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My fitness journey

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Last week, thanks to Mr. O’s tribute in a lengthy Facebook post about his weight loss, I unwittingly became a weight loss inspiration with some asking how I lost over 30 pounds and others sharing my before and after pictures on Instagram Stories. This was not the intention – I’d never set out to be a weight loss inspiration, but alas, seeing as I accidentally became one, I’ll just own it.

I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with diet and exercise. Being the child of reasonably healthy, if not fit parents – both were sedentary smokers; my dad used to drink daily too – I was blessed with naturally skinny genes until one fateful summer spent with my grandma where I discovered the joys of daily paninis and chocolate.

That was the summer, aged 11, right on the cusp of puberty too, I shot up a stone, returning to school after the holidays as a podgier version of me. Shame, one of my friends waited until I had got plus size to tell me that my once toned legs were a year ago all the boys could talk about. Now, a podgier, heavier me, my pins were no longer making headlines.

It would take me another two years before, committed to dropping the weight, I became an exercise addict. There’s such a thing! I used to do 500 sit-ups a day; on days I missed my target, I would genuinely feel like a failure. It wasn’t until another year after, with a well-balanced diet, the weight started shifting.

By the time I started university, I was a healthy size 10 with a relatively active lifestyle. I watched what I ate and walked for miles. The scales shifted the other way – if you’ll excuse the pun – the final year of university. The summer before I was due to travel to the UK to start my MA degree, suffering a strong bout of gastroenteritis, not only did I drop down to a not so healthy looking size 6-8 but I’d also discovered the joy of not having to watch what I ate – by chucking my food up shortly after every meal. Not the wisest move, of course. But aged 20 and finally with what I thought was the ideal body shape, I was desperate to do anything to keep it.

Fortunately, my dabbling in bulimia didn’t last long as I began my new life in the UK the way any JJC in the country does: sampling every brand and make of chocolate not available in my home country. Cue the ‘freshman fifteen’, the typical amount of weight one puts on in the first year of university.

Following graduation, life in London didn’t prove a change in my weight trajectory – as I kept on piling the pounds, well into life in the country, and life with the other half.

Miraculously, I am probably one of the few brides that didn’t have to go on a strict diet to fit into their wedding gown as five months before the wedding I began shedding weight fast – along with an increased heart rate, constant fatigue, restlessness, night sweats and jitters – which turned out to be symptoms of late stage hyperthyroidism which would pay me two more visits. Until in 2014 I decided to go under the knife and have my thyroid removed for good.

This also meant that, while I had yo-yoed between 11 stone and 9 stone for a period of eight years, once my thyroid gland was gone, in the following year it took to adjust my medication dosage, I shot up a stone. With the move to Nigeria the following year, which meant a sedentary lifestyle and a diet of starchy Nigerian food and plenty of late night take-aways, my weight keep creeping up. While I was aware my clothes were more and more ill-fitting and I was struggling more to find clothes that fit well and looked stylish, I was still in denial about the need to do something about it.

The first time I thought ‘Houston, we have a problem!’ was the New Year’s 2016 – looking at the photos taken at my cousin’s house, I was mortified at the fat middle-aged woman staring back at me, who seemed to have usurped my face and body. Still, despite the resolution to lose weight, nothing seemed to work. I would exercise and watch what I ate and yet the needle on the scale was not budging.

Soon, demotivated by not seeing results, I had truly given up. My mentality was – if I am never going to lose the weight, I might as well enjoy life and not worry about what I eat.

Until I watched ‘The Truth about Carbs’ on BBC and discovered what has since been my saviour: The 1:1 Diet, back then called The Cambridge Weight Plan. Full disclosure: it was hard work. I used to go to bed hungry, I used to wake up hungry, I used to have to come up with a hundred ways to distract myself from eating. My house had never been cleaner because the moment I was tempted to cheat, I would dust a surface, or tidy a room… To keep distracted, I would go on walks. The biggest transformation came between June 2018 and October 2018. When I started the plan, I was over 13 stone; in kilograms, 87kg. By the end of October, I was 68kg. That autumn, on a winter sun break in Malta, I got into a size 10 bikini for the first time without feeling like a beached whale.

And eight months on, I have maintained the weight while also increasing my exercise. With a little push from Mr. O I took up cycling. Picking up my bike on a Monday in June, I was signed up to a 60km bike ride that Sunday I was skeptical I could even finish. Lo and behold, I did – and at a respectable time of three hours too.

I’m still a stone and a half away from the target weight I set myself back in 2018, but I take it one step at a time and celebrate small – and big – victories. It took me 40 years to understand that it’s more about being healthy than being thin. I discover muscles in places I never thought I would work out, I hold on to the wobbly bits and don’t hate them as much as they’re balanced by a fit body.

I watch what I eat but also allow myself the occasional treat. Above all, I know I never want to see that fat, middle-aged woman in the photos or in the mirror again!


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