Roughly a year and a half ago, I walked across an international stage in a swimsuit, in-spite of having had two babies and, at one point, having weighed 200 pounds, even though I am only 5 feet 8 inches tall. The place was Orlando, FL and the event was Mrs World 2011. Less than a year later, I did it again, and this time I was in a two piece!
The reason why I am sharing a little bit of my story is that I want women to be able to take my story and use it to dispel the myths that they sometimes believe (like that once you have a baby, you can’t rock a swimsuit!). I also want to inspire and encourage any woman who has a negative voice in her head that tells her that she CAN”T. And finally, I want us all to live happy (read:joyful) and healthy lives.
In 2009, I gave birth to a miracle baby boy who doctors told me may be born dead because of the severity of the gestational diabetes that affected my body at the time. When my son was born, I was also told that I should expect to have Type II diabetes soon after, if I did not make changes to my lifestyle.
Here are a few tips to reclaiming your body and your life and accomplishing your goals:
1. Identify a WHY
For me, knowing that I may get diabetes was a big scare. Also, both my mother and my father are affected by the disease, as well as both of my grandmothers (one has already passed) and one of my siblings. But, I needed yet another WHY to get me going and to stay motivated.
When I was younger, I had entered quite a few pageants and had even come in second at Miss Botswana 1997. (The winner, Mpule Kwelagobe, went on to become the first Black African to win the Miss Universe title, but I digress…). So, I decided to enter a beauty pageant, which had a swim wear competition. If walking across an international stage in a swimsuit was not going to motivate me, I don’t know what would have!
For you, your WHY may be something else, but your WHY has to be something that will make you feel motivated and add a sense of urgency to you accomplishing your goal. Your WHY also has to go beyond YOU. For me, entering Mrs. Botswana and then Mrs. World was not just about me, my body and my diabetes; it was also about bringing awareness to various women’s issues and pursuing a bigger platform from which to do that.
2. Do the WORK
Once I had a WHY for making a change, I laid out a plan and got to WORK. I had to exercise more and become diligent about learning what to eat to get my body to not only look healthier and slimmer, but to also feel healthier. I started waking up at 4:30 am to get in some exercise. I also turned my lunch-break in to a 45 to 60 minute power-walk and in the evenings, as I watched one of my favorite TV shows, I would do it while riding my stationery bike. Remember, anything worth having is worth working for!
3. Choose your COMPANY wisely
I can not stress how important it is to choose your company wisely.
When I decided to enter he Mrs World pageant, there were some family members and “friends” who told me it was “inappropriate for a married woman” to wear a swimsuit in public (side note: all 60 women in the pageant were married!…hence the title MRS.) There were those who whispered behind my back, saying that I was not pretty enough or (fill in the blank) to enter a beauty pageant. Long story short, there were a lot of naysayers! BUT, there were also those that showed up to encourage and affirm me.
One of my friends, who I happened to work with at the time, decided to join me in my lunch time walks and we enjoyed a lot of wonderful conversations and also encouraged, motivated and affirmed one another.
If you want to accomplish your goals in life, you have to get really good at discerning who to keep near and who to keep far. Negative people are not always bad people; in fact, naysayers can sometimes help you because they point out problems that you may not see BUT, more often than not, they are more harmful than helpful.
I believe that one of the ways that you can be a successful human being is to make sure that you have the ability to take the focus off of yourself and place it on other people. There is a lot of joy in helping other people. You can help others by giving information, a word of encouragement, volunteering or what ever else you can think of. For me, helping others reach their goals also keeps me motivated and seeing other people succeed makes me joyful.
5. Be kind to yourself
Finally, be kind to yourself. After losing a lot of weight, I became temporarily ill due to the change in seasons and gained some of it back and for a while, I really beat myself up about it. Then I RE-membered that I have to be kind to myself. First of all, I have never returned to 200 pounds and second of all, I am not immune to set-backs-no one is. What I did do, was continue to focus on my WHY and as I got better, the extra pounds started to slowly fall off. Be kind to yourself and also remember that there will be times when the old you tries to creep back. Remember your WHY and never give up.
(By the way : my baby boy is a smart, loving and healthy four year old pre-schooler today and five years later, I am diabetes free).
Nomalanga helps Black women thrive in their lives and careers. She is a Social Commentator, an Editor at Your Black World , Assistant Professor of Professional Studies and the reigning Mrs Botswana. Visit Nomalanga’s Facebook page or Follow her on Twitter