Body Transformation: Michelle Ditched Her Harmful Addictions

Michelle fell into a deluge of drugs and alcohol to get with the ‘in’ crowd. When she broke free from her self-loathing, she lost 100 pounds and stepped on stage!

Name: Michelle Karch
BodySpace: realm952

Michelle Karch Michelle Karch
AGE 25
217 lbs
AGE 29
120 lbs

Why I Got Started

I actually started a different type of transformation and then stumbled upon bodybuilding. I have struggled with self esteem my whole life. I did everything I could to fit in but never really found my place. I was one of those "smart kids" who was made fun of for being the teacher's pet and following the rules. It didn't help that I was a little chubby so they threw in "thunder thighs" as a fantastic little nickname (sarcasm).

I was always very athletic despite being chubby and as I got older I managed to thin out. When I say I managed to thin out, I mean I basically starved myself until I lost weight. I thought that if I could lose weight I would gain popularity. Guess what? It worked.

I also started drinking and smoking and experimenting with drugs because I thought that would make me cool. It's sad to say, but that worked also. I even started lying about my grades to the older boys because I didn't want them to think that I was some kind of nerd.

After doing everything I said I wouldn't, I ended up having a pretty decent high school experience. I had a lot of friends, played varsity sports, and managed to graduate at the top of my class with a scholarship to college. I was even voted one of the most likely to succeed!

At around age 17 or 18 things started to fall apart. I was diagnosed with a fainting disorder and forced to go on a steroid. This steroid made me gain about 20-30lbs fast. This killed my self esteem yet again which caused me to self medicate.

Unfortunately the self medication helped me pack on even more weight. I managed to top the scales at 217lbs. I was miserable and in all honesty didn't want to live anymore. The girl who was voted most likely to succeed with such a bright future had turned into an alcoholic and drug addict who prayed daily for God to put her out of her misery.

I did manage to graduate from college with honors but I used my expensive degree to sling drinks at the local watering hole because it made it easier for me to feed my habits. I had some pretty bad things happen to me during those years of darkness but there is no need to dwell on the past and most of my problems were created by my addictions and by myself.

There is no one great event that occurred that made me turn my life around. One day I decided that I had had enough and instead of going to the bar I went to an AA meeting. The rest is history as far as addiction goes and I have been sober since September 14, 2007.

My journey into the fitness world began after I got sober. Who knew there were a ton of calories in alcohol (sarcasm again)? I starting dropping weight quickly when I quit drinking and I was also able to work with my cardiologist to find alternate treatments for my syncope. After about 3 months of sobriety I was down about 20lbs. Once I started to lose the weight I decided to get back into the gym.

I spent the next 3 years doing the best I could with what I knew. I tried every fad diet out there, ate Lean Cuisines, and did hours of cardio. Barf! I was able to get down to about 160lbs but then I was stuck.

I couldn't figure out why I wasn't losing any more weight when I was working so hard. I'm sure it had nothing to do with the half gallon of Fat Free ice cream I shoved in my face because if it's fat free it is okay to eat as much as I want right?

Enter weight lifting. I saw all the boys lifting weights down stairs as I burned my 600 calories on the elliptical. (Yup…600 calories because that's what the elliptical told me and they are VERY accurate).

I was reading a fitness magazine and came across an article about Ava Cowan. Her story spoke to me because she too battled addiction and depression.

After reading that article I decided to try lifting weights. I had done the machine circuit before but never any real lifting because I didn't want to look "bulky". I used to think that lifting heavy would make me look like a dude. I was so wrong. The scale didn't change much but my clothes started fitting differently.

Then one day I experienced a high like nothing I can really describe to this day. Everyone calls it a pump but to me it has been my motivation, drive, and inspiration to keep going when I want to quit. All my life I had been searching for a high like that and never in a million years did I think I would find it in a piece of iron.

I live for that high. I loved the way my body was looking and I was able to drop even more weight. Someone approached me in the gym and asked me if I competed. That kind of got me thinking that maybe I should give it a go. Ava was, after all, my inspiration. Plus, I love nothing more than a good challenge.

How I Did It

After a couple setbacks I decided to go for it. I hired an amazing couple to do my diet and training recommendations and we began. They taught me proper nutrition. They increased my calories and decreased my exercise (no need to do 3 hours of cardio a day) and what do you know…I started to lean out.

Everything was going well until about 7 weeks out from my show; my appendix ruptured. I was half dead and completely septic. I could not have the surgery laparoscopically and the doctor told me that I shouldn't compete but my stubborn nature would not allow me to quit.

I had already dieted for 12 weeks and what started as a personal goal became so much more. It was no easy task but I stepped on that stage and took first place in the novice and the open. It was a very small local show but it was just perfect for my first show.

During my contest prep my goals began to change. I started thinking about what I could do to help other girls who were like me. I wish I would have found the gym a long time ago along with the high I now feel when I lift. I have met so many girls who, once I start telling them my story and my struggles, they say "I thought I was the only one." Why we all sit around and suffer alone is beyond me. My intentions are to change that.

Now I want to help others. Now I want to show other girls that they can do anything they want if they are willing to do the work. I want to help little girls feel good about themselves so they don't ever have to go through what I went through.

I wish that someone would have been around to tell me that I didn't have to see myself through other people's eyes. I wish I would have known that there were other people out there struggling just like me so that I didn't feel so ashamed.

So now my goal is to make a name for myself so I can start talking to young girls and let them know that they are amazing and that they don't ever have to feel bad about themselves. I want to help adult women learn that there are solutions to the self loathing.

The media and magazines make it so hard and they don't tell the whole truth about what it takes to look like a model. After going through the diet alone I now have a much better understanding of the reality of it all. I just want to help and I will do what it takes to do that.

Suggestions For Others

I think the hardest thing for me was to not self sabotage. I would screw up on my diet and then use that as an excuse to screw up for days. Now if I have a slip up I just get right back on that horse my next meal. So my biggest suggestion would be to cut yourself some slack and be patient.

You are going to mess up; you are human. If you fall just pick yourself right back up and keep going. It takes time to transform your body so be patient. We all want it to happen overnight but since we didn't put on the weight overnight there is no way it is going to just disappear.

Learn to love yourself and you will be amazed at how your life will change! And I am still working on all of this so I'm not even close to done with my journey!

Photographic Credit:
David Sprott