By GREGORY ZELLER // Alyssa Bossio didn’t study nutrition. She’s not a trained physical therapist, or a medical doctor, or a doctor of any kind.
And she’s absolutely not letting any of that stand in her way.
Bossio plans to become a fitness icon for a new health-conscious generation – and over 2 million Instagram followers like her chances. Her biggest step yet comes this week, when she releases a series of diet and exercise e-books.
What the Huntington resident and Binghamton University graduate lacks in nutritional and physical education, she makes up in personal experience and dedicated research. Diagnosed early in her college career with polycystic ovary syndrome – a hormone imbalance that leaves women susceptible to depression, fatigue and weight gain – Bossio packed on more than the freshman 15. Doctors wanted to treat her condition with pharmaceuticals, but she chose a different path.
“I decided to take a holistic approach,” Bossio noted. “POS can be treated with medications, but I didn’t want to go that route, so I started researching holistic ways to reverse the symptoms.”
For Bossio, the holistic solution turned out to be weightlifting and a low-carb diet. Soon the POS was under control and the pounds began dropping.
Now the English literature major was hooked, and her self-education on the finer points of physical fitness was just getting started. Among the concepts that caught her attention was High Intensity Interval Training, an exercise strategy marked by short bursts of intense anaerobic exercise.
“Not a lot of people are really informed about it, but it’s becoming the new way to burn fat fast and create lean muscle,” Bossio said. “It leads to that slim and really toned look, but it only takes about a quarter of the time of a normal cardio workout. It’s very efficient.”
Sharing what she learned on her Instagram accounts has already made her a fitness semi-celebrity. Her earliest handle – @effortlyss – racked up over 1.5 million followers, while her current main handle, @fittlyss, has over 373,000 and adds thousands more each day. Bossio is hoping to reach millions more starting Sunday, when she releases e-books featuring workout and nutrition guidelines she crafted herself.
Priced at $49.99 each, the guides outline three-week training programs and include a plethora of healthy recipes – “things you can make in five minutes or less and bring with you on the go,” Bossio noted. Such alacrity is a common theme in the guides, which are filled with quick meals and high-speed HIIT workouts taking less than 30 minutes each.
“That’s the biggest excuse people have for not exercising or eating right: They don’t have time,” Bossio said. “The guides are focused around that. Everything is done very efficiently.
“It’s a very simple lifestyle,” she added. “People think it’s more complicated than it is. One of my goals with these guides is showing people it’s easier to stay healthy and stay active than they think.”
One of the factors that make Bossio’s system easier is that it’s not etched in stone. The guru-in-waiting stresses flexibility – determining the right nutritional plan and exercise combinations for the individual user.
“Everybody has different body types and different food preferences,” Bossio said. “It’s not necessarily a low-carb thing. That worked for me because of my condition, but if you don’t have POS, it might be something else.”
Perhaps most importantly, in addition to the workout routines, healthful recipes and sage advice about portion control (and the complete absence of weight-loss supplements or fat-reduction products), the guides are brimming with positive reinforcement. Bossio, who noted “fitness isn’t just a physical process,” wrote them to serve as motivational guides as well. “Your body won’t go where your mind won’t push it. It’s really important to touch on the mental aspects,” she noted.
The motivational content, Bossio added, didn’t result from research, but from “my own difficulties overcoming what I had to overcome.”
“It’s a lot of personal experience,” she said. “I learned you have to really love yourself and believe in yourself. You have to really believe you can do anything.”
Because of the individuality stressed by her approach, Bossio’s program is not suited only to twentysomething bodies operating at peak metabolic efficiency. She referenced her fiftysomething mother, a member of the Fittlyss Force Bossio is slowly growing on Instagram: Mom’s doing just fine, she said.
“The workouts boost metabolism,” Bossio added. “They stabilize your hormones. Because of how intense they are for short amounts of time, they can be very difficult, but you feel absolutely amazing afterwards, regardless of how old you are.”
Her foray into e-publishing carries Bossio into an increasingly lucrative world. An April report by U.S. industry analyzer IBISWorld suggests a $30 billion gym, health and fitness club industry growing by better than 2 percent annually, with the weight-loss market at $60.5 billion annually.
Bossio is looking for her share. With her e-books set to launch, the entrepreneur – who earned her English lit bachelor’s degree in May – is “focusing on the now,” but cultivating a fitness dynasty is definitely the plan, with a global spread of HIIT classes and boot camps in her long-range outlook.
“I love meeting people and traveling, so hopefully that will happen after the guides come out,” she said. “I want to speak to people about what I do and how I got to this point.
“I think the guides themselves are going to be huge,” Bossio added. “But when it comes to fitness, there are a lot of possibilities.”