More than dieting and exercise: How Maryemma made a lifestyle change

MAKING LIFESTYLE CHANGES that result in a healthier weight is never easy to do. Many who are overweight or obese will only decide to do something about it once they have a health scare or develop one of the numerous associated health problems. Such was the case for Maryemma Bachelder, the director of marketing for Lake Wales Medical Center.

She explains that, in 2011, “I weighed 214 pounds, had been on blood pressure medications for 14 years, wore a size 16 and all my clothes were getting tighter.” Then one day, while looking at a Body Mass Index chart, she realized that at her height of 5’ 11’’ just one more pound would put her in the “Obese” category. “That was my “a-ha” moment,” she shares. “Somehow, I was OK with being ‘overweight,’ but I was not going to be ‘obese.’ I decided it was time for a change.” And, change she did.


The overweight and obesity issue has reached epidemic proportions in the U.S. and Florida. According to, approximately 64 percent of Floridians are at an unhealthy weight. County-wise, the numbers are even more severe. According to Florida CHARTS, a resource tool offered by FDOH, in 2013, 71.5 percent of adults were overweight or obese in Polk County, 73.3 percent were such in Highlands County; in Hillsborough County it was 67.4 percent; and in Hardee County, 69 percent of adults fell into the overweight or obese category.

As “the number one public health threat to Florida’s future,” being overweight comes with a slew of chronic health issues, such as Type II diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. For Maryemma, it was high blood pressure and the sluggishness that comes with an unhealthy diet.

The decision to reach a healthier weight due to bad health news isn’t uncommon. “People get interested in their diets primarily after they develop a problem and it becomes important to live a healthier lifestyle,” maintains Dr. Thomas McMicken, a family medicine specialist at Watson Clinic in Bartow, and a Polk County Medical Association member. With Watson Clinic since 1986 and practicing for 48 years, he’s seen a lot of patients looking to lose weight, but he shares, “There’s more interest now in healthy living, because there’s been more emphasis on that. Patients are more prone to ask questions about diet and nutrition than they used to be.”

Dr. McMicken is happy to share the virtues of lifestyle changes, which include a healthy diet and daily exercise, but he points out that it’s harder to eat healthy than not. Maryemma Bachelder is living proof of the changes that can occur, and her story offers some guidelines for everyone on the cusp of their own journey to change their lifestyle for the better.


Your life’s habits have been in place for years. If you try to change them all at once, then you’ll likely be back to your unhealthy ways in no time. “When I first started, my only rule was that half my plate every meal had to be vegetables, and I had to eat them first. I slowly added on other things,” Maryemma shares. She added in walking a treadmill at the gym a couple times a week, and continued to ramp it up, adding in jogging and other intense exercise. She watched the pounds drop, and she ran her first 5K— a once “insurmountable goal.”

“By the end of the year, I was down to a size 12 and was training for sprint distance triathlons,” she recalls. Despite feeling great, she wasn’t done yet.


Making changes and shedding pounds are great, but Maryemma will tell you that you also need support to keep it up. “Without a doubt, my husband, Jeff, and son, Colton, have been my biggest supporters,” she says. However, it was support of another kind that also helped her continue her lifestyle changes. She joined Tiger’s World, a boxing fitness gym in Winter Haven.

“The single-most important choice I made that contributed to my success was getting actively involved at Tiger’s World, where I had the encouragement and support to keep going,” Maryemma explains. There, she started to work out with personal trainer Renatta Burke. Maryemma maintains that Renatta “helped me start building lean muscle mass and develop the tone that I want. We meet at 4:45 a.m. two mornings a week. She pushes me hard and accepts no excuses.”


Maryemma asserts that she developed self-discipline at Tiger’s World, allowing her to reach “levels of fitness I never imagined I could reach.” Fitness instructor and personal trainer Renatta says, “It is such an honor to work with her … she’s never said ‘I Can’t Do This’ … ”

Renatta knows the struggle herself. “Once upon a time, I was a few pounds away from weighing 300 pounds. If it wasn’t for my personal trainer, Mr. Berto, believing, pushing, guiding, molding, and slowly molding me into who I am today, I don’t know where I would be.” It inspired Renatta to become a personal trainer to help those like herself.

Maryemma might have started out slowly, but she has achieved a great deal. She’s run several half marathons and even won the 2015 Lifestyle Change Award from the American Heart Association. Her most recent stats are amazing: size 4, 152 pounds. Even better, she no longer has to take her blood pressure medications.


While getting to a healthy weight is hard work, Maryemma’s last piece of advice is about fun. For exercise, she says, “Find activities you like to do, and do them. If exercise is drudgery, you’ll come up with excuses to skip it. If it’s fun, you’ll look forward to it.” Adding to that sentiment, Dr. McMicken observers, “The character of the American lifestyle — a lot of people are busy; they’re tired. You have to make it a priority if you’re going to make time for exercise. You have to make an effort for healthy living, for healthy eating. It requires more trips to the grocery store to eat healthy.”

“I’d also encourage people to join something like the Tiger’s World Boot Camp or the 12-week Challenge,” Maryemma adds. “It’s a great way to kick-start your fitness journey, under the guidance of professionals.” Tiger’s World offers two transformational challenges per year, and a New Year’s Boot Camp to stick to those resolutions starts January 9.

Other ways to keep motivation going is to exercise with someone who has similar goals, as well as share your goals with your family physician and specialist. Your medical-care providers can help encourage and guide you through the process of a lifestyle change that ultimately will lead you to shedding the unwanted pounds, improving your eating habits, and — most importantly — having a better quality of life with more energy and fewer health problems.


portrait photo by PEZZIMENTI

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