Holly Monaco drops body fat 30 percent without losing muscle

Holly Monaco dropped 30 percent of her body fat without losing an ounce of muscle. BY CHRIS ANTONIO
March 29, 2014

If you're one of the many people who frequent the Big Fish restaurant, you may stumble across Holly Monaco, director of operations for the Big Fish group’s collection of popular eateries including Big Fish, Salt Air and the Summer House. Holly is a permanent fixture monitoring the daily operations of this popular restaurant chain, but if you haven’t seen her lately, you may have to take a second look, because she’s a fraction of the person she used to be.

Holly contacted us a few months ago with the goal of getting into the best shape of her life by her 36th birthday. She said she wanted to see how far she could go, so we tested her in the Bod Pod to measure her current fitness level and set a goal for her March 7 finish date. Holly came in at 26.1 percent body fat, but immediately determined her goal would be to get to the ultra-lean category of 15 to 18.2 percent. Just to be clear, this would mean she would have to drop 30 percent of her existing body fat and put her in the company of professional athletes and extremely fit women. It would be quite an accomplishment, especially since we have only tested a handful of women who have reached this level of fitness.

By the time the 12 weeks were over, Holly had reached her goal and reduced her body fat to 18 percent, lost a total of 14.5 pounds and completely transformed her body. What’s most impressive about her transformation is the 14.5 pounds she lost was 100 percent fat, and she didn’t lose an ounce of muscle during this entire process. This is very uncommon and is a testament to how hard she worked, but to do this she had to be very disciplined. Since so many women struggle to get in shape, I thought it might be motivational to ask Holly a few questions about how she transformed her body.

What was the hardest thing about the program?

The hardest part was trusting in the program, learning that I could get more out of doing less. I had been used to going to the gym every day, and I thought that was the way I was going to get in shape, but we started with only three days a week, and I ended up getting better results by doing things correctly and increasing the workout difficulty over time to challenge my body.

What was the biggest lifestyle change?

Preparing the meals was definitely the hardest part. Every day I had to figure out what I was going to eat, and it was hard because I work in a restaurant business where my schedule is hectic. I was also surprised by how much I had to eat. I had been eating less before I started the program, and who would have ever guessed that eating more would wake up my metabolism and help me lose weight.

What was the most important thing you learned during the program?

That cardio is only a piece of the puzzle, and weightlifting will change your body quickly. Before, I only ran, but the strength training was new for me, and I definitely think that combining proper weight training and paying particular attention to what I was eating were huge for me.

What advice would you give others?

Women should not be afraid to lift weights. It was a game-changer for me. In fact, I believe it was the weight training that took me to the next level and helped me get the results I wanted. Also, you have to stay focused and work hard or you will be wasting your time and will never achieve your goals.

When most people think of transformations, they picture someone who lost a lot of weight, but it’s also difficult for those trying to get to the next level. Holly achieved that goal by dropping 14.5 pounds and 30 percent of the body fat she had on her frame without losing an ounce of muscle. She did a great job, and if you see her you will immediately notice the bounce in her step and her new tight body. Congratulations, Holly!

  • Chris Antonio is a personal trainer and former world-class weightlifter. He has been lifting for more than 20 years and has trained a wide variety of clients ranging from All-American athletes to the average person trying to get into shape. To send a question to the Ask the Trainer column, email Chris at or check out

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