When Chasity Davis was pregnant with her third daughter, she felt miserable. She weighed 365 pounds at just 4 feet 11 inches tall. She was easily exhausted by daily tasks.
“I was piling on the weight. Just eating all the time. It was ridiculous,” Davis told TODAY. “I was in a very terrible state, but I didn’t know that I was.”
Her health seemed fine and she didn’t experience high blood pressure or high cholesterol, or develop pre-diabetes. But soon after she gave birth to J’Nylah, something weird started happening — she experienced shortness of breath when she reclined. She mentioned it casually, but her doctors knew her complaint revealed something more serious. They immediately moved her to a cardiac ward and put her on a heart monitor. Then she learned disturbing news.
“My heart had stopped for about three seconds,” she said.
And, her blood pressure was “sky high.” But Davis, who was experiencing a flood of postpartum hormones, felt irate that she couldn’t see J’Nylah. Davis didn’t think that three seconds seemed like that big of a deal. Finally, a cardiologist told her: “In the cardiology world, three seconds is a long time. You only need one second to be out of here permanently.”
When doctors finally allowed her to see J’Nylah, her blood pressure went down immediately. But Davis, then 34, knew she had to do something about her health if she wanted to be there for her daughter.
“That is when everything began to change,” she said.
After a heart catheterization, Davis had gastric sleeve surgery, which helped her shed 65 pounds. But she was still obese at 300 pounds. Following her recovery, she worked out seven days a week, twice a day, while eating lean protein, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. But she quickly felt burned out by the rigorous exercise schedule.
“I realized one day I am done with seven days a week, twice a day,” she said. “I slowed up."
At the same time, she learned about GirlTrek, a nonprofit that encourages black women and girls to develop walking habits. The organization encourages groups of women to walk together and offers goals to keep people motivated. This felt like a revelation to Davis.
“I can lose weight through walking,” she said. “I really took the walking to heart and accepted all the challenges.”
Now, Davis walks about five to six miles a day. While walking helped her transform her health, she enjoyed it as much for the friendships she made.
“I show up a lot of times not just for the walking, but also for the conversations,” she said.
Since starting with GirlTrek, Davis lost 171 pounds, and overall, she's lost 242 pounds since having her daughter almost seven years ago.
“Life is so much greater when you are healthier,” she said. “I just feel great about myself. I handle situations different. I have learned so much.”
Here are her tips for others hoping to lose weight:
1. Drink water.
Davis often meets people who think of being healthy as cutting things from their diets. But she recommends that people start by adding more water.
“Water gives you energy,” she said.
By drinking more of the infused water she kept in her fridge, Davis passed up juices and sodas without even realizing it. This small addition helped her lose weight.
2. Focus on one goal at a time.
Often, people try quitting all their bad habits at once while also exercising. Davis realized she was more successful when she worked on one small goal.
“You got to tackle one thing at a time,” she said. “When you try to change it all at once, you are going to crash and burn. When you tackle that one thing and it becomes second nature, then you get the next goal.”
3. It’s OK to eat "bad" food.
While eating more fruits, vegetables, lean protein and whole grains helped Davis lose pounds, she still eats some fatty or sugary foods. She just knows she should limit them.
“Just because I lost weight doesn’t mean I never eat anything bad,” Davis said. “The difference now is that we have a home cooked meal every single day.”
For more inspirational stories of weight-loss success, visit TODAY's My Weight-Loss Journey page.