For about 2 weeks now I have been procrastinating to write my story. When Elan asked me to share it I was so keen to. Then I went back and read some of the past stories that were published and I felt like my story is nothing compared to some which I had read. I don’t have some remarkable story as to why I was fat and how I got better. I shared my concerns with my friends and they all told me I was being silly. That it’s not a competition as to who has the most amazing story to tell, or whose experience was the most traumatic or most heart-wrenching. It’s about sharing my story with everyone, and if it’s just one person I inspire, it will make a difference to just that one person’s life and that is enough. So here is my story….of how I went from fat….to not so fat anymore.
My name is Diane van Aswegen. I am 31 years old preschool teacher. I live in a beautiful (not actually) little city called Pietermaritzburg (aka Sleepy Hollow). The only benefit of living in this town is that we are 80km from the sea.
I wish I had photos of my life as we were growing up, because I don’t even know how I looked back then. But I always remember going through primary school being known as a fat girl. I had the biggest breasts in my standard 5 class and this in turn made me look like I was so much fatter than I actually was. People always used to tease me because of my breasts and I hated it. Especially because I did well in swimming and it was exceptionally awkward for me. Obviously the boys loved me!
I remember my grandmother always telling me I am fat. She used to come visit us and she would put me on a diet. I hated being told what I must do. I used to steal money out of her purse and ride my bicycle to the shop to go buy a chocolate. Just because I didn’t want to be told I HAVE to go be on a diet. From what I remember now though, looking back, is that I was not actually really that fat. But because of having these huge breasts, it made me look like I am. That’s basically all I remember from being a kid. I was bigger than most of my friends. So I was not normal.
Me now in my std 5 school dress from 1997
I started high school and basically went through it as not a small girl. I used to be so envious of my friends who would come to school on “civies” day with jeans and a strappy top. And they looked good in what they were wearing. I envied them. But knew I couldn’t wear what they were because I was chubby. The only sport I did throughout high school was swimming. And this was only because I was forced to do it as we had to do swimming trials in our P.E classes and I always made good times and then got put into a couple galas. But this freaked me out as I now had to walk around in a costume in front of boys (as our school was not co-ed). I remember being discriminated against at one of these galas by one of our teachers. We would all walk around the pool in our costumes with shorts on and I was told to put my shirt on. I hated this. And naturally as Murphy would have it, my best stroke was back stroke. So boobies nice in the air for everyone to see. I eventually managed to get out of doing the galas.
I used to get to school quite early in the mornings and we would go to the cafeteria and buy samosas. As you eat them, while you walk back to the class, the oil would drip out of them.
My low points in school were definitely in standard 9 and Matric when we had our winter ball and then our matric dance. I was so devastated to realise I couldn’t have a pretty little dress like most of the other girls. There were only so many choices for bigger girls. I cringe when I see these pics.
Left – winter ball 2001, Right – 2015
I started varsity in 2003 and at the end of the year my dad called me and told me that if I can get motivation from a doctor, our medical aid would pay for me to have breast reduction. This confused me as I had never thought about it. But the thought was so appealing and within a week I had seen a plastic surgeon and I had permission from medical aid to go ahead with the surgery. That was honestly one of the best things to have ever happened to me in my life. I felt like new person. I remember waking up in the recovery room, and asking them to show me, and they pulled the blanket down and I had a bandage around me. My chest was flat. I just smiled before passing out again. My best experience was going to buy myself new bras. It was a foreign concept for me to be able to actually buy a pretty, sexy, “girly” bra. And not those cross-your-heart granny type (no offense! I do know they are the best for heavy boobies). I honestly looked like a new person and I remember a friend saying to me “Di, you’ve lost so much weight”. And I said to him, “No, I just lost my boobs”. His face was priceless.
Stuffing my face
I went through varsity being mostly drunk and eating a lot of junk. Super-sized Mac Donalds meals. Chelsea buns and Nik naks every day. Pizza from our 24 hour Spar at 3am in the mornings. Cheese dogs outside the clubs. Freak…. The thought is actually so scary what we do to ourselves. There was a time where I decided to stop eating junk. And I did quite well. I lost 10kgs and everyone noticed. But in the end, it didn’t really last. I did no form of exercise during my varsity years.
I had always been a very insecure person. When we were around girls who were thinner than me, even if they were uglier than me, I would be so uncomfortable around them. I would feel inadequate. And ugly. I would feel jealous about these bodies of theirs. I would watch movies and see these women with stunning bodies and I would land up hating myself. I always tried to do something about losing weight, but nothing would stick. I had no self control. I wouldn’t say that I ever had an issue with food. I’ve never been a comfort eater. In fact, when I went through my worst stages in life, I never ate a thing. But I can say that I never had self control over what I would eat. And I had no idea about what it was doing to me. I remember eating 2 pies for lunch when I felt like it. Now I wouldn’t even eat one!
I believe that I got away with being fat, because people thought I was pretty. The words I hated so much were, “But you have such a pretty face”. I always used to feel that all I am is a face.
I met my husband in 2010 and from then I just got fatter. I do tend to be fatter when I am happy. We would just sit in front of the TV eating junk. Easter time we would buy a box of marshmallow Easter eggs and devour the whole box within a few days. He made me feel beautiful and I felt happy with myself. He never made me feel insecure around other women so I never really felt this terrible longing to lose weight. But eventually some of my clothes would be feeling tight and I would start crying saying I am so unhappy and I need him to help me. But he didn’t know how to help me.
I was always the big girl in the group. Or in the photo. Or at the party.
We got married in 2013 and my aim was to lose weight for our wedding. But it didn’t work. In fact I was quite chubby. And that is one of my biggest regrets in life and I wish I had done more to look better. But that’s life. We have to live with some regrets.
Saw a dietician and everything changed
In January 2014, I was sitting at work. It was still in the holidays. And I remember getting this thought in my head. I need to see a dietician. I don’t know why I thought of it. I can’t even tell you why I had this come into my mind. Someone I know was seeing one and I asked her for the lady’s’ number. I phoned her and she only had an available appointment in the middle of March. It discouraged me a bit but I made the appointment. The lady who gave me her number told me not to wait until then to start. She gave me an idea of what I should eat and I started immediately to make better decisions with regards to food. My husband bought an Xbox with the move sensor bar and he bought me a Nike fitness programme game. I had never exercised like that and it was very daunting as you have to perform a fitness test so that they can pick up what your fitness level is to set the programme according to your level of fitness.
I did this programme about 3 times a week. Some days it was cardio and some days it was body strengthening like pushes etc.
Once the time came for my dietician appointment, I had dropped from 94kgs to 90kgs. And this was such huge motivation for me. The dietician is an amazing girl. She is so gentle, down-to-earth and supportive. I told her all about the way I usually eat, what my weaknesses were and what my lifestyle was like. She checked my body fat, weight and water content in my body and she drew up an eating plan for me. I was so amazed as the plan was just as I was usually eating, but everything broken up into carbs, fats and protein. And portions were set out. It made me feel like I wasn’t giving up anything; just being more careful. She never set unrealistic goals for me.
She said my aim is to get to 75kgs. And there was no time frame. I went to her once a month and had to tell her anything bad that I had eaten since the last time I saw her. Only after she had written down all the cheats I had, would she weigh me. And remarkably, after every weigh-in, I had still lost. I was so motivated to continue working hard, as I loved the positive reinforcement which she used to give me. It’s not about pleasing anyone, but the fact that I was making her proud, used to push me to give of my best. And within 10 months, from January when I started, I had lost 22kgs. I would have continued to see her, but she fell pregnant and it was a high risk pregnancy so she had to go on extended maternity leave. I then realised that I could actually continue on my own. I did, and maintained for a year. But I was also discouraged because I never once broke the 70kg mark. Even now I haven’t managed to break that.
My eating plan mainly consisted of the following:
2 slices of low gi seeded bread with Black Cat peanut butter (no salt or sugar added)
A fruit or a slice of low gi bread
2 slices of bread with ham/chicken/tuna
Fruit or a slice of bread
½ cup rice/pasta
3 baby potatoes
With protein portion, fat portion and veggies
This was very easy for me to follow as I wasn’t cutting anything out except the bad things I used to love, such as cookies and chips.
I was amazed at the change in my body. I took photos all the time. And I couldn’t believe it when I actually saw what I look like.
My hardest part of this process was getting my mind right to exercise regularly. It was definitely my weak point in life. It has never been something I have enjoyed. I always had visions of being active and fit. And I would decide, “Ok…tomorrow I am going for a run around the block”. Then I would get excited about how fit I am going to become, and it would backfire. I wouldn’t even run 100m and I would be dead. I would put off exercising as much as I could. And exercising at home has serious challenges as you then see something else that needs to be done instead, such as mopping the floor. Then you decide to rather use the time to mop instead of exercising. And going to gym was just never an option for me as I don’t have extra money for that. So I know that exercise is not essential in losing weight, but I do know that it’s something I have to do if I want to better my body.
What people don’t often talk about, about losing weight, is that it is not just a physical change. It is as much a mind change. It’s emotional, and mental as much as it is physical. It has taken me a very, very long time to accept the fact that I am no longer an overweight person. I battled to understand this and that is why I have taken many photos over the last 2 years, because it’s the only way I could really see the difference. I would still feel overweight, and see myself as that. Until I saw a photo and I was like “oh my word. Is that how I look?”. I always used to ask my husband if the photo makes me look thinner. I still sometimes make fat jokes about myself as it’s what I used to do when I was overweight. I always believed if I was making the jokes then no one else would.
And my one tip I can give you right now, is to TAKE PHOTOS. Right from the beginning. These are so important to show you the difference. Photos don’t lie. The scale does. And honestly, photos are more important than the number on the scale. One of my biggest regrets I have is that I did not take photos right from the beginning of my journey. Only once I had lost the 4kgs before seeing the dietician, did I take my photos. They still shock me to this day.
The reason why I never took the photos right from the beginning, is that I didn’t believe I would truly lose the weight. I had never done it before so didn’t think I would honestly achieve it this time around. But the truth is, once you start seeing that scale moving, and your clothes becoming looser, you cannot help but push through it. That was my motivating factor.
I must say, I went through my journey relatively alone. Not many people understood this desire I had to lose weight. As nobody close to me felt like I needed to do anything about my weight. They all loved me as I was. Even now the people closest to me will say to me, “I never ever saw you that way”. And they were so shocked when I would send them before and after pics. The hardest thing I used to find, is a lot of people didn’t respect my decision to lose weight when it came to alcohol. I soon learnt that alcohol is not worth it if you are trying to lose weight and for 10months I went without drinking. Except for the 1 or 2 drinks in this time. People can become quite forceful and mean if you say you are not drinking. And suddenly you become a party pooper with your Coke Zero. But it’s what I needed to do. I had grasped such a good understanding of what food is about and what I need to get to where I wanted to be.
I honestly used to eat about 3-4 boxes or packets of cookies a week. And I could and would polish them off by myself and hated sharing. People always believe being over-weight means you have to be eating a lot. But that’s not always the case. It’s about what you are eating. And I know, I didn’t have a clue what I should or shouldn’t be eating and that is why I had to seek the help of a professional to give me the guidance I needed. And having someone to be accountable was definitely what I needed. I have never really achieved much in my life for people to be proud of, so hearing her say how proud she was of me, gave me motivation to keep at it.
When I was overweight and people used to try give me guidance to lose weight, they used to say to me, “nothing tastes as good as being thin feels”. And this always stuck in my head. And now I know that it is so true. No food in the world is worth being overweight for again. You’ve got to just decide what it is you want out of life and what is important to you. I am a preschool teacher and we have birthdays in our school almost every single day and I was faced with cupcakes all the time. I used to find it so hard to resist this and I would say “oh just for today”… But it’s never just that one time. One leads to another one which leads to another one. And my children loved to share their cheddars or cookies and I would always accept it.
Eventually I told my kids they are not allowed to give me cheddars anymore because my doctor said that it will make me sick if I eat them. We have a lot of meetings and our boss always buys cake. I used to never be able to say no. But after the first few times of saying no, it became so much easier. I would even sit there while they all ate pizza and I would eat my tuna or peanut butter sandwich and take my pizza home for my husband.
I had put away a lot of clothes which had become too small for me over the years. A whole box full. One pair of pants was one which I had last worn in standard 7. They were an awesome lavender pair of pin striped pants from Truworths. But they quickly got too small for me and I kept them literally for years. I always said that one day I would fit into them. And it never happened. Eventually after losing the weight, these lavender pants finally fit. I never even got a chance to wear them because they were too big for me. And a little out of fashion hahahaha. People often ask how my health has improved since losing weight and I tell them the honest truth. I never lost the weight to become more healthy. It might sound so superficial and vain, but I did it to look better for myself! And I am only saying this because I am being honest. The feeling of being able to finally fit into nice, pretty and fashionable clothes, is so amazing for me. I used to envy women who are able to dress nicely. Because I knew I couldn’t. Buying pretty dresses has become a bit of an obsession for me and since losing weight I have bought about 50 dresses hehehe!
I had already lost my weight when I came across the Sleekgeek Facebook Group. I was blown away at this amazing group of individuals who form this group. To see people’s transformations and to read people’s daily struggles, made me feel like I am not alone in my journey. I only wish that I had come across this group a lot sooner as the support would have benefited me a lot. I love that it is a safe place for people to share and there is so much support and positivity that comes from the group. Everyone who is apart of the group, is following their own journeys, own plans, own struggles, but are all part of the amazing community. And for the first time in my life, I feel that I belong somewhere.
And I am so grateful for having this group in my life. I have also developed some strong and special friendships with some of the people on the group and for this I will forever be thankful and grateful. Sometimes it is hard in life to be going through this journey and to not have people in your life who are in a similar situation. So having these people in my life for support and guidance, makes me a very happy girl. Join the group today! It could change your life! We also have a special KZN group so if you live in KZN join us over here.
I believed losing weight would be so hard, but really, I did not find it that hard. Being fat for me, was so much harder than the 10 months it took for me to lose the weight. As they say, “CHOOSE YOUR HARD”.
Exercising with friends is more fun
In the last couple of months, I have been trying a lot harder when it comes to exercise. As its my weak point, I have to push harder. I did my first 10km run this year, with my amazing group of Sleekgeek friends. And that was such a special experience.
Durban Spar ladies 2016 10km
I’ve done the 15km Capital climb, Jeep Warrior Race and 10km Mandela marathon. And all of these have been done with friends and that makes all the difference in the world. If we don’t have people pushing us, sometimes we don’t realise what we can actually achieve. Almost every week I am now doing a run. I’m not fast, and definitely will never win any prizes, but I am doing it. Do I like running? No freaking ways. I hate it. But I am doing it. Why? Because I can. My body can do it.
My legs can carry me. So why not? I could never do it before. So I am pushing myself to get better at it.
I am now up for any race that comes my way. I have also joined a boot camp and this is challenging me in ways I never thought I could be challenged and I love it. Even though I moan the entire hour, I get it done. And again I will say, it’s because I am doing something with like-minded people who have become my friends.
My most valuable advice I can give to anyone out there is this:
- You have to believe you can achieve results. You can do it. But your mindset has to be right. If your mind is not in the right space, you will not be able to achieve something. The old saying “mind over matter”, rings true. Your mind is a powerful tool and you have to really put it to work now. It took me 15 years to get my mind right.
- Don’t have regrets. That’s one of my saddest realisations in life is that I regret not doing this sooner. I wish that I had gone through my high school life, and especially my varsity life, being who I am now. Happy and confident within myself, and not just on the exterior but as how I use to portray my confidence.
- Have a support system in place. It is a much easier journey if you are not doing it alone. Sharing things with like-minded people makes a huge difference. And even having someone to exercise with, helps so much. Join the Sleekgeek Facebook group today!
- Take photos all the time. Put on your bikini or for men, your shorts and take pics of how you look from the back, front and side. It might sound appalling but one day you will be looking back at those photos with pride, seeing how far you have come along!
- Get an understanding of food, so you can understand what you are putting into your mouth.
- Don’t stop living your life. As much as we all want to be thin or healthy, don’t make it all that you live for. Life is so short and you don’t want to have regrets of not having that piece of cake with your child, once a month or whenever. Set realistic goals and don’t be too hard on yourself. During my journey, I would still have an occasional “bad thing” to eat. And this kept me on track so I didn’t binge because I wasn’t feeling like I am depriving myself. But be careful that it doesn’t become too easy to say yes to everything.
- Enjoy your journey. It is such a wonderful experience and there are not a lot of things in life that can give as much satisfaction as you get from feeling your clothes getting smaller, or noticing your body become fitter or stronger.
- Just remember that you are human. You will have whoopsie days when you completely stuff up your plan for the day. But get up the next day and continue your healthy way of living. Don’t let one day be an excuse to continue eating badly for the rest of the week.
I want to say thank you to Elan for allowing me to share my story with all of you. And I want to thank every one of you who takes the time to read my story. It’s a lot to read and if you got through all of it I will be so happy! Its my personal journey but I hope that there is something in my story that will help just even one of you!
Much love to you all!