Early this year, for the umpteenth time, Memphis received mention in a notable publication for a less than notable distinction. Men’s Health named Memphis the fifth fattest city in America. The ranking didn’t seem to surprise Memphians. Folks around here realize that Memphis is known for its famous past and notorious present. People are proud of the recognition that comes from being the home of world-renowned barbecue, and fried, well, everything. However, that pride has also probably contributed to the city’s repeat appearances on fat lists.
Yolanda Smith realized the consequences of too much of a good thing during a visit with her parents about a year and half ago. “I knew my dad took medicine, but I had no idea how much medicine,” she says. “He had this cup and it was full of pills, it was like maybe 15-20 pills.” Smith says diabetes and hypertension run in her family. She knew she had to take control of her future. “I said to myself I know that can’t be me.”
At 213 lbs., Smith joined Power Life Fitness in 2009. She had tried working out in the past, but, “I had just gained so much weight, I thought that it was just not going to come off.”
The Power Life experience changed her perspective. “My last gym was overwhelming because I didn’t know what I was doing. When I came here it was a smaller facility and the trainers all showed an interest in fitness.”
“At first I did think they were a little bit crazy,” Smith says. Enter Kelvin “York” Brown, director of training operations at Power Life and Yolanda’s personal trainer.
Brown, whose brutal honesty and 6’4”, 260 lb. frame earned him his nickname, says despite her initial doubts, Smith did whatever was needed to achieve her weight loss goals. “She was on a mission. I think when she came here she was sick of being where she was.”
One year later, at 46 years old, Smith is 37 lbs. lighter. Brown knows many think weight loss is impossible for middle-aged people. “You won’t lose weight as fast as someone that’s a lot younger, but the weight will come off,” he says. “All you gotta do is show up. If I can get you in the door, you’re not gonna fail.”
Written by Brandi Hunter, Photo by Jay Johnson