Today I am forever grateful for where I am and that I’m alive and well.
In less than 2 months I will be 51 and will have outlived my brother who died 3 years ago at age 50.
I lost my mother 2 years ago too and though she was 83 and not well, it’s still a huge loss. None of us in the family ever thought she’d lived that long since she was heavy most of her life and also smoked.
I never smoked but continued to gain weight and was close to 300 lbs about 7 years ago. It seemed easy to just simply ignore that I had a body. Sure I knew I continuing in my families footsteps of eating the wrong things and way too much of it. And I never exercises, though I always loved to kayak – and be in nature, it was never a routine to help me have a strong heart or burn calories to make a difference.
But you know, fear can really motivate a person. I know it did for me. when I heard my doctor say that I was going to be on meds the rest of my life for high blood pressure, well I finally heard her. That scared me into action. I was mad at myself. I got so angry. ME, a grown educated woman – how did I allow myself to live so numb and disconnected from my body all those years? Was I depressed and eating my way towards happiness? Was I just focusing on everything outside my body so much that I forgot to love myself and my body in the process of being human?
I looked at myself cold and hard in the mirror after leaving that doctors office. I looked at myself, and saw a fat, very fat woman who looked shut down and numb. Who had I become? Who was this woman staring back at me? It was not who I envisioned myself to be. I pictured myself vibrant, happy, upbeat, lovable. I was all those things except to myself. I forgot to love myself enough to care about me.
And so I began. I took my anger and turned it around. Despite never reading any books about dieting or exercising..I made a vision board of what and who I wanted to project myself to be in the world. I wanted to be healthy, feel alive and vibrant, and yes, thinner and feel confident and in control. I didn’t tell too many people that I was on a mission to drop over 100 lbs – I mean I didn’t want people to tell me how to do it. I started just unravelling who I had been living like – and started learning to live differently. One step at a time. I slowly changed how I ate by cutting out a few poor food choices at a time. Like ice cream, cheese and pizza. We all know those are full of fat so I started there. And slowly cut out sodas and processed foods. I told myself I was not going to deny myself the pleasures of foods – food was such a big integral part of my family growing up in Virginia. It’s a very social part of every gathering. I took that tradition and made meals for friends and had dinner parties all the time. I needed to keep that and maintain that pleasure. You don’t just have friends over and serve weight loss shakes, right? You serve food. So, I taught myself how to eat healthier little by little so that I didn’t feel I was going without something but rather allowing something else in.
Low and behold, I started working part time at Trader Joe’s in Pikesville/Baltimore, MD at the food demo counter at the back of the store. It was there, where I was able to be surrounded by healthy foods and also teach myself and my guests how to make and eat better. Plus I was on my feet for 8 hours a day and very active. I began to drop weight! And with the addition of weight lifting and interval training, I embraced fitness too! Despite my fears of the gym and being called “Big Bonnie Balloon Butt” in elementary school – I finally overcame my fears of the gym too! I LOVED going to the Y and it truly saved my life. I realized over the course of 6-9 months that I actually liked feeling strong and liked seeing how my body could perform. After 2 years of dedicated focused hard work in my kitchen and at the gym, I dropped 130 lbs and I was on fire! I was 45 1/2 years old and felt amazing for the first time in my life!
Soon after that, I was featured on The Dr. Oz Show where I was so proud to share my weight loss story and healthy recipes with America. Dr. Oz and the producers liked me so much they added me as a “Wellness Warrior” blogger on their website and encouraged me to start a Facebook page (add me as a friend – Bonnie On Oz) . They new I had unleashed a newfound desire to share with others and inspire them about healthy cooking, and embrace fitness the way that I did.
So, here I am a few years later. Finally catching my breath and starting this website and blog to share more about my recipes and inspire others even more.
The past few years since being on the show has been a big blur really. I’ve since quit my job at Trader Joe’s and helped launch an ancient grain into the marketplace, called freekeh. I co-founded Freekeh Foods and have helped make freekeh known as a healthier substitute for rice – since it’s got more protein and fiber than even brown rice. I had featured the grain originally as part of my Oz segment and since then, it’s slowly been catching on nationwide. It will take more time, but the good news is, Skyhorse Publishing in NYC commissioned me to do a cookbook called “The Freekeh Cookbook” which just got released in July 2014 nationwide at Barnes and Nobles, Books-a-Million and Amazon. Hopefully my recipes and photos in the book will inspire folks to try the grain and cook differently.
This first blog post comes at a crazy time in my life- with the release of that book just 2 weeks ago, and Skyhorse Publishing has commissioned me to do 2 more healthy cookbooks – unrelated to freekeh – one on healthy grilling and one on healthy gluten free. I’m photographing and writing them both. I am hoping and praying that with these books, and this website, I’ll be able to share and inspire folks about my style of cooking and see what’s going to be next! I’m so honored, humbled and grateful for where the universe has put me.