FFFC: Please introduce yourself to our readers (i.e. your name, occupation, hobbies, etc.).
JJ: Hi my name is Jewels and I’m 41 years old. I am a Domestic Violence advocate, and an aspiring fitness trainer. I love to motivate and inspire others, and I love to dance. I live in the Baltimore metropolitan area.
FFFC: What sparked your weight-loss transformation journey?
JJ: I’ve been fairly active most of my life, but after having my daughter in 2003, I had stacked on a lot of weight. Most women gain weight during pregnancy, but I put on the pounds post pregnancy. Go figure! I got up to about 175/180 lbs which was the biggest I had ever been in my life. On a 5’3″ frame, 180lbs is not a good look, at all. I was so unhappy with the way I looked and felt, so I finally decided to do something about it. So, in 2008 a few friends and I decided to do, what was my very first fitness/diet challenge. We went on Dr. Ian Smith’s Extreme Fat Smash Diet. I actually did pretty well while on the diet. I started exercising more, and consistently. And because I was on a structured eating regimen, I managed to reduce my dress size from a size 14/16 to a size 10/12, and eventually down to a size 8. While I was somewhat happy with the progress I made, I was not completely satisfied, so I continued on with my plight to get rid of the unwelcomed weight.
Over a subsequent period of 4 or 5 years, I struggled with my weight still. There was a lot of back and forth. What I realized, as I looked back, was I hadn’t really made up in my mind what I wanted in terms of my fitness goals. I really hadn’t set specific fitness goals for myself, even while on the diet. My mindset had to change. Because I didn’t eat huge portion sizes, I didn’t think my eating habits were all that bad. However, I was eating all of the wrong things, and not enough of the good, nutritious foods my body needed. Sweets were my #1 vice. I never ate a salad unless it came with a meal, and even then I would only eat the lettuce. Most times if I ate any vegetables, it would be overcooked, and as a result, no real nutritional value was there. My physical appearance was not the only thing suffering, but my overall health was slowly deteriorating. I was on the verge of having high blood pressure. It was borderline. My glucose levels and cholesterol was high; and with diabetes and high blood pressure running in my family, as it is in most African-American families, I was definitely heading for disaster.
Then in and around 2012/2013, I began running with Black Girls Run (BGR). BGR was exactly what I needed. It helped me to set specific goals, which was something I had never really done before. I had “carrots” to strive for now. I ran my first half marathon in 2013, and ran in a number of other races by the end of the year. I was really starting to see progress. I then began attending a bootcamp class in 2014, and was again working out consistently. I made it down to a size 6, but was still looking for more definition and tone to my body, and more importantly better eating habits.
Well, in December 2015 one of the worst things that could happen in my life, happened. My youngest brother died from injuries sustained from a pedestrian hit and run accident. After his passing, really while he was still in the hospital, I made the decision to live, and not only to live, but to live purposeful. I had already adopted this mindset somewhat, but it now had a much more definite meaning. I wanted to continue on my journey to live in my purpose, which is to inspire and motivate others. At that moment in my life, I made up in my mind and was determined that I truly wanted to live a healthy and fit lifestyle, and I would personify that by inspiring others to do the same. Who would have thought that the opportunity to do exactly that would come shortly after making my self declaration.
In mid to late January 2016, my trainer approached me and some others who were regularly attending his boot camp class about competing in a bodybuilding competition. While bodybuilding had never crossed my mind as something I would wanted to do, I thought to myself and said: “self this could be a great way to take my fitness journey to the next level, and more importantly this would be a great way to inspire other women.” My brother’s death, coupled with my determination to become a heathier, better me, was the catalyst for me to help others with their fitness journey.
FFFC: What was your beginning and current weight or measurements?
JJ: In February 2016, I weighed in at 154lbs. My competition goal weight was 120lbs. I made it to 125lbs by my second competition. My maintenance/fit weight is 130-135lbs. I currently weigh 135lbs and I am now a size 0-2. Never would have thought that I could do it. My health is great!
FFFC: Which physical activities did you participate in during your journey?
JJ: To meet my goals I did a lot of cardio and strength training. I did 60-90 minutes of cardio per day with one rest day, and 90-120 minutes of strength training per day, with one rest day. My cardio mainly consisted of walking, and the stationary bike (I had knee issues from my running days and overuse, so I couldn’t run on a regular basis). I also incorporated High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) into my routine. Now, I don’t want anyone thinking this is what they have to do to lose weight. Keep in mind I was training for an extreme sport. This is not a normal fitness regimen. I have now paired down my regimen just a tad bit.
My food intake was much tougher, only because most bodybuilders who are beginners (their body is not conditioned just yet) begin their training at least a year and a half before they compete. Whereas, I trained for my first competition over a 7 month period as a beginner, so my regimen was a bit unusual and extreme compared to most beginners. The key word here is “beginner”. If you are already conditioned, you can start training for a competition 12 weeks out.
FFFC: How did your eating habits change?
JJ: I eat 6-7 small meals each day. Meal prep is key to true weight loss. It does not leave much room for you to deter from eating healthy.
FFFC: What do you typically eat for breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner?
JJ: My meals consist of protein with every meal, lean meat (mostly chicken, and ground turkey), and fish (white), boiled eggs, and egg whites; complex carbs, like yams, quinoa, whole grain rice; and veggies-asparagus, green beans, broccoli, cucumbers. I have to be honest here, eating healthy continues to be the toughest part of this journey. However, as time progresses, I have noticed that the bad things I used to eat, do not give me the same satisfaction it once did. If I eat something bad, I’m only eating it out of bad habit, not because I really want it. So, each day I make progress towards completely getting rid of those bad habits.
FFFC: What is your favorite fitness activity?
JJ: My favorite fitness activity, I would say is walking because I can reflect, pray, and refocus.
FFFC: What advice do you have for someone looking to get started with their fitness journey but not sure where to begin?
JJ: My advice to anyone looking to get started on their fitness journey is this: Don’t wait, start NOW! Even if its 10,15 minutes per day of walking at work or doing sit ups while watching TV, just start. Take it one day at a time. Remember: If you have never really exercised before, you have never had good eating habits, don’t expect things to change overnight. Be gentle with yourself. If you fall, get back up and try again the next day, until it becomes easier and easier. You will eventually increase and progress. Chose to live, chose your health!