by Kaetlin Zink
After having lost a grand total of 13.3 pounds and 7.6% in body fat, Michelle Oldham was declared third place winner of HAC’s 12- Week Lifestyle Challenge, tying with HAC Member, Katie Hook.
Between juggling being a mom and caring for her family, maintaining a job, and having her house undergo major renovations, Michelle had put on 13-14 pounds before the Challenge. She felt that her poor diet at the time played a role in this sudden weight change. Back in her 20’s, she could eat whatever she wanted and never have to worry about gaining a pound. But as she got older, she found it became more and more difficult to keep the weight off. “I thought to myself,” she remembers, “‘as long as I continue to exercise, I can pretty much keep eating whatever I want’ — until it finally caught up to me. One thing the Challenge taught me is how much diet truly outweighs exercise.”
Though she had been training with HAC Master Personal Trainer, Dina Saitis leading up to the Challenge, she had been avoiding the scale for three months. Michelle’s unwillingness to set foot on the scale is the exact reason why Dina urged her to go through with it.
The tight-knit group formed in her small group fitness class also gave her motivation. The class of 11 became so close that they agreed to partake in the Challenge together and even made a support group to help each other along the way. “By doing weekly check-ins and having people know what you’re doing along the way, it definitely makes you feel more accountable. My fear of letting people in my support group down definitely made me try harder.”
The Lifestyle Challenge ended up being a lot more difficult than Michelle had anticipated. She had to abide by a strict dietary regimen and engage in rigorous workouts with Dina about 4-5 days a week (6 at most), 2 hours per day. Without her constant guidance and encouragement, Michelle admits she would’ve never been able to tie for third in the competition. “By showing tough love and not allowing any nonsense,” Michelle says, “[Dina] created a different atmosphere that worked.” According to Michelle, Dina even had a way of knowing if she had either been having a bad day or was going through a rough time depending on the amount of energy Michelle would bring to each workout. “On days where I struggled, she would give me the motivation to keep pushing forward,” Michelle says. “Because she cares and invests so much time and effort into what she does, you want to do everything you can to make her proud.”
While Dina helped her tremendously throughout the process, she still experienced challenges along the way, especially when it came to dieting. Luckily, when her kitchen underwent renovations for 8 out of 12 weeks of the Challenge, the HAC cafe was a great resource to lean on. “Since I had limited access to my kitchen, I would eat at the HAC cafe 5 out of the 7 days a week. I even went so frequently that the cafe employees would start preparing my usual order, a brown rice bowl, as soon as they saw me.”
While there were weeks when Michelle felt discouraged because she hadn’t lost anything, she kept going. Seeing the end results made her realize she had actually been making progress the whole time. “It’s like a domino effect,” she says. “One good decision leads to another, which leads to another until it finally gets easier. I weigh less now than I have in the last 8 years. But it’s really not about how much weight you lose. It’s about getting to the point where you, personally, feel good about yourself and comfortable in your own body. And at this point in time, I can truly say that I feel good about myself.”
Since Michelle had never struggled with weight prior to the Challenge, what surprised her most was how difficult it really is to keep the weight off while keeping up with the demands of everyday life. But Michelle offers a logical solution: “With a busy schedule, getting your routine down and finding balance is the toughest part, but consistency is key. It gets easier the more you do it.”