Saturday, March 21, 2009

'Drea Minus Fifty

I did it. Yes, I did. I managed to lose 50 pounds.

Once, the band of my MP3 player would only fit on my lower arm. Now, I can put it on the upper part.

I imagine 5lb sugar bags. I cannot lift 10 bags of sugar at once but I carried those 50 pounds on my body. Thank you to my body for its incredible support.

Back in May of 2007, I was eager to get away from it all and I headed to the refuge of two friends, Martene and Kiyana, whom I have known since my college days. I’ve been going to New Jersey and New York off and on for awhile and I had planned to go in the fall of 2001 but…

I found myself walking to and from McDonald’s for coffee. I also got some Mickey D’s hash browns one day and, for some reason, the woman at the counter gave me two. Although I felt guilty, I discarded one because the browns were unbelievably greasy and I remember thinking this cannot be good for me.

During my vacation, I ended up walking way more than I had planned. In one day, I walked to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden,

the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) and Sahadi’s. I also walked across the Brooklyn Bridge.

I rode the subway for small segments of time but frequently got lost. I remember stopping to ask this woman for directions. Is it within walking distance? Her tone was reprimanding. No, you cannot walk; it’s too far. And, then, she gave me perfect directions to the subway station.

For all the reports about New Yorkers, I have never been turned down for directions or lead in the wrong direction.

I also walked a lot during the fabulous African Arts Festival because there was a lot to see.

I still have a full bottle of Dr. Bronner’s peppermint soap that I just had to purchase.
By the time of the AAF, I had accidentally and intentionally exercised, walked up and down the steps of both friends’ abodes and lost four pounds along the way.

I decided to ride the wave of this momentum and continue with weight loss because, although I never felt destroyed about being overweight, I was beginning to feel too heavy for my own frame. It was a subtle feeling but definitely present.

I heard about people losing weight while training for a marathon and, magically, I was looking through a Prevention magazine and saw that there would be a marathon in St. Charles, MO in September of 2007. I remember how I would study that marathon page, put the magazine down and return to it later. Finally, I voiced my interest to a friend and, before I knew it, I was walking in Forest Park where I gradually increased my distance until I was able to walk the 6.2 mile trail twice. The modest hills on that trail found me out of breath. In fact, the first few times that I walked the Forest Park trail, I struggled. I could not complete 6.2 miles without stopping. But as I labored, I got in shape and the pounds started to melt away.

What the experts said about the dual effort of exercising and dieting resonated with me. I took a look at what I was eating. I stopped eating the obvious caloric bombs. I even took a look at my usual turkey sandwich that I tend to eat for lunch. I let go of the mayo and my regular wheat bread and switched to Healthy Life which weighed in at 35 calories per slice. I again downgraded to an open face sandwich with only one slice of bread.

I went from Dannon’s La Crème to Dannon’s All Natural Yogurt which represented a twenty calorie difference -- small but significant. I also went from being a McDonald’s addict to McDonald’s sobriety. Ironically, I never purchased hamburgers at Mickey D’s; I went for the apple pies, fries and the anemic orange drink. Now, if I want fries, I cut up potatoes, add a little olive oil, spices and put them in the oven – another small move that made a big difference.

Dr. Oz was on Oprah a couple of months ago and something that he said stuck with me. Don’t go for the head fake he counseled while talking to overweight teens. One of the teens said that he only ate a few bowls of cereal for breakfast. He was eating some type of chocolate puffs situation. Dr. Oz said that all the information that you need is on the product package. He showed the teenager what a serving size was and asked him if that resembled the contents of his cereal bowls. The teen was eating much bigger servings and, by the time breakfast was over, he had already consumed about 600 calories and 98 grams of sugar.

Knowing the serving size was instrumental for me and I try not to go for the head fake. Dr. Oz is right. The information is there: 65g of fat or less, 50g of protein or less etc.

I thought that I was not a gym person and I spent most of my time walking outside. Occasionally, I would turn to exercise DVD’s. Once I committed to the journey, it was an hour of walking or bust.

As I continued to walk, an aunt and cousin started to accompany me. One day, my aunt mentioned that her colleague had free passes to a gym. Since I had never gone to one, I didn’t know that you could try out most gyms for a week. I overcame my feeling of being on the outskirts of gym culture and fell in love with the elliptical trainer. That one week at the gym ramped up my weight loss. I guess that my body had become accustomed to walking outside. After my week was up, I started to try out other gyms and would be sad when the week was over. I finally decided to pony up and join a gym.

I’ve given up quite a few foods but I don’t feel deprived and exercise has become such a way of life that I sometimes reach for my duffel bag even when it’s not time to go work out.

I was wondering how long it would take to lose 50 pounds. I sometimes read, in disbelief, about people who lost 100 plus pounds in a short amount of time but I’m glad that I lost weight in a way that was sustainable for me. At one point, I even considered going on a fitness vacation but, alas, it was too pricey for me.

This weight loss odyssey has been unbelievable. I found out some amazing things about myself and my clan. I met some fascinating people along the way including Judy, the wild water aerobics instructor at Bally's and Charlotte, a woman that I met at the YMCA while I was taking a swimming class (M) and a Women on Weights class (Tu & Th). Looking at me with complete attitude as I stopped the treadmill, Charlotte said I know you're not finished. I chuckled as I told her that I was just warming up before heading to the weights. Charlotte also tried to convince me to take a yoga class but my eyes were focused on taking another swimming class at the time.

All in all, I feel so much stronger and I definitely plan to continue with this quest. I feel like screaming à la Kevin Garnett after winning the 2008 NBA Championship anything is possible. Well not quite like Garnett, because he was a bit punch-drunk at the time.


  1. 'Drea, I am so proud of you. I have begun to read your posts at least twice a week and they have been truly tugging at me to start my "renewal" as well. You're making me look at my steps differently. Will keep you informed as to whether I've taken a hacksaw to them or a grippy pair of running shoes. Keep up the good work, Sister-Friend!

  2. Thanks for the kind words.

    I'm wholeheartedly rooting for the running shoes. :)

  3. Way to go Michelle! Hoping to get started on my journey soon.

  4. Anonymous 6:12 p.m., let me know when it's time to embark. I'm always down for packing a bag and traveling near or far -- with tennis shoes, a resistance band or just a workout towel. :)

  5. OH BOY!!!I guess I will write like that too if I had lost 50 pound.

  6. What's funny is that I keep remembering points that I left out like things that I tried including retro walking which was odd and cool but I wasn't the only one walking backwards -- especially during marathons.