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Barry Robela – 46kgs and creating the best version of himself [YOU CAN live life well]

YOU-CAN_LOGOI was at 125kg on January 25 2012. I’m currently on 79kg with a total loss of 46kg.

This experience was never just about losing weight. You can lock up anyone in a hot hut for a week and they will emerge significantly thinner. For me, it was about being the best version of myself by managing my body’s condition effectively.

I had no interest in debilitating changes that would eventually overwhelm me. My interest was simple: Be the best possible version of myself by adjusting my way of life towards my own benefit. Effective body conditioning.


To achieve this, It was important to understand my nuances and weaknesses. It started with facing up to hard truths that I never wanted to face.

On an intellectual level, I knew the following: I loved my job but loathed my boss. I had a weak sense of self-worth. I was single and wondering about whether I was to blame.

My eating habits were as bad as my sedentary life, drinking and smoking habits. I lacked the necessary life skills to deal with life’s real problems – so, I took quick fixes and patched my way through life.

I am not a “gym freak” – I like moderate physical activity but it needs to add to the quality of my life. Tell me to go for an invigorating walk with a pal, but don’t bring me to a treadmill because I’ll probably go into a starting contest with it.

On my 31st birthday, my pals threw a nice pool party for me and it only felt appropriate to wear swimwear. Recognising that I had ballooned from a snap-happy 75kg dude into a 125kg grumpy colossus over a few years, I decided to be socially respectful by covering up with an XXL vest (I’d bought it 2 months before the party).

Well, the people came, the booze flowed, food was abundant (and super-caloric) and the photographer was snapping away at the festivities. I bought a new motorbike for myself as a gift. Little did I know the cascading changes that bike would bring.

A month later, I was involved in a motorbike accident, which limited my capacity to do my job (as a corporate trainer I needed to stand, which was hard to do with shredded legs). Naturally, I lost the job.

In losing my job, I suddenly had the time for doing things I’d cast to the backburner, like reviewing photographs from my 31st birthday.  I’ll say with certainty that there has been nothing in my life that struck me with such unexpected terror as the image I saw in those photos.

Picture 291

I was unrecognizable to myself because all I saw was this heaving mass with a smoke and a drink, that had fatrolls pouring out of the vest. More honestly, I was brought to tears because I had never felt more unattractive (being single, vanity counted) and disheveled as on that day.

The XXL vest I’d used to cover my expansive belly looked strained towards fraying. No amount of sucking in my stomach would’ve helped – I probably would’ve crushed my organs if I tried.

By the time I closed my laptop, it had become clear to me that my weight wasn’t just a consequence of eating. It was a symptom of a guy who was so ill-equipped for life and had resorted to bad crutches in an effort to stay afloat. My life was a distraction, a substitute for the real thing.

The tears flowed some more, feelings of self-pity crested and all sorts of pitiful things surfaced. I stayed in until I was thoroughly convinced that my tear ducts were depleted. Eventually, I washed my face and walked out of my bedroom to seek a better way.

The changes were small and steady. Being jobless became a blessing because I needed to spend with more contemplation. It started with adding the good things I needed without giving up all the baddies I craved. I ate more vegetables and drank a lot more water – the bad food was still there, but it was gradually decimated.

Feeling properly nourished has a remarkable way of taking the edge off sugars and bad fats. Then it became easier to skip the pizza. Then I started walking to visit friends, instead of driving there. Exercise became much easier. I’m down from a whole pack of cigarettes a day to one or two cigarettes (I sometimes go without).

I’ll eventually stop completely, but all in my good time. I only drink alcohol when it’s appropriate – having a difficult day is just an overrated excuse to avoid your reality (and I replaced beers and shooters with vodka + sparkling water + fresh fruit for dimensional flavour).

Then I started speaking to my family about my issues and my deepest fears. They were more compassionate than I expected and I’m grateful for that.


Picture 2403


I’m far from perfect, but it was those little changes which brought me to the most important transformation: I’m happier. Things, including reconditioning your body,  seem so much easier to deal with when you’re a happier person.

Stretch marks are a menace, though!

One day I’ll tell you about the perils and pitfalls of controlling your body condition in township culture.

  • Barry Robela, JHB


SUBMIT YOUR STORY AND WIN R500 Wellness Warehouse Voucher


Barry wins a R500 voucher courtesy of our sponsor for the “YOU CAN live life well” series Wellness Warehouse to be spent on their online store with free delivery nationally.

I believe very strongly that ordinary every day people like you and I derive great inspiration from the achievements of people who seem similar to us. If they can do it.. damn.. so can I! Right?

So through this program we will continue to tell people’s personal stories.

I want to great an archive of hundreds of stories of people who have changed their lives while others believe they cannot.


Submit your story to with the Subject line “You can live life well”

We require:

  • Your story in your own words covering at least (How you got to a point of change, how you made the change, tips and advise for others)
  • A selection of before and after photos
  • As many words as you need to tell your story

In advance, we regret that not all stories may be published. Your story is as important as anyone’s story but we can only publish one a week and the editor will make decision on this.

If your story is published you will receive a R500 voucher to the Wellness Warehouse online store with free national delivery.





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