By Coshandra Dillard
After a quick stretch Friday, Sheneka White, 41, dug right into sets of 100 rope jumps–a critical part of her nearly two-hour workout at a local gym. She tries to do at least 1,000 jumps and keep her target heart rate at 125 or above.
She’s seen at the gym between four and six times each week, but she wasn’t always this enthused about fitness.
The Tyler nurse pushed herself to become fit after getting fed up with her health status. It worked. She’s lost 50 pounds.
“I started the journey because of increased weight and I was diagnosed with pre-hypertension,” White said. “I was always tired and fatigued and I got tired of it. I hated the way my clothes fit on me and I hated the way my appearance was. I looked like I was pregnant.”
In the beginning, White wasn’t consistent but it took time and the desire to push past the setbacks, such as a five-month weight loss plateau.
“The main thing is to never give up because nobody is perfect,” she said. “You’re going to have days where you fall down but the main thing is to get back up and keep going … Be consistent and have your mind made up.”
Avoiding a scale also is helpful, as White notes body weight often fluctuates.
“We get discouraged by the scale and we shouldn’t go by that,” she said.
White is adamant about not letting feelings come before fitness goals.
“If it’s raining or you don’t feel like going or it’s Sunday–you come up with a reason to not do it,” she said. “Your goals are more important than your feelings.”
White mixes weight lifting with her cardiovascular exercise. It’s an activity some women still shy away from.
“All you’re doing is building lean muscle,” White said. “What it does for you is burn fat and bring back your feminine curves. I have more curves now than I had before I gained weight. You become a fat burning machine when you have a higher lean muscle percentage.”
White made changes to her diet, which includes monitoring her fat intake by cutting out ground beef and pork, letting go of soda, and increasing her vegetable intake. She also tries to avoid excess sodium in food.
“What kept me motivated was actually the results,” White said. “I took a lot of pictures and a lot of measurements. When I did side-by-side pictures I could see the progress.”
She was also motivated by Instagram. On her page, which she created in January, she shares workouts, her meals and inspiration for others on the same journey.
“Holding myself accountable kind of put me out there so that I won’t fail,” she said. “I don’t like to fail and I don’t want people to see me fail. I’m never a quitter. I don’t give up. I like challenges.”
After 18 years, she’s now off of blood pressure medication, yet another goal she conquered.
“It feels good because no one wants to take medication every day for the rest of their life,” she said. “Heart disease is killing women our age.”
She’s correct. Cardiovascular diseases kill nearly 50,000 African-American women each year, according to the American Heart Association. In addition, 49 percent of African-American women ages 20 and older have heart disease.
She encourages people, particularly black women, to educate themselves about a healthy diet and exercise. According to a 2014 State of Obesity report (using body mass index standards) 82 percent of black women are overweight or obese–a risk factor for heart disease.
Influences that hinder a healthy lifestyle, such as issues with hair maintenance and makeup, can be easily solved, White said. She notes that she sometimes wears braids to overcome hair woes.
“When you want something, you make it happen, period,” she said. “If you want a new job, a new car, a man, we go out of our way to get those things. That’s the same way it should be with our health.”
A transformation like the one White experienced won’t happen overnight, she said. In fact, many health experts advise a slower weight loss. It took White more than a year.
“You take it one day at a time,” she said. “Try not to be overwhelmed. Don’t try to do something drastic because you’ll get discouraged quick by doing that. Take baby steps one day at a time and don’t over-think it … If you really want something you can do it.”