Kat Yiannakis has packed a lot into her 26 years, and there is no sign of her easing up. A former body sculpting champion, personal trainer, occupational therapist, life coach and creator of her own raw food company FitSnax, she is an expert in fitness and nutrition, and eagerly passes on her wisdom and knowledge to her vast clientele.
GCT’s Gina Mamouzelos recently had a chat with Kat about all things fitness and nutrition, and her tips for staying healthy and motivated
Tell us about your line of work?
I have been working in the fitness industry for 10 years nationally and internationally, and have been in and out of hospitality in that time. I am an Occupational Therapist and Lifestyle Coach, working part time online and out of the Fitness Playground, Surry Hills, Sydney. I now direct my raw food company, FitSnax and also work in our store front café, Fuel Nutrition.
Where were you born and raised, and where do you live now?
I was born in Perth, WA and finished my university studies in Hong Kong. Shortly after, I worked on cruise ships as a fitness instructor and made the move to Sydney after this time.
Tell us about your journey with health, nutrition and fitness – were you conscious of nutrition as a child? Did fitness play a big part of your childhood?
My fitness journey started at a young age! I did do a lot of sports during school years, but found most interest in competitive track and field. I was a state gymnast too. However, I did have a pretty bad knee injury, but I never let that get in my way and it was much of the reasoning behind choosing OT as my degree. My studies and desire to improve physical performance let me delve into studying nutrition further. Personal experiences with battling mental health issues around eating, also led me to educate myself and understand how and why people eat the way they do. My goal is to try and create lifestyles that focus on balance, and having a healthy relationship with food, as well as their own thoughts on their body.
How did you become involved in the fitness industry, including Zumba, personal training and body sculpting?
I had a lot of energy as a kid (I think this is the Castellorizian part of me!) so I found a lot of enjoyment in exercise. I was driven to work for myself, so I found group exercise classes and personal training an admirable profession. My classes grew quite rapidly, and I was fortunate enough to teach classes in prisons, on board cruise ships, in Hong Kong and at Perth Telethon events. As a personal trainer, I always like to challenge myself. So, I like to set new goals and milestone. Although being successful at body sculpting, I have now moved through to powerlifting and enjoy a variety of different styles of training. Especially those that focus on performance rather than aesthetics.
Tell us about your biggest highlights teaching Zumba, and participating in body sculpting competitions?
Zumba took me many places, but a major highlight for me included being a part of the World’s Biggest Zumba Class in 2011. Being in front of over 1400 people and raising over $20,000 for Telethon was an amazing feat.
With body sculpting, although I won multiple State and National Titles, my greatest success stories have been my clients. I have had over 18 girls compete – all of which have placed either state or nationally. Last year, my client Laura, took out World Champion Fitness Model in Las Vegas. It’s awesome to see these girls successfully compete with a healthy mindset. The journey to educate them on how to fuel the body with a variety of delicious foods, without having to deprive themselves or resort to eating just boring food – makes me really happy!
What did you find the most challenging about competing?
At the time, very little. Now however, the challenge would be time management. There are constraints with training and the time needed to be able to fit it in.
What is your secret to staying fit and healthy?
My mental health. It’s taken me years to work on myself and improve my thoughts and perceptions about who I am, what balance is and what healthy is. It is an ongoing journey – but when you finally take time for yourself and strive to improve who you are – everything falls into place. Healthy mind, healthy life.
Tell us about FitSnax? How did this company come about? Are the recipes your own creation?
I always enjoyed cooking with my mum when I was kid. What I did notice was that the recipes we used were often full of sugar and butter. So my healthy creations and alternatives developed during university when I wanted sweet treats, without sugar. In the last 5 years, it was more about finding ways to provide my body and my clients’ bodies, with natural, wholesome, alkalizing foods, that not only satisfied cravings, but were beneficial in terms of energy sustenance, and protein quality. The recipes are my own. The salted caramel ball took me 7 months to perfect!
What is your favourite FitSnax and why?
The Peptacular (peppermint) FitSnax. Mainly, because I based this off the taste of the Mint Patties – a childhood favourite treat that my dad used to buy me. To create a similar taste, without the sugar, was quite a feat.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to get healthy, but having no idea where to start?
Balance your lifestyle. Making small changes daily to improve your health, will make the process enjoyable. If that means adding in a walk instead of driving, or doing one day without cola – then that is a simple change that when done continuously will make a large impact on your lifestyle.
With all the paleo craze and focus on green shakes, bootcamps and Crossfit, have you noticed a shift in terms of the average Australian trying to be more health conscious?
Yes and no. It’s difficult to notice this when you are in the fitness industry constantly. I do think however there is better knowledge of what is healthy for the body and what is not.
What are the main goals your clients have when they seek your help?
Maintaining fat loss with a balanced lifestyle. It can be done.
Do you ever ‘fall off the wagon’ or have cheat days? What is your weakness?
I don’t do “cheat” days – I have experienced pretty severe eating disorders and believe any form of restriction can lead to a binge and unhealthy mindset. I much rather use an 80/20 rule to keep life in check and balanced.
In a country that has such a beach and fitness lifestyle, why do you think there is an obesity epidemic in countries like Australia and the U.S?
The access and cost of convenient, bad food is unbelievable. Unfortunately, I think a lot comes down to schooling too, and what parents and canteens provide kids for meals and snacks.
What is the key to staying motivated?
Enjoying what you do! If you don’t like running, why run? There are so many forms of exercise out there – there will be something you will enjoy.
What’s next for you?
I have been sponsored to move to NYC in early 2017, to become General Manager of a growing Australian café chain, Bluestone Lane. FitSnax will continue in Sydney whilst I am away, and my online client work will still be running. My ten year goal coming to fruition in the tenth year!