By Je’Don Holloway Talley
For the Birmingham Times
After reaching a weight of more than 300 pounds, Tamikeo Wilson knew it was time for a change.
First, in 2016 she began making preliminary lifestyle modifications to prepare for gastric-sleeve surgery, a procedure that reduces the size of the stomach to restrict food intake and induce weight loss. Then, in October 2018—two years after her operation and 100 pounds lighter—Wilson saw a Facebook post about a hiking trip at Turkey Creek in Pinson, Ala., with a group called Ladies Who Hike.
“I had always dreamed of going hiking. In my first meeting with my surgeon, she asked me what I wanted to do. I said, ‘Tie my shoes and go hiking,’ but I didn’t know where to start,” said Wilson, who has lost another 30 pounds since joining the group.
Ladies Who Hike meets monthly to provide an outlet for women of color to enjoy the outdoors, share positive energy, and destress from their hectic lifestyles. The women get out of the city and into the beauty and serenity of nature, finding a different trail to hike for each excursion. They’ve gone to several Alabama locales, including Ruffner Mountain and Red Mountain in Birmingham; Noccalula Falls Park in Gadsden; Moss Rock Preserve in Hoover; and Turkey Creek in Pinson; as well as Stone Mountain in Georgia and Ruby Falls in Tennessee. In August, the group will travel to the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona.
Wilson, 55, a mother of three and financial sales specialist for Regions Bank, said she fell into a deep depression after her divorce 10 years ago. During this time, she “ate” her feelings and created unhealthy eating and coping habits for herself.
Since joining the hiking club, Wilson said, “I have a lot more confidence in myself. I’m smiling more [and] getting a lot of good feedback, and people are noticing the changes in where I’ve been and where I’m going. It’s a good feeling because I can hold my head up. You can hold your head up when you feel better about yourself.”
Wilson, a Trussville resident, has developed several lifestyle changes since her surgery and joining Ladies Who Hike.
“I had to change my whole style of eating,” she said. “Now, instead of eating a regular burger, I’ll have a black bean burger, no chips, and yellow squash or zucchini. One night a week, we try to eat vegetarian and leave the meat alone. … I’m so happy and humbled to be where I am.”
As for Ladies Who Hike, Wilson said, the group is full of “beautiful, drama-free ladies,” and the “sister-circle” allows members to learn from each other: “You meet new people, and it’s a sisterhood.”
“During hikes, my mind is at ease, I’m free,” she said. “Just seeing all of God’s creations … is peaceful. … You can think, talk to the ladies, listen to your music, or just meditate while walking the trails.”
The group also helps Wilson maintain her weight and self-esteem.
“I was overweight three years ago, and I never thought in a million years that this group of ladies would come into my life,” she said. “I’m down [more than 125] pounds and growing stronger every day. When you have positive women in your corner who don’t judge you and continue to inspire you, it’s the best feeling in the world.”
For more information on Ladies Who Hike, check them out on Instagram @ladies_who_hike.
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