Tameika Gentles overhauled her eating and exercise habits and shed 83 pounds.

As told to Anthea Levi
May 24, 2018

I never worried much about my weight until it almost made me flunk out of college. As a sophomore, I had only a few minutes to get from one class to another on the opposite side of campus. At 223 pounds, I couldn’t book it like my classmates. Instead, I huffed and puffed along. Thanks to a strict professor who locked the door as soon as class started, I missed it almost every week. Ashamed, I knew I had to make serious changes. That was one of the moments that made me recognize it. No more late-night snacking. No more buffet-style family dinners. And definitely no more missed classes.

My New Year’s resolution for 2007? Start with tiny tweaks. I checked out books on healthy eating. I started cooking, having whole-wheat pasta for dinner and Raisin Bran for breakfast. They were hardly superfoods, but I’d been eating so poorly that even these meals helped the weight fall off fast. Doing three group fitness classes each week was also key. By March, I had dropped 30 pounds. But I had also hit a plateau. I tweaked my wellness routine again, switching from spaghetti dinners to salads as well as upping my sweat schedule to four weekly sessions of cardio followed by upper- or lower-body strength-training moves. Just like that, I was back on track—and shedding 10 pounds a month.

By the end of the summer, I had hit 130 pounds. I spent the next three years doing strict workouts and trying fad diets, and I began to realize I’d become too restrictive. In 2010, I vowed to embrace balance. So in 2017, I quit my corporate job and moved to Bali part-time to work as a virtual health coach. My new environment inspired me to overhaul my diet yet again. Instead of counting calories, I now live on whole foods like grains, fish, and veggies. As for exercise, I’m all about body- weight circuits that I can do anywhere. I’m now 140 pounds, but I know what it means to be healthy in body and mind.

Tameika’s tone-up tricks

Be a Copycat: Before I knew anything about weight training, I’d go to the gym and literally copy the fit people around me, doing whatever exercises they did. Everyone’s gotta start somewhere!

Set Realistic Goals: If you know you can’t make it to the gym six days a week, try for three! It’s better to set targets that actually make sense for you instead of burning out.

Dish It Up: I learned the hard way that eating boiled chicken and steamed broccoli every day isn’t sustainable. Now I put effort into cooking healthy meals like bean and veggie grain bowls or stir-fries.

Find Your Why: I ask clients to write a “why” statement at the start of their journey. People feel even more motivated to get healthy when their purpose is substantial, like wanting to be around for their kids.