My story – Gcobisa Mashigoana
GCOBISA MASHEGOANA, 39, has a new lease on life after losing 80kg in just 24 months.
“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.