Working out with weights helped Emelina Edwards change her life.
What if, as you aged, you could feel younger instead of older? More vital, instead of more fatigued? If you could choose to “age radically,” would you?
Emelina Edwards’ answer to these questions was a resounding yes. In the depths of illness and depression in her 40s, trapped in an unhappy marriage, the Nicaragua-born Edwards knew she had to do something. “I came to the realization that I needed to be healthy and strong,” she says.
So Edwards began lifting weights. She changed her diet to include more protein and vegetables, and she ate less sugar. She cut out alcohol. “It was an immediate connection,” she says. “I was learning how to do weight-training. I changed my diet; I started meditating, and I started reading tons of self-help books. In about a year, I had a complete mental, emotional and physical change.” She became a personal trainer to share what she was learning.
That transformation took place almost 30 years ago. Now 74, Edwards has inspired many others, especially women, to follow in her footsteps. In addition to working with clients, she’s taught group fitness classes at Loyola University and written a long-standing fitness column for a Baton Rouge magazine. She was also named a Peoples Health Champion (a program created by Peoples Health and the New Orleans Saints to recognize the exceptional achievements of New Orleans-area residents ages 65 and older). “It’s been a miraculous journey,” she says.
In 2012, Edwards published her first book, Forever Fit and Fabulous: A Guide to Health and Vigor — Even at 70 and Beyond! The book was a success — and Edwards plans to follow it up with a new tome soon. “Journey to Self-Esteem is about drawing on my own experience with depression and poor body image,” she says. “It’s about how I learned to look at myself with pride and approval, rather than constantly criticizing myself.”
On Staying Motivated
Edwards has experienced what it’s like to feel weak and sick, and she’s determined never to have that experience again. “For a 74-year-old woman to have the strength that I have — I can only keep that if I keep training,” she says. “And I am not ever going to give that up. Right now, I know at least three or four people sick in bed with the flu. I have not been sick once in almost 30 years.”
Edwards sticks to a plant-based diet, avoiding animal products, sugar and alcohol, and cooks everything herself. “I really concentrate on superfoods in my diet,” she says. “I cook by picking the foods that are going to keep me healthy.”
Breakfast is normally a green smoothie with coconut milk, a small scoop of protein powder and a “big chunk of ginger,” Edwards says, touting the root’s immune-boosting benefits. At noon, she eats the biggest meal of her day, which often includes chicken, brown rice and lots of vegetables. Tea is another of Edwards’ staples — and for a treat every now and then, she’ll have a small piece of chocolate or sip some kombucha.
Many of Edwards’ personal-training clients have worked with her for a long time. “Two of my clients have been with me since I started,” she says. “One is 85; he has an antique shop in the Quarter. The other one is a lawyer. They’re both still working. They are my inspiration, you could say!”
For those who are starting a new exercise regimen, Edwards suggests getting an anatomy book. “Becoming familiar with the different muscles in the body and what they do is essential,” she says. “You can connect your mind with your muscles and recognize their importance.”
She also recommends keeping a food journal. “We all know what we need to do, basically,” she says. “Cut back on meat; increase fruit and vegetables; and cut back on sugar and alcohol. That’s something that anybody can do.” fitfabat70.com