Named after the ancient Greek goddess of wisdom and warfare, Athena Chamblee is definitely a fighter. Athena was born in North Carolina and raised in a single parent home. She grew up in a family of full figured women who always seemed to be on a diet. Athena had always battled with her weight too. She tried everything from vitamin D shots to Weight Watchers but as a young adult she looked in the mirror and saw a dangerous 381 pounds staring back at her. She was pre-diabetic and experiencing polycystic ovary syndrome. Athena was fed up and ready to fight for her life.
It was around this time that the lap band surgery became popular, so Athena looked into pursuing that option. However, her pursuit was cut short when the consulting physician explained that she was “too big” and that the lap band would not give her the results she wanted. This was definitely a gut punch, but when you’re a warrior, you swing back.
Athena had a successful gastric bypass surgery in 2007 and lost 100 pounds in the first year. Just when things seemed to be falling into place, they started to fall apart. Athena’s mother was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer. In the midst of dealing with the diagnosis and caring for her mother until she transitioned, Athena fell into a deep depression generated by grief. Overcome with an immense sense of loss, Athena found herself right back where she began. Despite her bypass surgery she was back at 292 pounds and mentally she was back at 381 with the same old thoughts and bad habits. Looking back on it now Athena says, “Because the body is an amazing machine, my body figured out how to bypass the bypass.” Athena’s weight had won this round, but there’s one more to go.
Athena got back on point. She began working out and eating right, but she wasn’t losing any weight. Her doctor confirmed her suspicions. Her body was smarter than the surgery. In order to attain her goal, she would have to have another revision surgery. Athena was warned that insurance companies rarely approve surgeries that are revisions, but when you’re not fighting alone you have a better chance of winning. Athena’s revision surgery was approved with no hassles within two weeks of submitting her paperwork. Her doctors couldn’t believe it. Athena believes that God was on her side and that he gave her this journey to help other people.
That young woman who was a size 32-34 at the age of 24 is now out here looking like a snack at a size 14 (and a 12 if it’s stretchy). She’s maintaining her weight with healthy lifestyle changes that she shares with her community. She is absolutely not proposing that surgery is the right way to go for every individual, and she wants everyone to know that her testimony proves surgery alone is not enough. You also have to make healthy life choices. Athena encourages everyone to get to know their own body, do their research and formulate a plan that is tailored for them. She’s on a mission to help other women in their health and wellness journeys. She’s writing a cookbook featuring some of the deconstructed recipes that have helped her maintain her goal and she also has a thriving Facebook group called Divine Goddess Health & Wellness where she is forging a movement for the health and wellness of the mind, body, and soul. Athena’s fight to reach and maintain a “size healthy” was long; she was knocked down a couple times, but never knocked out and now the “W” is in her column.
Follow Athena on IG @redskitchen101 and join the Divine Goddess Health & Wellness Facebook Group.
Written by Nicci Page