In 4 short years Michelle became the mother to 4 children. She spent every moment of her days selflessly caring for her family and finding time for her self was impossible. She was a physical and mental mess: out of shape, overweight, overwhelmed, overstressed, tired, and on the verge of depression. She was too busy to eat right and the thought of exercise was frustrating and seemingly pointless. It was then that she hit rock bottom. Michelle finally decided to turn everything around and focus on path of eating the right foods and training properly to live a healthier and happier life. She completely transformed your body into a top level competitive fitness model and has never looked back!
Michelle Berger – Fitness Model Statistics
- Name: Michelle Berger
- Height: 5’7
- Weight: 123
- Hair Color: Blonde
- Bust: 34D
- Waist: 24
- Hips: 34
- Location: Bentonville, Arkansas
- Website: BuffMother.com
Michelle Berger – Fitness Model Interview
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
As a young 21-year-old woman, fresh out of college, I was 100% sold on the knowledge my expensive college courses gave me. I believed in and was very eager to practice what I had been taught. With my background in fitness and nutrition, I started personal training at a gym and working out consistently myself. I was expecting great results. After 6 months of working out according to the ACSM’s standards and eating according to the “Food Pyramid”, I got fatter!! I didn’t understand why? Had the scholars failed me? The authority on fitness, the American College of Sports Medicine, stated that five 60 min aerobic workouts and 2 strength training workouts a week would make me fit. I may have been fitter than most, but I was tired, constantly at the gym, constantly hungry, and noticeably fatter than I was 6 months earlier! On the nutrition side of things, the food pyramid was the only diet I was taught to promote. It is still the FDA’s chosen diet because of the government’s political interest in its success. I followed this high carbohydrate, low-fat diet to a tee and I told my clients and others to do the same. I didn’t think the experts on diet and exercise could be wrong and, that they were the reason I was getting bigger. However, I did know that what I was doing wasn’t working for my own struggle with my weight!
It was a constant struggle for me to find a way to look good. I worked out harder doing an hour of cardio 6 days a week and lifting 2-3 days a week and I still got bigger!!! I thought maybe I should stop lifting all together? Maybe I had too much muscle, and it was making me look fatter? I was hungry all the time and couldn’t control my carbohydrate cravings. I was banging my head against the wall!! No one could give me good advice. I heard so many trainers and magazine articles say, “don’t lift too much or you’ll get bulky.”, “Do high reps of light weight and you’ll get a lean beautiful figure”, “Do a lot of cardio at least an hour and if you can do it twice a day. Do 30 minutes in the morning before you eat and again after supper so you don’t have anything left in your system before you go to sleep.”; “Cut the fat in your diet. Eat low-fat and plenty of carbohydrates for energy”. I tried all their advice, along with many diets including Slim Fast, the Zone diet, the cabbage diet, the grapefruit diet, the all veggie and fruit diet, and Atkins diet, but they were all only a temporary 5 pound fix until my will power gave out. Anything that gave results I could hardly do for a week, much less the rest of my life!
By the age of 24 I had cellulite everywhere and, I was weighing the most I ever had. I was unhappy and so sick of looking for the answer. At this point I was definitely not ready for the news of my first pregnancy. Instantly, I got really scared. What am I going to do? I will be fat the rest of my life. I had seen it and heard it over and over. “Once you have a baby you will never be the same you will always have a pooch and your hips don’t go back.” So, what did I do? I gained 10 pounds in the first 2 months of my pregnancy. Wow! Now I was even more worried. So, I tried my hardest to do what was becoming very popular at that time. Workout while I was pregnant. I constantly failed at this endeavor. I really wanted to, but I was tired and sick. The pressure I put on myself to have a fit pregnancy stressed me out and I felt like a failure!
Then in my second trimester I did get some energy and was able to go to the gym again. I had lost a lot of strength and conditioning. I also had no clue what I should do or safely could do? Working out was a huge mental challenge. Doing cardio seemed futile. It was supposed to make you lose weight and feel energized, but all it did during my pregnancy was make my stomach get bigger and used up the little extra energy I had. Despite it all I managed to workout consistently for 5 weeks until my belly got in the way and then I dropped out. I was a fit pregnancy failure again!
It was then that I decided that pregnancy was “the greatest motivator for me to get in shape”. I made a game plan in my mind for how I would lose all the baby weight after my pregnancy was over. Once I had recovered from the horrible delivery of my son, I restricted my calories to under 1000 a day and went running at least 3x’s a week and walked pushing baby about 4 miles every other day. This was an extremely hard routine to keep up, but it worked! By nine months after my son was born I weighed what I had in college, but just like I had been told, my body was not the same. I had a gut, a shapeless butt, my legs were thin, but had cellulite and my boobs (don’t even get me started on my boobs) they were worse than saggy. I chalked it up to the cost of motherhood and figured,” I looked better than most so I shouldn’t complain”.
In order to not gain any weight I lived on a very unhealthy diet of basically coffee and one large meal a day. My body looked thin in clothes, but I had fat all over. My term to describe this body type is “Skinny Fat”. It is a somewhat attractive body with clothes on, but one that can be over fat and malnourished. The “skinny fat” individual’s lifestyle is very difficult to maintain and very unhealthy. Overtime it will lead to premature aging, low energy levels, depression and even disease. As a “skinny fat” person I had no energy and no joy but, somehow I kept it up for 2 years. I was still young enough to pull it off, but I was scared to death at the prospect of having to live this way the rest of my life and I was absolutely terrified at the prospect of having to go through another pregnancy.When my son was 21/2 I decided to try working out on the home gym my husband had bought us for Christmas a month earlier. It seemed to be working to help him look better, so I thought “I’ll do this a couple of days a week and maybe I’ll look better too.” Sure enough a month into it I began to notice positive change and then surprise! I was looking so good that I got pregnant again.
Now what? Well first I had to start eating again. Through the morning sickness, tiredness, feeling bloated and fat, I was able to keep up with using my home gym and walking. Once I hit month 5 I was unable to walk without bad hip and low back pain. So, I reluctantly stopped walking. I did however continue strength training 3 days a week up until 2 weeks before I gave birth. I had gained about 30 pounds and was very ready to lose it all again. After my little girl was born, I fell into my former habits of eating hardly any food and doing lots of cardio. By six weeks after, I was already back to being thin and was working on getting thinner. My weight loss was so fast!!! A light bulb then lit up in my head “the consistent strength training I did through my pregnancy had enabled me to recover from this pregnancy so much faster. The muscle I had built made the ‘baby fat” melt off my body!” I was excited by this revelation, but still didn’t follow through on the strength training. Instead, I used my now higher metabolism to get really thin. By six months after having my second child I weighed 115 and thought I looked very good (but not really). I didn’t realize that by getting that thin my body was eating itself and causing me to lose the small amount of the muscle I had gained.
Then after my run one day I was horribly nauseous. I thought, “Yuck what did I eat?” Nothing bad, I was just pregnant!!! WOW and OOPS. With a colicky baby who was only 6 months old and my 3-year-old son, how was I going to handle this? I was so very sick and tired. I could hardly get out of bed to take care of my 2 kids much less worry about exercising. Then at 7 weeks I had an ultrasound and everything was fine except – surprise TWINS! Man I was a “fertile myrtle”!!! The doctor explained that is why I was so sick and to be prepared for a much harder pregnancy with twins. I had no idea what lay ahead. I truly believe that twin pregnancies are at least 4x’s harder than normal ones. I couldn’t believe how much more physically and mentally traumatic being pregnant with twins was!
I was a wreck. No way in the world could I workout. I had to save every ounce of energy I had to focus on my other 2 kids and trying to gain 45 pounds. My belly exploded in size and I kept trying to tell myself that it would be Okay. The agony I went through in my mind about what my body would look like post-twin pregnancy was very defeating. I had survived 2 normal pregnancies with few war wounds, but this one was different. I wouldn’t leave it untarnished, and I could become a big puddle of fat. I was so sad.
After months of sickness, daily naps, eating everything in sight, no exercise and feeling like I was going to explode, I got the pleasure of spending about 3 weeks in the hospital hooked up to every machine and IV they had in order to keep my baby girls in my tummy as long as possible. The drugs they use to stop labor are horrible! They make you very sick, unable to eat and turn any muscle on your body to fat. Finally at 34 weeks my uterus couldn’t take it anymore, and I had my twins by C-section. They were only 4 pounds and had to be in the intensive care nursery for an agonizing month. I then nursed them for 3 months and didn’t go anywhere until they were about 5 months old. (I couldn’t go anywhere, I hadn’t had a car since my first child was born just so I could be a true “stay at home mom”, Ha, Ha!)
For a total of 4 years I had either been just recovering from a pregnancy or actually pregnant. I did not know who Michelle was anymore. I had lost myself in my motherhood. That’s when I decided I had to get a car, so I could go back to the gym. It was the best therapy $350/month could buy! After three months back, I found myself. My competitive personality came back to life and in November of 2003 I decided I would, beat the odds, and rebuild a better body than I had as a teen. My goal was to develop a national level figure physique in 5 short months and astonishingly it worked! In March of 2004 I won my first 2 figure titles and 3 more followed that year! The program I followed was designed by me, to specifically overcome the problems mothers encounter after pregnancy. It has worked for me and countless other women!
After hearing my testimony, the next time you look at my pictures please don’t think, “she had nothing to overcome” or “she has never been fat and out of shape” or “she is just naturally that way”. That is far from the truth! I’ve been where you are. I overcame and became a BuffMother!
How did you get started in the fitness modeling field?
I got started through wanting to get my body back after having 4 kids in 4 short years. I went on to win 5 NPC figure titles in 2004. Since then I have used my modeling to spread the word that “you can be buff after having children!”
What is the #1 thing you like best about being into fitness?
I love knowing that I am in control of my body, my life and my legacy. If everyone knew this, the world would be a much healthier place.
What has been your biggest accomplishment in the fitness field?
To inspire other mothers to get BUFF! Through my website BuffMother! I have inspired thousands of women to believe that being in great shape physically and mentally is possible.
What is the best way to get started in the fitness modeling industry? Should I just contact the photographers directly or should I use an agency?
The best way to get started is to get some good professional pictures taken, then get on OMP and meet up with photographers who are willing to do TFCD shoots. Unless you live in LA, FL or NY you shouldn’t expect much from an agency.
Please describe a typical day for you. What is your daily routine like?
I get up when my alarm clock goes off (my 3-year-old coming in and waking me up saying she wants oatmeal) I struggle to get out of bed and then make coffee and get her oatmeal. Then I get my twins up, change them, dress them, and feed them and my older son. Then we start getting ready to go to the gym which takes 30 min to get everyone’s shoes on, coats on, prepare the diaper bag, buckle everyone up, get all 4 kids a snack and a drink finally when we get there and It takes another 20 min to get everyone settled into the childcare and ritualistically bring my 3-year-old potty and wash her hands, weigh her and then leave her screaming in the childcare. I spend about 1-2 hours working out depending on how much talking I do. Then I load up the kids and prepare myself for an unpleasant drive home because someone always screams the whole way home. Once we get home it is lunchtime. It is always a very messy meal and then it is naptime for the twins and my 3-year-old. My 5-year-old usually watches a movie and then I finally get to shower and work a little on housework, bills, answering e-mails Etc. When nap time is over I control chaos for another 4 hours until Daddy comes home and then we have supper put all the kids in bed by 8:00 so that we can go in our room and I can get work done on BuffMother! And I can get a chance to relax a little before bed. It is a very challenging life, but it is much better than it was 2 years ago when my twins were newborns! At least now I can get a full nights sleep.
I don’t have that much time during the day to workout, so I really want to burn major calories in a short amount of time. What is the #1 “bang for the buck” cardio exercise I should do to burn serious calories?
How much weight (pounds) should I focus on losing every week? What is a safe amount to make sure I keep it off?
1-2 pounds all depending on the week. Shooting for a total of 1-4 pounds a month. I know that sounds conservative, but if you want lasting results you can’t expect more true fat loss than that.
What type of food or supplements should I take before and after my workouts to help me see results in gaining lean muscle and losing fat?
Workout, Workout, Workout! Eat, Eat, Eat! Why workout if you don’t eat right? Why eat right if you don’t workout? The importance of both components are vital and honestly doing one right will lead to doing the other right. The key to being successful in your quest for buffness is learning how to eat pre-workout and post workout and to time your supplements for optimal effectiveness.
You need to feed your body correctly so that you are not wasting the hour you spend at the gym. If you don’t eat correctly before your workout you will not be able to workout hard enough to get the results you deserve. I consider this meal very vital to anyone who truly wants to rebuild a struggling metabolism. However, if you decided to work out on an empty tank you will most likely feel some if not all of these symptoms during your workout:
- Working out is painful
- You have no energy
- You are not be able to focus mentally
- You have no physical or mental stamina
- You feel sick
- You are weak
- You are unable to push yourself hard enough to build muscle
The term for all of these symptoms is to “bonk”, which basically means you do not have enough glycogen in your body for it to perform. It is an exercise in futility!
If you don’t eat correctly after your workout there can be all kinds of consequences:
- You will not feel good.
- You will not have the energy and nutrients you need to repair your body.
- Your immune system will become depressed, ultimately causing illness.
- You will be lifeless for the rest of your daily activities.
- You will blame your workout for your lack of energy and possibly cause you to miss future workouts.
Timing your eating is so vital to your success! Here are some examples of what I eat pre and post workout along with the supplements I often take…
Workout time 10:00 am
- Up at 7:30 am: drink water and take 2 BSN Nitrix
- Pre-workout meal: 1-1.5 hours before workout
- Ultramet meal replacement or 6oz. OJ mixed with Vanilla Whey protein and 2-3 cups of coffee
- It is important to note that I am not a big breakfast eater. Liquid meals work great for me in the morning. I make sure to have a carbohydrate in my pre-workout meal so that I have glucose in my bloodstream.
- Immediately take NO2 supplement
- Go home and take Creatine punch (carb)
- 2 cups frozen asparagus stir-fry cooked in the microwave topped with ¼ cup cashews and sweet and sour flavored tuna
Workout time 5:30 pm
Pre-workout meal: 1.5 to hour before workout
- Oatmeal and nectar protein shake in water
- Or Salmon salad on a 6 whole wheat crackers, 1 cup of mixed veggies
- Note: if I am running late I make sure to at least have a carb, like a banana or cereal bar
The key here is to eat early enough so your food has digested and you have glucose in your bloodstream so you can lift effectively.
- Immediately take NO2 supplement
- Go home and take Creatine punch (carb)
- Have a protein shake
- Then feed the kids
8:00 PM supper
- Large spinach and romaine salad with olives, a little cheese, almonds, a few croutons, carrots, real ranch dressing and a grilled chicken breast or steak.
The key to this is pattern what you are eating every day so that you are fueled for your workout. Your results will be more dramatic and come much faster if you make sure to give your body the fuel it needs to workout hard and recover quickly. It is also important to note that my supplement use varies depending on my goals. This represents my current supplement routine for muscle building.
How do you deal with cravings for junk foods, sweets and salty food? I can stay on a diet for maybe a few weeks but I eventually get really bad cravings and binge on snacks and fast foods.
My answer is to not be quite so strict. I allow myself a daily treat to head off future binges.
I’m trying to create a healthy shopping list to stick with. What are some of the main foods I should include to maintain a lean and muscular physique?
Protein and Greens: Eggs, chicken, turkey, hamburger, tuna, salmon, whey protein, beef jerky, romaine lettuce, cabbage, cucumbers, celery, broccoli, asparagus, green beans
I’m about 35 pounds overweight. I have never started an exercise program and really don’t know where to start. What tips can you give me to get started on the right track?
Just start out shooting to build the habit of activity and exercise. Shoot for doing “something” 3 days a week. Once you have that a solid habit, increase your frequency and intensity. Always remember that Challenge=Change.
I tend to eat out most of the time and really don’t know what healthy foods to order from the menu. What tips do you recommend for eating out at restaurants to make sure my diet will not suffer?
Choose meat first…stay away from tons of rice, pasta, sauces etc. and always have a good green salad first…Also say no to BREAD.
What exercises do you recommend for getting a bigger, rounder and fuller butt?
GREAT butts take tons of work. The main ingredients in a good butt workout are: Squats (tons of them), lunges, Bulgarian squats, walking lunges, dead lifts, and leg curls. You need to remember to lift heavy. Shoot for the weight being heavy enough to where you can only do about 6-8 reps before failure. That will make your booty beautiful.
What is the most challenging thing you deal with about consistently staying in top shape?
Finding the time. I have a ton on my plate and if working out was not on the top of my list for priorities it would get easily lost in the shuffle.
Please describe your normal diet. What do you eat in a typical day to stay in shape?
- Breakfast: Oatmeal
- Mid-Morning Snack: Protein shake
- Lunch: Veggies and tuna
- Mid-Afternoon Snack: some nuts and beef jerky
- Dinner: a hunk of meat…chicken, beef or turkey some type of veggie, like a salad of broccoli
- Snack: popcorn or protein bar or herbal tea…all depending on how many calories and carbs I’ve had for the day
What type of exercises do you include in your routine to stay in shape?
- Strength Training Exercises: 6 days a week
- Cardio Exercises: intervals 3-4 sessions/week
- Additional Training: Abs 6 days a week and Housework Fitness
What are the top 5 tips (specific exercises, diet advice, etc) you recommend for developing toned and defined arms?
1. Lifting with your back- pull-ups, lat pulls and rows
2. Lifting with your chest- bench press, flys and dips
3. Lifting with your shoulders- shoulder press and lateral raises
4. Diet: higher protein and tons of water
5. Intervals: be intense paired with recovery for 20 min post lifting workout
What are your top 5 tips for losing unwanted body fat?
1. Lift often and heavy
2. Lift with you legs
3. Drink tons of water
4. Eat a diet high in protein
5. Eat a diet high in green veggies
What are your top 5 tips for gaining lean muscle mass?
1. Lift with your BIG muscles: legs, back and chest
2. Lift often – 6 times a week
3. Lift heavy – shoot for lower reps aim for the 6 rep range
4. Skip the cardio for a while
5. EAT!! EAT a ton
What are the top 5 tips you recommend for staying motivated on a fitness plan and truly making a healthy lifestyle change?
1. “The Key to your Motivation is to ENCOURAGE others!”
2. Find more measurements of your success than the scale
3. Envision your success! BELIEVE!
4. Find a great support group of like-minded people
5. Don’t ever let yourself be satisfied…be hungry for more success and new challenges
What is your training routine like? (Please include a few details – training split, sets/reps, exercises, types of cardio, etc.)
- Sun – back, shoulders
- Monday – Run hard hills/Chest/tri
- Tuesday – butt/legs
- Wed – Back/shoulders/bi
- Thurs – Intervals/Chest/Tris
- Friday – legs, sprint drills
So here is the BEST workout I have had in about 2 weeks. First let’s not forget my run at 2pm of 3.2 miles.
- R-Bike warm up 5 min- my hammies are so sore!
- 95×6 directly went to next set
- 125×5 (no spotter, very scared I wasn’t going to get the 5th)
- I was very strong on bench tonight…my creatine is really kicking in!!
- Incline flys
- 40’sx6x3 (a new recent high)
- Cable Flys one arm at a time
- Tricep extensions*
- bar+20 x15
- bar+30 x10x3
- *paired with
- Bicep curls(I threw these in cuz my biceps need some love)
- bar+20x 21’s
- Bench dips-one set
- kick backs
- 15x8x2…My “pump” was unreal, I could hardly straighten out my arm!!
- Tricep push downs
- Roman chair knee ups
- 3 sets of 40
- Bench knee ups
- 3 sets ’till failure or boredom…not sure which one?
- During my workout I had a power aid…very good
So here is the slightly different workout I do:
- 10 min warm up on elliptical focus on booty
- Smith lunges
- 50x12x4 sets
- 100x10x2 sets
- 120x8x6 sets
- 100x10x2 sets
- Butt Squats
- Donkey calf
- Seated calf
- 205 x 8 x5 sets
- Bulgarian Squats
- Froggy leg curls (my hammies are so sore from sun and running yesterday) 60×15
- Walking lunges 65#on back x15 big steps
- back extensions with butt thrusts 25 reps
- decline bench sit ups full motion
- Warm up r-bike 5 min
- Assisted pull ups over hand wide grip
- 25# help x10,8,8
- one normal set of 10
- T-bar rows
- Seated rows
- Dorsi Flex Lat row machine
- Military/shoulder press machine
- One arm cable lat row
- 80#x4 together x 8singles
- 80#x4 together x 8singles + 8 together
- 80# x 10 singles
- Smith Military
- Arnolds both arms at the same time
- 25’s x 8 followed by 5 alt hammer curls x 3 sets
- Bent over lateral raises
- one set rotator cuff exercises 12#x5 reps
- Bench knee ups focused on sides
- 8 min r-bike with intervals
- 12 min elliptical with intervals, some 1 min ones and then 4-45sec ones on 2 on level 11 and 2 on level 12 with recovery at 8. AWESOME!!-snuck that in while waiting for my DH.
- push ups 25
- 135×4* (the last couple of each set with slight assist from my spotter. I was very happy with these weights!!! considering I weigh 129 right now!)
- Incline smith press
- Hammer flat bench
- Tricep extensions
- 25# db overhead x10
- 40#+ezbarx6x3*slight help on last 2 reps by spotter, new wt for me!!
- bench dips paired with bench knee ups x 3 sets
- Warm up 15min on r-bike and elliptical (I have ADHD so I can’t spend more than 10 min on any given piece of cardio, lol)
- 135×8 (butt focus)
- Seated Calf raises
- Leg Extensions
- 195x15x3 (this machine is weird, It doesn’t matter how heavy I do it I still have to do at least 15 reps to exhaust myself)
- Walking lunges
- Leg Curls
- Dead lifts
- No abs Sad -I will make up for this tomorrow. I am bloated at the moment from just starting to take Creatine again; just the thought of doing abs makes me sick.
- warm up on r-bike for 10 min
- one set of pull-ups 8 plus 2 negatives
- Lat pulls with v grip
- 130×6 barley followed up by 100×6
- Shoulder press machine, sat backwards on the machine
- one arm cable rows
What are the top 5 tips (specific exercises, diet advice, etc) you recommend for losing fat around the stomach and developing a toned and defined midsection?
1. Lift with you legs, make sure to get at least 1-2 great leg workouts done weekly
2. Suck it in…focus on your posture.
3. Do your abs frequently and slowly
4. Eat a diet high in fiber and protein
5. Drink tons of water
What are the top 5 tips (specific exercises, diet advice, etc) you recommend for toning the thighs, hips and butt?
1. Do Squats heavy! Your leg muscles are very strong so challenge those muscles
2. Do lunges since there is nothing better for the booty
3. Do intervals, not just steady cardio
4. Eat protein shoot for your goal body weight in grams daily
5. Drink tons of water shoot for your body weight in oz. at least