Transformation of the Day: Dena lost 83 pounds. 4 years ago, she started her transformation journey after struggling with her weight for years. Despite a hectic schedule, being a traveling nurse and giving birth during her journey, she never gave up. Good nutrition and exercise was key to her success. Check out her story.
What was your motivation?
I have struggled with my weight since I was a child. My journey started 4 years ago. The girl in the before picture, who I can barely recognize, appeared to be happy and smiling. In reality, she was very depressed after fighting a lifelong battle of being “fat”. I’m at my highest weight of 215 pounds in this photo, taken in May 2013. I remember this day, because I was feeling down about my weight and how I looked in the photos.
I would get out of breath walking up stairs. I wore a size 16-18/XL, and I didn’t like shopping at stores for clothes that did not flatter my body or reflect my age. Being a nurse was another battle. I was walking into my patients’ rooms and teaching about diabetic and cardiac diets, knowing I was just as much at risk with my health.
Now, in my after pictures, you see a young woman who has blossomed. I’ve changed not only on the outside, but also on the inside as well. I’m brave, committed, positive, loving, confident and healthy. I’m a gym junkie. I’m conscious about food labels and eager to learn more about staying in the best shape. Although this journey has not been easy, I pushed myself during the hard days. I overcame thousands of excuses… being a traveling nurse, being new mother, a move across the country, etc.
Ultimately, my motivation was not failing myself or my family. When I wanted to give up, I looked at how far I’d come. I knew that the God would have not brought me this far to see me give up. I was also inspired by several fitness pages on Instagram. Just watching those journeys kept me motivated and helped me learn new workouts and meal plan ideas. My biggest inspiration came from my friends and family. Since day one, they have encouraged me to keep pushing through.
How did you change your eating habits?
Learn to eat to live, not live to eat! Focusing on nutrition was a major change when I started my journey. My Fitness Pal became my best friend. I drank Herballife meal replacement shakes twice a day and ate one meal with lean protein, veggies and carbs. I ate low carb, low fat and low sugar snacks in between meals. I completely cut out sodas and sweet tea. Instead, I drank herbal and green teas. No sugary drinks, only water. No fried foods, candy, pasta or bread.
I limited my fast food and alcohol intake. Now, I only drink alcohol for special occasions. I also switched from whole milk to almond milk and from regular yogurt to Greek yogurt. My intake of fruits and vegetables increased. Today, I’m a person who actually buys groceries and cooks, and no longer the girl who stopped at fast food restaurants 3 times a day. I purchased a George Forearm Grill and I’ve had several blenders during my journey.
As I gained more knowledge about nutrition, I changed my meal plan frequently to adapt to my body’s needs and to have more variety. I make a grocery list every Sunday and meal prep my food for the week. I purchased a large lunch box for work and I travel with meals. I eat every 3-4 hours to keep my metabolism high. Preparation is key to meal planning.
What did your workout routines look like?
In 2013, I was working as a travel nurse, so I wasn’t always in a permanent residence. This really helped me stop making excuses. I looked up workouts for working out at home or in the gym. My workouts included working out on the treadmill, stairmaster, elliptical, and circuit weight training machines. I participated in group classes, like Body Pump, Turbo Kick, and Zumba. My home workouts included workouts from YouTube and Instagram, as well as DVD workouts (Insanity, Black Girls Workout, Billy Blanks). I used Jamie Eason’s 21 day program, boot camps and 30 day challenges from social media.
From 2013-2014, I worked out between 3-5 days a week. Currently, I’m working out 5-6 days a week. I doing group fitness classes, HIIT, fasted cardio and weight lifting. I also use daily vitamins and supplements for muscle recovery.
Starting weight/Current weight
I started my journey in May 2013. In 2 weeks, I had lost 15 lbs. In 6 months, I was down 50 lbs. I got to 145 pounds in September 2014. I became a mother in 2015 and gained 100 lbs during pregnancy. I reached my lowest weight of 132 pounds in March 2017. I’m 5 feet tall.
What advice do you have for others who want to lose weight?
Self-love and Self-investment! Practice discipline and sacrifice, because you are worth it. You have to believe in yourself and that your health, life and happiness is worth the journey. No one should have to look back at a picture and feel depressed. No one wants to feel depressed if they can’t fit into a wedding dress or prom dress. No one wants to feel unconfident in relationships, personal or professionally, due to weight. I would also tell others, “Be the best version of you.”
I didn’t know that in 5 months I would be down 50 pounds, or that by my birthday I’d be down 70 pounds and wearing a bikini on the beach. Who knew that I would give birth to my greatest blessing, my son. I struggled during my pregnancy and gained a lot of weight. I was stressed and working 16 hours, 4/5 times week. However, I found that inner voice again.
3 months postpartum, I’d lost 70 pounds. By his first birthday, I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight. The way I lost the weight after giving birth was through hard work, dedication, commitment. Home workouts, using DVDs, working out in my small apartment gym and in big gyms, boot camps and with trainers was all part of my journey. Nutrition was the major factor in how I lost my pregnancy weight.
I’m so thankful for this journey. I have accomplished so much, not just physically but mentally, emotionally, financially and spiritually. I love to motivate and inspire other people to be the best version of themselves. I have several friends, coworkers and family members who I love to help with workouts and meal plans. I also inspired my younger sister to lose weight. Not only did she lose the weight, she has maintained it and became a health coach. The more I made exercise about spiritual growth and discipline, the less I focused on the weight. Each lost pound was not a step closer to being skinny ,but evidence of my obedience to God.
You have one body. Respect it.