by Mike Merino
Just two years ago Andre Hicks-Dolphin weighed 493 pounds. Seeing her today at age 50, it’s hard to imagine that she was once stuck in what many call a “miserable cycle of morbid obesity.” That’s because as of this month she’s lost 178 pounds; she`s healthier, happier and downright beautiful.
What makes this courageous women stand out among her peers is not only those triple digit pounds she recently sent packing; it`s that she did it despite two recent bouts with breast cancer and multiple chemotherapy treatments.
Just ask her, and she will tell you she achieved her second chance at life through hard work at the gym, a realistic diet and a newfound desire for health and wellness that she discovered through her strong religious faith and the power of prayer. A success story of the recent fit lifestyle explosion, Andre is one of the many uniquely special women breaking new ground in improved fitness and massive weight loss, and doing it all without the aid of dangerous surgery or fad driven weight loss gimmicks. Andre could serve as the poster child for this movement, and she lives right here in Tampa Bay.
A 1983 graduate of Tampa`s Jefferson High School, Andre grew up in Tampa`s Carver City neighborhood. Bad eating habits, together with little to no exercise fueled a continual weight gain throughout her adult life. However, it was just two short years ago that Andre tipped her doctors’ scale at 493 pounds. Those dangerously excessive pounds, coupled with the fear and anxiety of her recently completed cancer treatments, left her devastated and with little hope of attaining a healthy life.
Then one day, a simple daily action, and a stern-but-loving observation by her sister, changed the trajectory of her life.
“I`ll never forget that dark day”, Andre said, “I was sitting on the front porch with my sister, who is my best friend. It was a casual Sunday afternoon after church, when I got up to go into the kitchen and check the progress of our family dinner.”
As usual, the meal consisted of an over sized batch of fried chicken, collard greens, macaroni and cheese and other fatty foods. Adding to the calorie bonanza: several trays of butter and sugar infused corn bread. “When I returned, I was completely fatigued and could hardly breathe,” Andre said. “My sister looked at me, and said, with a frightened glare, ‘what`s wrong with you sister, what do you want to do, die?” Andre said her sister had seen an “image of near death-like exhaustion” on her face. “With her frightening words, something spiritual enveloped my entire body at that very moment and I knew then that a profound change was about to enter into my physically and mentally over-taxed existence,” she said.
As with other overweight people, her condition didn’t happen overnight. And in Andre`s case, depression, steroids for her cancer treatment and poor eating habits exacerbated her problem. What Andre did next changed the course of her life forever. More importantly, she did it all by herself:
1. Saw her primary care doctor for a full medical evaluation.
2. Signed up at a gym,where she goes five days a week, two hours a session (an hr, of cardio and an hr of weight training)
3. Connected with a certified life coach who made sure Andre stayed with the program by drinking the prescribed protein shakes and vitamin products.
4. Refused to quit the program and kept believing she could do it.
5. Prayed everyday to give her strength to stay on a healthy path.
“The first week I lost 13 pounds,” she said. “I was so excited that I could actually see my hard work pay off. I stayed focused, rallied to the cause and made the life changes necessary to be healthy, happy and spiritually strong.”
Although Andre continues to lose weight, at present she is facing another serious health challenge with a recent diagnosis of cancer of the spine. However, she’s not about to let this newest setback hold her back. The married, mother of four still goes to the gym five mornings a week at 5:00 a.m. and has become a life coach herself.