This week our Stronger U Member Spotlight is highlighting an increidbly inspiring member, Michelle McGree, who has worked with Coach Josette Curtis! We’re all so proud of you, Michelle.
What’s your name? (First and last names, pretty please)
Tell us a little about you in 5 sentences or less. Where are you from? Are you a parent? What are your hobbies? Anything unique about your life that you want to share?
I am an independent, determined, two-time breast cancer survivor from Montana. I am a fisheries biologist by training and spend most of my days making streams better for fish, but I also love being a cancer research advocate. I love to be outside hiking, fishing, camping, and taking pictures. My happy places are in my Crossfit gym improving myself, in the wild, or anywhere with my loved ones. I live with my boyfriend and our yellow lab on our own chunk of Montana, and I love making the most of life and being grateful for what I have, as I know how quickly things can change.
What led you to join Stronger U?
Frustration, serendipity, and a desire to have some control over my future after cancer. Breast cancer treatment left me with extra pounds that were going nowhere. Once I realized that my chemically-induced menopause (part of my current hormone treatment) was likely a reason for my struggle, I wanted a real solution. It wasn’t about a number on the scale, it was about taking control of my future and reducing my risk of recurrence with healthy waist size. And feeling good about myself after all that cancer had taken from me.
For a year I followed another macro-based plan and it wasn’t working, as hormones (or lack thereof) were not a consideration. I couldn’t get anyone to address my unique situation. I made very minor progress and just didn’t feel good. Something wasn’t right. Lost and frustrated, Mike and Stronger U found me, who set me up with my coach Josette and gave me the opportunity to have someone truly listen to me.
What dieting experience have you had previous to Stronger U? Was there a reason you were or were not successful? Why did you stop?
I’ve had a generally healthy diet since my cancer diagnosis, but I mostly exercised and focused on eating well, which basically meant avoiding junk food. I thought that exercise was more important than nutrition when it came to getting fit. I didn’t think of it as a partnership. I stopped previous plans as my body was telling me something wasn’t right, and I needed to learn more.
It’s clear Stronger U worked for you. Why do you think Stronger U worked so well when other programs or diets may have not?
Stronger U worked because my coach listened to me and used her knowledge to guide me on the best course for ME–not just some general advice. The rest was easy. Even further, this community has been incredibly supportive and encouraging, giving all of us a chance to learn how to live beyond the program. It is obvious that Stronger U cares for each person, not just the brand, and that makes for an environment where people are encouraged to succeed by learning the skills and new habits that they can use for life.
Can you give some insight into your eating habits BEFORE joining Stronger U?
I used to try to focus on fruits and veggies, and avoid processed foods before I committed to logging my food. Once I started tracking macros, I ate more and more carbs until I couldn’t keep up or felt disgustingly puffy. Macro tracking began to feel onerous and ineffective so I quit altogether until finding Stronger U. Eating is not fun when you are on the wrong track.
Now that you’ve joined Stronger U, how have your eating habits changed?
Because of medication and hormone issues I’ve learned to accommodate a lower carb lifestyle. I have learned that a daily salad can allow me to hit my goals and eat a regular dinner with my family, that veggies are a great way to add flexibility, planning allows me to navigate most anything, and portions are important. I have a better relationship with food and gained the intuition to know what I should be eating, most of the time. I learned how to savor what I eat and spread the most delicious over multiple days.
If you exercise or train for a sport, what does a typical week look like? Did Stronger U have any impact on your decision to start exercising or training for a sport?
My typical week is three days of Crossfit, one day of spin class or cycling, a day of running, and a few rest days. This is has been my best kind of week for a long time, but Stronger U allowed me to see that I can be fueled and still meet (and exceed) my goals.
How much weight did you lose with Stronger U?
How did your waist measurements change with Stronger U?
Down 5 inches
What were 3 major non-scale victories you experienced with Stronger U?
My first victory was one of mindset. I didn’t believe I could eat anything less than a huge number of carbs and still have a killer workout. I didn’t believe my body had the capacity to change significantly at my age. I was wrong. On top of that, I improved my workout speed or my lifts at least five times during these 12 weeks. But most importantly, I brought my waist down to a normal size for my height, which means that by losing fat around my mid-section I reduced my risk of recurrence and am giving myself the best shot at a long life. That is what I wanted above all and is my absolute biggest achievement. And, I finally feel good, like I found what my body wants and I’m so grateful to have found that balance.
Has your change in body weight or composition improved other areas of your life? If so, explain what areas and how.
The changes have made me feel like I’m doing all I can to prevent cancer recurrence and any other future disease, and I am most proud of that achievement. I feel I am on the right track to be the best version of myself for my future, knowing we only get one body in this life. On top of that, feeling better about my self—inside and out—makes me a happier person. It feels great to have finally figured out how to move toward my goals and give my body what it needs.
Physically, it’s a lot easier to do pull-ups when you weigh less! I love that it feels easier to move in every way. My running pace has improved and I haven’t compromised my strength.
Are there any tips or advice you’d give to new members of Stronger U to help them succeed early on?
Tracking your food feels ridiculous, embarrassing, and daunting when you start. Find your patterns so you can duplicate entries and fill in the gaps like a puzzle. When someone makes you feel stupid for pulling a scale out to weigh your food, remember your goals and how much you want them. There’s no shame in working hard for what you really want.
If someone is thinking about joining Stronger U, what would you tell them?
It may seem expensive or time-consuming, and maybe you aren’t ready for that. But if you truly want to achieve your goals and you feel like you’d move mountains to get there, give it a chance and commit. Many of us tend to give to others before taking care of ourselves, but we can’t pour from an empty cup. This is an investment for the rest of your life.