THIRTY-FOUR-year-old Philadelphia native Tiffani Wilson is a strong black woman. Her character and reputation have helped the Lincoln University graduate achieve most, if not all, of her academic and career goals, including her job as a chemist with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
We met in 2007, after her mother suggested that they work out together and get on a healthy lifestyle track. At the time, due primarily to obesity, Tiffani was facing multiple health challenges, including joint problems, hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes.
Despite the obvious need to get healthy, she came to her training sessions halfheartedly, metaphorically kicking and screaming. It wasn't long before she stopped coming altogether.
"I was going to the gym because someone else wanted me to go, and I didn't want to do it for myself," she recalled.
In 2008, she decided that a gastric bypass would be her ticket to better health. But after extensive research, she concluded that bariatric surgery was not the way to go.
"I took into strong consideration the risks and negative effects of the surgery," she told me.
This past March, she decided to give lifestyle changes another chance. "I thought I would give it a strong effort - return to the gym and hire a personal trainer and try to turn my life around."
Now she's free of all medications, down 90 pounds, four dress sizes and even a shoe size. And, she says, "I am not done yet!"
Tiffani is at the halfway mark in her long-term goal, and she's come to realize that maintaining a healthy lifestyle is a lifelong journey. No more diets. No more quick fixes. No more denial of what she needs to do.
"I will never be done, because this entire journey is about a complete lifestyle change," she said. "The biggest thing for me was to stop being in denial about a lot of things and finally to become more aware of what I was doing to my body."
I applaud Tiffani's courage, because what she's doing certainly is not easy. Any change in habit, be it small or large, can be difficult, because our natural inclination is to seek comfort and resist losing the habit, even if that comfort imperils us.
When it comes to exercise and weight loss, the battle is, indeed, uphill. It takes considerable effort and inconvenience to come to the gym session after session, week after week, month after month. You must be determined to change and willing to put forth the necessary, wholehearted effort to meet your goals.
There are no magical words, formulas or techniques. I say this quite frankly, because there is a tendency in our culture to minimize the true effort required here.
Turn on the boob tube and there is always some magical product seductively advertising its ability to melt away pounds effortlessly.
Sorry, but there is simply no magic. Especially in the beginning, it is work, and work all the time.
Changing our habits requires continuous conscious effort, at least until a new habit is established. Thinking means we can no longer afford the luxury of automatic pilot or ignorant bliss.
There is an internal struggle, and we say things like, "I don't want to have to think all the time. I want to be able to relax and enjoy life. I don't want to have to think about what I eat, and I certainly don't want to exercise."
Tiffani knows firsthand about the internal struggles, but she also knows now that a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.
Kimberly Garrison is a certified personal trainer and owner of One on One Ultimate Fitness in Philadelphia (www.1on1ultimatefitness.com). E-mail her at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column appears each Thursday in Yo!
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