02 March 2010

Weigh-Less celebrates 35 years

Thirty-five years ago Weigh-Less founder Mary Holroyd took on South Africa with just a bathroom scale and R10 for advertising and printing.

Thirty-five years ago, on 25 February 1975, Weigh-Less founder Mary Holroyd took on South Africa with just a bathroom scale and R10 for advertising and printing.

Today  Weigh-Less is one of the market leaders of the weight loss industry in South Africa, with a “live-able, do-able and affordable eating plan” based on sound nutritional principles.

Over 47 000 members visit 2 900 Weigh Less Groups regularly to receive the motivation and support that would help them through their journey to obtain and maintain their goal weight.

Who would have guessed, that the first meeting where only eight people arrived at the Harcourt Hotel in Durban, would have evolved in such a successful business?

Holroyd believes the reason behind Weigh-Less’ success is the fact that she’s also had to endure and conquer a personal weight battle.

"I started gaining weight in my teens due to unhealthy eating choices and habits, which worsened in adulthood during and after my first pregnancy."

Like many other people and Weigh-Less members, Holroyd resorted to unhealthy weight loss methods and became trapped in the cycle of yo-yo dieting.

“Being a former fat person, I feel and know the loneliness that members feel. I know what it feels like when you close the door at the end of the day and have to face what’s looking back at you in the mirror. You have to have been through that dark period to be able to guide members in the transformation to a healthier lifestyle,” she explains.

For this reason all the group leaders are also Weigh-Less members who have experienced the struggle of losing weight first-hand.

According to Holroyd there is one dominant emotion that describes how she feels about Weigh-Less’ success - humility. “I’m so humble for the trust my members put in me from day one. I’m reminded of my purpose every time a member loses weight. My purpose is to make a difference in their lives by transforming them into confident people – on the inside and out,” she says.

Check out the amazing success stories of three Weigh-Less members who recently transformed their lives for good.

New sense of freedom

Hlengiwe Mthembu (32), a social worker from Durban, lost 40kg in 10 months.

For her 30th birthday, she decided to resolve the weight issues that have plagued her since childhood.

“I was turning 30 in April 2008 and in June 2007, I made the conscious decision that I did not want to be overweight. I was tired of complaining about being overweight and doing nothing about it. I knew that I would only turn 30 once and there was not going to be a next time. I had to do it once and for all and that's exactly what I did.”

Mthembu has struggled with weight issues all her life. “At primary school and high school, I was always the biggest in my class. I don't remember wearing normal children’s sizes and I was wearing a size 38/40 in high school.”

At 16 she decided to lose weight through jogging and running and dropped down to a size 34. She continued to exercise during her university and early working years, but her good habits slipped when she got married and fell pregnant.

“When I became pregnant, I lost control of my weight and of myself. I ate for two and continued after giving birth. I went from a size 38 to a size 44/46 and my weight exceeded 100kg. 


"For most of the African families, being overweight is perceived as normal and acceptable. My family didn’t make a big issue about my weight. I really wanted to accept my overweight self, but I just couldn’t. Being overweight made me feel ashamed of myself - I always felt worthless and unhappy.

Since reaching her goal weight, Mthembu has felt a new sense of freedom. “I have become more confident, assertive and ambitious. I’m more outgoing and don’t worry about how people perceive me because I know I look good. I can now focus my energy on being a better person and growing my spirituality. without having to worry about my weight issues.”

Living the good life

Theo Potgieter (59) is a lecturer from Bloemfontein. He lost 17.2kg in 5 months and is the Weigh-Less Man of the Year winner for 2009.

Potgieter started his Weigh-Less journey after many years of indulging in the “good life”.

“I gained weight mainly through overindulging in ‘the good life’. I enjoy food and wine and on holiday I was careless - that’s when the kilos piled on and I really started feeling uncomfortable.

"I’ve never been grossly overweight, but the weight started creeping up, and it really came to my attention when my involvement at the Land Bank and the University started cutting into my personal time. My exercise regime suffered from that too. My weight led to some health problems, particularly my cholesterol levels. I had to use medication to bring my cholesterol down.”

Potgieter tried many fad diets and did what he thought was right, but found his weight creep up on him afterwards. His so-called “good life” was causing him to feel uncomfortable in his own skin and affected his health, sleeping patterns and his relationship with his wife.

Together, he and his wife, Sue, decided to join Weigh-Less after a holiday of overindulgence. Potgieter’s weight and health problems changed for the better and now he is living out his best life with his wife, family and Weigh-Less. 

“Woman are sometimes right,” Potgieter admits. “My wife told me ten years ago that Weigh-Less is an excellent eating plan, but I never listened to her; I now know that I should have!”

'Weigh-Less gives me strength'

Deena Kirkel, 41, is a senior paralegal from Edenvale, Johannesburg, who lost 17.4kg in 4 months.

She has maintained her goal weight for eight years and in the process, acquired strength, independence and happiness.

Kirkel has battled with her weight since her teenage years. “I wasn’t very active as a teenager and remember putting on 5kg during an overseas trip with my parents when I was 14 years old. I joined Drum Majorettes at school shortly after that and practised six days a week, which helped me to maintain a healthy weight,” she says.

Her weight problem flared up again after she started working. “For lunch, I would have a toasted sandwich and slap chips and a Chelsea bun or pastry for a mid-afternoon snack. When I got home, I’d have supper and two slices of toasted bread with peanut butter before bed. I put on 10kg and went from a size 8 to a size 16 within my first year of working!”

When Kirkel got married and fell pregnant she “completely lost the battle” with her weight. As the years went on, she succumbed to depression and seclusion.

It took an embarrassing remark from a family friend to jolt Kirkel out of self-pity and into action. “At a family function, I was humiliated by a family friend who pointed out, in front of many of my friends and family, how fat I had become. After that I finally decided to accept responsibility for myself and tackle the battle of my weight gain,” she says.

After trying various methods to weight loss and failing each time, Deena walked into her first Weigh-Less Group meeting out of sheer desperation.

“I soon found out that Weigh-Less was not a diet, but a way of life, taught by Group Leaders who are passionate about their work because they had also once fought the same battles. I was given the tools I needed to lose weight successfully – motivation, a plan and group support,” she says.

“With the Weigh-Less eating plan, my determination and my Group Leader’s motivation, I lost 18kg and reached Goal Weight within four months. I was transformed - I had dropped from a size 16 to a size 10. I felt victorious!”


(Photos supplied by Weigh-Less)

- (Weigh-Less/Birgit Ottermann, Health24, February 2010)


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