For most of her life, Jewel Hall has struggled with her weight.
But as her young daughter began facing the same issues, Hall decided to make a change, adopting a healthier lifestyle that 11-year-old Tiffany could look up to.
“I don’t live in the best of neighborhoods and I’ve been fat all my life,” Hall, who lives in Indianapolis, Indiana, told TODAY. “My daughter is on the heavier side as well … I want to show her there are other positive things than what’s around us in our neighborhood. And I don’t want her to ever feel uncomfortable like I did.”
With the help of a hip-hop beat and a step aerobics platform, Hall has lost 75 pounds since December 2018. The 29-year-old single mother, who works at a mortgage company and attends Indiana Wesleyan University, says her road to success hasn’t always been easy, but seeing her daughter follow along has made it worthwhile.
“My highest weight was 400 pounds and I was a size 4X,” said Hall. “I was really in a very dark place when I first started this journey and I knew I had to change. I didn’t like who I was, I was eating bad and I was an emotional wreck.”
Finding an accessible fitness program
Hall was scrolling through social media on her phone and saw a choreographed step aerobics video from Phillip Weeden, the 40-year-old creator of Xtreme Hip-Hop with Phil, a music-based fitness program made up of step aerobics, cardio and strength workouts that take place both in certified gyms around the world and online through home fitness programs.
“I thought, ‘He’s got some quick feet! I want the same quick feet he’s got,'” Hall recalled. “So I decided no matter what, I was going to take the first opportunity I got to take one if his classes. I didn’t care if I had to drive to Egypt, I was going to do it.”
Hall only needed to drive to a local gym in her area, LGT Fitness, where several instructors were certified to teach Weeden’s energetic fitness classes.
“I popped up and signed up for a class and thought I’d just try it,” said Hall. “It wasn’t pretty. The first class was not pretty at all, but I fell in love with it.”
For the next six months, Hall did workouts from the Xtreme Hip-Hop with Phil program, both at her gym and online, where Weeden does live-streamed step aerobics workouts daily on his YouTube channel.
In June 2019, Weeden attended Hall’s gym to teach a class in person and the pair met for the first time.
A YouTube video posted to Weeden’s channel shows the meeting, in which Weeden invites Hall onto the instructor platform and has her work out alongside him. During this meeting, Weeden asked Hall to make him a promise: That she would never stop, quit or give up on her goals.
“I have a daughter that’s looking at me constantly,” said Hall, adding that Tiffany often takes fitness classes with her. “Even though I want to give up, I can’t because I have her looking at me non-stop, 24/7.”
By October 2019, Hall had lost 60 pounds and had the opportunity to work out with Weeden a second time.
Sticking with it
Today, Hall is down 75 pounds and still working to lose more weight.
“One day, when I’m brave enough, I want to become an instructor so I can teach my own class,” said Hall. “And my goal is to be at least under 200 pounds. If I hit that 199, I’m happy.”
Hall says she doesn’t follow a specific eating plan, but tries to incorporate more greens and vegetables into her diet and drinks a gallon or more of water each day. She also works on not binge-eating and being sure to stop eating when she feels satisfied rather than overeating.
“I don’t even track calories because I’m a single mom,” said Hall. “I go to school. I work full time. And I work out. If I grab an apple on the go, I don’t have time to put it in an app because I’m driving.”
What is X-Treme Hip Hop all about?
Weeden says his program is successful because it has a unique energy and features a bit of hip-hop nostalgia.
“These are the songs that remind me of my teenage years in the club when I would dance all night on the dance floor,” said Weeden, who lives in Cleveland, Ohio. “I remember every weekend I would leave the club just drenched, so I thought maybe if I could apply that music to step aerobics it would work — and it has.”
Weeden started offering a hip-hop step aerobics class at gym he owned in 2013. In 2014, after people began traveling to his facility to take his classes, he took the program on tour, visiting gyms in other cities and teaching classes. Today, Weeden has 774 certified instructors who offer his programs in gyms worldwide.
Weeden says meeting clients like Jewel, who have found success because of his programs, is why he keeps going.
“It makes me feel good because I battle with depression,” said Weeden. “I’ve been battling it for 20 years now and in 2007, I decided that I wanted to leave earth.”
After surviving a suicide attempt, Weeden began seeking purpose.
“I was trying to figure out life and figure out why I was still here,” said Weeden, who later reconnected with a police officer who was involved in saving his life and began being mentored by him.
“He told me, ‘What you do doesn’t affect you, it affects others,'” Weeden explained. “I never looked at it that way. He asked me how I’d have felt if my son and his mother came into the house happy to see me that day, but instead found me dead. It opened my eyes up. It was a wake-up call.”
In his program, Weeden tells clients the simple statements: “Don’t stop. Don’t quit. Don’t give up.”
“I really mean that because I gave up,” said Weeden. “So now, I’m doing this program because I know how it feels to hurt. I know how it feels to cry. I know how it feels to give up. When they tell me they want to give up, I can tell them to keep going.”
Since she’s kept going with her workouts, Hall says she’s seen other changes in her body as well.
“I can do a burpee — I can do a few in a row, at least 10 without stopping,” said Hall. “I couldn’t touch my toes before but now I can. And, I live in a house with steps: The day I was able to walk up those stairs and breathe, I was happy.”
“Just to think about when I first went to the gym,” said Hall, “I didn’t know anyone, I was scared, I was really quiet and nervous. I started out in my own shell, and now I see myself slowly blossoming and growing into the woman I want to become.”