Pam El was heavy for most of her adult life. But the 51-year-old was never sad or downtrodden about her size. “I was 217 pounds, 5-feet and 2-inches tall, size 18, but I was still very energetic and happy. A lot of time weight depresses people; my weight didn’t depress me it was just a little bit of an inconvenience. And because of my professional success and my personal life: a wonderful husband of 15 years who is also my best friend—I just didn’t take the time to stop and say how can I make this better for myself from a physical standpoint,” explains the businesswoman.
To El, dieting wasn’t a priority prior to her recent go at it. While she was quite successful in her professional life, she wasn’t too lucky when it came to shedding unwanted pounds. “I gained weight after college and like most women, I dieted all the time. But I wasn’t serious about it. I would start, I would get busy, fall off of it and move on. So the little bit of weight I would lose would come back on,” explains Pam.
“I was content with who I was, what I was doing and who I had in my life. I knew I had a weight issue but I also knew that I didn’t let that stop me. It was a case of being very happy and satisfied already,” El says.
“My doctor told me my blood pressure was high and that I was teetering on diabetes. He said, ‘You really need to get your weight under control.’ That should have been my motivation to lose weight but it wasn’t. The thing that changed me was what a lot of people would consider a vain moment. I saw myself on a video talking about the 50 Million Pound Challenge, which my company State Farm sponsors. I was going around the country talking to people about losing weight and about the need to get healthy and I looked like the poster child for obesity. I didn’t want to be a hypocrite. It was not until I saw that video that I said, ‘Okay, I have got to change my life,’” reveals El.
“My life had been like a tale of two cities. I was running the marketing department for one of the largest companies in America. I had the pleasure of saying that professionally I was doing exactly what I wanted to do. So it was hard for me to come to grips with the fact that I had failed so miserably with my health and weight. I had excused away these issues at times and ignored them at others,” reveals El.
“Dr. Ian is, of course, the founder of the 50 Million Pound Challenge, so I knew him and was familiar with his books. When I saw that video, I said to him, ‘I really needed to get some of my weight off’. So he said, ‘If you’re ready, let’s get serious and start with the Four Day Diet.’ And he told me he couldn’t do it or me,” shares El.
“The principles of the Four Day Diet were what helped me lose the weight. Following the principles of Dr. Ian’s latest book and maintaining by regimen of healthy eating and regular exercise was the key for me,” El says. The Illinois resident is now a size 8 and weighs 147 pounds.
El leads a busy life on the go and her job often requires her to travel. This savvy sister knows not to let that deter her from getting the proper exercise. “Now, I would rather walk from one terminal to the other than take the shuttle or the tram. I never would have done that before. It’s an easy walk but most people don’t even think about doing it. That walk between terminals gets my heart rate up a little bit and helps with those calories I try to get rid of every day,” says El.
“My relationship with food and exercise has changed. My destructive behaviors have changed. I have lost weight and have kept it off, but more importantly, I have gained control of my life by getting control of my health,” says El.
“I like to jump-start my metabolism in the morning with a really brisk 20-30 minute walk on my treadmill and I’m watching T.V. as I’m doing that. I also mix it up, and do calisthenics and the stationary bike,” she explains.
“Some may say, ‘Sure, if I traveled the country with Dr. Ian by my side, I’d lose weight too.’ Let me clarify: I spent the first year and half of my time with Dr. Ian gaining weight! It was not until I had that moment with the video that I found my true motivation and was able to lose and truly change my habits,” schools El.
While El admits that she still has to have her coffee first thing in the morning, she has drastically increased her water intake. El says, “By the time I get off work I’ve probably already had about four 16-ounce glasses of water.”
El, who has been a vegetarian for over a decade, typically opts for fruits and veggies as a healthy snack. “On the way from the airport to the hotel I stop at a grocery store and load up on my fruit and veggies. Then I kindly ask the concierge to clear out my mini bar. If I’m hungry at 11 P.M., I’ll have my carrots to eat instead of M&Ms,” says El with a laugh.
As the vice-president of marketing at State Farm, El is frequently responsible for spearheading large events. Here, she’s snapped at a fundraiser last February with all-star NBA player LeBron James. Even with her hectic lifestyle, Pam stays committed to her diet and exercise.
The busy exec knows to make time for what is now most important to her. She says, “I have a workout partner who has supported me through everything and I keep a daily journal that keeps me focused and informed.”
El breaks down the difficulty level for those sisters who think losing weight is out of their reach: “As Black women, we can do anything we want to do. Weight loss is hard, but it’s not the hardest thing we’ve ever done. Think about what we’ve been through. Once you set your mind to it, you can do anything.”