2008 Lifestyle Change Award Winner Loses 80 Pounds, Inspires Others to Change

Never give up and never surrender.

Those six words became DeAngela Flournoy’s motto during a weight loss transformation that shaved 80 pounds off her 5-foot 5-inch frame.

Her wake up call came when her father, a man who smoked, ate fast food on a regular basis, and rarely exercised, nearly died. She realized that she was headed down the same path, and it terrified her. She was tired, she was depressed, she was angry. And through her poor eating and exercise habits, she realized that she was setting a terrible example for her kids, Shaneka, 18, Darell, 13, and Zach, 9.

Changing her way of life, she says, “was the best gift I could ever have given myself.”

It wasn’t easy. It took more than a day to gain the weight and it would take more than a day to lose it. She began her transformation by joining Weight Watchers so she could learn more about portion control and track her progress in a supportive group of like-minded individuals. She bought the Billy Blanks Taebo DVD and started working out at home, adding, “My goodness that man will make you sweat and burn!”
She said she treated her weight loss as a game.

“I pretended I was a contestant on The Biggest Loser, but there was no money involved, just a weight loss goal at the end of each week,” she says. “I went cold turkey on pop, chips, and chocolate for three months. I tried to eat a salad each day.”

She woke up and exercised 15 minutes before work and walked four miles around her Bloomington neighborhood after work. She cut out fried and junk food in exchange for healthy options.

Little by little, the weight started coming off. She went from a size 22 down to a 10. Weight loss is a mind game, she says, and if you can convince yourself that you can lose weight, you will. “You have to think, ‘I can do this.’ I can eat healthy, I can walk upstairs without passing out, I can find the time to work out today. I have to do this for me and my family,” she says.

She signed up to be a captain of one the American Heart Association’s Start! Heart Walk Teams and encouraged her U.S. Bank coworkers to walk along with her.

One of those coworkers, inspired by DeAngela’s story, nominated her for the American Heart Association’s Lifestyle Change Award, recognizing those who have made significant changes in their lives.

“Whether it’s quitting smoking, losing weight, going from a sedentary lifestyle to an active one, changing family habits, and/or encouraging others to improve their health, these are all reasons to nominate someone for this award,” explains Kim Friend, vice president of the Twin Cities Start! Heart Walk.

To DeAngela’s surprise, she received the award at last year’s Start! Heart Walk.

“It was very emotional to be recognized for all my hard work,” DeAngela comments. “Winning the award made me realize that you can make a difference in yourself and others. Don’t give up.”

She continues to keep her weight down by working out five days a week for a minimum of 45 minutes, eating healthy, and allowing herself the occasional treat, thanks to valuable lessons learned at Weight Watchers.

In the beginning of her weight loss journey, she was thinking of her family—being around to watch her kids grow up, having the energy to be the mom they deserved, and teaching them to eat better and enjoy exercise—but her weight loss has become so much more than that. Once she started taking care of herself, her self-esteem improved. Her outlook on life improved. She had energy again.

“I changed on the inside and out,” she says. “I love who I am and what I have become.”

Apply for 2009 Lifestyle Change Award:
Nominate yourself or a friend.
Fill out the online form at www.heart.org/startTwinCities.
Lifestyle Change Award 2009 is presented by UnitedHealth Group