Charlotte is one of our avid Sleekgeeks from Namibia where we have quite a few active members. Her posts on our Facebook Group never fail to inspire. She has lost an incredible 100kgs losing 75kgs post pregnancy. She is a single mom and tutor at a Private University. She loves to jump rope and twerk, hates running and her favourite snacks are mango and watermelon. This is her story in her own words.
I was born a very small baby, my mother had to wrap me in two blankets just for people to be able to hold me. Growing up, I had a fairly active life and ate well. My struggle with food started at the age of 5 when my mother died. I moved in with my grandparents and they gave me everything I demanded for, including junk food. I developed a terrible sweet tooth and ate all kinds of junk in excess.
As a result, the weight started piling on with each year. I was teased in school by the other kids and sometimes by adults as well. I became a bully in an attempt to keep people from teasing me and it worked. After three years, my father died. I was old enough to understand what had just happened and it broke my heart. I continued to eat to escape feeling abandoned and alone. Even though I had loving grandparents, I still questioned what I did to deserve losing my parents at such a tender age.
As I went on to high school, I looked like a grown woman. I would get approached by older men, until they saw my face which had “baby” written all over it. I was in boarding school for 5 years and during that time, I continued to eat unhealthy food and did little physical activity. I struggled with my body image, feeling unwanted, feeling like I did not belong. Seeing other kids with their parents at PTA meetings, prize giving ceremonies and getting picked up for home weekends hurt me more than I expected it would. I questioned everything. My life was incomplete. I developed a dependency on the approval and validation from others to feel like I mattered, like I was worthy.
As I transitioned into a young adult, I got into relationships with men, just so I could feel like someone loved and approved of me. These relationships damaged me more and I ate more to escape feeling rejected. My identity was tired so closely to my weight and I started to believe that I was fat. Fat became who I was. I used it as an excuse to not do so many things. I limited my life because I believed I was unworthy because I was fat.
By the year 2011, I weighed a whopping 185 kg. I had arthritis in both knees due to the pressure the weight was putting on my knees. Whenever I went to the doctor’s office, I would get slapped with the “you need to lose weight” talk. Of course, I did not listen because I felt judged but I attempted to lose the weight using teas, pills and gels. None of it worked. Surprise! So I told myself that I was destined to be fat for life and I just needed to accept it. My family told me it was genetic and I just needed to accept it. So I did, for a while.
Seeing the light
At the end of the year 2011, I was sitting in church and the preacher said “ask God for one thing that you have tried to do on your own, ask him to help you”. So right there in church, I broke down in tears and told God I was tired of being fat. I was tired of feeling worthless, unwanted, rejected and abandoned. I did not go home feeling like my problem was solved, but something changed in me over the next few days. My self-talk improved. I started to speak to myself kindly, lovingly.
I changed the way I thought about myself. As weeks went by, I made the decision to eat better. I cut out fizzy drinks, juices and alcohol. i just went cold turkey on them. A week later, I had lost close to 5 kg and my skin changed. Seeing this change encouraged me to cut out more junk food from my diet, so I reduced the sweets. Next, I reduced white carbs and increased my veggie & fruit intake. I did this gradually as I did not want to feel overwhelmed by the changes.
Ups and downs
By the end of 2012, I had lost 50 kg and my life was completely change. I was eating clean 7 days a week with a cheat meal once a week, exercising 6 days a week and sleeping a full 8 hours most nights. I did all kinds of exercises, from walking, exercise DVDs, skipping and weight training. I was looking good and feeling like I could do anything! Then 2013 came. I faced financial problems and had to move in with family, get a job and study. I gave in to the pressure. I stopped preparing healthy meals and working out. I ate whatever they ate and sat in front of the TV whenever I had time to spare. By the beginning of 2014, I had gained back almost all the weight I lost. I fell pregnant in June 2014 and stopped caring about what I was eating. I started exercising again, doing prenatal yoga, Pilates and lots of walking. At the end of my pregnancy in 2015, I was back to weighing 167 kg.
Had my second baby and lost my fiance
The night that I delivered my second son, my fiance at the time sent me a message while I was still in hospital. It said something about how it was not working out between us and that he was only going to stay to help me while I recover for two weeks and then he would be gone. I held my newborn baby and asked what I have done to deserve being constantly abandoned by people I loved. I was not looking forward to going back home because I knew what was waiting for me.
The next few days were torture. I could not continue living in the hell he had created for us. After 6 days, he finally left. All I did after he left was cry, eat, sleep and say a few words in prayer. I had no willpower to continue living, I became suicidal but when I looked at my precious baby, I knew my life was nowhere near ending. After I got tired of crying, I started to channel my emotions into physical activity. I worked out as hard as I could at 167 kg heavy. I would exercise whenever my baby was asleep, sometimes he would wake up while I was 5 min away from finishing. Sometimes all I could do was 10 min at a time. Whatever the situation, I tried to do my best always.
I worked on eating healthy again. I cut out all white carbs and replaced them with veggies, fruit, legumes, oats, eggs and meats. I was breastfeeding at this time and my milk supply was not affected by the change.
After a few months, I started to see a real change and had to get new clothes. It has been 18 months now and I have lost over 75 kg in that time. My weight loss was achieved through changing my diet, eliminating simple carbs & sugars and eating clean. I currently work out 6/7 days a week doing different exercises like jumping rope, walking long distances, dancing (twerking), lifting weight, Yoga and Pilates. I do it all. I think that has been the biggest reason behind being able to exercise without feeling unmotivated – I mix things up all the time.
During my weight loss journey, I have had the support of family and friends. My family has been very supportive with helping me look after my children when things get too hectic. Being a single mother is very challenging and I have to work with the same 24 hours that everyone else gets but knowing that I can get a timeout when I need it has been very comforting and relieving. My friends are very supportive of my choices now, although it was not always like that. It took being committed to the new lifestyle for them to finally accept that I have changed. My family is still getting around it, but I know they eventually will.
Proud of myself
What I am most proud of is how much I have influenced the people around me to eat well and exercise. I never imagined, at 185 kg that I would be the one people look up to for fitness and nutrition help. I wish I had known about the Sleekgeek Facebook Group earlier because the amount of support I have received from the group has been monumental. There have been so many times that I wanted to give up on this journey, times when I questioned why I was working so hard yet not looking the way I thought I would. I reached out so many times and the support was overwhelming. I have not met many, if not all, of these people but they have helped me in the darkest of days and I am grateful.
Losing close to 100 kg in total is an achievement I am proud of but what I am most proud of is the transformation my mind has undergone. Anyone that has known me since the time I could make my own choices would tell you that they do not know this new person. I am proud that I took what was meant to kill me and it made me stronger. Today, I know that I can do all things, survive all things and achieve all my goals. This journey is not only about losing weight and looking good. I have finally seen what my body can do physically. Each day I put my body to the test and it continues to surprise me. I am strong. That is what I am most proud of.
But it’s not all rainbows and unicorns. Weight loss is a mental game. As a recovering emotional eater, I have to constantly be in tune with what I am feeling to avoid eating my feelings. There are times when I question why I am doing this, why I work so hard to break old habits when I can just remain comfortable and mediocre. There are days when I look at the loose skin and wonder if it’s all worth it. I work so hard, making choices and sacrifices that I was once not accustomed to and I still do not look sexy af. It can be frustrating. But I remember that the loose skin, the sacrifices, the tough choices are all worth it because I am finally happy. I feel like I am finally me.
My life has been completely transformed. For a very long time, my identity was tied very closely to how much I weighed, but seeing just how strong and resilient I am has liberated me from the bondage of the scale. I now know that my worth is not dependent on how much I weigh or the size of my dress. I know that I can do anything I want to. I can stand up for myself and say no without worrying about the other person abandoning or rejecting me. I now know that I can go after all my dreams and my goals. I enjoy physical activity, cooking healthy meals at home and reading on everything health related. I even enjoy things I once thought were boring or tiring, like shopping, doing my makeup, wearing heels etc. I have fallen so in love with this lifestyle that I am now a Personal Training student. This has become my life.
My most valuable tips:
- Focus on changing your DAILY habits, one habit at a time and the weight will take care of itself. Don’t overwhelm yourself with too many changes all at once.
- Start where you are, with what you have. When I first started, I was morbidly obese, I could not run but I could walk. So I walked. I currently live in a small town with no gym, but I continue to work out and transform my body at home. I work with what I have, whether it’s body weight exercises or jump rope or exercise videos.
- Get help and support at the start of your journey. We all need help during this journey. I did not have it when I started. I learned through trial and error but I realized that my journey could have been different had I had help and more support. So if you can get it, please do.
- Surround yourself with like-minded people like those in the Sleekgeek Facebook Group. Get yourself a tribe of women/men who think like you in terms of health. If you constantly surround yourself with people who have no regard for their health, you are likely to give up on your own efforts, especially when first starting.
- Use different tools to track your progress. There are many ways to see if you are making any progress: dress size, measuring tape, body fat %, level of fitness and finally the scale. most of us depend so much in the scale that even when we make progress, we don’t see it because the scale is not moving.
- Keep things interesting. Boredom is the fastest way to kill your mojo. Mix up your exercise, cook different foods and don’t settle too much into a routine.
- Believe in yourself. There will be challenges, there will be dark times to test your resolve. Believe in yourself and your ability to bounce back after a setback. Remember, when you get tired, rest, but don’t quit!