I’ve been chubby my entire life. I used to be teased in primary school about my weight, and since then I have had absolutely no body confidence. When I was younger, I did karate, but had to stop due to health issues. I have always been drawn to healthy foods and I LOVE drinking water. In high school I was very weight conscious. I followed strict diets, and exercised for hours daily, and STILL believed I was fat and ugly.
In 2014 I started gaining weight. No matter what I did, how well I followed a diet or how much I exercised, I just could not shake off the kilo’s. Finally, in 2016 I went to my GP of 21 years and asked for help. She suspected something and referred me to a gynaecologist. I was the diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome. This is basically a hormone disorder causing enlarged ovaries with small cysts on the outer edges. It causes a huge amount of hormonal imbalance, which is exactly what happened in my case. In early 2017 I was officially diagnosed with insulin resistance after some routine blood tests. I had no energy, could barely stay awake in morning traffic, was very irritable, suffered from extreme anxiety and couldn’t stay focused through a whole day at work. I was put on 500mg of Glucophage (or Metformin) to help control the insulin levels, but my doctor advised me that I would have to seriously adjust my lifestyle if I did not want to end up with type 2 diabetes. I immediately started implementing changes to my lifestyle.
I started small by cutting out all sugar and unnecessary carbs. This alone improved my overall mood. I implemented a low carb, high fat diet – relying on healthy fats for energy. I tried to eat 5 times a day: Breakfast, 10am snack, lunch, 4pm snack, and dinner. I usually try to eat dinner before 18:00, at the very latest 19:00 – always including veggies in my dinner. My snacks are usually a fruit (like a granny smith apple) or some biltong. Breakfasts consist of oats or overnight oats on very busy days. For the first month I did not train. Merely because my body was still adjusting, and I had to get used to the new lifestyle. I started with cardio – walking and light jogging. After I started feeling like I wasn’t getting tired so quickly, I adjusted my training. Now I do a combination of cardio and weight training. I start with 15min of jogging. Than I do about 30-45min of weight training, including exercised using only your body weight, and I end off with another 15min of jogging.
My family, friends and fiance have been very supportive. They always ask about my progress and if I can give them any advice. My fiance and best friend also train with me, which doesn’t make it feel like a punishment, but more like a fun activity. Having a strong support system is very important, especially on those days where you feel like eating 2 chocolates, a piece of cake AND a donut. Their support and motivation helped me stay focused. It also helps to know that they look up to you. Knowing that, you do not want to cheat because it feels like you will be letting them down.
You never realise how important the food you eat is, until you have no choice but to make such a big adjustment. I would have never thought that only being conscious about my sugar intake would make me feel like a new person. Staying focused through the tough times makes you feel so proud when you look back and think: “Hey, I am strong. I didn’t give up when things got hard. I can do anything!”
Just the weight that I have lost alone is a big achievement for me. I also suffer from asthma. Running and having to stop because my legs are sore and not because I can’t breathe is a HUGE achievement. Hopefully by end of October, I will have completed my first 5km run.
I have a sweet tooth and giving up some of my favourite sweet treats was probably the hardest adjustment for me. I have found some great alternatives, but still try to avoid them as far as possible. Also, learning how to choose better options on a restaurant menu has been a challenge, but I can now proudly say I have educated myself enough to know how to choose healthier options.
I have so much more energy, in all aspects of my life. I have grown fond of exercising, which is something I have almost hated my whole life. My skin is looking better and I have gotten so many compliments on how healthy my hair is. I have more energy now to do the things a 23 year old is supposed to do. I used to think I was an introvert…maybe I was just tired?
· Always stay hydrated. Drink as much water as you are able to. You won’t believe the difference that makes.
· Look at the labels of things presumed to be “healthy”. You will be surprised when you notice the awful hidden ingredients.
· You don’t have to cut out the things you like. Try to find better alternatives, or just don’t have them as often. Moderation is key.
· Start slow. Sometimes you have to make big changes, and that can make you feel like giving up completely. Slowly start implementing your new values. That will make it more of a lifestyle than just a quick fix.
· Educate yourself. Read up on different diets and how each of them works. This will give you a great idea of how the types of food you eat will affect your body.
· Be active. Always try to be as active as possible. I do 10 squats each time I go to the bathroom 😉
Remember, you are not defined by your weight OR how you look. Doing this for YOURSELF is great motivation, and once the compliments start rolling in, you will thank yourself.