At 36, Michelle was unhappy with her weight and shape and was a self-proclaimed binge eater. Today, at 48, Michelle looks decades younger and is significantly healthier and happier.
And it wasn't just diet and exercise that reversed the hands of time for Michelle. Her weight-loss journey mantra? "Embodiment." Michelle herself defines embodiment as "being acutely aware of how your body feels — and how it reacts and responds to a variety of situations, emotions, and triggers." This concept of becoming more in tune with her body was what drove her to get in the best shape of her life. Today, she's a lead CycleBar instructor and certified coach with the Institute For the Psychology of Eating, helping the people around her reach their goals of living healthier lives.
POPSUGAR: What made you decide to start your weight-loss journey?
Michelle Brady: Diet. Fail. Repeat. I was sick and tired of being overweight and even more sick of being sick and tired.
My breakdown came when I realised the knowledge in my head about healthy living was actually mental clutter. Information overload. Diet confusion. Knowing what I was "supposed to do" was not actually helping me. I thought I knew what to do, but every time I started a new diet or program, I failed, spun out in a self-shame spiral, stood back up, and started yet another "diet." One day, it occurred to me that I had no idea what really worked for me. Repeating my patterns kept me yo-yo dieting and hating myself for over three decades. I realised that of all the diets and programs I tried, one expert I had not yet consulted was my own body.
PS: What programs have you tried for weight loss?
MB: I am a kinesthetic learner, yet I spent decades living in my head trying to figure out what program would work — each time I chose one, I would work hard, suffer, deprive myself, and ultimately fail. If learning by doing is the hallmark of the kinesthetic learner, I decided to let my body tell me what worked. Letting my body lead, learning to listen and respond to her feedback, and crafting health and fitness strategies based on what my body tells me helped me create a lifestyle I love: one that's vibrant, pleasurable, and sustainable.
"Repeating my patterns kept me yo-yo dieting and hating myself for over three decades. I realised that of all the diets and programs I tried, one expert I had not yet consulted was my own body."
People often ask me, "What is the path to embodiment?" My answer: "Embodiment is the path."
PS: What's your favourite way to work out?
MB: Weight training with a true bodybuilding coach. HIIT training is the most effective complement to strength training, which is why I love teaching and taking classes at CycleBar; interval training is built into each ride. I love yoga and recently created a personal practice of "body prayer," which is kind of like freestyle yoga — a transformational movement to music.
PS: What's your weekly exercise schedule?
MB: Working with my trainer/coach comes first. We train in 30-minute sessions three to five times a week. I take classes at CycleBar for my own cardio workouts. I also teach anywhere between five to 10 classes per week at CycleBar, which gives me the opportunity to share my love of healthy living. My trainer has me sprinkle in varying classes and cardio exercises to keep my body guessing.
PS: How do you keep workouts exciting?
MB: Music! The power of moving your body to music is transformative. I clear my mind before every workout by listening to motivational speakers and set very clear intentions before each session.
PS: How much weight have you lost?
MB: Scale weight? Around 50 pounds (3 and a half stone). Body fat loss? Probably 70 plus (5 stone).
PS: What was the first big difference, other than the number on the scale, that really made you feel proud and excited?
MB: Feeling and seeing my clothes get loose, then too big to wear — that was so exciting! I would not allow myself to buy new clothing unless I donated the larger size at the same time — no more tucking the "fat clothes" in the back of the closet "just in case."
PS: How do you track your weight loss?
MB: I don't. At a certain point, the scale weight became a less important number to me. I also have a history of giving the scale power over how I feel about myself. When I realised I was going to continue training and eating to nourish my body and soul no matter what the scale said, I broke up with my scale.
Now I track how my clothes fit, take my measurements quarterly, and most importantly, I prioritise how I feel. I'll take feeling fit, vibrant, energetic, and fully present and weigh a little more on the scale than a "skinnier" version of me who's rundown, hungry, and crabby any day of the week!
PS: What's a typical day of meals and snacks?
MB: I eat when my body is hungry. I stop when she says enough.
PS: Do you count calories? What's the range of calories you eat per day?
MB: I don't count calories any longer. It's like the scale — it can be a useful tool for certain people with specific goals at a particular time. I did it every day when weight loss was my main goal, and I still occasionally check in with my fitness tracker if I need some data.
Michelle: Before and After
I've dedicated myself to becoming a self-care warrior. I keep a journal by my bed that's just about ME taking care of ME. I write down foods I eat, how my body feels before and after, what exercises and classes I'm doing that week, restorative practices like body prayer, sleep, sauna, massages, things like that. I set my daily, weekly, monthly, and annual intentions for myself: mind, body, spirit. I view my thoughts, choices, and actions as either building or depleting my health account — more deposits and minimal withdrawals keep me at my best. This is my version of intake and output tracking.
PS: What are the healthy staples that are always in your fridge?
MB: Eggs, greens, veggies for salads and sauteing, fresh fruit, plain Greek yogurt, grass-fed butter, [and] almond milk. Coffee and 85 percent dark chocolate aren't in my fridge, but they deserve honourable mention.
PS: How do you strategise for meals out?
MB: The most important thing I do is relax! I remind myself that I am perfectly imperfect and I trust my body to make the best choices possible with what's in front of me. I love finding fresh-forward and farm-to-table restaurants. I look at the menu ahead of time so I have an idea what my choices will be. If I'm over-hungry or feel I'm in danger of overeating to the point of discomfort, I have my take-home portion packed up at the beginning of my meal.
"I've dedicated myself to becoming a self-care warrior."
PS: Do you use a fitness tracker?
MB: MyFitnessPal is my favourite. There are many tools, it's a great community, and my clients can share their profiles with me so I can answer questions for them as they come up between coaching sessions.
PS: What role did the concept of "embodiment" play in your journey?
MB: Embodiment is a way of living. There's one surefire way to living in embodiment, and that's being born! For those of us who have lost our way, become disconnected from our bodies, and find ourselves living in our heads, embodiment is the pathway back to intuitive eating. Your body knows what to do. Ask, listen, [and] take action.
PS: What advice do you have for anyone starting out on a weight-loss journey?
MB: Know this: you are not broken. You do not need to be fixed. Every day is an opportunity to let go of one more thought, belief, or action you no longer need. Release what doesn't serve you. Listen to your body and when you respond, one moment at a time, you will build a lifestyle you love while you are on the journey. Don't lose weight to be happy; find happiness in loving yourself with beautiful food and exercise and your weight release will come.