When Michelle Carvalho took her son on a zip line adventure more than five years ago, she struggled with the hike to the starting point. She felt so winded and out of shape. As she was months away from turning 40, she thought it was the perfect time to adopt some healthy changes.
“The hike alone killed me, and I was like, ‘Oh my God, I’m turning 40 in six months and if I don’t do something about it now, it’s just going to get harder and worse as I get older,’” the 44-year-old who works in sales in the San Francisco area told TODAY. “So, I just made a plan. I found someone to work with lifting weights.”
Throughout Carvalho’s life she’s struggled with her weight. She would shed some pounds and then gain it back. This time she wanted to create habits she could maintain for years and decades to come.
At first, she started eating a ketogenic diet, a low-carb, moderate protein and fat meal plan. But Carvalho didn’t track what she was consuming and wasn’t sure what to eat. That meant she was under eating at times.
“It worked until it didn’t. I started bingeing,” she said. “With the bingeing I was like, ‘OK this isn’t going to work for me. I need to be more even, balanced.’”
She started learning about macronutrients, where she counts the grams of fats, carbohydrates and proteins that she eats. That helped her lose additional weight and maintain her loss.
“I divide them up throughout the day,” Carvalho said. “I track what I eat and I weigh my food.”
At the same time, she found a lifting coach and learned how to weight lift.
“The lifting has been the consistent thing and I found that I loved it,” she said. “As you age, building muscle and keeping muscle mass is important.”
She said that a lot of women balk at the idea of lifting because they feel it will make them too big. But Carvalho says that’s a myth.
“To gain muscle on your body is really, really hard. There’s no way you’re going to get too bulky,” she said. “I have some muscle and tone. I don’t look bulky.”
These eating changes and weight lifting have helped Carvalho shed about 89 pounds over five years. She weighs about 150 pounds now and has successfully maintained her weight. She was unsure of her starting weight but suspects it was probably somewhere around 230 or 240 pounds.
“I didn’t weigh myself right away,” she explained. “I really was in denial.”
While she likes how she looks, she really appreciates the strength and confidence that lifting has given her. And this has rubbed off: Her daughter recently started weight lifting.
“When I first started, she was attached to my hip and she would just watch and watch and now she's very interested in it,” Carvalho said.
When Carvalho started her weight-loss journey, she hoped it would change her appearance. But since then her goals have changed.
“(I thought) I'm just going to look really good,” she said. “But after that I was like, ‘OK, that was a good goal, but this has to be a lifestyle thing. (I wondered) ‘Why am I really doing this? To be healthier for my family to be healthier for me.' So my perspective has changed.”
Carvalho shares advice with others interested in losing weight or adopting healthy habits.
1. ‘You’re never too old.’
“I started for the 100th time at 39 but it’s been over five years and I’m still at it,” she said. “It is possible. You’re never too old. It’s never too late.”
2. Use the scale as data.
Sometimes the scale says something that one doesn’t want to see. That happens to Carvalho, too. But she uses what she learns from the scale to modify her habits instead of taking it personally.
“Fluctuations are normal. So now I look at it as data because it used to affect my mood,” she said. “Now I forget it.”
3. Try again.
When Carvalho hits a plateau, she remembers how it felt to be unable to hike to the zip line with her son. Knowing that she doesn’t want to go back keeps her motivated. But consistently trying again and again helps her.
“Just be patient and show up for yourself every day,” she said. “You know you’re going to have days where you are going to fall, but it’s the people that get back up and try again that are going to succeed.”