Like lots of kids, I dreamed of being an actor when I grew up. From my small town in Venezuela, the lights and cameras of Hollywood were exciting and alluring. They also seemed impossibly far away.
The distance wasn’t just geographical. Becoming a famous TV star felt especially out of reach for me, because there weren’t a lot of people who looked like me on TV. I was too fat.
I come from a culture and family that celebrates food. Cooking for and feeding others are ways of showing love. Our family gatherings featured incredible feasts, and I was always praised for cleaning my plate and having a healthy appetite. But all that eating took a toll on my young body: by the time I was 15, I weighed 314 pounds. Kids at school bullied me, calling me “Shamu.” I was embarrassed by my body and ashamed of who I was.
When I couldn’t take it anymore, I became determined to lose the weight. But back then, I didn’t have the knowledge to do it in a healthy way. I tried dangerous fad diets—anything to make the weight disappear. I drank boiling water. I starved myself. I lost 150 pounds, but I was hospitalized for bulimia and anorexia.
Still, I dreamed of becoming an actor. I finished high school and moved out of my hometown to pursue my career, and I also began to study the art of nutrition. I worked hard to achieve a healthy lifestyle as well as my professional goals.
Even as my television career was taking off, my history with obesity, depression and low self-esteem weighed on me emotionally. During a difficult time in my life, my father encouraged me to share my story in order to inspire others struggling with their weight. I wrote and self-published my first book, “De Gordo a Galán” (“From Fatty to Hottie”) and was overwhelmed by the response from the Hispanic community.
I realized that I had uncovered an unmet need and a huge opportunity: the mainstream diet and wellness industry didn’t cater to Latin audiences. The existing plans and products were only available in English, and the food choices weren’t relatable to Hispanic culture and lifestyles.
As a Hispanic celebrity who had experienced firsthand the struggle to lose weight, I was in a position to help others improve their lives. I decided to leave the entertainment world and become an entrepreneur. I launched Yes You Can!, a healthy lifestyle with a Latin flavor, in 2012. Today, we have 75 employees in the U.S. and thousands of coaches all over the country.
My passion for Yes You Can! comes from my very personal mission to help others transform their lives physically and emotionally with the power of a healthy lifestyle. For me, the key to being a successful entrepreneur and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is goal-setting. One of my mantras is, “a goal without a plan is just a dream.”
In my experience, the more clear, vivid and detailed the goal, the easier it will be to achieve in the long run. I know that in order to achieve big goals, I have to break them into manageable time-frames: short term, mid-term and long-term goals. And I have to write them down – the more visual they are, the better. We all have so much going on, and so many responsibilities, that it’s easy to get sidetracked from our goals. I constantly remind myself of my long-term goals and their greater purpose in order to stay focused and motivated.
Earlier this year, I published my second book “Think Skinny, Feel Fit: 7 Steps to Transform Your Emotional Weight and Have an Awesome Life.” In the book, I share success stories from real people who achieved their weight loss goals with the help of Yes You Can! Stories like these inspire me every day, and remind me how fortunate I am to make a difference in the lives of others—one person at a time, one day at a time.
About the author: Alejandro Chabán is an author, motivational speaker, and founder and CEO of Yes You Can! In his new book, “Think Skinny, Feel Fit: 7 Steps to Transform Your Emotional Weight and Have an Awesome Life,” Alejandro shares his inspiring personal journey and his seven essential steps to help people of all ages and backgrounds lose their physical and emotional weight and lead healthier, happier lives.