• Reyna Estrada

Journey to Health and Wellness

After facing years of childhood trauma, starting from the age of 6, Michelle Opel began to rapidly gain weight. Once she went to college, she said she started self-medicating, not just with food but with alcohol as well. Opel said that she had been overweight most of her life, but in 2012 she had a wake-up-call as she faced another tragedy--the death of her mother. She lost her mother to a stroke on Thanksgiving day.

“That was kind of the catalyst to get me a hold of my life, and get a grip on the things that I was doing to myself and really refocus,” she said.

Now, Opel has been sober since December of 2012, as well as lost over 160 pounds.

Weight loss is typically not an easy task to accomplish, it often involves wide scale lifestyle changes. For Opel, it was a process. She knew nothing about nutrition or fitness and struggled to find a healthy way to her goals. She said she started with eating frozen meals designed for diets, but soon she learned about plant based and clean eating. She began to transform her diet and incorporate more fitness and exercise into her routine.

While weight loss involves a large physical change, there is a mental aspect involved as well. Opel cited the importance of affirmations to keep the mind on track, she said she still uses journalling to maintain her weight loss plan. Additionally, she said the process involved a large amount of emotional healing focused on altering lifestyle patterns she developed in her childhood.

Now, Opel uses her own experiences and journeys to help and inspire others--she is a certified integrative nutrition health coach and a NASM certified personal trainer.

“During my journey, I just decided that part of why I was here on this planet is to help other people go through and walk through some of the things that I walked through,” she said.

Through her work, she tries to bring a more positive lense to the journey of weight loss, often first suggesting important foods to add into a diet, rather than food to take away.

“I think we approach changing our diet from a negative perspective so much of the time, so I try to approach it from the other end,” Opel said.

She said she often gives suggestions of increased water intake, and leafy greens as an essential ad-in to a diet.

As the world continues to face the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, some may struggle to keep up on their health journey due to gym closures or newfound stress. While it can be difficult, Opel advises her clients to utilize more free resources including online or youtube workouts. Opel said that she has actually been working out more often than she typically did before. Additionally, she said she has continued to focus on the emotional and mental aspects of health through utilizing journaling.

While many people may use their time during the stay-at-home order to explore new avenues and learn new skills, Opel took a different approach, she said that it’s vital to structure time for whatever works best for an individual, recognizing that it may be difficult for some to focus on constant productivity.

“My daughter actually suffers from anxiety and depression, and if I were to tell her she's not doing it right because she's not learning something new, it would be so detrimental to her,” Opel said, “So I think having grace with yourself and allowing yourself to feel whatever you’re feeling during this time is okay.

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