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Local couple Eric and Maleka Beal lose 300lbs, encourage New Orleanians to make ‘BetterChoices’ in 2015

Written by  IntheNOLA.com
There was a time when Eric Beal, Sr. would go to the donut shop and get a dozen donuts…to eat by himself. There was a time when Eric and his wife, Maleka, would go to Shoney’s to eat…in the middle in the night, after waking up from a dead sleep.
 
Weighing in at 400lbs (Eric) and 276lbs (Maleka) in 2006, Eric and Maleka were obese. But as Maleka explained, their obesity was almost unbeknownst to them. “At no time prior to or after Hurricane Katrina did we realize our eating habits and weight were out of control,” said Maleka. "We did not have any diagnosed health issues and we never saw ourselves as being unhealthy or obese. It’s funny how we walk around unaware of our true selves.”
It wasn’t until a seemingly simple visit to the doctor’s office that Eric and Maleka’s awareness of themselves started to change. “I was sick and went to the doctor,” Eric said. “They did all the regular checks, like temperature, height, and blood pressure, but when it was time to check my weight, the scale couldn't accurately assess how much I weighed. The truth was that my weight was more than the scale could measure; I was 400lbs.”
Local couple Eric and Maleka Beal lose 300lbs, encourage New Orleanians to make ‘BetterChoices’ | IntheNOLA.com
He continued, “At that moment, everything just stopped. I started thinking about my wife and my two boys, and what could happen to them should I check out one day. The last thing I wanted to envision was someone else raising my two boys, so I knew I had to get it together.”
 
Unlike Eric, however, Maleka was not too enthused about her husband’s new mindset. “When I got home from the doctor’s office, my head was spinning," said Eric. "So when I walked in, I walked straight to the table and Maleka picked up on my energy and said, ‘What's wrong? What did they tell you? They didn't say you were gonna die or nothing, huh?’ I didn’t want to talk about it, but she knew something was wrong and kept prodding me about it. So I explained everything and after that, she stood back just as calm and cool and asked me, ‘So what are you gonna do?’ like it was just my issue alone. She said, ‘I didn't go to the doctor, you did. So what are you gonna do about it?' And I said, ‘Well, I guess it's time to make a change.’”
 
For Maleka, Eric’s “problem” was exactly Eric’s problem to her. “I always supported him, but again, I didn’t go to the doctor, so I didn’t feel like I had a problem,” Maleka said. “And as long we don't have a life threatening illness, then we tend to believe that everything is good. Looking in the mirror, you don't see it because you don't want to see it. We make a joke about it, but literally, I thought that I looked like Janet Jackson from the Pleasure Principal video. You could not tell me that I was not 'Guess jean fine,' but I was 276lbs and just didn't see it.”
 
She continued, “Eric came home like he had had an epiphany and I wanted to support him in whatever ways he needed me. So the next day he got up at like 4:30am, went in the garage, and did his workout. He tried to get me up, but I told him to come talk to me at 6:00! In all honesty, I was afraid of change because I didn't know what that change looked like. So after three days, Eric says, ‘Look, this is something that I want us to do together. It’s something we have to do to improve our health so that we can be here as long as possible for each other, but more importantly for our boys. You make time for everybody else and do whatever it is you have to do to take care of other people, but you don’t take that same time for yourself and the only person that can take time for you is you.’ And when he said that, it was like flipping a switch. That day, we got up -- I was not happy about getting up at 4:30 -- but when I put my feet on the floor and we began working out, I knew it was the best decision I'd ever made and I haven’t looked back.”
Local couple Eric and Maleka Beal lose 300lbs, encourage New Orleanians to make ‘BetterChoices’ | IntheNOLA.com
Little by little, Eric and Maleka began changing their lifestyle. In the beginning, the exercises that they were able to do were severely limited because of their size, but that didn’t stop them. “Starting out at 276 and 400 pounds and trying to do jumping jacks is no joke!” laughed Maleka. “We couldn't jump, run, or do much of anything. It took consistency.”

Eric added, “We had to change our thought processes to ultimately change our lives. On that third day, we sat at the table and looked at everything. You can’t go from cheesecake to rice cakes; that's a setup for failure. I still like my mac and cheese, meatloaf, burgers, and pizza, but we had to figure out how to make those meals healthy. Making small substitutions, like swapping sodas for water or using almond milk, started off a domino effect. Once we figured out which domino to push down, we pushed it and the weight just started falling off.” 
 
With their combined weight loss at 300lbs, Eric and Maleka were on the journey of a lifetime and they began to realize that their journey wasn’t theirs alone, that there were others who could learn from them and take their own journey to healthier living. “We found ourselves really passionate about telling people what we did and helping them to change their lives because we knew what it had done for our lives,” Maleka said. “We felt like this was a mission that was bigger than us because it’s not just about the weight loss. Everybody thinks they are on a mission to lose weight and the truth of the matter is that it’s about changing your life because that's the only way you lose weight. The weight loss becomes a by-product, a side effect of the decisions that you make day in and day out. When you begin to make better choices, the processes that you take or the strategies that you implement in order to make better choices with your health are the same processes that you are going to implement in your relationships, how you manage your finances, how you parent, etc.”
 
In 2010, Eric and Maleka officially launched BetterChoices, “a healthy lifestyle company dedicated to teaching, motivating, and inspiring individuals to change their lives, one better choice at a time.”
 


BetterChoices is about change,” they explained. “Change is easy. It’s the choice to change that makes us uncomfortable. Our goal is to help people understand the ‘how’ and ‘why.’ BetterChoices offers a wealth of resources, including healthy lifestyle tips, food facts, motivation, videos, recipes, various health and fitness blogs, and so much more. In August 2014, we published Let’s Cook! The BetterChoices Healthy Lifestyle Cookbook as a way to not only share over fifty of our favorite foods, but to also provide a simple guide teaching individuals the basic steps of creating a healthier and sustainable lifestyle.”
 
In addition to their clients, Eric and Maleka are also making sure that their two sons are adept at making better choices. “We encourage them to make BetterChoices the same way we encourage our clients; it’s about educating them about the how and why foods will either work for them or work against them. They have a full understanding that it is ok to have treats, but drinking sodas all day is not a wise choice because it offers them no nutritional benefits. They know water is essential and they know how much they should drink every day. We hold them accountable for knowing and understanding. That way, when there is a breakdown in their implementation, they know what it is, why it happened, and how to fix it. We have also taught them the importance of reading labels. Their body is a gift. It is up to them how they treat it. They know that just because they know better, it will not automate the process of them to do better. They know they have to CHOOSE to do better.”
 
“Making BetterChoices never ends,” concluded Eric and Maleka. “We’re happy that so many others have decided to begin their own journeys of making BetterChoices.”
 
For more information about BetterChoices, please visit the website, Facebook, and Twitter
 
Last modified on Monday, 14 March 2016
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