How One Woman Lost Over 90 Pounds with Hard Work, Strength Training and Good Food

Tameika Gentles lost 90 pounds 12 years ago and has kept it off ever since with a true commonsense approach to healthy eating and exercise. She still eats pizza and burgers and drinks wine—all while traveling the world and working for herself as a successful entrepreneur. We sat down to ask her how she did it, what her biggest non-scale victory is and what she wished she knew 12 years ago.

Related: 6 Secrets to Losing Weight

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Q: How did you get started on your weight-loss journey?

A: I was the classic story of the girl who had been overweight her entire life. Growing up, I was the fun, jolly, overweight friend that everyone loved! We’re of Jamaican descent and needless to say, being health-conscious was never of true importance. We just ate great food and ate it well! Traditional foods were a huge part of our culture and lifestyle.

As I got older, the weight piled on. I went from being the cute, chubby Tameika to becoming severely overweight. After my first year of university and gaining yet another 20 pounds, I’d reached almost 230 pounds. This is where I hit my breaking point.

After dozens and dozens of attempts at weight loss, it finally clicked. My breaking point was where I was at such a low, the only option left was to fix this. I started with research. This was during a time when Instagram, blogs and the wealth of information available today just wasn’t there. I went to the library and took out books on weight loss. I studied the science of weight loss, caloric intake, macros, fitness, weight training and the psychology of obesity. I was basically a sponge, absorbing everything I could.

I started off with deciding I was going to make my own food. As a student, that consisted of very basic and very affordable meals. But I knew making and preparing my own meals was a first step. Over time it evolved into making my meals fun, buying healthy cookbooks and trying new recipes.

At the gym, it started with fitness classes! Initially it started off with just cardio, but through research I quickly learned that strength training was important. Fitness classes taught me the basics; what a biceps curl was, how to properly squat, how to target different muscle groups. I couldn’t afford a personal trainer back then, so learning in classes was a perfect alternative.

After nine very dedicated months, I lost nearly 100 pounds. The key to my weight loss was education and taking what I learned to really build a lifestyle that worked for me.

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Q: You’ve maintained a 90-lb. weight loss for over 12 years! How have you made it stick and what keeps you motivated?

A: After 12 years, I’m in the best shape of my life and have fully adopted this lifestyle—I’ve even turned it into a career. I now devote all of my time to helping others through personal and online training, as well as running traveling health retreats around the world where we help amazing women on their health journey in destinations like Bali, Thailand, South Africa and Colombia. I’m committed to this industry and helping others achieve the happiness I have found.

What has helped me stay in shape is making my lifestyle work for me! Let’s face it, I will never be the girl eating no carbs, taking a ton of supplements and having salad three times a day. I’m a lover of food, so I’ve learned ways to make all of my favorite foods healthy. I have restrictions, yes, but I never feel without. This is what I now instill in all of my clients and what we teach at our health retreats.

What keeps me motivated? First, I never want to go back to the point where I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired. I absolutely refuse. Also, I love being the best me. I love that I’m treating my body the way it deserves to be treated. I love that I am doing everything in my power to avoid sickness and disease. I love that I put myself first, no matter what I have going on in life. I love that I choose me and recognize that when I am my healthiest self, I can be so much more for my loved ones, my purpose and my business!

?New Weekly Challenge ? It’s Sunday for most of you! So you know what that means?! Our weekly challenge begins tomorrow! My Challenge this week ➡️ 2 of my 3 meals each day will be vegetarian! That means, only one meal every day will have meat, chicken, or fish! CAVEAT: your meals must be healthy vegetarian meals!!! While on the Challenges we still stick to a balanced healthy lifestyle, we just use the Challenges to take it up a notch. If you’ve been following me you know I’ve been trying to lessen my meat intake for years! So I’m going to challenge myself this week and I encourage you to join! I’ll be posting all of my meals on my IG stories ❤️ These weekly challenges are something I’ve been doing for years, in an effort to keep things exciting and engaging after 12 years of weight loss maintenance. It can be daunting doingthe same thing all the time so these challenges help to continually push me out of my comfort zone. I started bringing you all in on my weekly Challenges this summer and you seemed to love it. So I’ll continue ? Who’s joining me?! . . . ➡️For Health retreat updates in Thailand, South Africa, and Colombia follow @whole_experience ➡️ For updates on my travel journey around the globe follow @tameikagtravels ?: @whatagee88

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Q: What have been the biggest benefits to changing your lifestyle beyond the scale?

A: I feel like a new person. Funny enough, more so on the inside. When I was overweight, I lacked confidence in my abilities. For the last 12 years, I have felt unstoppable. Since I lost the weight, anything I’ve put my mind to, I have been able to conquer without doubt. I’ve sold all of my belongings to travel the world full-time (and have traveled to more than 50 countries), and I’ve quit my corporate job to become a successful entrepreneur. I’ve excelled in all areas of life, and I can’t say this would have happened had it not been for my change in lifestyle.

For me, it was so much more than weight loss. At the time I didn’t know that, but I see it now. At 20 years old, I did what most grown adults couldn’t do. Since then, I’ve been able to tackle anything that has come my way (literally!). Nothing seems impossible.

Q: What are some of your favorite healthy meals?

A: I now invest time in turning my favorite foods healthy. I have recipes for healthy pizza, pasta, burgers, baked goods—you name it! I’ve found a way to turn traditional junk foods into healthy versions. I know I am not the type of girl who can eat grilled chicken and brown rice every day. So, I find foods that cater to my taste buds while achieving my goals.

I also allow myself a few unapologetic treat meals each week. I have since the beginning of this journey!

FAQ ?How do I stay motivated?! On the daily Im asked this question. So I thought I would share what keeps me going – having been on this journey for 12 years! 1) Try Affirmations! I have a blog post on my morning routine over at that lists out all of my affirmations. The last 2 years have been the most challenging in my health journey given I sold everything I owned, don’t have a base, and live out of my suitcase as I country hop. Lol. Daily affirmations have been SO crucial in keeping me afloat. Telling myself every morning that my body is able -helps me get to the gym. Repeating that I am determined to me my strongest, healthiest, and sexiest self – forces me to push myself at the gym. Reminding myself that my body is my temple, allows me to nourish it with healthy foods on the daily. Affirmations keep me motivated and in the right head space! 2) Connect to your ‘why’. You’ve heard me say this before, but you need a reason. And it cannot be purely aesthetic. It has to be deeply connected to something greater than you. My ‘why’ is my purpose, my businesses, my family, and all of you! My ‘why’ keeps my motivated 3) Results! Which can come in many forms. If you’re like me and don’t really do the scale thing, take photos or measurements! And they don’t have to be aesthetic results. The can be strength or endurance results. Whatever you choose, tracking it somehow will trigger that reward system in the brain that will motivate you to push further. 4) Get a hype man (or squad)! When @whatagee88 and I are on the road, we root for one another in our health journey. She gets in 10K steps and we high five! I hit a PR at the gym, we do a shimmy dance! Having like minded people in my corner who I can root for (and they can root for me) keeps me motivated! 5) The FEELING. You ever wonder why us health nuts are addicted to living this life? Well, you gotta FEEL it to understand it. When you are on this journey consistently, you begin to drink the juice. The juice is this indescribable high – constant joy, consistent glow and great energy. I love this feeling so much it keeps me motivated. I want this pep in my step until I’m old, grey and beyond ?

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Q: What are your favorite ways to stay active?

A: Well, first and foremost, I love strength training. I weight-train four days per week and have been for the last 12 years. I feel so empowered when I hit new PRs [personal records]. I only want to get stronger.

When I’m not in the gym hitting the weights, I love getting outdoors. As a full-time traveler, I often try to find new hikes or trails that can keep me active while seeing new places.

Finally, I’m developing a love for yoga and stretching and what it’s doing for my mental health. It’s now been implemented into my daily routine!

Q: What is your biggest challenge to maintaining your healthy lifestyle?

A: I guess right now for me, it’s constantly figuring out how to maintain this lifestyle while living abroad and exploring the world full-time. Since losing the weight, I have also sold all of my belongings and live out of my suitcase. So because I am in a new country every month, I am not able to have a consistent routine, gym or healthy food at my fingertips.

It can be hard to find a gym in rural Sri Lanka or healthy food in Cambodia. Having been on the road for two years, I’ve done pretty well and figured out a system that works; but it still remains a challenge!

Q: What’s your biggest indulgence?

A: When traveling, it’s trying new cuisines. I can’t help but indulge in curries when I’m in India, or enjoy pad thai in Thailand! I’m also a lover of wine and try to visit wineries whenever I travel.

✨New Blog Post✨ “My Nomadic Life – How I Transitioned from a 9-5 to traveling the world” link in bio! Ok guys, the long anticipated post is finally published! After so many requests, I detail how I live the life I live of a full time traveling nomad/entrepreneur. My FULL story is on the blog now. Like every. single. step. It’s my 5 year journey… starting with being completely depressed, broke, going through a divorce, and swimming in $50,000of debt. I discuss how I got out of that dark place and started my journey abroad. I pragmatically walk through the steps of how I got out of debt, started my businesses, and basically designed a life of freedom, flexibility, and choice! I also talk a lot about money in this piece… How I went from financial illiteracy to saving 6 figures to pursue my dreams. Most will see all of this travelI do (especially after my last month in England, Iceland, Italy, Morocco, Spain, and Bali) and think that it’s all glamour. But what you don’t know is the 5 year prep it took to get here. I get a lot of messages where people assume I get endorsements for my lifestyle, or my travel is paid for, or that I come from money. All of the above couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, I come from a lower to middle class family and was raised by a hard working single mother. I’ve paid for every single flight and accommodation I’ve ever stayed in. I don’t share this story to gloat, but more so show that regardless of where you are in life, or how down things may seem, you can absolutely persevere! This is easily the most honest and vulnerable I have ever been, sharing the details of my finances, to my divorce, to my biggest risks taken makes me nervous. Im naturally a pretty private person, but I see the power in vulnerability and sharing my story in an effort to empower you! If I can help to change just one persons perspective, it’s all worth it. Enjoy ❤️ . . ➡️For Health retreat updates in Thailand, South Africa, and Colombia follow @whole_experience ➡️ For updates on my travel journey around the globe follow @tameikagtravels

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Q: What’s something you wish you knew when you got started that you would tell people now?

A: I tried time and time again to start this journey and failed. The main problem was lack of patience and consistency. I would always try to find quick wins that put me in a nasty yo-yo cycle. It wasn’t an easy road, but I’m so glad I went through it and got here because I believe my approach has helped tremendously with weight-loss maintenance.

If I could go back in time, I would tell myself early on that it’s not about the destination, because there is none. That this is a lifestyle I am creating forever, and there is no end date, so it’s completely about the journey.

I would tell people it needs to start with the mind-set of creating a lifestyle. I used to do many extreme diets, and of course they never lasted. Skip the fad diets and the shortcuts and stick to the simple formula: get moving and enjoy healthy portion-controlled food. Taking the simple approach may take longer, but you’ll surely be able to maintain it long-term.

This article originally appeared on EatingWell.

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