Of course I wouldn’t say that I was fat (I’m not an idiot).
But I would think it. And it was a word that defined me for years. Fat. Too fat to go out in public, too fat to go into shops, too fat to fit into pretty clothes, too fat to sit in a chair, and (my crowning moment) too fat to sit in an airplane seat.
Hi, I’m Nicola and I’m fat.
I haven’t always been a giant Michelin Man version of myself. As a kid I wasn’t thin or fat, just average. In boarding school there was a lot of junk food at the canteen, so a few kilos crept on. But by starving myself and doing a lot of cardio I got them off.
Then came varsity, where I drank my weight in Black Label during the year, then punished myself over Christmas to lose the weight, like some sort of demented yo-yo. By the time I finished varsity and went to advertising college (six years of tertiary education; my father was thrilled) I had started to hit the diet train – the blood group diet, the fat-free diet, the detox diet, the ‘lose 10kg in 10 days diet’. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know how that worked out.
I hit 100kg at one point, but by cutting all fat out of my diet and hitting the treadmill like a demon, I managed to get down to 70kg, just 5kg shy of my goal weight. Then life came down like a ton of bricks.
The relationship I was in ended, my sister moved to the UK leaving me all alone in my flat, a 10-year friendship came to an end, my house was robbed, and my car was broken into, twice. And all of this happened in the space of two weeks. Any of these things by themselves would have been fine for me to handle. All at once, it was a tsunami of pain that I was completely unprepared for.
I’ve never been the type to ask for help or let people know when I’m in trouble, and this time was no different. The first weekend after everything went down, I hired a stack of dvds and filled my fridge with Woolies microwave meals so I wouldn’t have to cook. And then I watched tv and ate my way through a week’s worth of food in two days. And it was the best time I had ever had.
Fast forward four years, and I had gone from 70kg to 130kg, thanks to constant eating, constant drinking, and a constant refusal to acknowledge my emotional problems and ask for help. I tried counselling but hated every second of it, so I went back to the type of therapy I was most comfortable with – food.
But while I might have given up on counselling, I found something else – high cholesterol, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. The trifecta of chronic weight-related diseases, all at the tender age of 29. Congratulations Nicola, you’ve outdone yourself.
What followed that diagnosis was panic, disbelief and a forced plunge into wellness. I started off brilliantly with a diet and exercise programme, but I quickly became bored and reverted back to old habits. By that time the shock of being labelled a diabetic had worn off, and I had accepted my situation – I was someone who had to take a handful of pills to survive, and that was that. So I continued my unhealthy lifestyle, drinking and eating as if I was in some sort of who-can-stuff-the-most-rubbish-into-their-mouths competition. (I’d like to point out that if I had been entered in this competition, I would have won hands down).
In 2008, after four years of binge eating and drinking, as well as harsh criticism from my family (including a 30th birthday card from my grandmother telling me what a giant, useless disappointment I was), I gave myself a mental slap in the face, put on my (very) big girl panties and decided to give the healthy lifestyle thing a damn good try.
So I started seeing a dietician, I joined the gym (for the millionth time) and put my head down for 18 months – and by dint of sheer hard work, blood, sweat and tears, I lost 50kg. Yup, 50kg – a whole person. And again, I was within waving distance of my goal weight.
But (and stop me if you’ve heard this) I didn’t stay there. If you fix the outside without fixing the inside, you’re never going to stay whole. And because I was still broken, I slowly but surely gained every kilo of that weight back. I never stopped trying, and I never stopped pushing – but it was an uphill battle of lose 4, gain 3, lose 1, gain 2.
Until I started 2013 at the grand total of 134.4kg. And thought, that’s it. I can’t do this anymore. Something has got to change.
So I decided to stage one last war on weight gain, but this time armed with different weapons. I joined the Evo Fitness personal training gym, rather than the conglomerate health clubs I had gone to in the past. I swapped my dietician for a sports nutritionist. I gave up food therapy and turned to a life coach. And I supplemented the support from friends and family with the support from the online health and fitness community, SleekGeek.
It wasn’t easy. My first training session I was so unfit I literally couldn’t put my socks on without breaking a sweat. The strength training taught at Evo was completely new to me and not a little bit frightening. (I’m sorry, you want me to pick up WHAT?) Not to mention the fact that the new eating plan I was on eliminated all fun (I mean carbs) from my diet. Banishing me to a wasteland without starch, wheat, dairy, fruit or (sob) alcohol. And of course I found talking about my feelings SUPER fun.
But I kept at it. I can be like a dog with a bone when I want to be. And slowly but surely something started happening. I got stronger, fitter and better at picking up heavy stuff. I felt lighter, freer and more energetic without carbs. And I started really truly understanding why I chose to eat my feelings rather than acknowledge them. It was like a lightbulb had finally been switched on, banishing all the demons from the past and lighting the way to a brighter future – one that I finally realised I could actually achieve, and more importantly, one that I felt I deserved.
It’s been eight months since I put my head down and invested mind, body and soul in myself, and in that time I’ve enjoyed a number of successes. I’ve lost 30kg so far. I’ve won R10 000 in the SleekGeek 8 Week Winter Warrior weight loss challenge. I’ve been able to inspire and motivate other women through my weight loss blog, https://losingit65.wordpress.com and involvement on the SleekGeek and Sleek Girls sites. And I’ve been chosen as a brand ambassador for the Fit Girl Fab fitness clothing label for 2014.
But by far the biggest and best success I’ve enjoyed since starting my journey is that through sheer hard work and dedication, I’ve managed to completely reverse my type 2 diabetes. Yes, you read correctly. No. More. Diabetes. Now the only thing keeping me alive is me – no pills, just good, clean living. Which is just the way it should be.
I still have a long way to go. There are 35 kilos standing between me and my goal weight, and this time they’re coming off once and for all. I already have all the tools I need – now I simply need to keep using them. And thanks to a head that’s screwed on right, a heart filled with passion, and a cupboard full of clothes that are slowly starting to fit me again, I have all the motivation I need to keep going. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.
So once again, hi – I’m Nicola. Not fat. Just Nicola. And that’s someone I’m finally proud to be.
UPDATE: Read what the following year had in store for Nicola!
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