Zim woman shares weight loss journey

LONDON - Gertrude Nyirenda was born and raised in Zimbabwe before she relocated to the United Kingdom in 1999 where she has been based ever since.

Nyirenda, who lives with her husband together with their two boys, has suffered from an eating disorder and battled with obesity for nearly 17 years.

Throughout that period, she would lose weight, but only to put it on again after a few months. However, a friend’s brutal honesty finally made her approach weight loss in a completely different way.

After conducting an extensive research and study of various diets on the market today, she finally discovered that for any change to occur, or to overcome whatever challenges life throws at you; your first steps towards achieving victory starts in the mind.

Nyirenda then penned a book titled Weight Loss Wars which has been published by England-based Fast Print Publishing. In the book she came up with what she terms ‘The ABCs of weight loss.’

It is about the steps she finally followed to take total control of the one area she had battled with for so many years and finally experience a complete and sweet victory, managing to lose 43kg to reach her desired healthy goal weight for good, and yes, she has managed to maintain it.

After the weight loss programme, Gertrude Nyirenda has maintained a weight of 68 kgs since June last year.

Her primary goal now is to empower individuals to discover their dreams, helping them maximise their potential and live a more fulfilled life.

She has a particular interest in motivational speaking as she connects with her audience through being authentic and honest about her previous struggles and imperfections.

Drawing from her own experiences, she makes her audience realise that the very struggles they might be going through are all integral in shaping and moulding their destiny.

Gertrude Nyirenda weighing 111 before she began the weight loss programme.

Pam Samasuwo-Nyawiri (PSN) recently spoke to Gertrude Nyirenda (GN) on how she managed not only to lose 43kg but also maintain a healthy weight thereafter.

Below are excerpts of the interview:

Q: In your book you encourage women to get to know their bodies. Can you tell us why this information is vital to helping women lose weight?

A: The first thing you need to do before you even decide to lose weight is to accept yourself and love yourself, and then know what you want. This is important because so many times we try and lose weight for the wrong reasons or according to how someone else what you to look.

But if you know what you want and how you want your body to look like, that brings about accountability, and this will fuel your desires.

No one can change a made-up mind. Friends and family will try and discourage you, before reaching your desired goal weight, but if you know what you want to look like at your final healthy goal weight, no one can deter you.  And also you will know when you get there and you won’t need anyone’s approval.

Q: Do you feel that there is increased pressure in the African culture for women to be bigger?

A: I’m glad to say I think there was pressure in the past. Some African men believed that in order to show off their wealth, their wife and children had to be overweight. But with time things are changing and more women are now aware of the importance of a healthy lifestyle.

Q: What platform of education do our communities need on weight control?

A: Social media has taken over the education of our people, we need to tap into it more, and we rely on social media so much these days for everything else, so that would be a good place to start.

Maybe even design games that teach healthy eating. I also think healthy eating should be taught a lot more in schools, tackle it from an early stage.

Q:  How has losing weight changed your perspective on life? Did you undergo psychological changes too?

A: Losing weight for me has been key on how I view life differently now.  Having suffered low self-esteem as well, I find that now my confidence has definitely been given a boost. 

I always longed to be normal when I was overweight, because I found I could not engage in most of the activities that my family were involved in, like swimming on the beach (in a bikini) going on rides at theme parks or even simple things like dancing at a party, I was always self-conscious, but that was partly because of the comments people made about how big my arms were.

Definitely there is a psychological change as well. If I could conquer my weight demons then I can do anything I put my mind to.

So I view life differently. If life gives me lemons, I will make lemonade.

Q:  Why did you feel the need to document the weight loss journey in a book?

A: I wanted to tell my story and help other people long after I’m gone. My book will outlive me. I will leave a legacy. I also felt that my story as a book, would reach so many people, it will be translated into many different languages.

But most importantly, with everything we do in life, it’s easy to forget, but in a book, I could capture the moment I reached my goal weight together with the steps I finally took, and relive them over and over again.

I also wanted to offer the world my lenses so anyone who wants to take the necessary steps they need to view themselves differently by referring to my journey, so they can connect with my heart and see how far I have come, and by so doing be inspired to start their own journey.

Q:  Do you recognise the person you were before? If not why?

A: I definitely do not recognise her but I can identify with her. Before I was always searching and yarning for something. I never knew what I wanted out of life or where I was going.

The only thing I was certain of was that I didn’t like the Gertrude I was trapped in at that time, I was fleeing from her; I felt like there was a missing piece to the puzzle.

I am pleased to say I have found that missing piece. I am very happy and content these days. In saying that, I’m still on a journey of self-discovery.   

Q: Tell me about the problem of obesity in the younger generation and how parents can help curb unhealthy lifestyles?

A: I strongly feel that if youngsters are not educated on how to make healthier food choices and incorporate exercise into their daily routine it will result in a health disaster.

Obese children will grow into obese adults. The current lifestyle encourages eating food with a high sugar content coupled with the couch potato lifestyle. 

Children don’t play outdoors like they did when we were growing up anymore. They prefer to play computer games instead. 

The only way parents can help curb unhealthy lifestyle changes, is by practising what they preach. Children learn from what they see their parents doing. Parents need to live healthier lifestyles themselves and then the children will follow suit.

Q: You have spoken to many women about weight loss, what is the one message you would like to pass onto your readers before they even open your book?

A: You can do it, just believe. 

When you do not believe you limit yourself and build barriers in your mind and this disarms you from achieving your goals.

Women always give reasons why they can never lose weight, which in reality are just excuses.

Q: Would you tell us a little about how your story will help other women lose weight?

A: I’m just your average girl next door. I am a wife, mother and I am also employed. I can identify with anyone who wants to lose weight for good. I have experienced first-hand how being overweight feels like, the stigma attached to it, yet I overcame all that and lost weight the healthy way.

I know there is nothing new under the sum, but sometimes you can hear and know something but it still won’t make an impact and you cannot apply it to your own life.

If you hear or see someone who has experienced what you are going through, knowing that they won that battle, I’m certain it will encourage you to embark on your own journey and win.

Q: For years women have heard that you have to eat less and exercise more. Can you comment on how your regime is different?

A: My regime is different in the sense that I’m not offering a quick fix; as they say easy come easy go. 

I believe in implementing realistic lifestyle changes that you can live with. It makes you learn new healthy habits and how to incorporate your favourite foods in your own eating plan.

Q: There has been so much controversy in the past about including fats in our diet yet for years we have been told to limit our fat intake. What is your view on this?

A: The first step is to understand what is good for your body and what is not. When you have a prized possession, you take good care of it.  Not all fat is bad. Our body needs some fat so we need to include fats in our diet.

Unfortunately, there is twice as much calories contained in fat as compared to starch and protein.  The trick is to eat just enough fat that your body needs. Identify the kind of fat which is good for you.  Try and always choose foods that contain unsaturated fats.

Q: Your book really made me think about the emotional issues that can act as barriers to weight loss. Would you share more information about this?

A: I read an article once which stated that, “food was the most abused antidepressant”.  It offers a false sense of security only then the feelings of guilt set in after eating.

Which just creates another problem altogether and then a vicious cycle forms. Separate the two, learn to manage and face your emotions separately. This will help lift the barrier to your weight loss.

Q: Please share more on your perspective on exercise. 

A: Whenever the word exercise is mentioned. I always associated it with the vigorous gym routines. But because I had a trapped nerve in my left leg, I was limited to what I could do in terms of exercise.

So I opted for walking instead, I instantly fell in love with it. Exercise can be fun, even playing in the park with your children is exercise. Try and make it fun and exciting, something you enjoy doing.

Q: How do you now stay motivated?

A: Shopping for new clothes definitely keeps me motivated. I’m also coaching a few people, helping them along on their weight loss journey. We have a social media group where we post our meals and exercise tips; this helps me remain accountable and motivated.

Q: Tell me who the intended audience for your book are?

A: I am targeting people who want to lose weight and keep it off for good, particularly obese patients.

Q: What are your plans now with the knowledge you have acquired through your weight loss journey?

A: My plans include travelling around the world just empowering women to live more fulfilled healthy lifestyles.

My head is always floating in the clouds; there are so many things I would like to achieve. I thank God for my husband because he pulls me back down to earth so my feet can touch the ground again.

*Pamela is a Zimbabwean fashion journalist and fashion accessory designer based in the United Kingdom. She can be contacted on pamsamasuwo@live.co.uk

Comments (4)

Good for her but I think this article should have included the before and after photos plus how much weight was lost.

kufuta - 28 March 2015

Congrats Gerts, as a close family friend I know all too well your weight struggles. I am happy that you are coaching me too and proud to say the weight is falling off. I

Elsa Mabhena - 28 March 2015

Congrats to her but the article is too general...

mmz - 31 March 2015

Congrats to her but the article is too general...

mmz - 31 March 2015

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