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CHESAPEAKE, Va. – Tamika Quinn’s 80-pound weight loss journey was more than a physical transformation. After surviving two strokes, she chose to lose weight to lengthen her life. Quinn, an advocate with the American Heart Association, shared her journey with News 3 This Morning Anchor Jessica Larche.
What encouraged you to begin your health journey?
“I suffered not one, but two strokes at the age of only 27,” said Quinn. “The first stroke was on the right side of my brain and caused the entire left side of my body to be paralyzed. The second stroke was several days later in the frontal lobe of my brain. I endured a lot gaining back my independence through rehabilitation.
“I was overweight and I also had uncontrolled high blood pressure. Pretty much a cocktail for disaster,” said Quinn of having a stroke at such a young age. “After going through all of that personally, you would think that would be enough to convince me to make a complete health change, but it wasn’t enough for me. My die hard line in the sand decision to change my lifestyle to a healthy one was when my daughter (8 years old at the time) was diagnosed with high cholesterol and for the first time in my life I was having a conversation with a doctor about diabetes and that was just not something that I was going to accept as the fate of my child,” said Quinn. “I made a decision to change my family’s lives and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”
Was your family supportive?
“My lifestyle change was not welcomed by my family initially,” she said. “It was actually offensive to most and I even had a mini-protest one year of not wanting to come to a “diet Thanksgiving” at my house. I’m thankful that the health and physical benefits of weight loss have more than swayed the interest of my family and many friends to also change their lifestyle for the better. Every time anyone says to me in person or online that I’ve inspired them to eat healthy or workout, my heart is filled with joy.”
What have you learned about yourself along this journey?
“I’ve learned that I am much stronger than I’ve ever given myself credit for,” said Quinn. “When I look at my very own before and after pictures I am reminded of how at different stages of my journey, I thought how long it will take to reach my goals or how hard it will be to achieve success. Today I look at those pictures and laugh at myself for how wrong I was. The journey was hard, but no where near as hard as I thought. I did it and so can anyone else who truly wants to.”
What was your highest weight/ size and where are you now?
“My highest weight was around 240lbs. I was a ‘size 16 without a button’,” she said. “I am now a size 8. I teeter around 160lbs. I’m more excited about the progress my daughter has made during this journey. She was once the overweight girl who got teased in school because of her weight, but now even the cardiologists are amazed at her complete turn around medically without medication.”
How have your eating choices changed?
“Everything about the way I view food, to how I prepare food, to what foods I put in my mouth or my children’s mouths have changed completely,” she said. “I was raised eating very poorly. At the time I thought we ate well, but it certainly wasn’t healthy. I remember when I enrolled in a family nutrition program to learn how to change my eating habits, it was hard. When you announce to your family that we will no longer have Kool-Aid and from here on out we’ll be drinking water was the beginning of World War 3 in my home. Every change (large or small) was met with resistance. People assume if the end result is positive, it’s easy to change. That is simply not the case. People are creatures of habit.
“Today we have completely eliminated cows, pigs and everything that comes from them from our diets,” explained Quinn. “The only drink I buy in abundance is spring water. We go through lots of it! I’ve founds many healthy alternatives to the things that were no good for us. I might actually ‘fry’ food once every couple months. It’s very rare. I stopped using salt at all. I actually feel like my food is much more flavorful because I’ve learned to used various herbs that I never considered before.”
Dinner: Lean meat baked or broiled, veggies and a small serving of starch (optional).
“I plan out meals, not just for health reasons but also to budget,” said Quinn. “My kids pack their lunches the night before school. I buy snacks that are healthy for them to pack. Often I’ll make chicken salad or tuna salad for a few days of lunch for all of us. The kids love to get ‘fancy’ for lunch and pull out good food like sliced cucumbers and tomatoes in Italian or Vinaigrette dressing with their sandwich or salad.”
What do you do for exercise?
When I was really focused on weight loss I worked out 3-4 times a week. Now 1-2 times per week I’ll walk in my neighborhood or walk on the treadmill and lift weights at the gym. I just purchased some workout DVDs that I’m excited to start with the kids. It’s one of the things that has always excited us to do as a family. Now we workout for heart health and family bonding time. Weight loss is 80% nutrition and 20% exercise. I have personally had maximum results fighting my biggest battles in the kitchen, not the gym.”
What piece of advice would you give to someone who is afraid to start on this journey?
“Everyday that you put off getting started is keeping you further from reaching your goal,” said Quinn. “It’s a lifestyle change that will add years onto your life and give you a much better quality of life.”
Quinn also advises people to:
Drink water every day
Keep a personal record of your calorie intake. The app “My Fitness Pal” works for her
Wait 15 minutes after a meal before getting seconds.