How I Got This Body: Getting Hooked on CrossFit, Prepping Homemade Meals, and Listening to a Lot of Kelly Clarkson

All photographs courtesy of Kathy Novak.

Want to be featured in How I Got This Body? Whether you lost weight or gained it, got toned or gained muscle, I want to hear from you! Email Mimi Montgomery at

Who: Kathy Novak, 34, Department of Defense employee
Lives: Annapolis
Pounds lost:
“[I] weighed nearly 400 pounds at the age of 19. Honestly, I don’t weigh myself nearly as much as I used to. If I had to take a guess, based on composition, I’d say [I weigh around] 185-190 [pounds].”
How long it took:
“There isn’t really a time stamp for me, as this has become a lifestyle. [But] I started giving myself a chance to follow through [with fitness] at age 19, so about 15 years.”

Turning point:

“I was stubborn [when it came to losing weight]. It had to be when I was ‘ready,’ which I’ve learned is really never. It was more about being on my terms—I didn’t want to do it for anyone else. [But ultimately,] the concern from my family was enough. I met with the nurse practitioner, and she gave me a list of foods I could choose from. No measurements, just a ‘this-instead-of-that’ sort of deal. I changed just my eating, and in three weeks had lost 34 pounds. Sure, it was water weight initially. But seeing progress in such a short period of time—that was important. That, for me, meant I was really capable of this. From there, I thought wow, I wonder what would happen if I started exercising? So I set a goal to lose 50 pounds by my 20th birthday. My best guy friend Daniel and I started going to the Drill Hall every day.”


“The Drill Hall was the perfect place to start. I would put Kelly Clarkson’s Breakaway album on and hit the treadmill. I would walk for the whole album, and after a few weeks, I increased the speed, then the incline. Some days were more difficult than others, of course, but I showed up every day. Some days, I got through those 45-to-50 minutes by spelling out every word on the TV in the captions. Backwards, forwards—whatever it took to get my mind off [it] and through it. I followed that up with weights. Looking back now, I had some idea of what I was doing, but not really. At that time, it didn’t matter. I was moving.

“After several months of this routine, it was time to move to St. Augustine, Florida [for college]. After a couple of years, I was not feeling like I used to after leaving the gym. I had also yo-yo’d in weight, gaining 45-to-50 pounds, losing it, gaining 20-to-30 pounds, losing it. I was working so hard and knew I had to do something else. I ran into a friend and he said that I needed to try CrossFit—it had changed his life. The next day I started a whole new life thanks to CrossFit. I showed up every day, sometimes two times a day. After a few months, I competed in my first of many CrossFit competitions.” 


“Starting CrossFit also [meant I] started nine-week-long Paleo challenges. The challenges quickly evolved into lifestyle changes. My Paleo is not what people envision Paleo as—I’m not downing mass amounts of bacon, steak, and almond butter. The primary focus is eating clean and as unprocessed as possible: lots of veggies and protein. I joined a nutrition team, Working Against Gravity. It is a program focused on intake, but not calorically. [It focuses on] the right amount of macronutrients tailored to your fitness goals and regimens.”

How she stuck with it:

“My family and friends, [as well as] the people [I met who became] inspired by my story and started to give themselves chances, all because they saw through me that change is possible. To think that if I ever gave up, I’d be letting so many people beyond myself down. I never wanted to be in a place of just doing something [because of how it] looked to someone else. Lifestyle changes, no matter what they’re for, have to be because you believe in them, because they inspire you to be better. We are here for a purpose much bigger than ourselves.”

Favorite splurge:

“Honestly, after I changed the way I ate, I really grew to be excited about the food choices I was making every day. Food was more than taste, it was fuel for my performance. Having a great homemade meal or trying a new recipe is a splurge for me. I’ve learned to appreciate the process and the patience that accompanies prepping good, healthy meals.”

Changes to her “invisible” health: 

“I have always been fairly confident and outspoken, but the mental grit that has grown through this process has allowed me to flourish in so many other areas. I believe that being underestimated had a direct impact on my professional and personal development. As I pushed myself in my workouts, I was finding it easier to push myself at work, to be more forward and confident in what I said and did. I stopped second guessing my abilities beyond just what I was doing at the gym. I started telling myself I could and quit letting the reasons why I shouldn’t try take over.”

Newfound body love:

“I didn’t like how I thought about myself—not physically, but my abilities. I love that I’ve been capable of making the most important change of all: I’ve changed my mind and thought processes in so many ways. I’m so thankful for the peace of mind I have now, the resilient mindset that this lifestyle has brought to my life, and the ability to see the opportunity and path forward, no matter what. There are only as many limits as you set for yourself. When you envision your capabilities being limitless, no matter what is going on, [and] see the silver lining in everything—life is great. I’m thankful to be living it as fully as possible.”

Advice for those looking to make a change:

“You have to be willing to give yourself the chance to be uncomfortable and to fight for it. Find something you enjoy every day [and] that you’ll look forward to. The minute it feels like an obligation, you will resent the process and, to be honest, you probably will quit. Once you commit to a routine like this—making sure you don’t make excuses for yourself, working out no matter what, making the better choices—it’s more natural. It’s all about choices.”

Mimi Montgomery Washingtonian
Home & Features Editor

Mimi Montgomery joined Washingtonian in 2018. She’s written for The Washington Post, Garden & Gun, Outside Magazine, Washington City Paper, DCist, and PoPVille. Originally from North Carolina, she now lives in Del Ray.