By Jim Hagerty
ROCKFORD — Tina Jacobs didn’t need anyone to tell her she was overweight, or that she couldn’t control her appetite.
She was 540 pounds. The last thing she needed was a reminder that the breaths she struggled to take while walking from one end of a room to another could be her last.
Then came a day in 2009. It was a day Jacobs made a crucial decision. And it wasn’t to lose; she made the choice live. And it was a simple choice. Dying was not an option. But catalyzing a plan was a different story altogether. So, she started by eliminating the thing that became a big part of her routine. She gave up her daily case of Pepsi, then reduced her food intake.
“Whatever I would normally eat, I would cut those portions in half,” Jacobs said. “I would save one half for later.”
The initial plan allowed Tina to eat everything she prepared, so not to feel deprived or like she was forcing herself to “diet.”
“I found an activity to do until it was time to eat again,” she said of her early exercise routine that was nothing more than a few steps around a mapped out square she called a “block.”
Jacobs was soon 160 pounds lighter. She was still around 380 though, at risk of additional problems sparked by sudden dietary changes and overexertion. As such, the move toward optimum health would be even more laborious than she thought. But it didn’t have to be.
Jacobs could have opted for gastric bypass or similar bariatric surgery, but she knew the risks. And she suspected that her weight problem was an outcropping of something else. And although an operation would have produced immediate physical results, she feared it would have only treated a symptom of a deeper issue. As it turned out, she was right.
“I realized I was starting to get control of my thoughts and my emotions,” Jacobs said.
Like those who experience rapid weight loss by reducing their calories, Jacobs plateaued, which forced the need to safely manipulate her metabolism to keep her body burning fat while retaining healthy amounts of muscle and the energy to get through the day. For someone who spent years nearly destroying her body’s ability to utilize food, that was anything but easy.
A combination of tailored meal plans became Tina’s eventual solution, producing even more results. They didn’t come by cutting calories, but by adding them–replacing the harmful fares she removed with healthy, whole foods that produced gains she hadn’t set quite out to experience when her journey began.
“Every time I did an experiment with food, I learned what it was doing to my body and how it could possibly benefit other people,” Jacobs added. “I learned new disciplines. And I realized that the better my nutrition was, the better the weight came off.”
The Tina Jacobs of today is 338 pounds lighter. Loose skin she had surgically removed filled three garbage cans. Her walks around the “blocks” have been replaced by weight, full body and isolation training. Her body weight dipped to 160 pounds after the operations but she found herself slightly flat. So, she developed a muscle-building routine that’s brought her weight to around 200 pounds, which she says is comfortable, relative to her frame and allows her to remain athletic in what has grown into a new career.
About seven years ago, she walked into Rockford’s Complete Nutrition and eventually formed a friendship with the owners. And as the story goes, the friendship turned into a professional relationship, and Jacobs is now a success coach and trainer. Her story doesn’t end there though. She continues to prove that much of it has yet be written.
After winning a national weight loss contest, appearances on local TV and the Dr. Oz show last year, droves of women have sought Jacobs out, including a host of locals she didn’t realize were inspired to fight their own battle with weight gain and its underlying ills. Tina now works personally with dozens of local ladies and online with others as far away as Egypt. Each has a unique success story and a journey Jacobs is helping to forge. There’s one woman who started at 545 pounds and is on track to lose her first 200. Another has lost 181–naturally–no surgery, drugs or gimmicks. The list goes on.
“I am so blessed,” Jacobs said. “I get to help people across the world.”
Tina’s personal journey took another turn in October when she contacted local radio Mandy James from 97 ZOK who recently went public with her battle with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), an type of anxiety characterized by persistent and intrusive preoccupations with an imagined or slight defect in one’s appearance.
“She confided in me,” Jacobs said. “That spoke to me, and I wondered if there was anything from my journey that I could use to help her feel good about herself.”
Jacobs hasn’t cured James’ BDD. But she’s playing a role. And it wasn’t long before the women tapped into their respective experiences which opened another door for both.
“We got together and talked about it more in depth, and from our discussion came an idea to empower every woman in Rockford,” James wrote in a blog post.
That idea became the #RockYourBodyRockford movement, which promotes self-love and body positivity. The campaign is being launched through a series of videos, each one about a woman with a unique story.
“We chose a handful of ladies who all have different backgrounds,” Jacobs said. “They all have weight issues, but each comes from a different emotional place.”
The first video in the series was released Monday, Nov. 27, on Facebook by filmmaker Gregory Yokley.
For Jacobs, her routine remains largely the same–clean foods, exercise, strong faith and a healthy mind. She’s also exploring avenues to earn a Ph.D.
Complete Nutrition is at 645 Highgrove Place, Rockford. R.