Determined to Lose It All at the YMCA


Lisa Patrick

The Ashland Beacon


   Last year, Kayla Akers found herself in a place that she hopes to never be again. At 5 foot and 2 inches tall, she saw the scale hovering dangerously close to the 300 pound mark at 299.7. The mother of three small children, Kayla was also taking medication to fight her battle against postpartum depression and anxiety. In the little over a year since then, she has lost almost 100 pounds by joining the Ashland YMCA and making lifestyle changes to get healthy.

   The day that Kayla stepped on the scale to see 299.7 pounds, she made a vow to herself that “I was NOT going to hit 300 pounds!” At that time, Kayla said that just taking her family to church was a real effort. She would exit her vehicle and walk twelve steps to the bench on the sidewalk and have to sit down to rest before making her way into the church. She also had trouble performing daily tasks such as playing with her children, tying her shoe laces, and completing her own basic hygiene functions.

   Kayla said that she chose the Ashland YMCA because it had a nursery to keep her children so she could work out. She said at the time, the gym, exercise, and healthy eating “were all foreign to me.” She said that when she first started, “it was really difficult” to walk into that gym as “an overweight woman fighting anxiety and depression” because it feels like “all eyes are on you.”

   Kayla had joined an online weight loss community called Lady Boss for support through her weight loss journey. She started going to the YMCA every morning to lift weights while her children played in the nursery. She had a routine and she “made progress” for three to four months.

   At the four month mark, a fellow YMCA gym member named Mark Coovert introduced himself to her and told her that it “was time to pick up the pace.” She said that he helped her to “move away from my routine” and “opened up other exercises.” She said that he started her on bench presses and squats and explained to her that she needed to change up her exercise routine in order to “keep her body confused.” She credits Coovert for breaking “me out of my shell and I soared from there.”

   Kayla said that she does not “set limits for myself” and that she has “taken the word can’t out of my vocabulary” when it comes to her progress. She said that when she finds something that she has difficulty with, she just keeps pushing through because “if I don’t believe in myself, then who will?”

   Kayla said that the first week of quarantine, after the

YMCA closed, she wasn’t motivated at all because her routine had been interrupted. Then she started feeling bad and told herself that “I have to do something, I worked too hard to get this far.” So she started looking for other ways to keep up her progress. She bought an elliptical from the overflow from Bellefonte that was donated to the YMCA.

   She started streaming workouts on YouTube. She said

she’s even been known to pile all three of her children into a wagon and take off jogging. She does say that her children, including daughter, Ellika, age 6, and her sons, Kendrick, age 4, and Alek, age 2, miss the YMCA as much as she herself does. She said that it had become part of their routine-every morning, Monday through Saturday for a year before it closed. They are all ready for the YMCA to open back up.

   Kayla said that the quarantine has actually “been the best thing for my weight loss journey because it has made me learn to eat.” Kayla said that working out is easy but 80% of weight loss is nutrition. She said that she has had a “negative relationship with food my entire life but quarantine has made me focus on healthy eating.” She joined an online Facebook community that offered her a free course in how to “eat to fuel your body” and “to not be scared of food.” Kayla said that “if I don’t learn to eat, I’ll go back to what I know and gain all the weight back.”

   Kayla said that it took her a few weeks of quarantine and homeschooling her six year old before she got a new routine going. Now, she gets up at 5 a.m. every morning to “set an intention for my day.” She does a daily meal plan for herself and her children, she eats her breakfast, and she gets her workout done before her children get up for the day (between 6 and 7 a.m.) She has post-it notes all over her refrigerator with empowering messages and reminders to keep herself from eating while stressed or bored. She said that “working out is easy, nutrition is hard.”

   Kayla is now down to 201 pounds. She no longer takes medication for depression or anxiety and she “feels amazing.” She said that “my self-worth has greatly improved.” “I started to work out because I hated myself, now I work out because I love myself.”

   When she started her journey, Kayla was wearing a size 5X. Now she is wearing a size Large. Kayla plans on buying herself a whole lot of new clothes when she hits that 100 pound weight loss mark and is really excited about it. As a mother, Kayla often buys things for her children but “buying things for myself is a real treat.”

   Kayla said that she is often praised for her motivation. But she said that “I’m not motivated, I’m determined.” She is determined to get to her goal weight of 140 pounds and is continuing to work toward that goal.