Happy Hustler of the Month: Greg Miller

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About Greg:

Greg Miller, Owner of Authentic Awesomeness, encourages people to be ‘Authentically Awesome’, by living and inspiring other to live a positive, energized lifestyle whether in sport, at work, or in everyday life; by not worrying about what others think, but improving yourself each and everyday spiritually, mentally or physically. He believes in investing our time, rather than just letting it pass. He believes in embracing our own uniqueness, our own goofy, whacky and weird selves. Greg Miller believes in embracing who we truly are without reserve, without the thought of “Is someone judging me,” because yes they are and WHO CARES!! Whether they are judging for better or worse, BE YOU!!

He is:

  • Here to inspire others to be the best version of themselves.
  • Master Trainer
  • Motivational coach
  • A 2008 10th round MLB Draft pick





Tell us a little bit about your hustle and your happiness journey.

Where to begin, my happy hustle journey began after losing my professional baseball career due to elbow surgery and poor choices. These poor choices cost me my dream that I worked all my life to achieve. I even wrote a poem about it and the poor choice. My journey of a happy hustler didn’t begin so “Happy” per say as I battled a strong addiction to pain pills and opiates in general.

I was in and out of rehab for several years, lost in the grips of space and time withno direction, no goals, and a will to live that became completely stripped. It was not until my best friend Ezekiel Boren, entered my life and told me exactly what I needed to hear, the TRUTH. I had become so accustomed to being Greg, “The baseball player,” that I had no identity anymore. I just lied to myself about who I was, and was living this unauthentic, self-deceiving type of lifestyle and mindset. It was not until I made a conscious CHOICE, to choose a different way; to think different thoughts; to FUEL my mind with positive thoughts and feed those thoughts that aligned with my true self, my AUTHENTIC self, that I began to RECREATE who I was and ultimately begin to build my own AUTHENTIC AWESOMENESS…. And that is how our company began - through finding my own Gratitude and Love for myself, which is the foundation for what our company represents. Gratitude, Self-Love and Self-Empowerment!


What do you do to de-stress after or during a long, stressful day?

I do a lot of meditation, even just sitting at my desk, I will close my eyes, count my breaths for some time, get myself centered and continue on with my day. It is very relaxing and calming - relax the mind and RELAX THE BODY! Working IN and not just working OUT, the body only does what the mind tells it to do. Because of this we call our workouts, workINs because it all starts with a mindset - it all starts WITHIN!

My favorite workout is to hang my Olympic rings in nature, on a big branch, or under a waterfall like I did in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. I create a little circuit and get after it.


Where do you go for inspiration?

For inspiration I go to nature and connect with the things that are greater than myself. I also listen to a lot of motivational speakers, Tony Robbins is classic, but also guys like Eric Thomas, Bob Proctor, Dan Pena and many others.


What are you currently reading or listening to (podcasts, books, blogs, etc.)?

Currently I have just finished the “Three Pillars or Zen” by Philip Kapleau and am re-reading “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill. I find that life is a lot about repetition, and enhancing what already IS. Re-affirming and re-instilling what works, especially if we begin to lose our balance and our “way” so to speak. One other book, the one that changed my life is “As a Man Thinketh,” by James Allen. I listen to it in my car, before I go to sleep. It is awesome.


What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone just starting their happy hustle journey?

If there was just ONE piece of advice haha, even though that’s very limiting because there are infinite things to give for advice; I would have to say Perseverance. Life is not all rainbows and butterflies, and it is how we RESPOND to life challenges, as opposed to how we REACT to them. They say life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond; I have to disagree because life is ALL about how we respond to certain circumstances and people in our lives. Life is going to happen regardless.


What are some of your favorite quotes or words to live by?

Well I love Muhammad Ali’s “The man with no imagination has no wings,” this one is awesome. But I am a big Ralph Waldo Emerson fan and he has two quotes that stick out to me, one being “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment,” and also “Write it in your heart that everyday is the best day in the year.” But I also love ANY Bruce Lee quote, I can go on and on about quotes. Buddha is also one of my favorites and the fact is what we think, we ultimately do become. One of my favorite personal quotes is “Best Day Ever!” or BDE. Very similar to Emerson’s quote, but it means that each day is the best and only day, all we have is the HERE and NOW moment. There is no yesterday, there is no tomorrow…. There is only this current breath and current moment at hand and to live each day as its own “rebirth” so to speak, almost like being resurrected each morning, into a new day, a new opportunity to be BETTER than we were the day before.



unnamedIn one word, sum up your life as a Happy Hustler.



What are the three core values of your hustle and how do those values relate to your happiness?

Gratitude, Love and Humility.

These values are what allow more good to flow in my life. If we are our thoughts, then what we think we attract, so it comes down to what we choose to focus our energy on. I choose to focus my energy on being grateful, not only for what I DO have, and also being grateful for all future moments and things that will have, as well as what I have had in the past. Love is just a state of being for me. Loving myself first so that I may spread love to all others and Humility is just as simple as that. Being humble and realizing we don’t know, life is mostly a matter of opinion and perspective with very little truth. The only TRUTH we know of is the one we live, otherwise, we are all on the same journey looking to figure out the same things and which way is best to do this or do that…. Life is about trial and error and being humble enough to take risks, fall down, and be able to get back up that much better, that much stronger the next time… That’s what life is to me and why humility is so important.


Connect with Greg:

Website // Facebook // Instagram


Know someone who we should feature? Nominate them here!


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This feature was sponsored by APOP Studios’ Feeling Salty Workshops. Schedule your workshop today to let go of that negative baggage and build a happier you! Great for work and school events. Email or find more information at:

Happy Hustler of the Month: Luiza Cardenuto


  Luiza Cardenuto is a Philadelphia Artist and Art Educator who believes art can be anyone's source of happiness and peace. She has exhibited in public urban spaces as well as traditional galleries all over the U.S. and abroad.


Tell us a little bit about your hustle and your happiness journey.

I am an artist, but I wasn’t always one. I battled with the decision to become one for quite sometime growing up. I did not fit in. I felt misunderstood. I simply had no other interests besides drawing and when I moved to USA at age 16, I was officially labeled a misfit. I was a super shy immigrate from Brazil, who didn’t speak English well, didn’t understand the culture, yet the punks, cubans and goths in my high school came to my rescue. The rest was history; I became an artist. I made jewelry all the time, and sold it at my school. Quickly, I became known as the Brazilian Hippie girl who makes art.

Art school seemed to be a given and the only option at this point. First, I got my AA in Miami, then I headed off to NYC to pursue my calling...and my BFA.

When I graduated art school I had a strange, eerie feeling that the art world was not for me. Nevertheless, I kept going even though I was disenchanted. I still am. But, art is here, art is always here. I think that creativity has saved me and kept me sane.

Now, I am in Philly where I make art and teach art 24/7. It doesn’t get much better than that!

What do you do to de-stress after or during a long, stressful day?

I have to do yoga everyday now that I am 26. I feel that my body is getting stiffer by the minute. So I stretch and pull, I bend and bounce. It’s what keeps me moving and what keeps me smiling.

Where do you go for inspiration?

To get started at the studio, I have been getting into meditation. I typically do about 20 minute sessions. My mind is an interesting place to go.

There’s also nothing better than traveling, I go back to Brazil every chance I get as well as visit somewhere new every year. I love to be outside, to see different plants, to look at the sky and experience nature. She’s the ultimate teacher and inspiration.

Lately, I have also been going to the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia, and the Natural History Museum in NYC. I live for that stuff.


What are you currently reading or listening to (podcasts, books, blogs, etc.)?

I listen to a lot of lectures from philosopher Alan Watts and Terence McKenna.

I watch the occasional TED talk, some videos by Jason Silva and I get my comedic relief from Porta Dos Fundos, a brazilian comedy Youtube channel.

I recently discovered the magical world of comics. I’ve been buying graphic novels to read by Scott McCloud and others. I’m also a sucker for National Geographic magazines, I love their photography.

As for books, I am reading “A Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley again. My all time favorite book is “fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury.


What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone just starting their happy hustle journey?

I’d say- look deep within. There’s always something new to learn about yourself. Make it fun and interesting.


What are some of your favorite quotes or words to live by?

“Change is the only Constant” - Heraclitus

“There’s always spring after winter” -Buddha

“Trying to be happy by accumulating possessions is like trying to satisfy hunger by taping sandwiches all over your body.”- George Carlin


In one word, sum up your life as a Happy Hustler.



What are the three core values of your hustle and how do those values relate to your happiness?

  • Fulfillment (if it doesn’t fill, it doesn’t spill)
    • Whatever I do, I always ask if I feel fulfilled when doing it. I think it is important to check in with myself and see where the urge comes from.
  • Persistence (measure once, cut twice, and vice-versa)
    • I am definitely a mistake-making-machine. Often the same ones. But  persistence is like the oil that keeps the tin-man going, so he can get nickel-plated by the Wizard in Emerald City...right?!
  • Lightness (life ain’t so serious)
    • I’ve learned to take things lightly by letting go of control. I live with a certain level of detachment that I think is necessary to keep my sanity.


Connect with Luiza:

Website / Facebook / Instagram


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This feature was sponsored by APOP Studios’ Creative Stress Management Workshops. Schedule your group stress management workshop today! Great for work and school events. Email or find more information at:


First Friday Feature: Leah Koontz

This First Friday APOP Studios is celebrating the work of Philadelphia Artist, Leah Koontz. Her work directly relates to equality and the marginalized--demanding she and society as a whole are progressive and forward thinking through the critique of societal standards and beliefs. She has exhibited many places in Philadelphia among which include, New Boon(e), The Galleries at Moore, and The Water Gallery. She has also shown at the Ice Cube Gallery in Denver. She received the Sarah Peter fellowship from MCAD and has been published with Cleaver Magazine and The Philadelphia artblog. 13113205_10206600362873139_1605093997_o

Leah's Statement

"I make work about equality because I feel that this is my duty as a contemporary artist and engaged citizen. I am particularly interested in challenging American society's perception of marginalized groups. I also explore collaboration and growth. It is important for me to consider the tension and possible space for growth which happens among people as they attempt to communicate. I routinely think about my position, with respect to balance and control, as well as society’s relationship to these ideas. I want my art to contribute to learning and conversation, which hopefully spawns from my viewer’s experience. My work deals with themes of excess, conformity, and deterioration. Material is usually the byproduct of an idea. I enjoy working with a range of mixed media and genres to build a vessel for my thoughts as well as combining the grotesque with the seductive."

APOP Studios Feature: Lucy Smith

LSmith1Name: Lucy Smith Age: 26

Original Goal: Getting rid of her Imposter Syndrome. Lucy describes it as that feeling when you are applying for a job and think to yourself, “Oh that has a few things I might like, but I can’t do all of it so I shouldn’t apply for it.” The constant feeling of someone else being more qualified than ourselves.

Today’s Goal: To get rid of Imposter Syndrome all together.

Advice: “You are never alone. You are going to find support no matter what, but support really starts within yourself.”


As human beings, the way that we are raised says a lot about the problems and insecurities that many of us face as adults. For Lucy, growing up as the daughter of a very southern conservative father, and a liberal mother was a constant challenge. As a self-proclaimed hardcore liberal, Lucy and her father clashed heads a lot growing up. However, this tug and pull relationship with her father is what she credits a large part of her finding such self assurance and confidence in her young adult life.

One of the biggest hurdles that Lucy faces day to day is her body. With a smaller, more petite frame but not falling into the “slender” category, she has faced a lot of negative backlash for her silhouette and body type.

“People are like, ‘oh you’re fat’ because I’m not slender. People automatically think it’s a bad thing-- but I mean, being fat is an adjective. To me, it’s just a descriptor.”


One of the ways that Lucy has come to accept her body image was through a stint of time that she spent burlesque dancing. Being able to go up on stage and improv was something that really helped to build Lucy’s self confidence. People really supported her burlesque dancing, and one of the more defining highlights of her time spent dancing culminated after one of her performances. “A woman came up to me and said, ‘ I didn’t know people like you could be sexy. You showed me that.’ It was great, it was wonderful.”

Using social media as a platform to discuss fat positivity and Imposter Syndrome has also been very cathartic for Lucy on her journey to loving herself. Lucy uses her social media pages to help bring awareness and draw community together around those dealing with their journeys to self love and worthiness. The internet is a massive tangle of people, so finding others that are in need of support and hope is not something that is hard to find. Although it’s certainly a cathartic experience for Lucy, to be able to help others on their journey to beating their own versions of Imposter Syndrome.

In my opinion, it’s more important to be proactive and stand up for yourself and say the unpopular things, because somewhere along the line someone else agrees with you.”

LSmith2One of the defining moments in Lucy’s journey came several years ago when a family member slipped her an informational pamphlet about Cryosurgery. Cryosurgery: surgery using the local application of intense cold to destroy unwanted tissue. In most instances the unwanted tissue are localized fat cells.

Lucy was having trouble fitting into the clothes that she wanted to, and her silhouette was not what she wanted it to be. Working hard in the gym was having no results on the lover stomach bulge that she wanted to eliminate. When in theatre school, a professor encouraged her to get into good cardiac shape to be able to make it through a two and a half hour show. Even after doing forty-five minutes on an elliptical every day, she was seeing results everywhere on her body BUT her lower stomach.

After doing all of her research on Cryosurgery/Coolsculpting she decided to go and do the surgery. Lucy describes the process like having your skin sucked into a high intensity vacuum. After her treatment, Lucy had bruises where the coolsculpting had been performed.

I wanted to improve my silhouette because I knew that this was stubborn fat. Because of my circumstances, I was eligible for this treatment because when they touched my stomach...when they grabbed it...they said that it was really soft so the treatment would work.”

The surgery was a real turning point in helping to motivate Lucy to begin to exercise more. Before she underwent the coolsculpting Lucy had been having no success with working out to help achieve the look she wanted. With the fat cells removed, she was starting to see tangible success with working out.

It’s worth saying that I loved and will continue to love my body no matter what my stomach looks like- but I got my silhouette changed because of my own preference. It is not anyone's prerogative to judge anyone else's body based on their own individual preferences...My shape is more appropriate for my body now. I don’t feel like anything is out of shape, or place. That’s what motivates me to get out and exercise.”


Lucy has learned a lot through her journey, but one of the best things she has gleaned from her ups and downs has been just how important being more assertive is for her well-being.

“Getting rid of that little voice in the back of my head telling me that nobody wants to hear what I have to say. Being more positive and extending that generosity to others. If negativity can’t be influenced by positivity, it might be best leave that conversation or that person behind.”

Now Lucy is exercising two days per week in addition to light walking around the city of Philadelphia. She has achieved her own personal preferred silhouette and has changed her outlook on life to reflect a mindset of happiness. In addition to her physical and mental health achievements, Lucy is also on her way to academic and entrepreneurial success. Lucy is a graduating senior illustration student at Moore College of Art & Design, running her illustration business Lucy Smith Illustrations, and a weekend business venture “Snow Princess Parties.”


Can you explain more about Cryosurgery?

I guess the technical term is coolsculpting, because it freezes the fat cells. When it freezes them, it kills them. The fat cells don’t grow back unless you really go all out with your diet/lifestyle, but for the most part they never come back. On average it takes about one hour per section for treatment. They cover your skin in a gel, so that the sucking of the vacuum doesn’t really hurt.


How do you stay active?

I love walking all around the city. When I come back at night, I’m like “that was really fun AND I walked all around the city AND I got to pet dogs in Rittenhouse Park.” I can do all of those things now while exercising.


How did this surgery change the way you look and relate to your body?

It has really motivated me to exercise. Before, my body would look the same after three months of real exercise and I would just feel like, “What’s the point?” I feel more free. I can walk around and not feel self-conscious about my lower stomach. I can walk around with so much more confidence.


When you find yourself in a negative mindset how do you get out of that?

Start thinking of all the things that I am grateful for. My family had a house fire last year, and we are still hanging in there and plugging forward.  People ask me, “How can you be so confident?” I say it’s because I love myself, and a lot of people don’t. What are a few things you’re grateful for?

My health, mentally, emotionally, and physically. I’ve lost four pounds. My family. My dog Ruby, she’s my daughter.



20140514_163943This feature was sponsored by APOP Studios’ Creative Stress Management Workshops. Schedule your group stress management workshop today! Great for work and school events. Email or find more information at




"Art has helped me become a happier, healthier person": Philadelphia Artist Kimberly Jackson

12741938_10156442415255618_6805246031405463249_nIn honor of First Friday, an exciting day once a month during which Philadelphia art galleries usually hold their opening receptions, we are pleased to highlight an artist who is changing the way we look at mental health. Kim Jackson's latest piece, Dissociation, hits the nail right on the head for so many people struggling with depression and anxiety. Her work not only gives its viewers a deeper understanding about the struggles of having a mental illness, but also demonstrates that these same negative emotions and thoughts CAN be used for positive social change by raising awareness.

Kim on Dissociation:

12717567_10156441443440618_8208616097191760753_nAs I prepared the piece and put everything together, I realized I have never vocalized some of these feelings before. I had never spoken those words out loud, and I had never allowed anyone to see those intimate moments. It was the most difficult project I have ever worked on, but in the end, it was the absolute most rewarding. By allowing myself to truly be the most vulnerable I have ever been in public, I allowed myself to experience the kindness of others. Each and every person who saw my piece expressed to me how they personally connected to the piece, and how they relate to anxiety and depression. So many people shared their struggles and it helped me heal in a way no one can ever imagine. It helped me realize that hiding your struggles only holds you back and prevents you from moving on. Now, I am honest and truthful to my friends about my state of mind, and I ask for help if I recognize I need it. Putting myself fully into my art, has helped me become a happier, healthier person, and I hope my art has helped others the same way.

Creating Mindfully: Philadelphia Artist Julia Fox

Here at APOP we like to recognize people who take the term "moving meditation" to the next level. Philadelphia artist, Julia Fox, is an inspiring example of how art can not only be used to become more mindful of beauty on a daily basis, but also more aware of the importance of community and connectedness. 11224036_10152910831870706_7929759179449673491_o

My artistic practice started as a way to focus. Creative energy allowed me to be content for hours that would have normally been spent getting into trouble or pestering my siblings. Although my art practice has maintained these qualities into adulthood, art-making for me has also become a way to process and understand the society in which I live. My work is meant to capture a moment in the life of an urban structure that epitomizes the state of the neighborhood or city in which it resides. A finished work describes the moment I took an interest in the architecture and slowed down to process my surroundings. My work serves as a connection between myself and the city in which I work, and is meant to take those moments of observation, and share them with a viewer. I intend for them to serve as a reminder of the beauty in the forgotten and overlooked, for that is on my mind during that first moment of observation. In a way the moments of observation themselves can be seen as a meditation and although the physical act of making is what initially drew me to art, the concept and connection to a community or city has become just as important in my mature work. -Julia Fox

Visit Julia Fox's artist website here.

APOP Mind & Zazen Creations Presents... We love to hear inspiring stories and truly believe in taking time to appreciate what makes life so great. Thankfully we got to take some time to appreciate one of our client's personal stories. The image in this piece is of the backyard of a Zazen Creations (an APOP shop) customer's childhood home. The tree had to be cut down, but the family gave us a chance to let the tree live on by allowing us to burn into the original wood.

#APOPFNF Profile: Misty Mann

20151216_180659 (1) Name: Misty Mann

Age: 43

Subject: Smoking

Original Goal(s):  To quit smoking.

Today’s Goal(s): To be healthy--mentally and physically; To eat healthier, exercise and discover herself.

Advice: “You only get one shot at this life. So be you; do you. Be happy with your choices and don’t worry about impressing others or conforming. Oh, and manners go a long way.”

Story: Misty started smoking cigarettes when she was a freshman in high school. 15 years old and wanting to hang out with a particular group of kids who just so happened to smoke, she thought, ‘why not?’

“The first time I smoked is super fresh in my mind. My cousin, Dawn, and I stole a pack of kent III cigarettes from my dad and walked a block away from my house. It had just started to snow; everything was dusted in white. Dawn lit hers first and smoked away. She had been doing it longer. I was next. I tried to light it and couldn't so she did it for me. I held it between my fingers like you see in the movies. I thought I was so cool. I inhaled and blew the smoke out. I wasn't inhaling all the way, but it was cold out and the smoke mixed with the cold air so it looked more like smoke. Dawn laughed at me and told me I was doing it wrong and said to pretend my mom was going to catch me. A few moments later I inhaled and she hollered, “Oh crap! Your mom!” She turned and pointed. I had already forgotten she said to pretend and I thought my mom was really there. I accidentally inhaled.  Dawn told me I did good and I felt super excited. It seems stupid now that I look back on it, but at 15 I felt in charge of something. I liked the attention I got from it.”

A pack of cigarettes were just 80 cents from the local vending machine--meaning she didn’t have to flash her ID. When thinking about that time in her life versus now Misty says unsatisfied, “I’m sure the cigarettes had a warning on the pack that smoking was dangerous, but it was not as prevalent as it is today.”


The battle to quit smoking was a 25 year process for Misty--perhaps if that label had been just a little bit bigger things would be different, but it wasn’t. It was actually quite unnoticable if it was there at all. The first time she tried to quit she was 19 years old; It was 1991 and she had just found out she was pregnant with a beautiful baby girl. The doctor suggested she cut back, not quit. At this point in her life, quitting wasn’t top of mind. As per the doctor’s request, she went from a pack of cigarettes a day to about a half pack (about 10 smokes per day). Of course since there was no self-ingrained urge to quit Misty went back to smoking full packs a day after her daughter was born. Then came along another beautiful baby girl in 2002; once again she tried to quit, but went back to her old habits shortly thereafter.

Misty’s third attempt to quit smoking was in her 30's back in 2006. Around this time, anti-smoking campaigns were going strong. The government and other organizations began the education process on exactly how bad smoking cigarettes can be for the body. Misty recounts that everyone, especially her loved ones, began pressuring her to quit. Although she tried to quit at the time, she remembers being angry and reticent. She started her third journey to imposed improvement by using the nicotine patch. With the nicotine patch it took her several tries over a few months to actually start a streak, but once she had a few days without smokes under her belt she ended up sticking to it for five months. At this point, something went askew--perhaps it was the fact that she didn’t do it for herself in the first place, perhaps it was the tragedy she witnessed while waiting at a red light in Myrtle Beach...a man and a woman riding a motorcycle getting hit by a truck. Either way, she that day she immediately went back to the hotel, bought a pack of cigarettes and headed for the beach...alone. Once again, she began smoking a pack a day again.

The rest of Misty’s 30's quitting was on her mind constantly. She would go to bed every single night and say to herself, “This is it. Tomorrow morning you are done!” but each morning she would find herself grabbing for that cigarette and lighting it. Each morning there would be a new excuse as to why she shouldn’t be quitting that particular day. She enjoyed smoking. It was her escape from meetings, family functions, etc. She could excuse herself from almost any situation with “I need to go smoke.” It was society's acceptable social crutch and she used it, but overtime she began getting upset with herself thinking, ‘Why can’t I just quit?!’ She began to hate the way it smelled, how it made her family and surrounding environment smell; her clothes, car and even presents she gave to people smelled of cigarettes. What’s worse, she noticed she was having trouble breathing; she couldn’t even carry a load of laundry up the steps without sitting on the top step to catch her breath. Towards the end of her 30's she was up to two packs a day. As if the breathing difficulties weren’t enough, the cost of one pack of cigarettes were now over six dollars. Misty talked about how much cigarettes drained her wallet. She used to say that when they hit four dollars she would quit, then five dollars, then six and she still hadn’t quit.”




Misty had her turning point at 39, she took her oldest daughter to see a psychic for her October birthday, something both she and her daughter thought would be an exciting adventure for an exciting day. It went smoothly, until the end; Misty, still a little shaken up by what the psychic told her, recounted that when her and her daughter were heading for the door the psychic approached her telling her, “If you dont quit smoking when you are 40, you will be on an oxygen mask by the time you hit 43.” Now, whether the psychic was right or not did not matter. The thought that, at 43 years young, she would be on oxygen terrified her.  A few months after this encounter, in February 2012 Misty turned 40 years old and by May 2012, Misty began having even more difficulty breathing. All she could think was, ‘What if the psychic is right?’ Misty needed to quit and so she did; slowly but surely she cut back one cigarette per day, then a few a week. It was difficult to say the least, but by September 2012 she was ready to completely cut smokes from her life. The first day without a cigarette was horrible. She was sweating and crying; you would have thought Misty was on serious drugs. She called her doctor and her doctor said that some people have severe withdrawal from cigarettes, comparable to heroin withdrawal. She ended up smoking the first day and recounts that she was so disappointed in herself. Three days later she went and bought the nicotine patch and on september 25th she marked a important day in her personal story. She put the patch on and made up her mind--September 25, 2012 would be the first day of the rest of her life, without cigarettes. She knew that she could quit this time and kept reminding herself that an oxygen tank would absolutely not be in her future--she was and still is better than that.

The first week was awful; Misty was beyond cranky, but everyday it got easier and three months in she noticed a huge difference in her life and health. She was breathing better, not to mention smelling better. She eventually stopped craving cigarettes every day and stopped wearing the patch--she no longer needed it.

Now Misty is 43 years old and healthier than ever before. It’s been over three years and three months since she touched a cigarette. Today, she’s basking in her own success and even has a few more tricks up her sleeve she’s using to achieve her next goal--to become mentally and physically fit.



C=Carlee Myers, Founder of APOP

M=Misty Mann, Member of APOP since 2015


C: Can you elaborate further on how peer pressure to quit smoking made you feel over the years?

M: Peer pressure to quit over the years? Hahaha. It honestly pissed me off. The more my sister or mom said something the more I smoked. I was being stubborn, but it’s like asking to someone overweight when they are going to drop a few pounds. It’s not nice and certainly isn’t good for that person’s mental health. I found it rude and annoying that people would point out my flaw and comment on something that I struggled with everyday.


C: Can you talk about the pressure you felt from others to smoke?

M: I actually never felt pressured to smoke by anyone. It was something I wanted to try just because I thought I could hang out with the ‘bad ass kids,’ but they never forced it.


C: Can you elaborate further on the day that you went to the psychic with your daughter?

M: The day I went to the psychic was actually pretty boring. I sat in the waiting room and went out on her porch to smoke once or twice while I waited, which I’m sure is one of the reasons she originally told me to quit...but she was so specific about me quitting at the age of 40. She didn't know how old I was, which made me think that maybe she was right. Either way it was the push I had been waiting for; I wanted to quit, but I didn't want to give the satisfaction to my sister or mom that what they said made me quit. I guess I used the psychic as my reason.


C: I often hear from people who are trying to quit smoking that drinking triggers the urge to smoke again. Did you experience anything like this?

M: Drinking was never a trigger for me.


C: Do you have any advice for avoiding cigarette cravings?

M: Drink lots of water. I also used mint gum, which I’m now addicted to. Haha, but I guess it’s better than smoking.


C: Do you have any advice for someone who is trying to quit?

M: The urge to pick up that cigarette always passes. That horrible feeling does get easier. Just ride it out. It’s worth it.


C: Why do you think that you succeeded this time, but fell back into the habit in the past?

M: I think I succeeded this time because I was ready. I did it the other times because I was told to quit...because it was unhealthy...blah blah blah. This time it was for me, not them.


C: Do you think giving up cigarettes one-by-one is one of the reasons you were successful? Perhaps small goals leading up to a larger goal was important to your success?

M: I think slowly giving up day by day was just an excuse to keep smoking longer. I knew I had to quit at some point so I justified in my mind that slowly doing it was ok, so I didn't have to give it up all at once.  


C: How else has giving up cigarettes positively influenced your life?

M: Giving up cigarettes has completely changed my life. First off, I feel so much better. I’m able to do things without being winded. I smell better. On the down side, I have no excuse for bad behavior. I can’t blame being cranky on nicotine withdrawal any longer, but I’m working on my mental health so I hope that won’t be struggle much longer.


C: Becoming healthier usually requires a complete lifestyle change, how did you change your day to day life? Have you integrated different things into your daily life to set yourself up for success?

M: Well I gained a ton of weight when I quit smoking...about 50 pounds. Apparently, I ate instead of smoking but didn't realize it until recently. So my day to day for the last three years has been just getting by, not really changing anything. Honestly, this lack of further change has led to issues with depression, but that’s a whole other story. Haha.


C: What are your goals for self-improvement today?

M: My goals have drastically changed in the last few months. I want to be healthy, and not just from quitting smoking. I'm trying to eat healthier and exercise. I've lost 10 pounds so far. I'm trying to "discover me" and am combining my physical health with my mental and spiritual health. I’m reading more on adventures for the soul, to become more positive and truly happy...with my relationships, finding a new career, etc. My newest journey might actually be more ‘traumatic’ than cutting cigarettes out of my life. Haha.


Know someone that deserves recognition for their success? Comment below to nominate them!

#APOPFNF Profile: Will Hurry

Name: Will Hurry Age: 23

Subject: Weight Loss & Mental Well-being

Original Goal(s): Spend the entire month of April living a healthy lifestyle.

Today’s Goal(s): Lose 20 pounds, in addition to the 50 that I’ve already lost; to reach my goal weight of 200lbs.

Advice: Embrace who you are! It took me a year into college to remember that I need to embrace who I am, a quirky and random human being, and I couldn’t be happier with that. Sure some people think you suck, but comparatively you will bump into and find some incredibly awesome like-minded people along the way. Trust me.

Story: It all started at Barnes and Noble back in March 2015. Will was talking with his best friend about the number of energy drinks and coffee he drank per day—roughly 4+ cups a day (about 8-10 servings). Lent was coming up and his best friend suggested a challenge that he had no idea would develop into a what, now, is his journey to self-betterment—Will’s friend suggested that he give up energy drinks for lent. For the month of April, he decided to put his unhealthy habits to the test. Will was just crazy enough to give up energy drinks, coffee, junk food, and fast food. After the first week of success, Will decided that cutting all those unhealthy choices out of his life wasn’t quite enough and even added the challenge of going to the gym on a regular basis. Will recounts that going to the gym “was rough and it really sucked.” After successfully completing an entire month of practicing a healthier lifestyle, Will felt great, so he kept at it. For the first few months he hit the gym with his friends, but as his friends lost momentum one by one, he was still working hard-- going on sporadic adventures to the gym and continuing those healthy eating happens.

Will HurryOver time, Will revamped many of his unhealthy habits. He no longer ordered take out--a huge success as he had ordered from the local pizza place so many times that he could walk in and the staff would simply hand his order over without saying a word. He stopped going to Rite Aid to buy junk food--another huge hurdle overcome as his previous diet consisted of different combinations of junk food such as candy, chips or cookies. Now, Will eats more fruits, vegetables and high-protein foods such as chicken instead and has even limited his alcohol intake on the weekends and replaced those extra sugary drinks with, you guessed it, water. When asked more about the changes he has noticed, Will says, “Beforehand I could cook enough food for a family four and eat it all myself, but now I sometimes struggle to get through a plate of food and, very rarely these days, do I go for seconds.”

skinny meAs of November, Will lost a whopping total of 50lbs (now weighing in at 227lb) and celebrated in the most humorous of ways by googling what fifty pounds of fat actually looks like. He recounts humorously that “it is a huge mountain of yellow mess”, but continues on a more serious and prideful note when he says, “The benefits from all of this [hardwork] is the fact that I have dropped two to three shirt sizes, I get out of breath way less, and, now, I have some mild confidence.” Today, Will is still going strong, but he does say that “being able to look at my reflection and think ‘I finally look good’ is the best feeling after spending so long over weight and that feeling continues to amplify with the more weight I lose.”


C: People tend to feel more motivated when they accomplish smaller goals leading up to accomplishing their larger goals. Do you think the idea that only temporarily giving up energy drinks and coffee helped you succeed?

W: Yeah, the idea of being able to give up energy drinks and coffee cold turkey was definitely a step that helped me succeed in this weird half year adventure. Mentally this step was basically summed up in my head like this, “If I can give up these things and endure for the entire month then I can definitely succeed at living a healthier lifestyle.”

C: Do you have any advice on how to get through a week of caffeine withdrawal without giving back into the “addition”?

W: Going cold turkey from caffeine was basically a week long hangover where you sweat constantly and have the worst headache of your life. My advice would be to try to pretend to be happy during the withdrawal period—this span of time, for me, was the grumpiest of my life. The more you act happy, the more you end up feeling happy. I’m really glad I cut caffeine out of my diet as my heart rate has been able to return to a normal level and I can just feel how much happier my body is on a daily basis.

C: What does your typical workout look like at the gym? What did your first workout look like versus your workouts today?

W: My typical workout has me running to the college gym, which is a mile away. Once I arrive, I go to the weight room and do a rotation of the machines --every time I go there I do them in the same order. I start with chest, shoulders, arms, abs and then leg machines. Then I end my workout standing on the scale. My first workout was a mess. I was extremely out of breath; I sounded like I got sucked into the vacuum of space where I was trying to suck up any and all oxygen in existence. The rest of my first workout was filled with confusion. I remember thinking, “What is that strange thing?…and why can I pull or push it?” Now I can breath and work out with a general sense of what I’m doing. I also workout alone now, but I had started working out with three friends.

C: Becoming healthier usually requires a complete lifestyle change, how did becoming healthier change your life? How did it affect your life on a daily basis?

W: I am going to break my success into three sections which are appearance, mental well-being and physical well-being.

Since I began my new lifestyle, there has been a shift in my appearance. Before I was wearing plain old t-shirts and a pair of jeans, but now I generally like to dress better--my newest favorite item is the button down shirt.  Being able to dress mildly fancy in my daily life makes me feel like I look good. I’d like to think people notice my new appearance--this is a great segway into how my lifestyle change effected my mental well-being.

I can now look at myself and think “I look great!”  I stopped making self-deprecating jokes because with the more weight I lost the less relevant these jokes became. Now, I have some mild self confidence--which is nice.  

Lastly, my physical well-being. I feel like perhaps the largest impact these changes have had on my life can be summed up in one word, “transportation.”  What I mean by this is that at the age of twenty-three, I finally learned to ride a bike, simply because it would help me lose weight.  One of the biggest successes I’ve had to date is that I ride my bike to and from work part of the time and I walk more places; if I know I can either bike or walk to a destination, I will.  

C: Most people who try to improve their lives for the better fail a few times or make a few mistakes along the way. Can you talk about a time that you made a “mistake” during your journey to self-improvement? Did you find a way to turn this failure/mistake into a success?

W: I have slipped back into drinking some caffeine and eating some junk food every now and then. I don’t feel guilty, but it does serve as a motivating factor for my next visit to the gym. I also went three weeks without going to the gym and, quite honestly, I am still working on turning that into a full fledge success story. I try to go to the gym at least three times a week. As of now, I am currently going to the gym two to three time a week at the moment; as my college classes ramp up for finals, the amount of time I spend at the gym has been reduced.

C: Can you elaborate on your comment about mild self-confidence?

W: Mild self-confidence is a new thing for me. I now see myself as looking awesome and being a great person. I also see some women glance at me every now and then, which is weird, yet oddly exciting. About a month or so ago, I came across a thought that went something along the lines of “I feel like this women is looking at me, weird. Wait a minute, no it’s not, I’m fucking awesome. Why wouldn’t a woman be looking at me?”  It’s mainly just me coming to the realization that I’m a pretty great person. The part I need to work on now is being confident enough to go up to someone and say, “Hey! I like you. We should go get coffee or a drink sometime.”  

#APOPFNF Profile: Max Kohls

IMG_5325Name: Max Kohls

Age: 24 years old

Subject: Weight Loss & Mental Health

Original Goal:  Lose 105 lbs; reach goal weight of 165lb.

Today's Goals:

      • Reevaluate whether my original goal matters considering the following
      • Gain strength and muscle (and therefore weight)
      • Continue to choose happiness and health on a daily basis

Advice: You can’t change what you are, but you can change who you are. It’s up to you to choose the person you want to be everyday and remember to choose who you are wisely.

Story: Max is a 24 year old gender-non-conforming Graphic Designer and the newest member of APOP's Fitness Nerd Family. They started their journey back in the summer of 2013 after graduating from Moore College of Art & Design with a  Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in--you guessed it--Graphic Design. Growing up and going to school in PA, Max decided it wasn't exactly the place they wanted to launch their career. California was where they headed, Los Angeles, where dreams are made.  With a background in Graphic Design, Max was well primed for a job in the television industry, but the dreams they ended up accomplishing in California were different than the plans they had previously set for themselves. Alone and without a job due to the relocation; Max saw Los Angeles as a great opportunity to do some soul-searching--to really figure out who they were as a person and challenge themself, but before we jump into how Max improved their life let me provide you with a little more background.

Upon graduation, Max was 270 lbs and unhappy. College was difficult. Like most of us during college, they got caught up in a little thing called stress. Being an art and design student had proven to be more challenging than anticipated. With six hour classes and a ton of all-nighters doing homework and class projects, it was hard to find time to eat, let alone make a healthy meal from scratch. Don't get them wrong, college wasn't the reason they had become unhealthy and depressed; the stresses of college simply added to their unhappiness.

"I wouldn't say that I have depression, I would say that I was depressed. I was just unhappy and uncomfortable constantly and that's why I was depressed, but now I feel better--I don't feel depressed anymore." - Max Kohls


Before the stresses of college, Max encountered other hurdles-- growing up with learning differences, body image issues, and trying to find their place in the LGBT community. Max’s mother always loved, supported, and cared for them, but it was very difficult for her to see her child as 'bigger' and unhappy.  Max's mother was always working hard to stay healthy and fit and wanted Max to try new workouts or diets with her. Even though most might see this as supportive, Max felt pressured to be thin which weakened their relationship.

Max wanted to have control over their life--including their body. Max reflects on their thoughts of that time in our interview, "Two boxes of Oreos a week... whatever not a big deal! Who’s telling me what to do? It's my own body!...but now I'm more in control of my body. I go to the gym and make myself eat healthy." They say, "no one can force you to do anything unless your heart is truly in it." Before moving to California, Max always found themself feeling ashamed of eating certain foods and therefore hiding those habits from friends and family. "[My mother] always wanted to encourage me to lose weight and I was always the one who wanted to take back control, so I would eat by myself; I would hide and eat." Max would think to themself, "I'm not going to lose weight for you, I'm going to do what I want." Now, Max understands that for their mother it was difficult to see her child struggling and as it turns out all their mother wanted was for Max to be happy; it turns out their mom was their biggest fan.

"It's hard to feel like people expect things from you and that you might disappoint them...but it really isn't affecting them except for that it makes them happier for you." -Max Kohls

Moving to California was the perfect way for Max to separate themself from the family and friends "Let Down Factor”, their own bad habits, and their negative emotions. Los Angeles is such an encouraging place to begin a mental and physical health journey. The weather is nice, all the fruit is fresh, and the people--well they're beautiful. They never had to worry about their family seeing them workout. They didn’t have to worry that their loved ones would "get their hopes up" just to be disappointed once again. The pressure was lesser in California--if Max failed no would have to know, but if they succeeded they could share their success and feel proud that this time it was their be happy, to be healthy, to be successful.


Making the choice everyday to work towards being healthy has allowed Max to become more connected with their body. Reflecting on this Max says, "I used to pull a blanket up to my head and I used to think, ‘I wish we were all just heads, I wish we didn't have to deal with our bodies’...and I told my therapist that and she said, 'it's clear that you're not connected with the rest of your body.' Once I started exercising and really getting in touch with my body, I began to feel more confident and empowered."

And even after moving back to the east coast they’ve continued to choose to be their “higher-self” on a daily basis--with the full support of their family and girlfriend. Max knew they had finally reached a point where they didn’t have to be ashamed of what they ate in front of their mother. “When I came back from LA after 5 months 35lbs thinner my mom saw that I could take care of myself.”  It was at this point they both knew that Max was in control of their health and would continue to be.


For the last two years, back in Philadelphia, Max continues to be in control. They go to the gym five days a week, two days of which are spent with a personal trainer. When asked more about their fitness goals in relation to having a personal trainer, Max states, "I'm not just trying to lose weight anymore, I'm trying to gain muscle and heighten my testosterone levels naturally." As an non-binary individual Max is trying to find a comfortable balance between masculine and feminine. With this in mind, Max’s trainer has developed a exercise regime for Max to continue to achieve an androgynous appearance. “Its an amazing feeling to look in the mirror and be pround and happy with my reflection.”

Want to know more about Max? Continue reading the Q&A portion of the profile below.

Additional Q&A:

C: Many people have had a similar parent/child relationship as you and your mother. With this in mind, what would your advice be to parents who want their child(ren) to begin living a healthier lifestyle?

M: I honestly think therapy would be the best choice. I think therapy has a really bad stigma. You don’t have to be clinically depressed or suicidal to talk to a therapist. As someone who was just unhappy, talking to a third-party who wants to support you is wonderful. Her training has been more than helpful with not only weight loss but my relationship with my mother. I have been seeing my therapist for three years and even while I was in California for five months. I called her once a week and we would talk for an hour. It's so freeing to have her in my life. It's too difficult to talk to a parent that's just too close to the situation. I was always encouraged by my mother to make health a priority, but it wasn’t enough. Having a therapist for an objective opinion or point of view, has been extremely helpful in achieving my goal of being the best I can be.

C: You talk a lot about continually choosing your higher-self ; can you elaborate on that?

M: "Willpower is so important in weight loss--willpower and dedication. You have to get up every morning and say, 'This is who I'm going to be today.’ You have to be your higher-self. There is an opportunity to be your lower self: not go to the gym, eat poorly, etc., but you have to choose to be your higher-self. It's a choice. It's all choices. Everyday is a choice." Max later referenced the podcast that they had listened to previously that informed this conversation:

C: How do you feel about Jennifer Aditison's quote "Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels."?

M: That's so not true. First of all, I had had like nine s'mores the other week and all I could think is I'm going to have to workout really hard next week, but then I thought, 'no' how often do I really have s'mores...they are so worth it. Second of all, it's not about being skinny, it's about being healthy and your livelihood. It's about feeling good about yourself.

C: How do you manage the stresses of life and remain healthy?

M: "By being selfish sometimes...I always use the word ‘selfish’,'s not selfish if it's for your own well-being." I make the choice over and over again to be healthy. I remain healthy because I choose to and because I have a support network that helps me make that choice daily.

C: What does one of your typical workouts look like?

M: 45-60 minutes of cardio. If I’m on the treadmill, I start off running for as long as I can, usually 30 minutes, then I walk--sometimes on an incline. If I’m on the StairMaster, I usually just do 45 minutes while I watch TV shows like F.R.I.E.N.D.S. After that I do back, triceps, and biceps then head over to the free weights and do 20 hammer curls, 20 squats, you know, different exercises.* I love cables and free weights…I feel bad ass not using the weight machines. When I work out with my trainer Ralph Gilmore at Body Dynamics, I do more challenging exercises. He pushes me to try new things like weighted squats and leg lifts. He loves to remind me, “If you weren’t working out with me you wouldn’t be lifting this heavy,” and it’s true!  He shows how much weight to lift, corrects my form, and reminds me to breath. I am so thankful to have someone so knowledgeable helping me reach my goals.   

*Recommended Resource:'s exercise database--it's an exciting and interactive online encyclopedia of exercise how to's and how not to's.