Body Transformation: Johanna Chesser Body Transformation

Lifestyle Prior To Change

I was a couch potato. I thought because I was a school teacher and I was on my feet most of the day I was physically active. After work I would go home sit on the couch and eat Doritos and chocolate and diet soda. I suffer from depression and social anxiety. I was depressed because I was fat and I thought I was ugly. If thought I was fat and ugly I could only imagine how other people saw me. So I hid inside only going out when it was necessary. I would go for the occasional walk around the park just so I can say I exercised but deep down I knew that wasn’t going to cut it if I wanted lose weight. 

What was your low point or turning point?

I had two major things that happened to me that made me change. One I the stress of my job was causing me to have chest pains and shortness of breath. Initially I thought it was just symptoms of panic attack (which I had often). The chest pains and shortness of breath got worse so I went to see the cardiologist. I found out I have a minor heart condition called mitro valve prolapse. On top of that my depression got so bad I tried to commit suicide. I simply wasn’t happy with life any more. With guidance from my doctors and finding God, I was able to pull myself together and change my lifestyle so I could be happy and healthy again.

Johanna Chesser figure competitorWere there any unique challenges or circumstances that made your transformation particularly difficult?

Having mitro valve prolapse I have shortness of breath and heart palpitations. Cardio was very difficult to do when I first began my transformation. I could get on the treadmill for only 15 to 20 minutes. My cardiologist advised me to keep doing cardio to keep my heart strong. I have my occasions where I have to ease up on the intensity. I am very careful and I know my limits.

Transformation timeline:

  • Transformation Start: July 2008 I walked into my local gym to cancel my membership. I was frustrated fat depressed and tired of trying to be skinny. It seem like no matter what I did I couldn’t lose weight! I was convinced by the gym staff not to give up and to train for 30 days and change my diet for 30 days. I did it and I decided to keep going.  
  • Milestone: 6 months into my training. A trainer at our local gym began to notice and admire my hard work. He offered me a few free personal training sessions. Initially I wanted to just tone up and lose weight. After several conversations and talking to my trainer I decided to hire him to help me drop the remaining pounds and tone up. Hiring a trainer someone who has knowledge was a huge part of my success.  
  • Milestone: 9 months into training I reached my personal goal of 150lbs I still wasn’t happy. My trainer started to notice I was putting on muscle on my upper body. He told me I should consider training for a “figure show”. I told him no because of my ignorance and lack of knowledge of the sport. I was thinking huge muscles and I would lose my feminine look. My trainer assured that would not happen and could not happen to a woman’s body naturally. So I accepted his challenge and started training to compete in my first figure show.  
  • Milestone: One year into my training I received special recognition from our local Anytime Fitness. I was chosen Anytime Fitness member of the year and was given a 6 month free membership. To many this would be considered irrelevant for me this was huge because this was the first time someone had acknowledged and recognized my hard work.  
  • Milestone: August 2009 after training for over a year I finally began to see my body make that change! The first time I saw a muscle in my quad I cried! I never thought in a million years I could add muscle to my legs. I also broke out of the 150’s something I had never done before. I would always get to 150’s and stay there. I was told by a weight loss doctor “you can’t lose any more weight” I just refused to believe that. From August 2009 until June 2010 I got serious and trained hard kept my diet clean. Yes I had a few slip ups. I didn’t let those slip ups affect my progress when I fell off I got back up. June 2010 I diet down to 135 and 15% body fat.
  • Transformation End: June 26, 2010 after starting my journey 2 years ago only wanted to lose weight and tone up, I accomplished a major milestone. I competed in the 2010 NPC Greater Gulf States. This was a national qualifier so there were girls and guys from almost every state. I was nervous so nervous in fact I was shaking on stage! I got up there did my turns and I placed 3rd in my height class and 6th in the New Orleans Division. That was a day I will never forget. I mean I went from 172 lbs fat and out of shape to getting on stage in a 2 piece doing a figure show! 

Johanna Chesser

Johanna’s Training And Cardio Approach

What was your weight training approach and split during your transformation?

When I began my transformation I was doing mainly cardio because I was trying to burn fat and build my endurance. I went from doing only 20 minutes of cardio a day to doing 2 45 min sessions 5 days a week. Cardio was done in the morning and in the afternoon after weight training.

  • Day 1Legs. Cardio (Morning): 45 mins on Stairmaster or high incline on treadmill. Post-lifting cool down: 30 minutes of light cardio on treadmill.
  • Day 2 – Rest. 
  • Day 3Back and Biceps. Cardio (Morning): 45 minutes on high incline on treadmill.
  • Day 4Triceps and Shoulders. Cardio (Morning): 45 minutes on high incline on treadmill.
  • Day 5Legs and Calves.
  • Day 6Abs and Cardio. 45 minutes Cardio on treadmill.
  • Day 7 – Cardio 45 minutes morning and evening..

Johanna Chesser's back.Please detail your cardio approach during your transformation?

Cardio was done 2 times a day 5 days a week 45 minutes each session. I would walk on the highest incline for 25 minutes at 4.0 mph then I would do sprint intervals for the remaining 20 minutes. I would use the stairmaster also 45 minutes. I would do treadmill M-W-F, stairmaster Tuesday and Saturday (I added Sunday 12 weeks out).

Please list 3 things you learned about exercise, weight training and/or cardio during your transformation that helped you succeed:

  1. Invest in a trainer if you are not sure about what to do.
  2. Stretch before you workout.
  3. Make sure you have the proper shoes to train in. I almost injured my ankles trying to lunge with weights while wearing Reebok Easytone.

How are you currently training, and has your training changed since the completion of your transformation?

Currently I am doing cardio in the morning only. My weight training has not changed. I want to start lifting heavier that is my goal for the off season.

Johanna’s Diet And Nutrition Approach

What was your diet/nutrition approach during your transformation?

Initially I didn’t give diet a thought. I honestly thought I could eat whatever I wanted to eat because I was working out. Once I got with a trainer we cleaned up my diet. I was consuming whole foods nothing processed. I ate from all the food groups. I was allowed one cheat item every week. Closer to show time some foods had to be eliminated. 16 weeks to the show there was no cheat food period!

Can you provide us with a sample eating plan (please be specific):

  • Meal 1 – Steel cut oats, blueberries and egg white.
  • Meal 2 – Tilapia and green veggies.
  • Meal 3Protein shake and almonds.
  • Meal 4 – Chicken, tomatoes, spinach, olive oil, balsamic dressing.   
  • Meal 5Protein shake and apple or rice cake and peanut butter.
  • Meal 6 – Ground turkey, asparagus.

Were there any diet/nutrition mistakes you made that you learned from?

Yes I made mistakes. I was skipping meals because I thought it would help my progress. I thought I would get thin and lean skipping meals. I wasn’t drinking enough water. I thought water would keep me bloated. Skipping meals during the day caused me to eat too much at night and wake up at 2 am spooning peanut butter in my mouth. I am a teacher so there were plenty of opportunities to eat junk food. I thought I could skip 2 or 3 meals and pig out when there was a party then burn off the junk food doing tons of cardio. All of these mistakes probably prevented me from making more gains.

Johanna Chesser posing on a motorcycle.

Please list 3 things you learned about diet & nutrition during your transformation that helped you succeed:

  1. Exercise is not the ticket to eat whatever you want. Especially if you are trying to gain muscle and develop a lean and toned physique.
  2. Eat ever 2-3 hours and drink plenty of water to curb cravings and regulate metabolism.
  3. Always have something healthy with you so you don’t have to go to the vending machine. I keep several tubs of protein powder, rice cakes and peanut butter in my classroom. Just In case I forget something at home. I can always drink a shake. 

Did you allow yourself cheat meals?

One cheat item it was usually something sweet! I love dark chocolate and cheese and ice cream.

What supplements did you use during your transformation?

Advice For Others

Johanna Chesser with trophy.What are your best 3 tips for someone looking to make their own transformation?

  1. Transformations don’t happen overnight. I understand people who are in shape are in shape because of hard work and dedication and years of training. Don’t expect to look like Ava Cowan in 30 days. LOL.
  2. Your diet has to be on point! You have drink water.
  3. If you don’t know what you are doing hire a trainer. Invest in someone who can help you diet properly. Don’t waste your money on those infomercial products no one can build a 6 pack abs in 30 days. No one can lose 50lbs in 30 days safely.

How do you stay motivated? What advice would you give to someone who’s having trouble staying on track?

I want to continue to build on my physique. After stepping on that stage this year I know I have potential to improve and get on stage next year looking better than last year. It also feels great to walk in a store and say do you have this in a small or a size 4 :0)! My friends ask me this question all the time. I tell them if you want something bad enough you will do whatever it takes to get it. I wanted to lose weight and get in shape. Once my mind was set on doing it I did it. I think this process was and is more mental than anything. If the mind is willing the body will automatically follow. Get your mind on the right track first if that’s not right then this will not work.

More From Johanna Chesser

What is your life like now that you’ve made a transformation?

Life is great. I still take meds for my depression but I’m very happy thanks to my transformation. I’m finally beginning to accept me and my flaws. I can walk with my head held high. I couldn’t do any of that before. I’m no longer searching for happiness in a man or other people. I have to love and respect my body.

What motivates you currently to keep improving yourself?

Getting back on stage next year! My goal is to compete in 3 shows in 2011. I want place top 5 in at least 2 of them. Setting small goals first.

Anything else you would like to share?

Anyone can get into shape. You don’t have to compete to be healthy. Just know you can do anything if you work hard and put forth some effort. I tell this to my students all the time. This journey should be a positive experience if you are not happy then something has to change.  Please understand this will not happen overnight but it will happen if you want it!

How can people contact you?

…or Facebook – Johanna Chesser – I will make a profile on the site soon!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *