My relationship with food has been an ongoing battle from primary school. I feel that, even with the best intentions, my parents were perhaps too verbal about food: what you were putting in your mouth, what you shouldn’t put in your mouth, what would make you fat… The end result was a fixation on food. I always perceived myself as overweight. I must have been. Otherwise, why were we talking about food all the time?
At school, most of my friends were guys and they always talked about how pretty OTHER girls were. Every boy that I had a crush on went for one of my girlfriends. This went on throughout school and well into varsity. So, I gained a bit of a complex about being “second-choice” too. Compared to these girls, I was plain and overweight. The one that the guys felt comfortable with using as the bridge to get to know my more attractive, slim friends.
The dreaded England spread played a part in adding some kilos my first year out of high school. The food at res didn’t help the first year of Varsity. The first year of marriage saw a more comfortable, cushier me. These were typical life clichés that a lot of women have gone through, and contributed to a bigger than average number on the scale, but they weren’t the true catalyst for uncontrollable weight gain.
Pregnancy was – or rather, my inability to fall pregnant and subsequent miscarriage was.
My husband and I decided to try for a baby in June 2013. Women often expect that once we start trying, it will happen at the drop of a hat. Well, months went by and nothing. I put it down to my body sorting itself out after years of being on the pill, but every month, when my period made its unwelcome arrival, I felt my heart sinking lower and my weight creeping higher as I found some small measure of comfort in food. Then, in November 2013, we finally got a Big Fat Positive on the pregnancy test (and subsequent five tests, just to make sure). My appointment with the doctor confirmed it with a little heartbeat on the sonar at 6 weeks pregnant. I started to bleed a little the day after the appointment, but was told everything was fine at the check-up, that this can happen, and to take it easy. I was put on Utrogestan to help the baby “stick”. I started to eat a little more.
We announced the good news to our families at Christmas with a “Santa’s Little Helper” hat wrapped as a gift. The bleeding hadn’t stopped, but I pushed my fear aside and celebrated with everyone. Enter the new year which brought the worst day of my life. I woke up early on 3 January 2014, with excruciating cramps and heavy bleeding. I dragged myself to the bathroom, my husband still fast asleep in bed, and knew that I was losing my baby. I was on the floor of that bathroom for what felt like ages as my mind tried to come to terms with what was happening. I eventually got myself back to the bed and woke him up and he took me to hospital. I’m not going to go through the many hours of fear and pain that night. To put a long story short, seeing my little 10 week old baby on the monitor, resting at the bottom of my womb, but with no heartbeat, is a scene from my life that will be etched into my soul forever.
People avoid you when something like this happens. Sure, flowers and condolences are sent, but no one will talk about it, or come and sit with you and just let you cry. You are left alone because people are uncomfortable and don’t know what to say. As I didn’t get comfort in people, I got comfort in food. It was something to break the constant dwelling on the loss. It also became the fall back for the next three “unsuccessful” pregnancies. It became my crutch when my best friend and I fell pregnant together, only for her to go on alone with hers. Food was a constant when the doctor told me “there’s nothing wrong with my body, it’s just been bad luck”. When I finally fell pregnant again, in September 2014, I was 93kg and so fearful that I would go through it all again…
“We need to weigh you for your C-section.” I got onto that scale on 20 June 2015 and 106kg loomed at me. Yikes! I was shocked! I hadn’t looked at the scale since I was 6 months pregnant and 96kg. I had no doubt in my mind that my weight played a big role in why I was now being prepped for surgery instead of the natural delivery I had tried for 12 hours since my water broke. It’s an odd moment for your mind to flip the switch – anyone would say “you were PREGNANT! You had a HUMAN in you!”, but that is when the decision to change my life was made. You see, not only was I pretty sure that my weight had contributed to my difficulty in giving birth, I also felt that it may have been the root cause of my troubles in starting a family. I had a beautiful little girl on the way and I wanted to, one day, give her a brother or sister. Only THIS time, my body would be strong. It would be a fortress. That’s how I see it now – my body will be the fortress that protects my children. That will carry them safely into this world, that will keep them safe, and that they can come back to for many years to come.
Of course, the first thing I needed to do was to look after my little baby. I was lucky in that I could breastfeed, so drastically reducing calories was not an option. I could move though! I couldn’t wait to move – five days after the c-section, I was off to Joburg for our family photoshoot. After an initial melt, weight loss stalled. By January 2016, I was 92kg, down 8kg from leaving the hospital at 100kg.
I made the resolution that I would lose 30 kg by the age of 30. I started by hitting the “10 000 steps a day” goal. My sister and I did it together – whoever hit the most steps in three months got R1000 from the other – I lost the bet, but I also lost a few kilograms! Nothing like a little healthy competition to get you going. I would walk around the neighbourhood with Hazel strapped to me, trying to hit my step target. My knees hurt! I went to my first Park Run in February 2016, carting my little baby with me in her stroller and finishing in 56m55s. Then, Hazel decided she didn’t want mommy making her food anymore which left no excuse for me not to focus on some serious lifestyle changes.
I had joined Sleekgeek back in October 2013, but remained a silent member up until that point. I started paying more attention to the group – reading the stories and being so inspired by these REAL people that had changed their lives. They didn’t promise an easy solution, but they DID promise that they would root for me on every step of my journey. They offered no judgement. They were ME, in many different shapes and sizes. I made small changes at first – tapering sugar out of my coffee, eating whole wheat instead of white bread, drinking more water. I dragged my sister on board too! I bought a treadmill to keep up with her and started using the C25K app (couch to 5km).
By the time I was ready for my first REBOOT, in July 2016, I was 87kg – already down 5kg just from those little changes. I lost another 5kg the month of doing that reboot. I picked up a couple of kilograms between then and my first Ultimate You Challenge, which I started at 83kg in September 2016 (with my sister by my side, telephonically at least). By the end of that Challenge, I had lost 9kg. Festive season was NOT kind, however, and I jumped back into the 80s.
THE GOAL TRIFECTA
I needed to get out of the binge trend that I was seeing. It couldn’t be just about the weight loss anymore. I needed to set myself more holistic goals. I came up with three:
- The “30 by 30” goal still stood – I will weigh 62kg by the end of 2017
- Run the 2017 Two Oceans Half Marathon in under three hours (I hated running so, of course this made the most sense)
- Submit my Masters Dissertation by the end of September 2017
I used another UYC to help keep me focused and I am proud to say that Goal 2 of the Trifecta is now complete! Not only complete, but I ran it in under 2h30m! In fact, I have completed THREE half marathons this year. Up until January, I had done nothing more than going to Park Runs and jumping on my treadmill (definitely worth the investment). That was it! In the space of four months, I went from 5km to 21km. I used all of Discovery Vitality’s Reward programmes – the shoe booster, flight booster, gym booster, even the Apple watch as motivators to keep me on track. Not meeting a weekly goal meant I had to pay in! I have yet to miss one as a result.
Training went something like this:
|Monday||Warm up on treadmill for 10 min, strength train legs for 30 min, cool down 5 min|
|Tuesday||Run/walk 6-8km (I use Strava to plan routes). I would use the treadmill if I couldn’t go outdoors and set it on a slight incline (1-2% at least).|
|Wednesday||Warm up on treadmill for 10 min, strength train arms, chest and abs for 30 min, cool down 5 min|
|Thursday||Long run/walk 8-12km|
|Friday||Yoga class (core strength)|
When it comes to food, I personally do not do well with having my meals dictated to me. Being married to a restaurateur, I have to keep my dinners inventive and tasty, or unhealthy foods start making their way back into the pantry. My advice is to have TYPES of foods you can eat, learned through trial and error – cut out processed carbs for a couple of weeks and see how your body responds, for example. Do the same with dairy. Small changes – not all in one go. I have learned what works best for me and I approach meals from the following angle:
|Protein, dairy and veg (typically some yummy butter-scrambled eggs and grilled tomato/mushrooms/spinach)||Stick to protein and veg. It is helpful to bake a load of chicken pieces for the week to have on hand in the fridge. I can’t stand veg that were prepared more than a couple of days prior. Alternatively, whatever is left over from the night before (always make a big dinner – leftovers are key)||Google is your friend. Try new recipes. There are loads of paleo and LCHF recipes out there. Don’t stick to the same things – boredom leads to cheating. Again, protein, veg and perhaps dairy. When in doubt, a good old coffee-rubbed steak and salad will do.|
I am not too heavy handed with the dairy and I know that fruit is a major weight loss stumbling block for me. I limit fruit to the occasional treat. In short, my eating style is Low Carb, but with limited dairy. Of course, there is the occasional binge day, but I CHOOSE the day. Even more, I am VERY stingy with what I will be eating as a cheat – if it’s going to damage my progress towards my goal, it had better well be something TRULY worth it. This way, it becomes a luxury meal to be saved for and savoured. Plain old cheese burgers don’t cut it anymore – MY burger has to be a medium-rare lamb mince patty on toasted ciabatta with melted brie, caramalised onions and fresh rocket. Otherwise, it just feels like wasted effort. Of course, there WILL be days where I just want to lay comatose in front of the TV with a packet of crisps. It happens! I have a kid and sometimes I am just tired. I try my best not to let it run into the next day though.
WHERE I AM NOW
I’m about to start my THIRD Ultimate You Challenge in June (Challenge Addict here!). At 69kg, I am 31kg lighter than I was when I left the hospital with my daughter in my arms. I have 7kg left to hit my goal of 62kg, where I can begin to focus only on fat and not weight, and I am hoping that goal will be met by the end of this challenge. I fit into a 34 where I once bought a 42. I have done a Park Run in 30m39s – almost twice as fast as my first a little over a year ago. I feel confident in myself – more focused on what my body can DO. I don’t feel the need to compare myself to others – I want to support them rather. I LOVE supporting Sleeks! I mentioned earlier how I wanted to make my body a fortress? For me, I find Sleekgeek almost like the scaffold for that fortress. There are no words that can adequately describe the inspiration that Sleekgeek brings to my life. It is my sincere hope that I can pay that inspiration forward, just as every one of your stories has done for me.