Being overweight and obesity are not only seen as a major cause of sickness, they also trigger with low self-esteem, depression and stress. But one woman is determined to help many others thanks to her health and fitness programme.
A few years ago, weighing over 105 kgs, Florence Uwamwezi, would describe herself as someone who was obese. She felt uncomfortable about her body weight and was gripped with frustration from fade diets that worked but for a short while.
The ladies during the monthly meetings
Her turning point, she reveals, came during an encounter with a ‘mad man’, whose words would change her life forever.
“While shopping for groceries in the market, on New Year’s Eve 2018, a mad man approached me and in the local language assured me of how fat I was and went on to advise me to take precaution measures. His words haunted me to the point that it became my turning point in my weight loss journey. Sometimes in life, we wait for a spectacular thing to happen for us to decide otherwise,” Uwamwezi recalls.
It was from that encounter that she began reading extensively about lifestyle changes for weight loss, and in putting her findings to work, she, within a period of 12 months, dropped over 25 kgs. Yet her struggle continues.
The first season’s ‘biggest weight loser’ Dinah Mutamba (left) recieves a dummy cheque. Courtesy photos
From her experience, Uwamwezi realised that for someone to lose a significant number of kilogrammes and keep it off for good, it ought to be a lifestyle change and not a fade diet.
Bringing other women on board
In her weight loss journey, she recalls praying and vowing to God that if He helped her shed off the extra weight, she would reach out to society to help other women and girls in their weight loss struggle, with the knowledge and experience she had acquired.
“Losing weight is hard. Doing it alone, though, is even harder. When you choose to diet and exercise on your own, you are the only one to hold yourself accountable, which makes it easier to give up on your health journey. I am determined to help women and girls achieve their weight goals in a simple, supportive, structured and most importantly, enjoyable way,” she says.
“Slim n’ Fit’s mandate,” she adds, “is to educate, inspire and support women and girls to explore healthier lifestyles, as a prevention against overweight and obesity that are among the major causes of cardiovascular diseases. “Eat Wise, Drop a Size” is the centre’s slogan.”
Alice Kayiranga ,one of the participants of the programme, with her certificate.
From five members that Uwamwezi started coaching, the centre has grown to have more than 60 associates in a period of less than six months since its inception.
20 ladies participated in the recently concluded “Season I, 90 days Biggest Weight Loser Challenge” which was a campaign against overweight and obesity.
Zakia Mbabazi is one of the members who joined the Slim n’ Fit programme in February this year, dropping her weight significantly.
“I started my weight loss journey with 115 kg and have so far lost 15 kg down the road. I feel healthier, lighter and more confident with myself. I feel so good about myself. I can’t say thank you enough to Slim n’ Fit weight loss programme,” she says.
The founder and chairperson of Slim n’ Fit, Florence Uwamwezi before and after her weight loss
Marie Justine Uwizeye, another member, began her weight loss journey with 158 kgs at the start of this year, which weight led to multiple hospital trips due to nerve compression.
“With 158 kgs, my nerves used to block and I would always be rushed to King Faisal Hospital for treatment. I would hardly walk without the support of crutches. Slim n’ Fit has revived my life. I have so far lost 23 kgs and my struggle continues. No more crutches and no more hospital check-ins. I have “eaten wise and dropped sizes” like the Slim n’ Fit slogan,” she says.
39-year-old Dinah Mutamba was the winner, after losing 8.5 kgs, and she walked away with Rwf100, 000 courtesy of Access Bank that has always been supportive in this noble cause. Being a lifestyle change, the centre advises its members to lose weight, slowly, steadily and consistently. “No need to rush the process,” Uwamwezi says.
The “90 days Biggest Weight Loser Challenge” involves twice a week corporate workouts and a monthly meet-up to fast track monthly weight loss goals of members. This is with the support of the body composition monitor that screens the body against seven essential elements to include, body mass index (BMI), resting metabolism and visceral fat. The Members enjoy mini monthly celebrations where the three monthly biggest losers are rewarded in kind. It’s a double reward, to first losing weight and be rewarded at the same time.
The ladies meet twice at the gym, which keeps them on track.
In the monthly meet-ups, ladies are taught lessons on mind-set change, healthy lifestyle, self-care and physical activities with the assistance of nutritionists, therapists, life coaches, psychologists, counselling, and wellness coaches.
“The programme, at the moment,” she says, “has only women and girls because first, they were the people around me who noticed the big difference in my weight and were willing to be part of the programme.
“On the other hand, I knew that when I reached out to women, the impact would get to their families, since they are the ones that most of the time plan the meals. If they decide to eat healthy, the whole family will be healthy.”
On realising the impact the programme has had on a good number of women and girls, Uwamwezi took the challenge to Musanze District where over 20 women quick started the challenge. The ‘best weight loser’ will be crowned this Saturday.
When asked about selection criteria for those intending to join the challenge, Uwamwezi says any girl or woman can join the challenge. This is because someone could look fit and healthy on the outside, yet the body mass index proves otherwise, or the results of the composition monitor in regards to visceral fat (the deep abdominal fat that surrounds your organs) shows negative results, something that could not be detected with our naked eyes.
With the growing number of members, Uwamwezi reveals that her biggest challenge has been financial constraints, since she uses her personal finances and the little she gets from members to keep the programme running.
“We have received participants who weigh over 300 kgs and our body composition monitor stops at only 150kg. The bariatric scales that would weigh up to those kgs cost around $3,000, moreover, we don’t have a gym we call our own,” she says.
Also, we have noticed that the ladies that have been coming to us for help, especially those with over 200 kgs, need constant services of therapists, life coaches, psychologists, counselling, and wellness coaches. Access to these services are costly.
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Uwamwezi hopes that the programme will not just end at the 90-day-weight loss challenge but grow into a fully-fledged wellness centre to cater for body, mind and soul, which she believes would contribute much in the prevention against non-communicable diseases.