Fourteen years ago, Tameika Gentles was a heavy-set college student struggling to make it from one end of the campus to another. Today, she's ninety pounds lighter, showing off tight abs, toned arms and legs, and a bright smile in her Instagram selfies and training videos.
How did Gentles manage and maintain such a stunning transformation?
The wellness professional and fitness enthusiast had initially pursued weight loss in the way most people do—lose as much weight as possible and get the bikini body everyone talks about. But it was actually at her skinniest and lightest that she realized she needed more than that.
Courtesy of Tameika Gentles
"I got down to 120 pounds soaking wet, and I realized fulfillment wasn't there. I was so confused, because I had done everything right. I lost the weight. I kept it off. I was a trainer. All the things I was supposed to do, I did. Yet there was so much vacancy and emptiness inside. That's when I really had to take a pause and look within and recognize that there was something deeper to this process than just the physical," Gentles explains.
So, Gentles shifted, reframing her entire approach to weight loss. Instead of obsessing over the number on the scale, she focused on how she felt. Rather than fretting about what she saw in the mirror, she put her attention on why being healthy and fit were so important to her. And with wellness—not weight loss—as her anchor, she transformed not just her body, but her entire life.
"Focusing on wellness has been paramount to the trajectory for the rest of my life. I've gotten divorced, moved internationally four times, quit my job and started my own business, and now I'm dealing with the ups and downs of entrepreneurship. And at the core of it all, wellness has been my anchor."
Gentles has now guided thousands of women along the same journey, applying that same attention to wellness to her personal training clients and her travelling health retreat business, The Whole Experience, where she serves women of all ages, races, sizes, fitness levels, and cultural backgrounds.
I asked Gentles to share her advice for women eager to turn their fitness goals into real results. Here's what she said:
Always trust your gut.
Courtesy of Tameika Gentles
Between the billion-dollar industry promoting the 'ideal body type' and the social pressure to be slim here and thick there, it can be hard to figure out how to approach fitness in a way that's actually healthy. This gets especially tricky with the hundreds of IG fitness influencers selling you programs and advice. How do you know whose advice to follow? Gentles encourages women to develop a BS filter by trusting their gut.
"Our body and our intuition, especially as women, are just so on point," Gentles says. "Connect with those people who light up your soul with whatever they post. Whatever their messages are that resonate, follow that."
Gentles also advises women to do a really honest internal check-in as they start their fitness journeys with three key questions:
- Is the approach I'm planning sustainable for the next 1, 5, and 10 years?
- Will this approach be sustainable through all the seasons of my life (job changes, financial strain, starting a family, etc.)?
- And then what?
Gentle explains that the last question helps you get past the surface-level goals, like losing 10 pounds before a vacation, to think about why losing the weight is important to you in the long-term, and how the approach you take contributes to that vision.
Don’t let society, or the scale, define your journey’s success.
Gentles notes that understanding the deeper reasons why losing weight matters to you will keep you pushing when you're feeling discouraged or overwhelmed by all the marketing that says you should look a certain way.
"We've got to connect to something deeper than just aesthetics or just the surface-level things society tells us we need to focus on. It almost becomes like this bulletproof vest that blocks all of society's pressures, and you become so grounded in it, that when you see the ads and stuff, you go, 'That's nice, but that's a by-product of what I really want for my life.'"
Of course, Gentles understands that you'll still have aesthetic goals of your own. But she maintains that the scale isn't your best bet. Instead, she recommends using progress photos or the way you feel in your clothes to see how your body is changing. You'll be able to recognize your results without the mental toll that constantly weighing yourself can take.
Start small for big changes.
Courtesy of Tameika Gentles
A self-professed former food addict, Gentles is careful about food, but she's not restrictive. She's not a fan of fad diets, not just because they're extreme and leave people feeling deprived, but because fad diets—which she defines as 'new, trendy, and unproven' approaches—just don't work. And studies agree with her. Instead, Gentles suggests making tiny improvements to your health habits everyday with what she calls the '1% rule.'
"Look at where you are today and see how you can be 1% better and work on that practice day after day. If you ate 10 M&Ms today, eat 9 tomorrow, and 8 the next day. Before you know it, you're going to have these really small changes that make up a really big change, and it's going to feel seamless and integrated into your life," Gentles says.
Gentles also encourages the 80/20 rule for healthy eating, where 80% of meals are healthy and 20% are more fun. But she warns that 'fun foods' don't have to be really unhealthy.
"I really caveat that 80/20 rule with the fact that the 20 doesn't mean that we throw in the towel and feed our body with crap. So, my 20% isn't filled with fried foods and things that aren't going to serve me, because they actually just don't feel good," Gentles shares.
One solution she offers is using Google to find recipes to make your more fatty and calorie-dense favorites into healthier versions, like she does with the Jamaican food she grew up loving.
There’s more than one road to fitness.
A lot of women struggle with weight loss because, let's face it, the gym isn't always the greatest place to be. But Gentles notes that it's far from the only way to get fit. In fact, she says that if you hate the gym, there are tons of alternatives you can choose from.
"I fell into the bucket of being a 'gym head' and feeling like it's the only thing I could do. But if you hate the gym, don't go to the gym. Go for a walk. Go to a Zumba class. Go pole dancing. Whatever tickles your fancy."
For those who want to get the toning the gym provides, Gentles recommends four exercises you can do right from the comfort of your home: push ups, squats, pull ups, and planks. She notes that these exercises target several muscles and can be effective with just 15-30 minutes of movement everyday.
Ultimately, Gentles' advice to women eager to see their bodies transform is to enjoy the journey. Because as someone who's spent fourteen years changing herself and thousands of others, she knows that the journey is a life-long one.
"Commit to the positive feelings of the process," Gentles continues. "And make sure the process is something you love."
For more of Tameika, follow her on Instagram.
Featured image courtesy of Tameika Gentles
Talia Leacock-Campbell is a self-care enthusiast, soca baby, and hopeless romantic whose longest love affair has been with the written word. She's spun that last passion into a full-time career as founder and chief creative wordsmith of Word Count Creative, a boutique content agency that helps small businesses and entrepreneurs speak right to the hearts of their audiences. Find her online @talialeacock.
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7 Sex-Related Problems That Ruin Sex (And Possibly Your Relationship)
Not too long ago, while in an interview, someone asked me to define one of the main purposes of sex in a long-term relationship: “Probably the most intimate form of communication that we have is sex because it’s an act that connects one’s physical, mental and emotional state to another human being simultaneously — and communication doesn’t get much more profound than that.”
That’s part of the reason why the term “casual sex” irks me to the billionth degree (check out “We Should Really Rethink The Term 'Casual Sex'”); it’s because, even if you think that sex with someone is next-to-nothing, there is so much going on within you (oxytocin highs, if you’re unprotected, fluid bonding, chemical reactions in your brain, etc.) that doesn’t know if someone is “the one” (in your mind) or not. So, in many ways, it acts like they are (check out this YouTube video from a Catholic woman who studies some unexpected ways that sex affects us physically here; sex goes deep, y’all!).
Yeah, sex is so much more than a notion, and that’s why I’m a firm believer that it is such a barometer for long-term relationships overall — because, as I’ve shared before, I once read that, “Good sex in a relationship is 10 percent of the relationship while bad sex in a relationship is 90 percent of the relationship because sex tends to set the tone for what’s happening in the rest of the house.”
And that’s why I think that there are certain sex-related issues that can not only damage your sex life with your partner but could also end up ruining your relationship if you’re not careful (very careful). Let’s get into seven of them now.
1. Being Unaware of Your “Body Clock”Giphy
I can’t tell you how many clients I’ve had who’ve come to me in some serious trouble, in part due to their flailing (or partly nonexistent) sex life. When I ask them if they went to premarital counseling (if you’re engaged, please do; you have a 33 percent greater chance of avoiding divorce when counseling transpires), many say “no” and the ones who say “yes” usually say that it was no more than 3-5 sessions and the topic of sex barely came up (le sigh). Meanwhile, with my premarital meetings, I try and stick with intimacy for three months if I can because there is a lot to unpack, from what you learned as a child, to your first time (or if you are a virgin), to your needs and fantasies, to how you see it from a spiritual perspective — like I said, there is a lot to unpack there.
Take the mere practicality of sex, for example — and more specifically, your body clock. Do you prefer to have sex at night or in the daytime? A lot of couples struggle with intimacy because one prefers the former while the other likes the latter. Do you keep track of when you’re ovulating? It’s pure science why you are probably hornier during that time of the month (because your body is signaling that it’s time to conceive) vs. the fact that you might not be the most interested in sex when you’re PMS’ing. Are you premenopausal? Hormones shift a lot during that time, and here’s the thing — while menopause only lasts a year, the premenopausal stage (which typically starts between 45-55) can last between 7-14 years. Even paying attention to when you have more energy (some do in the day…morning sex, anyone? While others do early in the evening) can play a role.
So yeah, getting to know your body clock (and discussing your partner’s clock with them) can play a role in how much — or how little — sex you have…and that can add life or drain it from the relationship overall.
2. Comparing Your Present with Your PastGiphy
There is a wife of almost 20 years I know who, when I asked her if she thought that her husband was good in bed, she paused for a second, shrugged her shoulders, and simply said, “I was a virgin when I got married, so I have nothing to compare him to. I mean, he’s good to me.” On the flip side, there’s a now divorced couple who I also know (who almost made it to 20 years) who had multiple partners before each other while also having a deep interest in porn who once said to me, “Sometimes, there’s as much as 15 people in our bed because of all of the people from our past and the porn that we’ve seen that’s running through our heads.” Yeah, y’all can act like body counts don’t matter, but there is so much evidence out here that says otherwise — that couple just gave one that doesn’t get talked about as much as it should.
You know, one of my favorite throwback shows is King of Queens (Kevin James, Leah Remini). A few weeks ago, I watched a rerun where Doug and Carrie were talking about the images that come up in their minds, sometimes during sex. Neither was too happy about it, and I can totally see why. I mean, if sex was just about “getting off” (and it’s not), then whatever. However, AGAIN, it’s also about connecting with your partner on a mental and emotional level, and that’s hard to do if you’re there with them in the body while you’re fantasizing about a celebrity, a porn actor (porn is usually acting, don’t let it fool you) or an ex (check out “You Love Him. You Prefer Sex With Your Ex. What Should You Do?”).
And what if that is what’s going on? I once spoke with a sex therapist about this very thing. What she said is people should be less concerned about celebs (if it’s on occasion) and more concerned about that ex because rarely is sex with an ex…just about the sex.
And that’s why this point made the list. If you’re physically with your partner and mentally or emotionally with your ex at the same time, please don’t ignore that. There are definitely some unresolved issues there that you need to work through, whether it’s with a therapist, counselor, or coach, a trusted friend (who won’t add fuel to the literal fire), or even with your ex — although you might want to run that by your partner first because…I’m pretty sure you’d want him to do that with/for you. RIGHT?
3. Not Being Clear About Your Sexual NeedsGiphy
Question — if someone were to walk up to you right now and ask you what your top seven sexual needs are, along with what your top five sexual dealbreakers are, would you be able to answer? It really is kind of wild how many people get upset with their partner for not being able to sexually satisfy them when even they can’t articulate what they need/require in order for that to happen. Yeah, it’s another article for another time about how many people UNREALISTICALLY (and yes, I am yelling it) think that someone loving them well means that they should be able to read their mind. Nope.
It truly can’t be said enough that sex — especially good sex — is about communication. Hmph. It makes me think about a clip that I saw from Tonight’s Conversation podcast (can’t find it at the moment; sorry) where a woman asked how she should tell her partner that he hasn’t been pleasing her, I believe she said for years. My first thought was if he doesn’t know that, she must be faking orgasms (more on that in a bit) which is not only lying — well, it is —, but it’s also pretty counterproductive because while he thinks that he’s “getting the job done,” she’s not fulfilled and resentment is setting in.
Please don’t let rom-coms (fiction) and social media (which is oftentimes fictitious) have you out here thinking that a good lover is someone you automatically gel with who knows exactly what to do; sometimes that is the case, and oftentimes it isn’t.
So, if the sex-related issue that you’re having in your relationship is that your sexual needs aren’t being met, first do you (and your partner) a favor by doing some sex journaling (check out “The Art Of Sex Journaling (And Why You Should Do It)”) so that you can tangibly see what those needs are and then plan time within the next week or so to pour a couple of glasses of wine, put on some 90s R&B and discuss with your partner what you need. Because actually, what a good lover is, is someone who listens and retains. This brings me to the next point.
4. Minimizing Your Partner’s Sexual NeedsGiphy
A husband once told that when he and his wife were in premarital counseling, something that he mentioned was a bona fide need was fellatio. According to him, his wife told both him and their counselor that she loved giving head. Fast forward to eight years of being in their union, and guess how many times that act went down? A measly four. FOUR TIMES (check out “Sooo...What If You HATE Oral?”).
It’s another message for another time, the amount of people who will “false advertise” during the dating stage in order to get to their goal of marriage. It’s also another message for another time how much that is a form of manipulation that tends to backfire in ways that the manipulator is oftentimes not prepared for.
For now, what I will say, is never think that just because something may not be a need for you that it isn’t a legitimate one for someone else. I mean, how would you feel if that’s how someone treated you? Yeah…exactly.
Yet that is just what happens in a lot of relationships, including when it comes to their bedroom. They will think that their needs should be met, hands down, yet when their partner comes with what’s important to them, all of a sudden, there is dismissiveness, nonchalance, and/or excuses — and how could that not rear its ugly head on so many levels?
Your partner’s sexual needs are essential, even if they are not your own. Never assume that you automatically know everything about them. Also, never assume that what worked two years ago is what will “scratch the itch” now. Hmph. Come to think of it, while you’re sipping on that wine and clearly articulating to him what turns you on, use that as an opportunity to ask him to return the favor. Listen with humility, receptiveness, and intent — the best kind of relationships process their partner’s needs with this kind of vibe…across the board.
5. Taking the “If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It” ApproachGiphy
Lazy lovers. When you hear that phrase, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? If it’s someone who is just lying there during sex, that would certainly qualify; however, I’m actually speaking of a different kind of laziness here. Believe it or not, some synonyms for lazy include words like apathetic, inattentive, tired, passive (cough, cough), procrastinating, neglectful, and slacking. So yeah, if you and/or your partner can use any of these words to define what sex is consistently like between the two of you — red flag, red flag…RED FREAKIN’ FLAG.
Speaking of being passive, another potentially serious sex-related problem is taking on the attitude that if something ain’t broke, you shouldn’t fix it. What I mean by that is, just because you know that getting on top and riding for exactly six-and-a-half minutes is what will get your partner off, that doesn’t mean that it should be your automatic go-to all of the damn time.
Why? Because. While a part of the fun of having sex is “reaching the peak,” another component that should never be underestimated is discovering new territory: trying new positions, creating a sex bucket list, taking (more) sexcations, playing sex-themed board games (put that phrase in Amazon or on Etsy’s site and go ham!)…you know, doing what will inspire creativity and deter either of you from becoming bored.
That said, a husband of 17 years once told me, “A man can be satisfied with the same woman. We just don’t want the same kind of sex with her.” Words to live by. Yes, indeed.
6. Using Sex as a Deflection or Coping MechanismGiphy
A few years ago, I wrote an article for the platform entitled, “Make-Up Sex Might Be Doing Your Relationship More Harm Than Good” — and with good cause. Words cannot express how many divorced (or soon-to-be divorced) women have told me that a part of what kept them in their marriage, for as long as they stayed in it, was the fact that the sex with their husband was beyond amazing…even though so much other stuff completely and totally sucked. Hey, good sex isn’t a bad thing (c’mon now); however, if it’s the only real thing that’s keeping you with someone, it can turn out to be a toxic deflector.
The reason why I say that is the purpose of sex isn’t to make love; it’s to celebrate it. And if all you’re doing with your partner is f — king and fighting or avoiding issues by stripping down or thinking that sex will “make it all better,” all the while not really knowing what the problem/issue is or what needs to be done to get down to the root of it, that is using sex as a pacifier and again, that’s not what sex is designed to be. Sex doesn’t deserve the pressure of being the end-all to “fixing” ish.
So, if what’s transpiring in your relationship lately is very little talking and a whole lot of sexing, and then once the sex is over, something still feels “off,” that’s a good indication that you’re misusing sex on some level. Get out of the bed, put on a robe, and do some talking (preferably in a room other than the bedroom; leave that space for sex and sleep only as much as possible). Because remember — as much as the wives that I mentioned said that their husbands once had them climbing the walls, those men are still ex-husbands now. Bottom line, sex is good, yet when it comes to keeping a relationship together, it will never be enough. Again, it was never designed to be.
7. Faking ItGiphy
I will never be a fan of faking orgasms. Maybe it’s because I’m a Gemini (we may be a lot of things, but “fake” isn’t really our style). Maybe it’s because I’m a very word-literal individual, and I know that fake means things like “prepare or make (something specious, deceptive, or fraudulent)” and “to conceal the defects of or make appear more attractive, interesting, valuable, etc., usually in order to deceive.” Or perhaps it’s because I don’t get how acting like you’re sexually fulfilled when you actually aren’t is doing anyone any good. Whatever it is, whenever a client (or someone in general because men fakealmost as much as women do) tells me that it’s something they do, I immediately find myself on a mission to shut that mess down (check out “Why You Should Stop Faking Orgasms ASAP”). ALL THE WAY DOWN.
The main reason is that, regardless of if the motive is to hurry things along, not hurt your partner’s feelings, or it’s something more cryptic than that (cough, cough, some form of manipulation tactic), there’s no way around the fact that fakeness is tied to deception and deception is a word that should never be connected to a healthy sexual dynamic.
Besides, one could argue that faking is a form of deflection as well because…wouldn’t it be better to just get it all out in the open WHY you are doing it than to keep pretending when life is too short and great sex is too good to not get the absolute most out of it, as much as possible?
Besides, again, chances are that if you’re faking that you’re sexually pleased, you’re probably faking something else in your relationship (or situation), and how could that possibly be good, right, or beneficial?
Yeah, when it comes to being satisfied across the board, please don’t fake it. State your case in the way that you’d like to hear something said to you, and let the chips fall where they may. If you’ve got a good man, he’s gonna — no pun — rise to the occasion. If his ego can’t handle it, well…that’s something that you should find out sooner than later — when it comes to the bedroom and outside of it? Right? #shoyouright
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Featured image by Giphy