Fit & Fabulous Winner Monica Miller: Want Big Changes? Then Start Small

Monica Miller, Fit & Fabulous winner, before photo in bridesmaid dressMonica Miller, Fit & Fabulous winner after photo in bikiniWork, children, relationships…life happens. For many of us, we run around and around taking care of so much…except one of the most important things of all – our health. has had the pleasure of interviewing September’s Fit & Fabulous winner, Monica Miller, who once found herself caught up in that same unhealthy cycle that so many of us face today, but found a way to finally break free in the best way possible – one day at a time.

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BDO: Well first, congratulations on being September’s Fit & Fabulous winner!

MM: Thank you for the opportunity! I’m very excited about this!

BDO: So, you look great, and I’m curious about how your health journey began.

MM: Well, a few different things happened around the same time. First, I had a health screening, which was required by my insurance. Prior to this, I’d suddenly been feeling lightheaded and shaky. I found out that I was prediabetic, and that my overall health needed improvement. My doctor asked me to describe what I’d had for breakfast that morning. I’d had a blueberry muffin and some orange juice. My doctor sat me down and talked to me about my health. She was the first doctor to have an honest discussion with me about my health and my weight.

The second part of this is that I was the matron of honor at my sister’s wedding. I barely fit the dress. As a result of all this, I had a little breakdown.

I have high blood pressure and diabetes in my family, and I had to admit to myself that I didn’t like what I saw when I looked in the mirror.

I ended up having a conversation with my husband. We’re very good at communicating with each other, and he’s the sort of person to always to tell me that he thinks I look beautiful, and I’m fine the way I am. But during this talk, he essentially said if you’re not happy, then change what you don’t like. I knew he was right.

All of these things helped give me the push I needed.

BDO: When did you first start your health journey?

MM: I started in June of 2011, and have been going strong ever since. I actually posted my one year anniversary on a great fitness app called My Fitness Pal.

BDO: How did you get started?

MM: One of the biggest problems I had to tackle was that I had a big sweet tooth. It was nothing for me to grab a latte and a blueberry streusel muffin for breakfast.

While I was deciding to change my health habits, I coincidentally found My Fitness Pal. I swear by it because you can log calories, it’s extremely accurate, and it has a huge database. I logged everything I ate, my goals, everything. On that first day of logging my food, by lunchtime, I only had 200 calories left in the day. My first thought was “OMG!” I was in shock by how much I was eating.

BDO: So, it was pretty difficult in the beginning?

MM: It was extremely tough when I first started, and I kept thinking about all of the things I couldn’t eat. Then I discovered that, if I exercised, I could earn extra calories. So that was an incentive. I already had a gym membership – I just wasn’t using it. I started by walking on the treadmill for 10 minutes a day, twice a week. By the end of that, I was exhausted. Next week, I worked out for three days. Eventually, I felt so much better when I got done. Then, I started taking classes, such as a Power class, which is a circuit strength training class with weights. There were all sorts of people of different sizes, so I felt very comfortable. I tried other classes, and found that I really enjoyed doing Zumba.

Now I feel like it’s a treat to go to the gym. I put it on my calendar, like an appointment.

BDO: What would you say are your most and least favorite exercises?

MM: Although I enjoy Zumba as a high energy cardio workout, my favorite exercise is weightlifting.  My goal is to begin training this January to compete in a figure competition.  I believe that muscle building is the best way to preserve bone health and sustain my weight loss.  My least favorite exercise is spinning. It’s a great, great calorie burn, but afterwards, it can be very painful to sit down!

BDO: What are some of the initial changes you made to your diet?

MM: The first thing I did was explore different lower calorie foods, like those 100 calorie snack packs…since I love to snack. Before I changed my diet, I was accompanying my meats with high calorie foods. Another change I made was to replace things like mac & cheese and scalloped potatoes with veggies. When I started doing this, I noticed I’d stay fuller for longer.

BDO: What’s your favorite healthy meal?

MM: I’d have to say broiled salmon and asparagus with yellow squash. I went online to figure out how to cook salmon…it did NOT work out right at first, but now I love it.

BDO: What have been some of your successful strategies for eating healthier?

MM: I measure and weigh everything. Even now, I still log-in my food every morning, I pre-plan everything and I only shop off of my grocery lists. This leaves the guesswork out of things.

BDO: Do you still make room for treats?

MM: As I said before, I’ve always had a sweet tooth, but now I don’t have as many issues with it as I used to, and I don’t have the cravings like I used to. I’ve learned to think about how badly I want something before acting on it, but I don’t deny myself. For example, I like Reese’s Pieces. If I tell myself I can’t have something, I will still want it. So instead, if I decide I want a treat, I’ll indulge, but then adjust the rest of my calories for the rest of the day. Many times I’ll just chew gum or drink a Crystal Light lemonade.

BDO: What’s your typical daily routine now?

MM: My life involves my children, my husband, work, school…but I am also my priority. It’s my health, and no one will take care of me. This journey has taught me that I have to take care of myself. Granted, I’m lucky I have a very supportive husband who can support me in all of this.

My typical schedule includes waking up at 3:30 in the morning and working out at 4am. I like working out in the mornings because it gives me an energy boost.

BDO: What impact has all of this had on your family?

MM: My family was never really unhealthy, but I’ve been slowly transitioning newer and even healthier options onto the menu, like switching from white rice to brown rice, and curbing our salt intake. Now my children are fighting over fruits, like apples and bananas. My 3-year-old loves apples with peanut butter. It’s funny – he’ll eat all his veggies, but won’t finish his meat.

BDO: Have you been back to the doctor for a follow-up to last year’s exam?

MM: I have! I went back to the doctor for another health screening, 40 pounds lighter after that initial screening. The doctor didn’t recognize me. Everything looked great, and my results had drastically improved. I was very happy I had done something to improve my health. For the first time, I actually look forward to going in for my physical!

BDO: Any final words of advice for people reading your story, who are thinking of starting a health journey of their own?

MM: One thing I’d stress to someone starting out on their journey is…don’t try to accomplish everything at once. I didn’t gain 40 pounds in a year. Start out with one thing, one activity, one habit. Say, “I’m going to work out today,” and go from there. I stress start small and work your way up.

I also have a special message for women: We need to make sure we make our health our #1 priority. Don’t make excuses. I’ve found that on days that things don’t go as planned, ‘cause life happens, I’ll go run on the treadmill for 15 minutes. Anything is better than nothing. I am doing this for me, to be healthy, and I owe this to myself. You have to be selfish when it comes to your health.

My Story: “One Day I Could Barely Get Out Of Bed”

havena johnson

I am never sick.

Never smoked.

Never took drugs.

Didn’t really drink…two glasses of wine and I would fall asleep, so what’s the fun in that?

I don’t even remember what year it was I gave up sugar, white flour, and all that other stuff that tastes so good.

Only time I ever went to see a doctor was for the occasional cosmetic surgery and that was probably two years ago. I really was meant to be born with this body. Botox came from heaven.

I was forty-four and living my wonderful life of consultant work and watching my son go through high school playing basketball and becoming a man.

Then one day I could barely get out of bed. After dragging myself to a client appointment, I realized it wasn’t getting any better and I drove myself to urgent care.
My blood pressure was 245 over 160. Is that bad? I asked.

I was having a heart attack.

My kidneys had failed.

I went into ICU. They administered procedures to stabilize my organs and I don’t know how many blood transfusions I had. I was there for two weeks. Finally, the utter relief that I was going to pull through.

What type of dialysis would you like going forward?

“I’m sorry, what did you say?”

“You will be on dialysis for an undetermined time. We are hoping they will repair themselves, but currently your kidneys can’t function on their own.”


“Because your blood pressure was so high, for so long, that your kidneys had to work too hard to process your blood. It’s all because of your blood pressure.”


I didn’t know.

Looking back now, I can see some signs that were indicators that I was getting sick. I had insomnia a few times; unusual for me but life has stress. Occasional headaches but who doesn’t get them…figured it was the Botox. Had small dizzy bouts every once in awhile; thought I needed glasses. I never gave any of them a second thought.

When we don’t feel well, or right, or normal, we rationalize it away. If you feel bad, do you figure it is because you are overweight? Drink too much? Eat way too many snacks, sodas, fast food? Could be. But it also could be your organs having to work too hard.

High blood pressure is called a silent killer because there are no symptoms that your blood pressure is chronically high. The few symptoms I had were due to my kidneys and heart working overtime for way too long.

What is your blood pressure?