Motivation Monday: Meka Ford's 4 Million Social Media Fans Helped Her Lose 130 Pounds
Meka Ford's extreme weight loss story begins with an exercise video.
In 17 months, the college student from Shreveport, Louisiana, went from 260 to 130 pounds. She attributes much of her initial weight loss to fitness guru Shaun "T" Thompson's Insanity 60-day DVD workout program -- but the power of social media has sustained that success in ways she never could have imagined.
It wasn't easy for Ford at first: The workouts were intense, and early on, she wasn't ready to share her progress with others.
"I didn't tell anybody what I was doing [for fear of failing]," she says.
Ford says the pride she developed -- being able to complete the intense workout sessions without failing -- is what motivated her to continue. The epitome of "selfie-culture," Ford documented her weight loss journey by posting hundreds of photos of herself to Instagram and videos to YouTube. With digital followers cheering her on -- "thank you so much for your videos;" "you look beautiful and that motivates me;" "your waist is wicked;" "you look amazing" -- she literally shrank before the world's eyes, losing half her body weight.
She says those YouTube comments continue to inspire her, adding that she never dreamed that along the way she'd gain the encouragement of millions through social media and set an example for others. Her transformational YouTube videos have been viewed more than 4 million times.
"Teenagers touched me the most," she says. "I can sympathize with them because I used to be an unhappy, fat teenager."
Initially, the 23-year-old tried to keep in touch with her social media fans, even giving them personalized tips. But as her following and the comments on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube swelled, it became impossible to keep up with all of them.
Her success came with one downfall: loose skin. A plastic surgeon told her she'd need surgery to shed some of the hanging skin because she spent most of her life overweight.
"The loose skin is everywhere -- my arms, my midsection, my thighs," she says. "If I hold my arms out or show my stomach it's very hard to hide."
Today, Ford's focus is maintaining a healthy weight and mind. Once uncomfortable with going to the gym, she now describes herself as a gym rat.
She still uses her body weight as resistance. "I do jump squats, jump rope, jumping lunges, box jumps and kettlebell swings," she says. The amount of weight she lifts varies. She also uses stair steppers and elliptical machines for interval training.
Ford drinks lots of water and eats well-balanced meals consisting of protein and vegetables. She doesn't limit carbohydrates, but she avoids fried foods. She says the hardest thing is portion control. The student, who graduates in December with a degree in kinesiology from the University of Louisiana Monroe, keeps before and after photos as screensavers on her smartphone and laptop to remind her of her journey.
"I constantly reflect on all the hard work I've done," she says of the selfies she posts online. "[They show] how far I came and the fact that I did this 100 percent on my own."
And she continues to dialogue with some of her social media fans when she has time, encouraging them through photos and videos -- and being encouraged by them.
Aliah D. Wright is the author of the best-selling social media book, "A Necessary Evil: Managing Employee Activity on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn ... and the Hundreds of Other Social Media Sites" (SHRM, 2013).