by Michelle Floyd
Dawn Wells overcame a life-threatening eating disorder to open a fitness studio, where the former Marine passes on what she has learned about physical and mental health.
Dawn Wells understands the desire to strive for perfection better than most, as it motivates her to work hard to improve herself and others. “I’m still human,” she said. “I’m that average person.” Those who know Wells best view her as nothing less than extraordinary.
After teaching corporate fitness classes around the state for several years, she opened her own studio—Dawn Wells Fitness—in 2016. The Covington resident and her team offer classes, meal planning, personal training, custom wellness programs and blood type-based nutrition plans at the studio and online.
“We service all levels of experience, including those who have never exercised or those who are just getting into it,” said Wells, whose time in the Marines in the early 1990s was followed by her service in the Army Reserve. “I wanted to give back to my community and saw a need for [a fitness studio] here.”
Wells admits she was surprised by how much misinformation exists about health and fitness, and she aims to show others how to exercise effectively and take care of their bodies. She also wants her students to focus on their mental health—an issue with which she has personal experience. Wells suffers from bulimia, a life-threatening eating disorder in which overeating is often accompanied by purging, which can include self-induced vomiting, fasting, excessive exercise and abuse of laxatives, weight-loss supplements and diuretics.
“Until you deal with mental issues, you will not have as much success with your health as you would. Your body will tell you. You have to be authentic with yourself and be honest with behaviors.”Fitness Instructor Dawn Wells
“I’m bulimic and have struggled for more than 25 years with weight and body image,” Wells said. “I’m very open when it comes to having an eating disorder.”
Wells knew she was harming her body but did not realize she was bulimic until she was diagnosed with the disorder at a Veterans Affairs hospital. “It was just part of my lifestyle,” she said. “I didn’t identify it as such.” Now that she has completed treatment for bulimia, Wells remains focused on maintaining a healthy lifestyle, physically and mentally. She has designs on fulfilling a longtime goal of entering a body building competition in 2020. “Until you deal with mental issues, you will not have as much success with your health as you would,” Wells said. “Your body will tell you. You have to be authentic with yourself and be honest with behaviors.”
Wells concedes that she uses some of her past military experience in her boot camps, but she also implements modern fitness into her courses to make them more user-friendly and effective for students. She customizes programs for groups and individuals, avoiding the one-size-fits-all trap into which some instructors fall.
“We teach form and strength and make sure you do things properly; it needs to be more of a lifestyle than working to get weight off quickly,” Wells said, adding that she and her team hold their clients accountable and even text them to provide encouragement and motivation. “Dawn Wells Fitness is not Dawn Wells. It’s the community, our whole reason for existing.”
A mother of three and grandmother to one, Wells has earned certification from the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America as a group fitness instructor and from SCW as a personal trainer and nutritional coach. She has also been licensed in multiple Zumba platforms. Wells’ fitness journey has taken her further than she ever thought possible, and it continues to evolve. She recently founded Angel Eyes Fitness & Nutrition, a Covington-based program for the visually impaired that provides instruction around metro Atlanta and online. Featuring belly dancing, boxing and Pilates, it grew out of her teaching Zumba at a state convention and a meeting with the National Federation for the Blind. Uber rides have been made available through a special grant, and Wells hopes to expand her online presence with more virtual classes and interactive programs in the coming years.
“I saw a need for it and took it on,” Wells said. “It’s definitely a blessing.”