She returned to her empty room; something had changed. The peace and inner, cosy sanctuary no longer felt peaceful. The walls closed in on her. She stood teary eyed, glum and swollen, looked in the mirror and suddenly saw what the world saw, “HUGE, FAT, UGLY, GROTESQUELY, OBESE”. 28 years later, she finally saw the truth.
She saw herself completely from the outside, her smile, her personality; nothing mattered, the outside is what matters. ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’, yet she felt far from beautiful, beautiful was a word she suddenly scorned. Her insides began to crumble and crush slowly, inside she hated herself, hated what she had done to herself, and hated her skin, felt repugnance and disgust for the obese monster she had become. She allowed her life to derail and pass her by. She allowed herself to create a pumpkin monster and be content with what she created. She became her own worst nightmare, her own inner Frankenstein emerged, the “pumpkinstein”.
Her hair lay limp on either sides, her emotions became volcanic and she was now alone, afraid, desperate and no longer in control. She broke into pieces; the bubbly brave strong overtly dramatic and flamboyant girl no longer existed. She was deathly with emotions and allowed them to crush like tsunami waves through her.
She was rock bottom and reached the pit of low. She allowed this hatred and the feelings to consume her. She snapped like a rag doll and burst overwhelmed with pain, self pity and disgust…
But through the misery she emerged again and started her new journey, a journey of finding herself…
HOW IT BEGAN- MY COLOURFUL, FUN BACKGROUND
We all have a story to tell, where it all began, what changed and where we were headed, when you sit down and think about it, you may actually amaze yourself that you have a “story and a journey and this is mine…”
Being the middle child in a family of 5, you automatically have ‘middle child syndrome’. From being an undernourished, undersized baby that made child birth easy for my mother as I just “slipped out” to suddenly overgrowing and becoming the overnourished ‘fat child’. I went from being plump, to becoming fat to being “obese.” The use of the word obese makes me shudder and I’m horrified, yet it’s the truth. I grew exponentially like James and the Giant Peach. Did it matter? Of course it did, I was slower, couldn’t run.The world perceives a fat person as somewhat abnormal. Did it stop me though? No, I was always brave, adventurous and never afraid to try or compete even if it meant coming out last in a sports run.
BECOMING A GUINEA PIG…
My mother was alarmed when I suddenly became fatter, especially in my teenage years and a delayed period suddenly meant visiting “vampires”; yes, tons of doctors, nurses doing an array of blood tests. And so it started, my visits to hospitals and doctors and various specialists for thyroid tests, visiting ENT specialists, to eventually being diagnosed with Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome. At 16, it didn’t matter much nor did the impact of having PCOS affect me – all it did was explain the imbalances and the extra hair growth. Not only did I rapidly increase in size and weight but I became a hairy little baby bear with a pumpkin tummy. I also suddenly started getting discolouration around my neck, it was one of the hardest and most embarrassing situations to deal with, it looked like dirt! I remember my mother scrubbing me with a brush and JIK and OMO, assuming it was dirt and grime on my neck. It was not dirt. We later found out that it was a condition called hirsutism – this explained the dark neck and the excessive body and facial hair, it was extreme at some stages. All this being linked to PCOS. As a young girl having to deal with this was both embarrassing and heartbreaking, waxing and threading often left me pink and blue, you have no control over it except grooming which costs a lot of money. Yet despite the awkward embarrassing moments it never stopped me from living or creating an identity for myself.
I just gave up caring, I adopted a nonchalant attitude about everything happening to me and my body, the ordeals of having to wait at hospitals to have blood tests constantly done made me feel nothing but a guinea pig. I was fat, so what? Life carried on I had more important things to stress about like school and exams. I never lived in a shell, never allowed being fat to control and dictate my life, yet I lived in the safety of my so called fat bubble if that makes any sense, the paradox of it.
EMERGENCE OF A NEW RELATIONSHIP
I come from a typical Indian family. My parents owned shops, tuck-shops and later started their own catering business. I come from a family of great cooks, and my brother is a qualified chef. Food is something that is in abundance in my house and so is all the junk food like soft drinks, chips, chocolates & sweets. I always had free lunch at school because my parents ran the school tuck-shop (free chip burgers, pies, chips and coke, Santa didn’t need to visit me as I didn’t need an allowance for school). If not free junk food, I always had delicious Indian curries and rice easily available.
My relationship with food, yes I was in a relationship with food, was nothing short of being a sordid affair. Food was comfort, anything that happened or went wrong I turned to food. Eating kept me happy and being fat provided a safety net that kept me sheltered and protected from the world (or so I thought). My cure for any problem or situation was a large packet of chips; food would solve all the emotional problems; whenever I was bored, I was hungry and would eat. Eating also solved boredom. My family call me Yajoo Pie (YP), pies were my favourite snack. I am a savoury person – pies, chips, samosas = complete carb addict. I did start looking like a round, fat pie. I was a spasmodic, any time of the day kind of eater, yet when I ate I would munch down a pie, have a Cream Soda and be happy. If I skipped a meal I replaced it with chips, some days I could eat 12 slices of bread!
The journey to becoming sick and diabetic…
The food relationship was not a healthy one and like some relationships, it turned sour. I always excelled academically, being fat never deterred me from making a noise or airing my views. From doing Speech and Drama as an extra subject at school to being in a courtroom and speaking before a magistrate or Judge, being fat doesn’t stop me from living or being myself. I tried many diets, many plans never lasted. My lack of willpower and the results I did see were never enough to keep me motivated to continue.
Life got harder and more stressful as I grew older; university suddenly became a place that made me acutely conscious of being fat and not fitting the norm and not being “pretty” in terms of societal norms. I was an “ugly, over-grown 21 year old”. It was easy for me to describe myself as ugly to avoid me assuming people thought I was ugly. Being fat meant I was ugly in my mind. I was often faced with comments like: “You’re so beautiful, you have lovely features, your face is so pretty, only lose some tummy weight”. Ugh, it annoyed me, the rest of me made me ugly and abnormal.
2009 marked a turning point in my life as I got very sick, fatally sick. After being rushed to hospital, the humour of having a nurse assume I was pregnant as I waited for the doctor as I was vomiting out bile. The moment is entrenched in my mind as I awaited the gynaecologist and I was asked how many months pregnant I was. I was not pregnant, I felt I was dying.
Suffice to say my medical emergency didn’t require the expertise of a gynaecologist after numerous specialists and tests including cancer tests, I was admitted into hospital and diagnosed with acute pancreatitis. It sounded French to me! The pancreas is a small leaf-like organ in our bodies, the tiny little bugger is deadly! When inflamed, it can explode and spread acid, toxins and bile through your body which can prove to be fatal. That was the nutshell version, my young mind just registered I’m in pain and I am going to die. Treatment for this is relatively difficult as there’s nothing tangible that can be done except wait for the inflammation to reduce and monitor the pain. I was nil per mouth for 2 weeks not even allowed water and every morphine, pain killer and derivative was administered.
I was lifeless and in intense pain. The pain was so bad I wished death upon myself, at night I would cry and hope to die because I couldn’t bear the pain. I would get a shot of morphine and a sleeping tablet at the same time, my next dose of morphine was 8 hours later. I would hide the sleeping tablets because after 3 hours the morphine would wear out and then pop my sleeping pills. Doctors told me I was brave and that childbirth would be easy for me after surviving this because some consider to be the worst pain you could experience. All the extreme medication led to my kidneys acting up, so the dosages were reduced. Death honestly felt like an easier option, until I saw the fear across my parents’ faces.
Specialists were unable to pinpoint exactly the cause of the inflammation as I was not an alcoholic and did not smoke. Miraculously, I was stronger than my pancreas and my mother’s prayers found me surviving a near death episode. Doctors highlighted how deadly this condition was and how lucky I was, but reminded me that I needed to be careful and cautious.
The pancreas controls insulin production, and so, after this incident – new issues arose in my body.
Our bodies are an ecosystem, everything is linked – and after my illness, my pancreas created new problems for me. Insulin is a hormone that helps to regulate blood sugar levels by assisting the transport of glucose from the blood into neighbouring cells. My body was haywire, my sugar levels were extremely high and my pancreas was not functioning correctly.
I’m was suddenly diagnosed as diabetic & being prescribed medication to deal with diabetes, I was very confused. Yes, being diabetic can also be hereditary – my maternal granddad had it and my mother is diabetic. I guess the genes were passed on to me, and the pancreas issues did not help.
I almost died and survived, that is mostly what I held on to. I came out of hospital 10kgs lighter and looking tired and sick, with bags under my eyes and my hair almost all gone, bathing was traumatic as chunks of hair fell out. Ironically, my thick, black hair was one of my best features and I no longer had that.
Almost dying meant missing exams, changing degrees, trying to find a balance and going back to old, ugly bad habits of eating. Every diet in the world seemed to work for the first month and fizzle out thereafter. Various dieticians and doctors seemed more work than anything and just really drove me nuts. It was a constant tug of war and battle. This was truly a battle that I had no energy or courage to fight. It was easier to be ignorant to the mammoth, unhealthy issues and lifestyle problems that I allowed myself to live with. I was on various medications. I didn’t make the effort to fully understand my condition and how to control it or prevent future occurrences.
A repeated story.
In 2013, I started experiencing severe tummy pains again; the sharp pain was not unknown to me. I decided to starve myself and pop strong painkillers, and my own self diagnosed nil per mouth treatments. This was to stop me from going to hospital again, I didn’t wish to burden my parents with a huge bill yet again. My family does not have medical aid (my dad doesn’t believe in them) so, this meant my 2009 private hospital ‘holiday’ truly cost an arm and a leg. This for me was not something I could allow again. The silly idea of self medication and over-dosing on anti-inflammatories worsened my situation until my sister discovered that I was experiencing the same pains and made my brother rush me to hospital again.
It was slightly easier this time instead of being a guinea pig having doctors test me, I was self diagnosing and told them check my pancreas – this meant I was able to immediately see my previous specialists and surgeons. This time round the inflammation was more complicated as the pain was now also linked to stones and the stones were moving into the pancreatic duct. The main task was to protect my pancreas and not have more pressure on it. The stones caused a huge risk and doctors decided the gallbladder is an organ you can survive without, so they elected to remove it.
The removal of my gallbladder added further complication as the digestion of fatty foods becomes more difficult and can lead to some digestion issues.
When the gallbladder is removed, the body struggles to digest fat and can go into starvation mode. I was advised to avoid hot, oily food, being Indian this is like saying can’t eat food! My palette couldn’t even handle the thought of mild flavoured food, let alone grasp that I needed to adjust in order to be healthier.
I was honestly flabbergasted, tired and frustrated, and so over attempting to even understand my body anymore. I was now diabetic, barely understanding my conditions, having to take 4x 500mg of glucophage tablets per day, uncontrolled sugar levels and bad eating habits – all a walking recipe for disaster. My sugar levels ranged from 12 to 24.
Not caring enough became a norm and one issue triggered the next and it was hard. Being hard meant I gave up trying purely because my mindset believed I couldn’t change myself. My stamina and zest to live a healthier life just died, I was fighting a losing a battle and my health no longer took priority, focusing on my studies and my career triumphed.
Life happened and continued, I was happy, or so I told myself.
Beginning of The changes.
In December 2015, I was in the Drakensberg with my family and I agreed to go on a canopy tour. I read the guide it said 10 slides – in my head I said surely I can sit some out? Well, I was mistaken! Once you’re up on the mountain there is no way down but sliding through all slides, like a monkey from tree to tree. I got stuck on one slide, I couldn’t see the ground below! This was not the worst bit, in order to escape and end the tour you needed to hike out. This suddenly made me see how unfit and unhealthy I was, huffing and puffing and barely managing to walk out of the mountains.
I’m never fearful of death as I believe we all will die, we just don’t know when.
Death became so much more real after we lost our gran to cancer and I became so much more conscious of people around me, two close family members went for gastric bypass surgeries so it was hot topic around dinner and all eyes were on me. I didn’t wish to die any longer as I didn’t wish to have my mother experience the loss of losing a child. In my head it became my mantra – someday I would go for a gastric bypass. A gastric bypass was my answer, was something that I considered at the back of my mind, it will be the magic that saved me like those documentaries on TV.
The mental melt down!!!
Come March 2016, I went through a mental breakdown. It took a stranger telling me that I was not what they expected, that I was beautiful but… Do something about yourself Yaj. I was strong, I always knew I was fat, but the disappointment and the disgust I suddenly felt could not be explained. Loath and disgust are feelings I now developed. I could no longer look in the mirror as I suddenly saw what I allowed to happen to myself. My health spiralled and I never tried wholeheartedly to help myself. The reality of never wanting to ever experience these feelings again hit me like a ton of bricks, it was stomach-churning. I was unable to face the person I had become.
I was content, lived a farce of happiness and lied to myself that it was okay being fat. I began to hate myself. I hated myself so much that it hurt. I couldn’t face myself. I wanted to sell my car so I could have money for a bypass, I went crazy! I asked my mother was she had an ugly child and her response was that I was not ugly and she did not have an ugly child. If I felt my fat was making me ugly change it.
My world shattered in that month from being called beautiful, having someone tell me they adore and love me always protecting me no matter what, to suddenly having someone being so brutally honest and making me feel so huge and fat, it was a shock. I was always fat, I always had amazing friends, I went with the flow and never felt odd for being fat, never felt left out. I was protected, even my best friend protected me, and logic and reasoning protect me. A stranger shocked me to my core; I was always accepted for me. The harsh, honest truth was a bitter pill to swallow. In the interim I was barely hanging on emotionally and I was ready for a bypass to help me become “thin and beautiful”. To me, beauty meant being thinner. I hated myself so much, it didn’t matter that I had 2 degrees, that I was an independent, young attorney. It only mattered that my life had spiralled out of control and at 28 years old, the reality hit me hard. As much as I want to paint the “stranger guy” in my story as a horrible person, he isn’t. I’ve finally made peace with it, he pushed me over the edge to see the truth in my exterior as unhealthy as that emotional truth was and is. A catalyst materialised as I saw the blatant truth of how far gone I was into being unhealthy.
The REAL change…
I went from being broken to hating myself to slowly pulling myself out of the dark hole I created.
My first encounter on Sleekgeek was one that was met with scepticism. I was introduced to the page by my sister, after I joined I became an avid reader. I was gobsmacked by the transformations – some nothing short of amazing miracles, but how was this possible without medical assistance and operations? I could not fathom how losing 30kgs, 50kgs, 75kgs was even possible.
My initial reaction was that Sleekgeek was a gimmick, my lawyer instincts kicked in and I began hunting for the fine print saying SIGN UP NOW AND PAY MONTHLY, I found nothing, I looked through pages and always came up with nothing. Fat people are vulnerable, we will buy any product with the hope of magic happening and working – this is the sad truth.
THE REBOOT – THE KICK THAT CHANGED ME
I have been a member of a gym for the past 6 years, paying almost R600 per month and went maybe 10 times a year. I slowly started reading about the Sleekgeek REBOOT, it piqued my interest, even though I was Miss Sceptical and still waited for the catch, but it wasn’t there. I got braver, started asking people on their posts if they had operations and the replies made me go, “wow” and yet I was hesitant and sceptical.
The impossible becomes possible when you read the stories. Sleekgeek was larger than life. I still wanted a bypass (my mind was convinced that nothing else could help change me). I was in line, ready and amping myself mentally for it, and I would truly have sold my soul for a Gastric Bypass. I needed my family to believe I was serious about it; yes, the cost factor played a huge role and was a spanner in the works for my quick fix. A close friend even saw my desperation and offered to help me pay for a bypass. I couldn’t accept it.
I was hesitant and fearful and I silently looked for the catch with Sleekgeek until I saw pictures of Anthea Combrinck. Something about her stories and posts touched me. Her warmth radiated through and I began to admire her. The realism attached to her, she was not some super fit model trying to sell you something, she was just brave enough to share her journey. It then dawned upon me these are real people, real South Africans with real issues and similar fears, facing problems and making the effort to change their lives. I visited the Sleekgeek page more often, as I became a voyeur and observed. A random, vibrant post caught my attention – a girl wanted to do reboot for 100 days and start a Whatsapp support group. I had nothing to lose. Here enters this crazy girl wanting to dive into 100day. Linda, her idea and group marked the start of my changes.
I later realised there was nothing for sale here except a lifestyle, a ray of hope that life can change if you want it to change, if you’re willing to take that first step. I slowly allowed my mind to convert as I was amazed by all the stories shared. Mentally preparing to start Reboot was hard, as on Reboot there are no sugar and no carbs. My journey began in May 2016 and it was daunting. So, I did what I could the best way I could. I ate meals prepared by my mother – yummy, tasty curries, but I skipped the portion of rice, roti or bread and substituted it with salad.
Prior to my pancreas issues I weighed a whopping 130kgs, a real overgrown pumpkin. I managed to lose 15kgs through the years but nothing more. I never tried hard enough and that’s the honest truth.
Rebooting and 100days support group.
On the 20th of June 2016 I started my reboot, V1D1, my first ever attempt. Taking the first step was scary – following the 3 coloured lists seemed scary, no carbs! I would be going from 12 slices of bread, pies and chips and soft drinks, to nothing.
The first week felt like hell – headaches and that feeling that I was never going to be able to complete this. The support on the group was amazing, they helped me every day and it got easier, saying no to scary food when you weren’t home was the hard part. Every time I felt tempted I had to talk myself out of it. Magic started to happen and the kgs started melting away. I weighed 115kgs in May 2016. On the 20th June 2016 when I started Reboot I officially weighed 109kgs, so by just cutting out carbs and hardly any exercise I had already lost. In my head, I wanted to lose to go for a bypass. I suddenly started to visit the gym more regularly along with eating healthier. I could barely walk on the treadmill or do the stepper; these still hurt and took every ounce of energy out of me. I went for medicals and my results horrified me, my bone weight was 4.8kgs, this was beyond comprehension – that meant most of me was made up of fat.
I needed this change to happen. I needed a bypass or I was going to die. I started focusing more on myself and my eating; consciously having to say no. This was greeted with stares from people and they often tried to derail me by saying it’s only one and not like eating healthy today will change how you look. Major reality check when you accept that people can be negative and you have to be stronger than the crowd. I started wanting this change so badly and wanted myself to be healthier and better.
The most euphoric feeling was on the 26th of July – I hit double digits! Before the end of July I went from 109 to 99.6. It was the most amazing feeling ever. I started visiting gym more regularly; I was a clueless chicken with regards to exercises so I got myself a personal trainer once a week. My trainer at gym jumped for joy with me saying she won’t let me give up and it’s no longer about losing 10kgs. She is very against operations; she believed more in me than I believed in myself. I would often roll my eyes at her, I couldn’t possibly lose all this weight without a bypass. I couldn’t believe it – I haven’t weighed double digits in the past 15 years, it was an euphoric feeling and I felt like a little super woman. The reality of what just happened hit me like a ton of bricks – I hit double digits on my own without medical or surgical intervention. For a big girl, this was a feeling of liberation and accomplishment. I did not want to stop, I wanted to do this, I needed to do this, I started believing in myself more.
I finished my 2nd Reboot at 97kgs and then felt stuck. I asked for help from an online coach and thereafter moved slightly on the scale. The rut was over and then I took another plunge and I signed up to the Ultimate You Challenge.
Here I am…I have lost 45kgs officially and since I started Sleeking in May 2016, 30kgs later.
|STATS WHEN I STARTED||STATS NOW|
|BODY % FAT||50.04%||43%|
|BMI||46.07 (morbidly obese)||34.13 (obese)|
|BONE WEIGHT||4.8kgs||No idea (should be same I assume)|
|SUGAR LEVELS||Average of 12-15/ reaching 23/24||Average of 5/6|
WHAT THIS MEANS FOR ME
For me, it started off as a journey of changing the exterior and I started finding myself and my own spark. It’s still so hard, most days I still see the fat girl in the mirror until people around me start comparing pictures. It is priceless when people ask what happened to the rest of me! However, rather annoying when people constantly want to know my weight – my journey is not defined by my scale any longer, I have found myself again when I almost gave up completely.
It’s a long, difficult journey. 6 months later, I’ve just begun. I’m no longer a bypass candidate; I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry about this. My goal is for the pumpkin Yaj to become a butternut, I’m far from it. My goal posts have changed, I have changed. Sleekgeek has given me a new meaning in my life, it has allowed me to wake up, stop procrastinating and to believe in the impossible. I can say honestly, to the sceptics – Sleekgeek has changed my life.
- Shop and prepare, if you don’t you will cave for the unhealthier options.
- Go to family functions with your lunch box or snacks if you know they won’t have food. This is awkward at first and people will try and convince you that it’s only one, you won’t get fatter or thinner with one roti or one burger. Don’t listen, it takes you 10 steps back. Please ignore such negativity and don’t fall off track.
- Be stronger than your cravings (I’m still learning how to cope, I have food around me all day especially at home and weekends, I smell it in and smile and say No).
Say no, it’s the hardest thing to do but you get better at it.
- Experiment with food and recipes – substitute and make your own magic, pretty food.
- Always have an apple/nuts in your bag – it saves you when you’re having a bad day at work or when you feel you’re going to crush (yes, it’s still using food as crutch but it’s a better option to eat an apple vs. a burger or chocolate)
- Lots of water and green tea- down it if you don’t enjoy it.
- Try exercising as much as you can. Do the little things (show up!) – this is harder than one may believe, waking up at 6am to exercise is daunting, but slow attempts. I still can’t do a crunch or a full sit up, but I will get there.
- Stop being afraid of the gym. As intimidating as the place appears, I have gained the most support from strangers who encourage me and have noticed my dedication and my body changes. It’s an emotional journey, until you get over it and you start doing it. Stop worrying about how funny or silly you may look – you might be driving someone else to look and admire you.
- When I first started exercises and weights, my reaction was…What? Why are you taking me to the weight section, I am a fat girl there’s hot guys there, I want to lose my tummy not gain muscle, nor do I want to be the comedy show at gym. Those very guys now ask me what pills I am on? Or congratulate me on the weightloss.
- Try the impossible, brave the weight section, try new things, find things you love.
Bicep curls and burpees may break my bones but salads and squats excite me – my new gym mantra.
SUPPORT IS IMPORTANT
This journey is difficult and long. As much as it’s my journey and I alone understand the extremes and the problems, people slowly change around you once you change, once they see the changes they become more accepting and supportive. It’s my journey, yet I do believe support is important. I am thankful for my mother who has come to the party and offered me support and believes I don’t need a bypass and can do this. She has been my best friend and will always be my number one fan and pivotal in helping me through this. She is my rock.
Being a young, unmarried Indian girl is daunting. We’re faced with our often narrow minded society and traditional archaic thoughts. Being fat has a stigma that makes you unattractive and we just have to live with it. Even though we’re brought up being fed curry and rice for breakfast, we’re supposed to look like Bollywood stars. Accept yourself for who you are and find a happy place and be willing to learn and change, change for yourself.
My story is not a success or a transformation story. I’m only starting, I am a newbie. I’m transforming everyday, I learn and grow. I went from a scared girl who hid in pictures to finding myself again, finding my niche. Confidence suddenly comes as you continue on this journey, I can’t fully see the changes the world sees. In my mind I’m still fat but I’m getting there. We only have one life, we all try, we all have a breaking point and I found mine and I’m now changing. I’m thankful for all the friends I’ve met along the way, all the support. Someday I will be a success transformation, for now I am transforming. I have never owned a real pair of jeans, my tummy has always been so large, being short and round with a small bum and smaller legs means finding jeans that fit is near impossible. When I lost my first 10kgs I told my bestie to please buy me a pair next year June for my birthday. I gave myself a year to fit into jeans.
This happened before the year was up, my window shopping adventures became exciting when I tried on a pair many sizes smaller than my normal size. My excitement didn’t stop there – I rushed over to another store and grabbed 6 different brands, I landed up laughing and crying in the change room and suddenly saw a real change in me. I’m now 29 and I was able to finally understand why girls complain about different jeans and brands and the different cuts and sizes. Yes, I suddenly have a bum that you can see in a pair of jeans. The feelings are indescribable.
Wake up, show up, start believing and trying – you never know what magic you possess within yourself and never give up. Some days I want curl up into a ball and give up, especially when I am at a plateau and don’t lose weight no matter how hard I try. But I pause and myself snap out of it.
Sleekgeek is my one peaceful place and it has truly helped me change myself and my life. Get as much support as you can get – trainers, coaches, friends, and family because the journey is a hard, long and emotional one that only you do but having the support never lets you falter.
My only hope is to never let myself down again and love myself fully for just being me because Yaj is not perfect, she is finding herself and the superhero within.
I’m a superhero, my own superhero. As a wise woman says, you are worthy, yes I am worthy.- and so are you!
Good luck on your journey!