I met Elizabeth aka “Nobody Beats the Liz” Allen on the New York independent hip-hop scene where women were scarce. She stood out because was usually the go to photographer and also one of the coolest people anyone could meet. We bonded last year after discovering that we were both attempting the Whole 30 and from there I discovered that she was on a transformative journey to shirk bad eating habits that she picked up during childhood, and to lose weight.
We bonded about how sometimes people, often friends and family, mistake a fitness journey for a crisis. You know, when mom tells you that you’re getting too skinny yatta yatta…anyway, Liz, who has learned how to effectively manage that, has stepped up her path to wellness by becoming a Zumba instructor. Here, she chats with me about how she deals with yo-yo’ing, family trying to force feed (out of love, of course), doing what’s best for her and strategies to try for getting started on a weight loss journey.
When was the moment in your life that you decided you needed to choose better habits and get serious about fitness?
I’ve had a couple of “light bulb” moments where I made the decision to lead a healthier lifestyle. The first was maybe back in 2002. I had gone clothes shopping and was showing my mom what I had purchased. She tried on a long skirt I had bought and when she zipped it up, I had the most shocked look on my face. My mom is shorter and was heavier than I was, so I never expected us to be able to wear the same clothes. I joined a gym the very next week! My second moment was when I was my father fell ill due to complications from diabetes and high blood pressure. He had to be hospitalized and I weighed myself on a scale in his room, where I discovered that I was 188lbs (Editor’s note: Liz is under 5’5″). Both my mother and father deal/dealt with diabetes and high blood pressure (my father passed away in 2010 from complications of both), and seeing my father suffering scared me into trying to get healthier. I didn’t want to spend my life taking bottles and bottles of pills. I lost about 25lbs, but by August 2011, I had already gained back about half of that weight. I wanted to nip that weight gain in the bud, so I joined a gym again. I’m still working on maintaining healthy habits.
For the most part, I try to stay away from most refined sugars and processed foods. I don’t drink soda or juice (unless I make it myself), and I mostly drink water and tea. Over the past year and a half, I’ve tried so many different “diets” and I’ve learned that what works best for me is eating real food. I see the best results when I abstain from sugar, dairy and wheat/grains (all of which I LOVE), but I eat a little bit of everything. I love to eat! I usually start my day with a smoothie and a couple of bananas. I recently started incorporating juices into my diet, and I’ve noticed that they give me a lot of energy. I have been toying with the idea of embracing a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, and I’ve tried both for a short while, but I’d much rather just have everything in moderation.
How did Zumba become your drug of choice and what made you become a teacher?
I was about two or three weeks into my current fitness journey when I discovered Zumba fitness. I was watching a class led by Ronnie Davidson while on one of the machines, and I loved the music and the fact that the participants were dancing. I love great music and I love dancing, so I figured I’d give it a shot. I became hooked very quickly. Three times a week turned into five, and then some days I’d take two classes! I was amazed that the weight was literally falling off of me just by dancing and making better food choices. By May 2012, I had lost 25lbs! Some of my Zumba® instructors as well as my boyfriend at the time encouraged me to get my license because they noticed how much joy it gave me. I was unemployed at the time, so it would also be a cool way to make some money. I was nervous because I don’t like to be the center of attention, but at the same time, I wanted to show my friends, family and my community that getting in shape could be fun. I became a licensed Zumba instructor in September 2012, exactly a year to the day that I began my fitness journey.
How has your body surprised you now that you’re on a new path?
I am currently smaller than I’ve ever been in my adult life, even smaller than in college. I know have a better understanding of how my body reacts to different foods and when I consistently eat clean, I find that my skin is clearer, I sleep better and I have more energy. I’ve managed to lose 50lbs from when I was at my heaviest and maintain it for the most part; it is something I am very proud of, even though I still see room for improvement.
You once mentioned that some people around you seem to think that you eating a better diet means that you’re starving yourself. How do you deal with that?
It’s hard because I know that I’m not starving myself. As I said before, I love food and I would never want to risk developing a food disorder just to be skinny. Sometimes I get caught up in what people are saying and find myself eating more just to please them and then putting on weight. Then I feel discouraged and disappointed in myself, which has led to me trying various fad diets to try to quickly drop the weight I’ve lost, which is just as unhealthy. I’ve had to learn to stick to my guns, which has ultimately paid off. I understand that people may say things because they care about me and my well-being, but I also need them to understand that I can’t please everyone and be happy with myself.
I would like to lose about 10-12 more pounds, keep chasing those elusive abs and finally reach my ultimate goal, which has always been to just feel comfortable to work out in a sports bra if I ever felt like it.
Share some advice for people who want to start a fitness journey.
Start slow. I went to the gym three times a week, about every other day. Don’t try to do everything at once, you’ll end up overwhelmed and be more prone to quitting. Find something you like to do and stick with it. Walk, bike, run, swim, dance, try a group class, work out at home with DVD, whatever works for you.
Tackle healthy habits one at a time; once you have one down, add on another.
You don’t have to starve yourself in order to lose weight – what’s most important is that you’re putting the right foods in.
Read your labels, or try to eat more things that don’t come in a package.
Find a workout buddy – I joined the gym alone, but there I found many women who frequented that same classes as I did, and we kept each other accountable.
There are going to be times when you feel like you aren’t making any progress. Try to switch something up in your routine (diet or exercise) and eventually things will get moving again.
Tell the people when do you teach!
Mondays at 6:30pm – Slope Fitness (808 Union St. in Park Slope).
Tuesdays/Fridays at 7:30pm & Saturdays at 10am – Brooklyn Stuy Dome (312 Kosciuszko St. in Bedford-Stuyvesant).
Wednesdays at 6:30pm – Flushing YMCA (138-46 Northern Blvd.).
Thursdays at 7:30pm – Lucille Roberts Jamaica Ave. (162-01 Jamaica Ave.).