Saintfort Gains National Recognition for Losing Weight

Ra’chel Saintfort always wanted to make Lakeland proud. She always figured she would have an R&B hit that topped the charts, and she couldn’t wait to tell the world about the town she grew up in. What she didn’t suspect is that it wouldn’t be her music that brought her national attention. “Who knew it would be for fitness?” she mused.

Saintford has been on fire ever since she was featured in People magazine for losing more than 100 pounds.

Santfort in People magazine

It all started when she sent in a post of herself when she lost 90 pounds to The Shade Room (Instagram-based coverage of celebrity gossip, or what The New York Times called, “TMZ of the Internet”). They were excited for her and told her congratulations, but nothing more.

When she hit the coveted 100 pounds, The Shade Room posted her image five months ago, and it went viral from there.

After a mention on the cover of People (right next to coverage of England’s royal wedding), she has been on Good Morning America, Inside Edition, Extra, and the local ABC and BayNews9 news stations, just to name a few.

Saintfort, 32, was born in Fort Lauderdale and moved to Lakeland at age 2. She attended Cleveland Court Elementary, Lake Gibson Middle, and Lake Gibson High School. Her mom, brother and sister all live in town, and she is raising her 10-year-old daughter here.

When we met at Fresco’s, she came in with bright eyes, a bright smile, and a contagious attitude that exuded happiness and positivity. On top of her regular job as a case manager (Her agent advised her not to disclose her employer because of the sensitivity of her job.), she also mentors young women and works as a motivational speaker to her Facebook Live audience.

She is eager to tell her story – the main theme being you just can’t give up. She worked out twice a day, literally rain or shine, she says. She tells of neighbors honking at her while lightning was striking all around, yelling at her to get inside. She would just wave and say she was fine, and keep going.

Saintfort appears on WFLA’s “Daytime:”

If the video doesn’t appear, try this link.

When asked the thing we all want to know — “What was that thing that kept the ‘I suck, screw it, give me another soda’ at bay?” — her eyes raised to the ceiling and she answered with a knowing shake of the head: “Yes, I used to do this all the time.” She would start but something would trigger her and she would end up getting a Coke.

But this time she just kept going. She says she went out in the living room and told her family, “Today is the day.” Her family had heard this before, so her brother decided to test her. He went to the hospital, Lakeland Regional, and bought three boxes of their favorite french fries with extra seasoning.

He got home and handed a box to her sister, and a box to her mom, and kept a box for himself. He looked at Ra’chel and said, “Today’s the day, huh?” Salivating over the overwhelming smell of her favorite fries, she put her head up and said, “Yeah, today is the day. I’m going to go get a salad.” And she went in the kitchen and made a salad and ate it with her family. After that she put her shoes on, and said to her family, “I’m going to go walk the lake.”

Ra’chel says she loves pictures and she loves to post on social media, so she used her bright personality and her love for sharing as her allies. Instead of posts of huge plates of rice, she now posted herself after her workouts and eating healthy salads.

She also used social media to help her never miss a workout. She walked every single day twice a day. She said some mornings she would be in a mood and not want to get out of bed (4 a.m. is early!!) and she would look at her Instagram or Facebook and see an old picture of herself. Just seeing where she was and never wanting to go back to her unhealthy self would make her jump out of bed and get on her Facebook Live and get her “AM Crew” pumped and ready.

She said people would immediately start replying things like, “OK, here I go, I wasn’t going to get up but I just saw this and it got me out of bed.” She also had her “PM Crew” for her evening workout. She said this helped motivate her to keep going.

Saintfort says she also had her own weight loss crush she would go to online when she needed motivation. She highly recommends finding a weight loss crush to help motivate when the laziness sets in.

However, she warns against comparing every action to someone else. “Some people can’t eat bread; I can eat bread. But I can’t eat rice!” Getting to know your body and what you can and can’t eat, and completely letting go of some things that just aren’t healthy for your body, is key. The online crushes and motivational posts are there to help motivate the person on their journey, not to give an exact recipe for weight loss. It is an individual thing, she says.

Saintfort said the biggest thing she wished people would change about the way they view weight loss is that it truly is a “lifestyle change. You have to fall out of love with food and fall in love with yourself. When you love yourself first, you gain control.”

The Lakelander says she loves the media attention because she wants others to know they can do it too. She says she knows it’s a cliche, but that it’s all a mindset, and when people say, “If they can do it, i can do it,” they are 100 percent correct.

She said if she wants to go be a doctor, all she has to do is focus and she will go be a doctor. “Everyone has the same 24 hours,” is another cliche that is true, she says. “The doctors just decided to wake up, read a book, write a paper and go to bed. You decided to go to the club and eat a whole pizza.” She said she hopes to continue motivating people of all ages on their own weight-loss journey.