On February 3rd I set out to change my lifestyle because as a breast cancer survivor, I felt I was playing Russian Roulette with my life. I think the real tipping point and motivation to commit came after reading the article “Extra Pounds a Deadly Risk Factor for Black Women: Study” by Serena Gordon. The article stated “Carrying extra weight, especially around the middle, is a risk factor of death among black women,” according to a new study. Overall obesity and abdominal obesity are both increasing rapidly in America. It’s projected that by 2020 (6 years from now), as many as 70 percent of black women in America will be obese and up to 90 percent will have abdominal obesity, according to background information in the study”.
I knew if I continued at my current rate I would definitely be among the 70% and I was on target for the 90% abdominal obesity. Studies suggest that belly fat increases chances colorectal, possibly pancreatic, breast and uterine cancers says the American Institute for Cancer Research. Another article by the Associated Press stated, “African American women have the highest obesity rate of any group of Americans. Four out of five black women have body mass index above 25 percent, the threshold for being overweight or obese,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A recent study released by The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) further states obesity has been associated with poor health outcomes in breast cancer survivors. Thus, weight loss is recommended for overweight and obese survivors.
I wish I could say it was the articles alone or receiving weight loss advice from my oncologist because she said, “You need to lose some weight because Tamoxifen alone will not save you”. My lifestyle change came as a result of not liking how I looked in pictures. So, I decided February 3rd would be the day I changed my lifestyle. Yes, I am ashamed to admit it was an aesthetic decision and rewriting my health outcome was the by-product!
I set a goal of 100 days to change my lifestyle. I am happy to say I lost 35 pounds, I finally have a normal BMI, I went from a size 12 to size 6 and I have a waistline of 33. Although I increased my survival rate tremendously, it feels good to put on a size 6. I could not have imagined how much better I would feel and the ah-ha’s have been amazing. I realized I was stronger than I thought; I didn’t dislike working out in the morning as much as I thought and changing my lifestyle was affordable.
My financial situation forced me to shop for dietary items at Wal-Mart, Aldi’s and Walgreens. I could not afford a weight loss program because these were tough times. However, it helped to remove the excuse... YOU NEED LOTS OF MONEY TO LOSE WEIGHT!
I discovered the great value of shopping at Wal-Mart, Aldi’s and Walgreens. I purchased all of the items I used to change by eating habits at the following stores and I achieved my goals within 100 days. Despite all that has been said about food deserts in lower income communities, I found it refreshing to have the choice of quality fresh fruits and vegetables at Wal-Mart and Aldi’s. I used my Walgreens discount card to purchase my vitamins, flaxseeds, Skinny Popcorn and Fruit & Nut Trail Mix my go to snacks when I am hungry after dinner because I did not eat dinner after 7:00pm. The major lesson was I had to learn how to shop with a list. I wrote down every healthy item I would need to stay on the plan before my trip to the store. If it wasn’t on the list, I did not purchase it because the extra’s usually got me in trouble.
The lifestyle change also forced me to work out at home. I purchased two DVD’s; Timbuk Fitness and Da GoGo Zumba and used them 6 days a week for 15 weeks. I also used work out illustrations in Shape magazine because honestly there were days when I wanted to do something other than Timbuk Fitness and Da GoGo Zumba. I learned to use walking outside when I needed a break from the DVD’s and the work out examples in the magazine.
For the first time in my life I feel like I am rewriting my future because I know we can do better and it starts with ONE STEP! Many of us can’t do anything about our DNA because my mother and my aunt are both breast cancer survivors. Survivors can’t do anything about visits to the oncologist every 6 months just to hear the words “All clear” because that is just a part of the process. I could not do anything immediately to change my financial situation because I relocated across country to be with my mom that was having issues with her new title “Breast Cancer Survivor.” But every time I made a healthier food choice or got up to work out, I felt like I was showing up in my own life thus rewriting the story! I would play the song “Soulbird Rise” from India Arie’s Song Versation CD after my workout and rejoice that I was finally turning the corner with my health! The lyrics “I will no longer be defined by what someone else believes that I am. And now that I have dropped the weight, I am light as a feather, it’s time to elevate. Soulbird rise, lift your eyes. Spread your wings and prepare to fly. This is the moment of your life. Go ahead and fly” became my mantra. On those days when I did not want to do anything, I was Blessed to have Anna (my sister-friend) and I think everyone should have an Anna because she did not allow me to beat up on myself when I would mess up because I did! She would simply say, “Did you say it was a lifestyle change, not a diet! So this will become a daily routine and everyday is another day to get it right”. Everyone wants a happy ending and I am not sure how the story will end however we all want to know we did everything humanly possible to live a happy and healthier lifestyle.
I am excited about my results but I know I am a work in progress! I will continue living a healthier lifestyle and although I have a smaller waistline, I have two more inches to lose. The AICR suggests that women should aim for a 31.5 waist line. I will incorporate more strength training because as we age, strength training is very important. Additionally my family has embraced the lifestyle change as well. So far 6 family members have joined the moment and lost more than 30 pounds in 30 days! I never asked them to join me, it was “Be the change” you want to see and they made the decision to change their lifestyle. My mom is actually reading the labels, my aunt and I are comparing Green Smoothie recipes, and by the way my husband & daughter enjoy the smoothies. One of my cousins trained for Race For The Cure and another joined us and we completed 3 miles together in under an hour. A family that changes their lifestyle together could live longer together! So, I am considering another 100 day challenge beginning August 1- November 8th and asking others to join me as we rewrite our futures. I never used the word “easy” because it’s a process. We may not be able to control the external forces in our lives but changing our lifestyles and rewriting our stories gives us our lives back! Stay tuned...the best is yet to come!