Fitness Fridays: After Being Told She Was “Too Fat” To Be A Singer, Ra’chel Lost 100 Pounds Within A Year
As far back as she can remember, Rachel Saintfort has been singing. While she crafted her first recordings at the age of 13 in the studio, “I’ve really been singing all of my life” says the 31-year-old singer artistically known as Ra’chel, based out of central Florida. But what she would quickly learn was that having a voice wouldn’t be enough in the music industry. She also had to have a certain look, and since she was a kid, Saintfort had always been bigger. So when doors certainly should have been opening for the mother of one, they were instead being slammed in her face because of her size.
“I’ve been around multiple artists and they just shoo you away like, ‘Yeah, we’re going to listen to it,’ and then you would hear their homeboy say, “He ain’t going to do it. You already don’t have the image, man,” she said. “So I would definitely say that had a lot to do with it.”
She even recorded a song with an artist who, without informing her, did a video for the track. His management said that she didn’t have the look needed for the clip, so they left her high and dry.
Saintfort could have held a grudge and blamed these close-minded individuals for stalled progress (and she did somewhat), but instead, she found herself looking inward. “I started taking accountability for me,” she said. “If you’re not willing to invest in yourself, no one else will. Losing weight is an investment.”
And just like that, in January of 2017, Saintfort began a weight-loss journey, much like the one many of us have tried to undertake after ringing in a new year. But she stuck with it, and within a year she shed 100 pounds, something she went viral for after sharing the news on social media:
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#TSRPositiveImages: One of our Roommates recently celebrated losing 100 pounds y'all! Get into her story below: ___________________________________________ "I'm Ra'chel and I'm officially 100 lbs down, naturally! I've been denied music opportunities/record deals etc. due to my weight, but I never gave up! I used the negativity for motivation! I hope that you can post this as I want to motivate somebody 💕💪🏾" Congratulations, girl!! Via: @racheldasinger
New direction. New album. New look. We talked with Saintfort about how she accomplished such a feat, the way the music industry treats women of a certain size, and why even after 100 pounds down, her weight-loss journey isn’t over yet.
MadameNoire: Were you active growing up or is this fitness journey a first for you?
Rachel “Ra’chel” Saintfort: Growing up, I was always active as far as sports. I played some basketball, softball in the community and in school. But as far as like weight loss, I didn’t start trying to work out until probably high school. You’re so busy being a kid that I didn’t know I was overweight. I always saw that I was the biggest kid in each classroom, but that’s not a priority because you’re still a kid. As far as high school, we’re feeling ourselves and trying to look for that first boyfriend or whatever, so that’s when I tried a couple of workouts. Of course, they don’t last because, again, you’re busy being a kid and you don’t know how imperative it is to stay healthy at that age. But yeah, I was a little athletic as a child, but I’ve always struggled with weight.
As an adult, what was the catalyst for you wanting to commit to losing weight?
I knew it was something I always needed to do, but I would say the breaking point was when my video was aired on Worldstar. Of course, you know the comments started coming in, which is normal, and I’ve always had tough skin. I was prepared for that. But what that did in that moment, it made me finally say, you know what Ra’chel, look at yourself for just three minutes in this video. Just look at it from a fan’s point of view and stop looking at it as this confident artist. See what the people are seeing. And I looked at it like a regular person and it finally hit me: “Oh my God, I’m big.” You might look good to others or to yourself, but let’s be realistic. You can be more healthy. Certain scenes I was like, “Dang.” That put me to the point of, I’m done. Let’s get it rolling. I also had some health issues, like a slight case of lymphedema, and that’s when you retain water weight. It started in college. So that’s another reason I wanted to because it stopped me from wearing heels. That started attacking my self-esteem because I’ve always been a real confident person, but I would say that when you saw the girls getting ready to go out in college, I was the one who had the tennis shoes or the Converse on because I started noticing swelling. So it was just a mixture of a lot of things, but I would say it was the video that had me saying, “You’ve got to get it rolling.”
So when did you start working out and eating healthier?
January 29, 2017. I’m trying to get to 120 before the one-year mark, January 29, 2018. That would be the big, big goal, but I’m not really pressing myself because 100 pounds? That is already such an accomplishment. But I do have what I call a super goal of an additional 20 pounds and that’s what I’m definitely trying to hit in a year.
Is that number a size you used to be before or just what you would like to see yourself as?
No, it’s just a goal. It’s just a challenge. I’m challenging myself. I can remember when I was 180. That was roughly ninth, tenth grade. But I can’t remember when I was 160, and that would be such a “Girl, stop lying! I’m 1-what??” moment. That’s why I call it a super goal, something I probably would have never imagined, but I want to challenge myself.
Would you say that being bigger hindered your career?
Of course! You get treated differently. You get spoken to differently. You get overlooked. Dealing with different people who work for different labels, they always say, “Oh, you don’t have the image,” and some of them will tell you bluntly you’re too big, you’re too fat. “Can you wear a two-piece? Alright then…” I’m 31, not to boast myself but I can sing. I have talent. And I definitely felt it was overlooked by people in the industry or people outside of the industry that could have offered me opportunities because of that. I’ve had a gentleman I did a song with and the next thing you know, people were calling me. I’m like, what’s up? What’s going on? “Why aren’t you in the music video?” What music video? “What’s his name just shot the video and your part came on and we were looking for you but you weren’t there.” I was like, “I didn’t know about the video.” It came out that his manager said, “She doesn’t have the image to shoot it, we’re just going to do it without her.” I thought it was pretty rude. But that’s just to show how serious it is to certain people and how you can just get pooped on. That was something that stuck with me. There have been people performing in my city and don’t even call me to come perform I guess because I don’t have the image. I don’t know, but that definitely happened. But in fairness, I do take accountability. I don’t like to just blame them. Sometimes you have to be real with yourself. At 280 pounds, can you do a 15-minute show without breathing hard and sweating profusely? At the same time that I wanted to point fingers, when was I going to point the finger at myself? So that’s what I ended up doing.
So at your highest weight you were 280?
At my highest I was 291, but my weight when I started my journey was 280.
So coming down to the 180s, that’s major. The question I’m sure everyone wants to know is how did you do it naturally within a year? It would require intense work. What had to change?
Definitely had to change all of my food, drinks, my exercise regimen. It was a whole big package of sacrifice. I literally just tackled my problem areas, which were sodas and sweet teas. I just loved juice. I strictly went straight water for like the first six to eight months. I just now started reincorporating like, “Man, if I want a sweet tea, I’m going to get a sweet tea. That’s not going to kill me! I’m not going to gain three pounds from that.” I’m just realizing that I’m human and humans still drink tea in moderation. Humans still have a slice of pizza in moderation instead of the four slices I would have normally had. As far as exercise, for my body, walking and jogging worked for me. Cardio worked for me. Primarily, you would think you would do the cardio and the toning up in the gym to keep tight. But I more so did 80 percent cardio and went to the gym like 20 percent. So the first four months I started off walking in increments. I started three miles and then my body plateaued. Went up to six miles, body plateaued. I went up to nine miles, body plateaued. I just kept going. So on average, I’ve probably walked and jog six to 18 miles at times. We have a big lake that’s like 3.6 miles that I go to. If it gets rained out, that’s when you’ll catch me in the gym. I also used a trainer for two to three months in the middle of my journey. I was toning, I could see a change, but it wasn’t giving the faster results. So for me, the jogging and walking worked better for me.
How about your diet?
As far as food, I quit eating after 7 p.m.. The first half, when I tell you I was on it? I was asleep at like 8 o’clock. I had no life. I had to sacrifice friends, I had to sacrifice relationships. You’re going to lose people on your journey because they’re not going to understand what you’re doing. But I knew that when I slept, I burned fat. So guess what? I’m going to go to sleep because you’re trying to feed me fat at the club. I don’t have time to hang out late, I’ve got work to do. I stayed away from the breads and pastas and the normal stuff. I incorporated more salads. And I’m not saying I never had those things, but if I did, I just had them in moderation. So for example, I would go to a restaurant. You know how they ask if you want a water? I say, “Yes ma’am, I’ll take that, and I’ll also take a to-go box.” You only eat what you see, so it’s all in your mind. When my food would come, I would split it in half and put half in the box. There you go, already half down. It’s about the willpower and it isn’t easy. I had to let a lot of things go, and you’re talking to a girl who used to eat fried chicken for breakfast. So it was definitely tough. That’s why I strongly say, if I can do it, you can do it. I never understood why people would say that. I assumed like, “Child, they’re just saying that to make us think we can.” No, it’s true.
How have things changed, particularly with how you’re treated in the industry now that you’ve lost so much weight?
It’s crazy how this world works. I haven’t really been pushing, pushing the music to really see what’s coming from it because I’ve been pulled in so many ways — in a good way though because of the weight loss. But as far as the way people talk to me, they talk to you differently. The guys, the ones who wouldn’t even look my way — people treat you different. If I speak to a few people at the studio they say, “Whenever you need me just call.” And I’m like, whenever I need you? Back in the day it was a no before I could even get something out. It’s changing around, but I want to face an exec and see what they have to say now.
You walk and run in the rain, get up to workout at like 4 a.m. and show a lot of dedication. A lot of people who want to lose weight often aren’t ready to make those type of sacrifices. So what advice would you offer other women trying to get started on a fitness journey? We’re upon that time of year when everyone is going to be on one after the new year.
My advice is to remember why you started. If you started for your daughter to be here for your daughter, or for that career, or for overall health, just remember why you started. Remember that you deserve it and that you’re worth fighting for. Nobody’s going to fight for you like you. Most importantly, just remember that it don’t last forever, the pain, the struggle. Remember why you started. That’s why I’m going to sacrifice my sleep right now. Sacrifice. A lot of people are afraid, but you’ll never what you can do until you try.