Army Spouse, Mother, Teacher, First In Family: Amy Saunders


First In means family to me. It represents me taking my life back. It means I love myself enough to take care of myself and put myself as a priority. If I want to be good to others, I have to start by being good to myself.”

Tell us a little bit about yourself... ​

My name is Amy Saunders, I’m closer to 35 than 34 and I currently live in Myrtle Beach, SC but I hail from a small town in Ohio.

I teach first grade at Kingston Elementary and teach yoga as my side hustle.

I am married to my husband, Nate, who serves in the army and runs our family business, Shamrock Plastics, and we have a 7 year old named Bear.

What brought you to the First In Family initially?

I joined First In to continue to work with Anne because she’s basically the salt of the earth.

Plus, it’s where all the cool kids were hanging out.

Tell us a little bit about your background and history with food.

I had never been someone who paid attention to food or exercise. I was an athlete growing up, I work an active, high stress job, and I honestly am such a picky eater that it was just never an issue. Until the year I turned 30. I am an emotional, stress eater, with a huge sweet tooth and a food pyramid built upon ketchup.

What was the turning point in your life when you realized you needed to make a change?

After a pretty tumultuous miscarriage at 30, my body was screaming for me to pay attention to it. I was gaining weight at an uncontrollable rate (think couldn’t zip up pants on Friday that I wore Monday type of rate) and my adrenal system was shutting down. My thyroid shut down, my hormones stopped working, and I was in full blown menopause.

At 31. I sat in the shower one night, feeling like a gluttonous pig for having ate watermelon and trying my hardest to throw it back up. I cried so hard I almost did. I got out of that shower and sought help.

The person I saw in the mirror scared me, and I knew I needed an overhaul.

What was the journey like and what changes did you make?

The changes I made were giant when you look back, but done at my pace, so that they were sustainable, obtainable, and seamless to integrate into my life.

I’ve made changes to how I eat, not what I eat. Ketchup is still consumed almost daily. Cereal is still my celebratory late night snack after a workout.

I eat without guilt, without attachment to “good” or “bad” food choices. I plan, measure, and manage my food to fit my life and goals.

My training has expanded to totally new things but I’ve always maintained my yoga practice through my journey. I ran 2 half marathons under Anne’s guidance and started CrossFit this summer and am loving it!

The best part is being able to message Anne when I get little victories because she’s invested in this process and shares my excitement. Except she likes bench presses like a weirdo.

I’ve never felt pressured to train, but encouraged to view training as a privilege and something to be done to better my life, not stress it out.

The changes in my body have been tremendous. I continue to battle my thyroid and hormones and probably will for my lifetime, so having the tools for my food and mind I’ve gained from First In allow me to balance the scales…literally.

Emotionally, mentally, socially, the changes that have trickled into my life have given me so much freedom.

How do you feel after making those changes?


Able to like myself.

To feel in control again and not afraid or guilty from food.

Connected to a network of the most diverse group of people who I KNOW have my back, are my cheerleaders, my tough love, my life long friends, because I’ve invested in our First In family just like they have.

What did your friends/family think of your transformation?

Well, my husband isn’t hating it that’s for sure!

My parents watched my journey for about a year, and now, are on their own with First In and experiencing amazing victories and the same freedom through structure that I embraced. Hmmmmm apple, meet tree!

I tend to keep my circle full of positivity, so everyone around me was supportive of ME. Now, I got, and continue to get, some major side eyes about my methods, but their opinions aren’t any of my business and they sure as heck are not fueling me to my goals, so I don’t give them any energy.

As aggressive as this sounds, I just don’t allow negativity and toxicity, I simply demand that your presence brings something to the table, or I leave the table. I know, that sounds cold but I’ve learned to love myself enough to only sit at tables that better me.

Were you active or did you workout during your journey?

I have always been active for the sake of my mental health. I practice yoga 3+ days a week, I CrossFit 3 days a week and run sporadically. (because those half marathon trainings actually sparked a love for running in my heart and shoes!)

I workout because it brings something to my life, not to punish myself or negate food I’ve consumed. I don’t “punish” myself for what I’ve eaten, and I think that’s THE number one reason why I make it a priority to make the time to train.

It makes my life better, it’s fun, it’s enjoyable and balanced in my life.

What does being First In mean to you?

First In means family to me.

Spread all over this world, making this world a better place.

It represents me taking my life back.

It means I love myself enough to take care of myself and put myself as a priority. If I want to be good to others, I have to start by being good to myself. The rest radiates out organically.

What was the biggest challenge or change when you started with First In and how did you overcome it?

The biggest challenge is my own hamster wheel turning in my brain.

Measuring and tracking was an adjustment, but wasn’t challenging. Combating my own thoughts each day is the challenge.

I overcome it by sitting with those feelings, peeling them back, and reaching out when I’m struggling to overcome them.

What’s next for you and where do you see this journey taking you in the future? ​

My motto is “shut up and do what Anne tells me”. So my next move, is whatever Anne tells me to do in my next check in. Having a coach who sees my big picture takes the stress off of me, which allows me to focus on the day to day events in my life and leave the navigating to her.

She has always listened and adapted the plan if life throws me a curve ball (“Hey Anne, I agreed to run a half marathon and can’t run a mile.” or “My hormones are being whackadoodle right now.” or “It’s the fall and I’m a teacher…send help.”).

I’ll continue with First In until they kick me out. But then I’ll show up with a boom box and a love ballad and we will ride off into the sunset together.

What are your top 5 "secrets" for success?

1- Go all in. Don’t question it.

2- Connect to your First In family. Use the group, pester the group, blow up the group, whatever it takes.

3- Food isn’t complicated. Don’t try to be fancy if you ain’t. Canned green beans your jam for veggies? ME TOO!

4- Demand the table you’re sitting at (figuratively and literally) makes you better. If not, find a new table.

5- Name your body weight scale. So for those days when you aren’t super happy, you can yell at it. “Stupid Gerald, get yourself together before we meet again.” (sorry if your name is Gerald. It just popped out one day and now my scale has imprinted and it cannot be reversed.)


any advice for someone thinking about getting started?

You are worth it.

You can make it work financially, quit talking yourself out of it because of that.

No, you can’t do this on your own…or you would have already. Just pull the trigger and find your seat at our table.


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    Testimonials were given freely and service members did not receive any preferential treatment, discount, or other benefit due to the nature of their service, rank, or position and in no way are the views or beliefs of any branch of the armed forces or uniformed services.