Back to basics: Get in shape this summer

How to lose weight gained during the pandemic without breaking the bank

Fitness influencer Palesa Buyeye.
Fitness influencer Palesa Buyeye.
Image: Veli Nhlapo

In 2018, I started my fitness journey as a way of overcoming depression and anxiety. I was on anti-depressants at the time, and anyone who has had some experience with them knows how uncomfortable the first few weeks or months can be — it almost feels as though you are operating on flight mode.

That’s when I discovered that working out helped me to get out of my own mind. I joined my local gym, attended high-intensity interval training (HIIT) classes, followed YouTube tutorials, and got a personal trainer for some days. Months went by and I started to fall in love with the physical changes that come with working out and eating healthier.

However, as with any other journey, especially one that takes place in a time of social media, I’d wonder if I was doing enough, and compared my journey to those of others. I forgot that my focus should be on me, because our fitness journeys are not the same and not every day is going to look the same.

In the face of pandemic lockdown woes and the upcoming holidays, many are trying to get their lives back on track. Whether it is by starting a weight-loss journey or getting our bodies back to where they were before the pandemic, we want to do it without breaking the bank.

The many options online — from waist trainers to 30-day challenges – just add to the pressure and confusion, when in fact it is simple. Any weight-loss journey starts in the kitchen.

“Social media has complicated diet plans. I believe in getting all your macronutrients in. Firstly, this is your proteins, like chicken, pilchards, fish, and minced meat,” says nutritionist and fitness trainer Zinhle Masango. “Then add your carbohydrates, like oats and rice — brown or white, depending on when in the day you’re having it. Then your veggies, which are also a great source of carbohydrates, and healthy fats like avocado or nuts. These are all things we grew up eating and make up the seven-colours meal, which is not expensive.”

A few years ago, fitness influencer and athlete Ophela Mhlauli posted a video of herself hitting the streets of Joburg with R50 in her pocket. She returned with a bag filled with fruit and vegetables from street vendors, dispelling the myth that healthy eating is expensive.

“Fruit and veggies are the same wherever you go, so if you can find alternatives like a market or street vendors, there is nothing wrong with that. Go early in the morning while it’s still fresh,” says Mhlauli.

According to Masango, fad diets like keto or Atkins can be used to speed up your metabolism in the beginning, but completely cutting out certain food groups is not sustainable for longer than 21 days.

Image: Veli Nhlapo

Making social media work for you

Once you have mastered the eating part, finding a workout regime that works for you is the next step, and can be absolutely free.

“Do old-school workouts like walking or jogging and, when you are ready, introduce body-weight exercises such as pull-ups or burpees,” says Masango.

Since the pandemic began, many of us have seen the benefits of a virtual world, and working out with a trainer can be at your fingertips — as long as you have a Wi-Fi connection or mobile data.

YouTubers like Chloe Ting, who specialises in abs and core exercises, as well as local fitfluencer Grace Motswana, who posts HIIT workouts, have proven that shedding weight is not just for the elite.

“Body weight training is way more difficult than going to the gym and switching on a machine, as balance is required,” cautions fitness trainer and athlete Simhle Plaatjies. “Challenge yourself and change the intensity; you don’t need to be confined to a gym.”

Burpees, jump squats, jumping jacks, skipping, and short sprints are sure to get your heart rate up and burn calories.

Another good idea, according to Plaatjies, is to create a specific space to do these online workouts — whether it is in your room, garage or outside — as this will help to instil a sense of accountability to yourself. You can also try fitness apps, such as Sudor, that have affordable subscription rates and provide programmes for your weight-loss goals.

“It’s also important to understand that there are different body types, so you have to set realistic goals by understanding what your body type is,” Plaatjies adds.

One of the best things I did in my fitness journey was finding individuals in the fitness industry who had a similar body structure to mine. I then followed them and saw what routines worked for them. 

If home workouts do not work for you and you want to be in the gym like Masango, check out the many promotions that local gyms have been running ever since the world has opened up again.

“Remember, it’s all about discipline, consistency, and being patient with yourself. Although you can see a lot of transformation in three months, if you have been out of shape for a year or more, give yourself another year or more to lose that weight,” says Masango.

Image: Veli Nhlapo

Tips and tricks:

• It is okay to give in to cravings here and there, with a cheat meal once a week rather than a whole scheduled day dedicated to cheating, which leads to binging — Plaatjies

• Remember that it is a journey, not a destination — Mhlauli

• Use free apps like MyFitnessPal, especially when starting out, to track calories — Masango

• Take pictures and track your progress — Masango

• Remember that liquid calories such as juice and fizzy drinks are still calories — Plaatjies

• Focus on short-term goals, such as getting in all your healthy meals, sleep, and workouts in a week

• Research

• Eat more foods that are high in fibre

• Drink water

• Leave the scale alone — if you are doing both cardio and weight training, the scale will show weight gain when you have actually built more muscle – Plaatjies