The 6 Month Fitness Challenge

The 6 Month Fitness Challenge

It has been a little more than 6 months since Melissa Lascala, our graphic designer, began her fitness journey. We talked to her in the March issue of Marketplace, when she was just starting out. Since then, she has lost a whopping 27 pounds.

Melissa followed an exercise and nutrition plan given to her by WorkoutEngine Allentown’s Coach Joe Arangio, a certified strength and conditioning specialist. Under his guidance, she hit the gym four days a week before work to exercise for 45 minutes. (That’s only 3 hours devoted to exercise per week!)

Just as importantly, though, she drastically altered her diet. She didn’t just trade fries for salad or wine for water—she measured and pre-portioned all of her meals and snacks, keeping a log of everything that she ate over the last 182 days. Her hard work paid off.

“Melissa was successful because she was coachable,” Coach Joe says. “There is no perfect time to start getting fit or to exercise—it’s just the time that you’re most consistent.”

We sat down with Melissa to see how she feels about her new fitness levels and where she’s headed next.

What physical changes have you noticed?

The last time I could fit into my wedding dress was when I got married in 2013. I try it on every year on my anniversary. Last year, it would only zip up 3/4 of the way. This year, it zipped up all the way—and it was a little
bit loose!

Have you noticed any mental changes?

I feel more comfortable, physically and mentally, in my clothing. I’m not dreading going to the beach. For the first time in a long time, I won’t have to worry about keeping a shirt on because I don’t feel comfortable showing my stomach, so that will be nice.

What’s your new favorite food?

I like Greek yogurt now, and I never would have tried it before. The toasted coconut flavor is amazing!

Do you have a favorite exercise?

I enjoy pilates. You’re still working hard, but in a way, it’s relaxing too.

What has been the hardest thing about this new lifestyle?

There are a lot of temptations. At work, there are a lot of treats and baked goods that people bring in almost every day. It’s hard saying no to sweets, but moderation is what I’ve learned. Like, last weekend, I split a funnel cake with my husband. I’ll probably only do that once this year!

How often do you have a “cheat” food or meal, and what’s your favorite?

It depends on the week, but not more than twice a week. I budget for it in my caloric intake for the day. I love the Space Monkey beer from Fegley’s Brew Works, and pizza or fettuccine from Biaggio Pizzeria Restaurant in Allentown.

What are your goals now?

Now that I’m done with six months at WorkoutEngine Allentown, I’m just looking to maintain my new weight. I’m going to continue exercising on my own before work, and I’m going to keep up with my food journal.

Melissa’s Daily Diet *

Breakfast (Grab and Go)

  1 cup of coffee with cream

  1 protein granola bar

Lunch (Turkey Sandwich)

  2 slices of Sandwich Skinnys

  4 slices of turkey

  1 slice of cheese

Dinner (Egg and Cheese Wrap)

  1 whole wheat tortilla

  2 fried eggs

  1/4 cup of cheese


  Greek yogurt with 1/4 cup strawberries and 1/4 cup granola

  1/2 cup cottage cheese

  1 1/2 cups organic popcorn

  12 almonds

* This is a sample of what Melissa eats on a typical day for her height, weight, activity level, and goals. Always consult a physician before starting a diet or exercise plan.

Coach Joe on Maintaining a Fit Lifestyle

“Maintenance is just as challenging as losing weight,” Coach Joe says. “Once you’re there, you have to follow the plan every day. You’re not done.”

He stresses that weight loss is less about just losing pounds on the scale, and more about losing body fat and building muscle. Another reason to gain muscle? You can actually eat more.

“Your body is much more forgiving when your body fat is at a healthy level and you have more muscle tissue,” he explains. “Having athletic muscle boosts your metabolism. Muscles burn more calories than fat. More than that, you’ll have a reduced chance of diseases and illnesses like diabetes and depression.”

And when it comes to maintenance, if you keep putting in the work, you’ll keep feeling good.

“There’s a catharsis to this whole lifestyle,” Coach Joe says. “It’s what keeps people going for a long time—exercising and eating right helps you sleep better, manage your stress, and boosts your confidence.”

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