She lost 90kg – and inspired a movement
Liz Davis walked her way from a size 28 to a healthy size 12.
LITTLE did Liz Davis know when she first started her own sometimes painful, sometimes slow and often frustrating effort to change her body, mind and spirit that she would end up leading a small movement.
Davis lost 90kg – shrinking from 180kg and a size 28 to a healthy size 12 – more than 10 years ago using the lowest tech, least expensive and most accessible tool she could find: her feet.
As she walked routinely through Seattle’s Central District neighbourhood where she was born and raised, she became a wellknown figure and an inspiration to people who watched as she slowly slimmed down.
As her body changed, her consciousness did, too, and she realised she wanted to help other people understand that simple, common sense and inexpensive changes could lay the groundwork for permanent health improvements.
As she invited others to join her walks, they became impromptu community coaching sessions.
“I wanted to give something to people who couldn’t necessarily afford to go to the gym, or who didn’t want to go because they were too self-conscious about their bodies. I wanted them to know they could literally save their own lives,” Davis said.
Her friend, Jo-Nathan Thomas, a social-service specialist who had just lost 27kg himself when he and Davis met at the University of Washington, said, “She is doing incredible work in the community.
“She’s helping bring affordable health awareness and exercise to the masses. Once she found the courage to act, she saw that she began to overcome her struggles, inside and out. At the same time, she became aware of the epidemic of health issues in the community, and she developed a passion for educating and encouraging people.”
Her passion for helping others was nourished by her sister, Michelle Hawkins, who worked at the Garfield Community Centre, and Hawkins’ trainer, Willie Austin, a former University of Washington football player and powerlifting champion who started the non-profit Austin Foundation.
Hawkins and Austin used to go to health fairs and festivals where Austin would lay out fitness equipment, demonstrate how to use it and invite others to try.
They both told Davis, who at that point had just lost her first 27kg, she needed to tell her story.
“Willie asked me to tell folks at the health fair how I lost the weight,” she said. “He said it would encourage people who were obese to know that I had done it.”
“They gave me the bug for helping people,” said Davis about her sister and Austin, who have both since passed on.
So she has created a number of platforms, including a one-woman show that tells of her transformation from “fat Liz to healthy Liz.”
She runs several websites and Facebook pages – Walkable CD, DeFlora Walks – and has created a get-started workshop and printed pamphlets of tips and tools.
The walk, typically held during the more temperate months, usually starts at a local park where old and new participants gather around Davis. Depending on how many people show up, their interests and abilities, she might lead them on a few laps around the park’s track or set off on an hour-long hike that starts with a neighbourhood hill. She might teach folks calisthenics or how to do a proper squat. And all the time, she’s quizzing people on their motivations and using that information to spur folks on.
“Do it so you can be a healthy grandma,” she might say to a woman struggling to finish a few push-ups.
Because Davis, 48, had knee-replacement surgery and developed a herniated disc in her lower back at the end of last year, her winter was filled with physical-therapy appointments, pain and setbacks.
She could have gotten bummed out and given up, she said, had she not redirected her thinking with the help of numerous mentors and prayer.
“Once I stopped feeling sorry for myself and started realising that this is a new chapter and a new challenge that I get the privilege of working through, things began to get easier,” she said. “Now I want people to see that I struggle, slip and fall, but I get up, work through the challenges and keep going.” – The Seattle Times/Tribune News Service
‘I wanted to give something to people who couldn’t necessarily afford to go to the gym,’ says Davis.