My mom’s story. My story. Your story.


Whenever I meet a new client, a new family or stand up to speak in front of a large group of people about health and wellness, I think of my mom.   I think of all the years she worked tirelessly to provide for our family.  I think of all the nights she came home from work as a pharmacist to work on her continuing education credits. I think of all the times she complained about how unfair things were at work or how terrible this person or that person treated her.  I remember her successfully putting down cigarettes once and for all after 10 long years of trying. I saw her constantly struggling to control her weight by trying everything under the sun. .. everything but eating right and exercising.  I think about how she developed high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and eventually suffered the mini strokes that started the house of cards falling.

My mother passed away on April 18, 2013. Her passing was full of drama and totally on her own terms, much like most of her life.  I will tell you all about that in a little bit.  I never told her, but she is the reason that I began to walk this walk. I never told her, but I bet she knows now.

Most of you don’t know that my mom was sick for a very long time.  She suffered a devastating stroke six years ago. It left her wheelchair bound, her entire left side unusable, completely dependent and a shell of her former self. The week before she died, she suffered the stroke that took the rest of what was left of what we would consider “her.” That’s the Cliff’s notes version of the life I wish could’ve been different.  I wish she didn’t suffer. I wish she didn’t miss all the great things she missed. I wish she had the chance to enjoy the retirement she earned. I wish that my kids, nieces and nephew could’ve had a memory of a healthy Lola. Lola is the Filipino word for grandmother.  Unfortunately, this is the memory I have of both of my Lolas as well.  Strokes run in my family.

On April 18th our school district closed due to flooding for the first time ever. The rain hampered all the plans that my family members had for work, visits elsewhere and of course school. I remember thinking that the rain during that 24 hour period felt epic. It was surreal. I was the only one at the hospital in the morning and my mom was hanging on.  It was clear she was waiting. Within 5 minutes of the last family member arriving, she took her last breath and was gone.  I remember having to walk to the nurses’ station to say, “My mom just passed away.” I said it like I was asking for another blanket. In truth, it felt like someone else was saying it. I heard myself and although I was praying for her suffering to end, it killed me to say it.  That’s the end of my mom’s story.

My style of consulting, training and educating is generally upbeat and comes with a “You can do it!” message.  What lies just below that is the “You HAVE to do it!” sense of urgency that I feel.  I have seen firsthand, up close and personal, for many years, what happens when you don’t do “it.” I don’t want to put my children or my husband through what my family and I had to witness and suffer with my mom. I don’t want my family to walk her walk either. I want something better for them. I want something better for everyone that comes to me and I want it for everyone hasn’t come to see me. I just want it for everyone. 

I learned a lot from my mom.  I learned what I wanted for my life and what I didn’t want.  A few of those lessons:   Attitude is everything. You have nothing if you don’t have your health. Take risks you believe are worth taking. Family first. Laugh long and hard. Always say “I love you.” Life is short.  

As you read my blog posts or KuhelGirl Fitness, Inc.  FB status updates, listen to me during our training sessions/consults/public speaking engagements, or hear a story told over the fence, I want you to know that all of it comes from a very positive place. It comes from me wanting you to take control of your story. I don’t know everything, but I will share everything I know. I’m always learning and looking for inspiration in an effort to teach and inspire.  Now you know why I’m so passionate about health and wellness. I don’t want anyone to have to wish for a different story.

Until next time…Live well! – Toni Kuhel






Fighting Change


Change is hard. Change is uncomfortable. Change is exciting. Change is good. Change is necessary to grow. Change is scary. Change is…

However you choose to end that sentence will frame how well change goes for you. For everyone, change is one or all of these things. I envy those rare individuals that view change as nothing but an amazing opportunity. I fall squarely in the pool with those that think change can be all of the above mentioned things. Daily, I strive to be that person that embraces change with outstretched arms and wiggling fingers that beckon eagerly for bigger and better things. Unfortunately, self-doubt and hesitation sneak in and the fight is on! This isn’t true for all instances of change. Small things like a new haircut or exotic recipe; I can handle without much of a skirmish. Bigger things like career shakeup or sending the kids to sleep away camp for the first time set the stage for endless rounds in the ring with me, myself and I. It is true that neither of the last two examples are things to take lightly and that the first two examples are not earth shattering, but there is no doubt that there is room for getting more confident when considering change.

You are probably wondering why I feel the need to share this with anyone. It’s simple. As a personal trainer and a consultant for families who seek a healthier lifestyle, the “C” word is one that comes up and is met with any number of reactions. I see widening eyes, folded arms, eyes rolling way back, walls going up brick by brick and yet sometimes I see eagerness. I will address the eagerness in a minute, but the push back is what I want to hit first. The point is, change is hard for me too. You and I are in the same boat to some degree. Let’s move forward together.

I have clients that have ranged from the age of 10 to 82. Everyone comes to me from somewhere on the continuum of willingness to change. Anyone that comes to me on their own has made the conscious decision to change something. Anyone that comes “encouraged” by a loved one or as part of the family that has been signed up is usually less open to change initially. Regardless of which camp these clients originates from, changing behavior that has been a part of daily life is a hard pill to swallow.

It takes anywhere from one day to forever, to make a lasting change. Of course, my job would be much easier, streamlined and lucrative if I could get folks to make lasting changes for their health and wellness in one day. It doesn’t take forever, but it can feel like it if individuals pump the breaks on suggestions for reasons they can’t give me. One thing I always ask clients and frankly myself when I get resistance about a suggestion is, “Why not?” Some slick clients, not always children, say “Because.” After they are subjected to my lecture about needing to answer me in at least three words we usually get around to the real answers.” It’s hard. It’s different. I don’t’ want to”. Blah, blah, blah. I am not as insensitive as it may seem so hang on before you go log on and leave a scathing comment in the comment box. I am listening.

What I consistently hear entrenched in all the explanations of “why not” is simple. Everyone wants the results without the hard part. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it, I would be out of a job and we could all go home happy, healthy and not at all put out for the experience. The risks that accompany the suggestions I make are all a matter of thinking…thinking that you, the client, can do it. That’s it. That’s all. Go ahead. Try and come up with a reason why you won’t make a change required to benefit your health and wellness ( of course this comes after getting clearance from your doctor to begin any exercise program or diet change – just to make that clear). I’m waiting.

One of my favorite sayings is, “Get out of your own way!” You are the only one standing in the way of what you really want. You want better health, faster race times, longer distances, toned arms, strong legs, a longer life, a better life??? Quit coming up with reasons that don’t hold water. Quit saying you can’t. Quit saying you don’t want to change. If you want something else for yourself, you want change. So, CHANGE already! Some days will be harder than others, but if you keep pushing yourself and asking yourself what you really want, the change will be easier.

A quick word to those eager beavers that are all about making every change, all at once…I love it! It is not totally unheard of to be completely inspired to jump in with both feet and want to drag everyone in the pool with you. Think of how you feel on January 1st. Now think about how you feel on February 28th. Inspiration is a wonderful thing and I work very hard to provide inspiration. I also know we are starting a clock on how long said inspiration can last. Anyone can do anything for a short amount of time. The true success story is someone that can make a change that lasts. You significantly increase your chances of making a lasting change by easing into it. More is not always better. More is sometimes just more. So, taking baby steps and changing your lifestyle one change at a time is what I always recommend. Be inspired. Get motivated. This is a journey, not a race. To steal from Nike – “There is no finish line.”

I hope you can see yourself somewhere in this blog post. We are all a work in progress. Whatever the change you seek and however you feel about it, know that you are not alone. My wish is for all of you to realize that you deserve a life of health and that you have it within you to make those uncomfortable changes. If you need a little push or support, I’m here for you too. Email me at , check out my website at or find me on FB on my KuhelGirl Fitness, Inc. page.
Until next time…live well! -Toni Kuhel