The One Thing That Finally Helped Me Lose 40 Pounds

Photo: Christine Hewitt

Exercise is often thought of as the thing you do after everything else on your list. Raising children, meeting a deadline at work, and maintaining social relationships have taken priority in people's lives.

These priorities on top of the other million things beyond our control tend to push making it to the gym to the bottom of the pile. I remember in high school health class, we learned about human anatomy, safe sex, and the fundamentals of exercise. What I don't remember is the section of the textbook that detailed motivation and how important it is to maintaining a healthy existence.

In my adolescence through my young adult years, I was overweight. And by overweight I mean, 200-plus pounds with a size 40-plus waist. During those years I was very successful in life socially, academically, and in business. When it came time for me to tackle my less than great outlook on my physical stature, it was a feat harder than any exam I had ever taken. I was following the same methods I had always used in the past to reach success. I studied, trained, and physically exerted myself just like all the Men's Health magazines told me to do. Nevertheless, I seemed to fail over and over again.

How I finally made the change

It wasn't until I met a group of fitness enthusiasts that I now call my "fitness tribe" that things started to change. We would cheer, push, challenge, and motivate one another in a way that no textbook or magazine had ever conveyed. The best part was that it had all happened without any preparation and within a fraction of the time I had gone from 255 pounds to 185 pounds. Motivation is a powerful thing, and finding it is challenging. Once I found mine I was able to recognize it and made sure to never let it go.

The first fitness class I had ever taken in New York City was a class called "Drillz." Never having taken anything aside from an occasional spin class, I really didn't know what to expect. Here I was in a room of 20-plus people varying in age, gender, and fitness levels. Some were stretching, some were texting, and some were posing, as the "selfie" movement hadn't begun yet. Five minutes prior to class, here walks in a tatted-up, 20-something Latino guy, who was stocky but muscular.

Photo: Lee Jiminez

Instantly, the masses of fitness enthusiasts started getting into place, like soldiers preparing for battle. As the instructor began setting up his iPhone to play music through the massive studio speakers he greets us with "all right, bitches, I hope you are ready to get your asses whooped!" He pressed play, the beat dropped, and for the next 50 minutes it was the absolute greatest 50 minutes of my life!

I had found my fitness tribe, a group of people that other than this one class had absolutely nothing in common. Week after week, like clockwork we all showed up at 11 a.m. sharp on a Sunday. Over time the class "Drillz" sacrilegiously evolved to us by the name "church." We didn't come to worship our instructor or even ourselves but for more of a baptismal sweat to wash away the pounds, the toxins, and the poor health choices from the past week. The feeling of accomplishment and the physical reward that I found in this class opened me up to higher level in my own fitness.

It has been nearly six years since that first time I decided to show up and take "Drillz." In those six years, I have made long-lasting friendships, transformed my body, built confidence, and began a fitness journey I had not even been aware that I had started. As I look back to that day, I remember my initial hesitation, the million other things I could have been doing, and my fear of not being able to make it through the class. But looking back I realize my decision to show up and stay has catapulted me into the person I am today.

My life has come full circle, and I've been so inspired by the instructors and teachers before me. I am now able to teach and motivate others from an authentic place, knowing what it feels like to walk into a group fitness studio for the very first time: the hesitation, the thoughts of self-doubt, and the right amount of encouragement to keep a newcomer to push beyond their physical boundaries to create change.

The most important part of any fitness journey for anyone is to remember that it starts with showing up. I am so grateful for those Sundays that led me here today—a confident motivator and fitness coach with my own fitness brand to help inspire others.

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