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Michelle's Story

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Every Thursday the Insolvency Service HR strategy and change team meet for a chinwag and a catch up and topics range from gardening and pressure washers to line of duty and who is H? we usually get on to how many steps has Michelle done today and people become envious of me and my 15,000 steps by lunch time –  I can see people thinking it’s easy for Michelle as she is fit and slim – well it really isn’t and I developed a ‘mask’ from a young age and became obsessed with fitness and weight which trust me isn’t healthy all the time!

First week of senior school and my nan says, ‘come to our house this weekend as your mum and dad have split up’. I was taught from an early age to put on a brave face and get through school this is when the mask was created. I had always been a skinny and enthusiastic child but the breakup of my parents and the constant feeding at nans saw me gain my puppy fat! Getting on a bus one night and kids shouting fat remarks still sticks with me today – it was destroying!

At 14 my father decided to reject me, and I questioned myself – what is wrong with me? Not healthy at that age to have rejection issues and again these added to the issues – my mother was on a constant diet after my father had spent all their married life saying she was fat – I thought this was the answer – diet and be slim and you will be happy, but it became an unhealthy obsession.

My nan was my stable figure in my life and when she passed in my early twenties my obsession got worse – manic in the gym and going down to a tiny fragile frame. I learned in therapy that when things went wrong in my life the only thing, I could control was my weight and this is what I did and still do to this day- although I am aware, I am doing it and do try and manage it.

Exercise is healthy for you but not when it is obsessive – I have struggled for years with is and my mental health but now I am awake to it and can deal with it better – I have good and bad days like everyone else but walking and running do help to clear my mind and help me manage the issues.

Running isn’t for everyone but it’s about finding what helps you – some days I just walk as I can’t face pounding the pavements, but I do get obsessed with my steps each day and my daily minimum is 15,000. I have only participated in one race as I tend to do running for enjoyment – the one time I did enter a race it was for my friend who had breast cancer.

My many daily steps do make people’s eyes roll at times, but I am aware I have inspired a few people – especially my mum and step dad who are fit and healthy thanks to me taunting them on the Fitbit app. I have also been able to give my step dad small tips to help manage his diabetes. I have also inspired members of my team and they have started going out for more walks and have had healthy weight loss over the last few months. My team members have even started charging their Fitbit to compete and I am so glad that I can help people understand the benefits of daily exercise whether it is walking, running or cycling but next time someone thinks it’s so easy for Michelle trust me it isn’t always.

I am very passionate about exercise and nutrition and I also studied towards a personal training qualification a few years ago which really grew my knowledge and helped me manage by nutrition and fitness. My role as Wellbeing Lead in The Insolvency Service is important to spread the word about mental health and wellbeing and I love helping people, so they don’t have to deal with the same demons as I have.

I feel I am lucky to work in the Insolvency Service and the Civil Service and my job enables me to have a great work life balance and get out walking before work, after work and even during my lunch – this has been so important in the last year and I have been able to manage my mental health with my exercise and nutrition – the ability to do home cooking during breaks has been also been very helpful.

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