After being diagnosed with diabetes, Almetria Turner started her journey to a healthier life.

Photos: Courtesy of Almetria Turner
Photos: Courtesy of Almetria Turner

In 2009, I got devastating news. News in which I hoped never to hear. The D word. Diabetes. My grandmother, her sister, as well as her mother, had gotten it too. I knew it was hereditary within my family, but I thought I was invincible. I could have dodge the bullet in getting it, but I didn’t. How could I not get it when I ate whatever I wanted, as much as I wanted, and lived a sedentary lifestyle? Years before, I was also diagnosed with hypertension—here I was, 36 years old, in what some would call the prime of my life, suffering from two chronic illnesses. Self-hatred and depression constantly plagued me because I often wondered how I could do this to myself. I was my worse critic and enemy. It was at that moment in my life that I realized I was an emotional eater. Happy, sad, angry or indifferent–no matter how I felt, I turned to food as my comfort. I had struggled with weight my entire life and tried every diet known to man. The scales would go up and down, up and down until they finally kept going up with no end in sight.

In the summer of 2009, I had to see three different specialists–endocrinologist, cardiologist and pulmonary specialist—along with my primary care physician. I was 36 years old and felt as if I was 80. I was in denial for the longest time about my chronic illnesses. Being overweight, diabetic, hypertensive and depressed was a dangerous game to play, and I felt as if I was losing out on life. I was not honoring the body that God had given me. I was abusing it by not taking care of it mentally, emotionally, spiritually or physically. I knew I wanted to make a change.

Related: How One Runner Lost More Than 100 Pounds

I started my weight-loss and fitness journey in 2010 after being sick and tired of being sick and tired. I weighed 342 lbs and wore a size 32. That was the heaviest I had ever been. I wanted that to be the last time I ever had to see those numbers on the scale or tag again. It was my goal to become healthy, fit, and medication-free by the time I turned 40 in 2013. “Fit by 40!” became my new mantra. I didn’t know how I was going to achieve my goal in losing weight, but I knew I had to start somewhere.

At the time, I couldn’t afford a gym membership, nutritionist, weight-loss pills, supplements or a personal trainer. Gastric bypass and lap-band surgery weren’t options for me (even if I could afford them), because I knew with sheer will and determination, I could do this on my own without any extra means. I didn’t have any help gaining the weight, so I felt like I didn’t need surgery or other supplements to help me lose it either. I don’t criticize others for having surgery. I just knew that it wasn’t for me. This had to be a lifestyle change because temporary diets had failed me one too many times.

So I decided to do research on my own as to how to eat and live a healthier life. I also used free outdoor resources, such as walking through my neighborhood and the park. I looked up exercise videos on Youtube and used my body as resistance for strength training. I had no more excuses. I couldn’t let work, life, lack of time, money, willingness or emotional roller coasters deter me from reaching my goal in achieving good health. Often times, health is the first thing to fall on the back burner. I was tired of putting me further and further down my list of things to do.

Related: I Stopped Overeating And Started Running

This weight loss journey was one of the loneliest periods in my life. I cried often and couldn’t find any partners to hold me accountable. I was in it to win it alone with the grace of God. It wasn’t until later in my journey that I realized this was how it was meant to be; for it was unto Him that I would give honor and glory for my health, wellness and healing—not man. I did a 360 turnaround in how I ate and exercised. I would eat two meals and two snacks a day. I read every label and went by serving sizes. I learned how to balance my meals and used portion control. I meal prepped and planned. My palate had changed where I was eating things I never said I would. Now I enjoy preparing new dishes and creating my own recipes. I switched out all of my white foods, such as sugar, flour, pasta, rice and bread for whole wheat options. I learned about high- and low-glycemic foods, starchy vs. non starchy veggies, good and bad fats, limiting processed foods, how to grocery shop and other things about eating healthy to the point where I wanted to learn more and decided to take online continuing education courses in nutrition.

Walking 2 to 3 miles daily turned into going to zumba, ab labs, boot camps and eventually running. I figured out what my trigger points were when I wanted to emotionally eat and used exercise and other positive activities instead to fill the void or combat the emotion. I stepped up my prayer life and pulled away from people who were negative and emotionally draining me. I surrounded myself with positive affirmations because everyday wasn’t going to be a good day but each day was another opportunity to get it right. Life has its way of derailments, but it is up to us to get back on track and trust the engineer. I began to become more sociable, and learned how to handle stress better. I finally was getting my life back and I was going full force with it–no turning back.

As of today, I accomplished my goal of being healthy by my 40th birthday! I have lost 175lbs, have been medication free for 2 years, and I went from a size 32 to a size 8. Best of all, I am mentally, spiritually, emotionally and physically free. Last year, I decided to become an avid runner and joined a local group of Black Girls Run, which is a national organization that encourages African-American women to make fitness and healthy living a priority. I ran a few 5Ks just to get my feet wet. In December 2014, I entered the St. Jude Marathon in Memphis, Tenn., and completed my first half marathon in 2 hours and 44 minutes. There I was, having weighed 342 lbs only 3 years prior, all out of breath competing in half marathons. Today, goal is to complete 50 half marathons in 50 states by the time I turn 50, which is my “50 by 50” campaign. So far I’ve completed seven 5Ks, one 10K, one 15K, 1 navy nautical, and six half marathons in five out of 50 states.

Many people had asked me how I lost the weight and what could I do to help them. I started a blog out of my need for personal accountability to myself to remain fit, maintain my weight loss, and to help others who are still in the fight. Fit and Finally Free is a lifestyle and wellness management company, blog and services dedicated to helping, inspiring and encouraging people to find the freedom to work, play and live well through a balanced life. I can be found at Fit and Finally Free on Facebook, @fitnfinallyfree on Twitter and @fitandfinallyfree on Instagram. You too can live a life that is fit and finally free.