Barbara Louw made health changes after a personal tragedy

barbara-main

At my heaviest, I weighed over 153 kg. Not sure how much over, as the scale couldn’t read higher than that and just screamed out ERROR. So I just stopped getting onto scales. I repeatedly gained and lost weight over the years, I experimented with weight loss programs and within six months to a year of starting a diet, I returned to my bad eating habits and gained the weight back plus more. Much more.

I have now lost a total of 37kgs. 

My life as a teenager was a quiet, hidden one – The bigger you are the less you are noticed, so I made sure I remained a shadow.  Every year in high school I gained at least 10kg. Standard 6 I weighed in the 60’s, Std 7 – 70’s, etc…  Until in my last school year I got to attend my matric ball ALONE weighing 102kgs.

I ate myself into despair, only size 5XL men’s T-shirts would fit me and I poured myself into pants sized 28-32.  My overall health was alright though, although my GP at the time informed me that I would not be able to have children, as I am too overweight.

I knew I needed to make a change, but even that unexpected news didn’t seem to steer me in the right direction. I begged her for fertility tablets, as all my life I had wanted twin boys. She refused and insisted I go for tests and at least ‘try’ for a year or so… (But Mother Nature had other plans. My twin boys are aged 5 now. )

After the pregnancy, I continued my path of being a highly successful yo-yo dieter. I was simply unsuccessful in feeling inspired and in maintaining any loss, long-term.

It took a life altering event to get me motivated.

October 2016 my brother was getting married.  Weddings mean plenty of photos….and I took up most of the space on a photo. I needed to look my best and decided to enter the 2016 Summer Sleekgeek 8-Week  Challenge. (Because in your head you think you know how it works.. you diet for a few days and instantly you become a model and your world falls into place)

Two weeks of excellent focus and determination and exercise and correct eating later… and I still took up most of the photo space. But that was okay. I felt good and knew I had lost plenty of kilos in that short while.

But nobody noticed. You have to understand something about large people. You need to lose about a van load’s worth of butter/fat before anybody notices any weight loss. It hurts. You work hard but you don’t get that feeling of accomplishment. You need the recognition.

Another 2 weeks and my brother returned from honeymoon. – It was my birthday and 10am he called to wish me and I took the opportunity to ask him all about his time away. They always did so much and went to so many places, so I was keen to hear all. He got to do what I could only dream of.

He kept telling me that I need to live. Life is too short to let your weight rule your life. What an odd thing to say. He kept telling me how I hide away and I don’t get to live, all because I’m so big.  In the back of my mind I was thinking of how proud he would be of me. I had entered this challenge and I was rocking it! I decided to keep it a secret so that the next time we meet up for a visit he could see the change in me and my body, without me having pointed it out.

My brother died later that day. On the same day he told me to live. On my Birthday.

Since then I have been determined to lose the kilos.

Grieving is quite an effective way to lose weight…  The pain takes a grip around your body and there is no way that life will ever be the same. I couldn’t bear the feeling of fullness, the feeling of rubbish going into my body. I needed to make him see that I was doing something about my weight.

Since that Sleekgeek 8-Week Challenge end of last year, I have entered another two. I used it as my tool for progress. I put on blinkers and gain an incredible amount of focus. It gives me the excitement of sharing goals and meal plans and so much more when competing with a team. I make friends who share my pain and the difficulties that go hand in hand with being morbidly obese.

This is still very much the beginning of my journey and I have yet to perfect my eating habits. I see all food as evil and it holds a lot of power over me. I believe in baby steps so I am tip-toeing my journey and learning what I can along the way.

I placed second in the Ladies Weight-Loss category of Winter 2017 Sleekgeek 8-Week Challenge losing 21.6kgs. She also walked together with Hermien Elago walked away with the Buddy Challenge award that Challenge. 

[Would you like change? Get more info on our next Sleekgeek 8-Week Challenge here

 

Some advice I can offer:

  1. Be Patient

Losing weight takes time, especially if it’s a lot of weight.. It’s hard to look at yourself in the mirror everyday and not see major changes. This isn’t a race. If you’re going to be successful in your weightloss journey you have to realise it’s going to take time.  It doesn’t matter how long you take to lose a kilo or just a few grams, don’t focus on that big number. Really, just take it one day at a time..

Every night before I go sleep, I just think of what actions I needed to take that day. Did I do my best?  Every day is a new opportunity to try again and although I wake up with good intent, it doesn’t automatically translate to everything working out like I had planned. Thankfully that despite my failures, I have not given up.

  1. Give a little gain a lot

To lose the weight it meant sacrificing the things I wanted. I gave up chips and chocolates; I gave up fast food and junk food. I gave up my tiny bit of free time to exercise.

I made a point of not only focusing on what I had to give up. It was important for me to focus on the ‘why’ behind what I’m doing. When it comes to weight loss, the reasons why you are doing it, is critical. I wanted a long healthy life; to be there for my husband and kids. I didn’t want to end up having a stroke or heart attack at my age. Your ‘why ‘will give you the strength to stick with it, even through the rough times.

  1. Sensible planning

Success with weight loss means having a realistic plan. I set the goal of losing around 10kg in the first 8-week challenge I entered.  That gave me around a kilo a week time frame. Breaking that down meant that I had to lose 5kg a month. That number was a realistic number in my plan.

Don’t set unrealistic plans for yourself by trying to lose too much weight too fast. Failure is too easy and I find it leads to excuses, plenty of them. Stick with your plan, day by day and you will see success. Don’t only do what’s necessary. Challenge yourself and you will find that you want to incorporate healthy habits into everything you do.

It will become what you want for your new life.

  1. Just move

When I started exercising I chose walking. Ten minutes around the block is all I could muster that first time.  I thought I was going to have a heart attack. I was determined to be consistent with exercising; my plan had me walking five days a week. I got home from work and grabbed the twins and we walked. (They very proudly told the neighbours that we passed on this route, that “we are walking because Mommy is very fat”. You can’t exactly argue with the truth from a 5 year old.) If the weather is bad or time is too little, still move. Dance, jump, run with the kids, swing on the chandeliers if you must, but get your body moving

  1. Be responsible for your actions

I find that one of the hardest things to do during weight loss is to keep myself accountable to someone else. I admit I like to hide away, in case I fall off the wagon. That way nobody knows what a failure I was. This was before I discovered being part of a team during a challenge. I find it pushes me to persevere and stay on track. It creates a type of competitiveness amongst team-mates as we all race together to the finish line of this shared goal.

To sum it all up, it really is all about finding what works for you – one plan is not going to work for everyone. The journey is so much more than losing weight. We only get one chance to live, and life is the one thing we’ll never get back.

 


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  • Hila (LadyRaven)

    My 6 year old tells people that I am swimming/parkrunning/walking to make my tummy smaller to make room for a baby. It’s a not so gentle reminder of my why (in my case the weight is getting in the way of having a baby). Your story is really inspiring, thank you for sharing.