As I reflect on the past two years, I’m reminding myself to be kind, to strive for balance and above all, to remember that life is about far more than the numbers attached to the calories in food, our weight or pants size, says Chantel Erfort Manuel.
Cape Town - This past Wednesday marked two years since I actioned my plan to lose weight and get healthy.

To say a lot has changed since then is a gross understatement.

On a purely superficial level, I have lost 40kg, so of course I look physically different.

Having adopted a fairly rigorous exercise routine and edited what I eat, I’m more toned, I have more energy and the things I fill my days with have also changed.

It’s the change that cannot be seen, however, that has impacted me most. I know it’s a cliché, but I’m going to say it: What I have gained over the past two years far outstrips the weight I have lost.

And what has happened inside, is far more significant than the change on the outside.

While I was never overtly unhappy when I was overweight, I vividly recall the discomfort of carrying all that extra weight.

I recall the frustration of battling to hug my knees to my chest in yoga. And I remember the day I decided that wearing nail polish on my toenails just wasn’t worth the effort it took to actually bend over and reach my feet.

I refused to go hiking with The Husband because “I don’t do well in the sun”. Er, sure I had stopped wearing jeans - and to avoid the discomfort of chafing thighs, I never wore a dress without tights.

Far more serious, however, were the diagnoses of ailments related to obesity. Polycystic ovarian syndrome. Pre-diabetic. Elevated blood pressure.

“If you want to have children, safely, you need to lose weight,” the gynae told me.

But no matter how uncomfortable my situation was, I found ways to adapt or explain away the reality that I was in trouble.

And so, it wasn’t until about two years after my doctor’s warning that I actually did something to change the situation I was in.

Our moment comes when it must, and thankfully, when my moment of awakening happened, there was still time to prevent any serious damage to my health.

I’m happy to say that I’m now probably in the best shape I’ve been in my adult life, but even happier that mentally and psychologically, I’m also far better than I was two years ago.

That’s not to say, however, that you can’t be happy or emotionally healthy if you’re overweight.

In fact, just last week I read a young woman’s cut-to-the-bone account of the negative impact weight loss has had on her life.

And in a way, I could relate.

While people mean well when they compliment you on your weight loss, it’s easy to start questioning what they thought of you when you were overweight.

Then there’s the fear of gaining back the weight you’ve lost - and the potential for becoming obsessive about what you do - or don’t - eat.

It’s easy to stop thinking of food as something that can be enjoyed.

Instead you see the numbers: how many carbs, how many calories? If I eat “this” now, I’ll have to cut back on “that” later or work harder in the gym tomorrow.

We become masters at the eating/exercising juggling act. And some end up on the slippery slope that ends with binging or other eating disorders.

My heart broke as I read that the young woman who wrote the article, sometimes hated her thinner body more than she had her overweight one.

She feared that if she gained weight, she’d lose the beauty she felt she had gained when she became thinner. Society is cruel. But sometimes we are even more cruel to ourselves. So as I reflect on the past two years, I’m reminding myself to be kind, to strive for balance and above all, to remember that life is about far more than the numbers attached to the calories in food, our weight or pants size.

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