So, today we’re going to do something a bit different.
We’re going to get a little personal.
I initially vowed I wouldn’t really put much about myself on this blog, but rather focus on the subject of African feminism.
With time however more and more people had been asking me to share my weight loss story.
You see in the past nine months I’ve lost A LOT of weight.
Those who actually know me have seen my drastic transition and know how much of an achievement it is for me. With this weight loss came a lot of other women are asking me to share my story and how I did it.
Admittedly I’m super hesitant because talking about myself makes me feel vulnerable. Vulnerable to criticism of the person I was before in a fat-phobic world. I’m not really one to put myself out there, but this blog was created to make a difference. If telling my story makes a difference I suppose -it’s worth the risk.
Here we go!
I was named “Namatama” which means “chubby cheeks” in my native language Lozi.
I suppose it was for a reason. Lol!
From the ages of about 2 – 4 years old I was pretty thin actually.
I ate healthy and hated candy.
But when my parents and I arrived in the U.S I discovered my achilles heel: fast food.
Doctors felt I needed to take vitamins with food just to gain a little extra weight.
With that I discovered McDonalds, Burger King, Dairy Queen and whole lot of other fast food.
Like many other kids in diaspora, my parents were super busy.
My mom worked full time. My dad was busy with college, working Part time and being a full time caregiver to me. Most times cooking was not an option.
Hello fast food!
With it however, came rapid weight gain.
By the time I was 10 years old I weighed 50 kgs (110lbs) and was a cause for concern for doctors.
I had to use an inhaler because I was always short of breathe and wheezing.
But I was still a cute charismatic little chubby girl in pretty dresses so it wasn’t too bad?
Spoiler alert: It was!
When we left the U.S to move to South Africa I slowly began to lose some weight, but not much. Because of my weight I was teased (as to be expected- kids suck sometimes). My self-esteem was barely detectable. I did however try to be active by taking part in sports like netball to lose weight.
When my family returned to Zambia I skipped two grades (yeah, I was smart like that) and I started high school.
The pressure that came with that and having to grow up fast in order to keep up with my peers saw me yo-yo with my weight.
My weight fluctuated alot. I had gained a lot at some point…
Then thanks to P.E and a little extra effort, I lost quite a bit of weight by the time I was rearing towards the end of my high school days.
But no matter how much I weighed I was always a victim of teasing that made me feel inadequate.
At one point my collar bones were sticking out, but I was still the fat girl because I felt I was always being judged according to the smaller girls around me.
So I ate to make myself feel better.
After high school I thought “screw it!” I was going to eat what I wanted. I didn’t matter.
I told myself I’d always be fat anyways. #YOLO
Only it did.
By the time I was 17 going on 18 and starting university- my weight increased.
I ate whenever and whatever I wanted.
I knew it was getting out of control when my mom had to take me shopping for new jeans because my old ones no longer fit. I had to buy them from the part of the women section which was more suited for middle aged women- not a 19 year old girl.
I tried to act like it was no big deal, but really my heart sank in the dressing room.
I felt fatter than ever.
To make myself feel better- after a good cry, I left the store and got more fast food. I ate. And ate. And ate. Comfort.
I tried to join a gym near home, but the fat shaming trainers and lack of psychological support made me leave within two months with little weight lost.
When I turned 20 I was about 134kg (295 lbs). I was huge. Seriously huge.
I ate a lot at home and at uni in-between classes. At the end of my 3rd year at uni I still knew I was pretty big.
So I decided to start curbing what I ate and start taking care of my looks.
I landed a dream internship and vowed to start changing for the better from there on out. Quietly I lost about 10 kgs (22 lbs) over the span of 4 months.
With time, people never said much because they were kind of used to me being big ,and I had a lot of “big girl confidence”. All fake!
You see I was fully aware that I was too big. I was actually very insecure.
I hated what I saw when I looked in the mirror every morning.
But I decided to “fake it ‘till I made it”.
I had to.
Especially because entering the adult world meant I had to be confident enough to tackle anything and I realized if I let my insecurities show I would be walked all over.
I had to feel better about myself. I learned how to do my make-up (extremely well might I add), spent a lot on clothes and developed an alter ego that was fabulous and sassy. I told myself that I may be fat but not pretty? Never that.
So, people would think wow. She’s confident.
This alter ego usually came out occasionally (never at university because I focused on school mostly).
When it did I was fierce. But it was all pretend.
“You’re so confident”
“I like your style”
“You’re big and beautiful”
“For a big girl you sure are pretty!”
People would actually say all that. So, I guess my facade was working. But deep down, I hated myself. Honestly, I did.
Every time I ate I felt guilty and sad so then I made myself feel better with food resulting in an endless cycle.
I looked pretty on the outside, but was full of self loathe on the inside.
With every uplifting remark- came mean ones too.
But they never really bothered me. I was bullied when I was younger so they didn’t hurt me that much at 20.
And if they did- I never let it show.
But slowly I started to realize that my health was suffering.
My weight hurt my bones. I couldn’t breathe. My heart was struggling and I was having health complications. All weight related.
Deep down I knew, I had to make a change.
Not only was I was missing out on so many aspects of my youth because of my weight, but now I was losing my health.
One day a co-worker suggested we join the gym. She wanted to join anyway and needed a gym buddy. Curves gym not too far down. Plus it was for women only.
At first I was hesitant.
I mean exercise? C’mon.
I went with her to check the place out and thought “oh hell naw!”.
I pretended to be interested and said I’d be back but deep down I just wanted to leave and have fried chicken and a glass of wine. I think I did if I remember correctly. Haha!
As the days went by I kept thinking about the gym. A nagging feeling told me I should go, but on the other hand I didn’t know if I could do it.
But then I decided why not. What do I have to lose?
I asked my dad to drive me down after work one day, and decided to join.
There I met literally one the most amazing people I have ever met to date.
Her name was Kui.
A personal trainer who would become a close friend and change my life forever.
She was first person I met when I walked in.
With the consultation came an in-depth conversation.
“tell my your story.”
“what brought you here?”
“why do you want to lose weight?”
“what’s your goal?”
I told her I wanted to lose weight to be thinner, healthier and more confident. I explained to her that I struggled with insecurities regarding my weight for a very long time and food made me feel better. But now I was beginning to feel ugly and had no confidence. If I lost weight maybe I would be more confident.
Plus I was beginning to have health complications. I was scared because in my family both diabetes and high blood pressure were genetic and I was next if I didn’t do something!
She stopped me in my tracks and told me that first I needed to stop attaching my self-worth to my weight.
She told me I was beautiful and awesome and only when I realized that would losing weight be possible.
She said it so affirmatively like it was a fact not a gimmick to get me into paying for membership; but an actual fact.
That really hit me.
Through the yo-yo diets, the starvation, the tears, the binge eating. Through it all I always attached my worth to the number on the scale. And every time I hated myself. I really truly and deeply hated myself. I felt like I was weak. My perceived weakness resulted me eating too much and no matter how much I tried I would never be as pretty as I wanted to because in reality I WAS FAT.
But here was someone who barely knew me and told me the opposite. She told me her weight loss story and told me if she could do it so could I.
I was inspired.
Eventually, I started. The beginning of my journey at 123 kg (271 lbs). 31st January, 2017.
It was time to fight for my life!
I struggled every day.
Each session was harder than the last. A single push-up felt like hell on earth. My legs felt like lead . I was always out of breath. I felt really fat just flapping around. So many times, I wanted to quit.
But I had trainers and two loving parents who believed in me, so I kept on going.
I realized that I had to fight for my life because if I kept on going the way I was it wouldn’t end well.
And so I did!
With time 5 kgs (11lbs) left- I cut out sugar and fatty foods.
10 kg (22lbs) down- I cut out carbs.
Then 15kg (33lbs) down… hello confidence!
By the time I was turning 21 on May 5th 2017, I had lost 20 kgs (44 lbs) in total. I dedicated myself to one meal a day on a protein and vegetable diet- exercising twice a day.
I was defiantly becoming a new person.
On the 22nd of June, 2017 a huge day arrived: weigh in day.
We were going to see if I finally left the triple digits! Kui filmed it and I prepared myself. I was terrified. I thought to myself “if this doesn’t go as expected I’ll be humiliated”.
I was nervous and excited, but still doubtful.
Kui was super confident. She believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself.
So, I stepped on the scale.
There it was 99kg (218 lbs)! I did it!
(N.B: You can see the video on Instagram if you’re interested)
I was now more than ever convinced that I could actually do it. I could actually become the woman I wanted to be. I wasn’t just Namatama the “pretty big girl”.
I had strength, determination and I was bold as f***. I was more confident than ever and, even started taking full mirror selfies. I was no longer ashamed.
Soon after I decided I would take up the 30 day vegan challenge. I wanted to see if I could actually do it.
I even cleansed every weekend!
People around me couldn’t believe it. Probably because I embarked on losing weight so many times before and failed. I would declare whatever new fad diet I was on and just go back to plates full of fries and fried chicken.
This time was different.
I worked in silence.
Kept my head down and focused on attaining my goals.
I was no longer taking sugar, fatty foods or carbs none of it!
This wasn’t a diet.
This wasn’t a fad.
This was a change in lifestyle.
Then it was time to shop for new exercise gear! Not in the middle aged women section y’all!
I also had to start buying new shoes because my show size had gone down! Who would have thought?!
After doing a 30 day vegan challenge I decided to cut out red meat all together.
Hello 90kg (198 lbs) !
Hello skinny jeans that were actually skinny!!
Goodbye canckles !
With this came a brand new Namatama. I realized I was stronger than I thought. I was more than who people said I was.
I was Namatama Theresa Katanekwa.
Badass, smart, awesome, and yes- I was worth it.
My entire life my mother would tell me how beautiful I was, and my father would tell me how strong I was.
For the first time in a long time I started to believe it.
My new attitude drove me to work harder at school, socialize a bit more.
And yes- start this blog.
Yesterday I weighed in at 88kg (194 lbs).
I’m not the girl I once was.
If I said I was- I would be lying.
I’ve started doing something I haven’t done since I was a pre-teen.
I truly love myself.
I finally see what my friends and family saw all along.
I am worth it.
And It’s not because I’m thinner.
It’s because I recognize that I can do anything I put my mind to.
I’m proud of the woman I’ve become.
I’ve finished university. I’ve lost the equivalent of a whole person in body weight and I have so much ahead of me.
As I look forward to the future, with all it has to hold I want to stop for a minute and say “wow”.
Because I’ve actually done it.
I know somewhere out there is someone struggling with their journey. Be it weight loss or anything else. I want you to know that you’re much stronger than you know.
You’re worth it, and you owe it to yourself to try no matter how hard it seems.
You’ve got this!
My journey is still continuing.
I want to lose about 20 kg (44lbs) more to reach my goal- so it’s far from over.
But I’ll tell you one thing: I’m damn proud of how far I’ve come.
I’m also thankful.
Thankful to all the people in my life who loved me when I didn’t love myself.
My parents who supported me endlessly.
My family that encouraged me.
My friends that cheered me on.
And the team at the gym that worked with me tirelessly.
I LOVE YOU ALL!
So, here’s to working hard and never giving up!
And if there’s one thing I want you to remember it’s this:
“Don’t stop until you’re proud!”