Fitness-Transformation-Carissa-Header-2

Whether you've just begun a fitness transformation or need a little extra pep as you strive toward your latest goals, you're sure to find motivation in the many stories told in our Transformations Series. Today, meet Carissa Milliken, a 27-year-old from Washington, DC who completely overhauled her life.

Growing up thin, Carissa didn't have much reason to think about her weight. At the age of 22, everything changed: she lost one of her best friends to cystic fibrosis the very same week that her father suffered a blood clot in his lungs that almost cost him his life. Carissa had already been working two jobs and double-majoring at college, all of which was more than enough to set her lifelong battle against depression into overdrive.

During her senior year of college, her diet consisted of energy drinks, Prozac, and fries. This combination did nothing but further exhaust her, leaving her hungry and unsatisfied. It wasn't until she graduated that she finally found the time to sleep, let alone become more aware of what she was putting into her body. While scrolling through pictures from a family wedding, Carissa didn't recognize herself as the girl in the photos. At that moment, she knew: it was time to make a big change and take it seriously.

At the beginning of her fitness transformation, Carissa's major road block was her clinical depression. After graduating college and pursuing a cross-country job hunt, Carissa finally decided to focus on herself. A therapist helped her find healthy ways to deal with her depression and grief. She made sure to take an hour of “me time" every day to walk, which turned into running, and eventually became working out at the gym.

Fitness-Transformation-Carissa-01

Now, Carissa considers herself a born runner and participates in several races a year. For strength training, she values compound exercises like Romanian Deadlifts, front squats, and squat thrusts.

When it comes to both fitness and nutrition, Carissa places a great deal of emphasis on doing your research. She firmly believes that it is totally possible to eat foods you love and still lose weight; you just need to put in the time to find the right foods. She also supports the notion that you don't need to spend hours every day working out: if you can carve out even one hour of your day five days a week, you will see a difference.

Fitness-Transformation-Carissa-Bag-2Committing to a nutritious (yet still tasty) diet was key to Carissa's new lifestyle. With a Renee Tote, making that commitment became much easier. She works three jobs, so a way to carry and keep her meals fresh is essential to her. Before she was introduced to 6 Pack, she would cart three different bags around all of the time – not exactly the picture of efficiency. On top of that, she would have to worry about finding a fridge, too. With her Renee, she doesn't have to worry about finding somewhere to store her meals – thanks to ice packs, they stay fresh all day long stored inside her bag.

“Having a way to carry meals helps derail my temptations to cheat. I always have everything I need to stay on track right with me, so I have no excuses."

With the help of her sister as one of her biggest motivators, Carissa made going to the gym a frequent part of her life. The first six months were the hardest, but Carissa forced herself to stick to her goals and saw it through. Now she trains five days a week on a strict schedule, runs regular races, and wants everyone to know that it truly is possible to transform yourself.

"You never regret working out. You only regret not working out."

Since discovering a new love of fitness, Carissa has big plans for her professional future too. She is working on returning to school to study dietetics, with a long-term goal to become a Health and Fitness Coach specializing in helping people who struggle with depression and anxiety.

We're honored to have played a role in Carissa's fitness transformation and thrilled that our meal management system helps her stay on track in everyday life. We wish her the best of luck in all her future endeavors – although we have a feeling she'll do great!

Fitness and nutrition clearly go hand-in-hand, which is why Carissa rocks the Renee Tote everywhere she goes. Check out all our meal management bags – including gym totes, sports duffle bags, and briefcases – to find the perfect style for your busy life!