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Food as Fuel: A Pandemic Weight Gain and Weight Loss Exposé

We are delighted to announce our "Food Is Fuel" SALE!

Have we got a special package and a blog series for you! In this series, we'll explore toxic diet culture. Let's talk about what works when it comes to health and fitness, what doesn't work, and our personal stories about food as fuel, here at Pongo Power. 

They say weight loss is 80% nutrition and 20% exercise. Fueling our bodies properly is an integral part of life. A scrumptious nutrition plan is vital. Focusing on what we cannot eat and going into deprivation modality and/or denial is not sustainable: it is isolating at its core.

When you purchase personal training now through February 28th, you will get 15% off your personal training package, a 7-day nutrition guide filled with recipes, and FOUR FREE semi-private exercise classes. 

PLUS: the first five people to purchase this package will get 50% off Cooking With Kristen (purchases must be made before the first class, on Thursday, February 24th). To learn more about Cooking with Kristen, check out this blog!

Click here to purchase a package for 15% OFF now through the end of the month.

A Weight Gain and Weight Loss Exposé

Considering it is a basic need, food is quite the hot topic. Saying that food is fuel for your body is controversial in and of itself. Food is also a warm, loving embrace on a cold and snowy night. Food is a known aphrodisiac. Food is bright and colorful. Food is social and provides a sense of identity. And for some, food is the enemy. Yes, food is many things to many people.

We’ve heard it all before: diet culture is toxic. Comparing ourselves to others is the cause of much unhappiness. The obsession with cutting calories is a rabbit hole of solitude and desperation. Wanting what we don’t have somehow makes us feel lesser. The whole conversation around diet, weight gain, and weight loss can be confusing at best. We are met with myths, falsehoods, and fake science that sabotage our sense of wellness.

The proverb, 'An apple a day keeps the doctor away,' points to a simpler time, one that has been replaced with an era marked by Kate Moss’s regret over saying “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” Her quote became the motivation behind many eating disorders and a source of much confusion. On top of all the consternation around weight gain and weight loss, we are now living out our lives during an era in history marked by more than 488,000 people dying in the United States from Covid-19.

The world we are living in is stressful and we are all looking for relationships and communities to help revitalize our lives. Filling our lives with meaningful ways to build up our fragile sense of safety isn't easy. Fulfillment comes in many forms, and while we are all living in a socially-distanced world, it requires facing our existential angst head-on.

How do we create a healthy, non-toxic environment for ourselves that supports well-being? And, let’s be completely real: because of systemic racism, it is much more challenging to do this in the United States of America for Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC). In Michigan, from 2014 to 2019 the drinking water was contaminated with lead and Legionnaires’ disease. Hydration, preparing food, and raising food to eat are all impacted by water. Try being healthy without water. It’s impossible. And that's just one of the many instances that BIPOC are substantially disadvantaged when it comes to health and wellness. This is a pretty dark moment, and facing the truth together is the only game-changer. 

We start by opening up to one another and acknowledging what is currently in existence, and what we want to change. There is no shame in wanting to be happy and healthy. The problem lies in feeling shame or guilt about wanting to transform our lives, and either being paralyzed by the fear of the unknown or resorting to coping mechanisms that no longer work as well as they used to.


I'm going to be completely honest with you. I gained 20 pounds over the course of this pandemic. Yet, these two photos were taken within seconds of one another.  Do I plan to keep this weight on? No. Am I working on eating more vegetables, drinking less alcohol, and consuming less refined sugar? Yes. The big question becomes: do I feel deprived or isolated by creating these changes in my daily eating habits?


In this blog series, we will uncover and assess the many factors of a toxic diet-culture in the United States. We will share our own perspectives on nutrition, weight loss, and weight gain. Today, I will give you some background on my personal experience with food and why I became a passionate advocate for having a holistic relationship with your body through fitness, food, and recognition of our identities and body image. 

As a 12-year old girl, I found myself in an impossible situation.  I had not, 'heard it all before.' I didn't know that becoming bulimic would lead to a sense of complete isolation, longing, and self-hatred. The embarrassment and pain that I felt about my mom moving out, and my dad moving in two years after their divorce eclipsed any notion that I might talk to someone about my feelings. No one asked me to share my deepest pains. There was a strong emphasis on being well-behaved and having fun in my family. I felt I was left to work out my anxieties about the divorce, my changing body, and life in general on my own. 

Flash forward to my life at age 31, two years after becoming a personal trainer, when my dad died. I had been living with a fully developed eating disorder for 19 years. Throwing up became my way of grieving and I could no longer tolerate the amount of emotional pain that I was in. I simply had to open up and share my feelings with people, in order to survive.  The era of secretive behaviors that I had lived out from age 12 to 31 was shattered by the fact that being that secretive about my body was agonizing. I needed to talk to people about my deepest feelings and I was only learning how at age 31. 

This breakthrough was instrumental for me. Upon realizing that people are actually very loving and supportive when you share vulnerable feelings, I was able to hire a nutritionist who taught me how to view food as fuel. She also helped me to realize that food is social. I came to know that I can in fact celebrate with foods that work for me, without feeling like I had broken some rule. 


As I get older, I realize more and more that no matter how much information is readily available, each individual processes knowledge in our own time, and in our own way. We are inundated with quick fixes and are subliminally told that there is always room for improvement. Yet what we really need is a place to share what matters to us, and develop our sense of life as unique people in the world.

We are excited to bring this series to you and open up the space to talk about our relationships with food. To kick off this series, we are launching a 5-week online program called Cooking with Kristen! Kristen, a Pongo Power Personal Trainer and food enthusiast, has developed this amazing community-centered program to focus on how food can be a joyous and communal experience while simultaneously being fuel for your body. Learn more about the program here.

We hope you join Cooking With Kristen and come celebrate food with us! 

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Meet the Author

Elizabeth Pongo
Founder & CEO

NASM Certified Personal Trainer & Corrective Exercise Specialist, Barefoot Training Specialist by the Evidence Based Fitness Academy


Elizabeth received her Bachelor’s degree from Middlebury College with a major in psychology and a minor in education. Having studied psychology and education, in addition to kinetics and physiology, Elizabeth places a strong emphasis on life-style coordination when training clients and teaching proper form and technique.

Elizabeth was her 78-year-old father’s primary caretaker at the age of 29, after he suffered a stroke. As her dad recovered, she encouraged him to return to coaching Fencing, with the Long Island Swordsman. It was quite apparent how this improved his mood and his coordination. Simultaneously, Pongo signed up for her first New York City Marathon.  Clearly, it was throughout this experience that Elizabeth discovered how important it is for everyone in life to be physical. She resigned from her corporate job in order to become a Certified Personal Trainer upon realizing that proper exercise prescription, truly saves & improves lives.

“I’ve always felt great joy when being physical. From learning how to ride a bike; or go downhill skiing with my Dad; to training for the NYC Marathon and the NYC Triathlon: I’ve elevated my spirits and improved my health through solid program design and exercise science. I take great pride in teaching other people how to cultivate that lifestyle, truly.”

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