Have you ever been in a situation when you felt the next best thing would be to take a life changing decision? When Nelly Agbogu realized that her options were down to two ‘to lose weight or die slowly and miserably in the prison of my own body’ – she took the step towards weight loss. Now, the thing that makes Nelly’s story even more interesting is the complete honesty to self. We know that with body image issues, denial is one of the primary reasons why we don’t see ourselves truthfully. Nelly shares her story with an endearing candour. She admits how difficult the journey has been and says she still has a long way to go. We admire her greatly for admitting her frailties and recognizing the victories on the journey so far. We hope you are truly inspired by Nelly’s story as we were and we encourage you to share some of your life changing stories with us.
Who I Am
My name is Nelly Agbogu and I am a 28 year old, married woman with two kids. I REALLY love food.
I have been on a weight loss journey for the past 10 months plus. This journey has seen me lose 40 kg (and counting) and regain good health, happiness and my self- respect.
As a child, I was called the model in the family. After all, I was tall (I now stand at 5 ft 11) slim, dark skinned and had white teeth. Because of this, I was never concerned about my weight and I never watched what I ate. I wrongly assumed that good genetics meant that I would always be that way. My disbelief was further compounded by the fact that I have slim sisters, so I thought we were just a “slim” family. As was the way back then, when I started putting on a bit of weight I was complimented on my more “womanly” figure which just encouraged me to eat more and I ate food as if I was training for some sort of pie eating contest.
How Bad I Got
I would buy large pizzas with extra cheese and olives and after a while, when the shame about my weight started creeping in, I asked that the staff at the pizza parlour pack the pizza into party foil plates so that my portions would look smaller than they were. Every foodie knows that you can’t have a big meal without a sweet dessert to complement the savoury main course, so I would finish off my feeding frenzy with a big bowl of Blue Bunny banana split ice cream. I would hide away all that I had eaten and then go home and eat a “regular” meal. The Pizza shops knew me, I even got calendar from them as a loyal customer.
There were some days when I was in the office, and I would just stop all that I was doing and take a bike (if I cannot see a car pretty fast) to Mega Plaza’s chocolate section and satisfy my cravings. Yes it was that bad.
Breaking The Camel’s Back
As if being fat wasn’t bad enough, there are the embarrassing situations that arise when you’re morbidly obese and there’s nothing you can really do or say to defend yourself. Some examples of these are:
- Snoring so loudly that my hubby had to get out of the bed and sleep in the living room.
- My side of our marital bed becoming compressed while my hubby’s remained firm.
- Being told I had sleep apnea and having to sleep on a slanting bed or chair because I was in danger of choking on my own fat in my sleep.
- Needing assistance to get out of bed and chairs. When there was no one to help me up, it would take multiple attempts to stand up and that’s very embarrassing in public.
- Being unable to buckle my own sandals.
- Not being invited to be in my cousins’ bridal train, but my sisters were.
- Breaking toilet seats, chairs, beds, flattening okada tires, and having to pay for an extra seat in the bus.
- Multiple “wardrobe malfunctions”.
- All the times I’ve called people up on the phone and they’ve asked me “Why are you sounding like you ran 1000 miles” and I was just sitting down to make the call.
Honestly on multiple occasions I’ve had to cover for myself and pretend that I was walking upstairs or chasing after my children.
All of these examples seem pretty hilarious right? But I ran into bigger problems like. In one of my post natal visits to the hospital after giving birth to my second son I was told by the doctor that if I don’t do something about my weight then I will be in the hospital for reasons a lot more serious than childbirth.
As is the Nigerian way, people didn’t mince their words and told me how fat I was. The insults became so normal to me that I would even insult myself to save everyone else the effort. I was deeply unhappy with an inferiority complex and low self-esteem and so I would turn to food for comfort and the situation got worse and worse.
The straw that broke the camel’s back was when I tried to pick a feeding bottle from the floor and my hands could not touch the floor, my big tummy was in the way and squatting to pick the feeding bottle was out of it. That was when I it dawned on me that I was going to die if I don’t do anything about the weight.
When I decided to start my journey; I was 160kg+ and my confidence was shot to hell. Obesity had taken over my whole world.
I had tried to lose weight in the past, but I was never able to stick it out and it always ended up being an epic failure. This time, I couldn’t afford to fail so I decided to make myself publicly accountable. I set up my blog so that other people could see me on my journey and encourage me as I went along. If I gained weight then I owed an explanation to my readers. I also knew I wasn’t the only heavy girl in Lagos and I set off on my journey with the hope that I would meet people who knew what it was like to be so fat that it was the first thing on your mind when you wake up in the morning and the last thing on your mind when you go to sleep at night.
Once I had reached the decision to lose weight and share my story with all who cared to listen, the next step was “which diet?” There are countless options out there: Atkins Diet, Dukan Diet, Weightwatchers, Slimming World, The Air Diet (It really is as silly as it sounds – eat air!),etc. The thought of which diet to go on left me dizzy.
A few weeks earlier I had bumped into a secondary school friend’s picture, She had lost a lot of weight (she went from 130kg to 87kg) and I contacted her to find out how she did it. She told me she went through the Cambridge Weight Plan and it had worked for her. The Cambridge Weight Plan involves eating three or four 160 calorie meals in the form of soups and shakes per day. It sounds drastic, but drastic was just what I needed. I had two small children at home and they needed their mother to live not just survive the day. After I had chosen the Cambridge Weight Plan I had to wait for two months (the hardest of my life) because I was breast feeding my youngest son, but the day he turned six months old I started the diet. It was the day before my birthday. I was also lucky that my friend had been so successful on the Cambridge Weight Plan that she had become a certified consultant and was able to act as my support.
During the two month period when I was breastfeeding before I started the Cambridge diet, I was “eating for two” to ensure that I had enough milk. I laugh about it in hindsight, but the more I have learned about food and my body, the more I realise how unnecessary this practice is. Eating for two isn’t necessary until the final trimester of your pregnancy and it certainly isn’t necessary when you’re breast feeding. Fortunately for me my mum had come to visit us for Omugwuo and was determined to make sure I cut down on my excess eating so she reduced my food portions drastically, which helped me a lot. Also, since I couldn’t go to the gym at the time. She made sure I climbed the stairs every night and to encourage me, she did it with me. I started with one flight of stairs after which I was panting, sweating and my heart was thumping like it was trying to keep up to a techno beat in a gay bar. I wanted to quit but she wouldn’t let me, so every night it became a routine and before I knew it I was climbing the stairs five, ten times a day.
In the end I lost 10kg in 2 months.
The wait is over
I finally started the Cambridge Weight Plan on my birthday. No one believed I would be able to make it through that day, not even my hubby.
I got two cakes that day, My hubby was certain I won’t last past that day considering the cakes were my ultimate favorites -a chocolate cream cake and a red velvet cake. It is no exaggeration to say that I wanted to die! My best food was staring at me! I went into our room locked myself in and cried, then I called my consultant/friend and told her the torture I was facing. When I came out, everyone was eating MY cake in MY presence, waiting to see my breaking point, but I did not give in, I told myself I have had much of that to last me till old age and I did not feel more worse watching them eat MY cake afterwards . Besides, I got myself into that situation and there was no reason why the other people in my house needed to suffer just because I wasn’t able to control myself.
With the emotional support of my consultant, my own willpower and ESPECIALLY God, I managed to make it through the day and thereafter I pushed myself on the plan for 6 months! Of course, I had good days and bad ones, but when I got tired of the soups and shakes I learned to “cheat” on the plan with healthy meals and I started exercising. During this time my hubby was such a big support and after a hard day at work he would drive me to the gym where I would work out from 8:30pm till 10pm every day! After 6 months on the plan I had lost 30kg.
How I eat and exercise
Once I had been on the Cambridge Weight plan for five months, I started thinking about my exit strategy. I had needed the Cambridge Diet to kick start my weight loss journey, but I needed to start thinking about what I was going to be eating in the long run. I developed a weight management plan that revolves around me and works for me. We don’t get home from work till about 8pm, so there was no point in being on a meal plan that doesn’t permit eating after 6 pm.
In August 2013, six months after I first started I came off the Cambridge Weight Plan and I started on my own healthy eating meal plan. A
Typical day for me looks something like this:
06:00 – 08:00 1litre of Water
08:00 – 09:00 Oats and honey with akara and 75cl of water with a slice of lime
10:00– 12:00 Cup of green tea, one banana or any fruit of my choice and a handful of cashew/hazelnut or almond plus 75cl of water.
14:00-16:00 Oil free garden egg soup with 2 small boiled potatoes and more water
17:00 – 19:00 Walnuts and carrots (I avoid water at this time because I’m usually in traffic)
20:00 – 23:00 (anything green) Garden eggs, cucumbers, and roasted green pepper plus water.
I am by no means a nutritionist or physician, but this tastes good and it works for me and from September till now, I have lost over 12kg and counting.
For exercise, I have found that going to the gym so late in the night with hubby is a bit impractical. After driving through the hectic traffic in Lagos and making sure my kids had bathed, eaten and in bed , then I would work out in the house with DVDs like Hip Hop Abs. I also take long distance walks on Saturdays. Recently, I walked from Anthony to Yaba using the Third Mainland Bridge. It was terrifying, but exhilarating – I was the one who was breathless walking up the stairs and now I’m power walking along Third Mainland Bridge.
Non-Scale victories (NSV)
Between the Cambridge Weight Plan and my own personal eating plan I have lost over 40kg and I’m still going strong. I am not as slim as I would like to be, but I am now fit and healthy. I have regained my self-respect. This journey has not just been about changing my weight, but about changing my life so I celebrate my “non-scale” victories just as much as I celebrate every kilo that comes off my frame.
The greatest of all my NSV comes from my hubby and how he dotes on me so much that I’m suspecting him. He has been my back bone through this journey and has not allowed me to rest on my laurels. He pushes me when I get lazy and he praises me when I do well which makes me want to do more.
Another huge NSV for me is that I do not snore anymore! I wake up and see my hubby beside me and I just smile. He doesn’t have to leave the room anymore as a result of me keeping him awake with my snoring.
I participated in two 10km marathon in two weeks! Lucozade fun walk/run and the Nike “We Run Lagos” challenge. I came last but most importantly I didn’t quit and I finished the race and won a Nike shoe!
There is no better time than now. And when you feel you fall off your horse, do not quit, get back on the saddle and pick up from where you left off. The truth is that exercise is hard, but it’s harder to hear the doctor tell you that you’re diabetic or hypertensive or that your organs are shutting down due to your weight. Eating clean and right may be a little more expensive than our usual food, but they’re a lot cheaper than the hospital bills we will make for patient care due to chest, back and knee pain. My husband is a good man and he’s stuck by me through some very difficult times, but for some people obesity has cost them their marriage, friendships and relationships. Isn’t it a false economy to eat cheap food now and pay for it with our marriages and health later or even with your life?
Your goal should be to be healthy, not skinny and with it you will be able to enjoy the truly good things in life. I know for me my journey is not yet over, but I feel confident that it will end in praise!
To follow Nelly Agbogu on her weight loss journey visit her blog www.itwillendinpraise.com | Twitter – @nellyagbogu |Facebook page: www.facebook.com/NellyAgboguBlog | Instagram: nellyagbogu | Youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/nellyagbogu