Do you view exercise as punishment? Is there a form of exercise that makes you happy? Can you appreciate your body for what it enables you to do instead of only focusing on how it looks? In this podcast, Dr. Castagnini speaks with Carmelle Jean-Francois about exercising for health and joy!


Carmelle Jean-Francois, an NYC native, is an entrepreneur, Amazon bestselling co-author, motivational speaker, and the Founder and CEO of cFIT Coaching, LLC. She is a fitness enthusiast who has built a strong foundation through her certifications as a NASM Personal Trainer, a Spinning Instructor, a Medical Exercise Specialist, a Pre/ Post Natal Exercise Specialist, and a Beachbody Coach. Carmelle’s most recent projects include virtual fitness classes, private wellness support communities, a fitness blog, and her new book, International Women of Color Who Boss Up!
Visit her website. Connect on Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn.


  • Finding balance
  • Benefits of movement
  • What do you appreciate about your body?

Finding balance

Find your balance between eating well and moving often at various levels in order to maintain your wellness. I do believe in movement, but I believe that we have to get to a place where we are comfortable in our own skin, and we love ourselves because we are who we are. God put us in this body and we’re going to do the best that we can to keep it healthy. Be good to our bodies so that [they] can be good to us. (Carmelle Jean-Francois) It is vital to enhance and maintain the wellbeing of your body throughout your life, but especially towards your aging years. The care that you take now of your body will set you in good health for decades to come.

Benefits of movement

Meet yourself with joy in the exercise that you like doing. What is a form of exercise that brings you simple joy, and that you could end up doing for hours because you are having so much fun? Could that be swimming, dancing, weightlifting, yoga? Find the exercise that makes you forget that you are working out because it brings you that much awareness of your body and enjoyment of yourself.
I always ask first: what is the reason why you are a part of this group? What are you trying to accomplish? … and then I [ask] “what exercise do you want to do minimum three days out of the week to help you stay moving?” To help your cardiovascular [system], to help with the clearing of the mind stuff, clearing of the stressors of the day. (Carmelle Jean-Francois)
You can enjoy exercise instead of pushing through it with frustration and despondence. Find the type of physical activity that leaves you feeling fresh, energized, and alert instead of forcing yourself to do something physical that you would much rather avoid doing altogether.

What do you appreciate about your body?

Due to the immense and constant societal pressure, many people only feel proud of or enjoy their bodies when they look a certain way. However, your body enables you to interact with life. Your body lets you run, swim, sing, walk, climb, and dance. It allows you to experience life fully – that is already a body to appreciate and be grateful for.

Books mentioned in this episode:

Carmelle Jean-Francois & Co. – International Women of Color Who BossUp: Asian, Latina and African American Women Who Thrive and Take Charge of Their Destiny



I am a licensed Psychologist and Certified Eating Disorder Specialist. While I may have over 20 years of clinical experience, what I also have is the experience of having been a patient who had an eating disorder as well. One thing that I never had during all of my treatment was someone who could look me in the eye and honestly say to me "hey, I've been there. I understand". Going through treatment for an eating disorder is one of the hardest and scariest things to do. I remember being asked to do things that scared me. Things I now know ultimately helped me to get better. But, at the time, I had serious doubts and fears about it. If even one of my providers had been able to tell me "I know it's scary, but I had to go through that part too. Here's what will probably happen...." then perhaps I would not have gone in and out of treatment so many times. My own experience ultimately led me to specialize in treating eating disorders. I wanted to be the therapist I never had; the one who "got it". I will be giving you my perspective and information as an expert and clinician who has been treating patients for over 2 decades. But don't just take my word for it...keep listening to hear the truly informative insights and knowledge guest experts have to share. I am so happy you are here!


Did you enjoy this podcast? Feel free to comment below and share this podcast on social media! You can also leave a review of Behind The Bite on Apple Podcasts (previously) iTunes and subscribe!

Podcast Transcription

[DR. CRISTINA CASTAGNINI] Behind The Bite podcast is part of a network of podcasts that are good for the world. Check out podcasts like the Full of Shift podcast, After the First Marriage podcast and Eating Recovery Academy over at Welcome to Behind The Bite podcast. This podcast is about the real life struggles women face with food, body image and weight. We're here to help you inspire and create better healthier lives. Welcome. Welcome to Behind The Bite podcast. I'm your host, Christina Castagnini. So when I was in my eating disorder, exercise was something I used as a purging technique, only I did not know I was doing that at the time. I truly thought that I was being "healthy" and much of my identity was wrapped up up and being someone who worked out so much. I was constantly being told such positive things about how motivating I was to others and how they too wish they had my willpower to work out as much as I did. Little did anyone know the personal hell I was living in though? I didn't actually enjoy any of it at the time. I really thought I did, but I simply could not, not do it. I had to above everything else. I had to do it for at least a certain amount of time, or it didn't count. And the harder the workout, the better. At the time, exercise determined what I could and couldn't eat and it actually helped me earn my food and I really punished myself if I didn't fit it in. I remember my emotional state for the day was so dependent upon it and it was truly a nightmare. It was just all consuming and when I think back to those days, I actually shutter because exercise really didn't serve the purpose that exercise really needs to, or it does now at least in my life. So I'm going to be completely transparent and honest with you guys. I hesitated to bring on today's guest and why? Well, at first I saw that she's coach of a company I used to associate way back then with diet culture and weight loss. And the last thing I ever want to do, or somehow have any of you listening here, think that I endorse is dieting weight loss or diet culture because I don't. However, after much thought and after meeting with and with her, I realized that not everyone who is associated with that company, which is Beachbody is all about that. In fact, it's quite the opposite. And I'm always one, if I can to be open, to changing my mind and opinion about something, and I'm really glad I challenged myself to bring her on the show so we could really discuss a topic I think is really important, which is exercise. I know many struggle with trying to figure out what the purpose of exercise really is, especially if you have an eating disorder. I know many of you have that same experience that I did way back then. And while there's many reasons for that, I think one of the biggest reasons that there was this struggle is because diet culture continually perpetuates the message that all we quote unquote just need to do is eat less and exercise more, which I hate. Exercise is not about weight loss. We are living, breeding, moving beings, and we're meant to move, unlike trees, which are also living things on this earth. They don't move. We do. So we're going to discuss all the wonderful things about exercise, or if you want to call it movement, if you will. Carmelle Jean-Francois is a New York native and is an entrepreneur, Amazon best selling co-author, motivational speaker and the founder and CEO of cFIT coaching. She's a fitness enthusiast who has built a strong foundation through her certifications as an NASM personal trainer, a spinning instructor, a medical exercise specialist, a pre and postnatal exercise specialist, and yes, a Beachbody coach. Carmelle's most recent projects include virtual fitness classes, private wellness support communities, a fitness blog, and her new book, International Women of Color Who Boss Up! All right. So welcome Carmelle. [CARMELLE JEAN-FRANCOIS] Hi Christina. Thank you for having me. I'm excited. [DR. CRISTINA] I'm so excited to see you. You have this fantastic story about how you really shifted your view on fitness and nutrition. So would you mind telling us a little bit about that? [CARMELLE] Yes, I would love to. So it just so happened that I grew up a tomboy and I even exercised like so much when I was in my very early twenties and I got a black belt. I was doing karate, but then I got a job and life got in the way. So about 10 years I was sedentary. I wanted nothing to do with exercise. I just didn't want to. My father had gotten adult diabetes, my mother had hypertension and I could see myself starting to gain weight and going down that road. But it wasn't enough to motivate me. But I got to tell you, Christina, one night, I live in New York City, one night hanging out with friends, it was a weekday, hadn't gotten home yet, two o'clock in the morning, I'm driving home, and I knew I was too tired, Christina, to be driving. So you see where this is going. I got into a car accident. Thank the Lord I didn't involve anybody else. It was just me. I crashed into a pole as I fell asleep and I woke up in complete silence, like the motor wasn't working, everything. Everything hurt Christina. So I ended up having two surgeries. I was in the hospital for six days. I broke my ankle. I broke my hip. I severed the tendons in my right hand. I had exploratory surgery because they thought my spleen had ruptured. You can see me now I'm fine, but upon leaving the hospital, the doctors pleaded with me just could you eat? Because they know some women just kind of like, "If I'm going to sit around, I'm not going to eat. I don't want to gain weight." He says, "Could you eat? Your body now more than ever needs the nutrition to help it heal." And I healed so quickly. Now, I was in my thirties at the time and I healed so quickly, the doctors were amazed and I wanted to help aid in my healing. So I started light exercise and I told all my doctors what I was doing and they said, "Listen, we don't want you to overdo it but if you feel good, just pay attention to the way you feel." And that's exactly what I did. Christina that was when I first realized the correlation, the role that fitness and nutrition together played, what the role they played in healing my body, but sustaining my life, my activities, my every day, my health. And I felt like, wow, I think I got something here. It wasn't all about the exercise and it wasn't only about the nutrition. It was a really fine line in between the two. It was a nice dance between the two and that's when my love of health and fitness and wellness really, that's when that journey really started for me. I love that word wellness, because I think, you and I have talked a little bit before you came on and you do work for Beachbody and people may look you up and see that and go Christina you're having her on here. What's going on because you're so anti diet culture and everything you stand for? I wanted to bring you on for that reason because I want to debunk a lot of these myths out there that people can exercise and really focus on wellness and bring in nutrition because I really highly promote food as fuel and nutrition for your body and it doesn't have to be about dieting. It doesn't have to be about wet weight loss. It doesn't have to be about looking a certain way. It's about how does your body feel? How's it about being well in your life? How is it about, like you said, healing your body, healing your life, having a lifestyle that's conducive to really experiencing a happy life, happy lifestyle, experiencing the world in a way where you are not abusing food or not abusing your body or not focusing on all these things where I think so many people would equate something like that brand with such a negative connotation? And you just exude so much positivity and so much of what I think is great about nutrition and exercise, where it can be a positive, wonderful element to somebody's life instead of having to be about punishment or weight loss or all these other things that people just, unfortunately, when they think about like food or exercise or "diet," that's what they equate it with? So I'm wondering for you, you had told me you meet with women and talk about food and exercise and nutrition in a way that's so anti what most people think about. So could you tell us a little bit about that too? [CARMELLE] Sure, sure. I would love to, because I don't believe in diets. I feel like I got my strength and I got my health without being on a diet. And I remember thinking, oh, weight watchers would be the way to go because there was a point in my life that I was much heavier than I wanted to be. But then when I finally figured it out, Christina, and I finally said, why do I have to be on a diet? All I have to do is eat well and keep a baseline of fitness. And although I happen to love fitness and that's where my first love, like, I love it, but at the same time, I realize that it's not for everybody. I'm definitely an advocate of walking around the block, if that's all it takes, because I definitely believe that the body needs to move. But even if it is walking around the block, walking the dog, maybe it's just dancing in front of your television set as you watch your favorite show. So yes, I have this group. I'm a part of cFIT coaching. I am cFIT coaching. I'm the owner and founder of cFIT coaching where I work with about eight women at a time for six, eight weeks and we just dive in deep, as far as what our feelings about the way we look, about the way we eat, about the way we exercise, about all those things, how we view ourselves in the mirror, how we view ourselves through other people's eyes. Like there's some people who actually like walk down the street and will feel, oh my God, everybody's looking at me. They're not, but then you have it inside you because you are watching yourself through their eyes. So there's this thing that happening with these women that I don't look the way my husband wants me to look. I don't look the way I want to look. Or maybe I like the way I look, but my husband doesn't. I remember having a boyfriend that said, "You know what, if you gained any more weight, I couldn't let you out the house because you're just too fine." Like, what is that? So here, yes, it's just crazy. And then, so here you have a group of people that want to be like curvy and then you have the group of people who want to be skinny and they're all for the wrong reasons. I'm not going to say they're all for the wrong reasons, but they're all for reasons that not everybody really can connect with and not everybody can really understand it. It's for us to know what's inside of us, how we want to look, what makes us happy. We just want to feel comfortable in our skin. We want to be able to know that we can put on that dress and feel good in the way we look and not just kind of get frustrated and say, I'm not going to that party because I don't like the way I look. And I know those women too. So it's just finding that balance of where you feel happy, where you feel content in your own skin. So as far as the fitness fanatic goes, some people have their things. Some people just love dance and can't stay away. Some people love the dumbbells and can't stay away. And that's all fine, well, and good. But I do believe in movement, but I believe that we have to get to a place where we're comfortable in our skin, where we love ourselves because we are who we are. God put us in this body and we're going to do the best that we can to keep it health. If we're good to our bodies, our bodies will be good to us. And I'm 47 years. I'm going to be 47 in two weeks. So I'm going to be 47, I'm going into these older years and so are my peers. So now we are dealing with different things. Some of us are dealing with cancer. My sister's dealing with endometriosis. I know somebody else who just got on hypertension medication. And these things, yes, they come with age, but they also come because of our negligent diet. And I can't even really say negligent, Christina. It's just, we don't know what we don't know. Marketers continue to feed us what we want to hear as far as labeling is concerned. So it's more important than ever as we get into these older years we don't fall into these chronic conditions when simple movement and more mindfulness toward nutrition could have helped us prevent that altogether. [DR. CRISTINA] So let me ask, when people come to you or they come to your group and, you discuss the benefit of exercise, or movement, as you say, what are some the conversations that you guys have? [CARMELLE] I'm asking them what kind of exercises are they incorporating during the course of the day. I ask them what their relationship is with exercise. Is it something that they like doing? And what I really emphasize, I don't push the Beachbody platform so much unless they express an interest in it. Otherwise I'm like, well, what may makes you happy? Are you a dancer? Are you a martial artist? Oh, you own a treadmill? So I try to meet them where they are and I try to work with what they have already. And I always ask first, what is the reason why you are part of this group? What are you trying to accomplish? And then I say, well, what exercise do you want to do minimum three days out of the week to help you stay moving, to help your cardiovascular, to help with the clearing of the mind stuff, clearing of the stresses of the day? Because I know when I'm done with my workout, I feel empowered. I work out in the morning so I feel like I'm ready to take on my day. So I want other people to feel that way too, about exercise and not grunting, that it's a chore that they have to do to maintain a certain physical appearance for what society says is right. Let's talk about the individual. What makes you happy? Let's do more of that. And that's really, really, truly my message when it comes to fitness. So that is more or less the conversation. And if anybody wants to get in deeper, I'm your girl, because I do love to exercise [DR. CRISTINA] And I think that's so right on, like, you're just talking about the stress reduction part of the exercise. I think that is often so just glossed over. It's so much, like I said before, people are talking about exercise in ways that are not, you know, who wants to just stick with an exercise routine, if it's just for weight loss or to earn your food, or to feel less guilty about what you ate or have to look like you said a certain way society says you have to look or else you're not happy. It's constantly chasing this cloud. But stress relief or, I just love you lit up when you're saying I do it in the morning and I feel great about my day and you're energized and feeling empowered. Those are the things I wish we could really push more and get out there more like movements. What does it do for you if you do this? It's not a requirement. And you can do so many different things. I think people just think it's, oh, you got to go to the gym, you got to do this, you got to push hard. But you don't have to. It could be fun. [CARMELLE] It could be fun. It could be. I say all time, it could be a walk around your block, get to know your neighborhood a little bit. And you'll be surprised. I so appreciate the old houses and buildings in my neighborhood because I've been given a chance not to just drive through and drive by. And I feel like it's, you said it's glossed over, you know the feeling of empowerment that you get from exercise. And I feel it's because the gym organizations and companies emphasize, even with the new year, they emphasize lose that holiday weight. It's just such a big marketing strategy to get people feeling guilty about their enjoying life. And we're always taught to think that in just three weeks, in just four weeks, we can get that body back and then when somebody does not get that body back in four weeks, they're like, "Well, what's wrong with me?" And then they, "That didn't work for me." And then they go in another different direction. And that's sad to see too, the tricks that they play with our minds to make us think certain ways when it comes to the marketing. [DR. CRISTINA] Now, and it's horrible, because then what happens is, like you said, you don't get it after three or four weeks. And then it's the, I failed, I did something wrong and it just weeks havoc on the mental versus, well, what if you pushed away from that and just, how do I want to feel in my body? How do I want to exist? And to your point, it's like, can I walk around the block, maybe meet my neighbors, maybe not during the pandemic, but maybe just like little kids. I watch little kids. They're so fun. They play tag and they're having fun and they're running around. They're not thinking, wow, how many calories am I burning? Or gosh, did I just burn off lunch with that candy bar I ate? They're enjoying life. They're just excited. How fun is that? [CARMELLE] Exactly. And our bodies are meant to move. And you said something interesting. You said, meet a friend and take a walk around the block with kids, play with each other. And really believe that a time like this, for certain people, they need a tribe. They need their supporters, their cheerleaders, their group, the girls in the neighborhood they're going to meet up just for a walk. They'll have fun. They'll walk at an easy pace. And it's an amazing cardiovascular exercise. They would've felt great by the time the walk is over. And guess what, they didn't have to think about whether or not they were eating something that they shouldn't have been, or overexerting themselves with exercise. So I'm such a big advocate for a support system, a support group, where you get together with your people and just, even if you have to cry together and laugh together, of course, and just kind of just get out and just enjoy being active and just really appreciate, and honor our bodies for the ability to move. [DR. CRISTINA] That right there is such a great message. Is what do you appreciate about your body? Because I think so much, again, the focus on, I can only be happy with my body if it looks a certain way, versus what about being heavy with your body, for what it can allow you to do and what it can allow you to experience in the world? Like being able to go and take a walk with your friends for a certain amount of time and being able to be social, or for an example, I just went with my kids somewhere and it was so great that we could all walk for the whole day around an amusement park because we could. But just being able to appreciate that, like we can, we're able to have that lung capacity or the stamina to do that. And it was like our feet weren't tired. I was like, this is great. I appreciated that and I think my kids did too. I sat back and actually thought that this is great. We're able to do this and enjoy the day and not be fatigued. That was fantastic. But it wasn't like, oh my gosh, how do we look? Are we looking okay or any of that. It was like, no, we're just enjoying the day together. It was fantastic. That was the whole point. [CARMELLE] That's the whole point of all of this, but everybody places emphasis on places, which they shouldn't. So that's where that all comes in. [DR. CRISTINA] And to your point, getting back to, you went through this healing process with your body and I don't think anyone appreciates their body more than when maybe it's not able to function as well maybe when you are hurting or you are not able to move because maybe you had an accident or nonfunctional, like just wanting to get back to that place or wishing you were in that place where, "I just want to walk without pain or I just want to move, or I just want to get out and be able to do all the things I used to be able to do." I don't know if that was going on for you after your accident? [CARMELLE] Yes, that was, but that was quickly overshadowed by the fact that I was seeing how strong my body actually was. Because I went from a place of being sedentary where I didn't want to exercise. I knew I had it in me. I just didn't want to. I don't want to be bothered. I just live my life and just stay healthy. But I know I believe in movement. So I believe that had a big part, that plays a big part in our overall health. But with that said, as I was healing, yes, I wanted to get out into it because I spent three months in a cast. So you want to take it off and now you just want to be outside by yourself. You don't want help getting into a wheelchair, whatever the case is. But what started happening, I started getting, like I mentioned, such an appreciation for what my body could do, how quickly and how well it was healing and where it was taking me. So I kept, now it's just kind of like, what else can I do? And that's when I really started challenging myself. Well, can I run with a group? And I joined a running group. Can I do a fitness competition? And I did a fitness competition. And before I knew it, people were asking me questions and I knew what worked for me and I knew what I did, but I know people are not going to test their body like that. And maybe the time doesn't allow it, which is all good and I appreciated it and respected it. So I studied for my certification and I started learning a lot about people as I started spreading my message. And like I said, I was big into fitness because I was so excited about what my body was allowing me to do. So that's when it really hit me that there's something happening here too, in our minds about how we view ourselves. So even if society sees something that they like, how am I seeing myself? What am I seeing when I look in the mirror? And those have to be addressed as well when it comes to any individual. So I feel like it all plays apart, Christina, the nutrition aspect. It's all body, mind, and soul, and spirit. And it all comes together and you can't have one without the other. So I never talk about fitness without talking about nutrition and I never talk about nutrition without talking about fitness. And then it always comes in like, what are you doing mentally? Are you meditating? Are you journaling? Are you appreciating what you can already do and how your body already takes you through the world and through your life? Are you taking time for yourself painting your nails? Are you getting your massages? Are you having movie night out? So I really try to dive into those things as well to make sure that they're not only obsessed with fitness because I've had my, like in my journey in rocky roads where I was just calories, calories, calories, I need to look a certain way. I need to look a certain way. I need to look a certain way. I'm a twin and I was considered the fat twin. So for a long time, in my mind, I'm like, oh my gosh. When I started losing my weight, I still felt like I had something to prove to everybody who called me the fat twin. And I felt like, look at me now. But who was I doing that for? The journey is just different for everybody. So we don't know how other people are looking at us. And I have a blog called Fit to Motivate because I really believe that everybody, no matter how sedentary, no matter how fit they are, they are fit to motivate somebody else, whether it's with the girlfriends, getting together and taking a walk around the block. So I really feel like there's a certain level of kindness that we all need to share with each other. [DR. CRISTINA] Well, right on. And I think that's the whole thing. We don't know what anyone else is thinking about us, but it really comes down to how comfortable are you in your own body? And if the emphasis is I can't be happy or live the life I want to live, unless I look a certain way or weigh a certain amount, then that's really where the struggle is because I think that's where a lot of people struggle, to your point, and really again, focusing on can fitness, can movement, I think instead of the word exercise, maybe can movement be part of somebody's life, where it can have such positive effects, like you said, like decreasing stress, making you feel better about yourself, improving self-esteem, even sleeping better, just getting stronger, getting better over time, just all the things you mentioned. It's fantastic. And I'm glad that that's more of what your message is and what you're trying to get out there and help people to really like move toward. [CARMELLE] Yes. I think it's really important. I did a challenge with one of my groups and two of the girls in the group had treadmills and I said, "Well, I'm putting out a challenge. Everybody walks two miles this weekend and you could break it up in however many pieces that you want, but you can't do it indoors. If you have a treadmill, sorry, leave it at home and take it outdoors." And one of the girls actually resented that challenge, but she said, "Carmelle, I went out and I walked. That was so appreciative of the nature that's around me." So yes, like just being appreciative of what's outside of our doors, the trees, the birds, and then taking in that fresh air, it does a body good, that fresh air. And then knowing that you did something good for yourself, for your cardiovascular feeling good and then exhausting yourself out so that you do sleep extra well tonight. There's so many positive benefits. I wish everybody loved movements and I wish I could convince everybody, but I can't convince anybody. They pretty much have to come to that conclusion themselves. And I can guide them to where they need to be. When I go on the track, I see these two women and they're doing their south cell right there on the track. They're dancing. They're not running. So I just say, do what you love. If it's playing with your grandkids, go do that. If it's playing with your dog, go do that. Just keep moving. [DR. CRISTINA] Well, awesome. Thank you so much for being here. You have such great positive energy. I love it. If people would like to find you on social media or connect with you, how can they do that? [CARMELLE] Well my website is The letter cFIT Coaching, that's one word. And my Instagram is cFIT Coaching on Instagram. Again, the letter C fit coaching. I do have a book that's being released this month in July. I'm not sure when this is going to air, but if anybody jumps on my website, I have a free gift for your listeners, Christina. And if they decide that they want to support me by buying the book, I am a co-author of the book and they'll get another free gift on top off of that and I would really appreciate it. It tells a little bit more about my story and less about fitness, but I feel really good and really proud and honored to have been part of that project. So yes, that's where you can find me and I'd be excited to collaborate with anybody and be excited to consult with anyone. And just let them know a little bit more about how it can benefit your listeners. And I appreciate this platform. [DR. CRISTINA] Fantastic. I know you said it all, but just in case you never wrote it down and you want to find it, then I will have all that information on my show notes. So make sure you head over to my website after the show and all of that will be there. So thank you so much for being here again. Really appreciate it. [CARMELLE] Thank you. I appreciate it too. [DR. CRISTINA] All right. Thanks so much. Thanks for listening. This podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regards to the subject matter covered. It is given with the understanding that neither the host, the publisher or the guests are rendering legal, accounting, clinical, or any other professional information. If you want a professional, you should find one.