By Brigid Morrissey

She has often wondered, “Why would you want to lose weight and take up less space in this world?” And, that was the question Michelle Jones rhetorically asked as I met her at Everyday Athletes. Michelle turned 30 in November, and to her it was a big deal — not because she’s afraid of getting older, but because…

…there are goals she wanted to accomplish beforehand. Those goals include wearing a bikini, walking around without a sweater, and being comfortable in her own skin. Michelle has struggled with her weight and self-perception. She wore clothes that covered up her body and even resorted to tactics such as holding a pillow anytime she sat down on the couch. Being in a mentally abusive relationship for six years didn’t help.

Then she met Judy Metcalf in 2013. Judy is a power lifter, and she encouraged Michelle to try the sport. As Michelle got stronger physically, she got stronger mentally too. “Doing something where it’s just you is really challenging,” Michelle says. “It’s all mental. It’s all self-control.” She realized her success could come only from her, not anyone else. Each little success in the sport translated into success in her everyday life. Eventually, she walked away from her toxic relationship.

Michelle attributes her growth to the coaches she has had throughout her life. One trainer in particular, Chance Cianciola, influenced her outlook on things. She calls him her Buddha. “Once I conquered the mind, the weight just melted off,” she says. Chance co-owns Everyday Athletes with Brad Longazel. It is a gym in Louisville anyone can go to and feel at home. Michelle started as a client, but it didn’t take long before she made her way onto the staff. The coolest aspect about the gym is that there are multiple coaches, so the client can switch it up and find a coach that fits. “I’m an effective coach because I’m (one of) them,” Michelle says. “(My clients have) seen me go up and down. I’ve had so many amazing coaches in the past that my way to pay it forward is that I will never give up on someone I’m training.”

Michelle uses her own story to connect with her clients. She learned how to eat right when she worked at a weight loss camp for girls several years ago. From there, the transformation was slow. She started by fixating on one goal at a time. Drinking enough water was her first goal, then she was able to move on to eating the right foods. The most important part? “You’ve got to be vocal and seek help from the people around you.”

Admitting that she is human and likely to make mistakes is another way Michelle conquers her eating habits. If she ate something that made her feel guilty, she taught herself to channel her inner Princess Elsa from Frozen and “let it go.” Every time she walked away from a tempting treat, she says she felt like country singer Sarah Evans because she got “a little bit stronger.” If those things fail, she says it’s comforting to know that there are other people who go through the same things.

Michelle is all too versed with the phrase “life happens,” she says, and she will support anyone who comes to the gym when “life happens” to them. “Weight lifting isn’t about how you look, it’s about getting better at something,” she says. “For me, strength training is showing them how much I’m here. This is a lifestyle for me, and I’m never going back.”

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