Originally published on intlgymnast.com:
Former gymnast Georgeanna Johnson experienced the transformation of a lifetime over the past year, and her story will air Tuesday night during ABC’s hit show “Extreme Weight Loss.”
Each episode of “Extreme Weight Loss” features a full year in the life of someone determined to shed pounds while gaining a healthy new lifestyle. Tuesday’s episode follows Johnson, who was chosen among thousands of applicants to work with celebrity trainer Chris Powell and his wife, Heidi.
Johnson’s lifetime love of gymnastics features prominently into Tuesday’s episode, as she was able to return to the mats to tumble again with encouragement from Olympic champions Nadia Comaneci, Bart Conner, Dominique Dawes, Shannon Miller and Mary Lou Retton.
Johnson competed for Southern Kentucky Gymnastics in Bowling Green in her youth and later coached at Logan County Gymnastics in Russellville, Ky., when her daughters were young.
“My gymnastics ‘career’ was a big part of my childhood,” she told IG. “I am 5’7″, so I was never going to be a high-level gymnast, but I just had a love for the sport. I spent many hours in the gym with friends, went to camps and competitions. I may never have been a super star gymnast, but like so many young girls, it was important to me. It gave me confidence, and I feel like the flexibility and agility I gained from it helped me so much this year as I tried to regain my inner athlete.”
Through the show, she was able to get back in the gym and once again experience the thrill of being a gymnast.
“Doing gymnastics again was so fun!” she said. “I had no idea what to expect and if, at 44, I could really make a go at learning my back handspring again. But, as I began with the basics, I realized I had some muscle memory and the movements began to feel natural. My body may have been heavier and older, but I loved feeling the familiar feeling of pushing into a backbend, doing cartwheels, being spotted on back handsprings.”
The year-long process for “Extreme Weight Loss” is divided into four three-month phases, each of which includes a weight-loss goal set by Powell.
“Mentally, Phase One was the hardest,” Johnson said. “We went to ‘boot camp’ for three months this year for Phase One, so being away from home was very difficult. I had never been away from my husband or daughters for any extended period of time, so being away was emotionally draining. And physically exhausting. I went from never working out to working out four to five hours a day. I missed my family terribly during that time.”
After the mental stress of Phase One, Phase Two was physically the most demanding for Johnson, she said.
“I came home for Phase Two, and that is when I began training for my six-month milestone, a gymnastics ‘meet,'” she explained. “So each day I had a two-hour workout with my trainer, an hour of cardio, and training with my gymnastics coach and some days meeting with my choreographer. So, it was very physically taxing for me. I wanted my routines to be good, and I wanted to complete the skills I had been working on, so I was really pushing myself. It was worth it, though. I had such a great time at the milestone with all the Olympic gymnasts there.”
The experience was such a life-changing event that Johnson said she now wants to focus on paying it forward and helping others. “I have had such a wonderful experience, and feel so much better about myself, that I want others to get motivated to make changes too,” she said. “I am launching a website, fitiswell.com, the night the show airs. Even though I have lost weight, staying healthy will be a lifelong journey, so I really am looking forward to sharing my journey with others, with insight about the show, recipes, exercise and diet tips. I even have a free e-book outlining the three big diet changes I made to succeed.”
The support of the Powells as coaches was “invaluable” through it all, Johnson said.
“Working with Chris and Heidi incredible,” Johnson said. “They are as nice as they seem on TV! They are truly friends and having their support makes a huge difference. Chris and Heidi could believe in me when I still had doubts and didn’t know if I could succeed. They want the best for each of us, and push us to become better. They will be lifelong friends.”