From being close to 200 pounds in her mid-20s, Melissa Paige Jones has found her health at 41 on her journey of self love
For many of us, life in our 20s is a cycle of partying, binge drinking, eating a steady diet of junk food, and stressing out–and little in the form of exercise. This is what Melissa Paige Jones found herself filling her days with, and she ended up at her heaviest. The scale would be nearing 200 pounds, and she realized she needed to turn things around.
She started by trying a number of crash diets. She did hours upon hours of cardio. “I battled eating disorders, body image dysmorphia, and binge cycles,” says the 41-year-old Charlotte, N.C., resident. “I was a cardio bunny and trying to lose a lot of weight, but I was not at all healthy.”
The Start of Melissa’s Journey of Self Love
It took years to get to her current place of healthy balance. And a key turning point for Melissa? Going sober. “Everything started to change when I got sober on January 1, 2011. This was the start of my self-love journey,” she says. “When I started to find self-love, I worked on overcoming my eating disorders. I also got help from a therapist who specialized in PTSD and body image dysmorphia,” says Melissa. She also hired her first trainer. That trainer, Lemar Peterson, introduced her to weight lifting.
Eventually, Melissa hired a fitness coach. That’s when she learned about proper nutrition. “Diet is 90% of physical change. However, exercise is vital also,” she says. Overhauling her diet and fitness got her so inspired and passionate about her own journey that Melissa also got certified as a personal trainer and has been training and coaching since 2014.
Although her poor health at 24 sparked the start of her journey, it also took competing in 2015 to put a fire in her to stay consistent with her training and nutrition. Nowadays, though, Melissa finds she can stay consistent just thanks to her love and passion for her healthy lifestyle. “I truly enjoy working out and love the way I feel when I am at my best,” she says. It was prepping for this first fitness show that really made it crystal clear to her the drastic changes she’d made in her body and her life–that moment, along with the moment she decided to go sober.
Overcoming Setbacks and Persevering
Life brings with it stumbling blocks, of course. “I’ve had many, many setbacks the last few years: COVID shut down many of the competitions I was going to participate in. I moved twice. I broke free from an abusive relationship at the beginning of 2020,” she shares. But she found perseverance within each time. “I overcame these setbacks because my desire to grow was bigger than any excuse I could have mustered to quit,” says Melissa.
She looked ahead to the future and what she envisioned for her life. “Every time I thought about giving up, I pictured what I wanted my life to look like the following year. I wanted to be happy. For me, it begins with how I feed, and treat myself. Showing up for myself is an act of kindness and love,” she says.
Acts of Kindness and Love: Transforming Herself
Those acts of kindness and love have changed her as a person. “At the beginning of my journey, I was lost, confused, insecure, and even fearful. I had no idea how I would get to where I wanted to be, or what the journey would entail. I just knew I had to make it happen. Today, I feel strong, happy, and free. Today, I love myself,” she says.
Advice for Starting a Healthy Lifestyle Journey
As someone who’s gotten back to a healthy space, her advice to anyone with whom she found herself at the age of 24 is that there are no shortcuts. “Don’t be afraid to ask for help and try to approach the goals on a daily basis,” she says. She suggests smaller healthy lifestyle goals (such as “I will drink a half gallon of water today”) rather than making the goal of losing a certain number of pounds this month. “True change lies within the habits we form creating a new lifestyle,” she says. It’s something she maintains for herself, as she doesn’t consider her journey over. “I always try to set new goals,” she says.
With her unhealthy approach at the beginning of her journey, Melissa does wish she’d understood the healthy way to achieve her goals at the beginning. That said, she uses her experience and story of trial and tribulation to help others. She has no regrets about any part of her journey, in fact. “Every lesson needed to be learned, every happy moment cherished, and every challenging moment faced,” she says.
- Fave healthy snack: I have been really loving my protein smoothies lately! Vanilla protein smoothie with almond milk and strawberries
- Fave splurge food: My weakness is always donuts!
- Easy-to-make recipe that I often turn to: I often turn to breakfast recipes. I love Kodiak protein pancakes post a big leg day!
- The best form of cardio, in my opinion: Quick and efficient would be HITT. I also love to hike and those are normally 7-mile trails
- Fitness idol: Chady Dunmore
What I eat in a day:
- Breakfast– Egg white and spinach omelet
- Snack – Banana
- Lunch – Roasted turkey sandwich on Dave’s Killer Sprouted Bread with light mayo and spinach
- Snack – Protein smoothie with Strawberries
- Supper – Tri-tip, green beans, and jasmine rice
- Snack – Organic, regular oatmeal with coconut oil