Johnnie Franklin tackling weight loss: Knocking It Out
Story by Isabela Rzeznik
If you are in need of motivation, you should probably go talk to Johnnie Franklin, 37, of Rutledge.
The past six months have seen Franklin completely changing his lifestyle by working on losing weight and eating healthy.
Franklin, also known as “Uncle Boot," his nickname among the children who know him, spends most mornings at Madison Fitness Center, where he is a member. He walks on a treadmill for cardio, works out on various machines and bounces a 20-pound medicine ball. He has also worked with personal trainers. Franklin attends Zumba classes twice a week and his motivation for doing so is, “being the only man in a room full of ladies.” In fact, if Franklin does not come to class or the gym, members (especially the ladies) will ask where he is, according to Franklin’s good friend, Jackie Hilerio.
Franklin remains active throughout the day by walking and trying new activities. Shawanda Simmons, Franklin’s sister, said that one of Franklin’s goals is to beat his nephew, Justin Blake, in a race. His neighborhood walks have become so popular that Franklin and Simmons want to start a support group to encourage as many people as possible to be active.
At his heaviest, Franklin weighted 515 pounds, a number which prompted him to rethink his health and lifestyle. The beginning of his weight-loss journey started as a result of a church fast which required participants to eat only food from the earth, mostly fruits and vegetables. Franklin lost 20 pounds during the fast and he realized that he wanted to keep losing weight and decided to become healthier. He began going to the gym in January of this year and has not looked back.
Upon commencing his weight loss journey, Franklin said he turned to his faith, saying “This is your glory, God,” and explains that God is his focus point. Simmons and Hilerio are Franklin’s central supporters and Simmons, who calls her brother her best friend, has told him, “You motivate me and I’ll motivate you.”
When Franklin joined Madison Fitness Center, owners Rob and Kim Watts also became supporters of his weight loss journey. A treadmill was donated to Franklin for home use and Rob Watts explains that he talks with Franklin on a frequent basis to help with his journey.
“Everybody loves him,” said Rob Watts. “He’s just a big teddy bear.”
The Watts’ also encouraged Franklin to participate in the "24-day Challenge," a competition through Advocare. He came in first place at Madison Fitness Center and in second place in the overall competition, which had 80 participants from various other gyms. The challenge included a 10-day fiber cleanse and 14 days of replacing meals with shakes. Franklin lost 23 pounds and 26.5 inches during the competition. Franklin also won $100 through the challenge and put it towards three months of gym membership.
Franklin was active in high school, in sports such as football and track and he could even bench press 450 pounds. After injuring a knee while playing football, a doctor told him that future trauma to the area could result in losing the ability to walk. For Franklin, walking was more important than playing football and he lost interest in the sport. While in school at Albany State University, a lack of activity and eating too much resulted in Franklin being diagnosed with high blood pressure. He began to have headaches as a result of fluid build-up, which became a problem for his lungs as well and he had to undergo a spinal tap every three months. Eventually, the fluid build-up caused Franklin to lose his sight.
The list of medical problems that Franklin has includes high blood pressure, asthma, chronic bronchitis, diabetes and sleep apnea on top of being legally blind. Since becoming active again, Franklin has seen some relief from these issues, including the return of some of his sight.
Franklin has also completely overhauled his eating habits by eating six small meals a days which include fruits, vegetables and lean proteins such as fish, turkey and chicken. He also strives to replace meals with shakes, as when he did the 24-day Challenge, and to eat smaller portions. Simmons and Hilerio also help Franklin with his meals, Simmons crediting her dedicated couponing to trying new foods and Hilerio stating, “I’m the little person on his shoulder,” making sure he is eating well.
Currently, Franklin collects disability, but he has earned a Desktop Applicant Specialist certificate through Central Georgia Technical College and is thinking of pursuing a career as a massage therapist or as a youth counselor. For Franklin, the latter should not be a challenge, since he has readily expressed his willingness to help others, saying, “People come to me with problems.” He has also co-written and acted in a play.
From the time of the church fast, Franklin has lost a total of 95 pounds and now weighs 420 pounds. His goal is to get down to 270 pounds. Franklin sees himself as an advocate for weight loss and does not want to undergo any surgeries, explaining, “You can do it [lose weight] and in the natural way.”
Franklin says that he is working on himself this year and a relationship next year.
Printed in the June 21, 2012 edition