Five years ago, Lima resident Marnita Wiggins-Nichols had a routine check up with her doctor that changed her life. She was overweight, but it had never been too much of an issue. At this appointment she was informed that her blood pressure was dangerously high and that her doctor wanted to put her in the hospital. Wiggins-Nichols did not go to the hospital, but did take the blood pressure prescription and determined to change her life.
She is the founder and owner of the The Learning Castle Childcare in Lima and is thrilled that after weighing 334 pounds, she is down to 160 pounds from a five-year weight loss journey and can run and jump and play with her grandsons with energy and vibrancy. This month AARP featured her in their Healthy Living section and she uses social media to help and inspire people from all over with what she has learned in the last five years.
Wiggins-Nichols is quick to point out that this is a journey, not a diet: “When I conquered one hurdle, it gave me courage and strength to conqueror the next. Certain changes were drastic, such as pop. I gave it up immediately; eventually I decided that I don’t want to drink anything but water, green tea and decaf coffee, but most other changes were gradual. I was never on a diet, I don’t like that word diet, and it’s a bad word, a NO word. This is a weight loss journey, it’s a lifestyle change.”
1. What was the hardest part of your weight loss journey?
Getting started was probably the hardest thing. The reason I say that is that it took me so many years. But once I realized I had to make the change it was not hard at all, I just made up my mind to do it.
2. How long were you overweight?
I was not born with a weight issue, I was a very active young person, in fact my nickname was mosquito. I really think life just attributed to my weight gain. When you are raising a family and after you get off work you are taking children to dance lessons, gymnastics, piano and hockey, on and on, it feels like there is rarely a time to prepare healthy, nutritious meals, even though you want to. You do as much as you can. Also, you go through adversities and food as we know is a comforting type of a thing. So I’ve really just been overweight since my latter 30s, so 15 years or better.”
3. What did you do for exercise?
It wasn’t until about two years into my journey that I wanted to incorporate exercise. We had a stationary bike that had been in my basement, it was old and had dust on it. We pulled it upstairs and cleaned it off. I exceeded the weight limit on it when I first started it and was scared I would break it, but I rode that bike every day, sometimes a couple of times a day. Eventually I burned the bike out, literally.
4. What recent changes have you made in your journey?
I meal prep for the week. I eat healthy at least 95 percent of the time. My biggest hurdle now is portion control. Overeating through portion size is not good, a calorie is a calorie. Meal prepping helps with that; you put your food in containers, all the same portions and that’s what you eat. It’s all in the mind, at least for me, but I think it is with everyone. The moral of the story is that you don’t want to bring things into the house that is tempting. If it’s there, you are going to eat it, that’s the human side of us. Food is comforting, most celebrations we focus around food: Graduations, weddings, anniversaries, food is central to our relationships.
5. What is the best thing for you about the weight loss?
Having the energy to be able to jump, run and play with my grandsons and go down a slide or swing on a swing is the best. My daughter was blessed to get a really great job and had to relocate, but she had not secured adequate housing for my 3- and 7-year-old grandsons. For a few months the kids lived here in Lima, I got them up and dressed and to school. I gave a lot of my attention to them. Had I been still that 334 pounds, I would have never been able to do that for my daughter. I couldn’t walk from one end of the room to the other without being out of breath let alone walking them to school, taking them to the park. The best thing is the abundant amount of energy to have quality of life with the ones I love the most.
6. What other tips would you give to someone on this journey?
Always be prepared. If you leave the house hungry you are going to stop and buy things you never would have eaten or bought if you were not hungry. Take things that are accommodating to your healthy way of eating, you could potentially be tempted to eat what is at parties and gatherings. People are going to challenge you on those things and you have to be ready for that.
Janet Ferguson is a freelance writer and regular contributor to The Lima News. Share your story ideas for Tell Me About It at firstname.lastname@example.org.