“Food isn’t a reward.”

These are the words of a tech entrepreneur from Johannesburg who’s transformed herself from being overweight to having sculpted abs that she’s not afraid to flaunt.  

Speaking to YOU, the now unstoppable Mathebe Molise says she’s always been bigger and taller than her peers.

“I’m told it’s genetic,” Mathebe explains. “My father’s side of the family is quite big and super tall too. On top of having ‘fat’ genes, I loved food.”

The 32-year-old says her parents always tried their best to manage what she ate and even packed her lunchbox with healthy food. But she’d stuff her face with chips or sweets. “They were a big no-no, but I loved them.”

When Mathebe started studying at Wits University, she had more money to spend on junk food.

“It all became a recipe for disaster,” she recalls. “Interestingly enough, when I looked in the mirror, I saw nothing wrong – it’s only now that I compare before and after [pictures] that I gasp.”

Mathebe Molise

At her heaviest, she weighed 150kg – and that’s when her mother sat her down. “She said it was getting out of control and it clicked that I had to do something about it.”

Mathebe started her healthy lifestyle journey after her 21st birthday. She began by eating only healthy foods and starting a low-intensity cardio exercise regime.

“I stopped eating processed carbs and switched to greens and protein, cut sugar out and started drinking a lot of water.”

She lost a whopping 30kg in the first year.

Mathebe Molise

“At the beginning it was amazing because you’re dropping all this weight and clothes are getting bigger,” she tells us.

“Then your weight loss plateaus, you become discouraged and you need to find ways to kickstart it [again], which is a challenge.”

Cutting out foods that she never thought she’d live without was also difficult, she admits. This year, she added dairy and red meat to the long list of foods she no longer touches. “But it’s so worth it because I feel good,” she says.

“My workouts are high-intensity now and I try to push my body every time.”

In-between running Beauty on TApp, a wellness e-tailor that currently retails over 190 beauty and wellness products, she works out six times a week.

“I’m part of #team5am. I find that going to the gym early and getting it out of the way is much better because evening fatigue is a big gym deterrent.”

On Mondays she has boxing classes and on Saturdays or Sundays she concentrates on high-intensity interval training.

“The other four days I go to the gym and focus on cardio and weight training.”

Mathebe, who loves travelling, is very strict about her diet but hasn’t weighed herself in five years.

“I have All-Bran or muesli with soy yoghurt for breakfast. I have a salad or fish with salad for lunch and then, for dinner, chicken or fish with salad or green vegetables.

Mathebe Molise

“I don’t even own one [a scale], so I have no idea how much I weigh.”

For her, it was never about how much she weighs but about being healthy and maintaining that lifestyle.

“I actually know if I’ve gained or lost weight based on how my clothes fit and I can see and feel the changes in my body,” she explains.

“Walking into any store and finding your size on the rack is such a relief and self-esteem booster.”

Food for thought from Mathebe Molise:

· You should want to do it for you and not to impress anyone.

· If you want better for yourself, it’s so much easier to commit to a healthy lifestyle. Also, very important, is that food isn’t a reward.

· When we’re little, parents reward us with treats, and we take that into adulthood.

· Food is there to sustain your body, not to reward good behaviour.