The co-owner of a local CrossFit gym turns her battles with food into a life-altering example for others

By Keren Moros | Photos by Eduardo Schneider

rachel-batista-7054Rachel Batista is the first to admit that the most tumultuous relationship in her life is the one she has with food. As a teenager, she developed unhealthy habits that led to eating disorders. Even as a gymnastics coach, and an example to her students, she made poor diet choices.

But it wasn’t until after giving birth to her first son that the burden of carrying extra pounds truly began to weigh on the Coconut Creek resident.

“While I was pregnant, [my weight] was OK. It was acceptable,” Batista says. “It wasn’t until [after my pregnancy] that I felt like, ‘You’re fat.’ … As soon as you’re not pregnant, and you’re just heavy, people are just rude to you. It hurt. It made me kind of crawl inside of myself a little bit.”

Soon, she met a local trainer who empowered her to take control of her weight.

“She gave me advice because I really couldn’t afford a trainer,” Batista recalls. “She said, ‘Well, take a look at what the other trainers are doing in the gym. Watch them. If you see somebody who looks like they have decent clients, follow them around the gym; when they get off a machine, do what they were doing.’ I was like, ‘Oh, wow, that’s brilliant.’”

Batista learned that losing the 100 pounds she gained was never going to happen if she didn’t work it out herself. Batista quickly started enjoying the process. In six months, she went from more than 220 pounds to 113 pounds and started competing in fitness competitions. But in losing 100 pounds, she went too fast.

If you have people in your life who are negative and bringing you down and trying to keep you in what they’re doing because it serves their purposes, dismiss those people from your life.

“My face was completely sunk in. I was emaciated. I looked horrible,” Batista says. “I threw out all my trophies from that time, because I thought, ‘Wow, I really killed myself for that.’ And it wasn’t in a good way. I alienated my family. I became very superficial. I just became so obsessed with the weight-loss thing and the transformation thing that I forgot that there were other aspects of life.”

When she became pregnant again, Batista went through the same cycle and gained 100 pounds back.

“After I had my second boy, I knew at that point that I had to let go of all of the damaging things that I was doing,” she says. “I knew what I was doing. I knew that was I was killing myself. I knew that I was killing my marriage. I knew that I was alienating myself from my kids and my family. I had to put my foot down, I had to stop it—and I was the only one who was going to do that.”

In learning to love herself and wanting to be a good example for her children and her gymnastics students, she got it right and lost 100 pounds again, this time for good.

Since then, Batista has won National Physique Committee competitions and competed at the CrossFit Games both as an individual in 2009 and a regional competitor from 2008 to 2013. A co-owner of CrossFit Coconut Creek (4911 Lyons Technology Parkway, Suite 3), she set a world record for the snatch lift at the Pan American Masters Weightlifting Championships in 2015.

Batista shares her lessons of hark work, goal setting and self-respect and what she hopes others can learn from her.

20/20 hindsight: “You see somebody and you think that they have their [stuff] all together, and you have no idea what’s going on. I think that I went through everything that I went through so that I can recognize some of those people and be like, ‘Hey, you’re not alone. You’re not the only person who’s had to do this. Don’t beat yourself up. Let’s just keep moving forward.’ That’s what I had to do.”

Loving your body: “If you’re not happy in your body, then there’s something wrong. Some people like being ‘hunky chunky’ and they’re cool like that. If you’re healthy and you’re happy, and you feel that you’re beautiful and that’s what you put out, then, by all means, be that way. But it’s different when … you completely lose yourself and you don’t know who you are anymore.

“I was so mean to myself … I forgot to love myself and I tore myself apart. The second time around [I tried to lose weight], I would get up in the morning and I would look at myself and I would take responsibility for what I had done to myself—but I would try to be gentle. I would look at my stretch marks, and I would see not just that I had stretch marks because I was fat, but that I had stretch marks because I became a mother. I had stretch marks because I grew a life and my body had to go through tremendous changes for that to happen. So I learned to look at them differently.”

Getting support: “Find a support group—a community. If you have people in your life who are negative and bringing you down and trying to keep you in what they’re doing because it serves their purposes, dismiss those people from your life. And find people who want to help you be healthy. … You have to learn how to be strong, and you have to learn how to recognize that there are going to be manipulators in your life who are going to tell you, ‘Oh, eat that. You’ll be happy if you eat that.’ But they don’t want to feel bad because they’re eating it. They don’t want you to be preachy.”

On balance: “Nobody’s perfect. I don’t care who you are. You’re not perfect. You don’t have it together every single day. Anybody who thinks that (perfection is) the goal, it’s not. It’s learning how to deal with the imperfections. It’s learning how to just get a little better. It’s learning how to make progress and not worry about perfections.”

The takeaway: “I could give you all kinds of tips, like drink a lot of water, eat your greens, eat chicken portions the size of your palm. If you don’t love yourself, none of that is going to work. Because if you don’t love yourself, why are you going to spend extra time prepping food?” λ