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This is sort of a follow up to my recent New Year’s Resolution weight loss post. Judging from the response, they both struck a chord with quite a few of you.

After sifting through all 74 comments (including the tres sweet one from my parents, awww), I feel the need to clarify a few things about the motivations for my latest weight loss effort. Heavy sigh. Here goes.

Last year, I was diagnosed with high blood pressure.

It’s a combination of things — genetics being a predominant factor. The so-called “silent killer” runs strong in my bloodline, and all my life my mother has suffered from its effects. But it’s been called to my attention that my high-stress vocation, sedentary lifestyle, and yes — my weight — all are contributing to the condition.

So I had a decision to make. Either keep on the same path I was on, a sure fire ticket to serious health issues, or change the way I live my life. For real. No faking.

I’m doing it this time. And I’m doing it in a what might seem to be a pretty dramatic way.

So you already know I just put in notice at my high-stress vocation to put myself, my health, and Afrobella on the front burner where they should be.

One of the reasons I’m so excited about moving to Chicago is the unavoidable change in lifestyle living in the city will mean.

I can’t wait to live in a place where walking and taking public transportation will most likely trump driving (at least during the spring, summer, and fall for sure), and hanging out in parks and outdoor spaces on a weekend won’t seem like a weird thing to do. I hate to call Miami out for a lack of outdoor activity, but we were just named America’s fattest city. The image of slender, sexy South Beach is not representative of the whole city.

I know I’ve got some serious work to do. And as someone who’s been down this road before, and tried and failed to lose weight and keep it off, I’m coming at this with a new perspective on the journey.

Yes, it will be a journey. Long, sometimes tough, but ultimately rewarding and an education in itself.

This time around, I don’t want a weight loss program that relies on a gimmick. I don’t want a weight loss plan that will deny me fruits and vegetables and the things I know to be healthy. I don’t need a program that will require me to purchase a specific brand of products for guaranteed success. It seems like they’re all trying to sell you something, whether it’s pre-cooked frozen meals, or protein bars, or pills, or special beverages, or a series of ongoing cookbooks and mini-recipe books by your grocery store cash register. Y’all know what I’m talking about, right? Just about every diet plan under the sun.

I want a different kind of plan. Something so elementary it makes losing weight seem like a no-brainer, and makes exercise seem natural and necessary. I want a plan that allows me to use my own common sense and intelligence, and to make use of the tools I’ve learned from those years of trying and failing to keep the weight off.

When I was approached about joining the 50 Million Pound Challenge, it felt like serendipity.

Here’s what attracted me to this plan. First of all, it’s free to sign up. Second, although the plan is for men and women of all ethnicities, it’s designed by Dr. Ian Smith of Celebrity Fit Club (you know, the one who doesn’t yell at people during weigh-ins) to specifically target the health concerns of African Americans. So issues like HBP and diabetes are at the forefront of the weight loss issues in mind, and the plan’s diet tips directly spoke to some of my personal weaknesses. Those would be fatty meats, meats with skin, and sugary drinks. But the guidelines are just that — guidelines. The plan offers a 30-day meal plan that gives simple suggestions on what you should eat, but the rest is up to me. And that brings me to reason number 3 I can dig the challenge — strength in numbers.

The 50 Million Pound challenge aims to unite the community to track their activity, keep a vigilant eye on weight, and yes — to join groups. I’ll admit right now, I ain’t there yet. I have read that black women tend to work out in groups, but until I feel secure that my routine is regular and I won’t be letting the other members of my group down, I’m not quite ready to make that step. I need to committ to myself before I committ to others.

Having said that — would any of you be down to join an Afrobella weight loss group in the future? I might need some support from my bellas! Let me know. I’m gonna marinate on that idea myself before I start anything up. Just a thought.

So what are my specific goals on this journey?

I’m a curvy woman, I will always be a curvy woman. I will never be skinny. Having said that — I gotta add, I don’t feel as strongly as Monique does. I don’t believe that skinny women are evil. I just know skinny is something I will never be, and in the past I’ve set myself up for failure by thinking that way. In the past, I wanted to lose weight for superficial reasons. The goals I’m setting for myself this time around are realistic and grounded in my health concerns, rather than my self-esteem issues.

I want to be fit. I want to feel like I am being the best me possible. And I know on days when I give in to shoving a burger in my mouth for dinner while watching TV, days when I’d rather subsist on 100 Calorie Pack snacks and diet soda rather than drinking water and eating fresh, healthy food I prepared myself, days when I sit at the computer or watch TV all day instead of working out, then resign myself to tomorrow, tomorrow, I’ll work out tomorrow… I’m doing myself a disservice and making my body and my mind weaker and flabbier. And that’s so 2008.

So what am I doing? Starting small, starting steady. I’m getting up and getting active for a half hour every day. I log into the plan for suggestions and motivation. I’m trying my best to avoid the snacks that have led to pitfalls in the past — I’m proud to say that I bought a melon bowl from the produce aisle instead of those little Hostess cupcakes that have been my undoing. I’m teaching myself to like the taste of water. Plain water, with no Crystal Light or flavored Splenda packets or added carbonation and sweetners. If I want to jazz it up, I throw in a wedge of lemon or lime, or some mint. Getting delicious recipe ideas from Cooking Light or even other diet plans like Weight Watchers or the South Beach Diet help to keep me inspired. I hate getting bored with the food I eat, and I’ve really learned to enjoy cooking healthy meals. Reading blogs like Sweet Potato Pie, Living the Fit Life and Sati Life are helping me keep my eyes on the prize. My health.

For some reason when I was writing this post, I thought of a song I haven’t heard in decades. A calypso called The Journey, by Chris “Tambu” Herbert.

This 1989 calypso was one of my father’s favorites, and the chorus pops into my head whenever I’m at a low ebb. Probably because my dad used to sing it so often: “The journey now start, the journey now start.” All these years my dad’s been lecturing me about my weight. But my motivation had to come from within. Finally, my inner spark has been lit.

I finally know and believe that I can do this!

Bellas and fellas, I’m going to be keeping you abreast of my weight loss journey on a weekly basis for the next couple of months. Recipe ideas, motivation, fashion and beauty issues are sure to arise.

So share with me — what are your particular weight loss stumbling blocks? And tell me — will you join me? Are you ready to begin this journey with me, or are you already on one of your own?

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LD in PDX says:
February 2, 2009, 11:50 am
I am in! My stumbling blocks are: sugar, stress and Portland weather (I refuse to invest my money into another gym program until I am truly committed to going. I like working out for FREE in the great outdoors - or right now in my living room.) I have a wedding (possibly two) to be in in the next 365 and I would love to be up there, smiling and comfortable! I just want my outsides to project (and protect?) my insides.
CoilyFields says:
February 2, 2009, 11:55 am
I wish you all the best bella. I did the 50 million pound challenge with my coworkers last year when I was pregnant and it definately kept me fit. The group motivation does work wonders. I am currently on my own weight loss plan and its been working for me!!! I started eating only fruits and vegetables and a 100% bran cereal. I have gradually added baked chicken (no skin), baked fish, and some whole wheat tortillas. I also got Hip Hop Abs dvd and workout at least 30 minutes in my living room with my 10 month old. The best thing that I found on the web was this was a lifesaver. It basically helps me track my calories etc. and exercise. For me really seeing what I was eating has helped me become aware of portions and the amount I should be eating each day. I've been faithful for 3 weeks now and already I'm getting compliments on my weight loss. A burden shared is a burden lightened and so I'm here for ya!
nikki says:
February 2, 2009, 11:56 am
The idea is to change how you eat and increase your activity level. That's all. Diet, smiet. I'm at an "ideal" weight for my height, but HBP, heart issues AND diabetes are on both sides for me. I try to monitor my weight and if it gets too high, I increase my actvity level. Work with your doctor and don't be SO hard on yourself. One day at a time.
Keturah says:
February 2, 2009, 12:01 pm
Well...I must say, as much as I read your blog (it's in my google reader)I never comment, and now as your journey parallels my own, I find it a must. As a 29 year old female "tip toe'n up on 30", I am afraid, excited and lastly exhausted. I too have never been "skinny", but I've definatley been healthy and smaller than I've been the last 5 years. Just last week, I went to the hospital with high blood pressure being the cause. I have never been so freaked out in my life!! In addition to all these factors, I will be completing my master's in June only to enter a field heavily focused on appearances: APPAREL DESIGN! Yeah, yeah I know..."You don't have to be small to be an artist" or "Girl, make sure you design clothes for us big girls", but it's not that simple. Having interned at two well known design company's, I've seen the attitudes and interactions based on size. The need for employees to try garments on and for their own good...benefit from free samples. Losing a few pounds, eating better, drinking more water...All of these are small yet important parts of my own confidence. Skin, hair, body and soul. More confidence to interview for jobs and health to sustain the long work's a need and I believe...I can do it. None the less beautiful bountiful bella...I am with you on this one. On this of a lifetime...and one that no matter how long it takes will always be worth while. Good luck and you have my full interest and support in joining your group! Losing is a lifestyle for longevity!!
Kristin says:
February 2, 2009, 12:12 pm
I'm much more of a lurker but I agree with Nikki, keeping a journal of what you eat will make a huge difference. Once I started writing down what I was putting in my mouth I thought twice about that morning donut. Best of luck to you. You will physically feel so much better when you meet your goal.
golden star says:
February 2, 2009, 12:14 pm
I am with you. I have been a part of the 50 Million Challenge and it's been slow going. Lost 20+ lbs but I so wanted to have lost 4 by yesterday and I have been stuck on a little plateau. I go to the site and it has a lot of food reviews that really help. Good luck and start the group. You're right about walking in Chicago. There's so much happening that walking is actually fun!
b. says:
February 2, 2009, 12:25 pm
Love it! Go, and I'll go with you! :D One thing that helps with innovative food ideas is a good array of spices. If you have a Penzey's near you, GO. Google Penzey's and see what I mean. All their spices are fresh and if you go to a store you can smell the spices. Prices aren't bad for the amount, and they have recipes all over the store and in their catalogs. You'd be surprised at the salt content of a lot of food. Just be aware of it. Thank you so much, 'Bella, for taking a holistic look at health. Your motivation and your outlook on what it takes is on point.
b. says:
February 2, 2009, 12:40 pm
I also have to ask...what is type one high blood pressure? I've heard of type one diabetes, but not type one hbp. Just asking b/c I don't know...
Kindred smile says:
February 2, 2009, 12:42 pm
Bella, this post was inspiring in so many ways. Thank you for sharing - i'll be with you all the way!
bella says:
February 2, 2009, 12:45 pm
B - Good looking out. I smushed two medical terms together incorrectly. What I was diagnosed with is called prehypertension: it's an early indicator of HBP, and on the days that I was measured by the doctor, my blood pressure was indeed high. Either way, I'm tackling the problems head on!
Hijabi Apprentice says:
February 2, 2009, 1:40 pm
I'm in too! I'm 34 with a new baby and I've just been packing on the pounds. I am genetically predisposed to diabetes and high blood pressure so it's really important for me to make a lifestyle change!
Davina Emily says:
February 2, 2009, 1:50 pm
Bella, Count me in,if you decided to do the group thing. I too this year decided to become healthier. My family also has a history of HBP along with diabetes. I known that like you I will always be a curvy woman, but I need to be healthy as well. I started of the year doing well working out once a day, but to be honest i slipped up the past two weeks. After reading this post I know that I need to get back to working out and eating right. This post was truly inspiring.
Josey says:
February 2, 2009, 2:07 pm
As a born and bred Chicagoan, I must warn you that the Chicago Transit Authority is the worst public transportation system I have EVER experienced. And I've been many places. You may be driving more than you think, especially if you are an on-the-go type who must get to places on time. If you live in a trendy 'hood that has everything at your fingertips and you don't venture far from home, you may be fine but when I moved from Chi-town to NYC, I vowed never to return until I was rich enough to take cabs everywhere. I'm serious, I'm that scarred from the experience. On the bright side, you may burn some extra calories shivering at the bus stop. Not to be a total negative Nelly, I am sure you will enjoy many, many things about my hometown (the food, even the healthy food is tasty and affordable, Chi has some of the best museums in the world!). How can anyone not enjoy a city founded by a black man? If it is still open, you must find a store called Bravco, a very comprehensive beauty supply place where you can get the stuff you're only supposed to find in a salon.
SoFrolushes says:
February 2, 2009, 3:14 pm
Well I am going to enjoy reading your journey. I need to get serious about my weight and what I eat. I simply need to exercise. Getting to the gym not easy so I have fitness dvds, jst need to use them more often. I also have a cross trainer. shame on me. all the tools and commitment not there huh. last summmer i tried weight watchers for 5 weeks and lost 5lbs, I intend to start this back up but just from home with occasional tweaks. my problem also I allow my husband to cook more than me. He is so the jamaican cook. west indian cuisine at its finest. I know he will not be offended if I also do my own dish. Good luck I know you will do well. Now I pray I can kick start my weight loss. I need to lose 4 stone which is about 56 pounds. my 1st target is 1 stone or 14 lbs. I just need to make a start. again I know you will do well!!! ps check out youtube. they have some inspirational videos on weight loss. before and after, watch me shrink etc
Nerd Girl says:
February 2, 2009, 3:58 pm
My daughter is my motivation. I'm not overweight, but being responsible for the habits and life of another has certainly made me re-examine myself, my lifestyle, my habits, my choices. I'm in the gym 3x a week with a goal of being fitter, stronger, healthier. The scale doesn't have a place in my plans, but my 4 year old does. Good luck!
SDG says:
February 2, 2009, 4:08 pm
I just bought a treadmill yesterday from QVC. I'm with you Bella and the rest of the ladies committed to good heatlh.
Dad says:
February 2, 2009, 5:04 pm
Indeed, the journey now start. Only last week we went to a comedy show staring Rachel Price and were flabbergasted at the new Rachel. For those who may have known her a year or so ago, her weight loss is simply phenomenal. She has attributed the new her to a new attitude, sensible dieting and exercise. Stick with it. On another note, Tambu Herbert was a student of mine some years ago and we have remained good friends. He now sings gospel music with a calypso beat and recenly release a new CD. He will be thrilled to bits to know that you actually remembered and used his calypso, which is as old as you are.
TJ says:
February 2, 2009, 5:36 pm
Congrats on your steps toward better health. I was surprised when I read about how unhealthy Miami was
b. says:
February 2, 2009, 5:42 pm
This is neat: I found this just now. It shows people who contribute photos of themselves detailing their weight and height. It's like a photo bmi chart!
Norjunma1 says:
February 2, 2009, 7:47 pm
Bravo Bella! I'm sure you can see there's lots of love and support headed in your direction. It's not surprising either since you've a) been such a constant source of support for so many and b) you've touched upon an issue that's practically universal. You've definitely got my support. Count me in. I've got so many food-related diseases in my family history that you'd I'd eat, sleep and breath a healthy lifestyle. You'd be wrong. Instead, I find myself sacrificing health on the altar of convenience or plain-old indulgence. If there's one hurtle I'd clear, it'd be cooking a little more at home instead of going to one of the many quick-eat spots around home (another Chicago pitfall, so beware). If I can focus on that, I think things will begin to fall into place. Like you, and everyone else who's responded, I think we have our work cut out for us, but I think it could be fun... Best of Luck!
LBell says:
February 2, 2009, 9:30 pm
Nice blog redesign! I too am trying to drop 40 pounds this year and look forward to following your progress. The CTA can sometimes raise your blood pressure but Chicago is definitely a walkable city, esp. if you live on the North Side (sadly). I could be wrong, but the lakefront walk/bike path goes all the way from Wisconsin to Indiana!
sandra says:
February 2, 2009, 11:16 pm
My tips to make it easy: Think "deck of cards", visualize this because that is the size for protein you will need to retrain yourself to do. Also, I drink more water with the one quart bottle with the straw. And add ice cubes--makes it good and you loose more weight when the water is ice cold(raises metabolism) Drink as much water as you can when you first wake up and then in the evening when you get home. It will curve your appetite and also get most of your water drinking goals out of the way. For juice: buy some seltzer water and add it to grape juice--it taste like pop and you don't have to use so much juice. For exercises, if you love music: then DANCE to it. Michael Jackson's thriller is sure to get you moving--put together your own favorites and dance for an hour--who needs walking(boring)? Incorporate exercise into yur day; exercise at your desk. Look up the lady who does exercise for seniors who are chair bound and do some of those. I found the less you can make this lifestyle change an arduous task the better. Also, I found that instead of using just "hard spices" on foods, try "powders". Adding onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne pepper can jazz up just about anything. Try dipping bread in balsamic vinegar/olive oil instead of butter(boy it's good) If you eat bread by the slices which are 1/2 the size of the normal slices(less calories and taste the same)
MoniMoni says:
February 2, 2009, 11:22 pm
Bella I have a confession...I signed up last May on 50 Million lbs challenge, and I did it for a week. So many things have been going on (like unemployment for a while) and I have not been kind to my body. I signed up because last year my doctor told me that I was borderline obese at 5'4 at 198lbs. I just went back to get back on track. Happy that this year, Dr. Ian has menus that can be sent to your email address, along with a weekly shopping list. So start the group, I'll be on board. Let's go ladies! LOL!
Get Togetha says:
February 3, 2009, 12:50 am
Hey Bella... Congrats on your new layout...mummy likes...As for weight're a beautiful sister and that's all that matters....put you first and all things will fall into place... I know...easier said than done... GT
Pearlsrevealed says:
February 3, 2009, 12:52 am
WoW Bella! I love the look of you site.
simone says:
February 3, 2009, 2:00 pm
Hey Bella, I'm sorry but I have to echo Josie... Chicago is a car city. Chicago ain't New York! The CTA sucks--especially during the winter when you need it the most. And while neighborhoods might be walkable there isn't a major grocery store in every neighborhood or even a small produce market in every neighborhood. It's kind of hit or miss. In Wicker Park, downtown, Hyde Park, Ukranian Village, Northside or something like that, nobody really is out walking or jogging between say late October and April. At least not that I saw and I lived in Hyde Park for 10 years with a brief sojourn to what was called East Village. I always thought living in Pilsen would be cool but the thing is Chicago is huge and spread out and has these distinct neighborhoods with uneven resources. From April to September, the lakefront is wonderful and most neighborhoods and parks are full of joggers, kids playing and all kinds of charm. In winter, most people use the gym -- you just realize that you have to do that. The Southside Y gets mad usage and I recall it as a good social and fitness scene. But if you are on the northside there are very good gyms and also the Y was nice. I'd say the best way to make this move work for you is to think pragmatically, not idealistically. It is very, very cold for a long time. You need to exercise probably most days and you need to cook and shop for produce, fish, meat. Organize where you live and how you get around town according to getting those needs met without exhausting yourself. Get a car and drive places. Sometimes I feel bad about driving so much but I figure that what I gain in physical fitness from being able to easily get my grocery shopping done and get to the gym everyday (well, actually I am now working at home, so I jog when it is 30 degrees or warmer.) makes me less of a burden on the health system in some ways? Ah, it's a dilemma. Enjoy Chicago!
shan says:
February 3, 2009, 1:45 pm
Wow! We are definitely in sync bella! I too want to "change it up" this year regarding my eating. My husband and I wanted to order p90x but after further reviewing it, I think not! I don't think we are quite ready for the committment. I told my husband that we aren't going on a diet, but we are going to improve what we eat. I'm not going to buy anymore bad for you foods, and keep more fruit and veg's in the house. At the same time, I'm not going to change up too much what I cook. I am going to change the PORTIONS that I serve to my family. What I'm learning is that it's not what you eat, it's HOW MUCH you eat. Even good foods can be bad for you if not eaten in moderation. Take for example fruit. Too much fruit can pack on calories and sugar. So if I'm really craving something, then I'm going to eat it. I'll just make sure it's a very small size. That along with exercise at least three times per week, and I think I will see a change. Now I must admit, I'm what most people would call a skinny girl, so weight loss isn't my goal. Overall better health, and a toned body is my utltimate goal. So more power to you bella. Oh by the way I'm a midwest girl myself, who was transplanted to the east coast when I married. So I know about hair in the midwest. You may want to invest in a bonnet dryer and some rollers. A nice rollerset in the winter, is a great alternative to waiting for your curly hair to dry. Try a "pony tail roller set". I do one once every ten days in the winter.
NaturalOasis says:
February 4, 2009, 2:31 am
..I too am feeling the new look of your site! I have committed myself to working out atleast 4 times a week. I mark every work out that I complete on the calendar so at the end of the month I can pat myself on the back for my accomplishments. I am in the military so I have free use of the gym. On those days when I feel that I would rather skip the gym I stay home and watch a live performance from my DVR or videos and I dance nonstop for 30 minutes, unless I feel like doing more. I benefit from this by increasing my heart rate, still feeling as if I am working towards my goal as well as my 2 year son is entertained and will usually join me, lol. You can find ways to exercise at home without investing in expensive equipment such as: using canned food as weights, the steps as a means of completing the cardio portion as well as many other things. Get creative and do it for you first and your family second! I wish everyone the best. ;)
Sincerely says:
February 4, 2009, 8:14 pm
I went to the Doctor today and they said I was obese! I was soo shocked, I know Im a 'curvy' girl but I didn't think I was obese. I couldn't believe the scale when I went on it! I've gained so much weight without even realizing it- just goes to show that you have to check the scales every 3 months or even more often than that to make sure your not too heavy. Anyhoo I've joined the 50million pound challenge with the hope of loosing a whooping 38 pounds! I really hope I do it! Its great to read this post and know Im not the only one
HomeSpaGoddess says:
February 13, 2009, 12:31 am
Hey Afrobella, I'll be doing this too but I'll be video blogging about it. Looking forward to your posts:)
Kyrston says:
March 2, 2009, 6:15 pm
Bella, I'm proud of you! I am willing to join your group when you form it. I have my own group as well you are welcome to join. I have been on the 50 Million Pound Challenge since 9/17/08 and have lost 38lbs with another 62lbs to go! I'm proud of myself as well. The key to success for me has been the meal plan and exercise. I created a detailed meal plan weekly and follow it closely. I have the most successful when I pack my meals and bring them to work. As well, I am able to use the meal plan as a guide when I go out to eat. I now exercise at least 5 days a week. I have found that I even if I don't follow the meal plan religiously, the exercise allows me to maintain the weight loss and I have yet to gain a pound back. I wish you all the luck in the world and look forward to joining your team. this is the link to my team. here's the link to my post they featured.