'My goal is getting South Africa healthier... '

Vuyo Radebe, a Mthatha-born fitness celebrity, is inspiring people on social media to live a healthy lifestyle.

To her followers on social media, the 34-year-old is known as the healthy body pilot who teaches people all about a healthy lifestyle.

'Food was my comfort'

Growing up, Radebe was never interested in sports or fitness activities. “When it came to sports at school, I always did the minimum required, always on beginners' level,” she says. “I remember I did beginners' hockey, tennis and basketball. It was so funny; when they started girls’ basketball in high school I joined and was picked to be in the A team. I don’t know how that happened.”

But one aspect of Radebe’s healthy lifestyle that was cultivated in her early childhood was about eating healthily and portion control. “I have a healthy, nutrition-conscious mother. She always used to reprimand me if I was eating a too much, especially junk food. I’d say my mother back then was a fitness fanatic, according to today’s standards.” 

In 2003, Radebe went to study commerce at the University of Cape Town and started engaging in an unhealthy diet. “Many kilometres away from my mother’s healthy meals and dealing with stressful studies, at times food was my only comfort,” she admits.

After eating dinner with her friends, she would toast numerous slices of bread in the residence dining hall, which she would and eat with margarine and jam.

“When studying, I’d snack on all the wrong things. Sugary snacks, rusks and biscuits, to name a few," she says. As a result, Radebe gained a lot of weight.

Tough in the beginning

After failing a course in 2007, which she had to repeat the following year, Radebe did some introspection. "I decided I was not going to be overweight, not a graduate and unemployed.” She then started to exercise.

“Running in the streets challenged me and took me out of my comfort zone. Without a fitness device back then, my runs were 3km maximum.”

She found running was tough in the beginning because she was so unfit, but she quickly noticed how great she felt at the end of each run. 

“Before I ran, I used to look forward to the happy feeling after each run and that feeling motivated me to keep running. So, in a nutshell, dealing with failure led me to exercise and I started eating healthier meals,” she said.

When she moved to Johannesburg mid-2008, she was intimidated by the traffic at first. “I entered a 10km race in 2009 and the training gave me enough drive and motivation to run in the streets amidst all the Johannesburg traffic chaos,” said Radebe. “There were many more race entries after my first 10km. I also joined a gym. I entered races, leading up to a 42km marathon in preparation for the Two Oceans Marathon.”

One day at a time

Radebe likes to involve her family in her health and fitness lifestyle as much as she can. “At times, we all go for walks around the block with my daughter sometimes walking on her own, and in her pram when she gets tired.

“For someone who is starting out their health and fitness journey, I advise you take it one day at a time. Do not go on a diet. Transform into new healthy eating habits with time,” said Radebe.

She added that diets can get demotivating as they tend to be extremely restrictive on food choices, and for this reason they are also short term. When you change a lifestyle, it is long term; it is for life.

“My goal in getting South Africa healthier and moving away from obesity is to end the idea that eating healthily has to be expensive and time-consuming by sharing cost-effective and easy ways of maintaining a healthy nutritional lifestyle.

“The same applies to exercise. A beginner must not start with an extremely challenging workout programme that will leave them demotivated and losing interest. Start small, I always say to someone who has never exercised. Even a 10-minute walk is good enough as a start.”

Radebe says, “I believe in taking it one day at a time rather than going full out, only to crash. Eventually all your small efforts will add up to an effortless healthy and fit lifestyle.” – Health-e News.

Image credit: Health-e News