At 9:30 p.m. on January 11, 2017, Michelle “Chelle” Honeycutt sat in front of the TV, snacking on what she remembers as “a bag of something.” At 43 years old, 5-foot-5 1/2 and 263 pounds, she’d accepted being heavy the rest of her life.
“I thought I’d be one of those fluffy grandmas who always had something cooked for the kids and future grandkids when they stopped by to visit,” she says. “I knew I wasn’t healthy and I wasn’t content, but I wasn’t looking to do anything to change it … until his little butt came through that door.”
That little butt belonged to Dusty Joe, the second of Chelle’s three adult sons. That evening, he’d gone to the new gym near their Linden, North Carolina, home and came home with a mission.
“He said, ‘Mom, you’ve got to go. It’s clean, the people are friendly and there’s so much equipment,'” Chelle remembers. “I wasn’t the least bit interested, but he’s like me: If he’s passionate about something, he won’t just feed you a line and let it go.”
By 10:30 p.m., Chelle was a new gym member.
“Something clicked,” she says. “I thought ‘I can improve my life. I can be better.’”
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That night, Chelle walked her first mile on a treadmill. She went back the next day, and again the day after that. “For the first 10 days, I didn’t miss a day,” she says. “It wasn’t walking real fast, but it was walking. All I would do is cardio; I didn’t touch the weight machines.”
It took her two and half months to try her first ab class at the gym. “When you’re overweight, you feel like you’re on the sidelines,” she says. “You feel inferior, uncomfortable and scared to get involved.”
Fitness wasn’t the only change Chelle made, however. Two days into her new gym membership, she found MyFitnessPal. “The MFP app helped me accomplish my goals because it gives me the ability to log all of my food and exercise,” she says. “It tracks my calories and nutrition levels so I can keep it all in check.”
Her first goal was to reach 199 pounds, or as the MFP Forum calls it, “Onederland.”
“Onederland is great to reach when you haven’t seen it in forever,” says Chelle. “I accomplished that back in May . I never imagined I’d weigh less than 200 in my life, but not only did I do it, I did it in just over four months.”
A stay-at-home mom since 1997, Chelle wasn’t always overweight, but gained pregnancy pounds with each of her 10-pound babies that didn’t come off. Now that her sons are grown, she’s traded TV time for strength training.
“I’m constantly focused on my health now,” she says. “I push between 100 and 130 ounces of water a day and hit the gym 3–4 times a week for an average of two hours a day.”
Chelle finds the community just as important as the carbs and calories. “I have my gym family and my MFP family,” she says. “Women I’ve never met inspire me, and I’m doing the same for them. Their comments push me.”
Chelle recently reached another big goal of reaching 160 pounds — 100 pounds lighter than when she started. Though her old clothes are gone — she kept one pair of size 24 shorts as a reminder — she says her body’s only one part of the change.
“My attitude is different. My activities are, too. But my heart is still the same,” she says. “I like the new me. I was always the obese mom. I’m not going back.”
And now, she’s moving ahead in style. Before got active, Chelle never considered taking a ride on her husband’s motorcycle. “Two hundred and sixty pounds on the back of a Harley? No ma’am,” Chelle says. “Now? Let’s go.”
It’s that confidence that keeps Chelle successful in the gym and out. “I’ll still have my occasional Reese’s Cup. I’m sorry, there’s nothing like peanut butter and chocolate,” she says. “As long as it fits in my calories, it’s a go. If not, it can wait another day.”
And Chelle finds each day on this side of her weight loss more vibrant than before. “I say it all the time and it’s true: Before, I was existing,” she says. “Now I feel like I’m living.”
Written by Danny Bonvissuto, a lover of words, writing for a living, independent bookstores, chips, salsa and queso, sunshine, jeans, tank tops and running — but only if ’80s rock is involved. Her work has appeared in Food & Wine, Travel + Leisure, Food Network Magazine, HGTV, WebMD and Plate magazine.