Feature photo by bensonkua

Llenita. That’s been the polite adjective my familia has used to describe me. “No estas gorda, mija. Estas llenita.” As if that’s supposed to help my stomach fit into my jeans any better. Truth is, I’ve been at least 50 pounds overweight since I was 12. Sure, there’ve been diets…Atkins, South Beach, and some weird one that had me drinking bright purple flaxseed shakes. Gross! The diets resulted in dramatic but short-lived weight loss. Diets were fantasies, like daydreaming about winning the lottery instead of putting in the hard work to save money. Diets didn’t change who I was. Get up at 6 in the morning to exercise? No way! Give up pizza, chicken wings, pan dulce, and *gasp* BEER? Screw you! After all, I wasn’t that fat, right? Most of it was junk in my trunk; other women should be so lucky. At least I could hide it with loose blouses and long sleeves. Black happens to be my favorite color, even in summer. My partner never complained, so why should I care? Society puts too much pressure on women to be anorexic waifs. Rebel by proudly packing pounds! Right?

Wrong. I’ve stubbornly argued every last excuse I could muster. It took me 20 years to realize that functioning at extremes is unhealthy—being too skinny is just as unhealthy as being too fat. I needed to find my balance, but how? My poor health certainly wasn’t motivating me to lose weight. My cholesterol has been skyrocketing for years, and my glucose levels have started increasing. After experiencing heart-attack-like symptoms last summer, I spent a weekend in the hospital and found out that I have a leaking heart valve caused by smoking and being overweight. With my family history of heart disease and diabetes (my dad died at the young age of 52), I had absolutely no business eating fast food, smoking, or sitting in front of a computer for 14 hours a day. I needed to make a change, but what was going to finally help me do it?

A Chicanita from Cali.

Two months ago, after an eight-year-long mutual search, I reconnected with Carla, my faithful friend in college. Like me, she was struggling to lose weight and dealt with stress by eating. We made a pact to do a long-distance weight loss challenge…and guess what, folks? It’s actually working. I make healthier food choices now—without whining and being a drama queen about it. I exercise more and run more errands by walking instead of driving.

Why is this time working? Perhaps it’s due to the mutual respect and admiration we have for each other, the “we’re in this together” factor, the culmination of my health struggles, my personal challenge to prove to myself that I can be determined and disciplined about my health, or all of the above.

Since we’ve started, I’ve lost 12 pounds. Not bad, but not good either. I still need to make significant strides towards losing a good 38 pounds. That’s quite a task. So, I’m enlisting the help of Gozamos readers to join me on this journey. You in?

It starts this Monday, which is exactly 10 weeks from June 21st, the first day of summer. If you’ve struggled all your life to lose weight, or if you’re trying to shed some winter pounds, get yourself motivated by joining others in the same boat as you. I’ll give you weekly updates on my weight loss, new healthy recipes to try, news about obesity issues in the Latino community, suggestions for staying motivated, and—let’s be honest—confessions of setbacks. We’ll keep it real because that’s the only way this will really work. Remember, we’re in this together, so be ready to share your own experiences in the comments section.

So, enjoy the weekend. Have your last beer and slice of pizza (at least for a while). Then check back on Monday for tips for starting Week 1. If you’ve been wanting to lose weight, now is the time. Gozamos has your back!

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