Strive for Progress, Not Perfection

Strive for Progress, Not Perfection

By: Maria L. Merritt

On a routine annual physical exam my doctor uttered the words, “you need to lose weight.”  My first thought was, “who is he talking to?  He couldn’t be referring to me.”  Those thought crossed my mind because I thought I was just “thick” and I was completely satisfied with the shape I was in. However, in the back of my mind I knew that I had not exercised on a regular basis for at least 4 years, I ate what I wanted, and even when I had time to work out, I still came up with excuses.  I was living a sedentary lifestyle full of immediate gratifications. But the consequences of my action were those indulgences were beginning to affect my health.  When that realization finally set it, I was not satisfied with reaching the heaviest weight I had been in my lifetime, wearing bigger clothes, and ultimately being frightened of stepping on the scale to face how unhealthy I had let myself become.

Needless to say, I had to get a grip on my health and lifestyle and I had to grab them with both hands.  The sense of urgency came from the fact that I come from an active family and I saw with my great-grandmother live to the age of 96 years old with very little health issues because she lived an active lifestyle.  As well as an Uncle that was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer, fight that cancer off through being physically active, eating well and making health and wellness a priority throughout his life.  On the other hand, I witnessed a cousin pass away at the age of 40 which was greatly attributed to living an unhealthy lifestyle in his short adult years.  Those are a few of the many examples I had in my own family that motivated me to start my journey; a journey for health, wellness, and longevity.  I knew that my health had to be a priority from that day forward. I was not making any more excuses and I was going to strive for progress and not perfection.

    Now that my mental state was in the right place, I had to get my physical state to follow.  My quest for a better me, lead me to a little gem of a boxing gym that was tucked off, hidden from the hustle and bustle of the city named Decatur Boxing Club.  There was something special about the energy of the gym as a whole.  The members were welcoming, the jazz music that was played was soothing, and there was an awareness that the members were there to reach a goal, whether it was fitness goals or the goal becoming a world champion.  I knew I was in the right place because I had gym memberships before and I had never felt the feeling of inclusion that I felt at Decatur Boxing Club; it is a club in every sense of the word.  I knew that I had found the right gym, with the right people to start my journey.

Maria sparring at Decatur Boxing Club

Fast forward almost three and a half years later.  I am down thirty pounds, in the best shape of my life, and grateful for the decision to finally make a sustainable lifestyle change and not go on yet another fad diet.  When I went back to the doctor the following year for my annual physical, the doctor looked at my chart and immediately asked, “What are you doing?”  At that point I was down 23 pounds and still determined to see more progress on my quest to live a healthy, active lifestyle.  I explained to him my new fitness regimen and I could not have been any more proud of myself for making a decision and sticking to it.

Now that I have reached my fitness goals and exceeded them, my new goal is to help others reach theirs. This means coming to the realization that we are in control of our minds and bodies and this quest for wellness is a marathon and not a sprint.  There are no magic pills, quick-fixes, or shortcuts to achieve the final goal, just commitment, determination, and consistency. There has to be a change in one’s mind that the process will not be easy but it will be worth it.  If we do not have health this directly affects the quality of life that we live.  With this realization also come with another which is no one is perfect.  There will be many days that you fall off the wagon and a cheat meal turns into a cheat week; good intentions to go to the gym turn binge watching your favorite TV show on the couch for hours.  But for those moments, we pick ourselves back, stop negative self-talk, get back on the wagon and understand that no one is perfect.  This is a process that has its ups and down. But as long as the goals that are set are reasonable and are consistent in those actions, anything is possible. Everyone is capable of living their best life through a healthy eating and an active lifestyle as long as we remember that we are striving for progress and not perfection.

Maria’s “Fight Like A Girl” class

Maria “Fight Like A Girl” classes are held on Saturdays at 9am at Decatur Boxing Club, 137 New St, Decatur, GA.

IG: @cincykid7



Written by Pearl Fils-Aime

I’m from Philly, Philly is a boxing town. It’s our number one sport. Heck, our wineos know how to box better than the average man, says Biggs.

Xavier Biggs is the owner and operator of the soulful and authentic Decatur Boxing Club, a fitness and boxing center located in Atlanta, GA. And I must say I am a proud member!

Biggs trained superstar singer, dancer and now actor Usher Raymond for the role of Sugar Ray in “Hands of Stone”. Biggs continues as Usher’s private trainer keeping him in peak condition for concert performances. Moreover, he trained Usher and his dancers for their World Tour, and Usher’s team on the popular NBC reality television singing competition, ‘The Voice’.

Usher and Biggs at Hands of Stone movie premiere.

My uncle was a boxer. He influenced my father to become a boxer in the Army. As a toddler, I can remember seeing gloves and a speed bag in the basement.

As kids, we would body box all day, then, late into the night, under the streetlamp. “You want a fair one” a kid would yell out, which indicated a street fight with boxing rules and an imaginary referee. Nowadays kids pull out guns.

I did not take boxing seriously early on. It wasn’t until my late teens, that I began training regularly with some of the best trainers a fighter could have: Jimmy Arthur, Qunizell McCall and Georgie Benton. Arthur and McCall were beloved by many of their fighters, and Benton went on to train Evander Holyfield, Joe Frazier and many more notable fighters.

Biggs amateur career was brief and he turned professional in the late 70’s. However, in the mid-1980s, Xavier traded a frustrating professional boxing career without a promoter for a once in a lifetime opportunity to assist his youngest brother, three-time world amateur boxing champion Tyrell, in his quest to be the first to receive the Olympic gold medal in boxing in the newly established superheavyweight division. That dream manifested at the 23rd Olympiad, 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, California.


1984 Olympic Boxing Team

As I progressed as a boxer, I learned that my real calling wasn’t fighting in the ring, yet, serving as a trainer. Everything I learned with Arthur, McCall and Benton, became the foundation of who I am today as a trainer.

Biggs training regime at Decatur Boxing Club include but not limited to Sugar Ray Rope Slap, shadowboxing, medicine ball work, bicycle crunch, reverse crunch, and bag work.

Boxing is a gentlemen’s sport.  The reason why they call it a gentlemen’s sport is because, it requires you to have real character to box someone.

Sugar Ray Robinson is the epitome of a gentleman. He was a fighter that possessed class, grace, and style. It was like watching a ballerina in the ring. I opened Decatur Boxing Club 14 years ago, and my training is based on Sugar Ray Robinson’s methodology.

I like training boxers that possess a beautiful spirit, and that want to be a positive example. I am not interested in training negative spirits, that are in it, just be a brutal ass kicker.

Jabs & Abs w/ DJ Nabs

Biggs also trains legendary DJ Nabs, who has recent started his own class at Decatur Boxing Club, entitled Jabs & Abs w/ DJ Nabs”.

What made you start your own class?

Well I’ve been promoting the boxing lifestyle since, I’ve been doing it, which has been about 7 years now. People would always ask me do I teach? And I would always say no, come to the gym. So eventually, there was an opening and I talked to Xavier Biggs, the owner, about doing the 11am class, and he allowed me to do it.

I am still a trainer in training, I consider myself, more of a person that inspires others, a motivator. I like to motivate people in the boxing ring, to be the best that they can be.

Have you grown in this new role?

Oh yes, definitely, because I think I am a really good student, in particular, anything that I love. And I have loved boxing since the moment I met Biggs here at 9pm at night, and he told me I had natural abilities. So when I watch others, I put myself in their shoes, I see the pain, the aggression, the struggle in their face, or I see confusion, and I try to alleviate that by giving them something to hold on to, whether it’s a story, a personal experience, or I tell them what I see in them, and I try to pull it out of them.

Producer/Recording Artist Sleepy Brown on Jabs & Abs with DJ Nabs

What brought you into the class?

I used to box in Las Vegas, and was looking for a new boxing home. Nabs and I worked in the music industry for years, and I saw that he was boxing.

How do you feel about the class?

I like the class. It’s not just boxing, we do a little some of everything. Nabs is a great instructor, shouts out to him. It is a challenge, otherwise, I would not be there. I most certainly recommend the class.

Producer/Recording Artist/Lecturer/Martial Artists Professor Griff on Jabs & Abs with DJ Nabs

What brought you into the class?

First of all, Nabs and I go way back. I got into a car accident in 2015 and damaged the nerves in my leg, subsequently it affected different parts of my body. I did acupuncture, reiki, I did all kinds of things, then I sat around trying to heal. I did aqua therapy, and some others things. I’ve always been a martial artist, so I told myself, I just got to work through the pain.

Then I saw “Jabs & Abs with DJ Nabs”, and I said what is Nabs doing, I never known him to be a boxer, I’ve always known him to be a DJ. So I ran into him, based on a post about a film we were in together. When I saw him, I said man, I need to get back in the gym, and he said, you know what I’m doing, and I said yes.

How do you feel about the class?

Surprisingly enough, I now understand what I put my students through. Nabs is a great instructor. He is very detailed oriented. He’s cool with it, he’s not over the top. He’s confident and wants to pass the information on to others.

Graduates of Jabs &Abs w/Nabs

A Lady Named Pearl on Boxing

I began training with Biggs in 2014. I came into the gym to improve my fitness, and gained an appreciation for the art of boxing, not to mention the wonderful Jazz music Biggs plays while working out. It is the best conditioning I have received, since becoming an athlete.

Moreover, I am thankful to DJ Nabs for improving my skills, while attending his class.

Boxing has tested my will, improved my cardio and rhythm, and has increased my self-confidence. The environment of the gym is amazing and has a very authentic feel. – A Lady Named Pearl

Check out more of this story in Pearl Magazine Winter Issue.

Photos of Pearl are courtesy of Anthony Gary.



Join us for Pearl School of Modeling 3 Year Anniversary! The event will feature a fashion show featuring various designers, live performances, and the honoring of Stacey Eames, owner of Highland Bakery, and Drexina Nelson, owner of The Society Studios with the “Pearl of Excellence” Award.

The school’s mission is to shape the confidence of girls through modeling, leadership and entrepreneurship!

Date: Sunday, November 12, 2017

Time: 3pm to 5pm

Location: Legacy Park Garden, 5616 Memorial Drive, Stone Mountain, GA


Adv: $15, Door: $20

Interested in vending? Register at




Pearl Family receive 50% discount off ticket prices for end of the semester show.

Limit 4



Saturday, June 10th, 2017

6th Annual IWI Fresh Green Party

Location: 341 Nelson St, Atlanta, GA 30307

Time: 5pm to 9pm


Saturday, June 17th, 2017

Kindness Rules Anti-Bullying Fashion Show

Location: Galley 992, 992 Ralph David Abernathy Blvd, Atlanta, GA

Time: 5pm to 7pm



Sunday, June 25, 2017

Teen Pearl Magazine Launch

Location: 1530 Dekalb Ave, Atlanta, GA 30307

Time: 3pm to 5pm




Sunday, March 12, 2017, 3pm to 5pm


180 Northside Dr SW, Atlanta, GA 30313

Please make payment no later than Thursday, March 9th at 12 noon.

Plate Includes: Drink, Salad, Meal, Dessert

$15.00 + tax + gratuity







Pearl School of Modeling

Sept 17 – Modeling Workshop (Ages 18 & up)


De'Anna Liz - The Naked Campaign

De’Anna Liz – The Naked Campaign

A Lady Named Pearl’s Leadership Academy is very proud of our student De’Anna Liz.

De’Anna is the founder and creator of “The Naked Campaign”, a mental health awareness campaign. In this photo, De’Anna utilizes modeling, art, and poetry to express her emotions regarding her experience being raped.

De’Anna explains “The reason why I decided to make the Naked Campaign is so that I could break my silence.  I was hurting, and I did not know how to let go, so I cut myself constantly, so I could feel. There were times when I felt too much, and times, when I didn’t feel at all, I was numb.”

1 out of 3 women experience some form of sexual abuse.

*Effects of Rape Victims of sexual assault are:

3 times more likely to suffer from depression.
6 times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
13 times more likely to abuse alcohol.
26 times more likely to abuse drugs.
4 times more likely to contemplate suicide.

De’Anna’s plea:
Break your silence, become naked (vulnerable). What’s your story. Share it, email it to to be featured on the website and social outlets.

*Statistics provided by Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network


Casting Call

Photographer Geeno Mizelli is having a casting call today for a fashion show from 1pm to 4pm at Kisses Works Studios 650 Hamilton Ave, Atlanta, GA 30312. Female 5’5 + Size 4, 6, 8



health-benefits-of-gardening-infographicA Lady Named Pearl, LLC recently invested in a plot of land to garden from Market Garden located in College Park, GA. Our goal is to expose our students of our academy to growing their own herbs, fruits and vegetables. Look for updates on the progress of our garden and tips in upcoming newsletters.

Benefits to Gardening

  • Stress Relief
  • Better Mental Health
  • Exercise
  • Brain Health
  • Nutrition