Research indicates that women suffer from stress more than men; this might be the justification behind women’s weight gain. The fact is, most people use food to manage stress. This is the story of the phenomenal Robin Chaibva, a successful business woman who has fought and won the battle against obesity.
Tell us a little about yourself…
My name is Robin Chaibva, a small business owner, blogger, multimedia journalist and magazine lifestyle writer with varying interests. My weight loss journey has been interesting and a very enlightening experience. I grew up as the skinny girl who absolutely hated fatty foods. I would vomit from bananas, eggs, margarine and rich foods so naturally stayed lean with enough athletics and walking from school.
What caused your weight gain?
When I went to boarding school I became more dormant and sedentary. After university, I started working and had access to food; I enjoyed food, so much that I was addicted to fizzy drinks, especially Coca-Cola and takeaways. I then started using food to manage stress and didn’t give my health or weight any thought.
Why did you decide to make a change to your health?
My defining moment was at the peak of my depression. I was overweight and looked older than my siblings. I was the same size by a kilogram with my mom, who is in fact a grandmother by the way. This is the same time my grand-aunt was diagnosed with cancer and my best friend lost a brother who was under 40 years old. I decided instead of taking anti-depressants, I needed to shed the weight. I knew in my heart that depression kills and it was time to use exercise to become better and direct my rage towards something positive. I joined a gym and decided to do after-work classes. On my first week, ‘Too Legit to Quit’ by Cassper Nyovest was playing on TRACE TV, it really made an impact on me. I said to myself, if I could do the gym without quitting then I was ready to start a new leaf in my career. I mirror my fitness with my business so there is no reason for me to quit, if I do I might as well go back to my old job. It requires the same emotional process and work ethic needed.
What kind of limitations did your weight cause?
My weight was almost 80kgs on my short frame of 155cm height, so I had a fair share of limitations. I could not wear heels as comfortably as before. I lost my form; even today heels are a challenge. I could not fit my clothes and my knees were aching so often. I felt tired and could not dance much without feeling heavy. My mood was often bad. I was offended so easily because I was carrying too much human around. Another issue is people are very insensitive to overweight people’s feelings. I would have terrible customer service; insults hurled at me by street urchins about how big my butt is, people thinking I am pregnant, 15 years older, what an emotional rollercoaster! I felt awkward because I did not have the body that fits plus size, the bust and height were a no, I felt lost and out of place.
What struggles have you dealt with while trying to lose weight?
My struggles mostly came from people I used to overeat with and not participating in the social gluttony with them anymore. I received a lot of negative comments and doubts about my journey to fitness which bothered me a lot. I definitely had to silence the doubt and not fight it but prove it to myself. I had to change how I socialize and make new friends in the fitness circles to also get familiar with people with similar fitness habits.
What are your favourite health and fitness blogs, books, or magazines?
My favourite fitness magazine is Fitness Magazine SA, cliché but yeah that is what I am all about. I also read a lot of motivational quotes off pinterest.
How did you manage to alter your eating patterns and accommodate the rest of your family?
My family is very open to eating better so they have no problem eating oatmeal with me and abandoning fizzy drinks and junk food. I became in charge of the cooking and shopping. I found some healthy delicious recipes they could also enjoy.
What is your favourite healthy food to eat?
Well, I do not believe in healthy versus unhealthy foods as strict distinctions. Mango fruit is high in sugar so it can be unhealthy to a diabetic, but it also has fibre which is good to those who need it, as an example. Fruits are my favourite healthy food to eat, mostly because they don’t require me to do much cooking. I don’t have a least favourite food; if I hate it, I hate it and I will not eat it. Life is for living, eat what you like and what will benefit you, everything in moderation. I tried carrot juice and it is rather disgusting to me, I also will probably hate vegan milk alternatives.
What is your favourite cheat meal?
My favourite cheat meal, which comes between wide gaps, is gourmet burgers with 100% beef and gourmet pizzas and authentic Italian pasta dishes. Luckily the only places I eat things I appreciate is in South Africa. No one in my town can make food that I feel deserves the cheat. If you are going to eat bad, make sure it is worth it.
When it comes to eating well what are your top 3 recommendations?
Always eat what is in season and available where you live. If you have to import it, like quinoa (whatever that is) in Harare, your diet is unsustainable. This is a forever thing, grow your own food, buy from the fresh produce market, it has to be easy to find. Learn to enjoy everything you eat, if you can learn to acquire a taste of brown rice, do so. Know what is in your food, the best way to do so is to cook for yourself.
What is your favourite form of cardiovascular exercise to do and why?
My favourite cardio exercise to do is Zumba. It is definitely for the music, the class is so much fun!
Do you work out at home or at a gym?
I work out at a gym; it helps to get a fitness trainer/ sensei that can mentor me. It also helps in making new friends.
What is your best piece of advice for those just starting to exercise?
Best advice to newbies is to just find a gym which is easily accessible. Make it convenient for you. Also attend group fitness communities and aerobathons. You get to meet fitness lovers and trainers, and get familiar with a lot of interesting people who are also just starting. Fit people love to see a beginner so don’t be intimidated at all.
How do you think people need to change their views about weight loss?
The misconception about weight loss is that there is only one result, weight loss. So this means my slim sisters may have zero stamina because smaller isn’t always healthy. Our focus should be to gain strength, stamina and overall fitness.
What specific changes have you made that are working for you?
Eating less sugar, exercising and ensuring variety in my routine so I am not bored of the process. The most important change is being consistent and patient; it is tough and an everyday effort.
What do you want other people who are struggling to lose weight to know?
My advice to people struggling to lose weight is to take it easy, never be extreme. Truth is it is a struggle to lose weight especially when you are 25 years and above. Stop waiting for motivation and make a vow to yourself to continue no matter what people say. Also coach yourself first before you get a trainer, train for at least two months attending classes and jogging then get a trainer once you have some fitness, otherwise a trainer might be too hectic for you.