TANNITH HECHTER How did I let this happen? How did I not stop the kilos from piling on?
“How did I let this happen? How did I not stop the kilos from piling on?” This was the question Tannith Hechter analysed and re-analysed each morning.

At just 33, the pet health company employee, weighed in at 114.3kg, and had come to realise her relationship with food was “problematic”.

“I'm always thinking about food what can I eat next but then always worried about what I should be eating. I know what I should be eating but don't feel like that so food is always on my mind,” she said

“If we're at a braai or social event and there are chips and dips and cheese and crackers, I'll keep going until the food is gone I don't have any self-control and I don't know when to stop,” Hechter added.

But her struggle with being overweight wasn't a unique one, particularly when it came to South African women.

According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation (HSF), half of South Africans aged 15 years and older are classified as overweight and 12% of men while 40% of women are obese.

“Obesity is defined as a state of having too much body fat, to an extent that it negatively affects health. While obesity has afflicted a small portion of most societies for centuries, only in the last half century has it drastically increased,” the foundation said.

Obesity is now one of the biggest global health problems of the 21st century. While the prevalence of obesity is levelling off in high-income countries, rates continue to increase in low and middle-income countries, including in South Africa.

New World Obesity Federation data released this month stated that if left untreated, obesity would be responsible for a significant proportion of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) including heart disease, diabetes, liver disease and many types of cancer. And because of this, the global annual medical costs of treating these serious consequences of obesity was expected to reach US$1.2 trillion per year, by 2025.

The federation further estimates that South Africa's annual cost of not treating obesity, which stood at US$4.4 billion in 2014, would reach US$8.6bn by 2025.

And for Hechter, the cost of being overweight came at too high a price. Two months ago, her doctor warned her, it might cost her her life.

That's when her mindset switched and she embarked on the journey of her life.

Hers was a lofty goal - to lose 45kg in 12 months using weight-loss brand Herbex, but two months in, it hasn't been without its share of ups and downs.

In light of the National Obesity Week this month, Hechter pledged to fight against obesity, with fellow dieters who were following her journey on YouTube, to inspire others to reverse the obesity crisis.

Up to now, she has lost 8kg - but she recently found out her ex-husband, who she'd been in a relationship with over 18 years, was seeing someone new and that dipped her already shaky self-esteem.

But she remains focused on her goal, saying she was more committed than ever to changing “something negative and turning it into a positive."