Steve Mabona can regularly be seen hitting the roads on his bicycle.
Steve Mabona can regularly be seen hitting the roads on his bicycle.
Running though is still Steve Mabona's first love and he has completed several Comrades marathons.
Running though is still Steve Mabona's first love and he has completed several Comrades marathons.

It's that time of the year when morning comes and we dread getting out of bed because of the cold and we eat fried foods like hot chips to keep our bodies warm, when, in fact, we should be eating fresh foods and being active now in order to reach our long-term healthy body goals.

"You need to start now in order to get a healthy looking body in December next year," said personal and group trainer Andre Visser. "Losing weight too fast is not healthy." 

Towards bikini season, one starts seeing social media posts of people kicking off their diets in the hopes of looking good in December, conveniently forgetting that they have spent half the year binge eating and doing very little in terms of exercise.

"Diets don't work, you need to have a complete lifestyle change to achieve results. We all know what eating badly is and what healthy options are."

A good example of someone who turned his lifestyle - and weight - around is Gauteng education department spokesperson Steve Mabona, for whom a heart attack was the turning point.

"I was overweight, I think I was about 112 kilogrammes and size 42, XXL," he said. "Drinking too much alcohol, eating anything that I could afford.

"My turning point was when I experienced a heart attack scare," he said. "Doctors confirmed that I was overweight and suggested a lifestyle change."

Like Mabona, many people continue to cause damage to their bodies and only start to address the issue when the situation becomes life threatening.

"I joined gym in June 2009, changed my diet, and religiously followed an exercise program from the gym," Mabona recalled. "For six months I had to cut sugar intake completely, stop alcohol consumption, and focus on healthy eating."

Visser says a lifestyle change can be done gradually by slowly cutting out fried foods and buying takeaways that are grilled and removing the bread from burgers and opting for baked potatoes.

"When I say cut out sugars, I mean read the labels and choose muesli with less sugar and fat in it, try go fresh rather than processed, fish rather than chicken. It's basically making better choices, cut off the fat from red meat," Visser added.

Mabona says with commitment, dedication and discipline, his weight dropped drastically to the extent that people started to think he was sick, but because he knew how much work he was putting in, he was not bothered.

"I was introduced to running by a friend Mike Matlala, and joined Zwakala Athletic Club in 2011. In 2012 I did my first Comrades Marathon which I didn’t finish. 2013 was my second but toughest Comrades Up run, but finished," he said. "Subsequently my Comrades years have been smooth and so enjoyable. My running name is Father Christmas, they call me Xmas because of my Santa hat, which I wear every race to symbolise when I started my weight loss journey."

Mabona said his managed to fit early morning jogs into his busy work schedule and strives to make sure that he gets eight hours of sleep.
"I run four days a week, rest on Friday. On Saturday or Sunday is race day. However, I do alternate between gym and cross training. I do cycle, though my first love is running."

When speaking to family and friends, the common reason for not exercising is the feeling of loneliness. It's vital to have someone or people who will encourage you to get up and train.

"My wife is very supportive, she prepares healthy food which she introduced to our children.

"I also have my friends, Zwakala Club members and fellow runners to thank for the healthy pressure and competition. If I’m not at a race my fellow runners normally ask about my whereabouts, I have realised that some runners plan their races around me or my pacing, they might not run with me, but just around me, and that makes me happy, that I play a major role in the running world. At the finish line, there will always be someone who will come to me and say , thank you Xmas for the push, and that fulfills me."

Mabona currently weighes 81kg and wears sizes 34/36 or M/L. Sunday will see Mabona compete in his seventh Comrades marathon. 

Visser added: "I don't think there's anyone who doesn't know that they need to walk and keep active and need to eat healthy. Quick fixes don't work, they do more damage. You won't get a stunning figure in two months, it doesn't work. You have to be consistent, there's no short cut."

Visser stresses that people need to eat more vegetables, never skip meals, eat small portions and steam or grill food.

He added that keeping active doesn't necessarily mean joining the gym. "You can simply take a walk around your block, take the stairs rather than the lift at work, and whatever you do today, try do more tomorrow.

"Everyone likes to complain about what they look like but they don't put in the effort. If you don't change, you'll always look the same. It's about making the conscious decision to make the change happen."

African News Agency