YUMA, Ariz. - Obesity has become a serious health concern in America.
More than half of adults in Yuma are considered to be overweight or obese.
But there are unspoken challenges that come with weight-loss.
Diet and exercise often come to mind when you think of treating obesity.
With discipline and motivation, many people are able to lose weight but at times, it's the psychological weight that’s most difficult to burn off.
Two locals know how hard it is not only to lose weight but to also continue to live a happy and healthy life.
Tanya Benedict was once featured on the TLC show, Skin Tight, and believes obesity is more than size.
She’s been considered overweight since she was a child, and remembers weighing in at her heaviest at 387 pounds.
It wasn't until nine years ago when Benedict decided it was time to defeat her insecurities.
“I had just known at that point if I reach my goal I’m going to feel better about myself. I’m going to have more confidence. I’m going to be able to do things I only dreamed of doing if only I could lose weight," said Benedict.
She underwent nine surgeries, succeeded at weight loss, and reached her fitness goals, but throughout it all, Benedict still saw an error in the mirror saying, “When I look in the mirror, I still see what I saw then. I was 387 pounds, I got as low as 156 pounds at my lightest and I still saw it’s almost like the same person.”
Psychologically, it took a toll on her because mentally she was not connecting with her physical.
Benedict said it has caused a lot of emotional, depression, and fear.
Eventually, she regained the weight due to health and emotional setbacks preventing her from exercising as normal.
“I have gone through hell to reach this goal. And here I am back to where I was six to seven years ago. I’m back to that size and in my own mind, it’s like why bother? Why bother even trying anymore?" said Benedict.
Frank Garcia understands Benedict's sense of emotional exhaustion.
As a veteran who suffered from PTSD after serving in the infantry in Afghanistan, Garcia found himself in a deep depression when he was 21 years old, which led to weight gain.
“For me as a veteran, it’s really important that I feel good about myself with PTSD behind me making that a challenge," he said.
Garcia was looking to heal his mind, body, and soul, so he created Double-Tap Fit, a free group fitness camp in Yuma.
He expressed how starting this fitness camp gave him a sense of purpose.
“Now I have a purpose and it feels like people care. Now I can see something and see potential rather than finding the holes in it," said Garcia.
Double-Tap Fit not only breaks down physical barriers but also the mental ones.
Garcia's goal is for his group members to see the best version of themselves that they created.
He told News 11, "It's not about I want to look like this person, or I want to have those hips or I want to have those abs. It's how great can I make myself and that's a bigger accomplishment."
What started out as two or three people working out together in the park, is now a support group for over 30 people. This is all through the power of social media which is where Benedict also turns to for comfort and support on her journey.
Benedict said, “Social media is a great way to be inspired. There's always somebody that crosses my path who has or is going through an experience that I can say I've been there. I want to be that person that people say, wow, what she’s done is amazing. That motivates me to do the same.”
Falling off her journey several times, Benedict keeps getting back up; each time coming back stronger than she was before.
“Learn to love yourself, and who you are in the skin you’re in. Because in my mind for so long it has been that number on the scale, it has been my size and how clothes fit and the way I view myself in the mirror. And it isn’t so much that anymore. I’m learning now that I am so much more than a number on the scale," she said.
Her definition of success on this weight loss journey is perseverance.
After two back surgeries in 2018 and being diagnosed with spinal arthritis in June, Benedict is taking things day by day.
However, that's not stopping her from living a healthy and a happy lifestyle, hoping to return to Zumba classes soon.
As for Garcia, he welcomes anyone in Yuma who may want to lose weight, or just need a support group, to join Double-Tap Fit.