How I Went From Couch Potato to Fitness Junkie

melissa before and after

Growing up, Melissa never exercised and had a daily ritual of going to Dairy Queen for an Oreo Blizzard every night after dinner. She was unhappy with her weight and her body, until one day, she stepped foot on a treadmill. She soon turned into a health and fitness junkie. Once Melissa moved to New York City, she faced the challenge of staying healthy in a big corporate office where tempting treats were everywhere. She fell off track but eventually figured out how to enjoy exercise and delicious food while loving life in NYC. Here's her story:

My diet growing up consisted of Lucky Charms, Fruit-Roll-Ups, pizza, and ice cream. While the other kids in gym class ran around the track as fast as they possibly could, I walked the entire time because I could not run for more than 30 seconds. My mom was a bodybuilder but I never took any interest in her healthy dinners or exercise classes. I always felt overweight and bigger than my friends but never did anything about it.

It wasn't until the summer before college that I decided I needed to take action. I refused to gain the extra "freshman fifteen." I started reading several health magazines and made some changes in my diet. I also started going to the gym and became addicted to the amazing endorphin high that I felt after every workout. After about a year, I lost 30 pounds and maintained this weight throughout college. Unfortunately, it was not so easy once I moved to New York after graduating.

In the summer of 2007, I started a wonderful job at a big fashion company in Manhattan. I loved the job but was not used to sitting at a desk for eight hours straight. I also was not used to company meetings with bagels, cupcakes, and pizza every week. I did not know how to turn down the treats without offending my coworkers. I was also very bored with the treadmill and elliptical and lost my exercise excitement. I started to mindlessly snack at night out of loneliness since I was brand new to the big city. I gained some of the weight back and knew I needed to change my habits. In the last year, I finally figured out how to enjoy life in NYC while still staying on track with my eating. I learned to love exercise again and now look forward to my:


I learned that my coworkers did not get offended when I only ate half of a cupcake during a birthday celebration. They actually started to notice my healthy eating and now come to me for healthy tips and tricks. I also started to include exercise in my work day by taking long walks outside during my lunch breaks. I realized how much I enjoyed helping others eat healthy so I enrolled at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition last year and became a certified health coach.


Instead of forcing myself to suffer through an hour-long spin class, I found an exercise class I love called IntenSati. IntenSati is a mind/body workout that fuses high-cardio movements with spoken affirmations. For the first time, I started saying things out loud like, "I am strong now!"  I joined Equinox, the home of IntenSati, and started looking forward to going to the gym every day. IntenSati has made me a more positive person and has shifted my way of thinking about exercise. I decided that I wanted to share my love of IntenSati with others so I became a certified IntenSati leader and now teach the class every week.

It can be tough living in a city with the most delicious food but I try to live by the saying, "Eat to be full, not to be stuffed." I learned that if I focus on portion control, I can enjoy the delicious food New York has to offer without gaining weight. I now enjoy margaritas all the time without the guilt and enjoy each and every sip.

While I do still struggle with body image and staying healthy, I feel like a new person since finding an empowering workout I love. I look forward to spreading my passion for health and fitness to more people in the future and will continue to explore fitness classes and food in the city. There is nothing like a fresh piece of New York pizza after a sweaty, exhilarating workout!

Melissa Engel is a health coach and group fitness instructor in NYC. Melissa lives in Queens but spends most of her time in Manhattan working, exercising, and exploring healthy restaurants. Melissa writes the blog, Missy Maintains, where she shares her successes and struggles of staying healthy in a big city while still enjoying life and cocktails.

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