Transformation of the Day: Akiesha Crystal lost 63 pounds. The catalyst for her journey was being diagnosed with Lupus after suffering from the symptoms for almost a year. Depression, lack of activity, and being put on steroids led to weight gain, but she used dietary changes, fitness, and spiritual practices to take her health back. Now, she is sharing her love of dance fitness to help other people transform as well.
What was your motivation? What inspired you to keep going, even when you wanted to give up?
My motivation for embarking on my weight loss and fitness journey was my Lupus Diagnosis in 2017. Before my diagnosis, for almost a year, I felt lethargic, depressed, and lifeless. Most of all, what I felt was pain. Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks healthy organs and tissues during a flare. The inflammation caused by Lupus can harm everything from the kidneys, skin, joints, and blood cells to the lungs, brain, and heart. Lupus can be a difficult disease to diagnose because its symptoms can mirror other illnesses, and the symptoms of Lupus can vary from person to person. It can sometimes take months or even years to diagnose. All the while, it’s inflicting mental and psychological stress such as anxiety, depression, and mood changes.
Due to depression and lack of physical activity, my weight increased. Also, the primary medication prescribed to treat Lupus flares is a steroid (Prednisone). One of its many side effects is weight gain and water retention. As a result, I gained more weight. However, once I got a major stranglehold on the disease through medication, diet changes, changes in my energetic atmosphere (those I surround myself with), and spiritual practices such as meditation, I began to feel my physical energy level return to normal. As a result, I was able to get back to exercising, dancing, and other physical activities I had once enjoyed.
My spirituality and the increased connection I developed with God and the Universe are what kept me going. I never wanted to give up because I felt so blessed to be healed and no longer feeling the pain and associated with symptoms of Lupus. I was now back to moving, and my energy level was normal. I decided that I would do WHATEVER is required to not go back to feeling like I had previously. Any and all changes I made were going to stay in place. My weight loss journey and my Lupus journey go hand in hand. One triggered the other.
My journey was also a very spiritual one. When you start pushing your body, your mind must be on board. When you have to encourage yourself and be your own personal trainer and your own cheerleader, and you find yourself consistently breaking personal barriers and achieving personal goals, it becomes a bit of a spiritual breakthrough. It’s a spiritual awakening of sorts because you recognize that you could not have done it alone.
It was through my journey, and because of my journey that I realized part of my purpose. This is how I am supposed to impact lives and contribute to the greater good. I was supposed to use my natural gift and passion (dance) as a means to show others not only how I got into shape, but how I could help them also get into the best shape of their lives. It would also allow me to bring awareness to Lupus. These are the things that kept me going and influenced me to create my Dance Fitness Youtube channel. I wanted to provide a fun, yet effective way to show and encourage others to lose weight, trim body fat, sculpt, and tone (without a personal trainer and in your own home!) It’s how I did it myself!
How did you change your eating habits?
After consulting with a weight loss professional, I initially kept my daily calories to 850-1000. I ate lower-fat items (tried to keep fat below 25%). I ate high protein, fewer carbs, and less sugar. I also drank at least 64 oz of water daily. As I got closer to my goal, I slowly added things back into my diet in reasonable amounts. I do not believe in completely denying yourself of anything. I learned portion control. If I want to treat myself, I will save my calories for later or simply work out a few extra minutes. I believe if any diet is too restrictive, you won’t stick to it, so what’s the point. If you can’t do it for life, what’s the point? That’s why I looked at my new eating habits and workout habits as a “lifestyle change,” not a diet, because it’s not temporary. I don’t really count calories now because after a couple of years, you just kind of know what to eat, what to stay away from or eat in moderation, how much to eat, etc., because it becomes a way of life.
Tell us about your workout routine?
My workouts mainly consisted of HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) Dance Workouts 4-5 times a week. I also used Hand weights/Dumbbells 1-2 times a week and ran on the Treadmill once a week.
What was your starting weight? What is your current weight?
My starting weight was 212 pounds, and now I weigh 149 pounds.
What is your height?
I am 5’5″
When did you start? How long did your transformation take?
I started my weight loss journey on August 1, 2018. The transformation took approximately 8 or 9 months.
Is weight loss surgery part of your journey?
Weight loss surgery is not apart of my journey.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far?
I’ve learned not to take my health or physical condition (particularly the days I feel good) for granted. You can literally wake up one day and be a different person, which happened to me in terms of Lupus. I was decently active, had been an athlete through high school, and even pretty physically active as an adult. One day, in my mid 30’s, I woke up and felt like I was 90 years old. I could not get both legs out of bed without much effort and being in great pain—every joint hurt. Even the bottoms of my feet hurt. I could not turn on the water faucet without wincing in pain.
I had no energy, which is why it is a near miracle that I can move the way I move now. Some people wish they could move their arms, legs, hips, and feet. There are people who simply wish they had arms, legs, hips, or feet to move. As far as I’m concerned, every day you wake up is a good day for dancing.
What advice would you like to share with women who want to lose weight?
Find or create a workout/exercise regiment that you ENJOY. Also, commit to making your new eating habits a way of life. It should be a lifestyle change and something you can stick to. It should be something flexible and not too rigid, or you likely won’t stick to it. I would also advise drinking a cleansing/detox tea 1-2 times/week because “gut health” and keeping your system free of bacteria is super important. I also personally believe that poor gut health contributes to many health problems, including autoimmune conditions such as Lupus and Diabetes.
Finally, the BIGGEST piece of advice I would give is: CONSISTENCY IS KEY. You have to commit and stick to it. MAKE YOURSELF A PRIORITY FOR ONCE! YOU DESERVE TO HAVE WHAT YOU DESIRE. You have to be consistent if you want to see real results from diet or exercise. If you are consistent with anything in life, it’s almost impossible not to see the desired results eventually.