Much like I was never told about all the challenges that came with claiming the title of “adult”, “grown-up” and “woman” – no one ever told me what impact wearing the “mom” badge had on my body. I had never had weight issues – ever! I wasn’t the award winning athlete in high school – but I was fit enough to play soccer for a time or endure short distance races on the track. The fitness thing wasn’t my thing in varsity, but I maintained a nice little body that awarded many a smile inside fitting rooms during my mall trolls. In my mid-twenties I found myself back in Zimbabwe after a long stint in the U.S. I wasn’t a popular chick in high school so it was interesting to socialise with names I had only heard about in years before. I managed to hold rank among “them” – “the hotbods” on the Friday night scene. This off course gave me the boost of esteem I needed, notwithstanding the insecurities I carried within which were further amplified by my being the girl that no one really knew.
Yes; this was many years ago; with loads having changed since then including the physical make-up of my body. In 6 short years I earned the new titles of “wife” and “mom of two” to my name, much like a medical practitioner or member of the legal fraternity earns a few letters after theirs. I wear my titles with pride now albeit however, the journey to owning these titles and what they represented came wrapped up in a battle of wits. I’ve had to reinvent myself by unlearning much of what society had made me to believe to be the essence of woman given the cultural and societal expectations of being a married 20 something trying to figure all the changes out. I’ve had to have countless conversations with myself about accepting the new me and letting go of the old me. I’ve had to chisel away at the mountain of insecurity to reveal the diamond within. I’ve had to…I’ve had to, I’ve had to.
I’m sure many women out there can relate to the realisation that the body just doesn’t cooperate with you as it did in your teens and early twenties. As we grow older, waking up to a siren of cracking bones and a serenade of aches and pains is at times the everyday norm. Baby number one came and much to my dismay, out with iron board abs and in with the stretch marks “pon-de-belly.” So I took to running every morning before my husband left for work. I joined the gym and started consciously watching what I ate. It took me 2 years to get back to where I could lie flat on the bed and zip up those skinny jeans I used to wear when I was that pre-expectant woman. A month after reaching my goal weight I found out we were expecting our second child. To call it elation was an understatement. I had been praying to be blessed with child and quite frankly, looked forward to the flowery blissful emotions that had come with my first pregnancy. BUT.
Baby number 2 came out punching though! I had heard women speak of how difficult their pregnancies had been and totally failed to relate until then. I was on bed rest for most of my first and third trimesters and translated the anxiety of minimising risk of my pregnancy into inhaling every decadent craving with my remote control in total situ on my lap all day every day. “Eat, you are eating for two so it’s okay” women would say at cell group and other chick embellished events. I struggled in every way imaginable during this time – physically and emotionally. It was a tough season in my life, marred with so much by way of battling with the mind. Not even a pamper day could keep my spirits up. I felt so in the words of TLC – “Damn Unpretty”. No amount of make-up could camouflage the vast expanse of a nose on my face. So I ate. I packed on the pounds and gained a total additional 17kgs during this pregnancy after having fought to lose about 20 kilos from the first one.
Yes, no one told me the second time around couldn’t even be pitted against the first weight loss journey. Something was different. I felt like crap…ALL THE TIME, the stretch marks were everywhere and the healthy elasticity in my skin especially in the midriff area was a distant memory. How when I had doused myself in Bio Oil twice daily and escaped this sentencing the first time. Adding insult to injury, my bladder had collapsed during labour so I had to go back into the hospital for surgery 2 weeks after the birth of my son. Doctor’s orders upon being discharged were to wait an additional 8 weeks before engaging in any form of exercise. So to curb my frustration…and to coerce the lactation gods to help me make a meal for my baby, I ate. I ate a lot.
My son had just turned 4 months old when I went back into the gym and reengaged the personal trainer who had helped me get my body right within 12 months before baby 2 made an entry into my system. I was a whopping 92kgs when I took to the scale. Whopping to me as I recounted how I had first fallen pregnant at a healthy 54 kilos. A wee little thing I was 4 years before – gosh – size 5 trousers??? During our first training session my trainer said to me “Yvonne, let’s go for 20 sit-ups!” Tears streamed down my face an hour later, after having failed to reach 10 on numerous tries, alongside a failure to launch squats, leg lifts, a 20 minute jog on the treadmill. These were all the reps that had formed my warm up routine before an hour of hard training. My trainer – bless him – showed up every day and would call from the gym to let me know he had come all the way and I needed to get down to meet him for at least 30 minutes. Cracking joints, sore muscles, wrinkled inelastic belly skin, back aches and the dreaded pre-shower stare at myself in the mirror in the hopes that I would see my former glory make a comeback were an everyday happenstance for months…months on end. I wish I could tell you that the weight just falls off after the baby. Perhaps for some it does. For me it didn’t. And that struggle with my weight brought forward asthmatic attacks; asthma of which had been dormant in my body for over a decade. I had chronic back aches, swollen feet, inexplicable water retention. Severe self-esteem issues reared their ugly head and made their comeback.
I knew what I needed to do. I had done it once before and therefore had to do it again. Take on rigorous exercise and cut out all the cakes and stuffed croissants and chocolate bars that always hung about in my vicinity. I took to juicing, I cut out the baked goods and starches in my meals, I drank litres of lemon water as well as black unsweetened coffee from which the caffeine had proved to be an appetite suppressant. I tried out the blood group diet; I spent hours on end in the gym. Oh I was gradually etching my way to chronic beast mode. BUT.
I didn’t like what I was turning into. The woman that used to have a healthy appetite for food was turning into this mean still face obsessive machine that would read up on every available diet while the nanny played with my babies. I on some mornings would easily clock 3 hours in the gym but didn’t walk out of there feeling sexier, hotter, and leaner – albeit the results for the gruelling efforts were showing. Folks said I was looking good, “getting back to my old self” – but I felt anything but. I still felt ugly on the inside, felt like life was getting ahead of me and I was failing to reel it all in. I wondered why it was that folks would say I was looking great yet the euphoric feeling of living the good life seemed far from me. I took to writing down my feelings, which became written pieces addressed to myself. This, coupled with having conversations with GOD gave me back my power. When you write stuff down; you are forced to take ownership. The words do not change nor can their meaning be renegotiated unless you tear up the pieces of paper you have written down. I documented what moments in recent times had brought me to this low place, how I wanted to change starting from the inside out and what I was going to do to start enjoying me and my life more. It became clear that my having gained weight had also created self-esteem issues that far surpassed those typically associated with weight gain alone.
When did I start losing the weight then you may be wondering? When I realised that the battle wasn’t limited to losing physical weight alone, but reassessing my emotional threshold and aligning sensory triggers to the actual act of exercise and eating right. I could do all these things but if it didn’t address my motivations I could probably reach and pass my goal weight and still feel unpretty. You see, E! Channel, VUZU, and all the rest of them have a way of inundating you with images of goddess-like women who can seemingly eat a box of KFC and drink a keg whilst still maintaining the hot bod. I wanted to look good but not at the cost of internal misery. Eating raw vegetables and drinking buckets of water wasn’t my idea of basking in the mantra of life being good. Going out on date night and feeling guilty after having indulged in a bucket of Shaka’s Grill Ribs was no fun. I wanted to enjoy my multiple roles and view any stressors as opportunities for growth.
The realisation that one is beautiful garners them the impetus to see no impossibility in achieving any goals they set aside to accomplish. Realising that I was and could feel as beautiful as I wanted to lead me to co-founding the Quintessential-F movement (www.quintessential-f.com) with an amazing woman and friend Ruvimbo Makoni. As I dealt with the stuff that was holding me back emotionally and spiritually, it became normal to want to take care of my body and everything else pertinent to my well-being. Sharing my musings on all things life through our blog, my Christian walk and relating with other women on the issues that affect us all has reignited my zest for life, ministry, purpose, and pursuit of passion. It’s also easy for me to share how I overcome my battles, talk about stuff that’s vexing me at any given time and so on, in the hopes that in that space I or someone else will walk away empowered. With regards my physical wellbeing, it has since become easier for me to eat a bowl of multi-coloured vegetables, drink more water or indulge in a salad with a piece of grilled protein as opposed to inhaling a hamburger or a platter of deep fried spring rolls. I have also kept this whole eating thing far less complicated than it needs to be. Some of the stuff recommended by dieticians isn’t readily available in the local grocery mart or if it is; you have to debate whether you want to spend the money you have on these items and miss out on paying for your kids piano lessons or filling your gas tank. Some may soak 500g of strawberries in a jug of water to make “strawberry infused” water. I prefer to just eat the strawberries as they are. Others sprinkle cayenne pepper on their meals because diet experts have spoken of certain benefits of doing so. I quite like my meals without the weird taste of pepper. I made the decision to embrace every success along the way – whether it’s a dress size dropped, my ability to jog an extra 500 meters or brush off anything that may peeve me.
I started this journey 21 months ago and am only a few kilos shy of my pre-baby weight. At the time of writing this article, I weighed in at 66 kgs like I said before, from 92. Do I want to go back to my pre-baby weight of 54 kilos? My response to this is I want to feel energised, for my skin to glow, for me to not endure asthma induced wheezing because I climbed a flight of stairs. I want to go swimming with my cubs and not have to worry about why the “hot bods” are looking at me cross-eyed. I want my soul to do the laughing for me. I want to live life and live it healthily. I want to walk into any store and have more options than I used to. I’ve dealt with the inside which gave me the desire to want to match how good it turned out with the outside. I don’t have a formula to it all except to make a decision and do everything it takes for you to attain the goals associated with that decision. I chose to lose weight the healthy way and am happy to announce that it has worked out quite well.