MacKenzie Walker has started a business, amassed nearly 60,000 Instagram followers and written book.
She is only 15-years-old.
While all of those accomplishments are impressive, one other accomplishment has shadowed the others in her life.
She has lost and kept off 100 pounds.
“She never misses the gym,” her dad, Scott Walker, said. “If I say, ‘I want ice cream,’ she said, ‘Dad, I don’t have the (macronutrients) for that.’ She won’t cheat on her diet.”
Now, she dreams of being Ms. Olympia, the world’s best female bodybuilder.
As a child, she says she spent most of her time in the basement, looking at YouTube videos, eating hot dogs, fries and drinking soda by the pack.
“I ate a whole pizza in a night,” she recalled. “I didn’t know the feeling of being full.”
Entering fifth grade, MacKenzie weighed 170 pounds.
By the time eighth grade rolled around, she had reached 223 pounds.
She says she would occasionally attempt a diet, but would then quit.
In March of 2013, MacKenzie went shopping for her eighth grade graduation dress. She looked for size 16 dresses, but after she tried a few on, the salesclerk directed her to another store. She walked out with a size 22 dress.
“That was where my heart just kind of sank,” she said. “Thoughts started rolling in about dying, of not waking up one morning.”
She went home and swore she was going on a diet, but again failed to follow through.
After a few weeks in high school, she says she had enough.
Her dad had signed up for gastric bypass surgery and MacKenzie decided that she would match his weight loss by going on a diet of her own.
On September 24, 2013, she sat her dad down and told him, “This is it. I am doing this one last time. Please don’t let me quit.”
The myth of the ‘after’ picture
She says it was almost easy to lose the first 45 pounds. She simply stopped eating after 7 p.m., prepared healthy meals and jogged every night around a local park.
When she signed up for Instagram, she followed bodybuilders and discovered the Insanity fitness program.
She learned from fellow Instagrammers that she wasn’t eating enough and was doing too much cardio, so she increased her caloric intake and began lifting weights.
She tried a low-carb diet, carb-cycling and clean eating, then finally started counting macronutrients, the eating plan she follows today.
By March 2014, she had lost 70 pounds. But her dream “after” photo remained elusive.
After losing the weight, she had loose skin hanging from her stomach. Despite pushing herself harder at the gym, she was experiencing back pain from having her center of gravity constantly pulled forward.
MacKenzie began begging plastic surgeons for help, but was denied because of her age.
Fortunately, Dr. Anthony Youn took notice when he read her email.
“She wasn’t asking for a Barbie doll body,” he said. “She told me what she wanted to lose — and it was all the signs of her previous life, the life before she took as good care of herself as she is now.”
Youn scheduled a consultation with MacKenzie and her father at his office in Troy, Michigan. He was impressed by the research they’d done and agreed to perform the surgery at the end of July. The only problem: It would cost the Walkers close to $9,000.
“How do we afford that?” Scott Walker remembered thinking. “We’re an average working family. I’m a single parent, and to afford a surgery that expensive … I didn’t know how I would come up with the funding.”
True to form, MacKenzie didn’t let that stop her. She set up a GoFundMe page online and asked her Instagram followers for help. Then she turned to her coach, Chris Jones, aka Beastmode Jones, who is well-known in the online fitness world. Close to 700,000 people subscribe to his YouTube channel, which features video tutorials for bodybuilders and his clients. Jones posted a video asking for help for MacKenzie. In less than two months, MacKenzie had the funds she needed.
Strong family bonds
MacKenzie’s Instagram feed is full of selfies — MacKenzie posing in the mirror at the gym; MacKenzie showing off her muscles; MacKenzie’s before and after shots. If the likes and comments on her posts are any indication, her followers love it. In January, she published a 30-page e-book about her weight loss journey, which she sold for $13 on her website.
She used the money she earned from the book sales to take her dad to Disney World for his 50th birthday. “(The book) did really well,” she said modestly, shrugging her shoulders.
The father-daughter duo are incredibly close. Scott Walker went through his own weight loss journey after gastric bypass surgery, going from 276 pounds to 160. They support each other, each making sure the other never veers too far off track. Scott manages MacKenzie’s website, where she interacts with her clients. She typically has around 50 for whom she provides weekly training and eating plans.
“I’m extremely glad that I had this surgery,” MacKenzie said gleefully. “I can finally pull off that transformation that I’ve wanted to do for so long.”