Melanie’s Transformation to Being Healthier Inside
For California resident Melanie Milicevic, the boost to her mental health has been an unexpected and welcome bonus to her Melanie’s fitness journey
When she gave birth to her second child, Melanie Milicevic found herself at her heaviest weight at 180 pounds. Within eight months, though, she lost 40 pounds through intermittent fasting, Pilates and walking three times a day. Her Pilates practice in particular has ignited her passion. “It’s been life-changing,” says the San Diego native.
The Impact on Mental Health
Her health has long been a rollercoaster, though. Suffering from IBS and GERD for decades, and then coming down with Covid-19, she found herself at a low. Although Melanie says Covid wasn’t to blame, she feels that she didn’t receive the best care from doctors and was impacted by steroids that were administered. And while she wanted to improve her overall physical health, losing weight became a priority. But as she worked on losing weight, she discovered the lift in her mental health. “I had no idea how much better I would feel mentally once I started being in tune with my body again,” says Melanie.
The greatest mental health boost has been for her anxiety levels. “I’ve always had some anxiety issues but I do have flares in times of stress–when too many people are poking at me and needing something from me and when I’m not practicing self-care,” she shares. But since she began exercising daily, her anxiety has been much more manageable, and she’s been sleeping better.
Healthier sleep hygiene has been a significant improvement to her lifestyle and she’s come to understand that she needs to be very tired and relaxed in order to get the good night’s rest she requires. “As a special needs mother, I have many responsibilities and hoops to jump through daily. Therefore I have to actively be sure my mental health is great and my anxiety is under control so I can be the person I need to be for my beautiful family,” says Melanie.
Challenges and Progress
It isn’t always smooth sailing, however. Caring for herself now still comes with setbacks but Melanie doesn’t let them bring her down. “Sometimes I overeat, eat a huge bag of chips in bed and eat way too many Hi Chews,” she says. She says she also falls asleep sometimes when she should be active.
It still takes work and effort on her part. ”I have to force myself every day to move and to plan my meals. When I make mistakes, I just reset. I have learned to love myself even through the mistakes,” says Melanie.
For example, she’s honest with herself about where her weaknesses lie. “Food is my greatest weakness. I have realized that I’m pretty strong physically and I enjoy movement but practicing good eating habits is a huge obstacle. I just lean towards eating junk when I get frustrated or angry,” she says, adding that it’s a habit she is working on shedding.
It’s complicated, too, by the gastrointestinal issues she struggles with. In fact, when she started her journey, she was experiencing a flare-up, triggered by feeling depleted emotionally. “I had to start slowly by making and eating homemade bone broths, tons of easily digestible foods like bananas, boiled carrots, chicken and potatoes, and lots of ginger tea. I cut coffee for the first time in many years and that also helped me,” says Melanie. It took cutting out everything and resetting her body to realize how sick she had gotten.
Besides her complete diet reset making her realize how far she had sunk and lifted herself back up, her wardrobe also made her see how far she’s progressed. “When I could wear clothes again in my closet–I have some really beautiful dresses that I couldn’t wear for about ten years–and when I started fitting into them again, that was really fun,” she says. Up until that point, she had always hated trying on clothes.
Future Goals and Empowerment
While she’s gained a little bit of weight back, she’s looking at the extra five pounds as motivation to continue on her journey to get healthy slowly and steadily. “I’m 48 years old so I’m giving myself until 50 to weigh 130 again!” she says.
While she may have regained five pounds, she remains proud of her progress. “I jokingly tell my kids I’m going to get super buff and strong so now I just have to just show my daughter that her mom can be awesome.”
Melanie is doing it for herself, though, ultimately, and is steadfast in being her own champion. “No one is going to do this for you. Be in charge of your whole self and love yourself like you love your children or family members,” she says. Reflecting back, she wishes she’d started prioritizing her weight loss at an earlier age. “The longer you hold onto those destructive eating habits the easier they are to creep back into your life. I’m still working on this,” she says.
But Melanie has big goals for the future. She dreams of one day running a marathon or getting even stronger so that she can teach Pilates or another discipline–with a focus on helping women who have given up on themselves, especially special-needs mothers. “It’s very hard to care for yourself when you are always nurturing others. It takes practice to change habits and to reject your mothering instincts to jump in and be there for everyone. Caring for yourself might be the hardest job in the world once you are a mother,” she says.
Fave healthy snack Peanut butter! I put it in everything and eat a spoonful when I need it!
Fave splurge food Gummy candy or Hi Chews
Fave easy recipe I’ve become an oatmeal lover. My mom tried for a year to get me to eat oatmeal and I refused because I thought I was intolerant to it. But I started eating it daily and it’s become a great new habit and my morning comfort food. My favorite brand is Qi’s Gluten-Free Cinnamon Pumpkin Seed. I add a spoonful of peanut butter to it and some blueberries.
Fave cardio workout Hiking or walking up hills
Fitness idols My Pilates instructors, Yadira and Alyssa. They are so mean and badass but in the best ways!
Fave mantra As an Orthodox Christian, I try to pray daily, say the Lord’s Prayer and as many Lord Have Mercy as I can.
What Melanie Eats in a Day
- Oatmeal and one cup of coffee or green tea around 9-10:00 a.m. Sometimes I eat at 11:00 if intermittent fasting.
- I skip lunch whenever I can because this works for me and my gut issues. I eat when the kids are back from school around 3:30 p.m. I eat a pretty large meal at this point and then try not to eat again until morning.
- Sometimes I eat a small meal at 6:00 pm but I try to keep it very healthy and light.
I have trouble sleeping when I eat late and I wake up very achy.