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The mental shift that helped Teddi Mellencamp finally lose weight for good

Once weighing in over 200 pounds, the 'Real Housewives of Beverly Hills' star learned that holding yourself accountable is the only way to make real change.
by Brianna Steinhilber /
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You may recognize Teddi Mellencamp Arroyave as the newest addition to the "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" cast, where she quickly became the level-headed voice of reason. Or perhaps you recognize her famous last name — which yes, she got from her rock star father.

But what Mellencamp most wants to be known for (aside from being a wife and mother) is helping people finally reach their goals. Before she graced the small screen on one of America's favorite television franchises (artfully navigating the inevitable drama and being schooled on the etiquette of proper glassware) she was building a thriving business as an accountability coach, using the lessons she learned during her own impressive weight-loss journey to motivate others to actually follow through on their goals.

NBC News BETTER sat down with Mellencamp and picked her brain on what it actually means to be an accountability coach, saying "no" to the French fries and toxic friendships, and how we can all learn to hold ourselves accountable every single day.

On losing the baby weight

I had ten years of feeling pretty comfortable in my skin and then I got pregnant and I stopped riding horses. During my first pregnancy, I gained about 80 pounds. And then my second pregnancy, I gained another 80 pounds, but I hadn't really lost it all after the first. I truthfully thought, it’s going to fall off this time. I'm going to workout hard, and it’s just going to happen. And then it didn't. At first I felt angry and upset about it. I'm working out. I'm trying, nothing's happening, and I'm mad. Once I actually started changing how I felt about myself, once I started changing my actions, once I started saying "no" to things that I didn't want to do, I felt the shift.

On experiencing “the shift”

I started a second Instagram account, and day one I posted a picture of myself with my kids. And I said, "Hey, guys. I'm on here, because I'm going to workout everyday. And call me out on it if I don't." Thirty people followed me; They were my best friends. And every day I'd post my workout, and say what I thought about it. It wasn't about likes. It wasn't about anything other than if I say I'm going to do something, I'm going do it, and this is what's holding me accountable. But I wasn't seeing a huge change in my body. Then I realized: I'm working out all the time. I'm now accountable to that. But I'm not accountable to what I'm eating and what I'm doing. I'm going to do this great workout class, but then I'm eating a huge plate of pasta and having a glass of wine, because I deserve it; because I worked hard.

You start shifting things around in your life. You start feeling really true to who you are; You're not having to always make excuses for yourself because you're being exactly who you want to be.

It doesn't matter if you have a personal trainer. It doesn't matter if you're going to a workout class. If you're eating badly, it doesn't matter. [I realized]:I workout so I can feel better. And then I eat well so I can feel better. And then once I feel better, and I start looking better, everything shifts in your life. All of a sudden you start being a better mother. You start asking for that raise at work. You start shifting things around in your life. You start feeling really true to who you are; you're not having to always make excuses for yourself because you're being exactly who you want to be

On turning her personal ‘ah-ha!’ moment into a business

That's where I realized there's a big niche to fill — even if you have a personal trainer, they're not tracking what you're doing [during] the 23 hours you're not with them. So I started with a very small group of friends. I said, "Hey, guys. You want to do this with me, where you text me every morning with your workouts, and exactly what you're eating? And let's see what happens." All of our changes were incredible. It was insane. So I started posting those on social media and then the following just got bigger and bigger. So I made a career out of it. It started as just me and I had 30 clients. And then I made one of my clients a coach. Now I have 13 coaches. We have over 350 clients, and a huge waiting list because [we’re] women that fully changed [our] lives by holding ourselves accountable; by learning what to say "no" to and what to say, "yes” to.

On what an accountability coach actually does

We set goals that we can actually accomplish. I don't want to be there forever for you. I want you to say, 'I don't need you anymore, because I am accountable for myself.'

We set goals that we can actually accomplish. I don't want to be there forever for you. I want you to say, "I don't need you anymore, because I am accountable for myself." That’s the whole idea of the program. The program starts with a two week jump-start, which is essentially like a cleanse where you are taking out all of your [vices]. You can't drink. You can't have soda. It's a full detox. And that's where you sift through the people that really want it, and the people that don't. That's make or break it time. And those first two weeks are super emotional, because if you're a person that's used to getting in bed every night and eating a box of Sour Patch Kids, you're going to be annoyed when you can't have it, and annoyed at me. Then I send them back the questionnaire they sent me [about] how badly they wanted that change and say, "Please don't be mad at me. Look in. You wanna make the change? Make it. I'm just here to say, 'You can do it.' I know you can do it, because I did it." We so much want to place blame on others for how we are feeling. We are in charge of how we feel. So that's a big portion of what we go through in the program. They text a picture of each one of their meals. They text proof of their workout. And we go through the day: You have to eat breakfast by 10:00 am. You have to eat lunch by 2:00 pm. And you have to eat dinner by 8:00 pm. And if you can't follow the program? You're out. The people that can't, they don't want it bad enough.

Mellencamp spending time with two things that make her the happiest: her family and horses.
Mellencamp spending time with two things that make her the happiest: her family and horses.Teddi Mellencamp

On the importance of self care

I think so many of us, especially moms or women who are constantly on the go, we forget to take care of ourselves. And a big part of being the best mom, being the best wife, being the best boss, being the happiest you can be, is taking care of yourself, putting yourself as a priority. I write myself down in my agenda every single day because if I don't have that hour to me, I'm not my best. I can't be as patient as I want to be. I can't organize my busy schedule, and my kids' busy schedule and my husband's life, if I am feeling on edge because I haven't taken care of me. And when people say, you know, "Doesn't that seem a little selfish?" No. What's selfish is not taking care of me and being in a bad mood all day. You can find ways that it works for your family. So if it's a Saturday, and you've worked all week and you don't want to take that time away from your kids because you feel guilty, you can say, “Let's go on a family hike. Let's do this together. Let's all embrace it.” It's not, you have to have a gym or you have to have a nanny … It's just figuring it out [for you].

I write myself down in my agenda every single day because if I don't have that hour to me, I'm not my best.

On holding yourself accountable (when you don’t have Teddi on speed dial)

Every night before you go to bed, write a list of three things you're going to do the next day for you. Because in that moment, you write it down, you declare you're going to do it. Then the next day, even if you're tired, even if you're grumpy, you have it there. And you told yourself you're going to do it, so you accomplish those three goals. For me it's, "I'm going to get an hour of activity in. I'm going to plan out my meals in advance. And I'm going to do [something] with my kids this afternoon.” As long as you accomplish whatever those three goals are that you made the night before, you're going to be better than you were the day before.

On how body confidence affects every area of your life

Of course, there's the physical about how you look. But how you look [affects] how you feel about yourself. For me it's all about health and wellness, but what I learned is it's all tied in together. If you're not feeling your best, if you're not feeling confident, you are not going to ask your boss for a raise. You are not going to tell your husband when he hurts your feelings. You are not going to be that strong and confident woman you want your kids seeing. Because if you're feeling weak and bad about yourself, it goes everywhere.

On one of the biggest barriers to success: your relationships

One of the biggest things that I've noticed clients having a hard time with is the weekend, and the relationships that they have, whether it be their husband, their boyfriend, their girlfriend, their best friend, whatever it is. Every social engagement revolves around food and alcohol, so if you can't surround yourself with people that understand your goal, they're going to constantly push you to quit. A big thing that I say is for these first two weeks, if you can't make healthy, active plans with your friends, don't make 'em. Be a little selfish. Do what's right for you. A lot of women say, "My best friend says it's so boring that I can't go to the movies, and have the popcorn and put the M&Ms into it, and then go out for drinks after." If for two weeks your best friend can't understand that you're going to take a little break from that, she's probably not your best friend.

As soon as I learned that I could say 'no' ... everything shifted. 'No, no, no.' If it doesn't work for you, it is okay to say, 'no.'

On speaking up about what’s right for you

Ask questions. You're able to say, "Can I have the dressing on the side?" If it's a huge portion, you don't have to finish it. Eat half; Take half home. Constantly put yourself in a situation where you're thinking about it. If you're just mindlessly shoveling in food, you're not fueling yourself properly. You're not thinking, "Is this what's right for me?” Those are easy, small changes to make, but you have to think about it. And you have to give yourself a little bit of time. Plan ahead. If you pick a restaurant with your girlfriends and you look at the menu and there's absolutely not one thing there that seems somewhat healthy, then you are able to say, "no." As soon as I learned that I could say, "no," and say what I wanted to do, everything shifted. "No, no, no." If it doesn't work for you, it is okay to say, "no."

On not missing French fries

It has become second nature to me. I'm [at lunch and I'm] like, "I'll have the turkey burger without the bun. And can I have a side of Brussels sprouts instead of fries?" And to me, I don't feel like I'm missing out. I know if I eat a regular burger and French fries, I'm going to feel yucky after. In the afternoon. I want to feel good, and have a productive rest of the day. I don't look at it as, "This is so sad for me that I can't have French fries." If I'm living my life for French fries, my life is not good.

On surviving the 'The Real Housewives'

When it comes to "The Real Housewives," a big thing for me is, it's not my job to hold everybody else accountable. It is my job to hold myself accountable. So whether it comes to my health and wellness, or something that I have done or said, I will always say, "I'm sorry." I will always be honest. And that is something that I live by, even if it makes me feel uncomfortable. If you watch the show, you'll see me sometimes have to squirm to get my point across. But the point is, I'm going to say it because there is no way I'm not going to be a straightforward, honest person. That's just who I am to the core. When it comes to food or alcohol … we were [filming] in Berlin, and I set my alarm for 6:00 a.m. and I was out running in the park. That's not on TV. But that's what's happening. No matter how late we're up fighting the night before, I'm up early taking care of myself, so that the next day I can start fresh.

NEXT: 5 healthy eating lessons I learned in my 40s

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