Nikki Bougie came to our attention when she entered our September Healthy Hairdresser Challenge asking: What do you stand up for? Bougie stands up for her health! She responded:

“I used to be 200 lbs! On my feet all day, that is a lot of weight! I wore junk shoes too! After getting with a personal trainer, eating healthy, losing 65 lbs by exercising & investing in a couple pairs of good shoes.... I’M A NEW ME!!!”

We wanted to hear more.

Five-foot-tall Nikki Bougie wasn’t healthy at roughly 200 pounds, but she didn’t feel healthy at 125 pounds, either. At that lower weight four years ago, she was working out only in cardio. Bougie says it took just one severe illness to make her body hurt so much that she realized she was putting herself in danger.

“Yes I was lighter,” says Bougie, a stylist at Carolyn’s Mane Attraction in Green Bay, Wisconsin, says, "but I wasn’t eating enough protein or lifting weights. I was doing nothing to help my body gain muscle, while doing everything I could do to lose weight.” Unsure of how to figure out her body puzzle, she simply added carbohydrates. In a couple of months she’d gained 30 pounds and, before long, another 30. Bougie decided to hire a professional trainer to help her stabilize at a healthy body weight.

“The trainer explained that I was eating no protein, and I was eating the wrong carbs,” she recalls, adding that her body fat percentage at that time was 32%. Her trainer got her started on lifting weight, which unfortunately didn’t make much difference on the scale.

“I lost the body fat before I lost the weight, and that’s where women get discouraged,” Bougie says. “We don’t realize that we need lean muscle to burn fat and keep off the fat.”

Bougie kept faith in her trainer, and soon her weight began dropping. Still, her plateau of 145 pounds lasted a year. Further tweaking her carbs shaved off another 15 pounds. “I switched from eating baked potatoes to eating sweet potatoes,” she explains. “I added more vegetables, and now I bake with quinoa flour, which has more protein than wheat flour. Your body uses more energy to break down quinoa than white or wheat flour. And I eat 80 grams of protein a day, compared with the 30-50 grams most women eat.

Today Bougie weighs 130 and, since much of that is muscle, she wears a size 6. Now that her two children are in school, she’s working more hours and has to fit in her workout early in the day. She’s already finished by 6:40am, when she puts her kids on the school bus and heads to the salon. She believes that if she can do it, anyone can.

“If you say, ‘I can’t get up that early,’ you’re making excuses,” Bougie says “If you don’t attempt it, you won’t do it. I try to go to bed at 9 or 10, but even when it’s later I’m not tired the following day. Working out has made me sleep better at night. Once you’re in the routine, you feel so good! You stick with it because then you never have to start over! I’m not afraid I’ll hit 200 pounds again, because I know I’m done—I’ve had enough. You succeed when you make up your mind that you’ll succeed. When you’ve hit your own rock bottom, take your strength and do it. Whether you do an online fitness group or you need a trainer, you have to be the one to ask for help. It’s like doing foils in cosmetology school. If you can’t get the foils right, at some point you just go to an instructor and ask for help.”

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