When you work at SparkPeople, Success Stories are a big part of the water cooler chatter. We know all of our Success Stories by name, and we love to spread the word when a member of the SparkPeople "family" has a WooHoo moment!
"Did you hear about that member who lost 80 pounds and is a back-up singer for Beyoncé?"
"What? No way!"
"Yes. She has an amazing voice and has an album of her own. CBS News just did a story on her."
"Whoa. Such a great story!"
True story--and one that we're psyched to share with all of you.
Not only did Tiffany Monique (AKAPELLA13) end a long cycle of yo-yo dieting and go from 235 pounds to 158 pounds--and counting--but she's also making huge strides in her career as a recording artist. Best known as one-third of the Mamas, Beyoncé's back-up singers, she recently recorded her debut EP, "Nemesis," and has another album in the works. She's primed for a big breakthrough, and SparkGuy and all of us here are trying to give her the boost we know she deserves. (You can help, too!)
First watch her CBS News story here:
She credits "The Spark," which she read while on tour with Beyoncé, for a large part of her success. She wrote to SparkGuy:
It's amazing because so many of the stories in "The Spark" made me feel as if someone were peeking into my window. I grew up as a skinny teenager and began gaining weight in college... I guess you can say I gained the Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, Senior and Post Graduate "15." LOL!(Do you need a tissue after reading that? I did!) Now read our exclusive interview with Tiffany. When she's a big star--we can all say we knew her and supported her along the way! WooHoo!
dailySpark: How did you find SparkPeople?
Tiffany: I learned of SparkPeople through a sorority sister. I was a member of a sorority-based health & fitness forum and posed a question in that open forum seeking advice for successful weight loss programs. At the time, I was a member of Weight Watchers and the Biggest Loser Club but needed to cut costs. I asked which was the better of the two, and she immediately directed me to SparkPeople. After learning this was free, I cancelled my memberships with the other two and signed up immediately.
dailySpark: You tried plenty of diets before ultimately losing 80 pounds with SparkPeople. What about the site was different? How did it help you lose weight?
Tiffany: Truthfully, the first thing that stood out about the website was that there was no cost. That way, I was able to invest that expense into quality, healthy foods instead of monthly membership costs. As I spent more time on the site, I was inspired by the advice, tips and education it provides. Too often, we begin weight loss programs without knowing what we're really doing and why they work.
More importantly, without the education of how our bodies work and a true self-assessment of what our personal obstacles are, we cannot be permanently successful. Such was the case for me with other diets. SparkPeople not only made recommendations for immediate changes, but through the website, and The Spark , I was able to make an internal assessment and correct unhealthy behaviors and habits that contributed to my obesity. I had no idea or appreciation for calorie differentials, streaks and nutrition facts before this site. This knowledge, accompanied with the visuals provided in my daily/weekly reports allowed me to actually see what I was doing to my body by the food I was consuming and make healthier choices.
dailySpark: Who is your biggest inspiration?
Tiffany: My son is my biggest inspiration, by far. His presence in my life reminds me that I must always strive to be a better mother, woman and person. Being fit and healthy is no longer an option for me; it is imperative and my obligation to him as his mom. Because he is still young and in his formative years, this is a critical time for me to not only speak, but show him what it means to set goals and follow through with them; to take care of ourselves and our bodies and to properly govern our actions and reactions to the circumstances around us. Finally, he inspires me to be healthier so that I can break the family curse of obesity and its associated illness that has plagued my family for generations.
Tiffany, at right, on Beyonce's "I Am..." Tour in 2009
dailySpark: You’re an amazing singer. How has your weight loss affected your performance?
Tiffany: My weight loss has definitely made me a more credible and confident performer. When you have the opportunity to perform in front of hundreds or thousands of people, you feel and at times are perceived as if you're on top of the world. Unfortunately, you are human and like others, are affected by your emotions and the circumstances around you. I had the privilege of performing behind one of the top entertainers in music history (Beyoncé); the association alone is quite intimidating (smile). Compound that with the dissatisfaction of your physical image, fatigue and lack of confidence and you stick out like a sore thumb. I spent several nights on stage singing, while struggling with my thoughts of the audience's perception of me. Thoughts such as "I look HUGE on that screen", "what will the reviews say about me tomorrow?", "I hope they don't hear my heavy breathing over the microphone" ran through my mind the whole performance. Through my weight loss, I can dance more fluidly, sing more boldly and am becoming prouder of the image I am projecting onstage.
dailySpark: You mentioned in the CBS interview that at one point you ate fast food thrice daily, along with a couple of snacks. How have your eating habits changed? What is a typical day like?
Tiffany: My eating habits have changed tremendously. I no longer eat on impulse; my meals (even when dining out) are measured, pre-planned and budgeted in accordance with my daily caloric intake. I diligently study the ingredients and nutrition facts on all of the foods I eat, and have educated myself on the complicated jargon it often contains.
I also stay away from fast food restaurants at all costs. Don't get me wrong--I still love McDonald's, but I know that it represents a trigger for me, so I stay away. Finally, I carefully observe what triggers me to overeat. For example, I LOVE grapes and in many ways, they can be great for you. However, I acknowledge that after an initial serving, I will sneak back for more and before the end of a day, an entire bag can be gone. That is the behavior that caused me to become overweight in the first place. Therefore, I no longer keep them in my house. I still allow myself to enjoy them, but only in a forum where there is a limited supply and I am forced to eat them responsibly.
Also, I strive to find exercise in everything I do. Recently, my region experienced a big snow, and I used that as an opportunity for a great workout. I strapped on my heart rate monitor, grabbed my shovel and headed outside. Through 3 rounds and 5 hours of work, I burned almost 1,900 calories...YES - 1,900. I strive to incorporate those physical activities I HAVE to do into my daily workouts.
My typical day consists of three regular meals (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner) and three small snacks. Because I don't necessarily like vegetables and can easily forget to eat them, I force myself to incorporate one in each meal. Also, I realized along my journey that I drank far too many of my calories, so aside from occasional homemade smoothies, I now only drink water and hot tea.
dailySpark: How do you stay in shape when you’re on the road?
Tiffany: Truthfully, it not too hard to stay in shape when you're on the road if you have the right mindset. 95% of the hotels we lodge in have fitness rooms, as well as healthy menu choices for in-room dining. So instead of opting for the fried chicken fingers, French fries and double scoop of ice cream I formerly ordered, I now order a salad, glass of water, and travel with my own fat-free salad dressing. I've learned through this process that I cannot allow external circumstances, including work and travel, to serve as an excuse for poor eating. I am in control of my destiny.
dailySpark: What advice do you have for someone who is just starting a weight-loss journey?
Tiffany: Slow and steady wins the race. You will not lose all the weight overnight, and if you truly want to conquer obesity, you won't want to! The most important thing I could recommend to anyone is to first, honestly assess why you're overweight and what your triggers are. No diet will be successful if you don't address the root of the problem. Clean and heal the wound before bandaging it. I've been temporarily successful on many programs, but because I didn't get to the root of the problem, I gained all the weight back, plus more. Next, determine what inspires you to succeed. I definitely got a better grasp of this after reading The Spark. I recognized that my son and my career were important enough to propel me forward. Unfortunately, the obvious and politically correct reasons (family history, health, etc.) weren't strong enough to make me take action--sad, but true. Figure out what motivates YOU regardless of whether it works for another, then use that as your fuel to speed forward. Finally, educate yourself. Learn how the body works and the reactions it makes to the foods you eat. Study your ingredients, nutrition facts, serving sizes and measurements; live by them. SparkPeople has a wealth of advice, support and information at your disposal; USE IT! With these resources, you will develop such an appreciation for your health that you will have no desire to conform to your old ways.
dailySpark: What is your next big goal?
Tiffany: My immediate goal is to complete my journey with approximately 15 more pounds I'd like to lose. My next big goal is to use all that I've acquired in health, consistency, happiness and confidence to propel my career beyond my wildest dreams. I'm currently working on my first album and hope to complete it in the next few months, as well as the continued promotion of my debut EP, Nemesis. As a self-funding, independent artist, it is difficult to compete with the majors and receive worldwide exposure and recognition. However, my intention is to do just that! This new phase of my life is filled with good health, promise, determination and inspiration. I'm the happiest I've been in such a long time and I intend to make this energy contagious! Dare to tell me no, and watch it turn transform into a "YES!" (smile)
dailySpark: The big question: Where can we hear you sing?
Tiffany: Well, of course! Please stop by to visit my website, www.tiffanymonique.com, where you can learn more about my background as well as hear snippets from my debut EP, Nemesis. Also, you may view my debut video for Nemesis--a "transitional" song that chronicles my experiences and obstacles in the music industry here: (The more views her video receives from SP members, the more she'll stick out on YouTube.)
Finally, the EP, which contains 5 songs all written by myself and produced by Kevin "Kwiz" Ryan and Marlin Smith of Digital Khaoss Productions, can be purchased on iTunes.
SparkGuy has been super excited to get to know Tiffany. Her passion and enthusiasm for SparkPeople--and the profound effect that his book had on her--inspired him. He says: "I love that Tiffany is an authentic member of the SparkPeople family. She's also incredibly talented and very excited about inspiring other people to reach their goals. This is an amazing opportunity for all of us to help make a member of the SparkPeople family's dreams come true. If SparkPeople members join together, we WILL make a real impact in helping Tiffany become a true superstar since she clearly has the talent to make it big. I have watched her video several times and love her music!"
*Weight loss results will vary from person to person. No individual result should be seen as a typical result of following the SparkPeople program.
We've already downloaded Tiffany's EP--have you? What a voice! How can we help make her a star?
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