Faces of Fitness: Larissa Holley

Larissa Holley, 22, decided to change her lifestyle, in part because it was hindering her health.

“I thought I wasn’t going to have a future — I thought I was going to college for a short-term career, which I would eventually have to stop after [my] 40s because I looked at my mom and that’s what I saw,” Holley said.

Holley’s mother had been diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and endometriosis early in her life. Later, Holley discovered that she too would have to live with the same diagnosis.

She stayed active without being conscious of it. She was a dancer, a cheerleader and played volleyball — things she eventually stopped doing after her PCOS and endometriosis began to develop.

And at age 17, Holley had her first surgery related to endometriosis — the first of three.

“It was a constant battle of just trying to be active again,” Holley said. “And it wasn’t until last year that I really started working out and being consistent with it.”

She began going to the gym with friends and her sister three times a week, following fitness gurus’ recommendations. She constantly sought new workout buddies to hold herself accountable and found that she was motivating them as well.

Her workouts began with cardio, and she developed an interest in strength training.

“I wanted to build muscle. I wanted to tone up,” she said. “I found the weights intimidating. I still joke with my fiancé; I call it ‘No Man’s Land.’”

Holley’s main motivation was her mother.

After working out started to become routine, she began to change what she was putting into her body — cutting out or reducing many foods that could cause flare-ups, including making most of her meals at home.

“I was never really dedicated to it because there’s a lot you have to cut out, and I’m still not 100 percent, because if I was 100 percent I wouldn’t eat anything — literally,” she laughed.

“I don’t go strictly by that diet, but I’ve noticed that cutting out preservatives and stuff like that have helped a lot.”

Often having an upset stomach led Holley to eat infrequently.

“I didn’t eat a lot — I probably wasn’t getting 1,200 calories before,” she said. “It’s not like it was a purposeful thing.”

In November 2013, Holley’s mother passed away.

“She always pushed me,” Holley said. “She always said, ‘If not for yourself, do it for me.’”

Holley said that her mother’s passing made her realize that she needed to put her health before many of the other things going on in her life — because it can be so easy to take for granted.

What are some of the dietary restrictions you faced?

I could eat nuts and fish and chicken and that’s pretty much it ‘cause you can’t have soy products, you can’t have red meats, you can’t have dairy, you can’t have beans … you can’t have a lot.

What’s your weakness?

I love carbs. I love pasta. I love bread, so I try to get gluten-free products if I do eat carbs. I do like the gluten-free pastas, pastas [made] with veggies.

What are some things you learned about yourself?

I don’t like tomatoes or spinach or kale or anything leafy and green … but I’ve kind of broadened things and I’ve tried different recipes … there’s even some where they kind of hide the veggies … I realized that was a brilliant idea, why didn’t I ever try it before?