Les Brown once said, “Strength doesn’t come from what you can do. It comes from overcoming the things you once thought you couldn’t.”
My name is Abigail, and this is my story..
My tale has about the same amount of ups and downs as does a roller coaster ride. I never thought I had an unhealthy love for food, I knew I loved it and that was that.
In school I wasn’t the fat kid however, for me in comparison to my tall skinny friends I definitely felt as though I was. I did eat enough to feed an army but I never really gained too much weight until after I had left. I was in the first team for almost every sport at school, and outside of school I was big into dancing, at least three classes a week. I decided after watching one too many episodes of Ready, Steady, Cook I wanted to be a chef when I left school and that’s what I did. I studied at an internationally recognised Culinary Institute, and after winning the top baker award I decided that would be my path.
It wasn’t long until cooking up all these treats I started gaining weight, and then my first job I worked the graveyard shift, which in turn left me eating all sorts of bad unhealthy foods at all the wrong times. At 8am I’d eat as if it were my dinner (hamburger, pizza, sweets, soft drinks, milkshakes) and sleep the day, wake up for more food, perhaps nap again before work and repeat.
Six days a week for a year and a half. During this time I had also been in an unhealthy relationship with my first real boyfriend (I was 16 he was 20 and we dated for four years), this didn’t contribute at all to any desire for change. Being called fat too often to mean anything anymore still didn’t make me want to change my ways. I was partying hard doing all sorts of things I shouldn’t have been, and eating so much take out you would have thought I had shares in McDonald’s. In one sitting I would usually consume a Big McMeal supersize, a junior chicken burger, 32-piece chicken nuggets and an Oreo Mcflurry to end it off.
I weighed my heaviest at almost 80kgs I was 21 years old, I had just received the job of Executive Baker at the five star Taj Hotel and boy was I confident. Me and the boy broke up (thank goodness) and in every aspect I almost felt invincible. I ate what I wanted, when I wanted. If you are in the hospitality industry, generally speaking if food is provided for you, it’s not too healthy. It’s about mass cooking, inexpensive, filling meals.
I did absolutely no exercise and just lived life. I thought I was happy. I wasn’t. I saw how my clothes were no longer fitting and when it came time to buy new ones; when you continuously have to go up a size something should’ve perhaps rang a bell, but nothing did. Well, someone did.
My family had tried to nicely explain I was not being healthy, not with regards to my weight but my lifestyle, my dad kept trying to encourage me to go for evening walks with him. When you work 9-10 hours a day standing, that’s pretty much the last thing you want to do. I kept denying their help until I saw my brother. He is one of my best friends, I hadn’t seen him for two years due to his overseas work however, when I did the look in his eyes told me all I needed to know.
It was not malicious in any way, but I read what he had been thinking and standing in front of the mirror that day I realised I had to do something. And I did. I gave up all the unhealthy rubbish I used to eat and started eating clean. I found online workouts to do from home, and without fail daily I found the time to do them. No matter how tired I was, or how badly I wanted my Mc Donald’s family meals. I didn’t give into the temptation. Just the small changes lead to me losing 25kgs and honestly it wasn’t difficult because now “I” wanted to change.
My diet would generally consist of three meals a day, I didn’t really snack much, but if I did it would be fruit, biltong or nuts. For Breakfast I would always have two poached eggs on rye with fat free cream cheese and sliced pepperdews. Lunch would have a protein and salad/veg and dinner would often be similar to lunch. My workouts were short but intense. I only did 15 minute workouts without interruption and I went on 5km walks most days as well.
I then joined the Sleekgeek Facebook Group in 2012 to share my story and the feedback was unreal, it became a motivation not to slip back to old ways. People had been inspired by my story, how could I?
I cannot deny that there were times when I was not so healthy. I started modelling (well, I tried) and being surrounded by girls who were still much skinnier than me discouraged the healthy eating and turned into one meal a day. I was never happy. The magazines focus our attention on how we “should” look and are blinded to diverse weights. (It’s getting better now) I became focused more on trying to please others than being content with who I am, who I wanted to be, how I wanted to look.
In the following years my weight was healthy. It was not until 2016 that I started picking up again. I moved to Franschhoek at a healthy weight of around 57kgs. I faced love life drama (AGAIN) and the move from home (Cape Town) was tough. I drank almost daily and ate until I felt ill. I went out late, had too much wine, cooked the unhealthiest foods at who knows what time, woke up hungover and headed to the shops for some greasy food and soft drinks to cure the headache. I left work at 5pm and repeat. I did this for over a year. I picked up over 12 kgs.
I then met someone, we had the most incredible trip planned and I decided, I wanted to look good in a bikini again. I wanted to look smoking hot on the beach. I wanted to not look the way I did. And again, just like that I started being healthy, yes I was still drinking but I was eating really well, working out twice a day If could. I never ate any dressings or sauces, I cut out bread, and any sugar contained soft drink, which was the biggest for me as I had been consuming about two large monsters/ red bulls a day. The changes I noticed became this infatuation to keep going, motivation to push through every workout I had wanted to put off, and encouragement to not put chips I had wanted to shovel in my mouth like I hadn’t eaten for weeks.
When it came to a cheat day I didn’t because I was so scared I would go back to old ways so I restricted myself. Again, there were times when I was excessive in trying to lose weight. I fall off the wagon at times, but I always get back up. It’s not about how long it takes to get up, as long as you do.
My family and friends have been such a big influence in always accommodating me when it comes to encouragement, motivation and catering to dietary requirements I might have. Through difficult times whether it be emotionally or physically they have been behind me all the way.
I will soon be 29 years old and since last June I have lost 17kgs and as much as I feel that is something to be proud of, I could not be prouder to say that on Monday the 30th of April 2018, I will be 100 days sober.
I have lost 25 since the first before photo at the top of this article when I was 21.
Why I decided to become sober
On the 21st of January 2018, I woke up from a night out as usual feeling pretty shit, and gross. I looked in my full length mirror at myself and dropped to my knees in tears. See, I had recently been through a breakup (Again, I’m obviously not great at these things) the thing now was, this bloke who broke my heart.. wow! He was the best thing that had ever happened to me, and I will always love him with all my heart for fighting for me and with me to conquer my fears and my demons – the ones we ALL have. It’s tough to end something when there’s a lot of love left.. anyway I can’t do anything about it as much as I wish I could change the way he felt about me.
OK, sorry, so I’m on my knees in tears playing through my mind almost everything that has taken place when I’ve been drinking, the arguments, the tears, literally it played in my mind like a movie and I said to myself “Abigail, you cannot do this anymore, look at what you’ve lost.” The thing is, I ate and drank to fill a void, to fill feelings I didn’t want to process. I felt it was an escape when in fact it was an addiction, an addiction to not want to feel.
I blamed everybody else without taking any responsibility for why I had ended up where I did, when in fact nobody had forced me to do any of the things I did or be any of the things I was. I ended up very alone, because I was not the same person when I had been drinking. I was completely different, an emotionally draining human to be around. I put myself into isolation as I didn’t have many people left other than family who wanted to dedicate time to me when all I did was become an argumentative, possessive, not so awesome person.
And that was that. I haven’t looked back once and thought what a waste of time; I am honestly doing so well. Now I have no excuses for what I say or my actions, because they cannot be blamed on alcohol anymore. No, I’m not all of a sudden cured of the feelings I didn’t want to face and singing the sound of music as I clean my apartment, it’s all very real now, in the sober mind now you have to face and deal with things. I’ve learned that’s ok, that its normal.
My tips for change:
- Never ever give up, no matter what you think, you are in control, don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.
- Do it for you, this is important because if you are doing this for anybody other than yourself you will never be happy
- Consistency is key! I have Cheesecake every Monday but the rest of the week I remain focused. I find it easier to not slip up if I can be as consistent as possible.
- Always find time, it doesn’t have to be the gym I personally don’t go, I work out at home. Even if it’s a short walk, or a 20 min home session, make the effort to find the time.
- Excessiveness, a bit of a contradictory point to number 3. But I also don’t want people to be like I was. I completely deprived myself of anything good because of fear of failure. We do only live once don’t make this one life revolving around being boxed into a category of how you feel you should look. I’m not saying cheat every day, but if you want a slice of cake or a couple of fries (all within reason) have it. Workout, get back on track and keep focused. Trust me feeling out of your depth from excessiveness is not a pleasant place to be. Because honestly under eating is just as hard to overcome as is overeating.
We all have stories, some people don’t know them and are intrigued, others don’t care, and then there are people who appear in your life and become a part of your story, a part of your journey. Never give anybody else the pen in your book, write your own story.