“Exercising and eating healthy is a decision I make every single day. For me to lose the weight I needed to lose, it was more than just the food I ate or exercising a few times a week. I committed to changing my lifestyle,” Rekeita* shared.
* Her real name, used with permission.
“I’ve been a big girl all my life. All my clothes as an adolescent all the way through my early thirties have been plus-size,” Rekeita shared.
I knew Rekeita when she was in high school as she was one of my students. I reflected back on those years and agreed with her when she said the other students would pick on her because of her weight. I also remember she would lash out at them for their harsh words and then get in trouble as a result.
“I attribute my extra weight throughout my life to family dynamics. I was always told to clean my plate. In fact, I had extended family members tell me I needed to put meat on my bones. I don’t remember ever eating healthy food.”
Up until the last few years, Rekeita’s weight didn’t bother her as she has been told hundreds of times that she is beautiful and just big-boned.
In 2015, Rekeita weighed 327 pounds. She was eating whatever she wanted without the first thought of exercising. The vitamins and fat-burners she was taking offset her unhealthy eating habits temporarily, allowing her to lose 52 pounds.
“I mostly ate fried foods, candy, sweets, lots of starches, breads, and sodas. I hardly ever drank water or ate vegetables without all the sauces/salt. Instead, I would eat large amounts of food at every meal to the point of being stuffed.”
Frustrated again with her weight, she began walking in 2016, but she didn’t change her diet. Because she only lost an additional 10 pounds, she reverted back to her old habits.
In desperation, she saw a gastric bypass specialist to talk about whether or not he would recommend her for surgery. The doctor confirmed her fears: “You aren’t going to live past 55 with all this weight.”
After discussing the costs, he sent her to a nutrition class. “I discussed the surgery with my parents. After they shared horrific stories of bypass surgery going wrong, they expressed their opposition to the surgery. My mom and dad encouraged me to lose the weight on my own.”
She left their house knowing she had some weighty decisions to make. Discouragement crept in as she realized she wouldn’t have medical help and would be responsible for doing it all on her own.
A monumental turning point happened early in 2017. “At a family gathering, I saw family members with extra weight who had high cholesterol and congestive heart failure. I took a good look at myself and came to the hard realization that I looked like my family. And diabetes also runs rampant in my family because of their weight. My uncle had a leg amputated, lost eyesight in one eye, and was on dialysis before passing away due to diabetes. I was heading in that direction if I didn’t make some major changes,” Rekeita shared.
In addition to the fear of serious health issues, Rekeita had other motivations to make changes. “I was 33 years old, unmarried, and didn’t have any kids. I wanted a mate and children. Being healthy would likely make me more appealing to a man and in better shape to have children.”
In March of 2017, at 275 pounds, Rekeita drew a line in the sand by making a commitment to be more health conscious and to take exercising seriously.
“I started with jogging a mile. Each time I jogged, I told myself by changing my lifestyle I WOULD lose weight by exercising and eating the right foods. I wanted those thoughts seared in my mind. Over time, I picked up my pace, challenging myself to go faster and longer.”
Rekeita believes mindset is a powerful thing. “I learned that once my mind is set, I can do anything.”
Instead of choosing a diet to be followed, she decided her new way of eating would be a lifestyle. Her food choices changed drastically: grilled chicken and fish, fresh vegetables, egg whites, yogurt, oatmeal, lots of water, and a big reduction in breads and starches. She began snacking on apples with peanut butter, rice cakes, and light popcorn.
As weight began falling off, her friends and family noticed the changes and encouraged her hard work. “My clothes were getting too big, which motivated me even more. I began running every single day, sometimes even doing two workouts a day.”
She didn’t plan on losing as much weight as she was losing, but her weight loss improved her endurance, energy, and quality of sleep. So, she decided to set a goal to reach her desired weight of 175 pounds according to her height of 5’10”.
Rekeita discovered temptation is everywhere, but keeping her bigger goal in mind helps her to stay disciplined. When she eats out at a restaurant, she’s aware it’s tempting to order unhealthy food as the healthy choices on the menu are often limited. As much as she might want the loaded nachos, she orders a salad with grilled chicken instead.
As far as exercising is concerned, she prefers to exercise outdoors. She admits it’s tempting to skip a day when it’s cold or raining. Running on the treadmill or using exercise bands indoors allows her to get in her daily exercise and stick to her healthy living commitment.
As of today, Rekeita has lost 87 pounds. She is 13 pounds away from reaching her goal weight. HOW INCREDIBLE IS THAT?!!
This almost year-long weight loss journey has taught her nothing comes easy. “If there’s something you want – losing weight in my case – you gotta make it happen. Your hard work will pay off. Never give up on your dreams.”
She went on to say, “You’re going to have naysayers who don’t believe you can do it. Don’t listen to them. I had a friend who was smaller than me when I started my journey. When I surpassed her weight, her attitude toward me changed. She’d talk to others in the room, but not even acknowledge me. Sadly, that friendship ended.”
The hurt from this broken relationship could have pushed her off-track, but Rekeita is determined to overcome her weight struggles. She says, “Overcoming is choosing not to believe the limits others place upon you; instead, it is choosing your own destiny.”
Rekeita’s resolve about maintaining her goal weight stems from NEVER wanting to go back to that unhealthy weight. When she replied “Why would I want to go back to being large and unhealthy?” in her characteristic high school sass, I knew the chances of her being overweight again are slim to none.
Her dreams of finding Mr. Right and having children will keep her motivated. Not only do I believe those dreams will come true, I know her journey is and will continue to inspire and motivate others.