Faith and fitness

Kamaria Blaney exercises at the S&T Fitness Center on a recent morning.

Kamaria Blaney exercises at the S&T Fitness Center on a recent morning. Photo by Sam O’Keefe

By her own account, 2012 was the toughest year of Kamaria Blaney’s life.

She had a baby, lost her father and broke up with her boyfriend. Along the way, she ballooned to 238 pounds.

“I was eating my life away,” Blaney, now a senior in engineering management, says. “I just really relied on food instead of my feelings.”

That is, until she took a long, hard look in the mirror – literally.

“I remember the exact moment: It was Christmas time three years ago,” she says. “I was sitting in one of my favorite stores – Charlotte Russe. My boyfriend had gotten me a jacket and he said, ‘I hope it fits you.’ Because it was the biggest size they had.

“I remember sitting in the chair and looking in the mirror and being so disgusted,” she says. I was just so unhappy.”

Blaney signed up for CoolRunning’s Couch-to-5K Running Plan, in which beginners can ease into a running regimen by running 30 minutes a day, three days a week, for nine weeks. She stopped eating fast food and junk food, she says, and started praying.

Blaney says her faith helped motivate her to improve her health.

“I had a good foundation of faith but never tried to further my relationship with God, I guess,” she says. “I just really started focusing on me and God.”

Tragedy struck Blaney’s life again in March 2013, when a friend and classmate took her own life. Despite her grief, Blaney didn’t turn to food.

“I learned the value of friendship and life,” she says. “I learned that there’s no point in being unhappy.”

That loss inspired Blaney to start a motivational Instagram group called “Fit Friends Last Longer.” Here she and her friends share photos and stories of weight loss, exercise and diet.

She says Internet supporters have been her biggest motivators.

“People Snapchat me; they Instagram me; send me all types of nice messages,” she says. “They watch everything that I’m posting.

“People notice I’m putting in this hard work. They love it, and they respond. That’s what drives me.”

Since March 2013, Blaney has lost over 80 pounds.

Now, she trains fellow students, motivating them through fitness. They meet every day at 6:30 a.m. at the S&T Fitness Center. “Everybody has greatness, especially if they’re here at S&T already.”

One day Blaney hopes to get personal training certification and open a fitness center, but for now she’s focused on completing her engineering management degree. “I love the idea of collaboration, figuring out how things work,” she says. “I feel like I can apply that to anything.

“God has given me a brain, and he’s given me a lot of intelligence. He’s given me vision.”

Blaney, who was nominated for an Inspirational Woman Award in 2014 by the Women’s History Month Planning Committee, hasn’t forgotten where she was three short years ago.

“I still look in the mirror every day because I don’t want to lose sight of who I was,” she says. “I’ve been through it. So I know that you can get through it, too. You just have to have goals and trust the process.”

By Greg Katski