You’re never too old or too young to change the way you live your life. Photographer Johan Wilke and arts administrator Rita van den Heever did it. And you can too, with our special eating and exercise plan that will have you shedding up to a whopping 14kg in three months.
By the HEALTH24 TEAM for YOU Pulse magazine
For almost eight years, Johan Wilke lived on junk food and pies from service-station shops. Then, last June, the well-known Cape Town photographer was given an ultimatum from his doctor: "Change your lifestyle or you’ll lose your right foot."
His stressful life and poor diet had begun to affect his health so badly that some mornings he couldn’t straighten his legs as a result of severe joint pain. Johan (44) lived with it for months. But then the pain in his right foot became so bad he couldn’t put weight on it.
“My unhealthy lifestyle was at the root of the problem, but I didn’t want to admit it,” Johan says. “Work kept me so busy that food and fitness became a side issue.’’
Sometimes he’d just toss some boerewors into a pan late at night. He never thought about what he was eating and drinking. Fatty meat, bread and lots of beer and wine were standard for him. The last time he had exercised was 15 years before.
To save his foot, Johan had to have an operation to drain toxin from it. Only then did the penny drop – it was time for a drastic change.
“It was often a struggle to stay motivated because I was also being treated for depression, and my joints were still healing,” he says.
“But now I eat skinless chicken, fish or pork rather than other red meats and I cut off all the excess fat. I don’t have any extra carbohydrates and I steam rather than fry foods whenever I can. I drink water instead of fizzy drinks and coffee and try to keep my stress levels down.”
Today Johan is 15kg lighter than a year ago, runs 10km five times a week and looks healthier than ever. He can’t stop thinking about how good it felt to take control and do something just for himself – and what it’s like for life not to revolve around work alone.
“It’s amazing what it does for your self-image. I feel inspired and motivated again – and I rewarded myself by realising my dream of getting my pilot’s licence.”
It’s one thing to begin a new way of life, but quite another to stick to it. This is how Johan has kept up his healthy lifestyle:
- First, I made sure there was no easy way out. I scheduled time for running and then organised my appointments accordingly.
- When I switched to healthier food, my family and employees joined me. They’ve also lost weight.
- The fitter I got, the more inspired I was to keep exercising.
- Exercise helps me cope with stress. I plan my day to prevent stressful situations from arising.
- Working late is out.
- I reward myself if I deserve it. I just don’t do it with food anymore.
Rita van den Heever
This far and no further! That was the decision Rita van den Heever made at her doctor’s surgery in 2005.
Rita, who heads the university of Johannesburg’s arts Centre, was having her annual check-up.
As always she complained about her fat thighs. Her doctor recommended a book on low-GI diets. She bought it the same day and now, three years later and 40kg lighter, Rita (57) admits her body is in better shape than it’s been in her entire adult life.
“I realised I did, in fact, have control over the way I aged. It was my decision to age in the healthiest possible way. If I fall ill, I want to know I didn’t bring it on myself.”
While Rita, a popular TV personality in the eighties, never used to smoke or drink alcohol, she confesses she often overate and wouldn’t think twice about scoffing a box of chocolates. Till that day in the doctor’s consulting room when she decided to overhaul her life – with Eating for Sustained Energy 1 & 2 by Gabi Steenkamp and Liesbet Delport as her guide.
She immediately cut out certain foods. Bread and potatoes became taboo, and red meat, chicken and fish were limited to a minimum. She started to avoid baked treats but didn’t cut out sugar. “When I crave something sweet, I buy a slab of dark chocolate and eat a few blocks.”
Rita has found it easy to stick to her new eating plan. “You just have to make a conscious decision to avoid certain foods. I still eat out often and there’s always something on the menu that’s allowed.”
She also exercises five to six times a week, sometimes for more than an hour, and she’s begun Pilates. Twice a week, she tackles the hills in her area with a fitness instructor at her side. “Hiring a personal trainer was an investment in myself. It’s really kept me focused.
“It’s great being able to wear nice clothes and be complimented on my appearance. And feeling that I’m in control gives me a huge kick. It’s made me realise ageing is okay. At 57, I’m 100% satisfied when I look in the mirror in the morning.”
- Know why you want to lose weight. If you do it for yourself and not for anyone else, you’re on the path to success.
- I didn’t follow a diet; I cultivated a new lifestyle.
- Success motivates you further.
- I stick to my rules – I won’t snack on canapés at a function.
- Before going out for a meal I might have some water and a low-GI snack.
- I enjoy the exercise I do.
We show you how
Follow our easy diet and exercise plan and within 12 weeks you will lose at least 8kg (but up to 14kg) and drop at least two dress sizes.
(This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared in YOU Pulse / Huisgenoot-POLS magazine, Spring 2008. The current edition is on sale now.)