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PROUD & DETERMINED...Kalifa loses 140 pounds

Sunday, June 10, 2018


The struggle to maintain ones ideal weight is an ongoing challenge. How many of us can remember those teenage days when we ate literally anything without gaining an ounce. The metabolism in those early days works at high speed. As time passes and this slows down, as we move into sedentary occupations and less active lifestyles, the pounds begin to sneak up in those unwanted areas—the tummy, the side obliques, and on the hips and bra line. In a world obsessed with body image the psychological effects of excess weight can be overwhelming. Sadly it can lead to medical conditions such as anorexia nervosa which is an emotional disorder characterized by an obsessive desire to lose weight by refusing to eat. Bulimia is also an emotional disorder in which bouts of extreme overeating are followed by fasting or self induced vomiting and purging. Unfortunately these conditions are becoming more widespread, particularly among teenage girls who are subject to peer pressure and see body image as an important element of their acceptance. Ideally our main focus should be on the health benefits of nutrition and exercise rather than on weight loss. Here in T&T, our penchant for fast foods has made us a nation in which obesity has become more and more prevalent, including among children. Obesity has been linked to several serious medical conditions like heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoarthritis, breathing problems such as sleep apnea and asthma to name a few. The Diabetes Association confirms that there are approximately 270,000 people with diabetes in T&T. Diabetes affects your body’s ability to produce or use insulin, a hormone that allows your body to turn glucose (sugar) into energy. Eye disease, cardiovascular and kidney problems, pregnancy complications, and nerve damage are just some of its effects.

So what can we do to trim those unwanted pounds? Begin with simple goals like brisk walking or swimming. No matter how big or small your workout you will feel energized, strong, and confident afterwards. Remember ‘slow and steady wins the race.’ Focus as far as possible on eating fresh produce, whole grains, and lean protein, and make exercise a part of your lifestyle. Mahatma Gandhi’s words hold true, “It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.” We can achieve nothing without our health and nothing is worth losing it. Joyce Meyer puts it well when she says “I believe that the greatest gift you can give your family and the world is a healthy you.”

Today we feature a powerful example of determination and commitment. I am indeed happy to be sharing the fitness story of Kalifa David-Lewis whose journey to weight loss and improved health is an example for us all. She is testament to the power of the human mind which makes us able to achieve anything we set our minds to. The benefits to be derived from a healthy lifestyle are worth the effort and discipline. Keep training!

Judy Alcantara

BA English Honours/Spanish

CIAR Cert [Cooper's institute of Aerobic Research]

Email: [email protected]


Kalifa David-Lewis:

It is easy to start a diet, the hard part is making those healthy changes into a permanent part of your lifestyle. At age 31 I found myself tired and unhealthy. Being 6'1” meant I carried my weight well and not look as large as many who were shorter, so I was quite comfortable in my own skin.

I have always considered myself an active person who would dabble in quick-fix diets from time to time, but even this became a challenge with my hectic school and work regime. A series of challenging life events led to my weight skyrocketing to an alarming 335 pounds.

I found myself blowing to walk up one flight of stairs with constant reminders from physicians that I was a prime candidate for heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.

Enough was enough and I finally made the decision to make the change where I incorporated exercise into my every day life and make healthier eating choices.

I was introduced to a weight-loss programme that encourages healthier eating habits, this particularly appealed to me because I was never a fan of programmes that encouraged unnatural fixes to weight loss.

I began basically counting calories in everything that I ate and included a minimum of 45 minutes walking or running for a total of five days. At nights I would sit with my pen, paper, and calculator to ensure that my calorie count remained within the maximum amount of 1,200 calories per day.

This was extremely frustrating, my already hectic schedule had just increased, but like most things I see challenges as opportunities to be my best, so I soon mastered this process and it became a breeze. I started to see food in terms of calories and nutritional value, instead of just satisfaction and taste which usually leads to bad choices.

Mastering this process resulted in a weight loss of 45 pounds in eight weeks. This of itself was enough motivation for me to continue.

Weighing was an integral part for me, although frowned by most it helped keep me focused. I have literally weighed every week on the same scale for three years. I never purchased a scale to keep at home since I fear becoming obsessed with the results. On those down days that resulted in poor eating and exercise the scale would always tell the truth, which allowed me to snap right back on track. To date, I have kept every single receipt that I pull out from time to time as evidence of my progress.

I realised that exercise that feels miserable is not sustainable so I had to find a workout I enjoyed in order to make physical fitness a lifelong habit. I enrolled in a gym membership and after trying different classes and routines, I found a love for weight training and spin. Finding this mix that I enjoyed has kept me consistent for years with a minimum of four training sessions a week.

But running really became my passion and I went from running only when being chased to completing several half marathons. I registered for most of the races which felt like I was in constant training but constantly motivated. I would get up on weekends at 4:30 am to facilitate longer runs, which I ran solo most times since it was difficult to find other people with similar zeal. It started out with completing these races as the main accomplishment but now I look forward to improving my times and testing my progress.

'The hardest part is keeping motivated'

Sometimes the hardest part of the journey to any goal is keeping motivated. After the first year, I had lost 120 lbs and to be honest, it seems like that was the easier part. After reaching a big goal, it's easy to become relaxed and lose focus. Keeping up with a six-day exercise routine really became demanding, I had to forgo other activities and it felt like a life sentence.

Maintaining my ideal weight seems to be the real challenge, striking that right balance between diet and exercise. I am a sucker for snacks and I try to make better choices but not deprive myself. My diet mostly consists of low carbs. I don't count calories like I did in the past, since I am on a maintenance drive.

The struggle of keeping a healthy, balanced diet is real, I prepare most of my meals so I don't get tempted. I eat very small portions several times during the day. There are times where I would actually stand and stare at the items in the snack lane in the grocery as if I was able to obtain some level of satisfaction.

I am constantly faced with the smart remarks of my friends that life is not meant to be like that, eat what you want. The times I do indulge, I know I have to work out twice as hard the next day and sometimes the thought of running that extra two miles for having a roti, for example, makes me say no.

An important aspect of maintenance for me is the motivating of my peers at my job. I try to create a culture of healthy eating and improved exercise habits, it makes the process easier since the chances of temptation is reduced. I even created little workout and diet challenges for my colleagues, which keeps me on track during the day. As for home, I control what I eat by keeping all junk food out.

My goals have become a moving target. As the weight continued to fall off I felt happy about the result and my motivation changed, I was now motivated by my appearance, the simple satisfaction of how my clothes fit, and more subtle changes to my physique.

In February of 2018, this soon changed, my brother died of a massive heart attack at the tender age of 40. I felt like I was next and no amount of physical exercise could save me. My pressure dropped and my pulse was extremely low. I sought the advice of a physician who later explained that a fit individual has a larger stroke volume, which meant a greater volume of oxygen is delivered to the body per heartbeat, hence the reason fit people have a lower resting rate. This was news to me and funny enough, I never really saw myself as being "a fit individual."

My goals have now shifted a bit, my main goal is to be in the best physical, mental, and emotional shape of my life. I have increased and adjusted my exercise regime in the aim of achieving these targets.

I have discovered that the mind is a powerful tool. I can do anything I put my mind to. To date, I have lost a total of 140 pounds but my journey still continues. Health and fitness is a dynamic process, never static. There will always be new mountains to climb, hurdles to overcome, challenges to set for myself, goals to achieve, and I look forward to them all because I know I will keep going.


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