Legends in Leadership
Closer Look into Legends in Leadership
A tough pill to swallow. Especially for a 330-pound 17-year-old girl battling the insecurities from being molested, raped, beaten, and bullied as a young teen. This girl would eventually overcome these most adverse circumstances to realize her full potential and touch the lives of thousands around the world, and for that, she is a legend.
Dr. Carla Russo shared her poignant story from tragedy to triumph on “Legends in Leadership,” an inspirational podcast featuring the stories of leaders who are making a difference. ISF and The Carrington Group’s goal is to inspire you with the stories of leaders who come from humble beginnings, overcome challenges and ultimately rise up to make a difference in people’s lives.
Episode 18 of the podcast features Dr. Carla Russo, PhD., a fine example of someone who didn’t allow her circumstances to dictate her success in life. Today, Dr. Russo holds a PhD., an ND., an MSc., an RYT, a Master of Science in Clinical Nutrition; she’s also a registered Yoga Instructor and holds a sub-specialty in Human Behavior. She is also a Professor of Nutrition and Health Sciences, she’s a Board Certified Naturopath, and the owner and founder of Zen Wellness Academy in Dallas, TX. Every day, through her holistic approach, Dr. Russo helps people become their best selves. After reading off her extensive experience and education, the host asked Russo what guided her down this path, to which she responded:
“My story is one of tragedy to triumph, and it started at a very early age. I was eight years old when I was molested. Classic for the victim, the aggressor or the offender threatens that if you say anything they’re going to hurt someone that you care about. In this case, that was a friend of my sister’s who’s 11 years older than myself.
So I said nothing because I didn’t want to put her in harm’s way, but internalizing and not knowing how to channel those feelings, I medicated with food. Very rapidly, I went from being a tall, lean, healthy child to a morbidly obese little girl. Now set in the bullying. Today there’s a huge campaign as there should be for anti-bullying, but that existed when I was a little girl, too. And it was horrific.
I had to endure all of that, which compounded the problem, the obesity just continuing to just blow up literally to a crazy degree. By the time I got to high school, my first 10 weeks of high school, I was brutally beaten and raped. Very damaged at this point, when I got past all of that, I said to my mother, ‘I’m done. I’m not going back to high school. I quit.’ And I was an A-student because I had become so introverted from the molestation that all I did was read. Books were my friend and it was safe, and so I was a smart little girl, but here I was saying I quit I’m out. I’m a high school dropout effective immediately.
I proceeded to pen a program for weight loss, and I say pen because when I was done and I read it, I thought, ‘this is really good.’ But it wasn’t me. It was divine. I literally wrote this program. It was just being downloaded to me, and I did the program myself, transformed myself in under nine months, lost all of the weight, what the media later pegged ‘from supersize to supermodel in less time than it takes to have a baby,’ and I’ve kept it off now for 28 years.
Well, that changed my life. I went back got the degree in clinical nutrition became a weight loss expert and coach and targeted the morbid obesity market, had great success, fast forward lived out every dream with that, got bought out, retired and then ultimately went back to school to become who I am today.
And now I use all of what I am today to advocate on behalf of the cause is near and dear to me with your health and wellness and suicide prevention.”
It seems like an effort to go and help others. Tell us a little bit about what it is that fueled you to help other people overcome what you did?
“It wasn’t an effort at all. It became my passion because what I discovered through my own program was the truth that the diet industry didn’t want people to know and that is that I could lose all of the weight naturally eating real food, not living at the gym, not having to give up alcohol, not having to in any way be deprived, and I understood what it was to get the proper nutrition in the right amounts and muscle confusion
What was most important in what I realized was that weight loss starts in your minds, not on your plate. This isn’t about the pizza. It’s what’s driving you to eat more than one slice. The human body is only equipped to handle so much. Our bladders are designed to hold a pint, yet we’ll drink a Big Gulp, three times the amount the body can hold, so what pushes us to that excessive consumerism?
I had a message, and I wanted to be heard. I was blessed because door after door after door opened, and it was very well received. Now my next passion that came about was the opioid crisis that we have in America, prescriptions that are being written unnecessarily or excessively, so I really wanted to bring awareness and attention and do something about it.
I thought, ‘well, let me get trained that I can work with doctors and chiropractors and more naturopathically and homeopathically treating their patients.’ Not that there’s not a time and place for medication or surgery, there certainly is, I just don’t feel it should be your first recourse.
That was the fuel that drove me to want to go into that coaching practice. My mastery came about teaching you how to keep it off once and for all, and that starts in your head, not in the gym.”
What qualities do you think you as a leader have embodied that if have helped you attract people and have them stick with you and even cross from individuals into professionals and other industries with doctors and chiropractors?
“I don’t hold myself separate. Just because you have achieved certain things, don’t forget who and why you’re there. You were blessed. You were chosen. You were given opportunities that a lot of people don’t get. Don’t misuse that power and don’t think you’re so great because it wasn’t you. In a nanosecond, it can be taken away. I can sum it up by saying love is the answer. Stop with the judgment, stop with the separations and divides and rhetoric.”
Do you back to the voice of that greater good a lot?
“24/7. I’m really big on love Is the answer, stop with the judgment, stop with all of that. Doors started flying open, and it wasn’t because I was special. I’m just a girl. I’m first-generation immigrant. I’m not some tiny cute little bebop blonde, none of that. I think what set it apart was I just genuinely am fascinated by people. I love people, and I don’t judge because it’s not for me to judge. I know what it is to be judged, and that is the last thing I would ever do to someone.
How bad does it have to be that you get to that point where you’re planning your own demise? It’s based on understanding the difference between feeling guilty over something and feeling shame. If you’re feeling guilty about something, it’s something that you can correct and it’s something that you can move on from. When you are feeling shame, that’s part of who you are now, it’s nothing you did. you’re feeling shame either because of your upbringing or because of some trauma that’s happened to you or because society has beaten you down.
Understanding that I was so riddled with shame over what had happened, then I took action and became morbidly obese and did all these other things myself. I had to take responsibility for the things I was guilty. Because those were my actions I brought it on. I did it. I had to remove the victim role and come to terms and take responsibility for the things.”
The Multifaceted Legend
Dr. Carla Russo
added multifamily housing. He is co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of CONTI Organization,
overseeing strategy, company culture, and business development.