Imagine having a fit body your whole life and always radiating that fit chick energy and then all of a sudden, you wake up and you are overweight. Your clothes won’t fit and your husband can no longer pick you up and swing you around without the risk of breaking his back. Looking at yourself in the mirror becomes a source of stress and you can barely walk from your house to the gate without sweating.

This is what happened to Christabel Banda, well except the weight gain wasn’t that dramatic, she got pregnant and then ate herself into a much bigger body. But she refused to sit down and allow herself to get bigger than 127kgs. With the support of her husband, she went on a hunt for a suitable gym. Her husband had given her just one demand, it had to be an all-female gym. Before long, she discovered Evolve, which is currently, most likely, the only all-female gym in the country and began a fitness journey in which she has so far shed a whooping 31kgs!

I sat down with her to get some tips so that I can use them as I try to shed off all these extra kilos I’ve packed on since having my kids. God knows a little inspiration goes a long way in this journey. In fact, the day we met up, I was craving some cookies but after talking to her, I just behaved and drove straight home.

“Food was my obsession, I loved food. I could eat anything that I wanted, I could crave crazy things, junk food, cakes, name it all. I wouldn’t see anything passing without saying I have to eat this,” Christabel admitted.

Asked how she realised she needed to adopt a different way of eating, Christabel said after struggling to conceive another child, she was advised to lose some weight.

“There was a time when I was trying to have another child and it just couldn’t work. I went to the hospital and I was told I have to lose more weight. So that’s when I realised that I have to start eating right, trying to work out a little bit here and there, that was a wakeup call for me. I knew nothing would change unless I made some changes. So, I had to stop some bad eating habits, I learnt how to eat right, how to drink a lot of water, it was a wakeup call from the doctor,” she said.

“It just didn’t happen just there and then, it was a process, I had to learn to replace junk food with whole food. Back then whenever I would feel hungry, I could snack on bread, I would get bread with a cup of coffee and a lot of milk and eat. But now if I feel hungry, I will snack on an apple.”

She recalled that when she was pregnant, she had to be taken in for an emergency C-Section after her blood pressure skyrocketed.

“When I was pregnant, I was okay, I never had any issues with blood pressure. But in the last month, the ninth one, I just had this terrible severe headache from nowhere, I felt like my head would explode and I had bad BP, it had shot like no man’s business and they had to take me into theatre and I had to have my baby through caesarean section. And I said I am too young for BP, so I had to work on it,” she said.

Christabel now brags that her immune system is so strong she can’t even remember the last time she felt sick!

“Right now, I am physically fit and I am okay and I rarely get sick. Everyone will have a flu in the house but I will be okay. And then hubby will be like ‘how come?’ My immune system is on point, my metabolism is okay, so I rarely get sick, I can’t remember the last time I got sick,” she said.

And if you are out there thinking you are doomed because you cannot afford a gym subscription, guess what? You can totally start your fitness journey at home, on your budget!

“It’s not expensive to start a fitness journey because I’ve tried several diets which required me to buy some special things but they didn’t work for me. I would just spend a lot of money on those things but it wasn’t working for me. So I started to just use food which I have at home in the fridge or in the kitchen. I’ve never gone to see any dietician or anything, I just used what I have at home. If it’s kapenta, eat kapenta and nshima, if it is chicken, eat that but don’t stress yourself with money because some diets are really expensive.,” she said.

“If you can’t afford the gym, do some home workouts. Right now, things are digital, go on YouTube, Google, even when you are pregnant, you can actually workout and I never knew that before. I have come to understand with weight loss journey that it is 50, 50. Other people will say it is 20 per cent of working out and 80 per cent of what you eat but for me, it is actually 50, 50. I was a junk eater but I have come to learn that this is bad, sugar is bad, I need to have a lot of water, I need to sleep, I need to rest, I need to have a lot of vegetables, of course I knew that vegetables were good but at that time, I would just eat and eat without caring.”

She said she substituted breakfast maize mealie meal for sorghum.

“My pattern is eating clean from Monday to Friday then over the weekend I eat what I want. Eating clean is a lot of protein, fruits, vegetables. So for instance, I could have a chicken breast, rape, I could have green apples and a lot of water, that is my lunch. I eat nshima, but sorghum nshima, it is really nice and it has a lot of fibre and it is healthy, unlike white nshima. White nshima has a lot of calories and it is not good for you. I learnt all of these things at Evolve. And the good part about Evolve is that they teach you what you are supposed to do,” she said.

At this point, the funk-food fearing Mukosha just had to ask whether sorghum has a funny smell.

“Sorghum is, it smells funny but I think with time, you get used to it. Because even just having brown nshima in your mouth, the procedure is just the same as for white nshima, it’s just the colour, the taste and the smell but with time, you get used to it. It’s for your own good,” Christabel assured me and made me promise to try it.

And before you start thinking Christabel doesn’t get cravings, she does! That one food she can’t resist? Pizza.

“For me, pizza is my obsession. Even when I started the eight weeks, I could count down that eight weeks is just too far. I am a baker but I can resist cake, but I can’t do without pizza. Every Sunday, we like going to refuel at Northmead and as my husband is getting fuel, I am ordering pizza. But I have worked on that now, I haven’t had pizza for two months. I really miss it and now that we have talked about it, I think I will buy,” she said as we burst out laughing.

“Once in a while, you can eat carbs, you can even have white nshima every day if you want but portion control, don’t have it much, just a little bit.”

She recalled that it took some time for her body to adapt to exercise.

“The first class was really hard but with time, I mean the body just adapts to what you do every day and eventually, I got used. At first my body was in shock, some of the things I couldn’t even manage to do them, I was in total pain but we pushed through and I actually teach two classes now. People tell me I am one of the strongest people they know at the gym. And now it has been part of me. Even when I don’t go to the gym, I feel like I have done something wrong which I am not supposed to do,” she said.

Christabel said she joined Evolve in May 2022 and lost about 18 kgs within the first three months!

“I joined Evolve last year, somewhere around May and then a month later, there was a challenge called The Biggest Loser for six weeks or eight weeks. So, I enrolled and my starting weight when I joined Evolve was 127 and my starting weight for the challenge was 123 so between me joining Evolve and the challenge, I lost about four kilos. I joined the challenge which ran for eight weeks and I lost about 14 kgs and I was the fourth runner up. I was strictly eating just one meal a day but I would eat until I am full so that I don’t starve myself and I decrease the chances of cheating,” she said.

“And along the challenge also, I learnt how to walk, I never used to walk. My friends at the gym taught me how to walk, we would walk 5KM a day, we could walk 7, nothing below 5 so walking has also helped me. So the weight hasn’t been so constant in terms of dropping and I would lie to you, sometimes I cheat, I eat wrong food so it is on and off. It is my prayer that if women can be fit, the world can be a better place.”

The one thing I love about Christabel’s fitness journey is that it is also a story of love. She beamed with joy as she spoke about how supportive her husband was and how much she loves him for that.

“I started with taking walks with my husband, he bought for me some skipping ropes. He is so supportive, he is my number one fan. May God bless that man. My husband has been there for me since day one and never did he look down on me and say ‘you are just too big’, no, he has been there for me, he is a sweet, good man. Baby, I love you,” said Christabel.

To hear more of Christabel’s story, be sure to watch out for the video on my YouTube Channel – Chat With Mukosha.

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