When Jess Fleay’s doctor told her she had a 20-40 per cent chance of not making it to 60 compared to someone her age who was in a healthier weight range, she knew she needed to do something.
Jess, who is from Perth, WA, had struggled with her weight for most of her life, failing to stick to multiple diets and gym memberships due to issues with self-doubt and confidence. Until she found something that completely changed her life.
She knew a gastric sleeve operation was something that would kick start her journey, followed by an exercise plan she could also stick to.
And in January 2020, she discovered MI Coaching, a personalised fitness platform that provides everyone, no matter their fitness level or ability, with elite level coaching tailored to individual needs.
The platform is run by personal trainer and founder Michael Italiano, who also just so happens to be Daniel Ricciardo’s F1 Performance Coach.
Taking the first step
Jess tells Yahoo Lifestyle that she had struggled with body image since her teen years, and the hatred for her own body weight followed her well into adulthood.
“I had very low self confidence and would almost use my weight as an excuse to not do things,” the 30-year-old says.
“It became something I hated but also something that was a safety net for me. It manifested into me trying fad diets, hating myself, not caring about my body or treating it right.
“The surgery was something I needed to do as I remember the surgeon telling me I had a 20-40% chance of not making it to 60. That’s really what triggered it for me. Following surgery that’s when I discovered Michael’s platform.”
A new mindset
Jess says the physical changes were what kept her going initially, but she now is also starting to see mental benefits too.
"I used to self-doubt a lot and would try diets, join gyms etc, have a bad day or a couple of bad days and then just give up as I felt like I had ruined it, so why continue?” Jess explains.
“I believed I couldn’t change, and so I always set myself up to fail. I never thought I could, so I never went in with the right mind-set.”
But then having a trainer like Michael provided her with all the tools she needed to get healthy and she has now lost an incredible 38kg in 11 months.
“He held me accountable and would check in regularly with me,” she says.
“I was open and honest from the beginning about my weaknesses, and so I think that helped, laying out to someone why it failed for me so many times before almost made me accountable.”
Finding what works for you
Jess says that finding what works for you is key when starting your fitness and weight loss journey.
“The reason I ended up picking Michael as my PT was because he never once made me feel bad about deciding to have weight loss surgery. If anything, he just wanted to work together and figure out the best plan for me. That’s a huge thing with this journey, being judged for being overweight and being judged for having the surgery.
"It’s been nice to find someone who just wants to help regardless of the situation. It was a no-brainer and I can say it’s the best choice I have made!”
Food for thought
Jess says as part of her training program, she focused a lot on food intake and making sure she was reaching her protein goals.
“I admit I knew nothing about nutrition prior to the surgery, and I believe that's a reason I was also picking the wrong choices when it came to my foods,” Jess explains. “I made the choice about 7 months post-op to also see a counsellor regarding the food triggers I have and how I would use food as a way to cope with any stresses I had.
“Talking to someone was a massive help. I also set myself rewards for goals I reached to celebrate the work I had put in. For example, as a child I used to horse ride and hadn't since I was 15. Once I hit a certain goal or target I booked into adult lessons as a reward.
"I have also just started a TikTok channel to keep myself accountable, but hopefully also inspire others who may be thinking of doing this.”
Advice for those starting their fitness journey
“My advice is to always remember your journey is your own, and to remind yourself of why you decided to start when times get tough.
"I am so much happier, I feel strong, I feel healthy, I feel like this is who I was always meant to be!”
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