Leilah Reese works out during Howard homecoming weekend. (Rustin Moore/Shoot4.me)

It all started with interviewing Erika Nicole Kendall of the blog “A Black Girl’s Guide to Weight Loss” on Friday afternoon. Speaking with Kendall reinforced what I already knew about eating clean and exercising, and how the two go hand in hand if you really want results.

With her advice on my mind, I made a bee line down 14th Street NW on my bike at 9:30 a.m. Saturday morning. The location: Balance Gym Thomas Circle. The mission: Try not to pass out while trying to maintain my cool in a small group training session lead by nutrition coach and fitness expert Bryndan “Coach Be” Moore. The other participants were his wife, Jamie, and three of his clients. Fun.

The good news was the exercise we were about to partake in would last only 25 minutes, which included a foam rolling warmup. But I had to use weights. I’m not a fan of lifting heavy things, although I know the importance of incorporating weights into your workout is key to fat burn. Booooo!

We did two 12-minute sessions, one with three alternating exercises, and for the other four we did as many reps as possible before the timer went off. I hate to admit it, but the small group session kind of worked in my favor. There’s this itty bitty competitive creature that lives in the depths of my bowels who only makes an appearance in moments of competition. Because I was one of only two females in the group, I had to represent to the best of my ability for all of womankind. In reality, none of the fellas really gave a flying foot about what Jamie and I were doing. They were too busy competing with one another.

Another benefit of working in such a small group was that I had no where to hide. I couldn’t hide behind a pole, creep off to the bathroom for 15 minutes or seek refuge in the last line (like I do in modern dance class). It also helped that Coach Be did every exercise, to the fullest, with us. You know how oftentimes when you take a group class at the gym, the instructor either barks out instructions or does only 50 percent of the work? Yeah, I loathe that.

Once our 25 minutes were up, we took time to discuss how we felt and I had the opportunity to get some pointers from his clients. They each had a customized plan put together by Coach Be tailored to their goal; one wanted to lose about 20 pounds, another wanted to gain muscle, and the third, a vegetarian, wanted to get back in shape. All were men, but listening to their success stories put the bug in my ear that I needed to buckle down and focus. I got pointers from Coach Be on how to get ahead of my sugar cravings and the importance of trying to only eat things as closely as possible to how they are in nature (i.e. absolutely no processed foods!).

With this wealth of information, I set out to hit the grocery store (another place I despise) Sunday morning and bought needs, not wants. No Nutella, cookies or gummy worms for me. I also had the beau drive me out to the Korean Korner grocery store for all of my produce. The plan was simple: Cook everything for the week that day so I wouldn’t be tempted to buy food outside. Nothing is better than eating something when you know what all the ingredients are because you made it yourself.

I focused on making my own chicken broth with a whole chicken and using the chicken throughout the week in other dishes — a tip I got from Kendall and her blog. This paid off because later in the week, when I felt a cold creeping in, I used the chicken breast and broth to make chicken soup. Throughout the week I packed my own lunch and ventured down to the cafeteria about twice to get a spinach salad. I drank tea and water and cheated one day by having Pop Tarts. (Hey, it’s better than a Honey Bun! )

With this newfound focus and determination, and six pounds lost since my breakdown, I’m hoping that when my deadline hits on Dec. 25 I can at least feel good about myself. I’ll know that I have actively made the changes necessary for a healthier lifestyle. If I don’t lose all the weight, there won’t be any hard feelings. At least I’m working toward the ultimate goal of being healthy AND happy!

Leilah Reese is a news aide at The Washington Post. For more updates on her fitness goal of losing 32 pounds before turning 32, follow her on Twitter and check here each Tuesday for a new blog post.

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