A Black Girl’s Guide to Weight Loss: Finding Fitness As A Single Parent

March 7, 2013  |  

This week, MadamenNoire is introducing a new fitness column — A Black Girl’s Guide to Weight Loss — written by the creator of the popular site by the same name, Erika Nicole Kendall. In her column, Erika will share tips on how to mimic her weight loss success through personal narratives. But, if you happen to have topics or specific questions you’d like her to address, feel free to email them to us at editors@madamenoire.com.

Photo credit: WENN

Recently, I received an e-mail from a reader asking me for advice on how she should try to lose weight even though she’s a single parent with limited resources.

It only brought me back to my roots because there was a point in time where I had to be an at-home exerciser, too.

Early in my weight loss journey, I was a single parent of a 2-year old who was definitely focused on getting the weight off. I didn’t want to spend the money on equipment or technology because, like so many others, I didn’t want to invest money in something to which I wouldn’t commit. I didn’t want to have to live with the embarrassment of having spent a wad of cash on something that wouldn’t work.

If I was going to do this thing – whatever “this thing” was – then it was going to be the barest of bones. It was going to be the most neanderthal, caveman fitness plan ever, because I wasn’t about to spend a single pink penny, let alone a copper one.

It makes sense, though. As single parents, you never feel like you’ll make as much money as you would if you had the second income, so it always feels like you never have the money, even when you clearly have the money. It feels like you have to hoard cash. Not only that, but in the beginning of a weight loss journey, it feels easy to rationalize why you shouldn’t be spending money on yourself… especially when you’re not convinced that it will actually bear any fruit.

That being said, I do have a few tips for helping single parents drop that weight. Actual tips, not “do sit ups and drink water all day!” tips, either.

  1. Don’t underestimate the value of a nice, long walk. You not only burn calories during a long walk, but you also relieve stress. Take your little – or big – ones along for the walk! You’ll eventually develop the ability – and desire – to run, at which point you’ll want to embrace a program that can train you for running an extended period of time, like from Couch to 5K. Running is easily one of the least expensive and most productive means of burning fat, and short of a can of mace and a good pair of running shoes, you don’t need much. If you’ve got little ones, they make jogging strollers for that.
  2. Never buy anything especially marketed for weight loss, healthy living, or even stress relief. Trust me: if you’re buying something that’s telling you how good it is… it’s probably nowhere near as good as the natural, holistic alternative. You don’t need specially crafted cereal; you need its infinitely cheaper alternative: oatmeal. You don’t need a “healthy microwaveable pasta dish;” you need its – again – infinitely cheaper alternative: fresh vegetables (frozen even works here), lean protein, and quality pasta. Sticking as close to the source – the source being Mother Nature, here – will get you exactly where you need to be.
  3. Don’t be afraid to incorporate your children in your workouts! One of the most invaluable parts of adopting a healthy living routine for the first time, as a parent, is being able to teach your children that working out is a natural, everyday part of living. Spending a little time each day devoted to your wellness, in sight of your children, provides them with a reason to think about being healthy as kids and as teens, and gives them a base foundation for how to operate as adults. It teaches them dedication, determination, and commitment. Take your son running! Let your daughter try to do push-ups with you! I used my little one as a weight, and did bicep curls with her, and this was how I taught her how to count. Get creative, make it fun, and your kids will benefit, too.
  4. Don’t believe the hype: you don’t need weights to strength train. For a beginner, calisthenics – using mostly your body weight in an effort to challenge your strength – is just as good, if not better, than using full weights. If you’ve never lifted a weight regularly before, going from zero to 15lbs isn’t ideal. In fact, it’s injury waiting to happen. Exercises that use body weight – think tricep dips, push ups, squats, lunges – also often work out more of your body in one exercise and, combined with changes in speed (can you go faster? slower?), can help you get your heart rate going and your muscles growing to give you the tone you want and the fat burn you may need.

Lastly, don’t underestimate the importance of a clean eating lifestyle, free of unhealthy processed food engineered to make you lose control, excess calories and all-around garbage chemicals. You clean up your daily eating habits and, barring any hormonal concerns, you’ll likely also drop the weight, too.

As I always say, your body (and your babies) will thank you for it!

Erika Nicole Kendall is the writer behind the award winning blog, A Black Girl’s Guide to Weight Loss, where she blogs everything from fitness to food, weight loss to wellness, body image and more. A trainer certified in women’s fitness, fitness nutrition and weight loss coaching, she can be found taking over your Internet on Youtube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

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