By James Hale, National Vice-Captain for Black Men Run

“If I can just lose some of this weight, then I will join you guys for a group run, but I have to lose this weight first.” Have you heard this before?

Nothing could be further from the truth. In my ten plus years of running, I have seen runners of all sizes, shapes, and ages.  The misconception of “If I do this first…” keeps a lot of people away from joining us.  Start where you are, remain consistent, then gradually build on your consistency.

There are many brothers within the Black Men Run brotherhood who did just that. Some fell off the horse and got back on it. Others got on the horse for the first time, and they have not looked back.  Weight loss is one of the many benefits of running.  It also isn’t about your speed. Fast, moderate, or slow miles? The miles still add up and the sweat rolls down your body just the same. Get out here and move!

I talked with three of our BMR brothers from different chapters about their weight-loss journeys. Meet Sonni Green of the Atlanta Chapter; Solomon Andrews, vice-captain for the Detroit chapter;And Baton Rouge chapter’s and our 2023 BMR Runner of the Year, Sean Darensbourg. Kudos to you brothers for contributing to this article.

People gain weight in various ways; during childhood, a lack of activity after an accident/illness, dietary routines. What contributed to your weight gain? 

Sean: When I was a child around 7 or 8. I wasn’t a very active kid although I played soccer. During my teen years, I was always the big kid. I would try to lose weight, but I’d just gain it back.

Sonni: 1998, I got married and the active lifestyle that I had moved to a more sedentary lifestyle. After having kids, our lifestyles really changed. Our life revolved around taking care of them. The healthy routine I enjoyed before just ceased to exist. You don’t even realize the weight gain is happening. One day, you notice things don’t fit the same and you’re buying a bigger size in your clothes.

Solomon: I was always a skinny kid, thru college, and in my early 20’s. I didn’t have an issue with weight until I started working. Sitting behind a desk and not doing any physical activity and my nutrition was horrible. Before I knew it, I went from 135 lbs. to 230 lbs. and I’m only 5’8”. Trying to navigate marriage, kids, work, poor food choices, eating out, etc.

What challenges did the weight bring on for you?

Sean: It was hard to move, I couldn’t fit into regular seating. Living in Louisiana, it’s hard to escape gatherings with fattening foods and trying to control what you eat. I would get winded walking. It took its toll on every part of my body, breathing, heart. I was diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses. I was obese. I was active but the weight wasn’t coming off.

Sonni: There was no frustration on my part. I adopted to the weight gain by covering things up, buying bigger sizes. I had no medical issues. So, I basically adjusted to the weight gain.

Time for Action! When and what made you decide to address the issue?

Sean: Around 2003 is when I started hitting the gym. I was yoyo’ing a lot. The weight was up and down. In 2014 it came to a head when clothes didn’t fit as well. After a bad breakup, I was tipping the scales at over 300 lbs and I realized that I had to get serious. A new doctor told me that all my health numbers were extremely high [except for my glucose] but I was near being pre-diabetic.  I didn’t want to have that on me.

Sonni: In 2013, my wife was diagnosed diabetic. My wife joined a bootcamp and I also joined. Initially they take ‘before’ pics and when I saw those pics I was like ‘is this really me?’ They also did a dexascan which shows your body image, and I got my BMI, and I am thinking ‘this cannot be me’ and that was the moment I had to make a change.

Solomon: In 2019. My dad passed away from heart issues. At the funeral, we took pictures with childhood friends. I was looking at the pics and looking at myself while thinking ‘man, I’m huge’ – that’s when it really hit me! I already have a family issue of HBP diabetes and high cholesterol. I knew I had to get my act together.  I was almost 240 lbs. THIS is when I decided to start running.

THE PLAN! What did you do first and how did you stick with your plan?

Sean: One of my friends invited me to come and run. At first, I felt like I can’t do this. One of the local BMR brothers invited me out to a group run.  I was worried about judgment since I wasn’t really a runner, but they took me in, encouraged me, supported me….and here I am years later.

Sonni: After losing weight from bootcamp, around 2015, a gym owner asked me if I wanted to be a part-time trainer. I also wanted to learn about how the metabolic system works. For men, we start carrying that weight around our stomach and back area. You cannot outrun a bad diet except for when you are younger. At some point, the bad habits catch up. I started doing meal plans and chronicling what I ate; I also learned how to shop for food.  I was vegan for about 5 years with my wife. Her doctor recommended it for her. Currently, I do intermittent fasting. Running also played a vital part in maintaining my current physical state. It gives me the most freedom. I’m not confined to a time of day – there are no restrictions when it comes to running.

Solomon: I knew I needed to make some changes in my life. BMR Detroit was on the news, and I thought it might be fun to get with some brothers and run. After looking at the news clip, I looked them up on Facebook. I thought I needed to get in shape before I met up with them. I started on my own at first. When covid hit in 2020, BMR suspended their group runs temporarily. So, I would just run on my own. Once the group runs returned, I didn’t know that you could just show up, come as you are and that would get you where you needed to be.

After some time running and returning to the doctor, my numbers were looking much better. Every 5-10 lbs that I lost; I would drop an average of 30 seconds of pace per mile. I’ve seen my 5k time drop from 30+ minutes to 28 minutes in my last 5k.  My dietary changes: I’ve cut out a lot of bread and carbs from my diet. Lunch now is a gyro salad instead of Popeyes. I slowed down on the drinking from several times a week to just the weekends.

When you look at your Before/After pics, what comes to mind?

Sean: I can’t believe I got to that point; it lets me know that I did the right thing, and I am not going back to that ever.  I see there is always room for improvement.  I’m proud of the commitment that I have given myself.

IMPACT OF MY SUCCESS! Complete this sentence for me: “Since losing the weight, I___.”.

Sean: I have a newfound confidence in myself, and anything is possible. I want others who are struggling with the weight to know that this is possible. If you give it time and continue and put in the work, it can be done.  When they called MY name at the 10th Anniversary Celebration Awards Dinner and announced that I am the BMR Runner of the Year, I almost cried. I WAS SHOCKED! It has all been worth it!

Sonni: Since losing the weight, I have found a greater value through working out and being a model for my family.”.

Solomon: Since losing the weight, I have been inspired to tell my story; to help other people. When people see that you did it, they feel like they can too. I feel motivated to let people know that they can do it. There is no easy way to do it. You just must make those changes and stick to it.

IMPACT! These are just a few of the guys in this brotherhood who made lifestyle changes.  These changes have come out of running. These changes have led to weight-loss, better overall physical health which also affects your mental health in a positive way.

As stated, there is no quick fix, no magic formula, and no short cuts. If you commit to making changes and you are consistent with those changes, you will SEE changes. Iron sharpens iron. In this brotherhood, we motivate and encourage each other. This is the impact that goes along with the influence that we talk about, i.e., “we are a network of influence and impact.”

Look around in our brotherhood and you can see it for yourselves.