Meet a Health Hero: Vaughnda Hilton

"For me, the most important part of my fitness regimen is that I start it every day."

» You can vote for Vaughnda here September 20th through 26th. Mark your calendar! 

Name: Vaughnda Hilton

Role: Founder and instructor at Complete Fitness Party.

Who or what motivates you to be healthy?
There are many things that motivate me to live a healthy lifestyle. Living a long, full life is a goal of mine. I want to be around as long as I can to see my family grow into the future. I also want to experience all the great things that this life has to offer so I try to do my best to stay fit. I love to dance and have been dancing since I was five years old. I love the feeling of freedom and peace when I am dancing. As I got older, I realized other people did too. I enjoy teaching and helping people reach goals they thought were unattainable. Last but not least, there are all the various health reasons for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Establishing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle for your family is extremely important because you are preserving life and adding years to your life and your family’s life when you take the time to prepare meals that you can control the content of. There is no guessing when you are in control of the meal preparation and choices. Therefore you can control the amount of calories, salt, sugar, flour, preservatives, additives and so on all the way around. Being healthy equals being able to do more. We all want that and it starts in the kitchen.

Describe a health or fitness-related turning point in your life.
In 2009, I had returned from being on tour with Native Nations Dance Theater, Philadelphia’s only American Indian dance company. We were on tour for 56 days in Abu Dhabi and two weeks in Greece. After I returned and settled back in, one day in December I was passing the hallway mirror and had to do a double take. In that instant, I said to myself “Who is that?” My weight had skyrocketed to about 270 pounds. Well, when you are singing and not dancing for the company, it’s pretty easy to indulge every day at the best restaurants and a five-star hotel. Sure, there was a gym in the hotel but my workday started at 11 a.m. and we returned back to the hotel at 11 p.m. It wasn’t until the last leg of the tour that I started getting up at 7 a.m. to work out. I decided that day that I was going to sign up at a local gym. I did and started with three classes a week. that progressed to three classes a day plus weight training, then I began teaching Latin heat, Yoga, Kickboxing, Belly Dance, Body Works (weight training), Zumba and also became one of the Aerobic directors. I monitored all my meals and they were bowl size in proportion. I ate breakfast within 30 minutes of waking up to start the burn process. I ate more fruits, vegetables and salads than red meats. I also ate fish and chicken. By March of 2011, I had shed 130 pounds. and celebrated with family and friends by having a Zumba fitness part to also encourage others who are on that journey of losing weight. What I eliminated was refined sugar, bleached flour, high-fat meats, high carbs and I did not eat after 9 p.m.. I replaced that late meal with an activity (a massage, watching a movie, playing a card game, etc.) then a full night’s sleep (6 to 8 hours). This was the turning point in my fitness journey because I began to do more than I ever have in life and I was able to reach more people struggling with weight issues than ever before. At that point, my clients knew I could relate to their issues as well as help them attain their goals. If it were not for my weight gain, I would have not been able to do all that I have done. The weight helped me to be able to understand what people were going through.

What policy would you institute to make Greater Philadelphia a healthier region?
I would definitely see to it that physical education and health education were in the schools from Pre-K up. The earlier children are exposed to being and living healthy, the more they will adhere to it. They may not understand the effects until later in life, but in the end we will all benefit from this change. Living healthy severely reduces the problems that we see today, like childhood diabetes, obesity, drug abuse, stomach ailments, allergies and even low self-esteem. 

What’s the most important part of your health or fitness regimen?
For me, the most important part of my fitness regimen is that I start it every day. When you start, you engage and focus on the goal. For me personally, I need to work out daily to burn calories, sometimes twice a day. Balancing food intake with caloric burn is also a major factor during the day. An important factor here is eating within 30 minutes after waking up. Starting the burn process and eating clean is extremely important to me. 

What is your number one piece of health related advice or encouragement?
My number one piece of advice would be to stay hydrated daily, especially during the winter months. 

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