Tired of being unhappy with her appearance and the way it made her feel, Mathapelo Semake embarked on a journey that left her discovering way more than killer abs.
Here’s how this medical technologist lost 17 kilos and gained a lot of confidence.
Occupation: Medical technologist
Age: 27 years old
Weight before: 73kg
Weight after: 56kg
Time to reach current weight: 3 years
Mathapelo says that coming from an underprivileged background made an impact on her food choices and ultimately lead to her weight gain. “I gained weight very quickly, it all began when I started working. I had the luxury to eat anything, anytime — and didn’t have to worry about the price. It was like [I was] compensating for all the times I couldn’t afford to buy whatever I wanted. And because of my background, healthy eating was not something that I knew of,” she explains.
Mathapelo’s eating habits weren’t the best and she found herself overindulging in carbs and fatty foods. ” I was eating a slab of chocolate a day! I would also have fat cakes each morning (my day just wouldn’t feel complete without them). Every lunch and supper included pap while on weekends I would have takeouts like fried slap chips, chicken, burgers and other junk food. My eating habits would get worse depending on my mood too,” she says. Coupled with her bad eating habit, Mathapelo was not exercising at all. All of this left her feeling unhealthy and desperate to make a change.
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The much-needed change came in May of 2015 when Mathapelo says that she was sick and tired of being, well, sick and tired. “I felt sick and looked very unhealthy, I was only 24 and I looked like I was 32. I would see my peers wearing short dresses and tights, and I felt like I couldn’t wear those types of clothing because I felt fat. I felt like all my clothing looked like an old person trying to dress young, it was then that I realised that I did not want to look like that anymore. I felt unwanted and used my weight as a weapon to make myself a victim. I just hated what I was seeing in the mirror,” she explains. When a friend suggested that she join the gym, Mathapelo didn’t second guess. “That very day I signed up to the gym, bought exercise clothes and the next morning did my first workout,” she recalls.
After a month of hitting the gym, Mathapelo addressed her eating habits, although it got off to a rocky start. “I started off with this horrible soup diet. I hated it and it just resulted in me getting sick,” she says. This failed attempt made her feel demotivated but a friend came to the rescue and suggested that she try a high-protein low-carb diet. This eating plan felt like something she could stick to, one that wouldn’t make her ill. “It wasn’t too bad because I could eat meat and I love meat, so when things got tough I would indulge in that,” she says.
Now that Mathapelo has gotten the hang of nutrition, she’s eating a diet that is a lot more balanced. She eats five meals a day and keeps her diet generally high in protein. She usually starts her day with either oats, bran flakes or granola, yoghurt and fruit. Before lunch, she’ll have a snack on boiled eggs or cottage cheese with avo. Lunch would then consist of a tuna or avo sandwich on low GI bread or a protein like chicken breast with salad or vegetables. That is then followed by a midday snack of nuts or yoghurt or fruit. She ends her day with protein in the form of either meat or fish, with starch and green vegetables. To help her stay on track, Mathapelo meal preps, something that she says makes all the difference. “I do meal preps for the week it helps a lot because I’m always tired when I get home from work, I just warm up my food and eat. It also prevents me from eating the wrong things when I’m too lazy to cook”.
Wondering how Mathapelo discovered her abs? Good nutrition and core exercises. She has a list of exercises she does when she has a spare moment. These exercises range from planks to crunches and Russian twists. She also does a combo of cardio and weight training.
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Since starting her journey, Mathapelo says that she is a completely different person. “My life has definitely changed, I’m much happier. I don’t get sick as often and I am comfortable in my own skin and body. I wear anything and everything, I am confident and feel beautiful. And now I’m able to help and motivate other young women about a healthy lifestyle,” she exclaims. As for her physical achievements, she has completed various 5k runs and a 42k marathon. Her next goal is to complete the comrades in 2020. She goes on to say that the key to keeping herself motivated is to reward herself for her efforts and being her own fan. “I always make sure I spoil myself because I feel I deserve it for all my hard work. Weight loss is not easy, you have to always find a way to keep yourself going, you are your first cheerleader. And as much as other people can encourage you, if you don’t cheer for yourself it becomes harder,” she explains.
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Be your first priority: “That way you will never compromise your well being just to please someone else. You will always stick to your plans and not let anyone try to disturb your journey”.
Stay and own your lane: “This is not a competition, the only person you are competing with is yourself. Prove to yourself that you will do it no matter how hard it is. Do not compare your progress with others”.
Always challenge yourself: “Introduce yourself to new things — it makes workouts fun, and you will always look forward to going to gym as you are not doing one thing all the time. Make sure you don’t put pressure on yourself, because it will make you hate gym. Just take one step at a time and always know there is a room for improvement, so don’t be too hard on yourself”.