Personal trainers provide clients with programs to achieve their goals, Van Daff says, whether that's weight loss, muscle building or overall fitness. The National Academy of Sports Medicine certification teaches everything from basic anatomy to kinesiology to motivational techniques.
Van Daff loves to see people who have lost a significant amount of weight become trainers.
"It's helpful for somebody in this industry if they can relate to their clients from a personal perspective," he says. "If you have a personal trainer who knows what it's like to be 20 or 30 pounds overweight ... it helps in gaining (the client's) confidence."
Steffen passed her certification exam on her way to losing another 30 to 40 pounds. She designated 2012 as the year of running: She ran her first 5K in May and her first half marathon later that year. Toward the end of the year, she finally joined a gym and began to lift weights.
"(I thought) I look good in my clothes, but do I look good naked?" she says with a laugh.
Now she hits the gym five to six days a week to weight train and run. She also has cleaned up her eating habits.
Steffen eats six small meals a day that almost always include protein, whether it's chicken, tuna, Greek yogurt or fish. She has a gallon of water on her desk at work. ("I'm constantly going to the bathroom," she says.) She's given up French fries and French bread, possibly her two biggest diet downfalls, although she gives herself permission to splurge during one meal a week.
All her hard work has paid off. Steffen has lost 85 pounds and inspires others on her blog, CherieRunsThis.com.
About a year ago, Steffen ran into her old college professor, the one who had called her "Precious." She hadn't seen him since her graduation.
Like a scene from a movie, Steffen dropped an orange and it rolled across the floor. Her professor picked it up as a million sentences ran through her head.
"I had dreamed of this moment," she says. "I thought I was going to walk into his office and be like, 'Look at me now.'"
Instead she simply said, "Thank you."
"If he hadn't said that, none of this would have happened," she explains. "He still has no clue."
For now, Steffen is working as a leasing consultant at an apartment complex. But she's studying to be a fitness nutrition specialist with the National Academy of Sports Medicine and hopes to eventually get enough clients to be a personal trainer full time.
She also has her eye on a few bikini competitions, perhaps as a nod to her mother's modeling career. She imagines Hart would flip out if she saw her daughter now, and would immediately want to go shopping.
"She would love that I listened to her and took her advice," Steffen says. "She would be really proud of me because I did it the right way."