When Melissa Alcantara was pregnant in 2011, she was sick and constantly exhausted. Her pregnancy was so difficult that she dropped out of college and began to eat — everything from doughnuts to Philly cheesesteaks to pizza. Dessert followed every meal.
“I ate whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted,” she says. “At this point, I had just given up.”
Before the pregnancy, she weighed 130 pounds. During her pregnancy, Melissa’s weight skyrocketed to 200 pounds. After the birth, she weighed 180 pounds and felt as if every part of her body had grown wider. Her confidence plummeted. One day, Melissa’s cousin told her, “Wow, you look bad.” The comment hit hard — “It hurt me,” Melissa says — but she knew it was true.
“I wasn’t feeling good as a mom, as a woman, as anything,” she says. “I thought, ‘I can’t be sad all the time with my daughter around.’”
She made a commitment to lose the baby weight and transform her body — but she couldn’t have imagined how much it would change her life.
Sticking with it
Melissa wasn’t sure where to start. She experimented with weight loss supplements and a weight loss program, but nothing stuck. She decided to try using workout videos and couldn’t believe how hard they were.
“I thought I was going to die,” she says.
But she fought through the pain, sticking with the workouts and changing her diet. Melissa (who also goes by “Mel”) lost 40 pounds in 60 days, and her confidence returned. She landed a spot on Shaun T’s Insanity Max 30 workout program, and after filming ended, she realized that fitness was her passion. She quit her job as a producer and signed up for an amateur bodybuilding competition. Her training and dieting intensified, but the work paid off: She won in two categories.
All that work on her body also changed the way Melissa looked at life and helped her become a stronger person and mom.
“My fitness journey reminded me that, in order to love my family, I had to love myself first,” she says. “I learned that being consistent, trying challenging new things and being uncomfortable was not just part of working out, but that those were the same skills you need to succeed at anything worth your time. And loving myself has enabled me to open my heart to fully love other people—especially my little one, Bella, and my hubby, Victor.”
Excited by her progress, Melissa began sharing her workout results with the world and giving advice on fitness for moms. Today, her Instagram is a collage of photos showcasing her sculpted arms, toned legs and killer six pack. (At last count, she had more than 360,000 followers.) Some of her posts, including transformation photos that compare her post-pregnancy body with her current physique, have gone viral. In May 2017, she attracted the attention of reality star Kim Kardashian, who hired Melissa to be her trainer — and whose results have elevated Melissa’s own profile.
Like Kardashian, many who reach out to Melissa are moms hoping to recover their pre-pregnancy figures. Some are expectant moms-to-be, and Melissa enjoys corresponding with them as they progress through their pregnancies.
“Moms need to take themselves into consideration,” Melissa says. “Without kids, without a husband, without a job — I’m still a person. It’s not that you’re being selfish if you take time for yourself.”
A Gold’s Gym regular
In July 2017, Melissa and her family moved from New York to California. They live four blocks from the Gold’s Gym in Venice, her favorite place to work out. She’s there at least six days a week, where she mixes weight training, high-intensity interval training and cardio. She calls Gold’s Gym her “second home.”
When she’s not at the gym or helping other moms get back into shape, Melissa and her husband work together to build her brand. Through fitgurlmel.com, she offers a fitness program and online coaching. But as far as the future is concerned, she’s content to take things one day at a time.
“My goal is improving myself every day and having more time to spend with my family,” Melissa says. “I’m working hard now, and I enjoy everything that I do.”
Here are Melissa’s general tips for overall fitness:
- Get a program. Don’t go to the gym and walk around aimlessly — enlist the help of a trainer to guide and support you.
- Include weight training. Don’t just do cardio — you might lose weight that way, but you won’t be toned.
- Work everything. Don’t try to build up only one part of your body. You need balance.
- Hydrate. Drink at least 100 ounces of water per day.
- Eat real food. And eat! You’re not going to lose weight if you don’t eat. You’ll be in starvation mode, and your body will hold on to fat.
- Be patient. Every day that you’re working toward your goal adds up. If you want something sustainable that’s going to work for you, you need to give it time.