It was September 1994, and there I was staring in the mirror looking at this image staring back at me. I couldn’t remember the last time I liked the way I looked. Overweight for most of my life, I had tried — and failed at — dozens of weight-loss crash diets. I tried many diets and quick-fix interventions and had lost weight, but the weight always came back with a vengeance.
One day I was looking at pictures of me and couldn’t believe my eyes. “Is that what I look like?” I asked myself. I looked at the pictures very closely, and I cried. The photos were a reality punch in my gut. I was embarrassed that I’d let myself get that large, and I knew right then and there something had to be done. Then it happened. One day a lovely older woman came up to me and said she wanted to give me a present for my “baby” — and I wasn’t pregnant.
Depressed and incredibly sad, I suddenly realized that I, with God’s help, could take control and change. I took to every printed resource I could find that offered tips on losing weight and keeping it off. I made an Excel spreadsheet comparing every diet I had tried, how much I lost and how fast I gained it all back. Then, it suddenly dawned on me that there was one common theme with the diets: They all required foods that were “forbidden.” The minute I would reach my goal, I reverted back to all the foods I deprived myself of for weeks/months and thought I could eat them without restriction. What I needed to learn was how to eat things in moderation and live healthier without gaining more weight than I had lost. This breakthrough moment allowed me to lose close to 80 pounds, get down to a size 6 and become confident that I would never backslide into obesity again.
Yes, there were times when I would jump on the scale, and nothing happened. What I realized was that losing weight is a lot like having faith; every choice that I make might not yield immediate miracles or drastic changes that I can see, but I had to have faith and know that with each and every healthy choice I make, that choice yields results that are unseen (i.e., lowered blood pressure, speedy recovery from surgery and/or illness and lowered stress and feelings of anxiety).
Now I have the energy to log six- to eight-mile jogs. I can run up and down stadium stairs, and as most of my friends will tell you, I am anything but camera shy. Now I like what I see in the mirror and in pictures. I’m finally at peace with the way I look.
Fitness is a lifelong journey. Set goals, and go after them. When I reach one goal, I set another one and pursue it just as furiously. I just focus on being better today than I was yesterday.
Staying loyal to my workout isn’t always easy. There are days when my workouts make me sore. Sometimes they may hurt. But the regret from quitting or not working out hurts me so much more. I use the gym and my jogs on Route K as a sanctuary to get away from everything: to think about my research, my students, my family and my relationship with God. Working out does not allow me to let negative thoughts or emotions get the best of me and control me. It’s funny, but working out becomes positive energy and good for my inner soul. I don’t need fancy equipment or nice weather; all I need is the right attitude, the gym or an open road along with the will to make myself look and feel better.
MY WEEKLY WORKOUT
6:15 a.m.: Jogging 4-6 miles
4:45-5:30 p.m.: Gym: Chest, shoulders and triceps
• Dumbbell bench press
• Cable crossover
• Machine shoulder press
• Lateral raises
• Dumbbell flyes
• Bent-over lateral raise
• Pushups hands close together
5:45-7 p.m.: Teach dance
Day starts at 6:30 a.m.
Interval training: Run fast for 20 seconds, walk for 10 (repeat for 35 minutes). I do this high-intensity exercise so I can build muscle and burn fat. This interval training may consist of sprints or Tabatta workouts, which means I’m basically working out as fast as I can and then taking a rest.
3:30 p.m.: Wilson’s Fitness gym: Back and biceps (45-50 minutes max)
• Barbell curl
• Incline dumbbell curl
• Reverse-grip barbell row
• Wide-grip lateral pull-down
• Back extension
• Seated cable row
• Bent-over row (Smith Machine)
Change-up (no gym or weights)
5:45 a.m.: Interval training or brisk walk
6:15 a.m. Jogging 5-8 miles (1 hour, 10 minutes)
2:45 p.m.: Wilson’s Fitness: Chest, shoulders and triceps (45 minutes)
• Pushups: Drop sets
• Overhead presses
• Close-grip bench presses
• Skull crushers
• Incline chest press
• Incline fly
• Incline front raise
• One-Arm triceps extensions
• Chest/bench press
• Barbell row
• Overhead press
• Front raises
4:30-6:15 p.m.: Teach dance
6:30 a.m.: Jogging 4-8 miles (60-75 minutes)
3 p.m.: Wilson’s Fitness: Back and biceps
• Wide-grip pull-up
• Bent-over dumbbell row
• E-Z bar curl
• Hammer curls
• Ab work on the stability ball
7:30 p.m.: Brisk walk or bike ride (45 minutes)
Tips to remember
Start small: Don’t set large goals like losing 40 pounds in a month or that you are going to work out every day for an hour a day, especially if you are starting from scratch. I started out walking two days a week for 20 minutes and would reward myself when I would meet these goals after a week or two.
Be consistent: One of the articles I read suggested that if you wake up at 7 a.m., set the alarm to get up 30 minutes early. Start with a short routine. The trainer of the article suggested that doing this for at least 12 weeks makes your workout routine become a habit, and by working out in the morning, you become consistent, and nothing will preclude your workout routine. Some people who work out after work, according to the article, find that life’s little interruptions will come along and distract from getting the workout in. Working out in the morning gets it off of your to-do list and also helps prepare you and put you in a good mood for the upcoming day.
Add weights. Don’t just do cardio all the time: Lift weights! Replacing fat with muscle means you can burn more calories without even trying.
Trick your sweet tooth. Eat baked sweet potatoes sprinkled with cinnamon.
Auto-tune your workout. Listen to up-tempo music at the gym. When you move to the beat, your workout is easier and flies by.
Change your workout every four to six weeks.
Speak up when you eat out: When you eat out, ask what the dishes are cooked in. It’s your body; you should be able to decide what you put into it.
Always be ready. I put everything out the night before: clothes, shoes and my water bottle. Then nothing can get in the way of my workout.
My go-to snacks: Almonds, almond butter and fresh broccoli.
Favorite motivational saying: “I know what I have to do, and I’m going to do whatever it takes. If I do it, I’ll come out a winner, and it doesn’t matter what anyone else does.” —Florence Griffith Joyner
The most listened-to songs on my iPod: “Love Never Felt So Good,” Michael Jackson; “Treasure,” Bruno Mars; “That’s OK” and “She’s Been Good to Me,” Marc Anthony; “Summer Love,” Justin Timberlake; “Just Fine,” Mary J. Blige