Determined to become a role model for her children, Michelle Johnson changed her life for the better. Now 11 kilos lighter, she’s hoping to help other mothers on their journey to wellness.
I am a 31-year-old mum of three little boys under the age of three. I have always struggled with weight issues to some extent, but it wasn’t until we started trying for kids that my weight really started to creep up. This emotional rollercoaster led me to comfort eat, with my weight fluctuating between 85kg and 110kg these last five years.
I always remember growing up going to the water park and my mum never joining in because she was always so conscious of her weight. I never want to be like that and this has always been in the back of my mind as I became more and more unfit and unhealthy. My boys are full of energy and I know it’s going to take a lot to keep up with them. Whatever they do, I want to do it with them.
Throughout my last pregnancy I knew the time was coming where I really needed to put in 100 per cent to make this change. I spent a lot of time researching healthy eating and exercise programs. I spent time calorie counting using MyFitnessPal during the pregnancy and also after as I needed a baseline to know what my body required to gain, maintain and eventually lose weight. I didn’t want this challenge to be just a 12-week hit and then end.
I dropped from eating 1,800 calories each day to 1,600 at the start of the challenge. When my weight loss slowed I dropped down to 1,400. I did feel a bit tired on this, so I increased back to 1,500 calories on heavy training days.
I mostly ate the same thing every day to make it easier by pre-cooking my dinners and freezing them once a week. Cooking one dinner for the family during three children’s witching hour is difficult enough, let alone trying to cook two meals.
In saying this, I did have days where I would eat things I shouldn’t have but I didn’t beat myself up over it. My diet was good 98 per cent of the time, so one chocolate or occasional piece of cake for my son’s birthday wasn’t going to ruin everything. My weight loss continued to average about 950 grams a week so I knew these occasional variations in diet weren’t hindering my progress.
As I had been pregnant or breastfeeding for the better part of three years with minimal exercise I knew I needed to start out slow or I would burn out or risk injury. I invested in a Polar Loop that linked up with my heart rate monitor so I could follow my general daily activity, as well as get a more in-depth look at the effectiveness of my workouts. The first four weeks was mainly five to six days of cardio – either a road run or a spin bike ride in my garage while the kids had a nap. Two days a week I would also add in a HIIT session in the backyard with the kids usually joining in. I listened to my body in these first few weeks and if it was tired I took it easy. I was actually very surprised at how well my body recovered and how much I could push each session. Each week I could run further or push myself harder.
At around the four-week mark I found my current exercise regime just wasn’t pushing me enough, so I bit the bullet and joined the gym. At first I was very nervous; it had been around 10 years since I had belonged to a gym. I knew the basic use of most weight machines, but I was a bit anxious about looking silly using them. One day I just went for it and I haven’t looked back. I wanted to incorporate a weight program with cardio as I have a lot of body fat to lose but also muscle to build.
I also decided on one PT session a week to really push me out of my comfort zone, but also to learn new exercises and ensure I was using the correct technique. These were first thing on a Monday morning so it was a great start to the week. They were only 30 minutes but very high intensity.
My gym sessions needed to fit in with the family and the only time I could do this was early morning. Getting up at 5:30am in winter after waking multiple times a night to either feed a baby or tend to sick toddlers was extremely difficult but all that hard work was so worth it. During these times I would scroll through weight loss transformation pictures on the internet for motivation. I also have motivational quotes up around the house to help push me and keep me on track. One of my favourites is, ‘You don’t get what you wish for, you get what you work for.’
I feel fantastic since completing the challenge. I had a pile of clothes that were sitting there waiting to be pulled out when I lost weight, and now 90 per cent of these clothes are way too big. I am now only 10kg off my goal weight. I went from not being able to jog a kilometre or two to now being able to jog five km non-stop in just under 30 minutes. I have entered to compete in three mini triathlons this summer.
I would now like to go into personal training and help others to love exercise as much as I do. Being someone that has always struggled with easy weight gain and slow weight loss and the mental battles this includes, I really hope that I can pass on what I have learnt.
Breakfast: Pre-workout drink, smoothie
Snack: 70g cottage cheese, 70g frozen berries, black coffee
Lunch: Egg white omelette in a rye mountain bread wrap
Dinner: Steamed vegies, roast pumpkin, sweet potato and 100g chicken breast cooked in one tsp coconut oil
Monday: PT session
Tuesday: 20 mins high-intensity cardio (HIC), lower body weights, 20 mins low-intensity cardio (LIC)
Wednesday: 20 mins HIC, upper body weights, abs, 20 mins LIC
Thursday: 20 mins HIC, lower body weights, 20 mins LIC
Friday: 20 mins HIC, upper body weights, abs, 20 mins LIC
Saturday: 20 mins HIC, lower body weights, 20 mins LIC
Sunday: Stretching session or 6–8km road run
Rest day as required
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