As a youngster, Cassandra Nuamah spent countless hours shooting hoops and running track, followed by hours of intense chow-down sessions. “Because I knew I was working out so much, I had this, I can eat and drink whatever I want mindset,” she says, acknowledging the gap between her former fitness and diet habits. A self-described “thickums” for the majority of her life, she could not see the connection between her weight and eating patterns. Although her mother—a staunch fitness junkie—encouraged her to eat nutrient-rich meals, Cassandra gravitated to sweets and fried foods instead. Like a rebellious preacher’s kid who skips church, “I was the person who put sugar in frosted flakes and regularly had skittles for breakfast,” she admits.

Cassandra started her freshman year at the University of Virginia in 2002. With the campus pizza hut and dining halls as regular hangouts, she quickly gained the dreaded ‘freshman 15’ …and then some. Although her fitness was at an all time high—with dance practices and cardio workouts as part of her daily routine—her 5’4 frame ballooned to 180 pounds.

Then in 2005, her outlook on health was forever changed when her sister Samantha was diagnosed with lupus. The crippling disease rapidly took control of Samantha’s body, paralyzing her from the waist down. Doctors said she would never walk again and gave her weeks to live. Refusing to accept the diagnosis, Cassandra’s mother snatched her out of the hospital and took matters into her own hands. She removed everything from Samantha’s diet except regular homemade vegetable and fruit juices. Slowly, Samantha regained movement in her legs and eventually made a full recovery.

Witnessing her mother heal her sister by changing her diet, Cassandra grew determined to make a lifestyle change. She started the reinvention process slowly; opting for water over juice and introducing vegetables into her meals. She then gave up fast food and started to cook more. Curbing her sweet tooth and trading candy for fruits was the final step on her road to a healthier life. Gradually, she began losing pounds and her friends took note, showering her with compliments and questions about her new “diet.”  Cassandra realized that she was not alone in underestimating the power of clean eating. In the process of taking her body back, she discovered her passion for promoting wellness.

She became a fitness instructor for her mother’s company, Kukuwa Dance Workout. The responsibility of teaching in front of a class and serving as an example cemented her decision to promote healthier lifestyles. In 2010, she propelled her fitness to another level by becoming a certified personal trainer and completing a 21-day cleanse that consisted of only fruits, vegetables, protein, fiber, and supplement shakes. Feeling invigorated, she enrolled at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition to pursue certification as wellness coach so that she could help others on the journey to discovering their best selves.

Now a certified wellness coach and workout instructor, Cassandra has lost over 50lbs and dropped nearly a dozen sizes. “I was able to drop down 10 sizes and it wasn’t through a crash diet or lipo but just simply changing my diet” she notes.

Cassandra’s advice for those wanting to lose weight? “You can exercise until your face turns blue, but if you’re not coupling that with healthy eating, you will not see results. It’s not so much what you do, it’s what you EAT!” She finds joy in guiding others to new fitness heights—even waking up at 5am to go running with her clients and accompanying them to the grocery shopping to select foods and plan healthy recipes. Ultimately, she credits her changed diet with saving not only her sister’s life, but hers as well.

To learn more about Cassandra, visit her website.

Nicaila Matthews is a Jamaican born, Bronx bred writer and social media specialist who blogs at