Five Years Ago, I Started My Health and Wellness Journey

A little over five years ago, I was a senior in college and went on a trip to Las Vegas to celebrate my 21st birthday and Christmas and I remember the exact moment I felt like my weight had gotten out of control. It wasn’t the first time my weight had been an issue (and it wouldn’t be the last). A couple of years earlier, I was prediabetic which gave me a brief scare to drop weight temporarily but didn’t scare me enough into making a permanent health change.

Instead, it was the glimpse of myself in the mirror, wearing a long-sleeve lime green shirt and a navy blue blazer and jeans. I was heading out to dinner to Serendipity’s between the Flamingo Hotel and Caesar’s Palace and was excited to eat more of their fried oreos and ice cream. When I looked in the mirror I noticed a fold over my jeans and showing through my shirt I hadn’t paid attention to before. When I tried to suck in my stomach, the fold was still there. Suddenly, I noticed my face was puffier, which didn’t come from bloating, and my back had a little bit more..umm..volume to it as well.

I was fat.

And I hated it.

Like, truly hated it. I’m talking sinking into a depressive state type of hate.

The night in Vegas I realized I put on too much weight. 

The night in Vegas I realized I put on too much weight. 

 

I was so disappointed in myself, how could I have not seen how much weight I gained? Why didn’t anyone tell me I was ballooning? Not only did I gain the weight I lost a couple of years earlier, but I gained more weight.

That was the scare I needed.

However, thanks to the daily morning trips to McDonald's or Burger King before my 8:30 class, frequent eating at Chick-Fil-A, Waffle House, Zaxby's, Bojangles, Papa Johns or whatever was available on campus, I guess I shouldn’t have been so surprised at the extra fluffiness around my body.

Complaining and remaining sad about my extra bodyweight wasn’t going to do me any good. I had to make a change and focus on my health. I knew what was at stake. I knew I was susceptible to diabetes and needed to think about my life long-term instead of just the next meal and I needed to find a way to incorporate exercise into my life. So, I decided to train for the Myrtle Beach 5k that would take place February 2013. The very next day, I hit the pavement at the local park and did a mix of run, walking and jogging for a little over a mile. The day after that, I walked the same distance because my legs were too sore to run. However, after that, I trained twice a day -- once before class and in the evenings after class to prepare for my run.

On the diet side? I found this website dedicated to helping black girls lose weight and the owner of the site had a lot of helpful tips on how to take control of your health through clean eating and taking back your taste buds from the grips of processed flavorings. I took her advice to heart and threw out any and all processed foods in my kitchen and went to the supermarket and bought all clean foods such as frozen and fresh vegetables, fruits, brown rice, chicken breast and more.

I stopped buying frozen pasta alfredo dishes and learned to make my own alfredo sauce. I stopped oversalting my foods and used lemon, vinegar, fresh herbs and spices to boost flavor. I bought a water bottle to increase my water intake throughout the day. Things like salad dressings? I learned how to make them myself.

I decided this was going to be a lifestyle change, a permanent journey where I’d learn to become my healthiest self and inspire others along the way. Health, wellness, and fitness would become my life because, well, my life depended on it. This required a total shift in the way I thought about food. I had to stop seeking that extra “bite” that came from adding extra salt or extra rush from adding sugar and learn to embrace the natural flavors already present in food, including herbs and spices. In the beginning, it meant saying no to dining out with friends and meant making the time to meal prep.

It also meant taking a deeper look into my fractured relationship with food and emotional eating issues that have contributed to my weight problems since middle school. I thought high-fat, sugar and calorie foods were my friends but they were more like my frenemies. Instead, learning to eat clean meant making whole and unprocessed foods not just my friends, per se, but a way to establish a healthy relationship with food including learning appropriate portion sizes. One of the first things I did to develop my cooking skills was to learn to use measuring cups and spoons. To this day, I use those tools the majority of the time. However, over the years I’ve gotten pretty good at eyeballing the amount of an ingredient I need for a dish.

Not too long after, I started seeing changes in my body and began to drop jean and dress sizes, and little did I know that this journey would ultimately push me into a career so different than what I’d imagined.

Since it’s been five years, I guess I finally feel comfortable stating what my original weight was -- 245 pounds. Yup. 245 pounds was my highest weight and though my weight has gone up and down a bit over the last five years, I am proud to say I’ve kept that weight off.

Has it been easy? Of course not, and unfortunately, last year I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes anyway and judging by my A1c at the time of diagnosis, I had probably had the disease for awhile. Did it suck? Yeah. I worked hard for over four years to prevent serious illnesses like diabetes and still got it anyway. But did it derail me from the journey I’d put so much work into? Absolutely not. In fact, it strengthened my resolve to remain on my path.

See, over the last five years, I’ve run half-marathons, 5ks, learned how to weight train, have seen myself at a size 6 to 8, proudly wore a bikini, developed an arsenal of cooking skills, started a blog and used my personal experiences to get into graduate school to study Nutrition Education. Five years ago, I thought I was going to be an environmental chemist or geologist but that scientific background was setting me up to earn the Master’s degree I’ll be receiving in two months. My experiences and my degree allow me to become a professional so I can help others who are on their own health and wellness journeys, especially those who are diabetic.

I didn’t think my passion for cooking, nutrition, and health would lead me here but I’m glad it and I don’t regret anything, not even the terrible moments because they’ve made me who I am today.

So here’s to the first five years into this lifestyle and cheers to the next five years and beyond. I feel like I’m just getting started and I’m excited to share and grow my expertise with the world.

Check out and click through my pictures over the last five years below, from the first photo before I started my journey to the last picture as of a few days ago.