Inside Track: Kelly helps underdogs to become achievers
Recognizing rock bottom propels single mom to new professional heights.
Katie Kelly had hit rock bottom.
It was New Year’s Eve 2013. In the middle of a painful divorce and struggling with the reality of being a single mom to her adopted son, Kelly stood crying openly in the middle of a Meijer store, feeling totally alone.
She was in debt, wasn’t satisfied with how her career had panned out and didn’t know what she wanted to do with her life.
She was planning to buy sleeping pills and go home and write a suicide note.
“At that point in my life, I was basically at rock bottom — no self-confidence at all, really scared … just realizing that I was stuck,” she said.
“I’ve written openly about (this.) My thought is (maybe) someone else needed to hear that … because I felt so alone through all this, like ‘no one else is having this problem, no one else understands this.’ I just felt so hopeless.”
But Kelly lived to see 2014. In many ways, in fact, it was the year her life truly started. That February, Kelly became an independent coach with Team Beachbody, a Santa Monica-based health-and-wellness networking corporation that offers weight loss, muscle building and life coaching tips and training.
Now she’s a diamond level coach and has about 200 clients along with 25 other coaches under her. She recently received a congratulatory call from the Team Beachbody regional director who told her she had been named one of its top 100 coaches in the Midwest.
Kelly believes the job, in some sense, probably saved her life.
“It’s given me hope and a vision for what’s possible,” she said. “It’s what I wake up wanting to do. It is the thing that finally pulled all of me together.”
Kelly was born in Las Vegas. Her father served in the Air Force and moved the family from Las Vegas, to Oscoda, Mich., then to England, South Carolina, and finally back to Oscoda, which Kelly thinks of as her hometown.
From 2001 to 2003, she attended Northwood University, earning her associate’s degree in merchandise marketing. She had hoped to go into fashion marketing, envisioning walking the streets of New York City in high heels, like a character from “The Devil Wears Prada.”
She soon realized, however, it wasn’t fashion she really was interested in — it was people.
“I realized I have no fashion sense, but I did love the business side of marketing, and what I loved from my degree was understanding human behavior,” she said.
“In AP English, I had to write a paper on the connection between women’s fashion and women in society, and how their fashion reflected their role. It made me think I liked fashion, but I think I just like human behavior.”
Kelly and her then-husband, who had been her high school sweetheart, moved to Grand Rapids in 2004. She got a job as a receptionist and still works that job part-time.
A few years later, Kelly read a report about troubles in Rwanda and felt compelled to help. After traveling to Rwanda as a volunteer and then helping with local refugees, she decided she wanted to adopt a child from Rwanda.
“Career-wise, I’ve always had a passion for serving people, particularly the underdog. So being in Rwanda and then coming back, (I wanted) to help more people,” she said.
In 2011, she and her husband adopted Noah, who was 2, and Kelly thought she should become a stay-at-home mom. That is when her journey to rock bottom began, she said. Although she adores her son, not working didn’t fit her.
“I was a brand-new mom with a 2-year-old and decided not to work, even though my first job was when I was 12 — I have always worked and held one or two jobs since I was 12 years old. So I thought it’d be a really smart idea to be a stay-at-home mom because in my head I had this idea that … I was going to be this amazing Pinterest mom or something,” she said.
“I had this guilt, and I didn’t understand. Does this mean I don’t love my child? No, I love my son, but I just hated being home all the time … and I had a huge identity crisis. I didn’t know who I was or what my life was about.”
Kelly found some solace in training for a Charlevoix marathon in 2012, and that’s when she got bit by the fitness bug. But by the end of 2013, her divorce was in the works and she was in therapy.
She read a book called “Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow” by Elizabeth Lesser, and found inspiration in a quote from Anais Nin, which begins the book: “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
That summarizes what Team Beachbody accomplished for her.
“Beachbody helps you build up healthy and fulfilling lives. It basically connects you with tools to connect you with health and fitness and earning income. I am called a ‘coach,’ but really all I do is I connect people with a program that was created by personal trainers, a plan that was created by nutrition experts,” she said.
“I’m like their cheerleader so what I do is like life-coaching. I just ask people questions and I listen to them. I find out what their struggles are and then I give them the tools to do something.”
Kelly became fully committed to Team Beachbody after a Team Beachbody Summit in Las Vegas in 2014. While trying to win tickets to the event, she listened to an interview with a Team Beachbody coach from Rockford that inspired her.
“I was listening to this woman, and in three years, she went from being a non-earning stay-at-home mom to earning six figures. And when I went to the summit, I actually tracked her down and met her,” she said.
“During that call, as I listened to her story, I had a moment where I said to myself, ‘Why not me? Why couldn’t I do that?’ And I kind of realized I had no other way out — no other options. If this person from Rockford could do it, why couldn’t I do it?’”
Social media now plays a huge part in her job, mostly Facebook and Instagram. She is constantly updating her pages with posts about fitness and inspiration, and it’s served to get her clients.
“Basically, I don’t post anything negative. I try to be a light in someone’s day,” she said. “I want people to know I’m doing it, so that when the time is right for a person and they have a fitness question, they’ll (ask me).”
Beachbody is all about self-development, she said, and in many ways, is well suited for someone like her. A major part of what she does is listen to people bare their souls about how they want to improve, she said. It’s something she understands firsthand, one underdog to another.
“I will sometimes talk to them about the deepest stuff in their life,” she said.
“It’s an honor to be trusted with that information. It’s almost like they just want someone to tell.”