by Robbie Jackson
In this post pandemic world, we have seen the value of a “clean bill of health.” Any fitness expert (qualified or not) will tell you your health is your wealth, you are what you eat, and what really matters is what you do before you get sick.
For Black people specifically, health is more than just a trend. It’s an act of liberation, and a shift in the literal atmosphere happens when our community decides to take control of our healthcare.
On the flip side with resources like TikTok, Youtube, and Google it’s almost too much information out there. The real issue becomes how to discern the reliable information from the fluff; the real from the fake. One might say, having an expert in your corner has shifted from a luxury, to a necessity in order to properly navigate your health journey.
Which begs the question: if it doesn’t make money does it make sense? So I asked the owner of U3Fit, Lawanda Dickerson, a little bit about herself, her business and the role fitness experts can play in the Black community.
Robbie: Let’s start with the past, work into the present, and finish off with the future. Who is the ancestor in your tribe(family) member you are most alike?
Lawanda: I would say, my great great grandfather, who was a chief of the Cherokee tribe from Arkansas before industrialization, who decided he didn’t want his children raised with non-tribal names.
So, he established himself and all of his wives and children (20+) to have their names all changed to Hunter. He was a revolutionary man, from the stories I’ve heard over the years.
For me, that equates to my nature of going against the trends of the norm and carving out new pathways to advance our BIPOC community, to change the way we eat and take care of ourselves so we can continue to revolutionize our development as a people. We have to be in better health to do it!
Robbie: I can definitely see that with the work you are doing with U3Fit. Now before you were the fitness expert we see today, you were a model! Can you please describe your experience as a plus size Model?
Lawanda: At first it was very flattering that they wanted to put plus size on display. I experienced some of the best designers and make-up artists to help me feel amazing. Modeling gave me a lot of opportunities to meet different people and I enjoyed that season.
After a while I wanted to become a better version of myself, and realized that all money and recognition and being overweight isn’t always the best for the individual, I wanted something more to challenge me.
Robbie: I feel that. So, if you had to pick a specific moment in life where you decided you would make a change in your lifestyle, what was it?
Lawanda: When a visit to the doctors revealed I had high cholesterol and I was insulin sensitive.
Based on my family history, I had a 99% chance I would end up suffering from the 5 most common metabolic diseases which ran rapid throughout my family on both sides. It scared the hell out of me!
I knew then, I didn’t want that kind of life, especially growing up with a morbidly obese mother and sister and watching how they suffered. Also, once my sisters and I were at a family reunion and as I looked around, I started asking questions about certain family members, many of them couldn’t get up and play the games, many were morbidly obese, some had such extreme atrophy they could barely walk from lack of moving, and sadly enough many had passed away all due to all the major metabolic disease such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease and obesity. We were losing too many good people to diseases that could have been prevented.
Robbie: My mom recently went through something similar to your experience and it spoke to me. I feel like our elders tell us so much about ourselves. So how did you make the transition from a plus size model to Fitness Expert?
Lawanda: I am a natural researcher of information; I like to know the why’s. I naturally started working out and doing what “they” said to do, but my wheels kept spinning and I wasn’t making much progress. I have very good work ethics so I knew it must have been something that was beyond my knowledge.
I searched for the best accredited school who could give me the science and understanding and that’s when I enrolled in NASM (National Association Sports Medicine).
As I learned, I did. Everything I was understanding I was teaching myself and my immediate family. I stayed steady and consistent, and ended up losing over 70 lbs.
I didn’t think of this at first as a career, I was just excited I knew what I was doing and I couldn’t help but share the good news! I still to this day continue to review and listen to studies, research on the human movement systems and how they relate to our current state and how nutrition and exercise is healing for most, especially the African American community.
Robbie: I like how you put air quotes around “they”, because we know and don’t know who “they” are all at the same time. Moving into the present, how did you come up with the name U3 Fit?
Lawanda: Everyone kept saying I should give this “movement” a name with my name attached. That didn’t settle well with me because I had a vision of what I was doing as a movement, it was much bigger than me.
I remember sitting on my mother’s couch after dinner one Sunday afternoon and I said out loud “I need a name that will say it all in the name!” And I kid you not, U3Fit dropped in my spirit and I ran with it! My subline is “U3Fit has 3 parts to you, Body, Soul, Purpose working together to accomplish any health and fitness goal.”
Robbie: I love it! What is the difference between a Health & Fitness Life Coaching and Personal Training?
Lawanda: Health and Fitness life coaching is more like counseling and coaching. It assists people with the why and how. It allows people to see how many issues of feeling depressed, lack of certain nutrients, lack of movement and lack of purpose can be addressed with scientifically proven methods of simple changes that could be made without reverting to medication.
People also need clarity and understanding of “why me?” Personal training is a physical regimen created by a fitness professional and addresses whatever concerns or goals the client has through physical science exercise, whether it’s just needing help with a basic exercise routine, building muscles, getting fit to lose weight or even healthy weight gain through muscle gains.
There are plenty of studies that show that depression, imbalance of hormones, and a lack of purpose can be changed significantly through physical movement.
Robbie: Speaking of studying, you talked about how before you became NASM certified you knew it wasn’t your work ethic. It was the process that was the problem. With so many resources like YouTube, Pinterest and Google, talk about some of the top benefits of hiring a personal trainer or a life coach?
Lawanda: I support anyone that can receive help through online resources. However, personal trainers (Fitness Professionals) are trained to assess the individual and customize routines and build a program based on schedule, physical ability and goals.
A life coach is one who assists in closing the gap from where you are to where you want to be in life. It’s all in asking strategic questions to discover the answers within, and create time management to be at peace while developing personal goals.
It’s important for people to learn tools to focus on the now and future, to receive encouragement with matters having to do with careers or personal challenges. I don’t believe everyone can get this without personal touch and relational connection.
Also, it’s very important for a community such as Bay view to have relative people in this field. It’s important that they see it’s possible with someone that looks like us and understands where we come from culturally.
Robbie: I was looking on your website and noticed you offer these injection services. What is a B12 injection and I’m just curious, is the Black community purchasing services like this?
Lawanda: B12 injections are a quick way to boost immune system functioning and can help ward against diseases and illnesses. They can even help improve bone density, a factor in osteoporosis. Additionally, injections may lead to improved mood, reduced symptoms of depression, and protection against brain atrophy. Yes, the Black community is our largest consumer of our vitamin injections.
Robbie: Let’s move into the future. When it’s all said and done, what would you like your legacy to be?
Lawanda: U3Fit’s legacy will be how many lives we were able to heal, extend, improve and advance due to empowering them with self and community love. And to break the systemic health disparities in the Black community! I will also have the first health and fitness center focusing all of the services specifically for the African American community here in the Bayview!
Robbie: I love that. I love that for you as a person and also us as a community. We need that. Lastly, how can people contact you? Social media? Website? Hour of operations?
Lawanda: My website is www.u3fit.com. My Instagram: @u3fit. The location is 4646 3rd St San Francisco, CA 94124
Phone: 415-872-7175. Hours of the studio open to the public are Mon-Tues-Thur-Fri 7am-3pm Wednesday 7am-7:30pm Saturdays 7am-12 noon. Appointments operate before and after these hours.
Robbie Jackson is a student of the San Francisco Bay View’s Community Journalism Class, which is funded by the California State Library