07/31/2014 01:49 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

How Being a Barista Changed My Life


"What the heck am I doing with my life?" If you haven't asked yourself that question at some point, I don't think you are human -- or you are just one lucky person! Growing up in small town Missouri, I was on the mission to go to college, become a veterinarian, have a car full of rescue dogs, and live a happy life. Pre-accepted into veterinarian school, this seemed possible.

However, the reality check of college hit me hard. This childhood dream of being a veterinarian was losing its luster each time I attend a class or went to my internship at the animal clinic. I realized was working toward a career I had no intention of following through with, and I was terrified to admit this to my peers, my family, but most of all, myself. I felt like a robot, going through motions of over-populated classes while overdosing myself with caffeine from the campus Starbucks to get through each day. I drank so many lattes from that campus coffee shop it was only logical I should work there.

One Saturday morning as I started my Starbucks shift as usual, I discovered MTV Real World auditions were being held next door. People from all over were coming in anxiously awaiting their chance to impress the casting directors so they could have their moment of fame. To be honest, reality television had never been my thing, although entertaining; I didn't see myself going down that path. But at the same time, as each hopeful ordered their caffeine fix, I couldn't help but have a sense of admiration for the confidence in each person giving it their all in these auditions. Knowing that I was searching for what my next step should be, I decided to ask one of these reality wannabe's what the process was like. Unbeknownst, I was quizzing the show's casting director who convinced me to take a chance and audition.

My life changed in that instant as I was chosen to be one of the eight cast mates on the oldest reality television series that exists -- MTV's The Real World and then the Real World Challenges. But it took watching myself on the shows to realize all of the very clear mistakes and stupid decisions I was making. It's a little "reality shock" to re-live every moment months later with thousands of eyes from around the world. Self-critical and unhappy, I realized there had not been one moment when I looked into a mirror, let alone a television screen, and liked what I saw. I needed a change, a big one.

I decided to make my fresh start in Colorado where I could make a plan for my future. It was there that I found my sanctuary: the gym. I still had yet to find peace within myself. Thinking I was there to just lose a few pounds and get toned shoulders, I soon came to the realization that fitness was so much more than vanity -- it taught me to embrace myself and feel empowered. Before I knew it, fitness became the real path to my future. I said goodbye to Starbucks and got certified with NASM CPT. I wanted to bring the confidence I found in health and fitness and help my clients find that in themselves. I began working on expanding my training methods, including CrossFit (where I also compete in the CrossFit games), and help my clients push themselves to the next level to achieve their goals.

I believe in finding your inner superhero -- knowing you can conquer anything you put your mind to. After all, you are in charge of your happiness and making changes in your life. I encourage everyone to get a little uncomfortable -- you can get off the couch, lift that weight, go that extra mile, join that group fitness class. But you have to start somewhere, even if its small and then make little goals to grow each step of the way. I push my clients to show them they can overcome the challenges they face in fitness, and those principals they learn while improving their bodies will trickle into other parts of their lives. The result is simple: You'll walk taller, feel confident and start feeling like that superhero you are meant to be.

Here are a few tips I share with my clients:

If you don't like something, change it. Find a program that speaks to you, a trainer that motivates you, and make it happen.

Measure progress outside of the scale. Muscle weighs more than fat. Judge your progress by how your jeans fit, how much stronger you are, or how your monthly measurements change instead of the number on the scale.

Limiting calories is not the answer. Throw out the processed foods, stick with things that grow from the ground or need to be hunted, and stop driving yourself crazy with calories in/calories out. It will only hurt you in the long run and this is never sustainable.

I wouldn't be where I am today without taking chances and following my dreams -- then being open to changing my mind to chase another dream. We shouldn't get stuck on a path that makes us unhappy or unfulfilled -- and that goes for fitness and health too. Your body will change, and with that you have to adjust your goals to get the results you want to achieve.

Vote for Emily Schromm for Women's Health magazine's Next Fitness Star at