 18, travelling South East Asia across Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. My boyfriend at the time wanted to follow the same route as the 2008 Top Gear Vietnam Special.
He loved the idea of travelling on the Russian Minsk bike through Vietnam, which is the same bike that Richard Hammond used, they were everywhere in Vietnam. We bought one, which needed to be adapted to hold our enormous rucksacks, so the guy we bought it from welded metal racks on the sides …I’m sure we looked interesting to the locals, slowly taking off for the first time whilst trying to stay balanced. But it was incredible, it took six weeks for us to reach Hanoi (north Vietnam) where we then sold the bike.
It was one of the best experiences of my life, which I wish I had done on my own, as I’d found out only two weeks before travelling that my boyfriend at the time had been unfaithful. Being 18 I didn’t have the same confidence as I have now to say “bye, I’m off on my own”, which I should have done. But it was still great.
When travelling through a completely different culture, this will sound cheesy to say, but you do learn a lot about yourself.
For example, I only posted on Instagram about this today: I’m doing a swimathon for The Holly Gazzard Trust and Focus Cancer Charity, but today I really didn’t feel motivated to get in the pool, however, whilst travelling through Cambodia I saw a man who I’ll never forget, begging by the side of the road, who was quite literally a torso and head. I don’t know his story but his arms were missing and so were his legs.
Imagine facing life in that situation, It really had an instant impact on me. I remember thinking “I can’t ever complain about my life, or take my body for granted”, so when I need to find strength to motivate myself, having seen him is sometimes what gives me that push.
When did you first realise that you were unhappy with your body?
It’s probably similar to many people’s stories. I was always athletic as a child, so I used to be the child that could eat anything and never put on weight. I do love my food. However, when I reached University at 19, my metabolism changed, my love for food didn’t change, I quickly put on about 2.5 stone.
There was a realisation moment, where I saw a picture of myself on a night out and I thought, “Do I really look like this?! How have I let myself get become this unhealthy?!”
What inspired you to change from this person you had become, to who you are today?
My Uncle, on my mother’s side, died of a heart attack completely out of the blue. We are a very close family so you can imagine how this affected everyone. He was only 49 and it really hit home with me the importance of looking after yourself.
He was my mother’s twin, naturally she was devastated and in a bad place, so I suggested that we do the Cheltenham Half Marathon together, raising money for the British Heart Foundation in my Uncles memory, and getting healthy at the same time.
My mum beat me twenty seconds …I will always remember those twenty seconds!
We trained from May through to September, both supporting each other and pushing each other. With my Uncle and the charity in mind, the race itself went by surprisingly quickly, it was an incredible experience with people cheering you on.
During the training was when I started to become a lot healthier. I was drinking green smoothies and juices before they became a big ‘thing’, getting some very strange glances from onlookers.
What happened after the marathon? Did you continue with running?
After the marathon, I discovered that my weight had hit a plateau, which can happen if you do too much of the same exercise. I had been doing a lot of running, so decided to give running a rest and joined Pittville Leisure Centre in Cheltneham.
Your body wants to do everything as easily as possible. So, if your body can find a way to do the same thing, whilst using less energy, it’s going to. This means that by repeating the same type of exercise too often, your body will become more efficient at doing that exercise whilst using less energy. That’s not great for getting or staying in shape.
At Pittville Leisure Centre I started weight training, which helps to burn fat more than constant cardio. Put basically, the reason for this is because when you do cardio, your heart rate is elevated only until you stop. Whereas with weight training, your heart rate is elevated for much longer afterwards.
During this time, I was posting my progress on Social Media, where I started getting random messages from people with pleas for help and advice with their health. This is when I made the decision that when I finished University, I would get qualified in Personal Training.
During the time that I was learning Personal Training, I worked at Studio Fit, where I could put the teaching skills I’d developed at University into teaching transformational classes, which massively boosted my confidence at speaking in front of groups of people and taking control.
Fast forward to today, you’re a personal trainer at DW Fitness in Cheltenham and your Social Media is exploding, inspiring people with your thoughts and views on getting healthier, why do you think you’re gaining so many followers?
I like Social Media accounts that not only have a purpose but are also relatable. If you’re going to take a selfie, make sure that there is a reason for it. I try to stay relatable with my audience using before and after imagery, so that my followers know that I’ve been there, I’ve been unhappy with myself.
I remember years ago when I started to train for the Cheltenham Half Marathon, being able to feel my body wobbling as I ran. Facing your own health isn’t nice at the beginning, it is tough and I’ve been there.
I’ve even started posting some same day before and after imagery, to prove that people’s bodies go through cycles throughout the day, so we shouldn’t be comparing how we look right now, compared to other people’s imagery on Social Media, as sometimes we’re bloated with gas or sometimes we’re retaining water, whereas the imagery you’re comparing yourself to, is probably someone straight after one of many hard workouts on a really good day.
So, I really hope that followers can see that I’m trying to help with my Social Media.
Your health is so important. Because of Social Media so many people are worried about the way they look today, which is often where misplaced health ambitions lurk. I hear it a lot: “I just want to be skinny like her”, “I just want a nicer bum like her”.
The way I see it is that, if you don’t have your health, how can you ever truly be there to look after your loved ones and friends? Without health, you literally have nothing. It’s always on my mind. I’m staying healthy so that if anything was ever to happen, I’m physically and mentally prepared for it.
For me that’s a better reason than “This person on Instagram looks like this, so I want to look like it too.” Make your reasons for wanting to be healthier personal, then you’re more likely to stick to your goals.
Now that I’m a personal trainer at DW Fitness in Cheltenham, knowing the benefits that a healthier body brings, the fact that I’m able to help my clients over the same hurdles that I faced is an incredible feeling for me.
You mentioned earlier that you’re developing a boot camp with Chris?
Yes, Chris and I met at DW Fitness in Cheltenham, where we grew very close and are now together. We are a very competitive couple (in a nice way) and we don’t like to be outdone by one another.
Chris asked me to become his business partner and develop Zest24 with him, which is a luxury retreat and boot camp in the beautiful Shropshire countryside.
As personal trainers, we’re able to meet with our clients a couple of times per week, however, at the boot camp, we have full control over our clients lives for a whole week, educating on food types, cooking, drinking, workout times, workout routines, to teach them a whole new lifestyle.
Our clients learn healthy strategies to implement into their daily lives, as well as engaging in meditation practices, goal setting workshops and hearing from inspirational guest speakers who have included double gold Olympic medalist Sarah Ayton and Jack Rutter, Paralympian footballer.
Motivating people and getting them back on track is the primary focus of the Zest24 retreats. A lot of the people we work with often say that, with family life and work life combined, they don’t get the time at home to think about what we teach at the boot camp, so the dedicated time away to focus is beneficial.
What kind of results has Zest24 boot camp seen with its clients so far?
I’m very pleased to say that the average weight loss is 8.8 pounds and the maximum weight loss within seven days has been 13 pounds, which is a very impressive amount in just one week, particularly if you are looking to kick start your regime by losing a significant amount of weight.
In order to attend these inclusive luxury retreats, you don’t actually need to be ‘overweight’, you may simply be looking to take some valuable time for yourself and improve your overall health and fitness.
What advice would you give to someone who is in the same situation now, as you were back when you were 19?
Think about how your health is affecting your life and those who you love and care for, then make the decision to do something about it. Research gyms, local fitness groups, personal trainers, get some paper and set some small life goals. Think of it as adopting a whole new better lifestyle for yourself.
A huge benefit good of having a Personal Trainer is having on hand knowledge, so that you can be assured you’re doing the right exercise, whilst not too much of the same exercise, and eating the right tasty foods at the right times of the day.
Personal Trainers generally keep things fun and enjoyable for you, which is an important part of sticking to your goals.
When trying to lose weight I’d say lift weights, it’s the best way to lose weight, combined with some light cardio. The more muscle you have, the more fat your body will burn when you’re sitting around not doing anything. Once you’ve done your weight lifting workout, your body will continue to burn calories for quite a while afterwards.
But really, the most important thing you can do is to just do something. There are so many things you can do, swimming, jogging, gymnastics, cycling, weight lifting, I’m not going to list everything, but you get my point. Get up, do something, anything, and discover what it is that you enjoy the most.
Avoid the ‘fast body change’ fads, there seem to be so many around again now: 12 week this and 18 week that. Be patient, and enjoy the journey to the new you.
How do you see yourself today, compared to how you were when you had your epiphany of sorts?
I feel fantastic, I’d rate my overall confidence as an 8 on a scale of 1-10, however, I can have days where I don’t feel as good, just like everyone else.
There is a pressure on women today that makes it tempting to be harsh on ourselves, but I simply won’t tolerate this with my clients. Exercise produces endorphins, which are the feel good hormones in our brains, and eating the right foods as well as wearing stylish clothes all adds to boosting our confidence as women.
In fact, there is one item of clothing in particular that I love for workouts, which are my LILYBOD leggings, which are extremely comfortable and flattering.
Looking back on my journey so far, I’m doing what I love now, making positive changes for people and I couldn’t be happier.
Cotswold Allure Magazine would like to thank Katy Van Hem for sharing her experience with our readers. We wish Katy and Chris a very successful future with their Zest 24 project.
If you wish to follow Katy on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/katyvanhem
During our conversation, Katy was excited to mention about being named as a finalist for Miss Cheltenham 2018, explaining that the competition provides a platform for finalists to be ambassadors for their home town and undertake charity work, supporting the local community. She says that:
“Despite the competition, the circle of ladies involved with Miss Cheltenham have already become a very supportive group. Everyone is friendly and kind, which dovetails beautifully with the competition’s ethos about empowering women to be the best version of themselves.”
Katy is hoping to become an ambassador for Cheltenham, very much enjoying the opportunity to support others through the Holly Gazzard Trust and Cheltenham and Gloucestershire Hospitals, which are the chosen charities of Mayor, Cllr Klara Sudbury for this year’s Miss Cheltenham competition.
**It has since been announced that Katy Van Hem won the Miss Cheltenham 2018 competition**