So­phie Lich­aba on her di­a­betes & weight-loss jour­ney

Af­ter be­ing body-shamed for her slim­mer fig­ure, So­phie Lich­aba re­veals the real rea­son be­hind her weight loss

DRUM - - Contents - BY THOLAKELE MNGANGA

SHE’S used to turn­ing heads wher­ever she goes. Hav­ing ce­mented her­self as a small-screen dar­ling, So­phie Lich­aba has been a fan favourite for more than 20 years. Yet noth­ing could pre­pare her for the bru­tal pub­lic back­lash when she stepped out at a Her­itage Day func­tion in Soweto. It wasn’t the star’s flat­ter­ing red dress but rather her sunken cheeks that dropped jaws. The ac­tress, who shot to fame as the volup­tuous Queen Moroka in Gen­er­a­tions, was no­tice­ably slim­mer.

Is she ill, fans won­dered? Did she have HIV, oth­ers spec­u­lated on so­cial me­dia?

The body-sham­ing prompted So­phie to ex­plain her ap­pear­ance. “I’m send­ing my love to all my friends and fam­ily who are con­cerned about my weight and health,” she wrote on In­sta­gram.

“Some peo­ple sad­den me be­cause I have lost both my par­ents through di­a­betes. I nursed them, so I know this killer dis­ease. IT’S REAL. No joke.

“Our fel­low sis­ters and broth­ers com­mit sui­cide be­cause of pres­sure of what you neg­a­tive heart­less peo­ple think. I stopped wor­ry­ing what any neg­a­tive per­son thinks long ago. Just sur­prised that grown peo­ple share such heart­less opin­ions.”

But her can­did post didn’t de­ter cy­ber­bul­lies. Even her hus­band of 10 months, Max Lich­aba, hasn’t been spared, So­phie tells DRUM.

“Just last week a girl sent him a mes­sage on In­sta­gram say­ing, ‘Do you re­ally wake up next to her? Isn’t she scary?’”

It’s th­ese barbs that have bruised the ac­tress and busi­ness­woman’s feel­ings. “Right now I’ve lost a lit­tle bit too much, ob­vi­ously, but I’m go­ing to gain a lit­tle bit more.”

With more than two decades in showbiz, So­phie has had to grow a thick skin to deal with the pub­lic scru­tiny but she’s still sur­prised by how cruel peo­ple can be. “Peo­ple send my hus­band such nasty mes­sages on so­cial me­dia,” she says. “Women say, ‘That woman looks so weird. Do you re­ally love her?’”

So­phie says Max has been noth­ing but car­ing in the face of her body-sham­ing.

“I don’t care what peo­ple say about me be­cause if I did care, I’d slip into de­pres­sion. My kids un­der­stood what I was go­ing through and so has my hus­band, who has been very sup­port­ive.”

THE past few years have been rough for So­phie: she lost her par­ents, Joyce and Solly Mphasane, to di­a­betes in 2010 and 2016 re­spec­tively. In 2015 she too was di­ag­nosed with the con­di­tion. And it’s this that prompted her to dras­ti­cally change her life­style.

She re­calls the events that led to her di­ag­no­sis. “I was in the mall when I felt un­well. I couldn’t read the names of the dif­fer­ent shops and be­gan to feel dizzy,” she says.

Know­ing that di­a­betes is ge­netic, and hav­ing taken care of her par­ents, So­phie had a sneaky sus­pi­cion about what was wrong with her.

“I went straight to Dis-Chem and I bought a ma­chine [that mea­sures blood sugar lev­els] to ver­ify what I was think­ing. I pricked my­self there in the shop and my sugar lev­els were 19.”

Shocked by the re­sult, So­phie called her mother’s doc­tor, Dr Blaine Bloy, who told her to come straight to the hospi­tal so he could sta­bilise her sugar lev­els. “I was hos­pi­talised for a week and a half be­cause that’s how long it took to take my sugar lev­els down from 19 to the nor­mal six.”

Af­ter be­ing dis­charged from hospi­tal So­phie got to work on chang­ing her eat­ing habits, which she ad­mits wasn’t easy.

As a Type 2 di­a­betic her diet is lim­ited. “I can’t do many dairy prod­ucts. And

there are cer­tain fruits I can’t eat, like pineap­ple and grapes, be­cause they have too much sugar.

“It’s hard, be­cause while other peo­ple can take some­thing off the shelf and buy it, I have to read the la­bels on ev­ery­thing be­fore I buy it and I re­ally have to get my fam­ily to sup­port me.”

Over the course of three years So­phie, who is 1,6m tall, has gone from 95kg to 65kg – the light­est she’s been all her adult life. “For many years I was a size 36 but peo­ple don’t un­der­stand that I was still obese,” she says. “Peo­ple don’t re­alise the word obese means your weight is not cor­rect for your height. I was obese for my height be­cause I was 10-15kg over­weight and I wanted to get rid of the weight to be nor­mal.”

Th­ese days her break­fast con­sists of oats or an ap­ple and So­phie says she snacks on al­monds be­cause other nuts are too oily. For lunch she has fish with a salad driz­zled with sugar-free dress­ing. At mid­day she snacks on fruit such as kiwi – which doesn’t con­tain much sugar – and for sup­per she’ll have chicken and veg­eta­bles. She drinks plenty of water through­out the day and has cut all red meat from her diet.

HAV­ING gone pub­lic with her di­a­betes bat­tle, So­phie is on a mission to cre­ate aware­ness ar­ound the con­di­tion.

She’s plan­ning to launch a life­style blog de­tail­ing how she keeps fit and healthy and hopes to de­bunk the mis­con­cep­tion that di­a­betes is a “sim­ple dis­ease”.

“Trust me, this is a big­ger killer than HIV,” she says.

“Peo­ple who live with HIV live a bet­ter life than peo­ple liv­ing with di­a­betes be­cause peo­ple with HIV can eat what­ever they want with­out feel­ing sick within 30 min­utes. “It’s a silent killer.” Bat­tling di­a­betes is hard enough with­out be­ing body-shamed, she says.

“Peo­ple must start wak­ing up and stop crit­i­cis­ing peo­ple who live with any kind of chronic dis­ease.”

So­phie is also plan­ning to re­turn to the small screen in a show called Hash­tag.

“We haven’t started shoot­ing yet but it’s go­ing to be very, very ex­cit­ing.”

The show, she says, will fo­cus on trend­ing top­ics from all across the world and will give fans a chance to share their thoughts and opin­ions on sto­ries that af­fect so­ci­ety.

“I’m also work­ing on two shows of my own, with the same peo­ple who are do­ing Hash­tag,” she says. So­phie is tightlipped about the TV shows she has in the pipe­line, but says they’ve al­ready com­pleted scripts and con­cepts.

When she’s not work­ing on her weight and TV projects So­phie, who runs a wed­ding-plan­ning busi­ness, is scour­ing venues for her own white wed­ding.

So­phie and Max wed in a tra­di­tional cer­e­mony in Novem­ber last year. Now the cou­ple – who share 10 chil­dren be­tween them – will have a des­ti­na­tion wed­ding “some­time” next year.

‘I’m just sur­prised that grown peo­ple share such heart­less opin­ions’

So far they’ve nar­rowed down their venue op­tions to three places, but aren’t ready to share the de­tails. But be­fore then So­phie wants to have an­other tra­di­tional cer­e­mony at her fam­ily home in Soweto – and she doesn’t care what peo­ple will think. “My life is the way it should be, and I’m happy with it.”

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FAR LEFT: The pic of So­phie Lich­aba, with her hus­band Max, that caused a so­cial-me­dia stir. LEFT: She rose to fame as curvy Queen in Gen­er­a­tions. RIGHT: So­phie says Max is sup­port­ive.

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