My story – Gco­bisa Mashigoana

GCO­BISA MASHEGOANA, 39, has a new lease on life af­ter los­ing 80kg in just 24 months.

True Love - - News - By SISONKE LABASE

“It’s been two years since the re­treat that changed my life, and my weight has gone from 155kg to 75kg. I feel much health­ier. I’m also much more ac­tive and con­fi­dent. I de­cided that since I’m such a go-get­ter in ev­ery other as­pect in my life, I should do the same with my health. Now I have my health back.

Grow­ing up, I wasn’t a chubby child. But look­ing back, we never ate healthily, and from the be­gin­ning, my re­la­tion­ship with food wasn’t right. My fam­ily were eat­ing wrong even then, but maybe be­cause I was a child I didn’t gain any weight. Even as I got older, I didn’t have any is­sues with my weight.

The real prob­lem came when I had kids. Af­ter I gave birth to my first child in 2004, I de­cided not to try to lose weight, be­cause I was go­ing to have more chil­dren any­way. That was a bad de­ci­sion, as my weight bal­looned from there. I re­mem­ber see­ing my gy­nae­col­o­gist while preg­nant. My weight went from 78kg to 90kg and then to 100kg.

The doc­tor then told me I needed to watch my diet. But I didn’t think I had a prob­lem. My plan was to have two kids, and then do some­thing about my weight. But af­ter my sec­ond child was born in 2007, my weight shot up to 120kg, and then to 130kg. I just lost con­trol.

My main weak­ness was meat. Grow­ing up, we couldn’t eat sup­per with­out it – a plate with­out meat wasn’t con­sid­ered a meal. My sis­ter and I didn’t even cook if there wasn’t meat in the house. My love for it be­gan in child­hood and in­creased as I got older. I ate it for break­fast, I snacked on it dur­ing the day – I could eas­ily have a plate full of meat, and I’d wake up some nights and grill a plate of chicken wings just be­cause I felt like them.

My other weak­ness was that I never re­ally cooked – ex­cept for meat. I also lived on take­aways and didn’t mea­sure por­tion sizes. The only time that the kids and I en­joyed a bal­anced meal with veg­eta­bles was on Sun­days – a throw­back to the tra­di­tional Sun­day lunches my fam­ily had en­joyed when I was grow­ing up. My un­healthy habit of eat­ing meat all day was my down­fall.

Don’t get me wrong – I never hated my body. I was still con­fi­dent and looked good. I was big, but it wasn’t an is­sue; I guess it was a mat­ter of ac­cept­ing my­self. I started go­ing to gym to stay healthy, but I wasn’t los­ing weight. At least I was ac­tive.

I held the idea that I’m big, but I can still be beau­ti­ful. I can be happy and ac­tive in this big body. I guess that was my way of cop­ing. I was blessed, in that my kids didn’t re­ally like food much – and even though we had take­aways ev­ery day, they were not over­weight. I wasn’t even con­scious of the food they ate. I was easy­go­ing with what­ever they wanted, as long as they were eat­ing.

My weight-loss jour­ney be­gan when my friends told me I was ne­glect­ing my­self and in need of some ‘me’ time; time to just get away, re­lax and fo­cus on my­self. They felt that my life re­volved around my kids and work, and that I didn’t fo­cus on any­thing else. That was a wake-up call.

They booked a week­end get­away at a well­ness re­sort in Ma­galies­burg in June 2015. It was the first time I was sep­a­rated from my kids for that long. When I got there it was such a shock for me: no cell­phones, no tele­vi­sion or ra­dio, no con­tact with the out­side world.

I no­ticed that the other ladies at the re­treat looked amaz­ing. They looked like they were part of this healthy liv­ing phi­los­o­phy of dance and yoga. Yet I went to gym and ran, but had noth­ing to show for it. That’s when I de­cided I wanted to look the part. I made a con­scious de­ci­sion to try.

The meal plan there cen­tred on or­ganic food. To my hor­ror, there was no meat. I didn’t know how I would sur­vive a full week­end with­out meat. The por­tions were small, and the food didn’t look ap­petis­ing. I wanted to drive to the near­est garage and get food that I liked. But I didn’t do that. The first night I didn’t eat. The next morn­ing, I got up ex­pect­ing eggs and ba­con, only to have half a cup of oats. It felt like tor­ture.

But that’s what changed me. I re­alised at the re­treat that my re­la­tion­ship with food had to change. Food wasn’t these women’s fo­cus in life. It was a source of en­ergy to them, en­abling them to live. But they didn’t live to eat. I felt the op­po­site, be­cause be­fore I would finish lunch, I was al­ready think­ing about what I’d have for sup­per. So when I ac­cepted the re­treat and what it of­fered, I en­joyed the dance classes, the yoga and the walks – be­cause my mind­set changed.

Driv­ing back home, I didn’t re­gard what my friends did as an in­ter­ven­tion. I just thought they had given some­thing that I’d needed and were be­ing nice. In the car I started think­ing of how I was go­ing to im­ple­ment the changes I wanted in my life. I de­cided never to let food con­trol me again. I stopped at the store and got new crock­ery, so I could have smaller plates. This meant smaller por­tions. That was the first thing I did.

If I could sur­vive the week­end with those por­tions, then why couldn’t I do it ev­ery day? I started to change my life­style, which meant the kids ben­e­fit­ted as well. I made sure that I ate at least three meals a day. Be­fore, I would skip meals and then over­com­pen­sate when I did eat. I also bought proper gro­ceries. I had to ap­ply my mind to do­ing so for the first time.

I no longer treated my body like trash and ac­tu­ally took the time to choose what I bought, be­cause it was what was go­ing inside my body. I be­came friends with the green stuff – the fruits and veg­eta­bles. I also bought foods for break­fast like ce­re­als and oats, in­stead of start­ing my day with meat.

I then bought food to make my lunches. I made packed lunches in­stead of buying take­aways at work. I had a new rule: no eat­ing af­ter 8pm. I started to cook and ac­tu­ally re­alised I was saving money. The lit­tle things started to add up and make a dif­fer­ence. I knew I didn’t want to go on a diet and frus­trate my­self with quick-fix di­ets, only to have the weight come back on again. I knew changing my life­style had to do the trick, and I was in­vested in it.

I started in­ten­si­fy­ing my ex­er­cise regime. I hit the road hard and ran ev­ery morn­ing, not just on Satur­days. Some peo­ple would look at me and taxis would hoot and make fun of me. But then there were those who were sup­port­ive and would mo­ti­vate me to keep go­ing.

Now I’m do­ing gym harder to tone up, be­cause I know there will be loose skin from my weight loss. But I’m do­ing so well, and I have seen the change in me. I’ve done this all by my­self and have cre­ated some­thing that I can sus­tain. I’ve had to be bold and hon­est with my­self. I’ve had to weigh my­self and not be scared of the scale. I weigh my­self ev­ery two weeks on a Wed­nes­day. It helps me iden­tify what didn’t work that week or what I ate that made me gain weight, like red meat and bread. Weigh­ing my­self helps me to mon­i­tor my progress and set tar­gets.

And the fact that I can now walk into a store and find clothes that fit is amaz­ing. My new wardrobe has been my re­ward; I still don’t be­lieve it. I’d got­ten used to buying what fits – now I buy what I want. I love the new me more than the old me, and I don’t want to lose that.”

FOOD WASN’T THE FO­CUS. ITWASA SOURCE OF EN­ERGY, EN­ABLING THEM TO LIVE. BUT THEY DIDN’T LIVE TO EAT.

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