Energetic and upbeat, Kristen Bacon, 29, is matter-of-fact about her fitness journey in progress. One year ago, at 5-foot-7 she weighed 256 pounds. She’s since lost 36 pounds, 16.75 inches . . . and counting. Though this change in her appearance has been dramatic, it’s a positive side effect—rather than the focus—of her active lifestyle. Mindbogglingly busy, she not only works as a kickboxing instructor at CrossKick Gym in Atoka, but she is also a personal trainer; a part-timer in the Pro Shop at Forest Hill golf course; the owner of The Perfect Blend (memory quilts, bags, and purses); and she occasionally books an acting engagement. “I kind of dabble in it all,” she says.

Keeping in Shape

Like the rest of her family, Kristen always been on the larger side. “I’ve also always been athletic,” she adds. “I grew up playing volleyball, basketball, and softball, but I was limited to recreation leagues because I played in the school band.”

When she enrolled at the University of Memphis as a graphic design major in 1998, she stepped up her level of fitness and hired a personal trainer. Though she was making steady progress, a pivotal point in her fitness journey happened when she and her trainer decided to try a kickboxing class.

“I got instantly addicted to it,” she says. “One thing led to another, and I ended up becoming a certified fitness instructor so I could teach it.”

Between teaching, taking classes, and running her business, she spends 20–25 hours per week working out. “A friend and I just pick up and run. Sometimes we hit the trails at Shelby Forest. Other times, we go to Covington and run stairs. Recently I went to New Orleans with a group of friends and we completed a half marathon.”

Eating Well

“Food is really the next area I want to improve,” she says. Though she jump-started her weight loss with intermittent fasting, her work schedule ultimately made that approach too difficult. She then tried carb cycling, but decided it wasn’t for her.

“Now I’m just working on portion control and making my step goals every day.”

She still has small setbacks. “Some friends and I went to the UT Knoxville game, and we ate what we wanted and we drank alcohol that weekend. When I came home, it was time to step up my game.”

Staying Motivated

The biggest secret to her fitness journey has been making sure she always has at least one accountability partner. “Now that I’m an instructor, I have so many,” she adds.

One challenge she faces is that living alone makes it easy to fall into a slump. “Most of my old friends are into fitness, and I’ve made a lot of great new friends through fitness as well.”

She also uses social media as a motivator. “I created a Facebook group, and we all committed to 10 pushups every hour for 10 hours. Then we slowly added a few more to each set to consolidate them. The people who stayed with it can now do 100 pushups.”

According to Kristen, it’s important to not set goals that are unattainable. “If you have big goals,” she says, “Set a series of smaller goals that will get you there.”

The accountability partner Kristen relies on least is the scale. “I really haven’t lost that much poundage this past year,” she continues. “But my inches are crazy, and when I see a photo of what I looked like only a year ago, I’m shocked.“

Beyond the change in her appearance, the best part of being fit is the way Kristen feels. “I used to be a very up and down person, but working out has really stabilized my mood. I’m a lot happier when I work out constantly.”

And finally, there’s her self-confidence. “People I haven’t seen in a long time notice I look different. Those surprise compliments remind me I can conquer just about anything I set my mind to.”

By Caroline Sposto. Photo by Tindall Stephens.