Minki : Hey WINers - Welcome to MoneyBites! We have a really interesting episode for you today. As entrepreneurs or creatives, when we get stuck on a problem, a really good trick to use is to look at other industries for inspiration. Well, when we talk about personal finance at WINii, we often talk of mindfulness and our relationships to money, but also how incredibly frustrating the journey can be. What's another taboo area that hits all those key agonies? Dieting and health. We have a super woman with us today, who will bravely share with us all the hurdles that she had to overcome in her pursuit of health and wellbeing. Hope this inspires you to keep at it, making incremental improvements in your money journey. Hope you enjoy.

Hi Michele. Thank you so much for coming on Money Bites.

Michele: Hi. Thanks for having me.

Minki : Awesome. Should we start off with a short intro of yourself?

Michele: Sure. My name is Michele, I live in the Midwest. I am 46, almost 47 years old, and I'm married and I have two kids. That's about it.

Minki : That's awesome. Let's start from the very beginning. Where did your health journey start?

Michele: Well, I have always had what you would call emotional eating. I think a lot of it probably started from when I was extremely young. I don't remember this, but my biological father was killed in a motorcycle accident when I had just turned one. Growing up I wasn't a big kid, I wasn't a fat kid, but I was a little chunky. I wasn't a skinny Minnie. And I have always loved food.

When I was in my early 20s I was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma, which is cancer of the lymphatic system. I think that's when a lot of things really triggered for me that I most definitely had an emotional eating issue.

One, at that point of my life I was incredibly skinny, very skin and bones. But after I was diagnosed, while on Prednisone and some horrible medications like that, I really began to eat. I don't think I knew it at that present moment, but I can look back now and know that that was probably another really big trigger in my life of learning to cope with food.

It's been 25 years since I've had cancer this year, and I guess I've always known that there was an emotional eating problem. I have really tried to tackle it in the last four years, but I feel like I've only been successful in the last six months maybe.

It is a process of really learning to deal with things differently and trusting yourself and having enough confidence in yourself and thinking that you're worth it. I think thinking that you're worth it is a really big piece of that puzzle.

Minki : What was the big picture that you were able to see?

Michele: That I could actually do it, that I could actually stick with it and be successful. Like I kind of see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Minki : And how was that presented to you? You've gone through your highs and your valleys, it's been quite a journey. How was that linked together and showed you that light?

Michele: That's a good question. I have a tremendous amount of faith. I think about it a lot, I pray about it a lot. I get a lot of strength from looking at my daughter. She's 14. She has my same genes and even though she is incredibly fit, I can already see the struggle she has to stay fit. I really want to lead by example for her. I haven't been a great example at all. As any kind of addict, I don't care if it's food or whatever, you lose yourself. You don't always see the problem. You don't realize how it may be affecting other people and even though you may not think addiction is a very selfish thing, it really is.

I needed to focus on not my pain, or my struggles, but focus on the future and living a longer, healthier life and showing my daughter how to fight through something and to do the right thing and to take care of your body.

And I have a lot of conversations with her about that. She understands, but then she also knows that you can't let some of these vices get the best of you. Don't go down those paths in the first place, if you can avoid them.

Minki : Totally. It's easier to start off from a fresh start, rather than taking a rebound. But it can be done! With that said, I'm wondering, so many people get stuck when they have to make a rebound. You were able to change that mindset. Was that instantaneous, like a pivotal moment, or was it more gradual as you went through trial and error?

Michele: I definitely think it was a lot more gradual. Over the last couple years, I had someone at the gym who had really watched my eating. I was tracking my food for several weeks and he had tracked my food for quite some time, offered a lot of advice, helped me try different strategies to try to get the scale to move.

My mom died a couple of years ago and I remember him reaching out to me and saying, as painful as this time is, your mom would want you to take care of your health. Sometimes the best thing you can do when you're in pain emotionally, is to get back to the gym and lift those weights and push yourself. You'd be amazed how much stress and emotion you can get out at the gym.

And I did. I went back and I did it. Cried a few times... but he was right. I know that my mom would want me healthy and focused. She died of a heart attack and I know that she would not want me to follow in her footsteps. 

I had a lot of support. He may not know how much his support meant to me, but honestly I would think that if I didn't have someone checking in on me, helping me try to sort my way through it, holding me accountable to being at the gym, I don't know that I would finally be where I'm at. And it's not to say that I don't have struggles at moments. Sometimes I still want to make a batch of chocolate chip cookies, but I refrain. So I do think it's a gradual change. It's kind of learning the triggers, it's dealing with some pain and I think for me with CrossFit, it is such an outlet for frustration, pain, anger, stress, that I don't have to keep it bottled up and I don't have to eat it anymore.

I hopefully haven't traded one addiction for the other! I don't think so. I do love CrossFit very much but I don't do it 24 hours a day or anything. I have a new outlet. I don't know that much about addiction overall but I'm sure that same principle could apply with any kind of addiction where you have to learn to cope with thing differently. The exercise obviously has its own highs, natural highs, which are healthy.

Minki : Definitely. I'm hearing two very key points here. One is, we all have different addictions, whether it'd be food, whether it'd be shopping, whatnot. But I first applaud you for being vulnerable enough to be able to find your tribe and your support network, which I think is super important. And you need to allow yourself to be open to that. So congratulations there, on taking the initiative. Also, one other thing that I'm noticing is, sometimes people wait until taking the action, because they're waiting for this life changing moment. They're waiting until everything lines up and a perfect moment presents itself. I think you're a testament that sometimes it's just one step in front of the other. And it might not be a lighting bolt-

Michele: You know, I am probably one of the most impatient people in the world.

Minki : And you were able to stick to it! Despite your impatience. How were you able to do that?You mentioned four years and then losing a chunk of weight, and then plateauing, and then another chunk of weight. How were you able to push through that?

Michele: Well, there were many times that I wanted to give up, a gazillion times I wanted to give up. And there's times and it's still frustrating. I go to the gym and I'm still the slowest person. I'm still the person that can't do pull-ups and I'm still the person who can't jump on a box and I can't do double unders. I still look like a beginner and it has been my weight and my knee injuries that have held me back a little bit.

I have seen a lot of people at the gym go through some pretty tough obstacles too. And a lot of times you could either watch videos of people who came back from Afghanistan with no legs or no arms. They're out there persevering and fighting the battle. I take a lot of faith in knowing that I have a lot of blessings, despite a lot of the things that I've been through. I have really great people in my life, I have a good business, an amazing daughter and I want to stick around.

I didn't get here over night. It's probably taken me a lot of years to get where I'm at, which is unfortunate. It's gonna take a lot of time to get through it. I got tired of looking for the quick diet fix that was supposed to work. I want good blood pressure, I want good blood glucose and I don't want my knees to hurt. I'm close to 50 and I don't want a cane, I want to keep moving. I want to retire, I want to live to retire and go travel or do things and I can't do that if I'm physically sick at some capacity. And unfortunately you see a lot of that today.

Minki : Yes. Towards the most recent transformation, how does the mindfulness actually apply in your eating routine?

Michele: Well, I follow a very, very low carb diet. With my hormone imbalances, it can push me into a point of insulin resistance, which means that my body just cannot handle the sugar that comes from carbs. And it's been a long process to figure that out. Every time I eat, I have to make sure that I have probably less than five to six carbs in a meal. It doesn't matter where I am, if I'm at home, or if I'm out to eat, or at a party. There are certain things I can eat and certain things I can't. And if I do eat too many carbs, I stop burning my own body fat and the potential of losing fat for at least three to four days. So even one little slip up for me, it could cost me a half of week. If I cheated for a couple days, it will cost me a whole week. And I'm exercising on top of that so it begins to feel kind of wasteful. You're like, "Well, that's just kind of stupid. Why am I sabotaging myself?"

There are times where you have carbs and you don't realize it. Oops! It happens. But there's not much you can do about it except get back on track. But every meal, or everything I put in my mouth, I have to stop and make a decision if it meets what I can have or what I can't. For the most part I can eat as much as I want, as long as I'm not putting sugar in my body.

Minki : With each bite you have to be present and-

Michele: Yes. Definitely. Because without sugar, food becomes a little bit more valuable. Because especially if it tastes good without sugar, it's like, "thank you, thank you!" The funny thing that has also helped is... Sugar is very, very, very addicting. It's kind of like a drug. They compare sugar sometimes to heroin or anything like that. Once you have a little, you want a lot.

But I just had to learn the consequences of my actions and I've got to a point where I can see those consequences on a daily basis. A lot of times I think when you're dieting, or you're making a big change, you want results, you want to see results and-

Minki : You want to see it fast.

Michele: You do! I stop seeing any kind of result if I make one bad choice. I think that's probably what's helped me. I really can see what's fluctuating every day. But at the same time, I have to trust in the process as well and know that this still isn't going to happen over night, this is still going to take probably a year to get to my goal. And then I'm going to go through the challenges of maintaining it, which is gonna be a whole other set of issues and challenges for me.

But I am the type of person who has always read self health books and try to figure out how to better myself in some capacity. Not just with food but just in any capacity. To be a better parent, to be a better business person, a better friend. I've always tried to be the best that I could be and I think that's what's been so difficult about food. I feel like I've put so much effort into being who I want to be but I just couldn't get this. I just couldn't get my head and everything around this my whole entire life. I'm almost 50 and I'm slowly starting to feel like I get to live again and maybe have some normalcy with my weight.

Minki : That's sounds like a 180 degree flip and it sounds like this mental shift is really giving you empowerment in yourself. How did you train yourself to do that?

Michele: Gosh, I feel like it's so many things that had to come together for me. So many things. It's everything from my daughter, to wanting to be better at the gym, to tired of living this way, tired of feeling sick, tired of my knees hurting, tired of being fat. It sounds horrible, but I was just tired of looking horrible in my clothes and my face being so puffy. Arg... I just never felt comfortable in my own shapes.

I'm still not where I want to be but everyday I feel like I get a little closer. That's a good feeling, I haven't felt that in a long time.

Minki : Wow. One of the last questions that we always ask is, WINii. It's WIN plus two roman numeral "i"s which means you win > we win > we win too, WINii. So our last question always is: winning in life. What does that mean to you?

Michele: I think winning in life is feeling good about yourself and knowing who you are. I think that is really the greatest gift you can give yourself, is taking the time to deal with issues that may have happened, or figuring out how to get ahead of them and look towards the future.

It is so easy to get sucked into the pain, or the hurt of the past and you can really lose perspective of what you have in the present or ahead of you. I guess that's what life is about. Living your life the best that you can, to the best of your ability, and be kind, be humble, be strong.

None of us get out of this alive.

None of us get out of this alive and we can either live it pretty darn miserably. I have a lot of regrets. I wish that there's a lot of things that I would have known 20 years ago because I think my life would be so different. But I also know that life is a journey and a lot of things you have to learn the hard way.

But you just can't give up. You just have to keep fighting the good fight. We're all fighting, we all have issues, we all have obstacles and without a little bit of help, I don't know that I would be as successful as I am right this minute.

And I hope that once I figure out my journey and feel confident in it, that maybe I can help somebody else who's facing the same issues. Food doesn't have to destroy their lives. Emotional eating doesn't have to destroy them. There are ways of getting through it and you're not alone.

Minki : That's so powerful, the fact that we're all struggling and that we can be supportive for each other.

Michele: Yes, yes, yes. And you know, it's funny. I think that probably over the past six months ... I thought about this last night. I was at the store and I found myself engaging in more conversations with strangers and just being more open. And I've never been like that. I've always just kind of kept to myself. I'm happier, I smile more, I'm more thankful, I'm incredibly blessed. And just thinking positive can really take you a long way. You really gotta go at it with the glass half full and not half empty in all areas of your life. You will have setbacks and you will have peaks and valleys but if you want something bad enough, you will make it happen.

Minki : That's incredible. Well, Michele, I want to thank you again for bringing us along on your incredible journey that's still going.

Michele: Yes. Still going. I think it will probably till the day I die.

Minki : One foot in front of the other. Amazing. Thank you. Thank you for your time.

Michele: Thank you. Thank you very much.

Minki : This interview was very apropos for me. Building my company WINii from the ground up, I've gained a lot of weight. Sitting, working in front of the computer for so many hours in a day. So the struggle is REAL! But what can you do but roll with the punches? At least for money issues, you know you have a solid support system at WINii, right? Can't want to see you next time! Ciao.

Our theme music was played and produced by Luna Lee.