More than just weight
Obesity has been my middle name for the majority of my life. Throughout my childhood I was always seen as the “bigger” kid and it was not because I was tall. It was not until middle school when I started to get picked on. It was always understood that by middle school every one lost their baby fat but I was one of the unfortunate ones. I remember going to school wearing the “Baby Phat” clothing line and one of my peers tapped me on the shoulder and said to me, “That is not baby phat, that is just fat, baby.” That statement could have lowered my self-esteem and drove me to eat every comfort food known to man and it did. I was in 6th grade weighing over 300 pounds. How does that even happen for a kid my age? I could not blame my mom because I disliked her to my core for waking me up on Saturday mornings to get me to walk 5 miles with her. Was she kidding me? ABC’s One Saturday Morning was coming on and I was not about to miss that for a long-drawn-out walk. I use to love my dates with my favorite TV shows and the biggest cooking bowl of cereal I could find. No one could pay me to leave my TV outside of school hours; it was what made me feel at ease and comfortable. Maybe because I never saw my reflection in it since it was always on!
As middle school progressed, my weight did not. That was a good thing, I guess. In 8th grade I was bamboozled into trying out for a metro basketball team. I thought going to that tryout was the worst decision I had ever made when I showed up and the head coach said to run 5 laps for a WARM-UP! “What? Ma’am I don’t even run to the bathroom,” were my thoughts. As I walked my laps, I was coming up with schemes in my head that would get me off of that road to hell. Every plan got rejected. “Big girl!” is what I heard Corella DeVille yell as I tried to escape. I knew things were not going to get any easier from that name and on. Reason being is because she put me on the team. Basketball, the one sport that required the very thing I disliked, running. I do not know what my coach saw in me but apparently it was something because she gave me the Coach’s Award for that season. For that, Coach Leslie will always be in my heart for giving me an opportunity and believing in me, outside of my mom, when I did not believe in myself.
It was the summer before I started 9th grade and we moved. To me, that meant finding new places to eat in the new area of residence. I only had a few friends from my previous school and I was not up to making any new ones. It was silly of me to try in fit into a crowd when I was struggling to fit into my own clothes, right? At that time, it was my brother, my mom, and I living in a 3-bedroom apartment in a complex that seemed as if everyone in the city lived in. My brother was in candy land. He immediately started making new friends and had the nerve to try and introduce me to one of them while I was eating a box of Cheez-Its and browsing the Disney Channel website. “Hi, my name is Shanice. Do you want to come play basketball with us?” Okay I get that I got a Coach’s Award hidden under my bed but playing basketball at that time was not a leisure activity so without even turning around to acknowledge her I said, “No thanks.”
The school year had started and was in full force and that girl Shanice was everywhere! She was at my apartment, on the bus, in my classes, in my lunch period, everywhere. I guess she was considered my new friend until she asked me, right in front of my number one believer, did I want to tryout for the freshman basketball team. Of course that believer, my mom, answered her and said that I would be there. Tryouts came around and I thought I was going to die after every breath I managed to breathe. During tryouts, girls where dropping out left and right. The coach would send us in for a water break and after the break there were less girls than what we had started with. I did not quit though. I knew I wanted to but I could not. Main reason was that I knew my mom would never look at me the same. It was the end of the second level of hell I had ever been through in my life and I had made it to see it. We were out in the school’s courtyard, and Coach Kelly, the varsity coach at the time, goes about telling us how we were going to find out if we made the team or not. “Come by my office on Tuesday, the names of those who made it will be listed on there under the team made. Also, I need to know shoe sizes in men’s and women’s before we dismiss.” When he said that last sentence, my heart turned itself inside out and flipped three times. I get that I was a big girl and weighed 307 pounds but that was not the only thing that was a problem for me. I also had gargantuan feet. “Chauntel Herrod?” I did not answer, only stared. “Chauntel! What are your shoe sizes?” After a deep sigh, I responded, “Fifteen in women’s and four-teen in men’s.” I tried to break down the number to take the attention off of me but that did not go according to plan. “FIFTEEN?! I love it!” was his response. Now although every girl sitting out there glued there eyes to me and whispered under their breaths, I only focused on Coach Kelly’s remarkable response to my embarrassing answer.
Tuesday morning came and we, Shanice and I, were taken to school bright and early. What did I tell my mom about the list release for, I don’t know, but she had us up there and waiting as if some Jordan’s shoes were coming out. I walked the green mile as my mom and Shanice raced to the office door. Shanice made it and that was all I knew. “What does it say?” I asked but they would not tell me. As I finally approached the cliff of do or die, I asked myself, “Why do you care so much? You do not even like basketball like that, let alone running.” Deep down, I wanted to make it. Especially after I endured conditioning during the hottest summer ever. I read the list only to discover that I did not make the Varsity or Junior Varsity teams but I would be a member of the freshman basketball team! I did not show it, but I was excited.
I had made it through the season and when I thought my life would be completely done with basketball forever, I was asked to attend the program’s summer games. All I could say to myself was, “Why me Lord?” I was a shy, non-aggressive big girl who possessed truncated self-esteem and a conformed mind so my immediate response was, “Sure.” The games came sooner than I thought and Shanice told me that she would not be able to play in them with me because she would be out of town. I just knew I was experiencing betrayal when she told me that. Shanice had become someone who I could call best friend over our freshman season and year. She had accepted me for who I was and I genuinely loved her for that. So her telling me she was not going to participate with me in those games was hurtful considering she was the main reason of how I got into the program. There was no turning back then, especially since my mom knew about them. Ever since I started playing basketball, I could count on half of a finger how many times my mother has missed a game of mine. She may not have understood the game fully, then, but you had best believed she was going to be there for my support and yell everything that sounded like it was related to basketball during the games. Her favorite, “Chauntel! You want a suitcase for all of that traveling?” That one always got the crowd tickled. Keep in my mind, I never went personal skill development camps or had individual coaching when it came to basketball. Like I said, I was bamboozled in the game and just did what my coaches told me to do which was to rebound and get those little girls off of me. There was one summer game where he told me to do that and I followed his instructions very thoroughly. Next thing you know, I had gotten a flagrant foul for throwing my elbows and gave my opponent a bloody nose from throwing them. I went to the bench worried for the player, I would not hurt a fly and I had hurt a human. Coach Jackson, my new head coach, saw the worry on my face and said, “Don’t worry about it Chauntel, you are very coachable.” After that summer game, Coach Jackson said to the team that I was going to force him to put me on varsity next year. Next year? Varsity? I was not even planning on playing next year. I had hurried after the post game speech to meet my mom at the car so I could get home and away from basketball but she was taking her precious time. When she finally got to the car, we got in and just sat there. After a long pause she started talking, “I heard the coaches talking about you. They like you and the heart you bring to the team.” She paused and I looked away as she started to continue, “One of them said that you were good but would be even better if you lost 30 pounds.” I held my head down and was about to sob because no one ever told me that I needed to lose weight. I knew I needed to, and so did my mom but she always had a way of encouraging me to lose weight oppose to blatantly saying so and leaving it all up to me to do the work. “My question to you is what are you going to do about it?” What I was thinking was, “I don’t know?” but with me being so passive, my response was, “Lose the weight.” Mom was pumped. She loved challenges, especially those pertaining to our family. “We are not only going to lose 30 but we are going to give them 50 pounds!” Was what she chanted after I told her my verdict. Great.
That summer was misery for me. Having a mom who takes all challenges to the heart as a trainer made it no better. I was close to disclaiming her because of how hard she pushed me. Home girl had me out at the track just about every morning trying to get me to cooperate with her and her bazaar training tactics. I feel like she may have been a drill sergeant in her past life from the way she barked at me across that track. I will never forget that track. One morning at that track, I was half way through my workout and I just fell out and started crying a river. Now in the back of my mind, I was thinking that my sergeant was going to snap back into her mom mode and run to my rescue but she did not. I had cried wolf so many times when it came to working out with her that I did not blame her. As I lay there on that black, synthetic rubber, my life had flashed before my eyes. Then, I honestly thought that losing weight was extremely hard and literally impossible to do. I thought I was going to die from obesity. That was not the first time I had thought that, but it was the last. “Get up!” When I heard that, I was weeping even harder, gasping for air and somewhat hyperventilating. At this point, I knew a heart did not reside in my mother. I finally had opened my eyes only to realize that the crazy lady was not by me. Looking around, I soon discovered that she had gotten restless from me crying and walked another lap. I just sat there. She had finally made it back around the track to where I was and this time my mom had showed up. “I can’t do it mom. I really can’t” She just stood there and looked at me. “You are not doing this for yourself. You are doing this for all those other obese girls who think they can’t.” From that statement, my life changed.
The following Sunday, my pastor delivered a message titled “Leaving your Comfort Zone” that confirmed the statement my mom had spoken to me at the track. The message basically said, “To get what you have never had, you have to do something you have never did.” That day, I knew I had to do something in order to get out of my comfort zone but until I found out what that something was, I enjoyed a nice half-gallon tub of my favorite flavored ice cream, butter pecan. That same night, while indulging my face, I had a sudden change. It had to be nobody but God because for me to put down my spoon midway through eating was not heard of. It was like in a moment I was turned off from eating. That feeling is hard to explain to this day but it happened. The next day, I had declared that what I felt actually happened and it was time to leave my comfort zone. My first step was to get rid of the very thing that catered to my eating habits, my television. I removed my T.V. from my room and sent it 120 miles away to Birmingham, Alabama so that my grandmother could enjoy it while I got my health on track. I changed my eating habits and got more active. I played basketball everyday with Shanice and other classmates in the complex and even joined an AAU team. I remember us rolling one of those portable goals that you filled with water around the complex and placing it in empty parking spots that had enough room for us to run at least a game of 3-on-3. At that time, we did not have gym memberships. That was our gym memberships. I was turning down food that I thought I would never depart from. I became active. More active then I had ever been in my life. That summer I had ran more than the two seasons of basketball I had played combined with ankle weights I had found in my brother’s closet. I really do not know what had gotten into me but it was changing me. That summer I had worked my butt off and by the time school started, no one recognized me, not even the coach who suggested I drop 30 pounds because of my weight loss. By the time basketball season was getting ready to take off, I had checked in at losing 100 pounds and became a member of the varsity women’s basketball team as a sophomore! As I continued to work hard, I received many accolades from the game, was named team captain during my senior season, and signed to continue my career on the collegiate level.
Ideally, one would think that I kept the weight off by looking at my after picture but that is not that case for me. From injuries, relationship break-ups, interpersonal issues, and emotional rollercoasters, I have gained and lost weight on and off since college. The first time that I gained weight after my major loss was when I tore my meniscus and had to have surgery. Because of that, I became inactive and retreated back to eating for comfort. I had gained about 45 pounds, putting me at 245lbs, and felt even lower when I realized that I had covered all of my hard work up with the very thing that I thought was going to kill me. At this point, I was a freshman in college and big. Girls who were pretty and small, and guys who wanted those pretty and small girls surrounded me. Yes, I played basketball but I out ate my workouts. I was so wrapped up in how small I use to be and the fact that I was not there anymore, especially during my first year of college. After the season, I decided that I wanted to get back to where I was, no matter what it took. I desired to be a certain size and look a certain way in order to get that attention from guys that my peers were getting. I thought that was the necessary for me in order to be noticed. At first, I gave up sweets and eating after a certain time. Surprisingly that worked for me and I ended up losing 20 pounds by the end of my freshman year. I was feeling better but I was not at my goal weight of 200 pounds. That summer I had to get the weight off. I knew I could do it because I had done it before. Although, the difference this time was that I was clocking in anywhere between 6-8 hours at the gym and I was adapting bad eating habits. There would be days I would consume no more than 600 calories. I was not getting the proper nutrition, which was causing me to hurt myself more than help. People use to tell me to eat 24/7 and when they did, I use to just say that I did and dismiss the conversation by walking away. I was on the road to destruction but my motive to lose weight outweighed the necessities.
My junior year of college, I had reached my goal weight of 200 pounds and was finally getting the attention I wanted from guys with an added bonus from basketball. That year I was an All-American on the court with basketball and on the playing field with guys. Eating really became a non-factor when I entered into a somewhat relationship that year. I adapted a distorted image in my mind that all guys wanted was small, thin, petite, and hour glassed shaped thick girls who were super pretty and had long hair. I did not possess all of that but I did see myself as small and was willing to get smaller in order to continue to get the attention I was receiving. That year I had so many health complications from vitamin D deficiency to iron deficiency to fainting in places like the shower. I never told anyone about those incidents because I figured that they would find out about my secret of borderline anorexia, which I’m sure they already knew. My breath was would always stay stale from not eating and I was always tired. Even though I was experiencing this, I still looked in the mirror at myself and found something that I had to get rid of. I remember my suite-mate looked at me like I was crazy and said, “What are you going to get rid of, SKIN?” I had a problem but me facing it was not on my agenda.
It was not until after my break up from my somewhat relationship that I gained those 45 pounds back. I was at an all time super low because I was let down and betrayed by what I was chasing after and killing myself over, a guy. I went to my partners in crime for comfort, Ben & Jerry. I was so emotionally out of whack from chasing that I did not even know who I was. I ate and ate and ate. I ate whole pizza’s from Papa John’s, Waffle House all-star breakfasts with two waffles, and everything and anything else that would satisfy what I was going through. Food once again had won and I had let it.
As my senior year of college was rapidly coming to an end, I discovered that my past was catching up with me. Ever since I had lost those 100 pounds in 10th grade, I never stopped to mold the passive, low-self esteem, shy, timid, insecure and obese little girl that resided in me. I always thought that self-image was enough to get me what I wanted but from my experiences, I was sadly mistaken. I often felt lonely and lashed out at anyone who tried to enter in to my world. I constantly changed my appearance to cover up what was inside waiting to get changed also.
After graduation, I was back at the gym trying to get back to those 200 pounds, again but this time my addiction to laxatives accompanied me. My motive was still the same and I still felt empty inside. It was not until I went to God and asked him to help me. I cried and had yearned to be pieced back together from where the things I chased after had broken me down. God has helped me rescue that little girl who thought she was going to die at the track and transform her into the woman you see today. My motto has went from “I want to be skinnier” to “I want to love myself and the temple God has blessed me with.” I have accepted myself for whom I am and became true to myself. For so long I wanted to be accepted for being skinny but never felt fulfillment from it. I have come to realize that losing weight physically is only a small part of experiencing joy, love, peace, and happiness. For one to reach that unconditional love for themselves, it is imperative for them to lose the emotional and mental weight first and trust that when that weight is gone then the physical will follow. I have strived, starved, and been addicted to laxatives in order to reach 200 pounds for the majority of my life because I thought that was the “it” weight for me. After I started becoming in tune with my interpersonal self, I was introduced to the Body by Vi 90-Day Challenge in November of 2012 by my old high school teammate, Loryn, who I now see as a mentor. I presented to her what I was going through and that I was interested in the challenge. Before she even sold me anything, she loved on me hard in hopes of meeting me where I was. She told me that I was going to inspire many with my internal and physical transformation and from there I signed up and did not look back.
Today, I am 191 pounds, which puts me past that confined weight that I always looked to be ideal for me. I, now, believe that you do not have to be a certain size or weight to in order to feel like you are attractive or to receive attention. You have to love and become real with yourself, just the way you are inside and out, before you start making any changes. Trust when I say that anybody can have all the physical attributes and be the “ideal” size but if they do not gain control of themselves and their lives then they will never become somebody.
My name is Chauntel Herrod, I am 23 years old, and I reside in Atlanta. I have an undergraduate degree in Counseling and Human Relations and a master’s degree in Kinesiology. I am currently a self-employed Health and Fitness Promoter at Visalus, which qualifies me as an entrepreneur. I promote the same 90-Day Challenge, http://chauntelherrod.myvi.net, that has helped change my life physically and internally in hopes of smashing obesity, transforming lives, and reaching personal weight loss and fitness goals of others. My goal is to become a doctor of Health Education, a health and wellness coach, a motivational speaker, and a legacy to many!
Republished by Blog Post Promoter