Posted on May - 3 - 2012 Comments Off

Makita Harper Byrd stormed out of her doctor’s office in a fit of rage after hearing him say she was morbidly obese. It was 2003, and Makita was an insulin-dependent diabetic who tipped the scales at 350 pounds. “I felt like he was trying to embarrass me because most of my family is morbidly obese; we were all 350 pounds or more. Everybody took medication,” she says.

When Makita left the doctor’s office she broke down and cried in her car; then she returned to see him. “I remember he said, ‘You’re angry? Well I hope you’re angry enough to do something about it.’” He told her she probably had six months to live before she would have a heart attack unless she changed her eating habits and got active.

“Today I can proudly say that I am no longer taking any prescriptions or medications,” said Makita. Following her doctor’s advice, Makita joined the Petersburg Family YMCA, started taking water aerobics four times a week and watched what she ate. She lost 30 pounds. Then a wellness coach showed her how to use the treadmill and other cardio machines. She was on a roll, but briefly lost motivation and didn’t come to the Y for a week. The staff noticed and gave her a call to check on her. “That phone call changed my life,” says Makita. “I was floored and it motivated me to say, ‘OK these people care about me’. From that point forward, it was on!”

Makita worked out consistently in the wellness area and started attending kickboxing and step classes. She lost another 75 pounds over a two-year period. “I attribute the weight loss to God’s grace, my endurance and the YMCA,” says Makita. “The staff and members were supportive and friendly. Even at my heaviest, I was never discriminated against nor did I feel out of place. Everyone has always been encouraging and concerned about me as a person.”

Makita has lost over 155 pounds since she joined the Y and she is using her experience to motivate others. She completed the YMCA’s Group Exercise Instructor Certification this spring and especially enjoys teaching cycling because she sees the rides as a metaphor for life. “I tell my classes that in life we all deal with issues – there are going to be hills, curves, pit stops and brick walls – but you don’t stop. You hit a wall and you get over it. Life is tough, but this is a moment that we have all been given to push forward to go to the finish line.”

She laughs, saying that they sometimes refer to her as a drill sergeant. “I am determined to inspire and encourage others to live a healthier life and that is why I became an instructor for the Y. I push them because, in losing 155 pounds, I had to push myself.”

Copyright © 2021 YMCA of Greater Richmond. All Rights Reserved.