Transformation of the Day: JoYi lost 78 pounds. She woke up on her 40th birthday, overweight and headed for divorce. That day was her turning point. A vegan lifestyle and dance fitness changed this mom of three’s life. She has shared her story with us and has some terrific insights on mindset and setting goals.
I woke up on my 40th birthday weighing 232 pounds and heading for a divorce. At the time, my children were 11, 13 and 17 years old. Every day, I felt as if I was letting them down. The thought of my kids having to push me around on a wheelchair, change my diapers and feed me due to the diseases I was sure to inflict on body if I continued to abuse it was mortifying. I had to stop. I started my weight loss and health journey in 2010 for my kids and I continued for me.
Instead of the usual dinner and drinks that I would normally have with my girlfriends for my birthday, I planned a Zumba® workout followed by drinks. We walked into a full class at the YWCA. The music started, the dancing progressively got more vigorous and I was quickly gasping for air and dignity. I felt ashamed and embarrassed that I couldn’t keep up. I felt sad that I had allowed myself get so out of control. I also felt hopeful and free because the music and the movements made sense to me. I made the decision that day to do the work to get the weight off and try a life without all the aches and pains.
I started attending 2-3 Zumba® classes per week and jogging/walking 2 miles on the off days. By August, I signed up for a 5K and ended up doing 4 of them that first year. I lost 50 pounds in the first 6 months. Although I was eating better, I was a junk food vegetarian as I had been for the most of my life, since 18 years old.
For two years, I was alert and consistent. I never reached my weight loss goal but I felt good. Then, suddenly, I went unconscious, quickly gaining back most of the 50 pounds I’d lost by 2013. I’ve been dieting since middle school. I was always looking for that quick fix and reaching for the promises of all those late night commercials, but the way I approached health this last time around felt right. Even though I failed, I had a feeling that I could manage this process myself and that I was close to getting it right. No pills, no quick fixes – just hard work… but manageable.
In the summer of 2014, I geared myself up to try again. I became a licensed Zumba® instructor and decided that the only way to keep myself truly accountable was to teach a fitness class. Overweight and ashamed, I got in front of a Zumba® class and danced my butt off. I ordered PIYO (a pilates, yoga workout DVD from Beachbody) to do on my off days. I started recording my progress and made myself watch the videos regularly.
The most important thing I did on this journey was to clearly state my goal. The first time around I said things like, “I don’t want to feel aches and pains” and “I want to lose weight.” Not specific enough. This time I stated: “I will lose all my excess weight and get within a healthy BMI range. I will live a life filled with health and wellness FOREVER.” To do that, I met with a trainer who weighed and measured my body fat with the caliper. For the first time, I was able to see exactly where I was and how far I needed to go. My mantra at this time was “Don’t confuse effort with results.” I was done pretending and I wanted to live a different kind of life. I added goals like, “I want to walk around in a bikini without my belly falling out.” and “I want to wear body-con dresses and feel sexy.” I wanted to feel in control and I wanted to weigh 150 pounds (I wasn’t sure about this one since I didn’t know what 150 looked or felt like, so I gave myself room to adjust this as I went).
In June of 2015, I weighed 180 pounds with 28% body fat, but I was fit enough by that time to teach seven Zumba® classes per week and I was tracking my food on myfitnesspal.com. Between June and September, I continued to teach Zumba® and made THE decision about food. For 3 years, during my 20s, I was a vegan. It dawned on me that this was THE answer. I watched a ton of videos, read articles, armed myself with conviction and became a whole plant based vegan. By September 2015, I dropped 4% body fat and 9 pounds. By December 2015, I felt like a million bucks, finally reaching a goal I was too scared to reach before. Losing the weight felt great but my real goal now is maintenance. Almost a year later, I weigh 154 pounds with 21% body fat. I’m 5’7” tall and 46 years old. I can wear a bikini in public and feel sexy in body-con dresses.
This is the most in-control I have felt about my food intake, my body and my weight. I don’t weigh myself often, because now my mantra is “Focus on input.” I sweat 5-6 days per week, doing things I enjoy. I eat whole plant based foods in the quantity that makes me feel satiety. I enjoy vegan desserts and treats without worry but under the umbrella of “wellness for life.” I also meditate for 20 minutes on most days.
Getting to know myself and fully embracing what makes me, me helped me to make important changes. My advice is: Get to know you! Check yourself for honesty. It was amazing to me to discover all the different little ways I was lying to myself and thereby sabotaging real change. The saying “Being overweight is hard, losing weight is hard, staying fit is hard: Pick your hard.” is my new favorite saying. Instead of lamenting the sacrifices of this new life, I realize we all sacrifice one thing or another, but often it’s an unconscious sacrifice of our health and wellness for convenience and habit. I know that I have to work hard at staying awake every day. I have to consciously make myself make choices for my health and wellness. It still doesn’t come automatically. It’s simple and not easy, but it IS a choice.
I look super fn excited about this green bean casserole- rightfully so cuz it was a winner! What a great turnout for our 4th PLANTluck gathering of 2016! Recipe in Plant Based Health Facebook group. Thank you @legitnutritionhawaii, @irenedonquis, @gega_ohana & @808plantfat for a great, tasty afternoon! #blackvegan #eatmoreplants #angryblackvegan #whatblackvegansdo #whatveganseat #plantluck #bigislandvegan #veganpoc #blackvegansofig #greenbeancasserole #notaskinnyvegan