Weight that is more than what is considered healthy for a given height is described as overheavy, or obesity. However, only a few take action to prevent it beforehand, for some, when it is already too late—leading to depression and self-loathe. According to the Global Nutrition Report, the prevalence of overweight children under five years of age is 7.9 per cent in Rwanda and an estimated 9.3 per cent of adult women (aged 18 and over) and 1.9 per cent of adult men live with obesity. Rwanda has been working on ways to prevent the figure from increasing, however, no significant progress has been made, and some fear that it might even be worsening. A survey conducted by Rwanda Demographic Health in 2015, also showed that 34 per cent of women were obese or overweight in the City of Kigali as compared to 21 per cent at the national level. Angelique Ikuzwe, the 2nd runner-up, lost 16.2kgs from 129kgs According to a report by the US National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health, being overweight in women is often caused by an alteration in their hormones (ovarian hormones) after giving birth and it is generally, for anyone, caused by consumption of high amounts of energy, particularly fat and sugars, which leads the body to store more calories than it uses. “Health risks linked to being overweight are heart disease, stroke, chronic respiratory disease, and some types of cancer,” says Dr Evariste Ntaganda, the cardiovascular disease director at Rwanda Biomedical Center. “Also, those who have overweight problems tend to have mental health issues and poor quality of life, often going as far as committing suicide,” he adds. And that would have been the case for Angelique Ikuzwe had it not been for Slim n’ Fit Rwanda, a weight loss and wellness center, through a health and fitness programme. Struggling with obesity “I started gaining a lot of weight in primary school. I would be bullied by other students and be the source of jokes. I weighed more than 80 kilogrammes before I was even 15 years old, which made me hate my body. It worsened by the time I went to secondary school, and I couldn’t take it anymore, so I decided to drop out of school. “A few years later, I tried to look for a job unsuccessfully because people would question my ability, or simply make rude comments about my weight. ‘You are going to die’ people would say and I started believing them. I would stay in my room alone all the time to hide from visitors and everyone. At a certain point I stopped showering; simply waiting for death to come and take me. “I lost appetite even but my weight kept on increasing. All the while, my mother was the only person I counted on, even though I had stopped listening to her encouraging words. When I started having suicidal thoughts, I wrote her a letter that included goodbye and my gratitude,” Ikuzwe says. Luckily, before she went ahead with the decision to end her life, she saw a video of Slim n’ Fit on YouTube. “I decided to call and join. It was not because it gave me any particular hope, it just made me feel as though it was the only place I would be understood by people with similar problems. “Now, I have HOPE for life and I’m living it happily. While losing weight, I lost the negative mindset as well. I learned to love my body and it is a relief that I can breathe with no difficulties, go wherever I want, and do many things for myself, from the smallest like lifting my own bucket of water to bathe,” Ikuzwe shares. Ikuzwe came in second in the ‘90 days Biggest Weight Loser’ challenge by Slim n’ Fit that ended on September 18. She lost 16.2 kgs, from 129kgs. The third runner-up was Pacifique Rwamasirabo who lost 14.3 kgs from 92.8kgs. The champion of the challenge was Marie Ange Ingabire, who lost 26.9kgs from 128kgs. Their efforts were compensated by prizes that included sport wear and shoes from Sportsland Ltd, a one-year subscription at Waka Fitness Gym, water and porridge flour from Jibu to be supplied for a six-month period of time. Working as a team Florence Uwamwezi, the founder of Slim n’ Fit, who once endured the journey of weight loss herself, says it doesn’t stop at the end of the 90 days goal. “We are not where we want to be yet, but we are thankful to God for where we are now, together we will continue to inspire and help as many people as possible, including men in the future,” she says. The “90 days Biggest Weight Loser Challenge” involves workouts with professional coaches, a meal diet recommended by a professional nutritionist, and a monthly meet-up to fast track monthly weight loss goals.