By Laju Iren
Just before I realized I was pregnant with my little princess, I weighed about 76 kg and was thinking of losing weight. As soon as I realised I was pregnant, weight loss was the farthest thing on my mind. In fact, as I climbed the scale just before I gave birth, I weighed 90 kg. Edima wasn’t really a big baby, so I didn’t really lose much after she arrived. In fact nine months post-partum when I began my weightloss journey, I weighed 84.5 kg. I won’t be surprised if I even added weight after having my baby. When you spend your days breastfeeding, your mum is there to do ‘Omugwo’ and you eat pap everyday, what do you expect?
It took a lot of going back and forth, but I remember the day I decided to lose weight. I began in the first week of January, and I have lost 15 kg so far. I suspect this isn’t the only weight loss post I would do, so I’ll save those details for later. But embarking on my weight loss journey opened my eyes to quite a number of lessons, a number of which are not related at all to diet and fitness. Those are the things I want to focus on in this article:
It’s not always an esteem issue
Quite a number of people who are fat have low self-esteem. But not me. I learned early enough that my confidence should only come from Christ and nothing else. If your confidence comes from how slim you are, what happens if you have a health condition that won’t allow you eat healthy or exercise? So that was my position. It still is. However, I learned something. Making an effort to lose weight doesn’t necessarily need to be borne out of being ashamed of your body. You must consider the health implications, the implications on your relationship and sometimes on the career or brand you’re trying to build. For me, these three things combined with wanting to master my appetite were my motivation. I wanted to ensure that food no longer had power over me, but I’ll get to that later.
Go for life changes instead of quick fixes
When I decided that I wanted to lose weight, I reach out to a fitness and wellness coach, popularly known as Coach Cathy Fitness because I wanted a sustainable method of weightloss. I was with her for three months. From the beginning, I wasn’t just interested in getting the weight off, but in keeping it off. I still exercise often and am very intentional about my diet. If your plan is simply to go for a magic pill, you’re likely to run into trouble. If you can’t muscle up enough discipline to lose weight naturally, how will you be able to discipline yourself to remain on a healthy weight for the rest of your life?
You change bad habits by intentionally replacing them with good ones. If you want lasting change whether it’s in your behaviour, relationship or career, you must be willing to put mechanisms in place that would make such changes not just possible, but sustainable. Shortcuts might take you to where you are going, but I don’t think they can keep you there. Sometimes taking the longer, more intentional route might seem like an arduous task, but provides you with a sustainable roadmap for the future.
Anyone can do it
It’s official. If I could lose weight, then anyone can. Food has always had a special place in my heart (and mouth). That’s one of the reasons why I was very intentional about not choosing a coach who has been eating only salads all her life and wouldn’t understand the heavenly taste of freshly baked bread, or why Nigerian jollof is a national monument. If there is anyone who writes an article or champions a fitness cause, it shouldn’t be me. Me! The same girl that never had any interest whatsoever in fitness or healthy eating until a few months ago. But see where we are now. Until I started skipping in January, I had never skipped a day in my life. Now, I do about 1000 skips a day. I remember telling my coach how I didn’t know how to skip. But I decided to give it a try, so I started with 50 ropes skips and begun increasing from there. So if you need to lose weight, this is the mindset you must have: anybody can! But you must believe that it’s possible. Even if you have the best coach in the world, if you are not committed, it won’t work. You must be willing to start; you’d never know until you try.
What else can I do?
The year 2017 has been one of bold steps for me. We’re just about five months in, and I have begun almost everything I set my mind to do. I can’t deny that God’s timing seemed to fall in place as regards many of these things, but as I began to diet, exercise, it was as if the scales began falling off my eyes as the bathroom scale kept telling me I had lost weight. If I was capable of doing this, what else was I capable of? What other things can I do, but don’t know I can because I have never bothered to try?
There is a discipline that bodily exercise instills in you that affects your mind.
Exercising gives you the physical and dare I say, mental strength to stretch yourself. Exercise disciplines more than your body. I began to ask myself questions: ‘If I can exercise for this long, what stops me from praying for this long? What stops me from working for this long?’
One of the reasons why I think I did well in school is because I’ve always liked a structured learning environment. I like it when there is a syllabus, a teacher, classmates, room for healthy competition and community support. I grow better in situations where I am accountable to someone.
When it comes to weight loss, many of us are like that. Know yourself and be honest with yourself. I knew I needed a coach, I knew I needed a support system. Coach Cathy Fitness provided me with that. I was put in an online group with other women who had the same goal as myself. Some of them had gone further, some were in the same position as myself. We would send photos of our post work out pictures, and daily meals and we would weigh in at the end of the week.
For me, that was a test. And anyone who knows me knows that I don’t like to fail tests and I don’t cheat on tests. So don’t deceive yourself. Don’t over estimate your self control. Find out what works for you and be sincere with yourself. This would also help you not to overdo and get discouraged. Some people overdo it when they first start working out so much so that they get physically hurt or emotionally discouraged that they don’t work out for weeks after that. You can’t get results that way. Push yourself with sense, but be patient and consistent.
Know your numbers
Body mass index (BMI) is a measure of body fat based on your weight in relation to your height, and applies to most adult men and women aged 20 and over. It’s alright if you’re confident and love yourself the way you are. But what if your weight is killing you, wouldn’t you want to do something about it? There are several websites where you can check you BMI and its interpretation in less than a minute. One thing that really made me decide to shed fat was that I was obese according to my BMI. At what age! I quickly readjusted.
Another term you should be familiar with is the word calories. To get 200 calories, you need to eat only half a chocolate bar. But you’ll have to eat at least four cucumbers to get that same number of calories. Even the healthy foods can be culprits, a small handful of groundnuts is about 100 calories. Don’t eat half a bottle at once and worry that you’re not losing weight. So have some idea about how calories work. You see why you need a professional?
On self control
Why should food control me? Why should I tell myself that I wouldn’t eat something and then find it in my belly only minutes later. As Christians, all our desires are supposed to be in check. Food is not a sin. Just like sleep isn’t. But those mild addictions can literarily become weights. And if you let such weights take control of you, you’re less likely to be strong enough to resist temptation. If you can’t fast when it’s time to fast, and say no to food once in a while, before you know it, you’re giving your flesh ascendancy over your spirit and you begin to lose the battle in the things that count. Don’t let there be anything, no matter how good that you can’t say no to once in a while.
There are some things that are a product of grace; like eternal security. It is by grace alone through faith alone. But weight loss! You have to put in the work to see the difference. You have to stick with it consistently. You can’t keep doing the same thing you’ve been doing and expecting different results. You have the change the quality and quantity of your food. You have to exercise. And don’t say you don’t have the time. You always have time for what is important to you.
You won’t believe how much this singular lesson has affected me in various areas of my life. Many times, you need to keep to it and stick with it, you may not see enormous results immediately, but change is sure. Be consistent!
It easier to be judgmental when you’re slimmer
I wouldn’t really call myself judgmental, and I won’t really call myself slim. But let’s just say that since I lost some weight, the weight of other people is now more obvious to me. Now, I intentionally catch myself before I make statements that I myself would have considered too forward only a few months ago. I guess slim people are like that, even the ones that have never been fat before. Weight issues are very sensitive. In fact, except you’re close to someone, I don’t think you should bring it up at all except it poses a serious risk to the person’s health. Even when you do, do so in private in the most sensitive way possible.
Rid yourself of misconceptions
There are several misconceptions regarding weight loss. One of such is that you can’t do so if you’re breastfeeding. News flash! My daughter is fourteen months old and I’m still breast feeding. As long as you’re doing a natural diet, then there should be no problem at all. Remember the purpose isn’t to starve yourself but to eat healthy.
Contrary to popular opinion, healthy diets are not at all unrealistic or difficult to maintain. It doesn’t matter where you live in the world, there are healthy, affordable food options.
On Cheat days
One of the reasons why I did not start dieting on time was because I could not imagine not eating some foods again forever! Ha! No banga and starch? No rice? No chips? No Pizza? Forever? Until I was introduced to something called cheat days. Ours was on Sundays. O, what Sabbath! One I always kept, and still keep holy. Hahaha! Cheat days remind me not to be too hard on myself all the time especially when it comes to things that don’t have an impact on my eternal salvation. Sometimes it’s alright to give yourself structured allowance. Cheat days also remind me of the need for balance. Some people will pick unsustainable diets, stick to them for three days and overcompensate by going back to eat junk for the rest of their lives.
Balance also means that you don’t overdo it on cheat days. Don’t mess up all the efforts you made during the week with bad choices on the weekend.
You need an expert
In case you haven’t noticed, you need an expert on your weightloss journey. My number one recommendation is my Coach, Coach Cathy Fitness. You can read her story here. You also need a support system. My weight loss class was that for me. I had joined when I saw the transformation of an old friend, Blessing Longe. I remember her sending photos of her post work out pictures after doing 4,000 skips. I didn’t jump to 4,000 but she made be stick with what I was doing and improve from there.
What other areas of your life have you been trying and failing? Maybe it’s time to get external help. Talk to someone or employ the services of someone who knows better. You don’t have to do everything on your own.
It’s the food baby!
The food you eat is responsible for about 80 percent of your weight loss success. Don’t eat all the junk you can and say you’ll work it out. Studies show that most people over-emphasize how many calories they burn. So if you want to lose weight in a healthy way, guard your mouth with all diligence.
The need for detox
At Coach Cathy’s class at Simply Fab Fitness, we usually start every month by detoxifying our systems. Purging our bodies of those fatty toxins and training our tummies for the new diet. I remember my first detox week, the diet was so different from what I was used to, I felt like I would faint. But I didn’t. After a while, I got used to it. My body succumbed. Sometimes in life, you need to detoxify yourself. Get rid of some relationships, some habits and train yourself for new ones. It might hurt at first, but you will adjust very well in the long run if you keep at it.
A word on physical appearance
I won’t lie to you. I know that I look better now physically than when I was 15 kg bigger, and I’m loving it. If you’re single and overweight, you don’t have to be slim to get a husband. It’s what is inside that counts. But if you’re fat on the outside, you make it less likely for the physical attraction to be there in the first place. Don’t get me wrong, this is a very sensitive issue and I want to be very clear. Everyone has their physical preference. Some men like big girls. The same way some girls like slim guys. Even when I was single, I was never attracted to a big guy. I’m sure you have your preference as well. It would be judgmental for you to like your guy to look a certain way, and then be angry that some guys want their girl to look a certain way.
Even when you’re married, it’s important that you do your best to keep your figure especially after having kids. Someone once said something I agree with: Your husband’s preferred figure is more often than not the way you looked when he met you.