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IPMG's June Healthy Hero - Michele Kowalke


Q: When did you actively begin your wellbeing journey?

MK: May 5th, 2016. Cinco de Mayo. That’s how I remember it. That’s actually the day I had decided to look into having gastric bypass surgery. That was the day I started thinking ‘I can’t do this anymore; I can’t be unhealthy anymore and I have had enough.' My doctor said I’ll recommend you to a doctor. I went in. Followed everything I have ever been given. First time I have ever followed a plan. When you get told you’re going to die at 50 and you’re 41… yeah that’s only 9 years away. 9 years will fly. I have two daughters. So a total lifestyle change.

Q: What goals did you set for yourself?

MK: First of all was losing at least 50 pounds. There were no rules I had to follow on weight loss. Just making sure I could possibly start losing the weight on my own. Which I did. My big goal was how far can I get on the treadmill without being out of breath. How high can I get on a treadmill incline wise? I can’t do the elliptical because every time I do the elliptical I tear something in my foot. So far I’ve gotten up to 11% at like 3.8 and it’s a killer! 

Q: Any new goals?

MK: Weightlifting. I don’t know how to do it I don’t know what I’m doing but that is my next goal. I started walking with the weights on the treadmill so that helps. But I still want to get into it!

Q: What tools did IPMG provide to assist you?

MK: I actually really love Virgin Pulse. I feel I keep myself accountable because of it. I know I have to go on there every day and the little incentive at the end is great because it bought my stuff that I wouldn’t otherwise have. I got a new pair of gym shoes to walk on the treadmill and saving for trips! I’ve been everywhere but where do I want to go back? I want to go back to Vegas. I love Vegas.

Q: What has been your overall experience with VP?

MK: I can’t give anything wrong with it except when we have those little problems and every once in a while it’ll do the Fitbit going back to the iPhone steps I wear my Fitbit every day so I track my Fitbit steps so when I have to log out of that.

Q: What tools do you find on the Virgin Pulse platform to be particularly useful?

MK: I love all of our challenges. Eric (Maguigad) kills me though! I’m competitive. It’s hard to say that because I’ve never really been competitive but I realize now I am. I finally pass Eric and I’m like ‘YES’ and then immediately 'Dang it!'  One of my biggest things is I have to do 10,000 every day. Last week I did two or three days of 20,000. Like on Sunday night I pretty much spent the day watching music all day. I love live music. So I spent pretty much the day in a bar with live music all day well I got home at 9:30pm and realized I hadn’t hit 10,000 today so I didn’t go to bed until I hit 10,000 steps.     

Q: Do you have any tips for fellow EO’s trying to make a change?

MK:Get up and move. That is what my motto is. I think to myself just get up and move. Literally people upstairs laugh at me because I’ll get up every hour within an hour and get 250 steps. The 250 steps every day and every hour will get you to your goal faster. So I’ll get up and walk and I’ll even count them in my head 250 steps as I am working. And they’re like 'how are you doing that? You’re moving how are you typing?' You get used to it. That’s it.

Another simple tip is water. Just water always. Pop hurts my stomach now. Lots and lots and lots of water. Keeps you hydrated, keeps you motivated, keeps you going.

Q: What benefits have you seen from your decision to make a wellbeing change?

MK: Everything. I have more energy. I do things I’ve never done before. One of my big goals that I haven’t done yet: I want to go to 6 Flags Great America. I haven’t been there in eons. But I know the last time I was there you can only fit on so many rides when you’re heavier. Well I don’t have that problem that much anymore. I want to go on the new stuff.

I walk so much more. I’m trying to learn how to run but I can’t do the breathing part very well and it’s horrible on your knees. I’ve done so much more. I go places I’ve never been to! I actually went to go do Brat Fest this year up in Madison, WI. I made it all three days walking even just standing. You’d never believe when you have the extra weight just standing hurts your whole body. I don’t have that problem anymore. I was able to walk through all of Vegas in sandals without having to wear gym shoes. You know when you’re heavier your feet hurt all the time and I didn’t experience it this time. It’s a total difference. It’s kind of nice.

I do a lot more. I get up and down the stairs quicker. Still get out breath on the IPMG stairs though! After working out downstairs I’m like one more flight, one more flight!

Q:  What has been the hardest part of your journey?

MK: Keeping myself motivated. I work out every day before work, during lunch, and after work. There are some days where I’m just like I don’t want to do this. But then I tell myself “you’ve gotten this far. Keep going” That is the hardest part: to keep yourself going. And to change up your routine! Like I can’t always be downstairs. I’d like to! But it’s so nice out but then it gets so hot and I can’t even go outside.

Q: What has been the easiest part?

MK: Surprisingly enough. The weight loss. I didn’t think it would be. First 50 pounds were hard. The last 50 pounds was like 'Oh my god they’re gone already.

Q: Any final thoughts or words of wisdom?

MK: Keep moving. The more you move, the more you lose.