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Gisela Villanueva, Senior HR Systems Analyst. Pearland Administrative Offices Building


A medical diagnosis caused Gisela to re-evaluate how she ate and how she exercised. Less cardio and more strength training helped her feel better, and she kicked up her regimen by learning kung fu! She also incorporated reverse dieting into her lifestyle, and two years after her diagnosis she is 30 pounds lighter, energized, and still able to eat the home-cooked meals she enjoys.


What prompted your health journey?

For the majority of my adult life, I’ve tried to be active and healthy. But what triggered me to get serious about it was being diagnosed with a health issue called Premature Ovary Insufficiency (POI) last year. The condition caused me to go through physical and emotional changes that I was not mentally ready for! I gained weight … I could see my muscle mass diminish … and I had other side effects and hormonal changes. I wanted to get ahead of this condition, so I talked with my doctor about how to do so.


What changes did you make after speaking with your doctor?

I’d focused on cardio exercising my whole life, but I shifted my focus to strength training. I lift more weight and do fewer repetitions. I used to go to a gym, but when the pandemic started, I decided to invest in my own equipment and created a home gym. It’s great! I went from doing online programs to working one on one with a coach weekly.


What other forms of exercise do you enjoy?

My son takes kung fu, so I started to learn that with him. We both have our blue-striped belt, and we want to continue with it and earn our black belts! We used to take those classes three times a week and hope to go back soon when it’s safe to do so.


Did you change your diet or eating habits once you received your diagnosis?

Definitely. Previously, like most people, I was focused on losing weight and fell into a bit of yo-yo dieting. But now, with POI, I want to gain muscle to protect my bones. The hormonal changes with POI can cause them to break more easily. I focused on reverse dieting, which is a strategy that increases the number of calories that I eat while simultaneously trying to build lean muscle mass.


How does reverse dieting work?

Well, I started at a caloric deficit and slowly increased the number of calories I consumed over time. I also did minimal cardio exercises. This causes my body’s metabolism to speed up. At the same time, strength training is helping to build lean muscle. It’s a bit complex, but for me, it made me healthier and feel better. The idea is for me to maintain this lifestyle. I wanted to make everlasting changes that result in everlasting habits. In the process, I lost 30 pounds!


What types of foods do you eat with this type of program?

No foods are off-limits! It’s a macro-based approach, so it is ideal that you stay within your specific parameters with regard to how much sugar, sodium, and fiber you consume. So, I can eat a donut – but that just means for the rest of the day I have to be smart about what I eat.


Do you meal prep or do other things to help you stay on track?

Yes – every weekend my husband and I spend a couple of hours meal prepping lunch and dinner. By the end of meal prep, we have our containers with our protein, carbs, veggies, fats … everything all put together.


How has your team at Kelsey-Seybold supported you?

I have a wonderful team at work, and without their support, I could not have coped with POI. Their support helped me make these adjustments so that I can live this healthier lifestyle. Kelsey-Seybold helps me be the best version of myself.