Health and fitness is a great passion of mine since losing over 100 lbs. almost 6 years ago. I'm an emotional eater. Yes, I must admit that being overweight had been huge problem (pun intended) for quite some time. day, I DECIDED TO CHANGE!

My journey is one that started a long time ago after having children; three to be exact. Well, let me say, I've never been the skinny girl. I've always been the "thick chick", the one with a lil' extra meat on her bones. However, my “out of control” spiral started with the birth of my first baby.

I’d also had some health issues and two major surgeries that didn't allow me to move around a lot along with some other personal things that occurred that stressed me out to no end! So what did I do for comfort? I ATE!—and GOOD! Oh please, a big bowl of starchy goodness with a side of something sweet? (My “go to”!) Then of course, on packed the pounds. I just couldn't keep blaming it on 'baby fat'; my BABY is 6ft tall and 13 ½ at the time!

Shandera Dawson before training.

Shandera Dawson before training.

Now, I'm not going to tell you how much I weighed, but it was up there. I really didn't 'think' I was as heavy as I was... I guess? I've always been someone who kept myself up and cared about how I dressed. I didn't realize (or maybe I didn't care even), that the sizes I was buying were getting bigger & bigger. As long as I was put together well and my husband was still attracted to me, I was fine. So I thought.

In 2010, I had a second spinal surgery and couldn't move about freely without having the assistance of family and friends. In the three months I was down, for some strange reason all I craved was asparagus, grilled sea scallops and fish. During that period, I lost 30lbs without doing much of anything except changing my diet and that was not on purpose. It must've been the meds.

I’d been a member of several gyms—I’d go then stop, lose and gain. For those of you who know how that is, it’s the most frustrating thing ever.

Moving forward, I had to do physical therapy which consisted of mostly Water Therapy which was actually a great thing and it helped me to keep the 30lbs off. Later on, I joined the gym. Now, I’d been a “member” of several gyms and during this period, I was on a stop and go program. I'd go then stop, lose and gain...blah, blah, blah. You may or may not know how that is. For those of you that do, it’s the most frustrating thing ever.

Well, shortly thereafter, once again, I was dealing with those ugly health issues. My cholesterol was out of control along with an irregular heartbeat. Talk about scary. I wasn’t even 40 years old yet! I unexpectedly and inconveniently wound up in the hospital for a week with yet another health scare.

When I first got admitted to the hospital, one of the ER doctors said that potentially what he thought was wrong had to do with me being overweight. Talking about making me feel bad?!

Turns out, what he thought it was turned out not to be; it was something else that didn't have anything to do with my weight, but whatever! Now, it's heavily on my mind.

Just prior to going into the hospital, I'd made a decision to follow the lead of a close friend and put in an actual effort to lose weight, because I'd gotten to the point where I felt uncomfortable and on top of that, my “big clothes” were getting too small!!!

I spent a week in the hospital and, once again, I'm out of commission. I couldn't move about without a walker. FOR REAL??!!!

During this period, I continued with the diet program I'd initially started before the hospital, and what do ya' know? I'm dropping pounds according to my scale. Because I was recovering from being ill, I didn't notice or really see how much weight I was losing. I was still seeing the same heavy person as before. Weird but true.

I can’t eat ‘starchy bowls of goodness’ all the time, but if I do, I don’t beat myself up. I get back on track and kick it right back into gear.

Fast forward and once again, I'm on the mend and healing. I’d only been in lounging, comfy pajama clothes at that point, but I had to go to see the doctor for follow up and actually get dressed now. There were some pants I hadn't put on in a very long time, so I decided to just put them on. Very nervous, but I did. Well, they slid right up and I had the nerve to have some room in them!

WHAT? Blew me away!

To date I've lost a total of 105 pounds. I'm determined to stick to my healthy living goals. I've drawn encouragement from so many people. I exercise regularly (I’m a Zumba fanatic!), I'm conscious of what I eat but, I DON’T DEPRIVE MYSELF OF ANYTHING! I know all things done in moderation are okay. I can't eat “starchy bowls of goodness” all the time, however if I do, I don't beat myself up. I get back on track and kick it right back into gear.

I did it for myself; my mental health and most of all my physical health. My journey may help someone else just as other people’s journeys have helped me along the way.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle has its many challenges. I can't wait to share some of the many ways that help me to keep my vision focused on the big picture; healthy living! Recipes, clean eating tips, nutrition and exercise will be my focus. I’ll also include interviews with health and fitness professionals from various sectors. They’ll give valuable input that can help to encourage individuals who are looking for guidance to either get started or just looking for different ways to get and stay fit.

I’m very happy to be a part of the Polyphony Magazine team and I look forward to sharing some awesome things to come!

—Shandera G. Dawson