“But on the days that the group doesn’t come, I come alone because I don’t want to stay home.”
By KARINA GARIBALDI
Translated by ALEJANDRA GONZÁLEZ
EL NUEVO SOL
“I don’t like weighing myself often because I become traumatized,” says Martha Rodriguez.
“When I came from my country I was very thin and I arrived to this country and began to eat and that’s when I gained weight.” Rodriguez, 62, is a native of Jerez, Zacatecas, and she is part of the 100 Citizens program in the city of San Fernando. In the program she exercises and gets nutrition lessons. She joined the program to lose weight, since she weighed 203 pounds, but wanted to return to her previous weight of 167 pounds.
“I retired three months ago and the first decision I made was to go to the park everyday and exercise because I didn’t want to be at home not doing anything,” she says.
More than anything she felt bad because her weight did not allow her to perform daily activities.
“Being overweight did not allow me to tie my shoelaces, and that’s when I said there was something wrong with my weight,” she comments.
Her husband, Daniel Rodriguez, joined her in her walks before she joined the group 100 Citizens. It took her one year to lose 22 pounds when she walked with her husband in the afternoons, but since registering with 100 Citizens she has lost 28 pounds in the three months she’s been in the program.
“This program is magnificent because I’ve lost more weight in three months than in the one year that I spent walking,” she says. “I’m very happy with the program.”
Rodriguez decided to come from Mexico at 22 to build a better future, since opportunities in her native country were scarce. When she came to the US, one of the main differences that she noticed was in the food, since her parents back home were the ones who cultivated food, and in Los Angeles she began buying foods that use fertilizers that help fruits and vegetables grow quickly.
As soon as she began to purchase food in Los Angeles she noticed that she began to gain weight.
“The fruits and vegetables that my parents grew were fresh and organic, everything was healthy,” she says.
As time went on she formed a family of her own with her husband and three kids, Carlos, Daniel and David, but she never made it a habit to eat junk food.
“After work, the first thing I did was prepare fresh food for my husband and kids,” she says.
Despite the fact that she cooked daily, she continuously gained weight and that’s when she began to worry about her health. She feared developing diabetes, although no one in her family had it. Simply because she would not stop gaining weight, she was at risk of developing it because she ate foods that were inorganic.
For ten years, Rodriguez worked as an inspector of an electric factory in Pacoima. After some time she found another job where she continued to be an inspector because of her experience with electricity.
“Since I was always sitting down at work, the only thing I did was eat nonstop without a healthy diet, and since I did not exercise I gained weight,” she says.
When she would leave work she focused on cooking for her family and she never gave herself time to exercise. She never had the time even if she wanted it. After work she would head to the grocery store to buy what she was going to cook. She shopped at stores like Vallarta, the only healthy option near her home.
Though she would have liked to consume organic products, the distance made it impossible. After just three months of retirement and having made the decision to sign up for 100 Citizens, Rodriguez felt content with the results she had thanks to the free program.
The exercise program is on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but she also decided to go to the park the other weekdays.
“I come to the park everyday to exercise. First, I walk around the park, then I use the equipment and lastly, I join the group to continue my exercise routine,” she says. “But on the days that the group doesn’t come, I come alone because I don’t want to stay home.”
“She always comes with so much energy,” comments Aurelia Peña, another participant of the program. “First she greets those of us who are early, then she walks around the park until our group exercises begin.”
Every day she goes to the park walking and she returns home the same way.
“My kids motivate me because they always tell me, ‘Mom, don’t worry about us, first come your exercises and then us,’” says Rodriguez.
Rodriguez knows that external motivation is important, but most important are the concrete results.
“I am motivated to hear my family say that I am thinner and my companions of the group have also commented,” she says. “These comments are what motivate me more because my effort is noticeable, but more than anything I am more flexible and I can do things I wasn’t able to do before because of my weight. I wasn’t able to bend over and grab things that fell. My belly wouldn’t allow it.”
Besides her daily routine of exercises, she also changed her way of eating after she began going to nutrition classes that 100 Citizens offers. Now her diet includes vegetables, fruits, chicken and fish. She tries to steam the food she cooks so that it isn’t too greasy.
“Martha is always on time… Her motivation shows when she exercises. I haven’t seen her pause in between workouts like other participants,” saya Sergio Zambrano, an instructor of the program.
“I drink fruit or vegetable shakes everyday as I was taught in nutrition classes,” she says. “I have to go a half hour from where I live to buy my products, as there are no stores in my neighborhood that sell organic foods,” she adds.
Now she eats every three hours, but she doesn’t gain weight due to her daily exercise routine.