How many of you have started the latest fad diet and lost loads of weight, only to put it back on again a few months later? A lot of the time, the problem with these quick-fix diets is that they’re not sustainable — and who wants to be on a diet for the rest of their life?
Read more: 10 nutritional myths most people believe
Weight-loss consultant and fitness fanatic Zintle Ntshikila knows just how hard it is to make a long-term lifestyle change, but she also knows that it’s worth it. Over the course of 18 months, Zintle lost an impressive 50kg, and she’s managed to keep it off for 5 years. Here’s her story:
The start of the struggle
I’d always been on the larger side, and had endured teasing about my weight throughout childhood — I was nick-named ‘Oros Woman’! The problem was, I was so used to being chubby; it was my ‘normal’. So I didn’t watch what I ate — like takeaways and litres of sugary soft drinks.
Before completely overhauling my lifestyle, I’d tried just about every fad diet out there — and I ended up bigger than ever: I weighed a whopping 106kg! It was clear that a quick-fix diet wasn’t the answer. But I just couldn’t shake the weight off. A turning point was when I attended the J&B Met in 2012.
I saw photos of myself, and I cried for three days. The realisation finally hit: I was fat, and I needed to make a drastic change.
I decided that I needed to stop eating out, and that I had to ditch those take-aways. I started cooking more food at home, which made it much easier to monitor my portions. I made sure I had a lot more vegetables, which upped my fibre. I didn’t eat any bread or meat for a year, and I substituted the sugar-loaded soft drinks for 3 litres of water per day.
I also started exercising — small steps at first. My husband and I would go for walks, which turned into jogs.
It definitely wasn’t easy at first, but now I’m fitter and healthier than I’ve ever been and I feel great. If I could lose 50kg and keep it off, then anyone can! As I started losing weight and eating healthier, I noticed how inspired my friends were by my transformation.
They asked questions and wanted me to share what I was doing, so I started posting my journey on Instagram, and I now have nearly 100 000 followers! Social media is a fabulous place to find daily fitness inspiration and motivation because there are so many people — all at different fitness levels — posting. I’ve also found that following someone on a similar path to you helps take some of the drudgery out of losing weight.
Breaking the cycle
Weight loss isn’t purely physical. As women, there are so many emotional links to food and our bodies. In the early days I turned to a food journal, jotting down everything that went in my mouth, and that helped me track the link between what I was eating, how I was feeling, and the changes I saw in my body.
It’s also important to be realistic. You’re going to want to indulge in whatever your weakness is — for me, it’s cravings for salty carby snacks.
I planned a cheat day for myself every 10th day, rather than every week, and it’s one of the only things that kept me sane throughout the weight loss!
Maintaining the changes
If you want a change to last, you have to establish good habits. I made a point of packing myself a healthy lunch box every day so that I wasn’t tempted by convenience food. Healthy eating might cost you more initially, so planning ahead is vital. I planned my meals a week in advance and cooked to make the most of the fresh produce I had in my fridge.
Instagram is amazing if you are looking for recipe inspiration. It’s so important to enjoy your meals when you’re making a health change, or you won’t want to stick to it.
Making time for exercise
I believe firmly in the 80/20 rule, where diet accounts for 80% of weight loss, and exercise for the other 20
— you just can’t out-train a bad diet. Exercise will help you slim down faster, and it’s important to be active to tone your body. I signed up for cardio classes at gym to burn fat, and started weight training too. Weights are great: muscles continue to burn fat even after you’ve left the gym.
Running isn’t for everyone
If you’re overweight, running isn’t ideal, especially at first. Start small, like walking, then brisk walking, and intermittent jogging. If you follow the same route you’ll be able to track your progress. My best advice? You are your only competition; don’t compare your pace to anyone else, and only strive to beat your personal best.
Losing weight is only half the challenge — keeping it off can be even harder. I’m a mother, wife and entrepreneur so I’m rushed off my feet most days, but I try to exercise at least five times a week, alternating between strength training and cardio. When I can’t get to the gym, I spend time outdoors running, or playing with the kids in the park. All kinds of movement add up!
✱ Follow Zintle on Instagram for your daily dose of fitness inspiration @teamhlasela.