My name is Raquel Floris. I am 29 years old and I live in Pretoria with my six-year-old son. I have lost a total of 30kg since January 2015!
I was born and raised in Cape Town. I lived with my parents and older sister. I lived an active life, often to be found outside roller-blading, cycling or playing ball games. My father was a boxer and often trained young people and I would train with them. This is where I learnt about exercise and keeping fit. I wasn’t the healthiest eater. I loved sweet things and baked goods were my biggest weakness.
Obsession with my body
By the time I reached puberty I was very aware of my body and wanted to be thin. I even tried unhealthy ways to lose weight like intentionally starving myself. I also tried binging and purging when I was about 12 years old. It lasted a few weeks and it was something I never told anyone till this day. I felt disgusted and ashamed at myself after every purge. I had an unhealthy obsession to be thin. I wanted to be pretty and perfect and I didn’t feel that way. I looked at other girls in my class and they were always much thinner than me. Although I wasn’t fat, I was curvaceous and I was upset with myself for looking the way I did.
Young adulthood and loving my body
As a young adult I remained physically active and I became more confident in my body as I matured. I would exercise in my bedroom and I played hockey for my high school university teams. I was often found at the university gym or running around the track. I was still not the healthiest eater. I worked for a fast food franchise for four years from age 16 and I ate fast food almost every weekend during those years.
The big move and becoming a mother
The year after completing my Bachelor’s degree I moved to Pretoria to do an internship. It was my first time living on my own. I started a relationship with my son’s father and I was happy but I had completely forgotten about exercising regularly and by the following year I wore one size bigger. I fell pregnant and after giving birth to my beautiful baby boy in 2010, I gained a lot of weight. I remember going from a size 12 pants straight to size 18 after giving birth.
Nonetheless for the first few months post-partum my focus was entirely on this beautiful bundle of joy. I lost a few kilos in the first year post giving birth so between 2011 and 2014 I was wearing a size 14/16 pants. It was challenging to be a new mother, taking care of a home, working and not having family around as my entire family lives in Cape Town. I ate for comfort and boredom. I ordered out more often than I should have and my excuse was, “It’s just more convenient to eat out than cook at home,” or “I’m exhausted,” and the worst excuse, “I don’t have time.” I ate unhealthy every day and snacked on sweets, chocolates and coke. I felt bad about my weight. It was especially upsetting when people would comment, “When I first met you, you had such a nice body.” I hated myself for eating the way I did and I told myself I need to exercise.
Gaining more weight
With the intent to lose weight and keep fit, I downloaded “Moves”, an app that counts the number of steps you take on my smart phone. My target was 10,000 steps each day although I rarely reached it. Walking was my only form of physical activity. I knew I had to regularly exercise but I still did not. In 2014, I started using my car to travel to work and in doing so I walked a few thousand steps less each day. Within a few months, I noticed I had gained more weight. I was disappointed in myself. I knew I had to increase my physical activity and stop eating junk food. But I did not. Every day I felt bad and guilty about the food choices I made.
I would go to work without planning my meals for the day and would buy take-aways and feel guilty about eating it. By this time I was a size 16 pants and my top size was bordering size 14. I recall going shopping and not purchasing clothes if it meant I had to purchase a size 14: I did not want to be a size 14. By January 2015, I was 94kg. Deciding that I had to do something about it, I became a member of Virgin Active (again!) My first visit was a month later on my birthday in February. For the next eight months I only visited the club about five times. I felt good about joining the gym but I wasn’t into it yet. I spoke about it with my friends and would lie about my gym visit frequency, still embarrassed that I wasn’t as consistent as I should have been. It was in this time that I started finding inspiration from three friends.
Surround yourself with who inspire you
A friend of my mine was a big inspiration to me. She had lost about 27kg at the time through lifestyle changes such as dietary changes, bootcamp, gym workout and personal trainer sessions. She worked really hard and I admired her for it. She always spoke about bootcamp and gave me healthy living tips. She might not know it, but she has really been an inspiration to me and I watched and listened to her in awe of her courage and determination to reach her weight loss goals.
A second person that has been an inspiration to me is my nail and beauty technician. When I finally got my gym membership I told her about it and she was very encouraging. She lives a healthy lifestyle herself and we often speak about health and fitness. I admired her stance towards exercise and the gym. When she told me that she loves going to the gym I remember thinking, “Wow! I want to feel that way too.” I admired her way of life and her consistency. We’d often pass it each other in the mornings and she would be in her gym wear. It was definitely motivating to me.
A third woman that inspired me was my good friend from work. She started running with a group of ladies in the afternoons. She would speak about it often and invited me to join them. I had the excuse of not having time and having to fetch my son at school. Nonetheless, I was inspired by her and it definitely motivated me to change me to change my lifestyle. It really is important to surround yourself with people that inspire you and encourage you to be a better version of yourself.
In mid-2015, I started being more aware of my meals and snacks. I started prioritizing breakfast as I always skipped it. And I started eating healthier snacks like an apple, droerwors and a small yoghurt instead of chips and chocolates. I was still eating junk food but much less and between January and October 2015, I had lost 6kg. Still not a frequent gym goer by September 2015 my biggest excuse was that I had a child and I didn’t know what to do with him.
I finally gave myself an ultimatum: I either cancelled my gym membership or I go. On 30 September I signed my son up for Club V, the kids section at Virgin Active. I no longer had an excuse. My first visit was the following day and my son loved Club V. For that first month back at the gym, I decided that my goal was to make going to gym a habit. I watched the Ellen DeGeneres show, months earlier, and her guest was Terry Crews. And on giving advice for working out and keeping fit, he said: Just show up and make it a habit of going. Even if you go to gym and have a drink, you will eventually workout. And for the first month that was my only goal: just to show up and make it a habit of going. I showed up six days in October 2015. I tracked my club visits and aimed to improve my club visits each month. By December 2015, I had lost an additional 6kg by slowly reducing junk food and added sugar intake as well as frequent working out.
From February 2016, I frequented the gym about 5 days a week. And by July 2016, I achieved my goal weight of 65kg. I am currently 64kg and intend maintaining this body.
In the beginning, my workout comprised of 20 minutes cardio and 20-30 minute leg, ab and arm machines. I started joining a 60 minute Pilates class every Saturday morning. Then I discovered Bootcamp and The Grid fitness classes at the gym. The Grid is a 30 or 45minute high-intensity functional training class. It is very challenging and I would encourage anyone who is a Virgin Active member and wants to lose weight to join the class at their club. I would do The Grid twice a week on average. I do weight training on some days too. My least favourite exercise is cardio and my favourite exercise is squats. I have a love/hate relationship with lunges. Hard to execute especially walking lunges with weights but great feeling in your legs once completed.
When I trained more frequently I started being more serious with my diet. I completely cut out Coke. I drink green tea and water all day. I rarely drink fruit juice but if I do, one glass is enough for the day. I will admit my supper this year was skinless chicken breast and vegetables or salad more than anything else. It’s healthy, you can add spice and sauce for taste and it’s a quick meal to make (no more, “I don’t have time to cook” excuse. My diet also consisted of more fish than I have eaten in the past. I eat five to six meals a day and stick to a low carb diet. I haven’t completely cut out bread but I do have rules for it. I eat wholewheat bread and not every day and a maximum of two slices a day. I’m making my diet as realistic as possible in accordance with what I know I will love to eat and I couldn’t completely cut out certain foods.
When eating out, which I still do, I try to take the healthier menu options. No more fries but I do indulge at home once in a while with home cooked chips. I try to eat clean for about four to five days a week. The idea is to eat clean for most days and when you are faced with eating something less healthy, I can do so guilt-free. Portion control is key of course.
My top weight loss tips
- Make gradual changes in your life. Do not overwhelm yourself with too much changes too quickly. Once you’re in a habit of doing something then make another positive change.
- Plan your meals for the week and day. Every Sunday stock up your cupboards and fridge with your meals or ingredients for your meals as well as snacks. In the morning, pack your lunch and snacks for the day. Keep a healthy snack in your bag.
- Create a schedule for your exercise. It is easier to plan your week if you know that certain days and times are for working out. Stick to your planned workout time.
- Focus on yourself and your progress. Do not compare yourself to others. Do not be intimidated by others. Keep pushing yourself to be stronger and healthier.
- Surround yourself with people who live healthy lifestyles too. Let them inspire you and motivate you to live healthy and fit.
This weight-loss journey has completely changed my life. I feel like I am a better version of myself. I feel more in control of my body and health. My weight went from 88kg in October 2015 to 64kg in August 2016. My BMI went from 36 to 26 within 10 months. I reduced my body fat percentage by 3 percentage points between June and August 2016 alone. I have had a lot of support from friends, colleagues and the online community including the Sleekgeek group.
My son is my number one supporter. Just last week he was cheering for me in a fitness class. I am so happy that I could live a happy and healthy lifestyle and have my son witness it. I want him to be proud of me and I don’t want to be a mother that looks at my child and says, “Because of you, I look like this.” This experience has really been amazing. People who have never spoken to me before are speaking to me and asking for health and weight-loss advice. I am more than happy to help.
The biggest lesson learnt is that if you put your mind to it, you can achieve anything you want. I’ve also learnt to eat to nourish and fuel my body. Food is no longer for comfort and boredom. And when you’re stressed: do some physical activity instead of eating. You will feel so much better.
I wish everyone else the best in health and fitness. Never give up!