Most of us would never let anyone else treat us the way we treat ourselves. We’re much harsher and more critical than we have a right to be. In addition to the physical transformation that a fitness journey can provide, people often find that it helps them change the way they see and feel about themselves, emerging more compassionate and self-confident.
Michelle Spain, a wife and mom in Preston, Maryland, used to beat herself up about the number she saw on a scale, but with the help of the Onnit Tribe—our private Facebook support group—and the Onnit 6 Challenges, she was able to accept her body while changing it at the same time. She even quit smoking!
See the live video interview Spain did with Shane Heins, Onnit’s Director of Fitness Education, below. It’s part of our ongoing Onnit Stories series, in which we profile a person who has made an inspiring life change with Onnit in their corner. There’s also an edited transcript of the highlights, if you prefer to read.
You can stay up to date with Onnit Stories by following Onnit’s Instagram TV (IGTV), where a new one appears every other week.
Shane Heins: At what point did you start following Onnit, and when did it start playing a role in your progress?
Michelle Spain: I first heard of Onnit many years ago through Joe Rogan’s podcast. I had been ordering Onnit’s MCT Oil for my husband for years since then. Then, in 2020, we all know what happened in the world.
I wondered if I had gained weight since the pandemic began, so I stepped on a scale one day… I had gained seven and a half pounds in a month! I was like, “Oh, my goodness. I need to do something.” I checked my email a few minutes later, and there just happened to be something in there from Onnit. It said, “This is your last chance to sign up for the Onnit 6 Challenge.”
I started checking out the Onnit 6 programs on the website. I didn’t own a barbell, kettlebell, steel club, or steel mace, so I thought, “Well, Bodyweight it is.” I signed up for the Onnit 6 Bodyweight Challenge. I did the program, and, afterward, I was selected as a semi-finalist. Then, I did the next Challenge you offered after that, and I was a finalist in that one.
I learned that these Onnit 6 Challenges are about so much more than just fitness. First, you get to join the Onnit Tribe, which, I think, is like the heart of Onnit. It’s a community. What I found in the Tribe is probably the best thing on the Internet—a group of people that are loving and supportive, and who act as each other’s champions. I’ve learned so much from the people in there—everything from great recipes to great life advice. There’s no talk about politics or anything else that’s controversial, and that’s a breath of fresh air. It’s a genuinely judgment-free zone.
One thing I learned from the Tribe is that fitness is a journey and not a destination. I used to think that when I got to a certain place, when I lost 10 pounds, when I gained muscle, then I would be happy or satisfied. But that doesn’t happen. You’re always striving to improve and grow. It’s funny that stepping on the scale is what sent me to Onnit, because now I know that the scale is one of the least important parts of your fitness journey.
We had a challenge in the Tribe to write a love letter to yourself. It’s weird how difficult that is to do. But I wrote one in Sharpie, saying, “You got this bitch.” Fitness is more about the mind than the body. It’s like, once you’ve got things in your mind right, the body follows suit. It comes along for the ride.
Sometimes, by giving yourself space to do the physical, and view the physical as a vehicle for everything else, you get the ball rolling to improve lots of aspects of your life.
Yes! Another thing I learned was grace and acceptance. The kind of love and grace that we give so freely to others, why is it so hard to give that to ourselves? And that’s not to say that doing that suddenly makes everything perfect; you’re just better equipped to know how to cope and handle the sticky, icky things in life when you do.
One of the ways I cope is by working out. I love my steel mace! I used to think weight training was boring but I love the mace.
However, before you found Onnit, you were fit. You even taught yoga.
Yes, I taught yoga and a bunch of cardio classes. I didn’t like weight training, so I just told myself I’d burn more calories by doing a ton of extra cardio to get lean. But lifting heavy stuff is fun if you find a program you like.
I love what you’re saying because, traditionally, Onnit has had a mostly young male audience. But inside the company, we’ve always had a super-accepting atmosphere that welcomed all people and fitness levels. We all work out together. One of the pillar principles of the Onnit education system is Unity in Diversity. We all have various strengths, and we want to bring them together and offer a much more holistic brand of fitness.
It’s been so cool to see our audience evolve to represent more of what Onnit really is—which is you, me, him, her, them, they, and everybody.
I happen to know that you kept a “dark secret” from the people you were training before you took your first Challenge. Would you mind sharing that secret, and how going through your second Onnit 6 Challenge helped you with that?
Yeah, I was a yoga teacher and a cigarette smoker. I had gotten busted by one of my students—she caught me in my car puffing! It was super embarrassing. But by the end of my second Challenge, I was able to quit smoking. Halfway through it I was thinking, “What am I doing? I’m smarter than this.” When the lady who caught me found out I finally quit, she was more excited about it than I was.
Having all the people who support you in the Tribe was a big part of my being able to quit. And recently, I had a lady in the Tribe reach out and tell me that reading my story helped her quit cigarettes as well. It goes to show that opening up and sharing your story will affect somebody else. Not “might” affect—it will. And it may even inspire that person to be one percent better today. That small percentage of improvement is what it’s all about. I used to be under the impression that if I couldn’t go gung ho today, I might as well not do anything. But I learned that one percent, or even half a percent, if that’s all you have to give today, is totally fine—as long as you give it. That’s progress. Keep moving forward.
But you have to accept that everyone’s a human being, and we’re not all going to do what’s best all the time. I’ll give you another example of acceptance. I had a phone call with a member of the Tribe one time, and I was telling him that I don’t understand why my husband and son won’t work out with me. “Why don’t they want to do the Onnit 6 program with me? It’s great. I try to get them to do this and do that but they won’t.” And that’s when he said, “Well, there’s your problem. You’re trying to get them to do things.” He told me to use the time I work out for myself, and if my family sees it and they say, “I want to try that too,” then great. But I have to accept that it may not be right for them at the moment.
The biggest thing for me is gratitude, and being grateful is something we’re reminded of every day in the Tribe. I like to say, “EAT PIE,” which is an acronym for “Ever and always thankful; perspective is everything.” Having the attitude of gratitude opens more doors for you, in ways you can’t understand. It’s like the universe goes, “Oh, you’re thankful? Here’s more abundance for you.”
Another thing about perspective. A lot of people don’t want to videotape themselves. That was actually the first hurdle that I had to jump over in my first Challenge. I had seen all these other people posting all these great videos where they’re working out. I was like, “I want to do that.” But I was afraid. I was afraid to show myself—to show my physical body like that. So, once I got past that hurdle, there was a little piece of me that was like, “Well, hey, that wasn’t even that bad.” Everybody was super kind and really cool and supportive about it, saying, “Great video. Get it, girl. Way to go.” All these positive comments started coming in, and I thought, “Wow, I can do this.”
I feel like it’s a similar process for many people in the Tribe. They go on and type, “This is my first time posting. I’m a little nervous about posting here.” They don’t put up any pictures or videos. But once they do, they can’t stop themselves. So I want to tell people, don’t be afraid to post in the Tribe. I can understand if you don’t want to post on other Facebook pages, but the Tribe is a place where you can put it all out there.
I posted about losing my best friend. I put up a video of me working out with the mace and just sobbing at the same time. What I did when I started posting videos was I did not look at them. I’d just shoot them and then put them up. Because if I looked at the video, I’d say, “Well, there’s a little bit of jelly roll hanging out there.” Instead, I just posted. Like, whatever, it’ll be fine.
We’re running out of time, but I always like to end by asking the person what Onnit products they’ve tried and what has worked for them. So what are your favorites and go-tos? Let’s start with supplements.
My hubby has been using MCT Oil for years. For me, personally, the Cookie Dough Protein Bites.
I love the steel mace Onnit 6 but I feel like the Bodyweight program is the best one for me. It’s well-rounded. You don’t need any equipment to do it. All you need is you.
What advice would you give someone going through their first Onnit 6 program or Challenge?
Get in the Tribe. Don’t be afraid to share, because whatever you share will help someone else, and it will inevitably help you as well. If you have questions, don’t be afraid to ask them. Don’t give up. I know some days are hard, but trust me, they get easier. Self-care is not selfish.
Funny you say that, because this was a theme in our last Onnit Story: the idea of self-care versus selfishness.
They’re opposites. If you take care of yourself, you are a better partner to your wife, husband, whatever. You’re a better parent. You’re a better community member. If you are taking care of yourself, you’re going to be happier. Therefore, everyone else around you will inevitably be happier. It just blooms and blossoms, and it’s wonderful.