The day I interviewed Tyesha Sosa, she was full of joy. It was her birthday. She was turning 24 and she had a lot to celebrate.
The happiness you could hear in her voice over the phone, the sound of a huge smile spreading across her face, is something the New York City native didn’t possess not too long ago. In her formative years, she went through some serious struggles, including finding herself in a shelter at 16. With that going on, she started battling with depression, and to help her cope, she ate food. As her body changed, she became even more depressed and eventually hit rock bottom.
“I was angry at the world and nobody could tell me nothing about anything being positive,” she said. “I was just a negative person and it’s because I didn’t feel good about myself. I didn’t feel good. Everything about me was not good, and it’s emotional to think about. My life was not good at all and I wasn’t happy.”
Eventually though, it would be some honest advice from her doctor, concerned about Sosa’s increasing BMI at her petite size, that got her to make some changes. She did some research on nutrition and started hitting the gym, getting some help from a trainer. Not only did she start losing the weight, but she also found that exercising helped her better cope with emotional ups and downs. Nowadays, she can’t get enough.
“I started doing something to make me feel happy that nobody could ever take away from me, which was the gym,” she said. “When I first started, I hated it. I was like, why am I doing this? But I learned to just trust the process and know that good things take time. I fell in love with working out and now it’s my passion, to take care of myself. Nobody can take that away from me and it makes me so happy now. It’s my happiness.”
Now down 70 pounds, healthier and stronger than she’s been in a long time, as well as happier, Tyesha Sosa is ready to share her story and inspire others. This is what she has to say.
MadameNoire: Tell me about your relationship with food growing up. I saw that you were doing some binge eating in high school due to depression. Was high school when your body started changing or were you always struggling with your weight?
Tyesha Sosa: My body started changing in high school because I was slim up until my freshman year. After freshman year, that’s when it all started creeping up on me little by little and when all the stress started coming on. My lifestyle changed. A total 365 in my lifestyle happened that caused me to be very stressed and depressed and eating was the comfort that I had.
Why was your life changing? Were you overwhelmed about entering into high school or were there serious things going on in your home life?
There were things occurring in my personal life with my living conditions and everything.
So you gravitated towards food to help you cope?
Yes. The food was there always.
As for depression, was this something that hit you mostly during that time in high school or has it been an ongoing struggle for you?
At that time, that’s when it started. Around my junior year, that’s when I first started noticing stretch marks. That affected my depression even more because I didn’t really understand what was going on. I was getting stretch marks on my arms, on the sides of my hips. It was just very unattractive to me as a female in high school. My weight shot up as the depression increased.
These days I’ll feel it slightly. Sometimes I get really low and start being really hard on myself. I have those moments, but it’s not good for me to be dwelling in it because I don’t like the feeling. It’s not a good feeling at all.
What was the catalyst for you to make a change, and what year did you really take full control of your situation?
It officially started in 2017, but even before that, back in 2014-15, I tried to lose weight but I didn’t try the correct way. I tried a liquid diet, then I started eating less. Every time I did those things I would lose some weight but I would never stick to it. And every time I got off that type of “diet,” I would gain weight ten times more than I had in the beginning. So I would say it all officially started in 2017 when I hit my peak, which was 205 pounds.
You said that the previous diet plans you were trying weren’t possible to maintain. What was it about this time around that worked and what have you done to change things both in terms of your diet and activity?
It all started when I went to the doctor. I was 205 pounds and at this point I was very desperate. She would tell me, “If your BMI goes over 40, you could qualify for weight-loss surgery,” but I didn’t want surgery. I definitely didn’t want anyone to cut me or anything of that nature. So I yelled at her because I was mad. I was like, “You’ve got to help me. Give me something! Give me a pill,” but nothing worked. She said there’s no pill or anything like that, you just have to change your lifestyle. From there, that’s when I started hitting the gym with one of my friends. At the time, I didn’t know what to eat. I didn’t know what I was doing in the gym. So I hired a personal trainer for two months, but he didn’t help me with the nutrition part. What I did was a lot of online research and I educated myself on nutrition, what to eat and what not to eat, what time to eat it and everything. So for instance, if I have breakfast, two hours later I might have a little snack, and I just keep a schedule of what I eat.
As far as fitness, I did a lot of calisthenics and aerobics, a lot of body weight moves. I figured your body weight is way more than a machine that you use or dumbbells, so I started doing burpees, mountain climbers, jumping jacks, anything that consists of body weight, those were the activities I did. That’s what got me to the body weight I am now.
I read that you had moments where you fell off with your regimen. How did you keep yourself from being negative about that and got yourself back on the right track?
During this transition I had fallen off for four months. That was the longest period of time that I’d fallen off. I was still going to the gym, but I was eating more bad foods. I had gained about 10, 15 pounds and what it took for me to stop was a wake-up call. One of my friends, she was like, “What’s going on? This is not the person I know. You need to get your stuff together because this is not you.” I needed that. I was like, “Thank you!” because I had been praying and was trying to figure out what was going on, why was I feeling like I was becoming lazy and tired. She helped. But also, when I do have moments of falling off, I look back at my pictures and remember my why. What’s my why? What’s the reason you started this initially? Why did you do this? Why did you want to lose weight? That’s what makes me get back up and basically start again. And now, I know a lot of women follow me and I motivate them, so if I fail I feel like I fail them because they look up to me. So I have to keep that momentum. I don’t want to not keep inspiring them. Life ain’t easy though, especially when you have this type of lifestyle because this lifestyle is not easy. You have to discipline yourself and get back up where you left off and not be so hard on yourself. That’s me. I’m really hard on myself. If I eat a burger right now I’ll be so hard on myself like, why did you have that burger? But I have to always work to get my mind out of that perspective because I go to the gym and eat clean, so it’s okay. It’s when you overdo it that you’re teetering on that borderline. So when I’m trying to pick myself up I think of my why and I look at my pictures and I look at the people who still constantly ask me questions. I think, you know, let me get back up and do what I need to do. At the end of the day I have to keep on inspiring and motivating people because they kind of look up to me and that’s how I pick myself back up.
You’ve done the physical work to lose more than 70 pounds, but what strides did you take to work on your mental health as well? If you turned to food because of depression then that was something you probably needed to keep in line so that you can maintain the results you have now. Do you see a therapist or have any specific practices for your self-care?
I don’t go see a therapist or anything of that nature, but the gym is my therapy. That’s how I don’t lose my sanity. I also listen to a lot of motivational speeches of like T.D. Jakes and a few people on YouTube — Denzel Washington and Oprah Winfrey, too. Those things really help my mental health a lot. I’m often in the house like, you know what? Let me go to the gym now! Those help me a lot, especially the motivational videos on YouTube. It’s like it speaks to you without you even knowing because you can relate to it so much and it’s wonderful.
With all you’ve overcome and done on your own, losing 70 pounds naturally, how do you look at life differently due to your accomplishments?
Oh life is good. Because of what I went through it made me very humble. I wouldn’t wish what I went through on anybody. And I can relate to anybody that’s trying to lose weight, gain weight or just trying to get to a better, healthier lifestyle. I can relate. It’s helped me have positive feelings for people I don’t know from a can of paint because I feel them because I’ve been where they’ve been. Life is good right now. I’m a mentor, an unofficial mentor, to people I don’t even know across the country. It makes me feel so happy. Tears of joy, that’s how I feel. I’m always smiling now. I love to smile.
And what advice would you give to those who are just starting their journey and are discouraged?
I tell people, you have to mentally prepare for the journey because it’s not easy. Like I said before, good things take time. You have to have patience with yourself and your body because every body is literally different. Don’t give up and just keep trying because like they said, Rome wasn’t built in one day. The goal you’re trying to achieve won’t happen overnight, so just keep on. Take pictures and always look back at them, don’t look at the scale. The scale is going to always play with your mind and that’s what people get confused. They tend to get very discouraged because of the scale but they probably feel different in their clothes. I always tell people stay off the scale, take pictures, take videos, document everything and do a lot of research as far as nutrition. That’s when you’ll see results. The fitness part is good, but people have to understand the eating is what’s really hard. My advice is focus on the nutrition part first and then get to the physical. Working out, you can always do that, but the nutrition is what will take you far if you’re on your A-game.