Mastering the comfort zone: A transformation through health and wellness

By Chris Galford

In the past few years, Joani Donovan has dropped weight, leaned up, beefed up, and today, at 53, can call herself the proud runner-up in a statewide bodybuilding competition. Featured here are the before and after photos.

In the past few years, Joani Donovan has dropped weight, leaned up, beefed up, and today, at 53, can call herself the proud runner-up in a statewide bodybuilding competition. Featured here are the before and after photos.

Joani - afterGo back even five years to Joani Donovan of Ultimate Mind, Body and Spirit and the person standing there would be scarcely recognizable. The transformation? In less than five years she has gone from a size 14 to runner-up in a statewide bodybuilding competition.

Her story begins with the moment of realization: July 2011. She was at a seminar in Chicago, ensconced in a room full of fellow massage therapists, and as she looked around she came to a revelation.

“I was one of the heaviest people in the class,” Joani said. “Being in the health and wellness industry, I realized if I want to talk the talk I got to walk the walk.”

Walk she did, diving headfirst into a rigorous cardio routine. Her body weight plummeted down to around a size 10 by 2012. Yet it wasn’t enough.

“I was still that sort of skinny fat they talk about; I had lost all that fat, but had no muscle. I was changing my nutrition, but I lost more water weight than anything,” said Joani.

She went to gyms and even to a personal trainer. The latter gave her a meal plan and exercises, but though this pushed her down to 129 pounds, she was still combatting the same issues as before — she was lean, but had little muscle mass of which to speak.

“That’s when I found Melanie Ash. I dropped the trainer and I found out I burn about 3,100 calories a day doing my massage work. I only was taking in about 1,100 a day. I was at a loss. So she introduced me to macros. Realized what I actually had to do first was gain weight. Then I was up to about 2,700 calories a day. I was eating macro nutrients, so I had to hit so many grams of fat, protein and carbs. I’ll tell you it wasn’t easy; I had a really big learning experience with food. What kept my body lean. What puffed it up. What it did and didn’t like,” Joani said.

Egg whites, rice cakes, oatmeal and chicken became staples. She ate about six times a day, planning meals a week in advance — a regimen that lasted 30 weeks. If it wasn’t on an approved list, it wasn’t eaten. This lasted until her debut at Cleveland’s Civic Auditorium on October 4. It was a week before she turned 53.

She came in second place in the 50 and over segment of the competition. What’s more, in achieving that, she took herself beyond her comfort zone, stepped up on stage, and owned who she was.

“So through the course of all this I learned how to eat. No yo-yo dieting. I have a meal plan that feeds my body when I need it, how I need it … It’s given me so much more comfort in my skin than even what I was a month ago,” Joani said.

Show your support for local businesses! Call Joani at 419-367-1417; email joani@ubmsmassage.com; visit Ultimate Body, Mind and Spirit at 3450 W. Central Ave. Suite 310, Toledo, Ohio; or visit the website at http://www.ubmsmassage.com.