Tired of feeling uncomfortable in her own body, 40-year-old Thobekile Gwamanda challenged herself and ended up living her best life.
This is the story of how she did it...
- Age: 40
- Occupation: Projects coordinator
- City: Pretoria
- Weight before: 139.3kg
- Weight after: 75kg
- Time taken to lose weight: 4.5 years
Secret weapon to weight loss: Healthy eating and consistency
The weight gain trigger
When Thobekile was younger, she was heavily involved in sports. “Dancing was one of my main activities. I also did gymnastics, netball and table tennis,” she says.
The weight gain started when she developed a false tumour in her eye.
“The increased intracranial pressure caused swelling of the optic nerve and resulted in vision loss. I was put on heavy steroids to reduce the swelling of the nerve. The medication helped with my eye temporarily, but did huge damage to my body,” she explains.
Added to this, Thobekile wasn’t allowed to exercise during treatment.
While on medication, Thobekile fell pregnant, which added to her weight gain. By the time she delivered her baby, she was tipping the scales 110 kilos.
“[Having a baby] was such a bittersweet moment, where I had a bundle of joy, but looked horrible and hated being out of my house. I lost my confidence, self-esteem and I forgot how to smile and be happy anymore,” she says.
“I tried going back to gym, my eating habits were unhealthy. I ate a lot of sugary stuff, bread, fried food, pasta and rice. My weakness was dessert, chocolate and alcohol.”
A year after having her baby, the problem had escalated.
“I was getting bigger and bigger, my marriage was falling apart, [and I] had no confidence to start all over again. I hated shopping because nothing fit unless I went to the large male section or fuller figure side. At 31, I looked 10 years older and I was [weighing] 139kg,” she explains.
How it all changed
When Thobekile left her marriage, she decided she needed to make other changes too.
“I told myself that enough was enough – I needed to take back ownership of my life. I needed my happiness back. I needed to bring up my child in a healthy and happy environment,” she says.
First, she completely cut out her favourite foods.
“It was very hard, especially cutting out bread, amagwinya (fat cakes), desert, fizzy drinks, basically all my happy food.”
But quitting all those foods at once wasn’t the best idea, as it led her to cheat often. With the guidance from a trainer, Thobekile was told to allow herself a weekly cheat meal to keep cravings at bay.
She started by eating six meals a day and meal prepping. Her new eating plan was more balanced, ensuring she had all the nutrients her body needed.
For breakfast, she’d have a smoothie or oats, then lunch and supper would be a combo of healthy starch such as sweet potato, greens and protein. In between, she’d snack on fruit, nuts and raw vegetables.
As for exercise, Thobekile jumped right into it.
“I did lots of cardio. Since I’m not a fan of jogging/running, aerobics classes played an important role in my beginning stage. [I would do] at least two classes a day. This included kick and step class, as well as spinning,” she says.
Maintaining the lifestyle
“It took a while, but I was consistent,” says Thobekile.
Her consistency paid off: In less than five years, she’s dropped over 60 kilos!
She’s still sticking to the basics of meal prepping and keeping active. And she’s shifted her focus to maintaining her weight and toning up. She does weight training four times a week, and cardio in the form of boxing, step and kick class twice a week.
Reaping the rewards
Added to the huge weight loss, Thobekile’s confidence and happiness have skyrocketed. What started out as an effort to become healthy has become a lifestyle – one she now shares with others through her job as a fitness coach and group exercise instructor.
As for what’s next, she’s committed to self-improvement every day.
“My journey hasn’t ended. I’m a better version of myself, but not perfect. One day when I’ve worked hard enough, I’d love to capture that moment with a professional photo shoot.”
Have a team:
“Get friends, colleagues and family members to walk the journey with you. The journey is better and easier when you do it as a team.”
Keep your head up and give yourself a pat each time you reach a milestone:
“Dropping weight is your own individual story, so write it and write with a smile. Be patient with yourself – it’s not just the body, but the emotions and psychological challenges you have to overcome. Go for it.
Document your journey:
“It’s amazing what comparing before and after picture does to your confidence. It also encourages you to push more after seeing what you’re capable of. Most importantly, before pictures remind you where you come from and what made you start in the first place.”
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