The journey began after the death of my mother, my best friend. In 2001 I had gastric bypass surgery after the March 2000 death of my mother. She died from complications due to her diabetes. She was only 53! At that point I was over 300 pounds and vowed not to get as sick as my mom did. I gained the weight between graduating from college in 1997 and starting my career in Knoxville, TN. It was me that packed it on. Being on the road most of the day and even into the night sometimes. Just made poor eating habits. By the time July 2001 came around I was able to lose about 50 of the pounds just eliminating the Depo-Provera shots. I lost about 80 pounds after the surgery. This sounds great, right? I have to admit; the loose skin was discouraging.
Eventually, I met a man in October of 2004 and married him in September of 2005. At this point I was a size 16. He was not bothered by my loose skin and ugly breasts. Actually, he was attracted to heavy set women. Not thinking of the implications of that fact, I thought I had hit the bullseye. Not to mention, I wanted to get married just like everyone one else around me. So I dutifully submitted to the lifestyle he set in our home. During the course of the marriage the relationship began to decline, and I started packing on the weight again. There was a constant tug of war between what I knew I needed and what he really wanted. Finally, after 7 1/2 years of emotional and mental conflict that could not be overcome, enough was enough and I became a single mother while I was 6 months pregnant with our second son.
As I reflect back on that time with him, a couple of things have stood out to me. He liked big women. Well, I was no longer that big per se, but I wasn’t “skin and bones” as he would call it. So having lost half of myself due to the gastric bypass, I conceded to the way he liked to eat. I catered to the fried foods and the limited vegetables he ate. I would go for walks and workout in the apartment fitness center whenever I could. Nothing was routine and there was no real focus on a goal. After our first son was born, I went on my own crusade to lose the weight again. I gained about 60 pounds with our son. However, with the help of my doctor, I got the weight off and then some only to discover number two was marinating inside.
In addition to this, a few months after we were married I discovered that there was such a thing as not only an unhealthy but also ungodly addiction to his particular “fetish” of large (350+ lbs.) black women. (You may fill in the blank for yourself.) Devastated is an understatement. It was a “painful” blow. To me, this “carnal habit” was the same as stepping outside of our marriage. As far as I was concerned, he was cheating. We underwent 6 ½ years of counseling at our home church. The counseling was intermittent based on his “episodes”. We’d go for a while, then he was “good” for a while. Cyclic.) He was recommended for local support groups. His response was “those people have serious issues.” He felt he wasn’t “that bad”. His carnal addiction to his fetish did not improve. It actually got worse. Eventually, it led to the divorce. My hurt and disappointment consumed me.
Why did I get married? (The non-Tyler Perry version.) Over the last four months or so, I have really been challenged to the heart of why I married him by those that care for and love me. In a nutshell? All for the wrong reasons. Every girl dreams at some point or often in her life about her wedding day. I wanted that so badly that I didn’t acknowledge the flags. At that time in my life, 32 years old, friends were getting married and starting families. Church was full of families, no singles. In a way I felt left out and companion lonely. By then I had decided to only date white men (Just keeping it real. This mainly stemmed from the bullying in my childhood all the way up to graduation from high school. I didn’t relate to the black kids as I did with white kids. I was constantly accused of thinking I was better than them, which wasn’t true. The white kids accepted me, and it wasn’t a struggle to make friends with them.) Every girl dreams at some point or often in her life about her wedding day. I wanted that so badly that I didn’t acknowledge the flags. Oh, they were waving. I saw them, but ignored them. I wanted to be married and he was willing. Basically, I made my eyes see what I thought I wanted in a husband. Oh, he was going to church, his divorce with his first wife was on Biblical grounds, and he took care of his kids and worked a steady job. He was a white guy interested in black women. But oh, the flags were still waving. I saw them, but ignored them. The facts are I wanted to be married and he was willing.
I just shake my head now as I reflect. I compromised my goals and dreams just to walk down the aisle. I settled. It comes down to realizing I didn’t love him. At the time I thought I did. This is how badly I wanted that walk in my dress and have all eyes on me day. The worst part is three months before we married, he called and confessed that he cheated on me with his ex-wife. Oh did that hurt. Here we said celibacy until the wedding night, and he went and was intimate with her. I heard, I mean HEARD, the voice in my head say walk away. Now I realize the voice was not just any voice. Forgive then walk away. I didn’t. The Holy Spirit tried to warn me, and I disobeyed. I wanted that day.
So, here I am a single mother of two boy blessings. Young boys. I gained an additional 60 pounds during pregnancy mostly due to the stress of my situation. After delivering my Thanksgiving 2013 baby boy, the epiphany happened. I've got to get my act together in order to mother these boys. I had a plan in my head. However, two weeks after the birth of the baby, the oldest got sick and had a febrile seizure in the middle of the night. In an effort to care for him, I broke my left foot. So now, that’s when the post-partum really set in. I could not care for my newborn or take care of the older son. Here's the blessing in the midst of that mess. My friends rallied around me and stepped up to keep things going. I was so broken and blessed all at the same time.
The divorce was final in January 2014. I still had a job to do. It finally dawned on me. This is a spiritual battle. I’m trying to war with flesh and blood. I’m battling one of Satan’s strongholds. This stronghold attached itself to me and my need for “comfort”. So, I cried out to the Holy Spirit to take over this battle. I’ve tried on my own and failed. I repented for making Him “plan B”. The Holy Spirit stopped being plan B when I realized that I could not do this on my own. Having seen that God really does give us the desires of our hearts (my two boys) when we delight in Him, the DUH moment struck me. The Holy Spirit cares enough about me. He can help me. (Is it just me that will try 100 ways from Sunday to solve a problem, so to speak, and to only fall short.) The next logical step is to pray, right? WRONG on so many levels. I realized that I can literally give this “thing” over to the Holy Spirit and He will conquer it.
So look what happened after that cry out to God. During this moment I was introduced to a ministry called Trinity Fitness (TF) www.trinity-fitness.org based out of Central Florida. This ministry focuses on helping people get healthy inside and out. This is not "Anytime Fitness". When you walk in the doors, you're greeted with warmth and concern for your fitness goals and where you are spiritually. This ministry does not turn people away because of their inability to pay. That was a blessing in itself for me at that time. TF combines spiritual growth with healthy food choices with physical fitness. This program offers metabolic conditioning style work outs. The trainers helped me to identify my “why”. This ministry changed my life.
My boys are my "why". Since going to TF, I've become leaner than I ever been in my life and stronger spiritually and physically. I'm currently 25 pounds from my 150-pound goal. However, the hard part is looking in the mirror undressed. The skin is hanging and/or rolling. I'm still seeing the 300-pound woman in the mirror. Why was I still “seeing” this? My brain. I had not learned to cast down imaginations. So my eyes receive the data and send it to the brain which processes what I see. The image is burned into my brain. People tell me that I look fabulous. I even have a relative swearing that I'm sick and keeping it from her! I feel fabulous, but I can't seem to reconcile this with the way I look physically. But even still, they are my motivation for making good food choices. They are my “why” for getting to TF three days per week. This new lifestyle for me is even reaching my six-year-old. He sees how consistent I am with my diet. He knows that the foods are good for him, but we haven’t climbed the hurdle quite yet on veggies. He’ll eat green beans and raw carrots (with ranch dressing). I’ll take it. For Mother's Day during his pre-k year, the moms were given a laminated sheet telling us how our child see his/her mommy. According to my son, I'm 25 (really 42 at that time), and “I like salad and love to run.” But the line that really stuck with me is he says he loves that I play with him. My efforts are paying off.
Thus far, I participated in the US’s largest 15k run held in Jacksonville March 14, 2015, Gate River Run. I wanted to work toward a goal to keep the momentum going. I have a picture that was taken on the downhill portion of the toughest bridge to cross in a 15k race. I conquered that bridge! 9.3 miles of reminding myself that I'm doing all of this to the glory of God. Actually, started the race and got all the way through it to the end with that reminder! If it weren’t for Him I wouldn’t have been ready. The weight loss and the change in mindset about food in general. Only He can do that.) and my longevity to raise my boys. By the way, I finished the 15k in 2:37:26 starting in the walking heat. Here I am passing up folks that started in earlier heats. Woo woo!
Wonder how I’ve continued to maintain and spiritually grow during this journey? I finally got to a resting place to be healed. I’m am healed. This is why I can share my story with you now. I am still healing. This is why I am going to share the continuous journey with you. My healing process is like an expedition, learning to let go of control and let the Holy Spirit take me wherever I need to go on this ride. After all, it doesn’t matter where He takes me because I am always safe with Him. To wrap up this inaugural edition of Kitchen Journey, I’ll leave you with these scriptures that helped me get to this place today.
My name is Joya Bryant. After being overweight for the greater part of my life, I've lost the weight and have kept it off! God has given me another chance at treating my body as a temple. I want to help others to accomplish the same!
Exercise Tip for Partner Workouts:
Pray before getting started. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you endure.