Inspired by her late mother, young Michaella Starratt got herself down to a healthy weight. Now the Health Studies Specialist student wants to help others do the same through fitness and nutrition.

Michaella Starratt has not let her young age limit her ambitions.

At age 15, Michaella found herself in the midst of a difficult period. It had started with the death of her mother four years earlier and eventually culminated with her older brother going away to school. Despite an active childhood,  Michaella had become overweight and felt dissatisfied with herself and her life. One day, she borrowed her sister’s iPad and her late mother’s yoga mat, locked herself in her bedroom and began doing all kinds of bodyweight circuit workouts that she’d found online.

“What many people don’t realize is that teenagers actually have a hard time joining a gym, because many of them have age restrictions. And I found the idea of stepping in a gym too intimidating anyway, so I worked out at home by myself. I had my fair share of mistakes, just following online programs, but in the end, I learned lots,” says Michaella.

Bodyweight circuit workouts were soon complemented by jogs around her neighbourhood. Her consistency and hard work paid off: by the time Michaella started school at U of T and began working out at Hart House, she’d already lost 50 pounds.

She was just getting started. Having taken up bodybuilding and powerlifting, Michaella competed in the U of T Ironsports Club (UTIS) Powerlifting meet in April 2016, then entered a bikini competition in May of that same year. Today, she’s s a Strength and Conditioning Supervisor at Hart House and a fledging social media fitness figure.

“I began my YouTube channel in 2011 but started making videos consistently in 2015. I also post a lot to Instagram. I want to help out as many people as possible, and social media helps me do that. Plus, when a friend or acquaintance asks for a tip, it’s easier to point them to a previous video,” she says.

Michaella’s fitness and health journey hasn’t been without bumps. But she’s committed to it for life. At the root of her journey lies a powerful message, laden with the most personal meaning and forever etched, literally, into her skin; her arm tattoo reminds her, in her mom’s handwriting, to create the life you want to live.

“My mom was my rockstar. She was my number one supporter. She passed away much too soon, when she was 46 and I was 11. But she did have time to do something very important,” says Michaella.

“She taught me that you can actually create the life you want to live. First, you have to decide for yourself what that life would look like, and then you have to work hard to create it. It’s empowering but requires accountability. You have to be the one to do the work.”

“The way everyone talked about mom at the funeral was amazing. She had an impact on so many people. If only I could have half of the positive impact she had on other people—that’s my life goal, to look back at the end of my life and know I was a part of something bigger than me. My mom’s life was cut short, so I want to take her philosophy and her messages and spread them far and wide, her philosophy of believing in yourself, self-love, positive energy, taking care of yourself, working hard and being all you can be.”

Health and fitness tips you can use today

Start with baby steps

It took Michaella a while before she could muster the courage to start running outside.

“When you’re overweight, all you can think is, what if everyone will be looking at me? What if I get too tired and have to stop and people are driving by and see this overweight girl who can’t run anymore? You feel very vulnerable.”

Her solution? To run for just 10 minutes. When that became comfortable for her, she’d run a little longer. In other words, Michaella devised a plan before she took a plunge, one that had her start with baby steps.

Implement it at Hart House

Book a session with one of our personal trainers and ask for their help in designing a realistic plan that is just right for you.

Look at the big picture

“Fitness and health aren’t the same. If you want to be healthy, you have to look at the big picture. Take care of yourself mentally and spiritually too. Always listen to your body,” says Michaella.

Implement it at Hart House

We take pride in our holistic approach to health. Don’t just work out, whether you do yoga, learn to meditate, or relax with a board game or a crafts session, you’re still boosting your overall health.

Don’t go too far

During her introduction to the bodybuilding world, Michaella became overly strict with her diet. Eventually, she noticed eating disorders were prominent in the bodybuilding world. “It made me focus on health in an unhealthy way. Fitness should enhance your life, not take away from it.”

Implement it at Hart House

Participate in our free weekly nutrition talk tailored to the student experience. Indulge in a healthy 5-Buck Lunch and get free recipes or sign up for our new weight management class. Visit Wellness at Hart House for a list of healthy activities.