Our culture embraces women who are “thick and curvy.” But many times, that preference goes too far when potential health risks are ignored.
Chantell Johnson, who once weighed in at 327 pounds and knew she wanted to take control of her health and improve her life, initially experienced resistance from her family because they didn’t see a problem. But her hard work and dedication to not just losing weight, but building long-term healthy habits, has resulted in a mind, body and soul transformation. Today, Chantell is motivating her family and friends to start their own journeys toward healthier lifestyles.
BFT: What was it like having your journey documented on television? How did you handle it?
CJ: The cameras weren’t the issue, but scheduling was always a concern for me. I spent a lot of my time on a strict schedule. During my 9-month weigh in, my breaks were spent in the lobby, working on my research paper, while Skyping with my group members…I was always working! I spent my spring break in L.A. recovering from surgery. During that time, I was taking exams online and making up homework – there were no off days. It’s easier to handle things now, but at that time, I was really on the brink of doing too much. The producers knew and saw my hard work DESPITE all of this. They wanted to portray that any way they could in my episode.
BFT: Other than Chris Powell from Extreme Makeover Home Edition, have you been training with anyone else?
CJ: Of course! Chris and Heidi Powell were great as my initial trainers! I will always be grateful for the opportunity to work with them. When I went back to school, we all acknowledged that this new environment needed structure and daily support. That is when Veeve Holtz of FKS became my partner-in-crime. After the cameras were long gone, Veeve was and is still there. I would not be in the physical condition I am in today if it were not for her. I am so glad I was placed in her rigorous care! She is my fitness/spiritual rock and I’m grateful for her presence in my life.
BFT: On the days when your mind told you to give up or that your goal was unattainable, where did you find inspiration to stay committed?
CJ: Those are the days when Veeve picked me up from my house! [laughs] I knew why I was doing this in the first place, and just in case my focus got cloudy I had Veeve give me the back-up version of my reminder speech. I wanted legs like Serena Williams and arms like Robin Roberts! Plus, each pound reduces the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease; all of which plague my family.
BFT: As you look back on your journey, what advice would you give the Chantell of yesterday?
CJ: I’ll say whether it’s weight, job, relationship, family, life in general – if you’re unhappy with something, list what you want to see and act like it already exists. Whatever that is, it WILL come with the change. I’ve been saying all year, “be the change you seek,” because they say, “don’t act like the girl you are, act like the girl you want to be.” The girl who is 168 pounds can run and will run at the drop of a dime. But that 327-pound girl wouldn’t …
BFT: How has your lifestyle change influenced your family and friends?
CJ: It was a point of view that kept us unhealthy. A mindset is a hard thing to change, so I did it the only way I knew how – with results. I accused them of sabotage, but it really was a mindset. They didn’t see a problem, so they didn’t think that they were hurting, enabling or inhibiting me. I am so grateful that my results have motivated others to do some reflection. It is a slow process, but every time a family member asks me for tips, advice or suggestions, I know it’s working.
BFT: Do you believe there is a still a stigma that African-American women should be “thick” and are more embraced when “curvy?”
CJ: Yes. That is a cultural norm right now and I don’t think it’s necessarily an unhealthy one. It is the definition of what “curvy and thick” consists of. Morbid obesity and obesity should never be placed in the category of “thick and curvy.” I don’t want to change the preference, I want to remove the blinders of those putting the label on people who need help. “Size Sexy” is still acceptable, only when said person is free of obesity-related health risks. I will always have curves, but I will also strive for balanced nutrition and an active lifestyle. I seek to help reduce the unhealthy habits so that we may celebrate the natural curves of a woman, not the unnatural ones created by neglect and ignorance.
BFT: What is going on in your life now?
CJ: I currently have a few challenges – mainly in knowing where I’m going to work and live, so I created a daily running challenge, where I do two miles a day, no matter what. It’s going moderately successful; the purpose is that I don’t give up. If something does come up, I’ll make up my running in some way. Nothing’s set in stone – it’s all about progress.
BFT: Where can people find out more about you?
CJ: I have a Facebook Fan Page: Chantell Johnson Extreme Weight Loss (I post daily)
Twitter | @ChantellJohnson
Instagram | @Chantellsjohnson
And I’m working on my YouTube channel – Chantell Johnson.
Future NFL Hall-of-Famer Edgerrin James Talks Running 500 Miles in 365 Days
No matter what he does, Edgerrin James knows how to lead. During his time in the NFL, James averaged 4.2 yards per carry and is one of the all-time leaders in career rushing yards. Although retired, these days, the future Hall-of-Famer also rushes toward opportunities to give back. A beloved member of the University of Miami community, James contributed the largest-ever donation of any former athlete that has ever attended. He is also the founder of the Edgerrin James Foundation and the Edgerrin James Youth Football Skills Camp.
Black Fitness Today caught up with James to learn about his recent decision to embark on a 500-mile journey this past year, and what set him apart in his training as a professional athlete.
Why did you decide to embark on your 500-mile journey across the country? What has the journey taught you?
I always like to challenge myself. Running is something I’ve always hated doing, so that made it pretty interesting! This experience has really pushed me because there’s no reward at the end of the [500-mile journey] except the fact that I did it and I was consistent. There were many times I didn’t feel like running, but once I agreed to do it, I knew I had to accomplish it.
Tell us more about your partnership with Adidas.
The Adidas partnership was good for many reasons. They provided some nice uniforms for my youth football team from top to bottom. That’s more important than anything — to lace a team of inner-city kids with custom uniforms meant a lot to me and the kids. Another reason is the relationship with the University of Miami; that’s my school and I rep the gear faithfully. So it’s only right I locked in with Adidas. I’m glad the deal worked out and look forward to building on that relationship.
You mentioned that you’ve always hated running. Did that have any impact on you while playing football in terms of how you approached your training?
Basketball was my go to sport. It is fun and exciting and also gets you in shape. I used playing ball as my running to get in shape.
What was your favorite off-season training routine?
I’ve always liked the late-night sessions in the off-season. I would train before going to the club or after leaving the club — sounds unusual but it was the best for me. I didn’t drink and was well-rested before I would go out. My training was always very quiet with no distractions. During the day I would go to the University of Miami and get it in with the younger guys in the hot sun.
In addition to your 500-mile journey, how else do you stay in shape these days?
I always work out three to four times a week. Nothing hard, but I consistently get some type of work in.
What role does nutrition play in your everyday life? What are some of your favorite healthy foods and foods you can’t live without?
I don’t worry too much about what I eat. I just make sure I maintain a certain weight and follow up any heavy eating with a nice workout to make sure I’m back on track.
Many people know you for your accomplishments on the football field, but many don’t know that you are also passionate about giving back. What are some of your initiatives? Why is philanthropy so important to you?
My purpose is to empower my people and all people that share stories similar to mine. Too many times, you see other cultures having success and wonder why not us. It’s up to us to look out for us and when you see examples, it makes it really real to the younger generation. It also gives them realistic goals to chase without making the excuses. I’m just trying to be an example that’s tried and true without any excuses. Just hard work and determination…
What advice do you have to young men who are looking to follow in your footsteps?
Learn as much as you can and just become a good example for the next generation, understand how this world works, and play the game of life to win!
What is the legacy you want to leave behind?
The legacy I want to leave behind is that I did things the right way and never tried to be anyone else except myself, that I showed people you don’t have to conform or be something you’re not to be successful, and just put in the right work and let everything else work itself out.
Carmelita Jeter Talks Personal Connection To Breast Cancer and Her Fight For a Cure
There’s still no faster woman alive than Carmelita Jeter. We will always remember her amazing achievements on the track as a world record holder with three Olympic medals. You may even remember her signature pink cleats she wore during some of her races. But the story behind them reveals an inspiring journey. In 2012, while training for the Olympic games, Jeter’s aunt — Brenda Washington — lost her battle with breast cancer. However, Jeter found new strength and turned tragedy into triumph. From partnering with NIKE to nonprofits, Jeter has become an outspoken advocate for breast cancer awareness and is dedicated to using her platform to fight for a cure!
In 2012 as you prepped for the London Olympics, your aunt, Brenda Washington, passed from breast cancer. And much like you did, people have to find the strength to pick themselves up, go to work and continue living after tragedy. How were you able to find that strength?
I was able to find the strength to keep going from my family, my coaches and my agent. At the time, I questioned my faith a lot. I just couldn’t understand why God would take her away from me. But I concluded that if my cousin Lachondra (her daughter) was able to be strong, I could not be weaker than her, for her sake.
What’s the best advice you can offer for supporting family members who are battling breast cancer?
The best advice I can give is to stay very close and experience moments with each other, even if it is just a small gathering at a relative’s house where everyone brings a dish. Also, never be afraid to speak about the person that is sick or has passed away. You have to keep their spirit alive.
You’ve partnered with various non-profit organizations to raise breast cancer awareness. Tell us a little bit about some of your partnerships including “The Pink Jet” with PINTRILL.
I partnered with Pintrill who made a Hot Pink Jet and a bracelet made from MyIntent with the words, “Mind over body,” inscribed. I’ve been the ambassador for Susan G. Komen’s Circle of PromiseInitiative that was based on African-American women getting tested more frequently.
In what ways did your aunt’s battle with breast cancer impact you on and off the track?
My aunt Brenda Washington’s battle made a huge impact on the track for me. Nike, my sponsor, made me my very own hot pink signature spikes in her honor. Every time I lined up to compete, I ran for her.
What advice would you give to African-Americans in the fight against breast cancer?
The advice I would give African-Americans would be to not give up, and remember to stay a unit.
What are some tips that you can offer in helping with early detection and decreasing the rate of diagnoses?
My major tip would be to stop thinking African-Americans don’t get breast cancer. Also, stop thinking that you have to be over 45 to get diagnosed with the disease. We need to be more educated on the topic and we need to stop being afraid to go to the doctor. Go to the doctor and get checked up regularly!
Keep up with Jeter’s work in the community and dedication to fighting for a cure!
Chef E Dubble On Weight Loss, Career and Making a Healthy Dish on a $10 Budget
Charles Edwin Redway, affectionately known as “E Dubble,” is a top Los Angeles based chef, who at the age of 31, has achieved a long list of accomplishments. From studying at renowned Le Cordon Bleu in London to starting his own catering company and delivering memorable culinary experiences for high-profile clients, when you ask the popular chef about his impressive resume, he humbly replies, “I’m just a chef.” It’s this outlook that helps Chef E Dubble stay focused, because as he says “no matter how successful you are to other people, there’s always another goal for yourself.” Ambitions of “taking over the world one taste bud at a time,” and “setting the bar high for food,” are only small pieces of the pie. His passion for mentoring youth and volunteering for organizations such as the Alzheimer’s Association, Black Women for Wellness, Halle Berry’s domestic violence intervention program, and feeding 4,000 homeless persons at Jamie Masada’s Laugh Factory in Hollywood remain some of his most proudest moments. Read our interview with Chef E Dubble to not only discover why some of today’s hottest athletes and entertainers call on him when they want the best, but also get tips on healthy eating including a must-try recipe the chef himself!
BFT: You trained at Le Cordon Bleu in London, which is a world-renowned program, so what was that experience like for you?
E Dubble: It was an amazing experience. That was in 2001. I was able to go out there and start my culinary education while I was still in high school. I took a three-week course out there and that kind of got the ball rolling. But just to be able to be in another country and to vibe with a different quality of people and experience all that good food alone was just an amazing experience. Working with the chefs at Le Cordon Bleu and learning new techniques at such a young age, I think I was 17 at the time, is something that I’ll never take for granted. And even as I got older, I don’t think I fully valued it until maybe about five years ago – but at the time you’re just going through the motions, riding through the 13-hour plane ride and it’s just something that you’re living right then at that time. But as you get older you really value and see the importance of that opportunity and just realize that young youth from the inner city usually don’t get those types of opportunities. So, I’m just really blessed and thankful.
BFT: As you mentioned, food has taken you a lot of places and you’ve met and worked with a lot of cool people. So, who were some celebrities that you have cooked for?
E Dubble: It’s funny, I’m glad that you asked me that question because I always have trouble remembering who I cooked for. It’s been so many people, whether it was through a private job or pop-ups that we’ve done in the past. And we’ve had such good support from the people and when I say the people, [I mean] everyday people that support our pop-ups and support the catering company and the private chef service. So, that kind of helped develop the celebrity brand. But just to name a few people, I would say Brandon Jennings was one of my favorite clients; James Harding; I was able to prepare food for Halle Berry, Carmelo and La La Anthony, T-Pain, LisaRaye, Kevin Hart, Drake . . . That’s just a few.
BFT: Do you have any favorites that you’re willing to share?
E Dubble: All my clients are pretty much my favorite. I don’t think I separate that line on who’s who, but if I had to choose, because I know this is what you want [laughs], one of my favorites would definitely be Brandon Jennings because we developed such a real friendship and kind of a brother relationship. He’s always been really supportive. He just stepped out on a limb and had faith in me as a chef. He attended a few of my events. I never let him pay when he came to any of my events, but I told him if he did have a use for a chef to go ahead and send for me. And he was a man of his word. LisaRaye is very supportive. All my clients are great; they’re all great so I hate to select anybody out.
BFT: Now as someone who can essentially cook anything, has this gift for cooking ever become a curse on your waistline?
E Dubble: I think I’ve been my own guinea pig. And what I mean by that is because I’ve had not a really extensive career, but I’m 15 years in what I’ve been doing as a chef. So, I think you go through stages when you’re really excited to eat everything, so that definitely had an effect on my waistline and jean size, but then in furthering my career I also learned discipline. Realizing that in order to have a long career, and let’s just say, a longevity in life, you have to watch what you’re eating. You have to be disciplined even if you are cooking things that the client might request or their crowd pleasures. So, I’ve been through the battle, I’ve lost a lot of weight. I was the heavy chef [now] I’m healthy.
BFT: Now, you mentioned that you lost a lot of weight, so tell us a little bit about your health and fitness journey.
E Dubble: Through cooking for my clients I’ve also been blessed to be able to cook for myself. [Doing] meal plans for some of our athletic clients and our entertainment industry clients you have to do your research on ingredients and what they do for your body and how they break down. [For example], having antioxidants, staying on your berries and your deep dark color fruits and vegetables that give the body the things that it actually needs to reproduce and heal and to keep your body moving. The journey has been hard. But anything you want to do in life, you can do it; you just really have to make up your mind. For myself, once I make up my mind that I want to accomplish something, it’s as good as done.
At one point I remember being I remember being 237 pounds and I got down to about 214 pounds. I was like, “Wow! This is a whole new kind of living experience.” And once you taste that you want to keep that going. But it’s definitely hard, but you do want to keep that going. I remember I used to eat heavy meals and eat late at night and then you go to sleep and then that sits on your stomach and it’s really not good for you. But you have to just have self-control and realize, “All right, I’m going to go out, I’m going to be hungry, so what can I do?” One thing I remember that I used to do was get a bowl of Special K and I hated almond milk but I realized that I had to change certain things that would help my health. So, there are little minor adjustments. If you like certain things, there might be a healthier solution for it and you just have to make it happen.
At the end of the day you just have to make it happen and I know I’ve done that.What I like to tell people is just take it one day at a time. That’s it. A lot of times in anything in life, we start it and when we start it we see the finish line right away and that’s not the reality of things. The reality is, it’s going to be a process and you really just have to take it one day at a time. Instead of having a heavy breakfast, let me have fruit, egg whites and sausage. You don’t have to cut everything out. It’s not realistic to go cold turkey with changing your diet. We can make so many excuses for ourselves, and that’s really where it starts. It starts with us. Inside. Individually. So, I would say, take it one day at a time and just write down things that you want to change.
Head over to the next page as Chef E Dubble takes us shopping and cooks up a healthy meal packed with flavor for under $10. Recipe included!
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