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PrideFIT: Fostering a healthy lifestyle within the LGBT community

SAN DIEGO -- People looking to lose weight or get in better physical shape can easily become overwhelmed with the myriad diet programs, fitness plans and conflicting advice that is out there. It can be even more challenging for members of the LGBT community who might be looking for a program that is sensitive, friendly, and understanding of the community.

Earlier this year, a group of community members banded together to carry out the vision of local activist Carlos Salazar to form PrideFIT. Salazar, who embarked on a personal weight loss goal in dpring 2012 and has since lost over 280 pounds, wanted to create something to inspire others to make healthy lifestyle choices.

In a few short months, PrideFIT has hosted numerous healthy lifestyle events, created an informative website, and has developed strong plans for its future growth. We recently chatted with Salazar to learn more about this new healthy living resource for San Diego's LGBT community:

SDGLN: Why did you start PrideFIT?

Carlos Salazar (CS): For years I always felt like I was living life from the outside looking in. Having been over 400 pounds for a large majority of your adult life has caused me to learn to thrive in other ways; focusing on leadership, education and personal development. In the spring of 2012, I came to a crossroad in my life where I had to make a choice whether or not my life was worth saving. I choose to live and as my weight dropped and I felt healthier, I realized that I was not the only one going through this and that I could inspire others around me to stop putting their lives on hold and to prioritize their health. With the help of several community leaders, we decided to launch PrideFIT and begin planning events that would help our friends reach their goals and have fun while doing it.

SDGLN: What are your goals for the group?

CS: We quickly realized that there are many organizations that focus on weight loss but most of which come at a steep price. Moreover, although we focus on active events we try to create a friendly open environment welcoming to everyone at any point on their journey. We take pride in providing most events at no cost to our members and provide a warm atmosphere that welcomes all body types and fitness levels to join us. We understand that not everyone likes to run on a treadmill or have/want to pay a monthly gym fee but still want to get their fitness on and get fit; this organization is a tool to get there. We encourage our members to eat-right, develop achievable goals and work towards them at your pace. Everyone loses weight differently and some just want to have fun, weight loss is simply a bonus. A side effect of our events is making new friends who share a desire to better themselves and have a passion to help others.

SDGLN: You had personally had much success in your own weight loss. Is this group a good start for someone who is thinking about embarking on a similar path? How did you find your motivation?

CS: I am so proud to have lost over 280 pounds! Still unbelievable, but I couldn't have done it without the support of my friends. I wish I would have known of something like PrideFIT when I started on this path but not sure I would have joined because of fear. This stems down from being the last person chosen for every team growing up. The true hurdle was overcoming that barrier and believing in myself enough to fight for healthier me.

Working out and changing your eating habits is difficult enough but doing it alone is usually the hardest part. We have found that many of our members are friends of friends and we make new friends at each and every event. Having someone you can talk to and someone who understands where you are means so much more then you can imagine. In the LGBT community, many of us struggle with body image issues and work tirelessly look our best but we unintentionally push out those in the community that don’t quite measure up. That stops now. We create unhealthy standards that are almost impossible to meet, even if you work-out regularly and eat right. With that being said, PrideFIT allows for everyone to feel accepted and find support in reaching their goals. We welcome anyone who just wants to have fun and have the desire to hang-out with cool people. A favorite quote of mine is “no matter how slow you go, you are still lapping everyone on the couch.”

SDGLN: Who did you select to be on your inaugural leadership team? Why these individuals?

CS: Choosing the right team to launch an organization is a lot like a recipe for grandma’s cookies – Each person represents a key ingredient to the success of the organization and when put together properly you have an amazing product. Many of them are community leaders and activists (full list of board members is available on www.prideFIT.org) and others are successful business entrepreneurs in our community. They all work very hard to promote our events and recruit new members while working towards their own fitness goal. When I approached each member they all had an overwhelming excitement about joining the board and helping others in the community. We all see a need for PrideFIT and are excited to have more members join us at our upcoming events!

SDGLN: Anything else?

CS: We encourage our members and potential members to follow us on Facebook; we list all of our events monthly. All our information can found HERE. We update our calendar of events monthly so please feel free to join us at our next event! We also have a Facebook page HERE – please follow us and “like” our page to get the word out.