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Hooked on exercise

Karen Miller | 10/14/2013, 6 a.m.
Daily exercise is a prescription to reduce stress and anxiety.
Eyoda Williams, a certified trainer, leads her Socalicious class at the Dorchester YMCA. Marissa Giambrone

Eyoda Williams, 39, knows full well why she began to gain weight. During her first pregnancy, she ate whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted, and her defense was one make all too often — she wasn’t eating for herself. “It’s all for the baby,” she told herself.

After all, she reasoned, the pounds would miraculously disappear in nine months. But they remained after the birth of her child. More babies came — and more pounds — until she was tipping the scale at 220, which put her 70 pounds over her desired weight.

Williams’ BMI was 35.5. A BMI of 30 or more is considered in the obese range. The pains in her knees and back could attest to that.

The weight didn’t really bother her. “What I saw in the mirror and what others saw were two different things,” she said. “I thought I looked cute.”

The excess weight was not the only burden she had to bear. Williams’ marriage was going downhill. “I was devastated,” she confessed. She tried to hold it together for the sake of her children but depression and anxiety took its toll. She cried at the least provocation.

It got to the point that Williams left her house only for activities with her children. To her credit, she sought professional counseling as well as solace from her church.

One day, things came to a head and she bolted from her house without any clear destination. The strangest thing happened. For reasons Williams cannot explain, she wound up at the Dorchester YMCA.

It wasn’t her first visit to the Y. Williams had re-entered the workforce a while back through YMCA Training, Inc., a program that provides access to employment for unemployed and underemployed adults. A fringe benefit of the program was membership in the Y, but Williams confessed it was a perk she seldom used.

Yet, suddenly here she was.

She walked on the treadmill for a short time, but stopped in part because she was convinced that people were laughing at her. A step class caught her eye. It wasn’t the class itself, admitted Williams. It was more the instructor. Williams had taken exercise classes before but the instructor and the class were not always in synch. The instructor set the pace and it was up to the participants to keep up whether they could or not.

This teacher was different, said Williams. She reviewed the steps and waited for all to catch up before she continued.

Still Williams lacked the nerve to take part. Instead she watched from the outside. She returned again but remained outside the door looking in — a behavior she repeated again and again. For several weeks she merely stood and watched. She finally got the nerve to enter and tried to hide in the back, but the instructor sought her out and offered her encouragement.

That was the spark she needed.

Williams became so good in step class she was asked to function as an assistant. She was even asked to lead the class when the instructor was not available. She didn’t stop there. Williams became a certified trainer through the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America and has just a few more semesters to go for a degree in exercise science at Quincy College. She now teaches zumba, water aerobics and other fitness classes.

The stress and anxiety are gone; her energy is up. And her clothes got bigger, Williams joked as she began to shed pounds.

There’s no turning back now, said Williams. “I am addicted to this life,” she said. “It’s in my blood. It’s a part of me.”