YouTube Pilates Star Cassey Ho on Burnout and the Internet
‘I’m doing the best I can to teach people that fitness is not about how you look. It’s about becoming stronger than who you were yesterday.’
There are many ways to live a healthy life. The Health Diaries is a weekly series about the habits that keep notable people living well.
Cassey Ho had just graduated from college when she got her first taste of internet fame. During school she taught a Pilates class at the local 24 Hour Fitness, and her students were sad she was moving away after graduation. She promised to post a video of a 10-minute class for them on YouTube before she departed.
Two weeks later, Ho logged back into the website and found that thousands of people had watched her class. A decade later, Ho’s YouTube channel, Blogilates, has more than 4.5 million subscribers. As a woman of color, Ho has been outspoken on the issues of body positivity and diversity in the online wellness space. She chatted with Elemental about her daily routine and why being “healthy” is about more than just working out.
Right now I wake up around 6 a.m. I have several alarms that go off in the morning; I can trust that at least one of them will catch me. Then the first thing I do is I drink water and head to the gym. Right now my routine is that I weight lift in the morning, although sometimes my workout varies depending on what I’m feeling. I could do a HIIT [High Intensity Interval Training] or circuit training class, too.
I’ve been through a lot of diets. Low-carb, high-protein, vegan, keto, vegetarian. I might see a big difference during the first month or so because my body is shocked, but then I always normalize and I don’t enjoy it anymore. What’s the point of not enjoying your food? What’s the point of trying to live life to look a certain way? It’s not fun. So I say find a diet that works for you, and I believe that has a lot to do with your culture, your genes, your specific food allergies. No one diet can fit every single person. I get so annoyed when people tell you what to eat but they’re not your doctor. They don’t know what’s going to work for you.
My food theory is just to eat as whole as possible. That means staying away from processed foods, but at the same time I also acknowledge that the food that nourishes my soul could be quote unquote “bad” or “unhealthy.” But honestly, if that food makes you happy, having something fun every once in a while is not a big deal. Experimentation is really important for me, but more than anything I just try not to overeat. I don’t stuff myself. I just eat until I’m full and then I stop.
I try to cook for myself so I can avoid processed foods. And I also believe that there’s an extra dash of love that you can put into your food, which feels good. You’re able to feed yourself and the people you love.
Whether it’s a cardio dance class, weightlifting, or hot yoga, my workout every day is based on how I feel. Right now I’m doing weightlifting every morning and a really intense stretching class, which allows me to get deeper into my splits and also add length to my legs. It includes stretching your muscles and shoulders. I have been loving that class.
I think people love my classes because they don’t feel like a workout. They feel fun. When it comes to creating a routine for my students, I think about the season. If it’s summer, people might want more intense cardio to shed a bit more fat. But in the winter, it’s all about relaxing, so I’ll add more stuff about finding fulfillment and gratefulness. And then I might add more stretching. At the beginning of the new year, people want to go harder. I tend to plan based on the seasons and what people ask for.
Fitness on YouTube is interesting right now. It started with lots of informational videos, but then Instagram came along and brought with it a lot of fitness influencers who weren’t necessarily teaching you things, but were more so showing off their chiseled bodies with a very specific shape. It started this culture of people needing to look a certain way and with that, waist trainers and everyone trying to get a Kardashian body type no matter what it takes. I’m doing the best I can to teach people that fitness is not about how you look. It’s about becoming stronger than who you were yesterday. It should be for you, never for anyone else.
At the same time we are also seeing an amazing body-positivity movement online right now. I love seeing girls of all shapes, sizes, and ethnicities embracing the way they look and being confident on camera. I do think the plus side of the internet is that we have our own platforms and can have more control over what is portrayed, beyond traditional media. It’s been so nice to see different body types break through. I’m hoping that we can see more people of all kinds finding different ways to work out and feeling more open to different choices, to finding what works for them.
For me, being healthy is how I feel when I’m able to do what I want to do. Eating food makes me feel good. Being able to exercise makes me feel good. And I like to have time with the people who mean a lot to me. I’ve been to extremes where I only cared about exercise, or my business, or food. When it’s like that, I’m out of balance. So healthy to me is when all of the parts of your life can coexist in a harmonious manner. Healthy living isn’t just food and exercise; that’s only part of it.