Is it possible to love cheesecake AND live a healthy lifestyle?

According to Tiara Franklin and Niquia Pierce, absolutely. But you’ll have to throw a bit of self-love into the mix as well.

Team “Yay Cheesecake” is one of more than 180 teams competing in the Duluth News Tribune’s Duluze Weight Loss Challenge — a 13-week competition to encourage a healthier lifestyle.

Scrolling through team photos from the weigh-in event, you’ll notice Franklin and Pierce were the only team to hold up their weight cards.

Niquia Pierce (left) and Tiara Franklin at the Duluze Weigh-in event January 17, 2019 at Clyde Iron Works

Both women acknowledge the natural unease that comes with revealing something so personal, but they also saw it as an extra motivator to stick with their new lifestyle. For Pierce, that meant swapping her daily sodas for water and using her job as a recess monitor to get active (monkey bars, anyone?). For Franklin, it’s been all about portion control, yoga, and meditation.

Of course, with Franklin and Pierce both being mothers of three, exercise is usually a family affair. We caught up with the whole group during one of many sledding sessions in Pierce’s backyard.

These sustainable lifestyle changes have helped team “Yay Cheesecake” lose a combined total of 20 pounds so far, and they say the changes to their diets have improved their skin and given them more energy to enjoy life.

Both have plans to tackle new fitness obstacles in the future, but they also feel that inner strength is an important stepping stone.

“It’s mind over matter,” Pierce told us. “You have to get yourself … mentally ready. If you are not healthy in your mind, you’re not gonna be ready to make yourself healthy on the outside, either.”

“You have to know how to love yourself,” Franklin added. “I could shed the pounds tomorrow and I’ll still be that same person. So that’s why I’m taking the steps [with] yoga, meditation, journaling … all those things are gonna make me self-love.”

Self-love isn’t something that has always come naturally to Franklin or Pierce. Both have experienced abusive relationships in the past, and have struggled with self-worth.

For Pierce, being with an abusive partner often left her feeling hopeless.

“You’re always stuck behind them, and you’re always wondering if you’re ever going to get to where you physically want to be, or where you mentally want to be, or if you’re just going to be stuck in that hole that you were left in,” Pierce said.

“I do remember looking in the mirror one day and just going, ‘I do not recognize this person,'” Franklin added.

Franklin’s relationship ended recently, while Pierce’s relationship came to an end about six years ago.

Today, Franklin is a single mother, and Pierce is engaged. Both women agree that they feed off of each other’s strength and positivity, and this is only the beginning of their journey.

“You don’t have to start huge, you can start small. And whatever the scale says isn’t gonna matter,” Pierce told us in anticipation of this week’s final weigh-out. “I’m just gonna take this as my first steps and from there, I’m just gonna take off running.”

The Duluze Challenge’s final weigh-out event runs from 4-7pm Thursday, April 18 at the Depot. Winning teams will be announced immediately after the weigh-out period.

• Top Male team of 4 – $1,200
• Top Female team of 4 – $1,200
• Top Co-ed team of 4 – $1,200
• Top Male team of 2 – $600
• Top Female team of 2 – $600
• Top Co-ed team of 2- $600

Stay up to date on the Duluze Challenge via Facebook.

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