Michaela Miller (@losingtoblooming – a brilliant account to follow!) has such an incredible and inspirational story. When we posted about her journey last week, we knew we needed to know more, so Michaela very kindly agreed to answer all the questions we had!
Going in depth about her childhood, issues to do with her father, eating disorders and weight gain. The full story about her weight loss surgery, why she decided to go this route and how it all went down and now, her new lifestyle, daily diet and training routine.
There is something for everybody to take something out of this interview. Michaela gives an honest look into her incredible weight loss transformation, were she lost over half her bodyweight and has inspired countless people to start on their own health and fitness journeys! As alwasys, save and share to your social media! Enjoy!
Could you talk about your early life and what you were like growing up?
I grew up in Northern Colorado. This is a very active area. We have access to beautiful hiking trails and ski slopes but I was not raised in a very active family. While I was encouraged to do sports in school I never really found a sport I enjoyed. My dad golfs a little though and to spend time with him, I took up golf and joined the girl’s golf team in high school. While golf can be a good hobby, it is not that physically taxing. Most of my focus was on my studies as I graduated top of my class.
Could you describe your early relationship with food and how you gained the weight?
So from an early age I learned that being skinny is the most important thing and that diet and exercise are just a way to achieve thinness. My mom was always thin, but I grew up watching her and listening to her hate on her body and hip from one diet to the next.
I have always had a stockier athletic build. So as a child while I wasn’t obese I was bigger than all my very thin friends. To my dad this meant I was fat. So I remember being told in 2nd grade to go on weight watchers with my mom. All growing up it was a constant battle of not being good enough/thin enough. Being told what to eat/not to eat and when to eat.
My dad thought he was doing what was best for me. But all it was doing was hurting me. I hid food. I binge ate everyday after school and before they got home from work. I gained a lot of weight. It was my way of taking control or rebelling if you will. The more my dad got on me about my weight the more I ate.
When I was 20, I finally lost about 80lbs and was able to keep it off for a while but that weight loss was the result of an extreme fad diet so it didn’t really teach me healthy balanced nutrition or lifestyle. Even up to that point, eating healthy and exercise were just short term solutions to losing weight. Not something I learned to maintain. And even after losing all of that it still felt like it wasn’t enough for my dad so I gave up and gained it all back plus some. Ballooning up to 300lbs by the time I was 26.
You had a serious scare that caused you to re-evaluate how you were living, what happened and what was your change in mindset?
When I was 25 I went holiday shopping with a friend. That entire day I was having weird chest/neck/shoulder pains. I tried to shake it off like it was nothing but it just got worse. I was terrified I was having a heart attack. We went to an urgent care facility that night and thankfully it wasn’t a heart attack but rather an allergic reaction to Emergen-C. But it was enough of a scare for me to say enough and I finally made an appointment to see about weight loss surgery.
How many different diets have you tried? Did you ever find success with any of them?
Oh I have tried almost all of them.. the one that I lost the most weight on was the most extreme, HCG Diet. I do not recommend. It didn’t teach me anything about maintenance and it was so extreme and restrictive I didn’t maintain the weight loss for long. I hate diets. None of them teach you how to live a balanced life. They are just short term solutions I wanted a long term more permanent solution.
When did you start to consider a vertical sleeve procedure? Was this something that you knew of previously?
So I had heard of VSG a few months before my heart attack scare but I thought it was “too dramatic”. I’m also a major needle phobe and hate going to the Doctor so the thought of surgery was terrifying. But after that scare I didn’t care any more. I needed a major change. I knew I couldn’t keep going down the path I was on. I knew I couldn’t keep hopping from diet to diet. I needed a permanent life change.
Could you walk us through the whole procedure? From before, consultations, to the actual surgery and after.
So my insurance didn’t cover my procedure, I was self pay. When insurance pays there’s a lot more involved, months of classes, pre op diet, months of medical and mental screenings. But for self pay I just had 2 classes that covered how the procedure works and what to expect, a meeting with a nutritionist, medical clearance, and clearance from a therapist. Once I had that done I just had to schedule my surgery.
I financed my surgery by getting a loan against one of my parents cars. It cost me a total of $15k with all the appointments included. I went through a Bariatric Center of Excellence at UC Health Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins CO. I loved this facility and my surgeon. They include monthly check up appointments and a free support group that I went to every month.
I was terrified for surgery but I knew it was what I needed. I was more afraid of what my life would look like if I didn’t have surgery. The procedure itself is done all laparoscopically. They remove 80% of your stomach. You’re definitely in pain that first week but it goes away quickly. The hardest part is the liquid diet after surgery and mourning food. Realizing food will no longer comfort you.
What was the biggest change in the weeks after the procedure?
I think the biggest change was that realization that food is no longer your comforting friend anymore. Even once you get past the liquid diet and you’re onto solid “normal” foods you no longer feel the same warm fuzzy feeling after eating. So you’re desire for food shifts. Sometimes I would even forget to eat! Which was crazy since before surgery my days revolved around food. WLS has taught me how to have a better relationship with food. Food is fuel. I have always been a foodie and love to cook and still am but now I savor food more. I think I actually enjoy food more now than I did before. And I love cooking healthy but yummy meals. Experimenting with healthy recipes is one of my favorite hobbies now!
What is the first thing people say when you mention you had WLS?
Oh wow! I think sometimes they don’t know what to say. I personally haven’t had many negative comments on WLS but I know there’s a negative misconception about it. Most people are in awe of my story and of my success. If anything I almost always hear how they know so and so who had weight loss surgery but didn’t lose weight or gained it all back. So they’re surprised by my success.
Are there any misconceptions you find that people fall into?
Definitely. Just like I said above. A lot of people think the surgery does all the work. But there are a lot of people who have this done and aren’t successful. Because while the surgery gives you a tool “your sleeve” or tiny tummy, it is up to you to make lifestyle changes to be successful. You have to watch what you eat and get active. That’s why I’ve been successful. And I’ve learned along the way on this journey that eating healthy and exercising isn’t just to lose weight but to be healthy life long. So now this is just who I am. I am someone who prioritizes exercising everyday and meal peeps on weekends. Someone who loves to hike in my free time and run races.
What do you wish more people knew about weight loss procedures like these?
That this is not a cheat or the easy way. To be successful it is a lot of hard work every single day. WLS is just another weight loss “tool” or “program” just like weight watchers or anything else. But this is the medical solution to weight loss with the highest success rate long term. That’s why I chose it. I knew it would be hard work, I knew it would be expensive, but I wanted the best fighting chance I could get for long term success.
What was your diet like before and what is it like now?
My typical diet before was fast food and sugary drinks, all day, everyday.
Now my diet is balanced and healthy with a focus on high protein. I drink my Bowmar Greens/Collagen every morning. A protein coffee with Bowmar Protein. Then I have a healthy lunch like this week we are having chicken and apple pecan salads. Then I have a preworkout snack that is usually a Kodiak Cakes Waffle with nut butter. And dinner is usually something like chicken fried rice or sausage, chicken and potato skillet. I also always have something sweet like homemade protein cookies or brownies!
Now I only have fast food maybe once a week if I’m craving it and only eat out once or twice a week for date night or friends brunch.
What’s your typical weekly training routine?
I like to have a healthy mix of cardio and strength training. I usually do a short run with sprint intervals on Monday with some quick core work after, then Tuesday is a full body strength, Wednesday is a 3 mi run with stretching routine, Thursday is upper body strength, Friday Lower body strength, and Saturday/Sunday are left open for hiking/yoga/rest.
How has your weight loss affected you mentally? Is it hard to come to terms with who you are now compared to how you felt before?
It has helped a lot but mainly because I’ve put a lot of work into my mental health throughout the journey. I have worked with a therapist this entire time and still see her once a month. She helped me work through all of my emotional eating issues and my father issues. She helped me realize that by gaining weight or sabotaging my weight loss efforts I was giving my dad’s words power over me not taking back the power.
I thought gaining weight was my way of having control but it wasn’t. Because that wasn’t the life I wanted. I was sacrificing the life I wanted to smite my father. I was letting his opinions and words control my actions. I realized I could no longer blame my weight on my dad. Or anything else. It was my fault. My responsibility. It was time to take control of my life.
How does it feel to know you inspire so many people to live healthier lives?
Crazy… literally.. but also amazing. I started my page in the hopes of just inspiring one person a day and now I get messages constantly of people thanking me for inspiring them to get healthy. Those are the best messages. IG is a hard place sometimes. And whenever I feel like I just want to delete my account I’ll get a message like that and remember why I’m doing this.
What advice would you give someone looking to lose weight but doesn’t know were to start?
First of all you need a WHY. Why are you doing this? Write it down and go back to it whenever you need. Then start small. Start by getting more active. Movement is medicine. The more we move the better we feel so start there. Get used to daily activity as a daily habit. Find fitness you enjoy! Then start working on tracking calories and dialing in nutrition. For more tips follow me @losingtoblooming