Athletes & Celebrities

How Bodybuilding and a Healthy Diet Are Helping Figure Competitor Judy Weichman Battle Multiple Sclerosis

A devastating diagnosis became the catalyst to helping this IFBB pro live a healthier lifestyle.

IFBB Pro Judy Weichman
Steven Smith: Courtesy of Judy Weichman

Twelve years ago, Judy Weichman started to experience light-headedness, dizziness, and sporadic numbness in her arms and legs. Doctors found two lesions located in her brain and on her spine. At age 38, Weichman was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. A neurologist at Mayo Clinic suggested that since the disease was still in its early stages, instead of starting on the typical MS medication she should overhaul her diet and start working out. If they didn’t get a handle on the illness, he warned, she could be faced with a future in a wheelchair. The mother of three boys refused to believe this would be her outcome.

Before being diagnosed 10 years ago, the Illinois native didn’t pay much attention to her diet. “I had the nickname Junk-Food Judy in college because I basically ate whatever I wanted, which included a lot of sweets,” Weichman says. However, this life-altering diagnosis changed that. She immediately bought The Multiple Sclerosis Diet Book and joined a gym the next day. Her diet overhaul meant cutting out sugar and carbs, and adding in healthy whole foods such as chicken, zucchini bran muffins, homemade protein cookies, and polyunsaturated fats like sunflower-seed oil. Replacing processed carbs and sugar with cleaner alternatives helped reduce the inflammation in her body. Within a few months she started to notice a decrease in her symptoms. A year later, a visit to her neurologist revealed that her MS was not progressing.

Joining a gym allowed Weichman to find her love of lifting. Soon after she began hitting the gym she met a figure competitor named Chaundra Tangi, who encouraged her to try a fitness competition. Weichman took part in her first show in November 2007 and placed first in her figure division. Nine years later, she is still a fierce NPC figure competitor who has managed to collect 35 trophies. Last July, she earned her IFBB pro card.

Her favorite moves include deadlifts, one-arm rows, walking lunges, inverted legs presses, dumbbell lateral raises, and Arnold presses.

Weichman attributes her success in bodybuilding to consistency. Even when workouts are affected by symptoms that include being light-headed, easily tired, and experiencing numbness in her feet, her clean-eating habits never falter. The 48-year-old is planning on competing in the Tampa Pro in August. “I feel like I’m my own science experiment,” says Weichman. “Each show is different, and you see what you need to work on for the next competition, giving you something to work toward."

“I’m as motivated now as I was 10 years ago,” adds Weichman. Part of this is because she knows what's at stake health-wise, and what she has to lose, but she also attributes it to her inner drive. Being a working mom and a figure competitor who is battling MS may sound daunting, but Weichman says she manages to keep the various aspects of her life in balance. “When I meal prep I always make a lot of extra. For example, instead of baking six sweet potatoes, I’ll make 15 and then freeze the extra and use them to fill in gaps later on.” Weichman also talks about having to prioritize. “You find time for what’s important to you. For me, it’s taking care of my three boys, my health, and my job.” Ten years since the diagnosis, her lesions haven’t grown, which makes her grateful to know that the lifestyle changes she’s worked so hard to maintain have had a lasting effect on her health.

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