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Tough And Universal: After Health Scare, Asia Ford Lost Nearly Half Her Body Weight

Asia Ford by J. Tyler Franklin, Louisville Public Media-182953
Photo by J. Tyler Franklin

Today, Asia Ford says she loves “everything that has to do with moving.” That wasn’t always true. At one point, Asia weighed 507 pounds and it took a health scare with her children’s father to make her reevaluate her lifestyle.

“My kids and I walked their dad into a hospital emergency room where we thought he was just going to get a few stitches,” Asia said. “At the time we found out, because of diabetes, his sugar was too high to fight the infection that already viraled in his hand. So my kids and I were faced with removing his hand and hopefully he would be able to walk out of the hospital with us. He ended up in a coma and almost lost his life.”

Asia had to decide whether to amputate her kids’ dad’s hand with the hope that he would live.

“So the day that the doctor said, I had no other choice, I had to make a decision,” she said. “Then I made two decisions at that moment. I made a decision to save him and also made a decision to save myself.”

But that was easier said than done.

“I had a friend — she would always, when I come out of the McDonald's parking lot, I'd see her running down Cane Run Road, and she would always be on me about trying to do something,” Asia said. “So at that time, I started researching, I asked her what I needed to do. And it wasn't the answer that I was looking for. She pointed me out to a boot camp. And at 507 pounds, I was thinking, ‘What exactly are we talking about here, when we when we talk about boot camp?’”

Asia found out it was women flipping tires and doing burpees — things she felt like her body wasn’t able to do.

“And I was trying to figure out, I don't want to die to lose weight, I want to lose weight to live,” she said.

But she didn’t give up. She kept going back to boot camp and took up running. And in 2015, she actually became sort of a viral sensation after Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer tweeted a photo of Asia — with her son on one side, a police officer on the other—crossing the finish line of a local race.

A few days before that race, Asia had contracted bronchitis.

“The morning of the race, I woke up and I my throat still kind of felt scratchy. But I decided I was going to do it anyway,” she said. “When I started, I felt the adrenaline.”

Things went well for the first four miles. But then Asia started having trouble breathing. She told her son, who was running with her, that she thought she was going to have to give up.

“And he said, ‘Don't apologize.’ He said, ‘Mom, I want you to be okay,’" Asia said. “And I felt myself just getting overwhelmed with tears. And I just bowed my head and I started crying. And I was just like, ‘God, I just wish I could make it just at least to mile five.’ And right when I said that, my left arm raised and I knew my son was holding on to my right side so I raised my arm. And I looked over and it was this police officer and he was like, ‘Are you going to finish this race or what?’ And I said yes! And he completed that entire race with us.

“And we've been friends ever since,” Asia said. “So he have actually since then lost some weight itself and we walk on Wednesday. So we we've kept the going.”

Since she started working out, Asia has lost about 236 pounds. She still goes to boot camp a few times a week, and runs a little too, even though her knee doctor has told her to find a new exercise.

“But it's like when I run it's almost like a freedom. It starts to free my mind of things like worry, anything that I'm experiencing in life at that time,” she said. “I remember being a child and seeing all the other kids run, but I couldn't because of my weight and just really feels good to do that as well.”

And she says she’s seen in a difference in her relationship with her children, too.

“My daughter told me the other day ‘Mama, you can't stop because I depend on you.’ And that’s something that I just know that I've come too far — not just for myself but for them too. So I have to keep moving. My youngest son who actually finished the race with me, it's changed his mind frame of not giving up. It doesn't matter what it is, he always wanted to quit something. Now he completes everything that he does when he starts it.”

Now, Asia is taking her journey a step further. She’s pursing a bachelor’s degree at Spalding to become a dietician.

And she says no matter what, she won’t stop moving.

“Honestly, I don't see myself ever stopping.”

Asia Ford's story is part of Tough and Universal: Stories of Grit, a partnership between WFPL and IDEAS xLab. A new story will be released every Friday through November 2; for more stories, click here.

Erica Peterson is WFPL's Director of News and Programming.