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2014 Epilogues: From Sixteen to Eight – Atoke’s Topaz

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2014 has been a very interesting year. As it comes to an end, BellaNaija seeks to showcase a human interest segment, dedicated to looking back at the year. We’ve teamed up with a diverse group of individuals and asked them to share how their year has been. The brief was ‘a personal look back at the journey thus travelled. The idea is to use 2014 as a focal point. The honest and heartfelt piece should talk about your ups and downs / victories and failures – a general self assessment. It should be a raw piece which shows you as a person – the human angle is important.

Each of the participants has graciously sent us amazing pieces about themselves. As you read these pieces, and take stock of the year you’ve had, we encourage you to get inspiration from our 2014 Epilogues.

The 2014 Epilogues gemstones will be dropped at 2pm everyday till the end of the year!
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“Me. I Am Mariah…A Creative Visualisation Of How I Saw Myself”

I have been trying to write this article for over a week. If you’re reading this now, it means I have finally succeeded in getting out of the funk. It isn’t so much being in a funk really, it’s more like, how do I encapsulate my year in words? Is one page enough to look back at this landmark year in my life? As always, music is my muse; and so I have Mariah Carey’s new album playing in the background. Then, she says these words in the outro, and it came to me… this is how I’m going to write my 2014 epilogue.

2014 has been a year of self-discovery.

‘Shyness’ – This is how I described the thing that plagued me. From my inability to walk down SS1 block when people were standing at the foot of the stairs, to being panicky while my work is being read out loud. The fear of the unknown descends on me every time I feel I am being brought under scrutiny.

So I took solace in hiding. I hid behind my words – carefully layering myself with as much of a cloak of invisibility as the world would let me. I had more pen pals than actual friends; I learned about human interaction from characters in a book, more than from people around me. I have always been terrified of being found lacking in something – especially because I found myself full of flaws.

When I looked at myself this is all that I saw: short, round. Maybe somewhere inside that ‘Malt Bottle’ was a smart, funny girl; and it was she who came to the fore when I absolutely had to interact with people. As the years passed, it mattered less that I wasn’t beautiful , or hot, or sexy; I quietly nurtured the other parts of me that defined me – my brain, my wit, my writing, and my relationships.

This was the only way I visualized myself – strictly by the intangible parts of me. Then in February 2014, something changed.

I was in a group chat with some friends and the topic of my fatness came up. I have always been fat. I had never tried to lose weight, and I didn’t have any of those ‘tried and failed’ experiences. I simply had never tried. I explained to my friends on the group that this fat was just who I was.
“Have you ever tried to lose weight?”
“No. This is how my grandmother, and my aunties are.” I shrugged in my room, pressing my phone thinking… maybe if I show these people the photos from my teenage years, they will finally be convinced that this wasn’t a case of ‘slim to fat.’ After a series of questions about what I eat, and whether I exercise, I said to Dapo “Look, I don’t eat. See, I didn’t even have breakfast this morning. For lunch, I’ll probably have 2 packs of Indomie with some chicken. Maybe if I’m not feeling too lazy, I’ll make Jollof rice for dinner. “

He said… “Okay, download My Fitness Pal, and note down everything you put in your mouth.”

This dude… how many ways was I going to tell him that this roundness was genetic? Alright! To prove my point, I downloaded the app. I imputed my vital data: height, current weight, and aspired weight. Right there on my bed, holding my phone in my hand, my eyes of understanding opened.

Discovery one: if I wanted to lose 4kg in 5 weeks, I could only eat 1350 Calories a day. Discovery two: One pack of Indomie was 370 Calories. One boiled egg was 85 Calories. Doing the math… my ‘mere stomach liner’ was taking me to almost 900 Calories. What will I discover when I input Jollof rice and dodo? Imagine my trepidation upon the discovery that my grounduts, plantain chips, and short bread snacks ALL added to my daily consumption.

I had started this because I wanted to prove that old sod wrong, and here I was having my eyes opened to stuff I had never even known existed.

Slowly, I started measuring my food, trying to cut off things that had high calorific value. I was very excited by my food discoveries, and I was always going back to tell the guys on the group. Two weeks after I downloaded the app, I had to complain to them that I experienced a physical exhaustion as never before. My friend told me that it was because my body was trying to adjust to the new energy ratings. If I wanted to eat more, I was going to have to exercise!

Ehn? Me? Atoke Ena? Please please, I am not doing any “ju’pa ju’se” exercise oh. I can’t come and go and die. My friends assured me that I didn’t have to do any high impact stuff; just walk… it’s fine.

I started walking. Slowly, at first; then I discovered that I burned more calories when I walked faster. On weekdays, I walked to school about 3 miles to and fro – even when I had no business in school… I would still walk. On weekends, I would walk for 9 miles at brisk pace.

This had suddenly become a project – discovering myself and my capabilities through the changes I had begun to notice in my body. Four weeks after, I downloaded the app, I bought a scale.

By this time, I had cut out anything that had little ‘beleful’ value, and high calorific value. One handful of groundnut was 150 Calories. One bag of salad was 46 Calories. Every time I worked out the food math, I chucked out the weightier food.

By June, it was not just enough to walk, I enjoyed the kick of endorphins and like a bunny on steroids, I had to go faster. So, I started to run; and the endorphins surged through me like a drug.

I always felt good, and my confidence was amplified on an immense scale. Although I still see saw the fat girl in the mirror, it felt different. I was able to walk into a room full of people and smile, knowing that I’m capable of great things – things I never imagined I’d EVER DO.

I had owned my ‘Rombus’ self, and I accepted her as who I am. This year, I have particularly learned that your life can change when you’re not expecting it to. The lessons learned from my friends have been invaluable. I remember when Fola told me not to do high impact exercises because I was too heavy. He said… keep it simple. I have learned to listen to the people who love and support me. With every picture I sent to my friend, Remi, I could literally hear her cheering me on from the sidelines. It helped that I had a fitness support system too. My first mountain climbers, planks and wall sits were in Tope’s living room. I am able to do those “Ju’pa Ju’se” routines now, because I discovered that the thing that fettered me was in my head, and I just needed to find out how much I could push myself.

Am I still shy? Well, largely… I’m still working on that. It has taken over three decades of practicing wanting to disappear. However, I’m largely unfettered. I chuckle when Isoken calls me ‘Fanta Mini’. I find it oddly heart warming that the store girl asked me to check the kiddies department for a Onesie that’s will fit.

In all of this, how I visualise myself is completely different. I actually believe I can do ANYTHING I set my mind to; and this in itself is the gift 2014 gave me.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Yolanda Van Niekerk

You probably wanna read a fancy bio? But first things first! Atoke published a book titled, +234 - An Awkward Guide to Being Nigerian. It's available on Amazon. ;)  Also available at Roving Heights bookstore. Okay, let's go on to the bio: With a Masters degree in Creative Writing from Swansea University, Atoke hopes to be known as more than just a retired foodie and a FitFam adherent. She can be reached for speechwriting, copywriting, letter writing, script writing, ghost writing  and book reviews by email – [email protected]. She tweets with the handle @atoke_ | Check out her Instagram page @atoke_ and visit her website atoke.com for more information.

18 Comments

  1. tobitowbs

    December 26, 2014 at 5:08 pm

    I am truly grateful on discovering Atoke’s write-ups this year.I feel as if she knows what is on my mind every monday.Please continue giving us your best and being a source of inspiration .

  2. mrs chidukane

    December 26, 2014 at 5:49 pm

    You go girl!

  3. Nike

    December 26, 2014 at 5:57 pm

    Well done Atoke!

  4. Que

    December 26, 2014 at 6:07 pm

    On this shyness matter…. we’re getting there. As for self dscovery, I believe thats the biggest gift of aging and aging gracefully… I wish you more discovery in 2015, and enough capabilities to handle all that comes with the exploration and discovery…. This song just came to mind and I dedicate it to you- ‘I hope you dance’ by Gladys Knight ( or your prefered version)

    2015 is already a better year with your features gracing 52 monday mornings…. Merry Christmas Atoke and a super charged 2015!

  5. Frances Okoro

    December 26, 2014 at 7:28 pm

    Awww, this warmed my heart..
    I was/am on the fitness train too and what I discovered about myself when I started wowed me away too!
    I can do anything I put my mind to do and genetics doesn’t add up to my weight, the rice and mende mende does,
    I can largely change what I want to, it begins with me.

    I love your writings and words Atoke. You made monday’s better on BN.

    imperfectlyperfectlives.com

  6. el patron

    December 26, 2014 at 7:49 pm

    Beautiful! @atoke merry Christmas and happy new year in advance..Thank you for making me look forward to every Monday in 2014.. i pray God gives you the strength to continue on your fitness journey.. #fitfam #enjoy

  7. hamdallah

    December 26, 2014 at 8:16 pm

    Lovely write-up atoke..I still can’t pronounce your name though,sometimes I infuse the yoruba thing but still doesn’t click. I am inspired by your lovely monday posts and I do look forward to it always. I’ll also say the best gift of 2014 is that ‘I found me’..many more years to come In Sha Allah

    • Atoke

      December 26, 2014 at 8:18 pm

      Hi,

      It’s Atoke – ‘Do – Mi – Mi’ (with the dots beneath the o and e).

      😀

      Thank you for reading.
      Happy holidays.

    • abby

      December 26, 2014 at 8:23 pm

      I just love u…….I picked d ‘self discovery’ part,Dats just for me come 2015…. I seriously need to know myself….

    • Banky

      December 27, 2014 at 1:16 am

      Wow..I used to pronounce your name like -re-mi-mi…
      Thank you for all ur wonderful write ups. You don’t want to imagine how much you have touched people’s lives .I am shy too to the extent that I wish I could have that power to blindfold people while talking to them.I am more comfortable making long distance friendship,I am so fun to talk to or chat with on phone but the opposite when with people unless they are my friends I am used to or if they can talk more than me.i feel this has robbed me of so many opportunities in my lifetime.Sometimes I feel I might need a therapy,but I have finally accepted myself for who I am.I just wish I could work on it.

  8. x-factor

    December 26, 2014 at 8:49 pm

    Atoke toke……Thank you for this…..merry Christmas

  9. Neo

    December 26, 2014 at 8:49 pm

    Aha! So we were secretly happy at being sent to the children’s dept! All my wasted righteous indignation. Hissss!

  10. TA

    December 26, 2014 at 8:57 pm

    Atoke mi. I totally love you. I have an off and on battle with my weight so thanks for this. I always suspected you were shy but that only endeared you to me as it has a totally cool girl next door vibe to it. You are a fantastic writer with an awesome personality. What’s not to like? Of course you can do anything you put your heart to. Thanks for reminding me too. Size 1O here I come.Whether you like it or not, we go jam one day one day and am hug the hell outta you. Did I say that I love you? Oh I already did. Muah. *Xoxo

    • Atoke

      December 27, 2014 at 1:51 am

      E hugs in the mean time? 😀

      Thank you for reading… always.
      xoxo.
      A.

  11. Berry Dakara

    December 26, 2014 at 10:42 pm

    Way to go!!! I hope I get that motivation to just do it soon, because this year has kicked my body and self-esteem hard!!!

    Berry Dakara Blog

  12. hposh

    December 27, 2014 at 12:04 am

    This is inspiring Atoke. There is no limit to what a man can achieve except the one he sets for himself.

  13. dee

    December 27, 2014 at 8:21 am

    Atoks Baby, I am super proud of you men. You shall be my new consultant in this fit fam journey i am about to embark on. Hugs and Plenty Kizzezzz.

  14. Amy Nwoku

    December 27, 2014 at 8:11 pm

    And here I was all these years,thinking I was the only one with more pen and cyber pals than actual friends!! And the malt bottle is totally me too. I had to accept it because the malt bottle is unique and nowhere in the market. I hope am able to come to that point of enjoying exercises one day. For now,cutting carbs,drinking lots of water and taking fruits is all I am ready to do.

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