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Road to Competition: How Nadia Lost 80lbs and Overcame Depression to Become a Fitness Competitor

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Nadia Before and After

Nadia Before and AfterMy name is Nadia Exama-Mwamuye and I’m a 29-year-old waitress from Boston, MA! I’ve recently lost over 75 lbs and am currently training for my first bikini competition which actually falls on my 30th birthday, November 9, 2013.

I’ve been overweight most of my life, since I was a child. I hit puberty and basically started ballooning from there. It didn’t help that I’m of Haitian descent and my mom loved making us the staples: rice and beans, fried chicken and pork, and fried plantains. I eventually learned how to make most of that myself and would eat until my heart’s content. I quickly got bigger and bigger but it wasn’t too much of a concern other than my mom giving me the side eye and saying I should try to lose weight—meanwhile she was also overweight, so I paid her no mind.

Through the years I tried every fad diet, pill and fitness craze you could think of—low carb, The Zone diet, different videos etc. I became obsessed with trying to lose weight. Some things worked but then as soon as I stopped, the weight came right back and then some! I wasn’t learning how to live a healthy lifestyle, I just wanted a quick fix.

In 2010 I hit rock bottom. I was over 205 lbs, lethargic, unmotivated and just lifeless. I spent most days in my basement apartment with my dog on the couch watching TV. I would only get up for work or on my off days, I would take my dog out and get the delivery. It got to the point where the delivery people knew me intimately!

Nadia and HusbandThen everything changed at the end of 2011. I met my now husband and found I had a reason to live again. I had been depressed for so long and alone and thinking that no one would want to be with someone like me and here he was accepting me the way I was. He never asked me to lose weight, he thought I was beautiful as is but for me I wanted to be the best me possible because that’s what I felt he deserved. I found my king and I needed to make myself a queen to match him.

I started my transformation by doing home workouts with videos by Jillian Michaels and Bob Harper of The Biggest Loser. I then transitioned to TurboFire by Chalene Johnson, a 90 day DVD program that is dance and kickboxing oriented! I lost 30 lbs doing that. Eventually I was confident enough to enroll in a gym. With all my weight loss attempts throughout the years I knew what I needed to do in order to get healthy—I just had to put it to practice. I used Jamie Eason’s 12 week free trainer on Bodybuilding.com to lose another 15 lbs., or so. Now I’m working with my fabulous coach, WBFF Figure Pro Tabitha Sierra, in preparation for my first bikini competition, the WBFF New England Show in Providence, RI on November 9th.

Nadia MarathonMy transformation hasn’t merely been physical! I love living a fit and healthy lifestyle. In addition to working out 5-6 times a week I run a road race every month. I am currently pursuing certification as a personal trainer so I can help others achieve their health and wellness goals. I am a Beachbody coach because I believe in TurboFire and the other products they offer. Some people aren’t comfortable in a gym setting and this offers them the opportunity to make a change at home at their own pace. In the future, I would also like to start a nonprofit organization that helps women and children in urban areas adapt a healthy and fit lifestyle!

I’m so grateful that I made this change in my life and my biggest message to people is always make small healthy changes and eventually it’ll lead to big results. You didn’t gain 50 lbs overnight so don’t expect to lose it overnight. It takes work and dedication but in the end it is so worth it!

Nadia Before and After

Follow me for motivation and tips!

Instagram|@tough_as_nads
Twitter|@tough_as_nads
Facebook|http://www.facebook.com/NadiaExama
Beachbody Coaching|http://www.teambeachbody.com/toughnads

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Ilen & Lauren Bell are the husband and wife team behind Black Fitness Today, born, in 2011, out of their motivation to change culture, build a platform and lead the charge. Their purpose is to help change the culture towards health and fitness in the African-American community, showcase those who are making an impact, and promote healthier living. They also aim to serve as a platform for African-American fitness and health professionals and enthusiasts who are otherwise overlooked in traditional fitness media.

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Mental Health

Dealing with Criticism and Difference In Opinion

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criticsm

We often become emotionally disturbed during a disagreement, or an argument, or when someone criticizes us or disagrees with us. In such cases our personality usually feels hurt, demeaned and in danger.

When we feel this way, we destroy our own happiness, clarity and health and often behave in ways which we later regret.

A simple technique for gaining clarity is to:

1. Remember that concerning criticism, there are two possibilities:

a. The other person might be correct in his or her observations and criticism. In this case we would benefit by admitting it and making the proper adjustment in our behavior. We have everything to gain by listening and evolving through others’ comments.

What prevents us is the belief that we are not lovable if we are not perfect. Thus, we do not want to see or admit our faults. When we realize that we are worthy of love and respect even when we are not perfect or right, then we will be able to look at our faults.

b. The other person might be wrong. In this case, it is his or her projection, and we need not be affected by these misconceptions or projections. We have in this case the lesson of loving ourselves and also the others even when they perceive us in distorted and negative ways.

2. One solution would be simply not to react one way or the other at first, but to reflect upon what has been said for some time so as to evaluate whether or not it is true.

We can establish a space in our minds where we can store such questions about our personality structure or actions so as to observe objectively for ourselves if they are true. If they are not, then we simply continue on in the way we were.

We need not feel hurt, angry, defend ourselves, prove ourselves, or attack. When we feel inner security and self-worth, we do not need to react in these ways.

3. We can simply thank the other for this feedback and tell him or her that we will think about this observation and will gradually come to our conclusions, and if necessary, make changes.

We do not need to live our lives in accordance with others’ perceptions. We can listen to all, but follow ourselves.

Note:

A “thank you” is enough.

(Adapted from the “The Psychology of Happiness” by Robert Najemy)

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Mental Health

The Challenge and Stigma of Mental Health Disorders Amongst Family

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mental health stigma

Having a family member that is suffering a mental health disorder can be taxing at times. Depending on the severity of the disorder, many families have been broken up because of this. Some of them can be blamed on the lack of love or patience a family member can bestow. Some just cannot handle the pressure and others just cannot take the shame.

But if the people around a person with a mental health disorder feels awkward, then what about what the actual person with the disorder feels? Many or most of these people are too afraid or ashamed to share their disorder with other people because they fear being ridiculed or judged.

Even as seeing a psychiatrist or taking mental health disorder medicines are commonplace nowadays, many people still distrust a person with a mental health problem; they feel that they are too unstable and unpredictable. Fearing what they do not know, this ignorance causes more depression and damage to a person with a mental health disorder.

Getting Over the Fear

What mental health disorder patients want is for them to be considered as normal people. Only that they need more compassion, understanding and kindness. Treat a mental health disorder afflicted person the same way as you would anyone, this would make him or her feel more normal.

As they feel more accepted and happy, they increase the chance of becoming normal. Also, be prepared; learn about the disorder that has afflicted your family or friend. Know the symptoms so you can be prepared as well.

For the patient, learn and try to accept your condition, do not be afraid of what people will say, open up your condition to them. If they can’t take it then they’re not worth it. Remember that there are many people with mental health disorder; some are not just as obvious. Hold your head up high and live with dignity.

Steps to cope with stigma (via Mayo Clinic)

Here are some ways you can deal with stigma:

  • Get treatment. You may be reluctant to admit you need treatment. Don’t let the fear of being labeled with a mental illness prevent you from seeking help. Treatment can provide relief by identifying what’s wrong and reducing symptoms that interfere with your work and personal life.
  • Don’t let stigma create self-doubt and shame. Stigma doesn’t just come from others. You may mistakenly believe that your condition is a sign of personal weakness or that you should be able to control it without help. Seeking counseling, educating yourself about your condition and connecting with others who have mental illness can help you gain self-esteem and overcome destructive self-judgment.
  • Don’t isolate yourself. If you have a mental illness, you may be reluctant to tell anyone about it. Your family, friends, clergy or members of your community can offer you support if they know about your mental illness. Reach out to people you trust for the compassion, support and understanding you need.
  • Don’t equate yourself with your illness. You are not an illness. So instead of saying “I’m bipolar,” say “I have bipolar disorder.” Instead of calling yourself “a schizophrenic,” say “I have schizophrenia.”
  • Join a support group. Some local and national groups, such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), offer local programs and internet resources that help reduce stigma by educating people who have mental illness, their families and the general public. Some state and federal agencies and programs, such as those that focus on vocational rehabilitation and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), offer support for people with mental illness.
  • Get help at school. If you or your child has a mental illness that affects learning, find out what plans and programs might help. Discrimination against students because of a mental illness is against the law, and educators at primary, secondary and college levels are required to accommodate students as best they can. Talk to teachers, professors or administrators about the best approach and resources. If a teacher doesn’t know about a student’s disability, it can lead to discrimination, barriers to learning and poor grades.
  • Speak out against stigma. Consider expressing your opinions at events, in letters to the editor or on the internet. It can help instill courage in others facing similar challenges and educate the public about mental illness.

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Mental Health

Say Yes To Happiness! 11 Practical Steps You Can Take To Make It Happen

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happiness

Think about it … every single thing we do is intended to make us happier.

And yet sometimes we get diverted and do things that actually move us away from this goal.

We all have the potential for genuine happiness. There is no gene or DNA marker that determines who will be happy and who will not. We make choices throughout our lives, and the result of all these choices combined, determines our level of happiness. Make the right choices and happiness can be yours.

Here are just a sampling of some of the tactics we can employ in an 11-point roadmap to help guide us toward genuine happiness:

1. Look For The Positive In Everything: There is an old saying that nothing is inherently good or bad—what makes it one or the other, is merely your reaction to it. Find the positive and you will be happier. Those who soar against all odds, do so because they look at the positive that could come out of their situation, how ever bad it may seem to others.

2. Accentuate The Positive: We all grow up with a “positivity imbalance”—the result of society’s norms and rules being based on restriction and punishment more than approval and reward. From a young age we are taught what we must not do instead of what we may do. Even in day-to-day life, there is more negative influence that positive. Luckily you can work to improve the balance. Celebrate the positive and work to get more of it. When you achieve something, congratulate yourself! Look for things you find uplifting, that make you happy. Get more of that! At the same time, reduce your exposure to negative input, whether it is the daily news, or people you don’t feel good around. You know your buttons…make sure the positive ones are pushed more than the negative.

3. Practice Good Selfishness: When we were young we were taught that putting our interests before those of others is wrong. This is particularly true for women, many of whom sacrifice their dreams and ambitions to help others achieve theirs. It is also common in the corporate world where the good of the company is considered more important than the good of the individual. It is good to help others, yet we should have boundaries to protect ourselves from being manipulated or abused by others. You are important, and if you don’t look after yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually, you cannot expect anyone else to do so.

4. Listen To Your Feelings: All feelings are good. Every feeling occurs for a reason: it is delivering a message. Sometimes that message is pleasant, other times not. Our tendency is to distract ourselves from unpleasant feelings, often through smoking, drinking or drugs of one kind or another. When you feel bad, avoid distracting yourself, and identify the reason—there is some need not being met.

5. Give Of Yourself: The more you give, the more you receive. There is probably no scientific study proving this to be so, but unconditional giving is hugely rewarding. It seems that the more of yourself you give, the greater the thrill and uplifting effect on your psyche. Help the needy. Give time if you can. Give anonymously, even if you lose the tax deduction!

6. Make It Happen: You have the ability to make things happen using your mind. Top sports stars, and business people use it, and so can you. There are many ways of doing this; one of the common methods is to use visualization—getting a picture in your mind of whatever it is that you want to happen. It does not actually have to be a visual picture; it could be a feeling, a smell, a sound, or any combination of the senses. Imagine finding the perfect parking near the entrance as you arrive at the supermarket or mall … the sky is the limit, but persevere! We are not used to utilizing this tool, so it takes practice.

7. Accept The Things You Cannot Change: We resist things we don’t like, and often expend a tremendous amount of energy on this resistance. Whilst this can be good, and has resulted in tremendous advances through history, we should work to understand those things we cannot change, and then move on. Rather use the saved energy on something more worthwhile and productive. This is not to say that you should complacently accept anything. If you truly desire change, you should work towards that change; but spending time worrying about something without actively working to change it is unproductive and damaging to your wellbeing.

8. Take Responsibility For Your Choices: Everything that you do, or don’t do, is because of choices you make (or don’t make). It is easier and convenient to blame outside causes for things that go wrong in life, but your life is the sum of all the choices you make along the way—sometimes that choice it to let somebody else make a choice on your behalf. If you tend to blame other people or things, it may be scary to take responsibility for what happens in your life, but it is really quite liberating because instead of seeing yourself as an effect of outside forces, you realize you are the cause of everything good you achieve. Don’t abdicate responsibility for your life.

9. Schedule Regular “Self Time”: Spend some time analyzing where you are in life, your strengths and weaknesses. How can you turn the latter into the former? Think about your views on everything from your job to global warming and the existence of aliens—then work out why you feel the way you do. Is your reasoning sound? The better you understand yourself, the better you understand the world.

10. Make Time To Meditate: We spend almost all our time thinking of the past or planning for the future. We seldom spend time in the present. It has reached a point where, for most of us, it seems impossible to keep our focus on what is happening right now. Your meditation could be formal meditation or prayer, but it could be as simple as merely focusing on each breath as it goes in and out for five or ten minutes, dismissing past and future thoughts as they arise—and they will!

11. Remove Your Limitations: When we fail, usually the reason is simply because we don’t believe we are able or worthy of whatever it is that we fail to achieve. Most often, this belief is actually false; the result of negative programming received since childhood. The truth is that most of us are able to do most of what we really want to do … you just have to believe. The best way to start is with small things, working your way up as you notice the limits dissolving.

The more successful you are at assimilating the concepts and processes described in these eleven points into your life, the more genuinely happy you will be, and the happiness will last!

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