Hello! Hi! How are you?
It’s that time of the month again. The time when I introduce you to an incredible woman who has changed my life and very well could change yours as well. It’s Women of Influence time! What’s spectacular about this series is that it can twist and turn and evolve over time as women are incredible and what makes us influential is incredible. Previously I have focused on female entrepreneurs who have left corporate settings to launch their own businesses. All of them have inspired me and others to realize our dreams and live our best lives.
This month I am changing it up a bit. In part because not every woman wants to own her own business. Some women are stay at home moms, some love and thrive in Corporate America, others dedicate their time to charity and volunteering. And guess what, careers aren’t the only place we as women are influential. This month I am introducing a woman who will inspire you, break you open and restore your faith in what is good and real in all of us. July’s Woman of Influence has been on a health and wellness journey that is raw and I am so grateful she is willing to share with all of us.
This woman has been my friend for more than 10 years. She was hired to join our team just in time for me to take maternity leave. She was brought on to manage my clients while I enjoyed the early days of motherhood. She had to weeks to learn what I had been working on for over a year and half. We were inseparable for two weeks. She sat with me and watched my alien belly twist and turn, she watched the waves of the Doodle rolling over and stretching out. She picked up the pieces I had to drop for a while. Since then she has been a friend I can talk to, cry with, share frustration with, enjoy life’s joys with and always just be myself with.
It’s time I introduce you to July’s Women of Influence – Melanie – who is courageously sharing her inspirational story of health and wellness.
First, please introduce yourself! What are your passions and goals? Who are you? We want to know!
Hi! My name is Melanie Armendariz Paddock and I live in San Diego, California with my amazing husband Jason and stepdaughter Liz! I love the beach, being active, cooking, and when I find the time, I LOVE to read! I am passionate about wiener dogs (yup, my goal is to have a rescue ween ranch someday!) and I am also constantly working towards being the best wife and mama Mels I can possibly be! When I’m not at work managing Enterprise level email clients, you can find me spinning, drinking coffee, or enjoying a glass of wine on my patio!
What an honor to be chosen as a woman of influence! Hopefully my story can help inspire others.
What do you do for a living?
I am an Enterprise Client Success Manager for a Next Gen email marketing company in San Diego.
Are you a night owl or an early bird gets the worm kind of gal?
I would say more of a night owl. I don’t stay up too late, I’m normally in bed by 10 or 10:30pm, but I am definitely not a morning person. I am slow to rise in the mornings. I like to journal and have coffee in bed before starting my day!
Coffee, tea or favorite bevvy?
Coffee all day every day until it is a socially acceptable hour to have wine.
What are your greatest indulgences?
I am big on self-care! I love to treat myself to regular mani/pedis, facials, and new shoes. Loving yourself in a way that makes you feel good from the inside out is so important for women!
Let’s dig into you as an inspiration… You recently lost a considerable amount of weight. Can you share a bit about your journey? What launched your focus on getting healthy, how you took control of your health and where you are now?
In 2015 I was 29 years old and I weighed 262 pounds. Even typing this now, I feel anxious knowing that I am putting it ALL out there for the world to know these intimate details, but I feel like it is really important for me to share my story honestly.
My journey kicked off when I went to the doctor for my annual physical and he discovered I had high blood pressure and high cholesterol. With my family history of heart disease, he didn’t beat around the bush with the fact that I was killing myself. He told me he was worried about my heart and at this rate, I was on track for a possible heart attack by age 45. I left that appointment bawling. I sat in my car outside of his office and made a pledge to myself that I was going to get healthy by my 30th birthday. Up until this point, I had always made the excuse that I didn’t have the money or the time to get healthy.
The first step to choosing “change” is to get real with yourself. I pulled up my bank account statements and credit card statements and created a spreadsheet to see where I was spending my money. I was spending $30-$40 per DAY eating out. I also realized that a 45-minute workout would be less than 4% of my day. I decided to re-purpose that money I was spending on eating out to invest in myself and my health. I signed up for two 30 minute sessions a week with a personal trainer and 3 total sessions with a nutritionist and committed to do food prep at home on Sundays.
I was terrified! For anyone who has been overweight, there is nothing more daunting than walking into a gym for the first time and knowing you are going to hurt in places you didn’t even know existed. My trainer was amazing, supportive, kind, and understanding of my limitations during workouts. Finding the right trainer at the beginning of your journey is the key to success and not giving up. Don’t be shy about shopping around for the right fit.
I started off small, 2 days a week and focused on drinking half my body weight in water per day. I had tried and failed so many times before that I knew this time, I had to do it differently. No crash diets, no starving myself and then binging a week later, I wanted to do this right and I wanted it to be sustainable. After about 2-3 months with my trainer, I realized I wasn’t dying during or after the workouts anymore and I began walking on the treadmill after my sessions. I was now working out 3 times per week for an hour at a time!
During the time I was going to my trainer, I met with a nutritionist. She reviewed my current eating habits (uncomfortable conversation to say the least) and made realistic suggestions for me to start off. Primarily, I was to track everything I ate on MyFitnessPal. Tracking and being aware of everything you put in your mouth and what an item costs calorie wise, sure does open your eyes to the reality of if you “need” or “want” something to eat. After killing myself working out to burn 300 calories, I no longer wanted a can of Coke (140 calories) or a bag of chips (220 calories). Healthier choices were easier to make, and I didn’t feel deprived.
Pinterest… I cannot stress enough the importance of Pinterest for me during this journey. I pinned new recipes weekly that I then made on Sunday evenings to get me through the work week. A quick search of “healthy” recipes returned hundreds of results! I began a new fun weekly routine of working out on Sunday morning, getting myself an Iced Americano with Stevia (way different than the Frappuccino’s I used to drink!) and going grocery shopping for the items I needed for my weekly menu. Surprisingly, I started to enjoy this routine and I found that I was a pretty dang good cook!
Taking it to the next level….
At this point I had lost about 50 pounds and I had received the initial accountability I needed from having a trainer to get in the habit of working out. I knew I needed to find something new that I loved to do and could do more frequently. I tried everything! I signed up for a 5k, I did pilates, barre, bootcamp, step aerobics, weight-lifting, and then… during a facial appointment in 2016, my esthetician told me about this awesome spin studio she attended. I decided to give it a try. I walked in to black lights, loud music, and blonde ponytails bouncing on what at the time seemed to be fitness models all around me.
Intimidating was an understatement!
I strapped myself into the bike and suffered through 45 minutes of torture. Did you know you have bones in your crotch area? I didn’t either until that first spin class. My foot cramped up halfway through, and I couldn’t understand any of the commands the instructor was screaming out from the front.
However, I was mesmerized by my classmates ability to ride to the beat of the music, do pushups on the front of the bike, and as I looked around, I realized some of the REALLY advanced people were completely in sync and the room looked like a professional spin flash mob with their matching movements. I was intrigued!
I left class and felt discouraged. I felt like giving up. I had let myself go too far and had SO far to go. At that moment, a voice from deep inside myself told me to get my shit together. If these fitness model girls could do this, so could I. I am strong, resilient, and brave and I wasn’t going to stop going to class until I was part of the “advanced” group in perfect rhythm. So, I went back. And I kept going back. I was up to 5 spin classes a week and I LOVED it. One day I decided to move from my back-row corner to the second row. Then the first row. A year or so into my spin classes, the teacher had me come up FRONT to ride with her for an entire class. I had done it! With determination and hard work, I had hit my goal.
Do you notice how during all of this I don’t mention obsessing over the scale? I wanted this to be a lifestyle change. I wanted this to be sustainable. I didn’t want to go to a party and say “no” to cake. I wanted to eat a piece of that cake and get right back on track with my next meal. The craziest thing happened when I adopted this mindset of a lifestyle change instead of a “quick fix”: the weight came off. I’ll never forget the day I bought myself my first pair of lululemon leggings, I cried! All of these goals I had set for myself that seemed so out of reach became my reality. I found myself grabbing shirts 3 sizes too big on accident. It took a while for my mind to catch up with the reality of what I now looked like.
Finally, I decided to dream big and set my sights higher than an expert spin class attendee, I decided I wanted to become an instructor. So, I did. I worked hard, did a 3-day intensive instructor training, and got my spin certification. I then tried out to be a spin instructor for Crunch Fitness in Carmel Valley. I was offered the job on the spot!
As of today, I have lost 110 pounds and I feel healthy and strong. I met my husband on my weight loss journey who also lost 80 pounds and we help hold each other accountable!
Dream big. Trust yourself. Set small goals and work towards them daily!
For any women reading this now, can you share what lead to weight gain for you and the things you do now that help battle the emotional stuff without food?
I was thin all throughout high school and college. When I got my first desk job, the weight started to pile on. When I moved to San Diego in 2012, I didn’t know anyone and turned to food as a comfort. Food is a form of addiction. I’ve read books, saw a therapist, and went to a nutritionist to get a handle on my food addiction and issues. There are times that I still crave something savory or sweet after a bad day, but I am much more able to redirect my mind to other outlets with the coping skills I have developed over the past 4 years.
Spin is my outlet now. I own a Peloton and enjoy a good sweaty spin workout to de-stress. I have replaced my bad habit of binge eating, with a good/healthy habit: working out.
What was the one truth you had to recognize within yourself to truly change?
The excuses I was making to justify staying stuck! I DID have time and I DID have the money. I was just spending both elsewhere.
How do you stay healthy now?
I am now a wife and step-mama so time is of the essence! I have a Peloton at home (best investment in myself and health, EVER! Love that you and I both have Peloton’s and follow one another in our healthy journey’s) and I also go to spin classes during lunch time at work. It’s nice to switch up the timing of my workouts. If I have a busy evening ahead of me, I will get in my workout at lunchtime. If I have a busy work day and can’t make it to a lunch time class, I will work out when I get home on the Peloton. I aim for 5 workouts per week. This is my baseline for feeling my best! I also cook dinner every night for myself and my family and we take the leftovers for lunch the next day.
How do you change the mental script of healthy body image?
Non-Scale victories. Obsessing over your weight isn’t a healthy past time and it’s not going to help your confidence or your journey to success. Stop weighing yourself for a while if this is a struggle you’re having. When a thought pops into your head about “ugh, my thighs” replace that with “I feel healthy, strong, and I will continue doing what I need to do regardless of my weight”. Sounds cheesy, but these self-affirmations really work for me.
How do you create a healthy body image environment within your own home?
I involve my step-daughter in cooking. I allow her to choose recipes she wants me to try out on Pinterest and she helps out with cooking as my sous chef. She sees me and her dad working out daily and has asked to ride the Peloton or go on runs with us. I stress the importance of health and feeling good every chance I get. I NEVER focus on looks; I make it a conversation about health.
How do you create routine for your healthy lifestyle now?
One of my favorite quotes of all time is from Rachel Hollis – “Keep the promises you make to yourself”. This is SO true. Life is busy, kids are demanding, husbands can be needy, but I wouldn’t flake out on a friend if I made plans, so if I make a promise to myself to get a spin workout in, I need to do it. I am my own best friend and biggest cheerleader and I’m going to show up for myself! Block off the time on your calendar for grocery shopping, meal prep, and workouts. These are now Meeting times. Meetings with the CEO of your life, YOU!
If you had a chance to go on a free shopping spree next week on Wednesday at 5:30pm, you would make sure you were available come hell or high-water to attend that shopping spree. Develop the same commitment to the appointments you make for yourself. It takes practice but is attainable!
How do you stay motivated?
Keep evolving. Try new things! This month I am co-leading a workout challenge at my office. The goal is 25 hours of activity in the month of July. Sounds easy? That’s an hour a day of working out with only 6 free days! Fitness is a part of my life. It makes me feel good and that in itself is now motivation. If you get through the hard part of not wanting to go to the gym, you evolve into actually enjoying it. I promise.
What is your favorite go to workout?
Should be obvious by now, but spin! I love to sweat and feel completely exhausted after a workout.
What is your favorite go to recipe?
Garlic chicken with broccoli and brown rice or Stuffed Peppers (ground turkey, seasonings, tomato sauce, and cheese stuffed into a Bell peppers and baked).
Please share any simple snack ideas, on-the-go ideas or self-care ideas for staying healthy…
Breakfast is always hard for me. I’m not hungry in the mornings. I now try to drink a Premier Protein Shake daily! Quick and easy to grab as you’re running out the door.
Now for a little fun:
Favorite book: The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King
Favorite movie: Father of the Bride
Favorite song: Anything by the Backstreet Boys or Beyoncé
Favorite brand of jeans: AG or Hudson
Favorite restaurant: Carolinas Mexican Restaurant in Phoenix, AZ (or any Mexican food, anywhere, anytime, give me ALLL the chips and salsa)
Any words of advice for women in general on living their best / healthiest / positive body image life possible?
Be your own advocate. Don’t talk down to yourself, ever. If you wouldn’t say it to your best friend or your mom, why the heck are you saying it to yourself? Retrain yourself to say 2 kind things about yourself out loud every time you catch yourself in negative self-talk mode.
If you are just starting your wellness journey or stuck somewhere in the middle here are some of Mel’s favorite things:
And there you have it folks. If my introduction didn’t leave you knowing how much I care for and love this friend of mine, let me be clear, she is the absolute best! I knew her then and I know her now and I can tell you she has always had a heart of gold and soul filled with kindness and love. She has always been determined and focused and I am so proud of the journey she has been on turning that determination and focus towards herself and her health! All women have influence and I love honoring that!