Chapel Hill: Opinion

Remodeling the Brick House – Anita Woodley

Anita Woodley
Anita Woodley

“My God. Just look at you. Ya neck ... sho’... is ... fat! You just too big, gurl,” said the usually pleasant elder Mrs. Gladys.

I rolled my eyes. She didn’t flinch.

For nearly two years, we’d brought fresh fruits and vegetables to Mrs. Gladys in Raleigh’s Apollo Heights neighborhood.

As I rung up her order, I vowed to never, ever deliver a single fresh food item to Mrs. Gladys again!

Once inside the truck, I tilted the rearview mirror to my neck. Tears began to flow.

Goaded by Mrs. Gladys’ harsh observation, I went in for tests at Lifestyle Medical Centers in Durham.

My 5’ 3” frame had ballooned to 169.2 pounds with 40.7 percent body fat.

While standing, I could no longer see my feet. The tests revealed that I was pre-diabetic and obese.

However, my registered dietitian, Jenni Grover assured me that my health was salvageable – with an overall lifestyle change!

Skepticism overwhelmed me.

In the black community I grew up in, my body type wasn’t considered fat.

It was judged a “perfect ten, dimepiece, stacked, and P.H.A.T (pretty hot and tempting)” because my 44 double D chest overflowed underneath my arms; a 38-inch waist, and 46-inch hips packed my jeans.

I got to see my skeleton for the first time volunteering for Body Composition Changes in a weight loss study at UNC.

The DEXA scan revealed a 7.5 inch halo of yellow fat surrounding my waist and limbs. I was in the 50th percentile of the population with increased disease risks. View the scans:

Right then, I decided to take my health seriously and stop suffering from highly preventable health problems.

For a year and a half, I’ve followed Jenni’s guidance with weekly check-ins and boot camp classes.

I lifted weights, jogged around Patterson Place shopping center, gained pilates techniques and nutritional education with Molly Devine, lifestyles dietitian.

Along with my husband, Wes, I ate healthier food, we rode bikes, walked, ran along Bolin Creek trail, slept seven-plus hours a day, drank half of our body weight in water, and lifted weights three times a week.

By July 2016, we both surpassed our personal weight goals!

We’ve lost a combined weight of 127 pounds and 22 inches off our waists. My health risk index dropped to under 6 percent.

Losing forty-two pounds allows me to do things I never imagined possible.

Now I’m training in Capoeira Brazilian Martial Arts at the Balanced Movement studio in Carrboro.

But then, be careful what you wish for …

We started receiving snide remarks from people who remember us from “before.”

“Hello, Skinny! ... You just gon’ float away … You lost too much weight … You don’t look like yourself. But I meant that in a good way … You are wasting away … That’s not normal... You trying to be white, now?” and so on.

They’re hurtful. But not factual.

I tried to be positive: “Yes, I’m so happy not to be obese anymore. ... I’m loving the results I’m getting. ... Thank you for noticing I’m very fit!” And it’s kind of working!

I credit my weight-loss success to intentionally loving myself more, making healthier food choices, and having a great support system.

Nowadays, I make it a priority to exercise gratitude toward those who assist me along my journey of transforming into the best person I can be.

Last month, I bought a Prayer Plant to give to Mrs. Gladys.

I hadn’t seen her for three years, when she commented on my unhealthy weight.

She busted out, “Oh, I didn’t know who you was at my door. You looking so good, gurl! Got that weight right off you. I sho’ am happy for you.”

I hugged her so hard. “Yes ma’am! I got rid of all that extra siding on my brick house and remodeled it. You were right. ... I had to improve my health so I’m not pre-diabetic anymore. Today, I truly thank you for speaking up about what you saw.”


Anita Woodley is an award-winning health educational performer and journalist. Contact her at or 919-914-0104.

Meet Anita

Anita Woodley will host a talk about achieving, maintaining, and celebrating a healthy lifestyle at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, August 27, at the Vegan Flava Cafe, 4125 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd in Durham. Free. Door Prizes!