Second Act: Michele Martin’s Success Story

How one woman changed the course of her life — with some help from her friends — to come back better than ever.


It’s no exaggeration to say that I used to sleep with my laptop and cell phone. As a senior tech executive, I led a global team with international clients, so I needed to be available when they were working, halfway around the globe and many time zones away.

I often got calls in the middle of the night. I would sit up in bed, brush the sleep from my eyes, and immediately begin reeling off a PowerPoint presentation.

I was traveling a lot, too, which meant many redeye flights, working in flight while other people were sleeping, and eating at strange hours in restaurants — or, worse, on the plane.

I’d change into my business clothes and brush my teeth on the plane, and then land, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for the meeting ahead, even if I’d been awake for two days. I’ll sleep when I’m dead was my motto.

Don’t get me wrong — I loved it. It was go-go-go. I was a jet setter, chatting midflight with celebrities. (I once sat next to Tommy Lee, and another time next to Dr. Kenneth Cooper, the father of aerobics. He drank tomato juice while I knocked back champagne. I should’ve taken a cue.) I felt needed. And I was rewarded, ascending the ladder at work. My job was awesome.

Then I visited my doctor in 2010, when I was 44, for an annual checkup. She told me that at 323 pounds, I was morbidly obese. I needed to start taking at least eight drugs to save myself — otherwise I was about six months from a major “health event.”

I realized just how easy it was to get caught up in the whirlwind outside of me and forget what was happening inside of me.

That was the beginning of a two-and-a-half-year journey.

Starting From a Standstill

Imagine this: I was so big I had to buy men’s size XXL workout clothes. I couldn’t bend over to tie my shoes. I couldn’t walk a set of stairs without huffing and puffing. I was embarrassed about getting down on the floor to do exercises because it was such a process to get up again.

So, I decided to make some changes. I started with information culled from various websites, a gym membership, and a calories-in, calories-out mentality based on online advice that kept me on a diet of about 800 calories a day. I soon lost about 30 pounds.

Then my progress came to a halt — and began to reverse itself. Fortunately, serendipity intervened.

I was sweaty, red-faced, and struggling on an elliptical when Life Time Fitness trainer Bruce Cooper struck up a conversation with me. After we talked for a while, I could tell that he understood me and my peripatetic lifestyle. I asked him to create a program specifically for me, including workouts I could do in a hotel room.

Bruce suggested dietary changes, including supplements, because he said I was doing too much cardio and eating too few calories. Before he even developed my fitness program, he tested my resting and active metabolic rates to determine my heart-rate zones, ideal calorie count, and macronutrient requirements.

Eating became pleasurable when I learned how, what, and when to feed my body to help it heal and stay healthy.

Next, I met with a Life Time nutrition coach to step up my eating program. I had little understanding of healthy eating or meal preparation. Under the nutritionist’s direction, I started eating more and better food — and losing more weight.

My primary challenge was twofold: to eat whole foods and to start seeing food as fuel for health, rather than the thing that got me to 323 pounds. Eating became pleasurable when I learned how, what, and when to feed my body to help it heal and stay healthy.

Becoming a New Person

A few months later, I completed Life Time’s Longevity and Vitality blood test, as well as the Stress and Resilience test. Registered dietitian Cindi Lockhart interpreted my results, which showed I had a major cortisol imbalance, thyroid-function issues, inflammation, and adrenal fatigue. So, we recalibrated my program again, scaling back on the cardio and adding mandatory yoga for relaxation and sauna time for detox. I also cut gluten from my diet.

In 22 months, I dropped 170 pounds. My blood work now looked optimal. During this time, I stayed in my job and even was promoted twice. I kept working on my program.

Next, I decided to enter Life Time’s Alpha Showdown. I knew it sounded crazy: I was 47 and entering a fitness competition with numerous 20- to 30-year-olds and trainers at their peak performance.

Trainer Trevor Stringer worked with me to prepare. I placed fifth in our club, surpassing people 20 years younger than me — as well as some trainers.

To date, I’ve lost 195 pounds. I started at 55 percent body fat (at least I think I did; the calipers didn’t even fit around me, so we had to estimate). I’m now about 21 percent body fat. I began in a size 22 dress. Now I’m a 4.

It’s even hard for me to believe. Sometimes I take my jeans out of the dryer and think to myself, “Those look awfully tiny.” But I pull them on, and they fit.

In many ways, I am a new person.

About three years after that fateful doctor’s appointment, I began reflecting on my second act. While I loved my old career, I knew I was ready to provide a different kind of service. I was ready to help others on their fitness journey.

So I started studying and got certified as a National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) personal trainer, and also got my Precision Nutrition certification.

When clients come into the gym, embarrassed and scared, I give them a nod of understanding, and maybe even lean over and tie their shoes for them. Then I tell them it’s go time. Let’s create your new happy, healthy life.

Now I’m needed in a whole different way. I love it. I’m good at it. I’m where I need to be right now.

Leave a Comment

Subscribe to our Newsletters

Newsletter Signup
Weekly Newsletter
Special Promotions