For Emily Petraglia, health and fitness has become an instrumental component of her life. The 31-year-old native Pittsburgher who now lives in Palm Beach, Florida, currently works as a general manager of personal training at a sports club.
She recently started her own fitness website, Fitness Royalty (www.fitnessroyalty2014.com), containing healthy recipes, fitness tips, online coaching, and personal training. Within the next year, she also plans to launch a fitness clothing line that she’s been working on for the last three months.
Her whole family is currently in Aspinwall and Bloomfield. Her mom is a retired teacher who retired this past summer. Emily calls her the most amazing woman she ever met.
“I’m not just saying that because she’s my mom,” she says. “She has taken care of my dad, my brother and myself our whole lives. She is so kind-hearted and understanding, and so incredibly strong.”
Emily’s father used to own Liberty Auto Parts in Bloomfield. “He was the best dad a girl could ask for—he always knew how to make you laugh and even on your worst day, he could make you laugh so hard you’d forget your problems even if just for a few minutes,” says Emily. “I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like my dad. He was always smiling and always happy.”
Even when her dad was sick and dying, Emily says that he still told jokes to make others laugh. He passed away from cancer in July of 2009. Emily’s brother, Louie, still lives in Pittsburgh, and they have become really close after their father passed away.
“My mom, dad and my brother are my inspiration,” adds Emily. “The three of them have really made me who I am today. I can’t imagine my life without them.”
Emily took some time recently to respond to our questions about her new business venture and website, her Italian heritage and traditions, her proudest accomplishments and what she likes to do for fun.
CP: What made you decide to start Fitness Royalty?
Emily: I originally started playing around on Facebook posting my goals, food pictures, and results. I felt like if I made it something publicly known, I would have to do it and stick with it. If I didn’t, everyone would know I failed.
After awhile, I felt like I was kind of annoying my friends with my healthy meals and protein shakes. So I took myself to Instagram and started getting so much positive feedback from my followers and so many questions on “How did you lose 12 pounds this week?”, or “Can we have the recipe for this picture?” “How much cardio do you a day?”
I found myself repeating over and over again and realized there are so many people who are completely clueless about health and fitness. Most people think, “oh I’ll go on a diet and eat salads for the rest of my life and become skinny.” Or worse, they just won‘t eat at all. It really doesn’t work like that. So I knew I needed to take my knowledge and my results and put them out there for everyone to be able to use.
I come from a huge Italian family where eating is second nature. When it’s someone’s birthday, we eat. When it’s someone’s graduation, we eat. When someone passes away, we eat. Someone gets a new job, we eat. Someone buys a new car, we eat. It’s Sunday… WE EAT!!! With my family, eating was second nature. It wasn’t just eating, it would be a giant 5-6 course meal. One table with food and another with deserts… I’ve learned that in order to reach my health and fitness goals I had to change my entire lifestyle and eating habits. I don’t believe in diets. I mean the word “Diet” has “die” in it, and that is exactly the way I feel when I’m on a diet… just like I’m dying!
In order to reach my healthy lifestyle, I was going to have to adapt all of my recipes into healthy options. I’m a true believer that you can’t cut yourself off of the things you love and expect to stick with it. At one point I knew nothing about health, fitness, nutrition, diets, or exercise. I know that when I first started, I was terrified to step foot in the gym. “What if I’m too fat for the machines and I break them?” “Everyone is staring at me cuz I am fat.” Anything you can possibly think of I already thought of and used it as an excuse.
I started my site because I really want to break all of those negative thoughts women and men have when it comes to starting a healthy lifestyle for themselves. I want it to be a place people can come to get free healthy recipes, realistic fitness tips, success stories that aren’t fake or photoshopped. Eight years ago, before I went back to school and got certified, I was completely clueless, scared to ask for help, and not even sure who to ask. When I would ask it would be someone who would want me to pay them hundreds of dollars. I feel like most people are scared to ask or can’t afford the help they need. My main goal is to get my story out and inspire people. If I can help just one person reach their goals then all the time and energy I’ve put into my site is beyond worth it.
CP: What do you enjoy most about being in business for yourself?
Emily: I really just love being able to help people and not being restricted by a corporation or having someone tell me you can’t help that person unless they are a paying customer. I just love the freedom. Right now I’m still working full-time but eventually I hope Fitness Royalty will become my main source of income.
CP: Can you tell us about your Italian heritage?
Emily: My grandmother, Christine Chianelli’s family was from Montalto Uffugo in Calabria, Italy and her husband, my grandfather, Carmen Petraglia’s family was from Piaggine, Campania both in Southern Italy. My grandmother had seven children, three girls and four boys. My dad was the oldest boy. He grew up in Bloomfield, Pittsburgh’s Little Italy. His father, Dr. Carmen Petraglia, was a dentist in Bloomfield. He passed away when my father was nine years old. My grandmother is the rock of our family. She raised seven children by herself. My dad owned Liberty Auto Parts on Liberty Avenue In Bloomfield. He was in business for 31 years until he passed away from cancer in 2009. All of my uncles still work in the Bloomfield area. My Uncle Carm and Uncle Bob own Petraglia Auto Body and my Uncle Bill is a dentist In Shadyside.
CP: Do you have any favorite Italian traditions that you keep up with?
Emily: My family still does all kinds of traditions. It’s one of the hardest things to be away from—all the holidays and special occasions that I miss. Every Sunday, my family goes to church and then has breakfast at my gram’s house. We used to spend the entire day together. After breakfast, we would visit the cemetery and then come home and my gram would cook a giant Italian dinner: sauce, meatballs, braciole, sausage, and a few different kinds of pasta. It varied week by week. On Thursdays, we also had pasta and sauce with meatballs and Italian Sausage. Every Christmas Eve, we go to church and go back to my gram’s house for 7 Fishes. I also wear my Italian horn and malocchio daily. It’s very special to me since it was my father’s. And every Easter, my gram makes Italian Easter bread.
CP: What do you like best about being Italian?
Emily: I just love my family. I feel like no other families are like mine. I love the loyalty and respect that Italians have for other Italians. I can’t imagine growing up any other way.
CP: What accomplishments in life are you most proud of?
Emily: My weight loss. It’s been a struggle that I’ve dealt with my whole life. When I first moved to Florida in 2007, I lost 93 pounds in 3 months. After my father passed away, I gained most of my weight back and was pretty depressed. I’m almost six months into my journey again and down 71 pounds. I’m pretty excited about my progress so far. I’m not at my final weight yet. Still have about 25 pounds left to go. I’m hoping to have it off within the next month.
CP: What are some of your favorite hobbies?
Emily: I love to cook. I live in the kitchen where I’m constantly making new recipes up and trying new things. I love to make things from scratch. Breads, pasta, gnocchi, ravioli, desserts, and soups—I just love to cook and make new things. My mom is an amazing cook and she taught me everything I know about cooking. I can remember making meatballs and sauce with her when I was little. She would let me mix the meatballs with my hands… it was so exciting. I really enjoy going to the gym and working out. It’s my favorite place to escape and clear my mind. I also do web and graphic design for fun in my free time.