Cassey Ho—founder of the über-popular blog Blogilates, pop-music-fueled Pilates YouTube videos called Pop Pilates, the HIIT-Pilates mash-up called PIIT28, and a super-cute activewear line—didn't always have an Insta-perfect life. She recently opened up on Instagram about how she had a tough childhood (including living in "a converted wooden garage. 1 bed, 1 bath for 4 people," where it would flood when it rained too hard).
So how did Ho turn into the sixth most influential fitness professional of the modern age, according to Forbes? A lot of hard work, staying humble, and keeping her priorities straight with the three things she says are integral to remaining a functional human: a supportive squad, a daily workout (try Ho's Slim in 20 workout), and enough sleep.
There was a while, however, when that last one wasn't so obvious: "I used to think I could get more done if I slept less," says Ho. "Sometimes I used to sneak a workout at 12 a.m. or edit videos until 3 or 4 a.m., and then just wake up at a regular hour and be so sleep-deprived... I was doing that for years since high school."
"I realized it started taking a toll on my body," she says. "It was hard for me to lose weight." She couldn't figure out why, and turned to doctors for answers. When Western doctors couldn't figure it out, she turned to naturopathic ones, who told her that she had incredibly high cortisol (stress hormone) levels, which increase lower belly fat. The culprit? Lack of sleep, which sends levels of that hormone sky-high. (Here's all the science behind why sleep is the most important thing for weight loss.)
Now, Ho says she tries to get seven or eight hours and be in bed before midnight: "I didn't start doing that till two years ago, but when I did, my body started to function," she says. "I finally saw the results from all the hard work I put in versus when I wasn't sleeping enough and I worked so hard, but nothing came of it." (Speaking of mistakes, see Ho's fixes for the most common Pilates mistakes.)
But now for some #realtalk: How on earth does Ho still get enough sleep when she's busier than ever and jet-setting around the world to maintain her Pilates empire? "I really like reading right before bed because it calms my mind," she says. "And for some people, it's a book, and I would probably recommend that, but for some reason when I read the news, even though it can be really tumultuous at times, I think the act of reading puts me to sleep." But when she's constantly hopping between time zones and a regular sleep schedule isn't an option? She swears by ZzzQuil (for which she's become a spokesperson) to get her on-track for a great night's sleep whether she's in Singapore, LA, or NYC.