The Minutes

Fitness and wellness insights from experts to help you hit your Paceline Minutes


15.0 Questions: Fitness Influencer Josie Varela

A play on the 150 minutes needed to achieve a Paceline streak, 15.0 Questions presents influencers, industry experts, and fellow Pacers with 15 rapid-fire questions. Next up, is fitness trainer and influencer Josie Varela. 

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and concision. 

  1. Can you introduce yourself in 150 words or fewer?  

My name is Josie, and I’ve lost over 150 pounds naturally. Now, I focus on training women who are beginners and want a healthier lifestyle.

  1. What inspired your weight loss journey?

Well, I’ve been overweight my entire life, ever since I was a kid. So, it was a lot of things, from being bullied in school, to bad experiences in the outside world—you name it. I couldn’t fit on theme park rides. And I honestly just got tired. I got tired of being tired. I just wanted a healthier lifestyle.

  1. What’s the biggest life lesson that you learned along the way?

I know it sounds cliche, but my biggest life lesson really was to not take anything for granted. When I went into this journey, it was all vanity. I just wanted to be skinny. It wasn’t until my dad had a massive heart attack that it really clicked for me: It’s not about looks, it’s just about being healthy. I believe that that’s when I really had my transformation. I started looking at [my journey] like, “You just need to build a healthier lifestyle. Stop worrying about what you look like or what’s on the scale.”

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  1. What’s your advice for anybody else who’s embarking on their own journey like this?

My advice would be, first of all, to not let anyone or anything discourage you. I know going into the fitness industry can be very intimidating as someone who doesn’t know anything. But, one thing you have to remember is that we all start from zero. I tell everyone that. Even your fittest guy and your fittest girl at the gym, they all started from zero at one point and they have all struggled. So, you’re not the only one and you won’t be the last one. Just go in there confidently. Remember that at the end of the day: this is for you—not for anyone else.

  1. What’s your favorite way to move and be active?

Obviously going to the gym. But throughout COVID, the gyms were closed. That was a big test for me. Like what now? I literally had the oldest bike in my backyard. So, every single day, I would go out and ride my bike from where I live, a small town in LA, to downtown to Hollywood. I really love it, I picked up a hobby that I didn’t even know I was into. I feel so free when I’m on my bike. Unfortunately now since I’m working a lot, I don’t really ride it, but it’s one way that I love to move. Whenever I get the chance, I get my bike and I go.

  1. What’s the best fitness advice that you’ve ever received?

The best fitness advice I ever received was to not be hard on myself. At that moment, I didn’t really understand it. But looking back, I get it because you can be your own worst critic at times. You may struggle to be really satisfied. The urge to point out every flaw you see will always be there, even after you reach your goal. At the end of the day: don’t be hard on yourself and most importantly, be patient with yourself.

  1.  What’s the best fitness-related investment you’ve ever made?

My best investment was hiring a personal trainer. It completely changed my life for the better. 

  1. What is the best personal finance decision that you’ve ever made?

The best personal finance decision I’ve ever made was to bet on myself. When COVID happened, I was feeling really stuck. Like, what do I do now? My corporate job laid me off, but I couldn’t just be at home, not doing anything. So I said, “You know what, let’s make an investment toward becoming a certified personal trainer.” I made that investment in school and it has been the best one I’ve ever made because now, not only am I a personal trainer, but I’m able to help other women that are struggling with losing weight.

  1. What are your thoughts on Paceline’s mission to reward people for being active? 

I really love what Paceline stands for. Not only are they just trying to get people to move, but they’re rewarding you for it.

  1. How do you stay motivated to stay on track?

I stay motivated by refusing to go back to what I was. I refuse to go back to that girl who was lost, who was insecure, whose self-esteem was very low. That’s my daily motivation. I have days that I do not want to work out. I have days that I just don’t want to do anything. But then I remember that I can’t go back to the girl that I was. Even when I don’t feel like going to the gym, I’ll just go out for a hike or go for a walk—anything to keep me active. And now with the [Paceline] app, I have something to motivate me.

  1. Do you have a nutrition philosophy?

Well, if I could give anyone advice, it would be to not feel that carbs are the enemy. I’ve lost almost half of my body weight, if not more than half, and I’ve never stopped eating carbs. People have to realize that carbs are a natural source of energy. Carbs are good for you, you just have to learn a little bit about them. And not only that, try to build a healthier relationship with food. It’s okay to indulge, to have a little bit of ice cream or that little piece of cake that you’ve been craving the whole week. You just need to know how it factors into your calories and your macros.

  1. Do you have any recovery rituals?

At the beginning, I was so eager and desperate to lose weight that I was literally working out every single day, until my body gave up on me. It literally crashed. A lot of people don’t realize that with any fitness goal that you have, whether it’s to lose weight or gain weight or compete, recovery is one of the most important aspects in this journey. Don’t take it for granted. Get your eight hours of sleep, drink water, and take one or two rest days. It’s okay to take a break sometimes and just watch Netflix.

  1. What do you splurge on financially when it comes to your health, wellness, and fitness?

I definitely splurge on fitness clothes. I love my fitness clothing. I love going to all the big-name brand stores and getting a pair of shoes or getting some comfy leggings. And really, I’m always at the juice bar. I love getting my protein smoothie. Those are maybe the two things that I really splurge on.

  1. Is there anything that you feel is not worth your money?

Ever since I started my fitness journey, I don’t ever eat in fast food places. It’s not worth it, even though I know it’s cheap. It may feel pretty convenient to go through the drive-through and get that combo for $4.99. But, at the end of the day is that going to benefit me in any way? So, fast food chains no longer get my money.

  1. What’s on the horizon for you?

In the future, I hope to build some kind of online program for beginners. That has always been my goal. I have a specific niche, I only train beginners. There’s a reason behind that. When I came into this industry, I didn’t have anyone to look up to. I wanted the motivation to see someone online who looks like me, who could make me say, “Wow, I can do this.” So, I want to be a voice for those women who may feel forgotten or lost. In the future, I hope to create a program for women who are just trying to get into the gym and become a little bit more active with their lifestyles.