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How 100 Days Of Exercise Transformed Me From The Inside Out

This weight loss journey was personal.

Her Voice

For many, the new year signifies a time for growth, new beginnings, and fresh starts. It's a time to set the tone for the year ahead by making resolutions, setting intentions, and creating lists of goals. All for the sole purpose of improvement and to manifest the life of one's dreams. Over the years, like millions of people worldwide, I have made numerous commitments towards having a healthier lifestyle.

As a yo-yo dieting, backsliding vegan, I have gained and lost weight many times. At my healthiest, I was a strict pescatarian who worked out six days a week and ran four miles a day. I logged every meal, so as not to exceed my 1400-a-day calorie allotment. On my cheat days, I did extra workouts to make up for whatever I ate. And I weighed myself twice a day, once in the morning and at night, to make sure the number on the scale did not move.

Racquel Coral

Over time, though, I became burnt out with that lifestyle and began to shy away from it. I found that it wasn't sustainable because of the restrictions that I had placed on myself. That and, it was no longer fun. So I traded in my workout time for unlimited hours on the couch watching TV and relying on meal delivery apps instead of cooking. Which did a number on my waistline, causing me to balloon to my heaviest weight of 260 pounds and a size 18/20.

All of that changed last year when I decided to be more intentional about my health. This time around, I opted for small actionable goals, rather than harsh food restrictions and hours in the gym. I ditched the scale, relying solely on my clothes and waist beads as indicators of my weight loss. And I vowed to not take any before and after photos. This weight loss journey was personal.

In the beginning, I committed to exercising 4-5 days a week for 20-30 minutes. Doing this helped me find enjoyable workouts that I could quickly do first thing in the morning before work. As far as food, I gave myself permission to eat whatever I wanted.

Racquel Coral

This was key because I wasn't as hyper-focused on how much I could or could not eat. It allowed me to enjoy my food without shame or guilt or waiting until my cheat day for a treat. It also helped me in making healthier food choices. So while I knew that I could eat whatever I wanted when I wanted to, I didn't. And on those days when I wanted to eat junk, I allowed myself to.

Those small changes caused me to view working out and weight loss differently. Finding the fun in it and making it a true lifestyle change. I finally discovered my groove and started enjoying the changes in my body along the way.

A few weeks into my newfound healthy living journey, I began to crave working out. It became as much of a routine for me as brushing my teeth. So I decided to work out every day until my body told me not to. As fate would have it, for Lent, a former classmate made a post on Instagram saying that she would work out every day until Easter and invited others to join her. Since at the time I was already around 30 days of nonstop exercise, I made the decision to keep going. This time adding yoga to my nighttime routine a few days out of the week, as I found that it helped with releasing everything from the day and aided in my sleep patterns.

Racquel Coral

I reached my 100th day on May 4th. Now, I could have kept going, but I decided to stop so that I could revel in what I had just done. Over the course of three and a half months, I had gone from four years of no physical activity to successfully completing 100 days of exercise.

I transformed my entire approach to working out to not something that I have to do, but rather, something that I get to do. Not to mention, I went from a size 18/20 to a 14/16. One of my biggest takeaways from that experience was to honor my body by showing it gratitude. For every pushup, plank, down dog, or mile walked, it was a form of gratitude. Gratitude for not breaking down on me. Gratitude for going that extra step. Gratitude for every function that performed the way that it was supposed to.

Another takeaway was that working out is a form of self-care. A tool to help with issues surrounding our mental health. A way to boost our self-confidence. A reminder to find our happiness.

As Black women, we live some of the most sedentary lifestyles, so regular physical activity is paramount. In addition to what we eat, consistent exercise is a form of preventative medicine. So you can't fully practice self-care if you're neglecting to move these beautiful vessels that house and carry us each day.

In the beginning, I said that my weight loss journey was personal. It was more than losing a few pounds and going down a couple of sizes. It was the opportunity to get reacquainted with my body by giving it the grace to move as it saw fit. And to show love to it for never failing me, even at times when I have failed it.

Featured image by Getty Images

Before she was Amira Unplugged, rapper, singer, and a Becoming a Popstar contestant on MTV, she was Amira Daughtery, a twenty-five year-old Georgian, with aspirations of becoming a lawyer. “I thought my career path was going to lead me to law because that’s the way I thought I would help people,” Amira tells xoNecole. “[But] I always came back to music.”

A music lover since childhood, Amira grew up in an artistic household where passion for music was emphasized. “My dad has always been my huge inspiration for music because he’s a musician himself and is so passionate about the history of music.” Amira’s also dealt with deafness in one ear since she was a toddler, a condition which she says only makes her more “intentional” about the music she makes, to ensure that what she hears inside her head can translate the way she wants it to for audiences.

“The loss of hearing means a person can’t experience music in the conventional way,” she says. “I’ve always responded to bigger, bolder anthemic songs because I can feel them [the vibrations] in my body, and I want to be sure my music does this for deaf/HOH people and everyone.”

A Black woman wearing a black hijab and black and gold dress stands in between two men who are both wearing black pants and colorful jackets and necklaces

Amira Unplugged and other contestants on Becoming a Popstar

Amira Unplugged / MTV

In order to lift people’s spirits at the beginning of the pandemic, Amira began posting videos on TikTok of herself singing and using sign language so her music could reach her deaf fans as well. She was surprised by how quickly she was able to amass a large audience. It was through her videos that she caught the attention of a talent scout for MTV’s new music competition show for rising TikTok singers, Becoming a Popstar. After a three-month process, Amira was one of those picked to be a contestant on the show.

Becoming a Popstar, as Amira describes, is different from other music competition shows we’ve all come to know over the years. “Well, first of all, it’s all original music. There’s not a single cover,” she says. “We have to write these songs in like a day or two and then meet with our producers, meet with our directors. Every week, we are producing a full project for people to vote on and decide if they’d listen to it on the radio.”

To make sure her deaf/HOH audiences can feel her songs, she makes sure to “add more bass, guitar, and violin in unique patterns.” She also incorporates “higher pitch sounds with like chimes, bells, and piccolo,” because, she says, they’re easier to feel. “But it’s less about the kind of instrument and more about how I arrange the pattern of the song. Everything I do is to create an atmosphere, a sensation, to make my music a multi-sensory experience.”

She says that working alongside the judges–pop stars Joe Jonas and Becky G, and choreographer Sean Bankhead – has helped expand her artistry. “Joe was really more about the vocal quality and the timber and Becky was really about the passion of [the song] and being convinced this was something you believed in,” she says. “And what was really great about [our choreographer] Sean is that obviously he’s a choreographer to the stars – Lil Nas X, Normani – but he didn’t only focus on choreo, he focused on stage presence, he focused on the overall message of the song. And I think all those critiques week to week helped us hone in on what we wanted to be saying with our next song.”

As her star rises, it’s been both her Muslim faith and her friends, whom she calls “The Glasses Gang” (“because none of us can see!”), that continue to ground her. “The Muslim and the Muslima community have really gone hard [supporting me] and all these people have come together and I truly appreciate them,” Amira says. “I have just been flooded with DMs and emails and texts from [young muslim kids] people who have just been so inspired,” she says. “People who have said they have never seen anything like this, that I embody a lot of the style that they wanted to see and that the message hit them, which is really the most important thing to me.”

A Black woman wears a long, salmon pink hijab, black outfit and pink boots, smiling down at the camera with her arm outstretched to it.

Amira Unplugged

Amira Unplugged / MTV

Throughout the show’s production, she was able to continue to uphold her faith practices with the help of the crew, such as making sure her food was halal, having time to pray, dressing modestly, and working with female choreographers. “If people can accept this, can learn, and can grow, and bring more people into the fold of this industry, then I’m making a real difference,” she says.

Though she didn’t win the competition, this is only the beginning for Amira. Whether it’s on Becoming a Popstar or her videos online, Amira has made it clear she has no plans on going anywhere but up. “I’m so excited that I’ve gotten this opportunity because this is really, truly what I think I’m meant to do.”

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