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WRNMMC Employee Loses Weight After Losing Family Members


By Megan Garcia

WRNMMC Public Affairs

The death of several family members and a chance encounter with a stranger on a high school track started Wendall Drakeford on a journey to lose more than 100 pounds at the age of 26. 

“My grandmother died in 1993. My grandfather passed away in 2002. My mother passed away in 2005. My aunt passed away in 2006, and all of it was related to diabetes and weight problems,” said Drakeford, who works as a food service worker at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. “I decided in 2007 it was time for me to get it together. Everyone was dying.”
Aside from losing his family, Drakeford, who himself had been diagnosed with juvenile diabetes at the age of 14, and who weighed 316 pounds in 2007, said the physical pain of carrying around all of his weight was wearing on him.
“My knees were hurting, joint pain, sweating when I was eating; all the fat stuff. I had to get rid of it,” Drakeford said.
Drakeford laughed as he recalled his first attempt at exercising on a high school track in Northwest DC.
“I thought I could do more than I could do. I started jogging, but I got all winded, so I started walking,” he said.
Drakeford saw another man on the track who seemed out of place. In his eyes, the man seemed pretty fit and in shape, but something else grabbed his attention even more.
 “He was picking up stuff out the grass and eating it, and I was curious, so I just started talking to him,” Drakeford said. “He was like, ‘Man, don’t eat the regular grass. You can eat the clovers because they have nutritional value.”
Drakeford learned the man was a raw foodist and was following a special type of vegetarian diet. He told Drakeford if he wanted to learn about how to eat healthier, join him on the track throughout the week, and so Drakeford did.  
 “He became my mentor, and he doesn’t even know it,” Drakeford said. “Watching him eat right and exercise was one of the main reasons I decided to follow him. He wasn’t just talking it. He was actually doing it.”
One day he just stopped seeing the man, but that didn’t deter Drakeford from continuing with his daily routine.
 “I was exercising on the track about an hour to two hours a day, five days a week,” Drakeford said. “I took out sodas and juices because the man said you had to stop the sugar. I knocked the bread out, and I would substitute lettuce for the bread, so for like my cheeseburgers, I would eat the meat between the lettuce. Same rules applied for my hot dogs.”
Eventually he graduated from walking to jogging. He also began to add pull-ups, sit-ups and dips throughout his sessions.
He continued this same regime for the next three years; even incorporating visits to the gym. He was able to shed 69 pounds, landing him at 250 pounds.  However, after doing the same thing over and over, he noticed he stayed stagnant at that weight.
“I had to do something different, and that’s when I started juicing,” Drakeford said.
He started watching a popular certified detoxification specialist on YouTube who talked about how various fruits and vegetables worked in certain areas of your body.
Drakeford used fruits and vegetables such as apples, beets, kale, oranges, ginger and grapefruits in his smoothies and soon started to come down from the 250 pounds he had been stuck at.
Now, 10 years from the day he decided to change his life, he’s been able to keep the weight off by maintaining a healthier diet.
“I feel better than I ever felt before,” said Drakeford, who is now 36 and weighs 197 pounds. “I can do so much more than I ever could do before when I was heavy. My knees don’t hurt, and I feel confident too.”
Surprisingly Drakeford said he’s done losing weight and instead wants to gain about 20 pounds, but only to gain muscle.
He vows to never get back to where he was because he also has a sister who he says he has to make sure he stays around for.
“She was 10 when my mother passed away, and that’s even more so why I knew I had to step up,” Drakeford said.