For many people who consider embarking on a weight-loss journey, there is a belief that it is one that will change you physically and mentally. That’s true. But if you ask Monique, better known as MoFit, about her own journey, she would also say that it impacts you spiritually as well. When the 26-year-old mother and Bronx, New York native decided to take control of her health, she was craving change. She was battling with depression, trying to balance her studies and job with being a new parent and watching her relationship with her child’s father fall apart. So she went all in. She did her research, read about what she was at risk for and what she needed in her diet, and tapped into the greatest resource — her faith. She worked hard, and she passed on the oxtails she loved as a Jamaican woman in favor of healthier fare, but she also sought counsel from God. MoFit has lost 80 pounds since starting her weight-loss journey in 2016 with the help of hard work and some serious prayers. Now a weight-loss coach, she is helping a wealth of other women do the same. We talked with the mom about getting out from under depression through a healthier lifestyle, and why losing weight truly is a spiritual journey.
MadameNoire: How did you get to your highest weight? Did you struggle with your weight most of your life or did you go through something that may have caused your weight to increase substantially?
MoFit: I’ve always been a rounder girl growing up. Like, above my recommended weight, a high BMI. So for example, in high school, when I should have been like 120, I was 150. And then in college, I was about 180 when I should have been 160. And then after college I started my master’s program and also got pregnant. That brought on a level of depression because of all the stress of juggling school and having a baby on the way. I was also a teacher at the time so it was a lot going on. Because of that, I didn’t focus primarily on myself. I didn’t focus on my well-being. I didn’t focus on health. I never really did, coming from a family of Jamaican descent. We love red meat. We eat anything.
So during my pregnancy I gained a total of 50 pounds. I went up to 215 and I thought after giving birth that the weight would just disappear after having the baby. But I only went down to like 205 and that was really depressing for me because I was only 22 and 205 pounds, wondering how am I ever going to take this off? At that point I felt uncomfortable with being a rounder girl.
Was that the catalyst for change?
No. Around the time that my son was six months, my baby’s father and I started to have some issues. That’s when it dawned on me that maybe this isn’t going to be the man that I’m going to marry. Therefore, I would be raising my son in a broken home. That was something I never planned for. I wasn’t expecting it so it impacted my emotional stability. I realized that I needed to have more of a stronger spirit and change. I was just desperate for a brand new beginning. I felt that I needed to improve how I look, improve how I think, improve different things. At that point I felt everything was going wrong. So being in that funk and having that dark cloud over me, I started to look at social media a lot more and at people who were living their best lives. A lot of the people I noticed were fitness influencers. Being on Instagram and Facebook and seeing people exercise and transform their bodies, I realized that maybe I could fully transform my life as well by focusing on my health. I just didn’t know how to go about it, so as an educator I’m inspired by knowledge. I started to read a lot more and a lot of that reading pertained to nutrition. There were things that I learned about my body and the things that were big in my family like heart disease and diabetes, high blood pressure, these things that were plaguing my community. I realized I was at high risk for that. Learning what was happening to my body along with the pressure of wanting change, those two combined just made me want to say, you know what? Let me start something new. It really just started with cardio. Going to the gym every day and doing 30 minutes of cardio because I didn’t know any other workout. I just wanted to lose the weight. So I changed my physical activity and I started to change the way I was eating, change the time I was going to sleep and just focusing on the change is what kind of made me feel better spiritually and mentally.
You said you used to reframe certain weaknesses into beliefs, like saying, “I’m just big boned.” While it’s great to love yourself no matter your size, why can it be problematic to try and affirm this way of looking at your body when you know you’re not living as healthy as you could be?
I realized that I was in a trapped mindset. That trapped mindset was thinking “I’m big because that’s my genes. That’s just how I’m genetically made up.” That trapped mindset is caused by a lack of knowledge. Reading and understanding how nutrition can impact our health, and then seeing the changes happen by applying what I was learning, I realized you can change your body type. You can go against your so-called genetic makeup just by living a healthier lifestyle. And that was what inspired me to continue proving that. Because my family for example, they were like, “Man, you’re losing all of this weight. Are you on drugs? Are you this? Are you that?” I’m like, no, I just don’t eat red meat anymore. I don’t eat a whole lot of carbs anymore. I don’t eat late at night anymore. I just started to live a lot more healthier lifestyle. Essentially that just shows, when people feel they’re too skinny or their skin looks a certain way or their hair isn’t growing a certain way, there is always a way to change that. All those things we are in control of. It’s just about finding information out there to change it and persevering through that. Be patient through the process.
As you said, as someone from a specific cultural background, being Jamaican, how were you able to deal with the questions from your family about why you weren’t eating the same way? And also, how did you deal with the temptation while trying to move away from these types of meals you grew up on?
Well, I mean I feel that I’m an advocate for living freely and doing what makes you happy. So when I go to family gatherings or I go out with friends and there are unhealthy choices, I may indulge in them moderately. When you live a healthier lifestyle, you also have room for those cheat days to just kind of enjoy life. When I would go to family gatherings and there is oxtail and chicken, I might only take one piece of oxtail and a lot more chicken. Even during this last Thanksgiving, I was on a vegan diet so I only had vegan food. I didn’t touch a lot of the meat and they were like, “Why aren’t you eating any of the meats?” I took that time to educate my family and my friends on the decisions I was making. Dealing with that was more about taking a more optimistic approach. It’s like, I can indulge here and there in a moderate portion. But if there’s a time where I really don’t want to and I’m truly focused on making that healthier choice and someone asks, it’s just about educating those people on why it’s healthy and why I’m doing it. Because people just don’t know the reason behind the choices that you’re making unless they’re enlightened by the information.
As someone who is a weight-loss coach, how has your experience dropping a lot of the pounds on your own helped you connect with your clients? Some trainers have never been big, and so they can have a hard time being empathetic. How does that shared experience inform how you work with your clients?
The biggest thing that makes me connect with my clients or people that are looking for inspiration is connecting to the unhealthy habits they’re struggling with. I still struggle sometimes with feeling like I’m in that fat girl state of mind where I just want to splurge and eat late at night. So when I have a client who says, “I can’t do it because I just truly love fried chicken, I can’t let it go,” I’m like, “Listen! You’re talking to the girl that was in love with oxtails.” I would order a large, eat them all by myself and still want more. Connecting with them in talking about how I had to overcome my unhealthy habits and how everyone essentially does, it just helps with that mental strength. It’s about being passionate for that change. So I will remind them, I’m the girl that never played sports. If I’m working out with a client and they’re like, “Oh, you have muscles! I can’t do that. Burpees? I can’t do that.” I say you’re talking to the person who only knew how to walk on the treadmill, much less run. Never played sports before. Never was athletic. Never worked out in the gym. I had my first gym membership two years ago. That was never of value in my family or in my life. So I connect with my clients in that aspect. It doesn’t matter where you start. It matters how passionate you are about it, how informed you are about making the change, and having that support. It’s truly a spiritual journey. I have to remind them that the only way I was able to overcome those negative thoughts in my head, like “I’ll never be able to do this, and let go of that. It’s a part of me and it’s who I am,” was to know that’s a lack of spirit. A lack of belief in a higher being. It’s about transcending. So for me it was like first meditating and then praying. “God, can you help me to let go of these cravings?” or “Help me not to live this life.” I remind people of that. You have to be willing to transcend beyond what you know. You have to be willing to accept the unknown and passionately fight against your rehab stage. I call it the rehab stage of weight loss. You’re itching for what you want and those unhealthy habits. But if you know it’s unhealthy, you just have to let it go.
How do you stay motivated after all of this time? What drives you at this point to keep going and away from old habits?
I think the biggest thing that motivates me is the urge to make an impact in my community, especially in my Caribbean community. Because I didn’t notice how much I was changing until other people pointed it out. In them pointing it out, they were asking me how was it possible. “Did you have surgery?” People are thinking all of these extra facades and phenomenons and I’m like, no, it was just a natural, spiritual journey and about just living a healthier lifestyle. So when I realized how people are not knowledgeable about that, I made it less about me and more about shedding awareness. So my motivation stems from turning it into a blog. I started Mo’s Motivational Health Club. I love to write as well, so I started to write about my journey and put it on Instagram with photos with the long captions of what I was going through mentally or during that week with my journey. Seeing how people gravitated to that and wanted more of that motivation and support, that essentially is what kept me motivated. It held me accountable. I couldn’t relapse because here I am, the experiment of what you can do with your body and your life when you’re determined and you make changes. So I think what really motivates me is helping my community and helping people in any way that I can. Through my blog, through my business, Mo’s Motivation Health Club where I offer meal plans and training and online training, that keeps me going. Because if I’m not in shape, I can’t train other people. I can’t uphold a model if I don’t represent that model.
And also, of course, my son. I truly believe in aging backwards. People look at me now and my son is three years old. From the time I was pregnant and even in college, people are like, “You look so much younger now!” They’re like, “Back then you looked like you were 30.” And I feel younger. I’m able to do a lot of things with my son and take him places. I feel like a teenage mom with him, even though I’m not. So staying in my best shape keeps me in a better state of mind and that helps me as a mother to be happier with him and teaching him and growing with him. Essentially, I know I want to make my son athletic as well in the future and spread that awareness of health. Carry that on from generation to generation, which is something I wasn’t fortunate to have. So my son definitely motivates me, helping people motivates me, and feeling the change motivates me. I feel energetic. I feel alive. I feel more purified because I also suffered from eczema and really bad acne. I tried everything growing up. From the African products to — I used to go to the African shops and get the black soap and cocoa butter. I would go to the dermatologist and they’d give me antibiotics and medication and nothing would change it. But would you believe that by just drinking a gallon of water a day it cleansed my skin entirely? And eating less meat and gorging more on vegetables and fruit cleansed my skin. I haven’t seen my eczema come back. Things like that keep me motivated. I never want to go back to where I was.