Imagine taking a walk or jogging on the streets, attempting to improve your confidence and lose weight, and people along the way criticise your body. It can have a serious impact on your psychological and physical health and well-being. This, Unathi Gomba from Centurion in Tshwane, can attest to. She shares her struggles with her weight and health journey with Health For Mzansi.
Throughout her life, she vividly remembers always being overweight. She adds that she had always been big and had put on a lot of weight as she grew older.
“I believe that there may be a genetic predisposition to obesity within my family. Almost everyone in my family is big.”
However, she became aware of her eating challenges following the passing of her mother in 2000. She says she took it lightly, thinking that it might just be a phase.
“One more thing about me is that I tend to be an emotional eater. I find comfort in food.”
In 2011, when Gomba became pregnant, it added to her problems and had a significant impact on her health. Not only did she gain weight, but she also developed elephantiasis on her left leg.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), elephantiasis is a painful and profoundly disfiguring disease. WHO explains that it is caused by infection with parasites classified as nematodes (roundworms) that are transmitted through the bites of infected mosquitos.
Gomba says, “The doctors informed me that my system was struggling to cope with the pregnancy. Plus, also my genes of having an almost inactive or slow metabolism.”
She gave birth to twins, one of whom has special needs. “I picked up the pieces only to survive for my children because I’d like to witness their graduation from university. I have a million reasons to live in that regard.”
In 2016, Gomba learned about Sleekgeek Team Asijiki through a friend on Facebook. She followed the group and observed how the rules were being implemented.
Gomba explains that Sleekgeek is a health community that is dedicated to promoting and emphasising the importance of healthy eating. The programme is created to help people who want to lose weight or stay healthy. It emphasises that 80% of your results come from what you eat, while the remaining 20% comes from exercise.
Unfortunately, she regained weight when she became demotivated.
In 2021, she experienced significant trouble with her leg, which led to her admission to the hospital.
“While lying in bed, I saw some images of my former boss on Facebook and noticed that she had lost an immense quantity of weight. I contacted her to inquire about how she accomplished it.”
“She told me that she underwent gastric bypass surgery. I asked my doctor about it, and he was pleased to refer me to a bariatric surgeon.”
In 2022, Gomba visited a bariatric surgeon who informed her that she would need to lose 121kg first to qualify for a gastric bypass procedure. She weighed 281kg at the time.
The uncomfortable journey
Being informed that she needed to lose 121kg pushed her to explore other options. She coupled good nutrition with working out at the gym. Going out and exercising was something she had been afraid to do.
“It was very difficult to take that step; I thought about it for a long time because the gym appears to be for people with perfect bodies.”
She tells Health for Mzansi that anyone struggling with their weight is fighting an inner battle and needs support. She is grateful to have a sister who has been her biggest supporter throughout the years.
“On the first day, I only managed to walk for 10 minutes on the treadmill, which took me an hour. But the great feedback I received from other members of the gym encouraged me to return the following day.”
A new way of life
Gomba is establishing a healthy lifestyle with her three girls at home. She says obesity-related health concerns took her mother’s life.
“When my mother’s blood pressure was high, she would get headaches and complain about being cold. So, she was feeling like that one day, screamed about a headache, and died.
“I don’t want to die like that. I know better. It’s not simple, but it’s possible.”
She says she learned from Sleekgeek Team Asijiki health enthusiasts to write down why they began their journey and to go back and remind themselves of the ‘Why’s’ when they’re feeling discouraged.
It forces her to be conscious of her health and to prioritise it every day. And for now, she is taking it one day at a time.
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