My name is Sameshni Moodley, aged 36, currently in the Corporate Insurance Industry and this is my story of being a better version of me.
At the start of my teens I weighed in at 80kgs. This was not an easy time for me as being overweight often left me feeling sad and having few friends. I recall feeling lonely; teased, and was never chosen to participate in any sporting activities at school.
As a teenager desperate for acceptance I tried any quick fix diet I could in an attempt to lose the weight and fit in. But whatever instant solution I tried worked for a while, but then my weight would go back up, as the emotional baggage would weigh me down and I would turn to food again. Food was my friend and the only ‘person’ that I knew would always be there for me.
Exercise was never a priority in my household and being overweight at school I was ashamed to wear a pair shorts or a swimming costume. I would often ‘fake’ letters to get out of these activities.
There were two catalysts in my life that made me finally want to change.
The first was in my early twenties, after years of struggling with my weight and watching my parents suffer from five chronic conditions between them as I was growing up I decided to commit to change. My resolution to change came after I moved out of my parents’ house in 2001, overweight, but with a desire to get more out of life.
Having my first job and moving out of my parents’ home meant that healthy eating and exercise were not part of my life. It was a far reach from what I could afford.
But, I decided that I needed to find a sustainable solution. My first step was to join the gym. This I thought was the motivation I needed to make exercising as part of my lifestyle.
Even though I had joined the gym and was exercising my relationship with food remained unhealthy. Food was still my friend and I still attempted quick fix diets with little or no results.
A few years later in 2008 when I was diagnosed with HIV I thought life as I knew it was over. I battled to accept what had happened to me; I didn’t know how to deal with my HIV status.
I started binge eating more frequently, drinking excessively and experimenting with drugs to try and cover up my feelings and to forget. I drank until I was numb and couldn’t feel anymore.
The turning point for me was when I lay in darkness in my bedroom, after the “high” had worn off.
I had gone into a depressive state, shutting out my family and only befriended people that encouraged these destructive habits. I slept and often thought of not waking up.
It was then that a voice inside me said I can’t give up and this wasn’t the way to live my life.
A new approach
I knew I could not do this alone and that needed help. I made an appointment with my doctor; a therapist and a dietician so that I could get the professional help I needed to treat my HIV and change my unhealthy emotional binge eating behaviour.
The help of a dietician provided me with the tools and guidance I needed to start eating healthily to help me on a journey to start living better.
Healthy eating is important as your body uses nutrients to keep up its defense against germs, eating well can help you fight off infections. It can also boost your energy, keep you strong, and help you avoid health complications.
My diet includes eating a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes, choosing lean, low-fat sources of protein like fish (tuna, hake) and skinless chicken, little good fat in all my meals and snacks.
A typical day starts now starts with a gym visit followed by a whey protein shake and a fruit or oats, my snacks include almonds, fruit or brown rice cakes with no sugar no salt peanut butter or fat free chunky cottage cheese. My lunch and dinners is a combo of a protein like chicken or tuna, with a salad and or vegetable and a good carbohydrate like brown rice.
Through my regular gym visits I was befriended by a Fitness Instructor who helped me with exercises at gym and after time we become close friends and trained together. He had helped build the foundation of what I know today. He introduced me to the weight area at the gym, a place I was ‘afraid’ from hearing the myth that girls who lift weights will build huge muscles. I was educated around the importance of weight training.
My exercise week includes yoga, weight training three times a week and cardio, like running or a spinning class, for the days in between with functional training or a grid class added as a fun element.
My success is owed to the love and support that I received from my circle – my boyfriend, friends, family and health professionals, my online community of Sleekgeeks with their daily motivation of helpful tips to lead a healthy lifestyle in the Sleekgeek Facebook Group.
I would not have had such success had it not been support from my boyfriend to keep me on track and my hand out of the ‘cookie’ jar, waking up early to support me on my runs and ensure I had the correct nutrition on route.
My family and friends for just the love and support throughout my journey – my family for making small changes like having brown bread or bastmati rice and including salads now with meals, even with the curry.
My online community – Sleekgeek – I am overwhelmed but the daily motivation and encouragement you offer me as well as so many others. Thank you for sharing both your wins and struggles. It is the random messages of hope that keep one going and to not give up.
My key learning is that everyone recovers and overcomes challenges in different ways and you have to find what works best for you!
As a ‘positive’ person I want to ensure that others facing the same struggles as me do not feel alone and don’t go through what I did. I want to take my experience and share my knowledge. I live to inspire and motivate all people who are affected and infected living with HIV, and those feeling stuck in the cycle of emotional eating.
This may sound like an unusual statement but I am grateful for my struggles as it has made me stronger and healed me in so many other areas of my life, through the help and support of therapists and a coach.
Remember that you are not alone, ask for the support of family and friends and you may be surprised by their reactions.
I am just an ordinary woman who turned her life around and you can do it too! You have everything within to deal with whatever you are faced with in life.
A quote that often encourages me is: “Hardship often prepares ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.”
My longest running achievement is my current weight loss journey which started in 2005. Over the years I have lost 25kgs.
I have completed two Warrior obstacles races.
My love for running began in December 2015 and since then I have finished numerous 10km, half marathons with my first marathon (42.2km) in November 2017 at the Old Mutual Soweto Marathon race.
After noticing great results from my changed lifestyle, I started to motivate other people to do the same.
I have featured in various Discovery articles between 2014 and 2017 for my perseverance through my weight loss journey, creating a culture of living healthy with HIV and being an inspiration for it.
I wrote a positive story for a video done by Discovery Health for living a healthy, active life with a chronic condition. I provided insight and guidance on weight loss and lifestyle changes for a Discovery Vitality article.
I have presented at an international sports brand for their World AIDS Day event which included a run for positive change, participated by myself, athletes and employees.
Here are my most valuable tips for starting on your personal journey:
Think back to the last time you tried to get in shape and lose weight. How successful were you? What made you fall off the wagon?
Well done, you already know what method doesn’t work for you.
They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Unless you’re insane, don’t try to get in shape the same way you did last time…it is not going work. Don’t be afraid to try something new or different.
These three things helped me to succeed at changing my life:
- Education: know HOW
- Inspiration: know WHY
- Support: having others help you along the way
Pick goals that are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely). Be specific with your goals so that you can actively plan what steps are needed to achieve those goals, example:
- I’m going to lose 20kgs this year by going to the gym 3 times per week for the next 6 months and eat one more vegetable per week than I did the week before.
But, if you somebody that doesn’t succeeds at goals, instead try making a new habit every 30 days…put the focus on the habit and not the goal.
For example, “I’m going to start doing parkruns every weekend. If I go, I win.” Keep it simple.