"Thick Thighs Save Lives": Meet Openfit Trainer Lita Lewis
Before she was an Instagram sensation, Lita Lewis moved from Australia to New York with enough money to survive for 21 days. She landed a job with two days to spare but soon realized her addiction to fitness surpassed her purpose at the office.
Now living in Los Angeles, Lewis travels the world spreading her body-positive fitness philosophy, and her latest stop is a four-week Openfit exclusive program. Members can burn through 10 workouts that combine resistance, cardio, and HIIT training to get strong, sculpted, and solid — regardless of size, shape, or fitness level.
We caught up with Lewis to chat about her evolution as an influencer, her clothing line, and the surprising treats that find their way into her diet.
Openfit: How did you start sharing fitness with others?
I started by training a couple of my girlfriends in my local park in downtown Brooklyn. We would meet there, and everybody saw my personal physical transformation and were just like, “I want to look like you. I want legs like you.”
My girlfriends told their girlfriends, they told their coworkers, and what started as a couple of friends soon turned into 50 people showing up for this boot camp. At that time, I was doing it for free.
How did you turn fitness into your business?
I shared content from my workouts in the park and these big group selfies on my Instagram. People started calling from all over the country, saying, “I want to work out with you.” “Come to Dallas.” “Come to San Fran.” “Come to Atlanta.” I would find a local park and do a pop-up session. I’d charge a small fee, and people would show up. It blew my mind. I had built a business, and it all started with social media.
Tell us about how your career as a trainer took off.
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I was at a point in life where things were crashing down around me. People were posting their lattes and art (to Instagram), and the only thing I had to post was my workouts. That’s what I was doing to try to pick myself up again and get in a better physical and mental state of health.
A few months went by, and I’m just sharing content that was reflective, positive, and talking about gratitude. I’d work with someone with one arm or one leg, show them killing it, and talk about how blessed we are to have bodies that can move. I blinked my eyes, and I had 10,000 followers.
When did you realize you were an influencer?
I received a message from a single mother of four. She explained that she had just gone through a divorce, fallen into a depression, and lost the motivation to cook. Her youngest daughter had gained 20 pounds and no longer felt comfortable in her soccer uniform. She decided she didn’t want to play sports anymore, withdrew from her classes, and her grades dropped.
She said the challenges in her life sparked negativity, and it was affecting her daughter. What I was sharing on social media helped her pick herself up again. She said she realized that if I can do it, she can do it not just for herself but also for her daughter. If I can touch a perfect stranger’s life by sharing what I love on an app, I’m literally one of the most blessed people on this planet.
Acceptance of one’s body is easier said than achieved. How would you advise someone who struggles with body issues to even begin appreciating theirs?
It takes courage to look at yourself in the mirror and find something that changes your thought process. You’re only one decision away from being OK. You really are. One day you’re feeling down and out, and that evening you can look yourself in the mirror and be like, “You know what, this is a beautiful night. I’m going to have a wonderful dinner. I’m worth it. I’m gonna take up this space, and I’m gonna be unapologetic about it.”
It takes bravery to do that, and you just find momentum. Make good decisions and constantly tell yourself positive affirmations. I was writing post-its with positive affirmations and sticking them all over my apartment. Have the inner strength to be like, “I’m going to show up just as I am and if I’m OK with this, the world is going to be OK with it.”
How did the creation of your clothing line come about?
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During my boot camps, I would always scream out things like, “Thick thighs save lives!” and “F thigh gaps!” Women would say, “Can you put that on a T-shirt? I want to wear that.” I started putting these phrases on tanks, t-shirts, and hoodies.
It was a lot more popular than I anticipated. It evolved into making certain pieces that women can wear that accentuate their curves — not hide them — to make them feel confident when they’re moving. That’s how my apparel line, Thick Athletics, came about. I’m really proud of how a simple message brings out the best in a woman, especially while she’s working out.
Your life looks pretty perfect on Instagram. What’s something people would be surprised to hear about you?
I have never been too scared to be vulnerable in the journey of fighting depression. I realize that I can’t always be that strong girl. I built this strong body, these strong shoulders, and legs, but I would still go home and cry myself to sleep. I learned it’s OK not to be strong. I realized that by sharing my vulnerability that I was strong. It takes courage to do that, and I think what people will find about me is that I’m not afraid to show my true self.
Balance is important in life. You won’t always be up. There will be some down times, but those down times will make the good times feel like Heaven, and you’ll appreciate it more when you’re there.
If you could do only one exercise for the rest of your life, which would it be?
I can’t get away from the classic squat. But it’s super close with the deadlift, too. Anything that works the lower half is my favorite.
Now swap “do only one exercise” with “eat only one food.”
I haven’t had it in a long time, but if I could eat one type of food for the rest of my life, I’d go back to my grandpa’s chop suey (sapa sui). It’s a typical Samoan dish. I miss it daily.
Do you stick to a special diet?
For me, it’s about balance. I’ll be completely honest: I’m not eating a super-clean diet. It doesn’t work that way when you have four boys that want pizza on Friday nights.
I like to think of it as the 80-20 rule: 80% of the time, I’m eating healthy, then 20% of the time, it’s that pizza! Those fries and that brownie look pretty good, too.