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Tribal executive hopes to motivate others with weight loss story

HOLLYWOOD — Like a lot of Seminole Tribe employees, Tena Granit has built up some longevity.

She was single and in her 20s when she started working in finance for the Tribe in April of 2000.

Fast forward and she has years of experience and has climbed the ladder to be the executive director of finance – a role she’s had since Jan. 2016.

She’s also married now – to a police detective. And she’s the mother of a 10-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son.

Granit said she’s been overweight much of her life, but in was in her late 20s that she was heavier than she’d ever been: 313 pounds.

That’s when she tried Weight Watchers, which has recently rebranded itself to “WW.”

The company offers its customers various products and strategies to help achieve healthy habits, including losing weight and keeping it off.

The program worked for her then – she was able get down to 247 pounds. Granit was feeling good about herself and the prospect of losing more weight. But that was the time of marriage and children.

“And the weight creeps back up,” Granit said. She gained 70 pounds from her first pregnancy.

Tena Granit was 313 pounds at her heaviest. (Courtesy Photo)
She is pictured at right in her office at Tribal Headquarters in August 2019 at 140 pounds. (Photo Damon Scott)

After some time past, things at work got particularly stressful and she found herself grappling with a serious weight problem again – not back at 313, but fully 100 pounds overweight.

In Nov. 2016, she ended up in the emergency room with an elevated heart rate thinking she was having a heart attack.

“It was later determined it was probably a panic attack, but nonetheless, my blood pressure had gotten extremely high, I had to be put on blood pressure medication,” Granit said. “I thought to myself, I have two young children, I’ve got to get this under control.”

She’d tried Weight Watchers before and knew that it worked for her, so she decided to start it again in Jan. 2017.

She hit a three month “bump in the road” after a family vacation the following summer, but decided then to really focus on the program that November.

Weight Watchers had begun to offer a “Freestyle” program – among other features it allows for a wider range of food options using its point system. Granit said it resonated with her.

“It’s really just about eating healthier, not promoting chemical laden foods, or sugar free foods,” Granit said.

She fully embraced the concept. Granit had a target weight in mind at the time: 160. She reached that goal in Nov. 2018.

Granit’s still losing weight and began exercising more in the summer of 2018 – including group fitness classes at 5:15 a.m. every day before work.

Weight Watchers sets a “healthy weight range” for clients based on height, age and other factors. Granit’s top range was 146, so she decided she’d be happy with 150.

She reached 150 and her program leader told her to try for 149, just so she’d achieve being in the 140s.

She not only reached 149, but kept going and got to 146 on May 5. She’s even lost a few pounds since then – she’s currently at 140.

“To me it’s the easiest program, you’re not restricted as to, oh, I can’t go out to eat with my family or I can’t go have an ice cream with my kids,” Granit said. “Whereas some of these other diet programs say you can’t eat carbs or you have to eat their frozen meals.”

In May of last year, Granit, now 46, got off her blood pressure medication.

She completed her first half marathon in Fort Lauderdale earlier this year.

She credits her success on the program and her increased exercise, not only for the weight loss and improved health, but also in keeping the weight off.

“I think weight training is especially important for women to help fight off osteoporosis. And the more muscle mass you gain the higher the metabolism gets. When you’ve been heavy your whole life your metabolism is shot. I’ve been able to repair my metabolism through exercising, building muscle and eating,” Granit said.

She said that women, especially, tend to put everybody else first in life before themselves – kids, family – but that women should realize they have to take care of themselves in order to take care of others effectively.

It’s a lifestyle change now, she said. Things feel different.

“I look at food completely different now. I look at it for what it can do to fuel me, fuel my workout, fuel my day. If I want something, I’ll have a bite or two of it, I don’t need to eat the whole thing, I don’t need to eat three of them,” Granit said.

Even though work can still be stressful, Granit feels more at ease with herself and with her life.

“If I can be here for another 40 years, I want them to be 40 good years. I want to be able to travel and see the world and I don’t’ want to see it from a wheelchair or with oxygen.”

Besides leading by example, Granit hopes others will find her story inspiring on some level.

“If I can touch three or four lives … you don’t have to lose 100 pounds, but focus on eating healthier, focus on moving some more, a little bit at a time. If you lose 20 pounds, you’re better off than you were 20 pounds ago, and if you have a lot to lose, don’t look at the big number, take it five pounds at a time. Know that you can do it. Anybody can do it.”

Granit’s husband recently decided to go on the program. He lost 25 pounds in less than a year.

Editor’s note: Consult a physician before starting an exercise regimen or nutrition program.

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Damon Scott
Damon is a staff reporter for The Seminole Tribune. Prior to moving to Florida, he was a reporter and editor for print and digital publications in his home state of New Mexico. When Damon’s not working on a story, you’ll probably find him at a hot yoga class or splashing around on some South Florida beach. Send him an email at damonscott@semtribe.com.
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