'No Excuses!' Weight Loss Challenge

In our March 2011 issue, we introduced you to our nine "No More Excuses!" weight loss challengers. Now, we are taking you behind the scenes with their blogs. Each week they will detail their highs, lows, realizations and triumphs as they embark on this journey to shed major pounds...

In our March 2011 issue, we introduced you to our 9 "No More Excuses!" weight loss challengers. Now, we are taking you behind the scenes with their blogs. Each week they will detail their highs, lows, realizations and triumphs as they embark on this journey to shed major pounds. Celebrity trainers, Donna Richardson Joyner, Dr. Ian Smith and Kacy Duke are whipping these ladies in shape! Let's check out how members of Team Ian are doing...

Amissah Lemieux-Seals, 35, program director. 5'4" and 334 pounds "I always felt like I had time to get in shape, but now I feel time slipping away and the years are passing me by," says Lemieux-Seals. "I want a baby. No one can say for sure that my weight is what's keeping me from becoming pregnant, but I believe it is and I want to do something about it."

What has been the biggest roadblock you have had to overcome so far?The hardest thing I have to do is to get out of my own way. Sometimes, when things are going well, I have the tendency to believe that it cannot last. So I revert back to behaviors that will move me in the opposite direction of where I want to go. Everyday I have to fix my mind and heart on the idea that I will reach my goals. I visualize myself jogging on the lakefront with the kids I will have one day, buying high heel shoes and reveling my triumphant weight loss on the pages of ESSENCE.

What's your favorite healthy snack to have now? 100-calorie packs of Cheezits do the trick. I also love sugar snap peas; they are sweet and crunchy! Baby carrots are also my BFF's. They are filling and super portable. I even keep them in the car. I am also learning to love water. I have one huge glass when I wake up, one or two glasses before bed, and 24 ounces total during and after my workout. Before I know it, I've gotten my water in for the day!

This week we posed the question:What keeps you motivated to continue the challenge? Every day I have to give myself a reason to work out that is better than the excuses I give myself not to. Yes, I want to be healthy and live a long life. But there is also another reason for me to loose this weight: vanity! The idea of winning this challenge and having a photo shoot that appears in Essence motivates me! If that's not a reason to get it tight and right, I don't know what is!

I enjoy eating healthy and I cook a lot with good ingredients. The problem is: we eat it all! Portions! Portions! Portions! I was so surprised by the amount of calories I have been able to save by just eating the serving size of an item and not the entire thing. Smaller portions, smaller me!

I grew up vegetarian so, doing the 9-day all fruit and veggie detox (Phase 1 of 'The Fat Smash Diet') was not that difficult. Don't get me wrong, by day 6 I would have slapped your mama for a chicken breast. But meat wasn't that big of a deal most of the time. Giving up juice was. If you open my refrigerator on any given day and there may be limited food, but three different kinds of juice! So I have vowed to up my water intake and stop purchasing juice.

Natalie Russell, 30, student and medical assistant. 5'8" and 297 pounds "I'm a full-time student working to finish my bachelor's degree and I work 40 hours a week. By the time I get home, I just want to sleep," says Russell. "People always tell me, 'You have such a pretty face. If you just lost some weight you would be beautiful.' That gets on my last nerves. I love my curves, they just need to be smaller."

What has been the biggest roadblock you have had to overcome so far?Dealing with people who are unsupportive of this journey. Luckily, the majority of the people I surround myself have been tremendously supportive. They give me encouragement, and make sure I stay on track.

What's your favorite healthy snack to have now? I always have an apple with me for a healthy snack. I also like grapes. I keep a bag of them at my friend, Nikki's house so when I get hungry during game night, I can have something healthy to eat there.

This week we posed the question:What keeps you motivated to continue the challenge? The thought of going into a store that isn't just for plus-size clothes and becoming healthy enough to have children (and watch them grow up) one day keeps me motivated. The encouraging words from my family, friends, and co-workers keep me going as well.

I go online and research the nutritional values of menu items before I go out to restaurants. That is how I knew to choose grilled tilapia prepared without oil and butter, and a salad with red wine vinaigrette on the side, when I went to Red Lobster with my family. I knew I would not be able to eat those famous cheddar biscuits, but I have bigger goals that last longer than the biscuits!

What was the best piece of advice you got from your trainer your first week? "'You have to be ready for a change, or it's not going to work.' I had to put myself in the mindset that I can finally lose this weight I have been carrying around for years. This is my time to make a change for me. "

Nelida Hubbard, 27, property manager. 4'11 and 139 pounds "I've tried going to the gym before work, but my body was too tired," says Hubbard. "After work, it's tedious because by the time I get out of rush-hour traffic, the gym is packed and machines are full. I've run out of ideas!"

What has been the biggest roadblock you have had to overcome so far?Being consistent with my plans and routines. My weight loss journey takes a back seat when I have days where I am just overwhelmed with work or a lot is going on in my personal life. When this happens I take a day off to reevaluate things and get back on track.

What does a typical day look like for you? A typical day for me consists of an 8-hour workday followed by tremendous traffic, a brief walk with my dog and then off to my local gym for an hour. I workout on the elliptical machine for 30 minutes followed by strength training. I do a spin class once a week. I pack my lunch and prep my dinner daily to make sure I am eating healthy. With these steps in place it's easier for me to remain focused.

This week we posed the question:What keeps you motivated to continue the challenge? The fear of being unhealthy and sickly motivates me to keep moving. Asthma is a chronic disease that has plagued my family, and I refuse to fall victim to it. I will continue to work hard at creating a healthy lifestyle change and shedding the dead weight!

I realized that I had not purchased fruit in more than a year! Also, I tasted my first banana three weeks ago, and learned that they are not as distasteful as I assumed them to be. I wanted to try bananas because they are a good source of potassium, and I didn't want to get bored with my eating plan. Now, they are incorporated into my monthly shopping list.

Dr. Ian said to 'think thin' if you constantly have the mindset that you're overweight, if you're nonchalant about losing weight or if you just have negative thoughts on the journey. He also told us to take note of the loss no matter how small it is. So, ladies don't beat yourself down when your target for the month was 10 pounds and you only reached 5 pounds. Take it in stride.

Now let's see how Team Donna is doing...

Cynthia Rush, 47, computer technician. 5'3" and 188 pounds "My self-esteem dropped while I was trying to work out marital issues — and so did my motivation," says Rush, a mom of one. "I'm ready to reclaim myself in order to be the best for me and my son."

What has been the biggest roadblock you have had to overcome so far?Getting enough rest so that I have the energy to work out. Although my days are often long and busy, I still have trouble sleeping. So I have days when my body does not want to cooperate when it is time to work out. I realize that proper rest is also important for my weight loss journey. Over the past few weeks, I have been working to change my habits so that I can go to bed earlier.

What does a typical day look like for you? My days are usually very busy. I sometimes find myself pressed for time to stop for lunch, which has led to poor food choices in the past. Now, I bring water, fruit, nuts, a salad or a small protein source with me so I can stay on track. After work, I either head to the gym or head home to put on one of my Body Gospel tapes to get my workout in after helping my son with homework and preparing dinner.

This week we posed the question:What keeps you motivated to continue the challenge? There are still days when I want to skip my workout. In those moments I think of my doctor who said my last physical showed I was borderline diabetic. I have family members who suffer from diabetes largely due to their being overweight. So, I lace up my sneakers and push play on my Body Gospel DVD one more time!

Before going to a party or to dinner, I try to eat small, healthy snacks so I am not starving. Having a snack beforehand makes it easier to make smarter choices when I am tempted. Of course there is still some temptation. For example, if my friend orders a slice of cheesecake (my favorite!) I have to remind myself that it will just take me longer to reach my goals.

I had to give up Coke, which was hard for me to do. I allowed myself one per day and felt that was good; however, Donna broke the news that none are permitted (ouch!). So I have substituted soda for water with Crystal Light.

Andrea Goodman, 34, automotive worker. 5'9" and 295 pounds "I lost all the spirit I had 6 years ago when I injured my hand at work," says Goodman, a mom of two. "The go-getter in me is lost but I am determined to find her again — and keep her."

What has been the biggest roadblock you have had to overcome so far?Motivation has been my biggest roadblock so far. I kind of lost it for a second, but I was able to refocus with the help from my 2-year-old daughter, Brandi. She will say, "Mommy, come on. We gotta go to the gym." I also get support from my teammates who I can call, or text, when I just don't think I can make it to the gym.

What's your favorite healthy snack to have now? My favorite healthy snack so far is almonds. In the past, the only time I wanted almonds was in a Hershey candy bar! Now I have a banana, a handful of almonds and a glass of water if I feel like a snack. And surprisingly, I'm not hungry.

This week we posed the question:What keeps you motivated to continue the challenge? My two kids, Branden, 6 and Brandi, 2 motivate me. They love to run, play at the park and swim. I want to be able to do all of that with them.In addition to my asthma, I know the added weight is limiting what I can and cannot do when it comes to everyday life.

I can walk longer distances than I thought I could. One Saturday, my teammates and I spent the morning walking a hiking trail. I was so surprised that I walked 2.8 miles without passing out. I felt great afterwards; for me that was a major accomplishment!

I gave up peanut M&M's. It was hard because I love them so much. They are my favorite comfort food when I am stressed. After reading the nutrition guide in my Body Gospel Packet, I realized that there are healthier foods that I can grab in stressful moments, such as natural almonds. They are actually good, fulfilling, and they take care of my desire to eat the wrong snacks.

Krista Dickerson, 40, human resources analyst. 5'5" and 265 pounds "I haven't always been the thick girl I am now. But in reality, I was always one pork chop away from being this girl — and I love pork chops," says Dickerson. "I don't have a real weight loss support system. And the majority of my friends here are thin and don't need to exercise."

What has been the biggest roadblock you have had to overcome so far?I am my biggest roadblock. Mentally, I am my own worst enemy. There is a part of me that cannot be happy or accept what I've done. It's never enough. People will tell me that I look like I've lost weight and I just can't see it. Then I get discouraged and go back to my old habits. This time I am focusing on the fit of my clothes and the stamina I have when working out.

What does a typical day look like for you? I get up at 5:45 a.m. to get 30 minutes of cardio. I do a Body Gospel workout, walk outside or do intervals on the treadmill. I usually prepare my lunch the night before. I have portion control containers that I use to ensure that I am not packing too much food. Before I got to work, I pack a workout bag for my evening workout, which is walking 2-to-3 miles 3 times a week and strength-training 2 times a week.

This week we posed the question:What keeps you motivated to continue the challenge? Results motivate me. I have gone from working out two to three times a week to working out a minimum of 5 days a week, plus finding other active things to do just for fun. I feel better.

I walked a 5K race within a couple of weeks of starting this challenge. Halfway through, I wanted to quit, but I watched other people who were older, younger, smaller, and bigger than I am pushing themselves to complete the race. I didn't want to be the one to give up. When I crossed the finish line, the announcer made just as big a deal out of it as he did with the people who finished first and second. I learned that I have to mentally let go of the 'fat girl' inside of me. I can do anything I put my mind to.

One of the first things Donna said to us was to think, 'Is this food item going to help us make it to our goal or take us away from our goal?' It seems like she stated the obvious, but when you are struggling with a weight issue, it is a powerful statement. Now when I go to a restaurant I take the time to figure out what on the menu is going to help me to meet my goal.

Now let's check out how Team Kacy is doing...

LaShawnda Scott, 34, freelance chef. 5'9" and 234 pounds "I've tried several weight loss efforts — grapefruit diet, fasting, a medical weight loss diet. I'm a chef, though, so you can imagine how much I have to eat in a day," says Scott. "I'll be going on a vacation soon and I need to look sexy in a two-piece one time!"

What has been the biggest roadblock you have had to overcome so far?Maintaining healthy eating habits while at work. As a chef, I have to taste great food all day. I have to make sure I only take a taste, not eat several mini-meals. I'm learning to pass on testing the food when my input is not necessary.

What does a typical day look like for you?My days are often unpredictable! I prefer working out early. If I have to exercise in the evening, I will eat a nice, big salad when I get home—no matter how late it is. Because I am a freelance chef my schedule is likely to change from day to day. But I always make time to workout and eat healthy.

This week we posed the question:What keeps you motivated to continue the challenge? Looking in the mirror and seeing the improvements, like being able to see the seeing the muscles forming in my legs, keeps me motivated and moving. Working out is becoming a part of my lifestyle.

When I go to my favorite Mexican spot, I ask for my fish tacos in lettuce wraps! It's not much of a variation, but it allows me to dine out with my girlfriends without looking too picky. Also, I keep small snacks, such as granola or trail mix, in my purse. It helps to have a snack on hand in case I am at a social gathering where the food options are less than healthy.

My 'I can't' attitude. I have replaced it with what Kacy refers to in her book, 'The Show It Love Workout' as the 'I can attitude.' This means ditching the old, tired excuses for not going to the gym, and putting the past behind me.That's exactly what I am doing.

LaToya Pullett, 29, assistant to a hospital director 5'4" and 200 pounds "I've tried to lose weight so many times and succeeded with about 10 to 20 pounds after much hard work. Then I always get stuck and eventually give up," says Pullett. "My mind is made up and my heart is set for the hard work ahead. I'm ready to do this."

What has been the biggest roadblock you have had to overcome so far?Physically I've been losing my inches, but my pounds have not been falling off fast enough for me. Although the reason is beyond me, I learn something new about my body daily. For example, I learned that the number on the scale isn't an accurate reflection of what my body looks like. People usually assume I am about 20 pounds lighter than I really am. I've also learned that my body is stronger than I thought.

What's your favorite healthy snack to have now? When I have time, I make a fresh fruit smoothie using mango, strawberries and blueberries. Kacy taught me the most delicious way to make it. Instead of adding milk or water, I add coconut water with the fruit (frozen or fresh). Oh, how yummy the smoothies become! Other than that, I'm big on munching on fresh, green peas as a snack.

This week we posed the question:What keeps you motivated to continue the challenge? Every time I decide, "I can't," I focus on the strength that God gives me. Also, working out at Equinox with Kacy, and her assistant, Crystal Flournoy, is a blessing. They both have amazing energy that keeps me motivated.

Portion control has gotten me through some tough times. Sometimes I have a piece of bread, cake or candy, but I try to stick to a limited amount. At this stage, I am ok with saying the word 'NO.'

I remember Kacy advising us 'to appreciate every step of this journey, identify the good and bad moments, and learn from it all.' From that day, I've seen my body differently.I think of this as a daily reminder that my body is a gift from God. I have the opportunity to love it, daily, with the food choices I make; the physical activities I do; getting proper amounts of rest; and limiting my stress intake by starting my day off with devotion. I'm super challenged and overly blessed.

Rosalyn Maynard, 23, administrative assistant. 5'6" and 290 pounds "I have always been an overweight child and now those extra pounds are following me into adulthood," says Maynard. "God recently hit me with an epiphany: 'I can't work miracles if you conceal the problem. Transparency is key to my manifestation.' That transparency begins here."

What has been the biggest roadblock you have had to overcome so far?Maintaining consistent weight loss. My body seems to want to hold on to the weight, despite my constant workouts and proper diet. I know this is to be expected sometimes, but it is difficult to be patient with my body. I got over this plateau by increasing my cardio routine by 45 minutes.

What's your favorite healthy snack to have now?I make my own trail mix using raw sunflower seeds and granola. I also plan some of my meals at the beginning of the week to make sure I have healthy food on hand. For example, I list 6 vegetables and 6 fruits I want to eat that week. Then I find recipes that include what I've purchased.

This week we posed the question:What keeps you motivated to continue the challenge? I am motivated by the changes I see in the way my clothes fit. It lets me know that my work is not in vain. I'm also motivated by newfound endurance and energy

I am surprised by my stamina. I can do cardio for over 45 minutes with enough energy left for conversation! Before this journey, I used to need every gasp of air to get me through the workout. Also, I was shocked to find how out how much sodium is in everyday foods. I've learned not to overlook the number of servings per package.

The best piece of advice Kacy gave me is to 'get my mind right.' This means that I have to decide what I want from this weight-loss experience and not waiver. Sometimes I am pretty critical of myself, but when I realized all that I've done, I saw my body through a different lens. I really appreciate how it has held up through my trials and triumphs. With a determined mind, I am able to conquer the workouts that seem impossible.

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