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Terri Slezak now believes in the transformative power of self-growth, but it took navigating through the challenges of life at an earlier age than most to get her to the healthy, fulfilling life she lives today.

The challenges began at age 7, when Terri's mother took off. 7 years later, her father passed away – her physically disabled, military veteran, single father, who had also been a recovering alcoholic. Now he is Terri's biggest inspiration.

Terri Race 2“He never complained, he tried his hardest, and he never gave up."

Today, 31-year-old Terri is a health and wellness coach in Phoenix, AZ, but her fitness transformation began back in 2007, after she had just accepted a new job with the state of Arizona. She moved from a small town to the big city, leaving everything she knew behind.

She calls the moment she knew she needed to make a change “the moment I figured out my why." Her why, it turned out, was that she wanted to feel happy for herself, without looking to approval from others as to her appearance.

“I changed my habits – and by changing my habits, I changed my lifestyle."

When it comes to food, she eats a largely paleo diet. Her approach is simple: if it comes with an ingredient label, it's not food. “If I eat anything ‘pre-packaged' I look to see if it has less than 5 pronounceable ingredients," Terri said, a great tip for anyone new to the potentially confusing world of nutrition facts and ingredient labels.

Terri is now engaged in a CrossFit program, but during her fitness transformation she also experimented with spin classes, weightlifting, boxing, and MMA training, to name only a few. “I wanted to experience what was out there to find out what would keep me interested so I didn't get bored and stop," Terri said, yet another good lesson for anyone who is trying to stick to their own fitness transformation.

Terri Race

She started her journey with the pink Innovator and now uses the Renee tote, appreciating the fact that the bags have helped her along the way by allowing her to easily prepare meals and snacks ahead of time and keep them handily at her side.

“I'm sure probably hundreds of dollars have been saved by relying on my 6 Pack Bag. When you're in a weight loss or performance-driven mentality, you know that you can't control or truly know what goes in your food when it's made at restaurants. They may cook with butter or oil although the menu doesn't say that."

Terri & Her 6 Pack Bag

Terri is an immensely grateful person, crediting the travails of her early life with allowing her to understand that there is hope through the struggle. As someone who now works with people who have eating disorders and are dealing with substance abuse and serious mental illnesses, Terri looks forward to helping people on their journeys to recovery and overall wellness every single day of her life.Terri Camo

She has also been able to help others who are simply interested in kickstarting their own fitness transformations through sharing her personal journey. “I think the fact that I'm not ‘perfect' speaks to so many people who are not training to be in a competition but want to feel happy, healthy, and find balance," Terri pointed out.

“I focus on getting better every day and accepting who I am in this moment. I think that's why so many people come to me, because I'm relatable and I don't have six-pack abs. The general public thinks those people are superhuman and most are not willing to put in that kind of dedication. But that doesn't mean they can't lose weight and be happy with themselves."

Terri's latest goals are to increase her strength, gain muscle, complete her first Spartan race, and help as many people as possible start their own fitness transformations. Somehow, we have a sneaking suspicion she's going to knock them all out of the park, but we'll go ahead and wish her the best of luck anyway. Follow her journey – @territheparadox – on Instagram too!

Look into the lives of more inspiring individuals in our entire Transformation Series. Curious about how 6 Pack Bags can help you with your diet? Check out our entire line of original meal management bags, gym backpacks, sports duffle bags, and gym totes to find your perfect match!