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Bontle Mtshali loses 20kgs and finds her happiness

Hey there Sleeks!!!

My name Buhle Mtshali – aka Bontle –  which is merely a Tshwana version of my name. I have lost 20kgs since I started weighing myself in October 2015. I was weighing 96Kgs and now 9 months later I’m 76kgs – approaching my happy place which set anywhere between 65-69kg.

I was born in Eshowe, a small town in the Northern KZN. I am single and a parent to a beautiful little 13 year old Diva, my inspiration and number 1 fan (also my photographer) – Miss Luyanda. By day I’m a Health and Safety Manager for Transnet Group Capital a construction part of Transnet, so you will find me in my safety gear and my hard hat and safety boots… true story!

My daughter is my biggest inspiration, I want to live my life in a way that is exemplary to her. She deserves a mother that is happy & healthy, physically, emotionally, financially and spiritually. I was blessed with such a mother and I aspire each day to be even a fraction of what my mother used to be, strong yet very kind and still full of life. My favouring snack is biltong and grape fruits and by that I mean wine (it’s fruit right??) My favourite exercise is anything fun and outdoorsy. I absolutely loath push-ups. That’s just a brief intro to who I am.

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My Journey

It’s taken me a while to write this so appreciate each and every one of you who will take their time to join me in my story and the journey that has brought me into the person I am today. When Elan approached me to do this I really felt I was not worthy mainly because there are so many other people that have achieved so much more. However it’s an honour to me to share my story with you. I hope someone will be helped. Join me as I take a little walk down memory lane.

As a child I was always on a chubby side of a scale and that never really bothered me. My family was blessed to afford most things so food was always plenty and I could eat anytime I wanted. When I started high school that is when the fat jokes started and although I tried to tune them out it did hurt. I was in boarding school so with the controlled environment, eating times and supervised play times I realised that in the first half of the year I had lost a considerable amount of weight. So that is when the seed of self-consciousness about my weight started. I felt skinny was more acceptable in society and as long as I was skinny people will accept me. Mid high school I changed schools and went back to being a day scholar, and in a few months back home I was picking up weight again, so it begins a long journey of trying each and every quick fix in the market.

I remember at the age of 15 I was already on appetite suppressants and of course my parents didn’t know about it. I would use my allowance money to stock up on latest pills (Eet-less, Slim&Trim, Thinz) to mention but a few. And to me I had my weight under control that way. Now when I think of what I was putting my body through I feel bad for that young girl who felt she had to go through that to fit in to the norm. Health and Fitness was not a goal in my life at that time, thin was all I was looking for and I was going to do whatever it took to stay thin. I was also not aware of the dangers of these chemicals that we put in our bodies in pursuit of a perfect figure. So the appetite suppressant drug story continued throughout most of my teens and young adulthood.

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Meet Gym

In tertiary school there would be aerobic classes and I had friends that would jog and do all that kind of healthy stuff to stay slim so I joined in. Also with little education but it was something fun that I enjoyed and it served the purpose. Eating right was not my priority, health was also not my priority. As long as I stayed skinny life was perfect.

Second year in tertiary I fell pregnant with my precious daughter and that’s when I couldn’t take my slimming pills coz they were not safe for the baby, I was embarrassed and ashamed of having shamed my family and most of all I was terrified that my father will take me out of school if he found out. So I hid my pregnancy and raised my child for 8 months on my own with the help of the father and 2 of my siblings that knew – but they were far away so that’s when food became my source of comfort. My take was, I’m pregnant so I’m eating for two and I’m allowed and it makes me feel better. So after the baby was born I had to lose the weight and now I had to abandon my new old friend FOOD. I was now looking for ways to still eat whatever I want and remain skinny…

Food for Comfort and secret eating

Every tough situation that I have been through in my life (trust me I’ve had MANY) I would turn to food. Having had a fair amount of failed relationships, abusive relationships and hardships in life and being the strong individual ( I can safely say this because I’ve been through hell and back but I’m still standing) sometimes people don’t know how to be there for you ( I remember after a very painful ordeal that I went through- I asked my friends how come no one reached out, I was on a verge of suicide and nobody even knew it) and with teary eyes all of them said you are so strong and seem to have it all together we didn’t know how to be there for you. We didn’t even know where to start and you seemed so ok on the surface so we didn’t know), and most of the time I don’t know how to ask for help, not that I don’t need it, I just find myself being there for everyone and when I’m alone I will turn to food for the comfort that I need.

I’m not into sweet things so crispys and pies were my drug of choice, anything greasy and salty would just hit the spot coupled with my favourite glass – OK bottle- of wine all my problems would vanish. Soon after the weight would be back and I would be back to dieting and so the wheel turned and turned wreaking havoc on my metabolism. My mother was the only person who could see the pain behind my smile so she was my pillar, she would take one look at me and say, what going on.

Quick Fixes

From there it was a roller coaster of diets after diets. If it promised quick results I was in, just like that. In high school it was pills, in my young adult life it was anything that’s going to work and quick and allow me to eat because also food was my comforter, just a few of the things I have tried: 3 day diet, 13 day diet, blood type diet, cabbage soup diet, slender wonder injections, Duromine, Chinese slimming teas- all of them, Chinese slimming lotions, Jaw wiring (this is when they wire your jaws shut so u don’t consume any solids, Colon Cleansing (I don’t want to know), Master Cleanser (yes the famous lemonade with cayenne pepper) I did that for a month, with no solids what-so-ever. Trust me the quick fixes work, but the results are NOT sustainable.

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Major Loss and Major Gain

In 2013 I lost my mother, my world crumbled, my tower of strength had fallen, after a bad accident in 2012 and fighting for her life for 11 months she passed on. Through that time I had piled on so much weight that I stopped even weighing myself. She was in Richardsbay, I was in Ermelo, she was the only one who understood that I was still not ok, who was I to turn to now…again I went back to FOOD, my escape, the more I ate the more I felt bad about my weight, the more I felt bad about my weight the more I binged on food and alcohol. I was this bubbly personality on a surface and broken on the inside. But I hide my pain very well. My mom was gone, my only sister who is my best friend is halfway across the world yes we talk telephonically but it wasn’t the same.

So I longed for God to send me someone – a companion of some sort. So I met someone I thought was amazing and turns out it would be the most emotionally abusive relationship on top of the pain I was already going through. He said all the right things when we started dating July 2014, got engaged in September and wow my prayers were answered I thought. Subconsciously I knew he wasn’t the one but I was so desperate for companionship (not love) that I tolerated ill treatment and still went back to stuff my face every time he made me feel inadequate. I had to play small to accommodate his insecurities and that frustrated me even more that I was constantly eating my pain away. I was blessed to get a promotion at work that prompted the move to Durban, which was not well received by my “beloved fiancé”. But I was going to take it anyway. And I did.

Over and above the emotional eating some of the reasons were just plain laziness. Excuses after excuses, be it it’s too hot, too cold, I’ll start tomorrow. Lazy to cook, too tired, my work is too demanding. Healthy food is boring. I would sometimes exercise for a few days see no results and go back to being a couch potato. At some point I was convinced I had a slow thyroid something something… just so I couldn’t take accountability today I can admit that as much as I wanted all the reasons to find someone to blame for my state of health or lack thereof, it was my own doing. It was the choices that I made and now I’m making different choices.

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Breaking Point

Most people in this journey will tell you that there is one defining moment that we all go through. The moment when enough is enough. For me that moment came around May/June last year (2015). I remember driving to work, feeling overwhelmed, nothing was going according to plan, most of which I could not control. I pulled over and parked on the side of the road and sobbed for what seemed like forever. I remember saying to myself “Buhle this has to stop, you can’t continue like this” as I was saying that I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and well I pulled out my phone and took a selfie…yes I did. And I said this time next year, you will look at this picture and not recognise this person. I didn’t know how but I knew that enough was enough.

I was not be miserable anymore. I knew that although I couldn’t control some events that happen in my life. I can control my reaction to them and that was what was gonna make or break me, my reaction to my circumstances. I sure could control what I put or not put in my body. After that moment I went on with my day as usual… Wearing my mask, fake smile and all. I got home and I had a long conversation with myself. Promises were made, promises of loving myself, treating my body better, restoring this already beautiful, wonderful women, fearfully created gift of God to the world, to fulfil her purpose and live her best life. I was done feeling sorry for myself and at that rock bottom moment I knew I was going to rise and nothing and no one was going to stop me from reclaiming myself.

From that breaking point I knew very well that it was not going to be easy. I knew that I will have to be open to being very uncomfortable in the process. I knew that the person I was at that moment is not the Me that I’m capable of becoming. I was tired of wearing the mask and being strong for everyone else. It was time to make some selfish decisions and look out for myself. Remember you can’t pour from an empty cup. Somebody once said make sure your cup overflows, what’s in the cup should be yours and what overflows you can share with the world. At this point, I am in the over-flow zone, that is why I can freely share this with you.

Making the change

I always say moving to Durban has been the most challenging yet rewarding move I have ever taken. I was upbeat moving back to the city where I went to tertiary, my prime years really and now I was coming back with a promotion and a fiancé how awesome… Turns out that was going to be the toughest part. For starters I was overwhelmed with the new responsibilities, I had to learn to be a single mother since fiancée was only going to come through 3 months later (never happened), new school for my child, the friendships that I had built in my adult life were mostly based in Joburg so I was suddenly alone. The relationship fell apart due to infidelity from him and that put a complete knock on my already low self-esteem. I continued to comfort myself with food.

I moved to Durban February 2015 and by May I knew that my relationship was over I just needed guts to officially end it. I had to face the fact that my mother is gone and no one will ever replace her and that my weight was out of control and if I carried on like that I might not be able to bounce back. Mostly I had to remember that I have a daughter, to whom I am a role model, she deserves a happy and healthy mother. I asked myself what example I am setting for her and I didn’t like the answers that came to my head.

Approach

At this point I knew in my head that I needed to make drastic changes I had a plan in my head. First step was to offload some emotional baggage, before I could do any physical work on my body a lot of inside work had to be done. After the emotional work I was then gonna do the physical work. It’s very important to be in the right head space when you are about to embark on a life changing journey. I also knew that I can’t carry on with the way of diets and pills I wanted a more permanent approach. I started reading up about a healthy lifestyle, I would buy fitness magazines and research health articles. I wanted to be just somewhat health and feel good about my body. I also took pictures and by this I don’t mean filtered selfies I mean the real, the raw the ones that tell you the true story, in my underwear, in the most unflattering angle. Because if I was going into this, I needed to face the truth and not sugar coat anything.

The Inside Job

  • That meant officially end the engagement, that was hard but being unhappy was even harder.
  • Seeking counselling to deal with the loss of my mother, 2 brothers and all other emotional baggage I had been carrying from previous hurt and relationships. 
  • Coming to terms with the fact that I had abused my body for so long and making promises to my body to treat it better show it love and respect that it deserves, cellulite stretch marks and all.

I then set a date that after my birthday which is in July I will start eating right and exercising. I remember telling my sister who was in a country at that time, that I was going to get back into shape. Supportive as she is, for my birthday she bought me a whole new exercise gear including sneakers, socks and even a sports bra… well that was her way of encouraging me. Boy oh boy was I offended. Like HELLOOOO I know I’m fat and I said I will make changes but seriously exercise gear for my birthday do you have to rub it in. Of course I didn’t say it to her. Not until sometime this year. Of course we laughed about it coz we were looking back on how far I’ve come. My birthday came and passed… I decided to take some time off, went to visit my sister in Phuket, let my hair done and when I came back it was on… I didn’t weigh myself, I wasn’t ready for that.

The Eating

I decided I was not going to follow a diet based on my history or any eating plan I had read somewhere about cutting carbs and processed foods. I started eating food in its most natural form and avoiding anything in boxes, see that was easier for me. I cut out most processed carbs like bread, pasta, pap replaced it with healthy options like quinoa, sweet potatoes, gem squash butternut and so forth. I would check recipes to make sure my daughter still enjoyed it. So we both were in this. I also had my dinner earlier than usual like around 6pm.

I didn’t want to feel deprived or like I am being punished for being overweight. I didn’t have any set cheat days, if I felt like one slice of pizza once in a while I would have it. And I would still have an occasional glass (I mean bottle) of wine, by occasional I mean weekends. But I just made sure it was not a habit. I was taking baby steps and seeing some results. Still not weighing myself at this point but my clothes were fitting a little bit better.

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The physical, (Mid-August to September 2015)

I did not go out and get a gym membership, I started slowly.

  • Choosing parking that is furthest from the entrance at the mall
  • Taking 2 baskets instead of a trolley
  • Getting my groceries from the shopping centre close by my place and walking there instead of driving
  • I then started walking around the block a couple of times a week, my first walk was approx. 3km and I thought I was dying but I didn’t stop
  • I would buy Fitness Magazines and do different exercises from my lounge
  • I started using the home exercise DVD I had gotten from Women’s Health Magazine as freebies that had been gathering dust. I was not ready for anyone to see my fatass at the gym

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Sleekified

One evening I was sitting with my friend and colleague a fellow Sleekgeek Bongiwe Gegana. She introduced me to this community and for that I’m eternally grateful, it was either “Transformation Tuesday” or “Face-off Friday” on the Facebook Group but what I saw… I was in awe I was so inspired by all the transformations. There I was sitting and complaining about having 30 odd Kgs to lose, seeing people actually living my dream to transform my health and my body.

The minute I joined this group and reading up on people’s posts and silently following the page I knew I had found a home here. There was going to be a KZN Sleekgeek dinner in November and I wasn’t going to get left behind. That was the beginning of the support, the encouragement the sense of belonging. What I loved the most was it was not a page about telling you what not to eat or not there were no restrictions except for “Reboot” of course. The positive energy and mostly it was not a short-term fast result, it was a group about the lifestyle, making sustainable changes, working hard, “eating clean & training dirty”. At that time I decided to face my demon and get on a scale and I was weighing 96KGs no idea how much I had lost since my small changes but it was a great step for me to get on that scale because from there I knew what goals to set.

I attended the KZN Sleekgeek Dinner and enjoyed it so much interacting with other Sleeks. I recruited my colleague and friend Lebo Matima to join me and she hopped right on and added my sister to the page because although she is abroad, she’s my biggest support system. I put myself out there, having been inspired by people who share their journey I felt it will be selfish of me to receive and receive yet hold back and not share my story, so after the first dinner I shared posts about my journey, what I was eating and all the stuff us sleeks do. Being part of the group keeps me accountable.

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The “Ultimate Me”

So I always thought the “Sleekgeek 8-Week Ultimate You Challenge” was for like “REAL” Sleeks and when I joined Sleekgeek there was a challenge going on but I wasn’t ready yet, seeing the results and what people had achieved I decided January challenge it was on like Donkey Kong and after the December holidays we all know how it goes down… well us social butterflies.

So January this year I did my first “Ultimate You Challenge” in which I lost 8kgs. I was really happy with that, felt like a winner and I’ve kept it off. I also joined Adventure Bootcamp for Ladies through the discount from the challenge and I fell in love with outdoor exercising. Most amazing part is with the challenge we had a KZN ladies WhatsApp support group… it did not just last for 8 weeks but it has become the sisterhood of trust and support not only in health and fitness but life in general , how amazing is that. With Sleekgeek you can make friends for life.

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Lessons Learned

  • I have learned that you must first want to change and wanting is not enough, you need to make a decision and commitment and have a clear vision of where you want to be, not for anyone else but for you.
  • Surround myself with people that share the same vision
  • Persevere and trust the process even if the results aren’t showing
  • It’s not going to be easy but the results are worth it
  • That there is a difference between cardio and strength training and fancy words like HIIT, OCR, MACROs and all gym people stuff LOL.
  • We all have different journeys never compare yourself to someone else

My Highlights and Milestones

There has been so many firsts as I have started my journey and when I look back I cannot believe how far I have come. The highlights of my journey are surprisingly not the weight loss but the sense of happiness and pride on a person I have become, pushing boundaries and goals.

Taking the plunge

Some may have come across my story earlier this year when I decided I was going to learn to swim, well at a tender age of 30-something, I’m happy to report that, I reached my goal I can safely freestyle, for me conquering the fear of water was a big thing, this community has shown me that if you surround yourself with people that support your goal nothing is impossible. Most of all I discovered that my daughter is actually a water baby, as she took swimming lessons with me, it turned out that she’s a little mermaid and to think my fear was actually stopping my own child from realizing her full potential.

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The first 21 for Mom

When I started I could hardly do 3km walk without wanting to call the paramedics, and in May this year I ran a 21KM race on mother’s day in honour of my late mother. In the pouring rain, I was determined to do it. And so I did. The old me would have been crying and having a pity party and but I spent the day with a sense of achievement.

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Sleekgeek Dinner

Being invited to speak at the Sleekgeek Dinner in Durban has been another highlight on my journey. Sharing my journey with the KZN sleeks and hopefully inspiring someone to make a positive change in their life gave me so much sense of joy. As overwhelming as it may have been, I believe that the greatest gift is giving, be it time, material things or just giving someone a sense of hope. I thank Elan Lohmann our Leader for affording me that opportunity.

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Jeep Warrior

When Paul van Jaarsveld, our KZN Sleekgeek Leader mentioned The Warrior Obstacle Race last year sometime, I went and checked the website and decided that I wasn’t that level of crazy ok… I knew that there was no way my overweight self can do that… boy oh boy was I completely wrong. From there was the parkruns where the idea kept coming up and I was like ok maybe I can do the 5km one that probably won’t kill me.

Then the day after the KZN dinner coach Raksha Mistry from Pushfit Durban offered us training for Saturdays to prepare for warrior and I think that’s where the screws came off, because suddenly I was doing the 10km Commando Race.
My main goal was to complete all 22 Obstacles of the 10km race and that goal was reached thanks to the KZN Sleekgeek Warrior Crew Paul ( especially for all the pics) , Samantha, Quinton, Lebo, Rhonda, Kats, Thulani, Bernese, Kumar, for putting up with my craziness, the love and support throughout, these guys are now like family.

Some other highlights are the messages I get in my inbox of people telling me how much I have inspired them to make a change. Lastly hearing my daughter say “you look so much happier mommy” melts my heart.

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Sleekgeek parkruns, Friendships & memories

The Sleekgeek community has introduced me to a group of lovely people, strong, powerful, funny, crazy and simply just amazing group. These individuals will lend an ear, offer love and support, give advise every now and again. I’m honoured and proud to call them my friends.

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Lowlights

For every journey it’s not always going to be roses and sunshine, and in my journey is no different. Ranging from sometimes plain lack of motivation to lack of energy to a point where you ask yourself if it’s all worth it. However there are two events that stand out that I want to share with you.

The days leading to Mother’s day were always the worst and it wasn’t any different this year, I felt depressed like I could not go on, usually I would turn to food for comfort but this time I was blessed with my sisterhood, the KZN Active Angels, they carried me for the first time I reached out to people and they supported me and when I told them I was going to run the 21km one of them suggested I run it in honour of her memory, most healing thing I’ve ever done.

Ok so one of my “feeling liberated and can eat what I want days”, I decided to binge in a pizza, you see I’ll only have one or two slices but that day I think I had about 4 if not 5 I really went for it and binged on pizza and got sick because my body is no longer used to eating junk… well I learned the definition of moderation that day.

Bad days happen to the best of people, just make sure you don’t let a bad day turn into a bad month. Reach out, don’t be too harsh on yourself. Remember always that this is not a short-term fix but a lifetime commitment and keep on chipping away.

Tips

  • Find anything that inspires you to want to make that commitment be it a bad breakup, hitting rock bottom, people making fun of you, sickness, whatever it is find it and use it as building blocks to the better version of yourself.
  • Commit to your journey, it’s not always going to be easy, most times it will be hard, you will want to give up. But your commitment won’t let you
  • Surround yourself with people that will encourage and support your journey. The fact that you are a Sleek geek member means you have taken the first step.
  • Be active in the Sleekgeek group and put yourself out there. Share your story, you will never know how many more people need encouragement out there. I’m one of them

Conclusion

My life has been changed, I am so happy right now, I feel so light and content and comfortable in my skin. As much as I always say for me weight-loss is a plus my number one goal is health and fitness, I must say it feels good that the weight has come off. My body is banging and I’m proud of that. I am more confident and I’m having more fun with my daughter and I can actually keep up with her. I have a better loving relationship with myself and the food I eat.

Set a goal according to what is most important to you, for me the number on the scale is not important it is however a great tool. For me it’s about how I am feel in terms of health and fitness, seeing myself get stronger and break boundaries makes me happy.

Read articles, Sleekgeek has a variety of educational articles. Health and fitness should not feel like a punishment, try and find ways to make it fun like group activities such as fun runs, dancing classes, skateboarding and so forth.
Thank you, Elan Lohmann for your vision that has touched so many lives. Thank you to everyone that takes time to share their journey with us, thank you for all the amazing transformation pictures that keep us going and give us hope. Thank you, to the quiet sleeks we see you. For every encouraging like and comment thank you sleeks, I am grateful to be a member of this community.

Thank you for taking your time to read my story ☺ much love. #SG4LIFE

Remember … 

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” Marianne Williamson

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