“My name is Sheila Cecily Ommeh, am 43 and a mother of two boys, David 15 and Daniel 9.
After the birth of my second son in 2011, my weight shot up massively, in fact the stubborn weight gain after pregnancy was one of my worst experiences ever!
By 2012 coupled with the post baby weight and body image issues, my sense of self was at an all-time low. I often appeared three months pregnant and had to wear slimming corsets. I also didn’t have a neck, had very broad shoulders and often got very bad comments. For a long time, I stopped putting on trousers and preferred baggy dresses. My weight affected my way of dressing and I shied away from opportunities that needed me to expose myself.
In 2015, I was diagnosed with ovarian cysts. I started having some pains and irregular bleeding and further diagnosis revealed I had a large intramural fibroid that had even enlarged my uterus which was now weighing 330g! The normal uterus should be around 60g. On the positive side, the tumor was benign. The doctor suggested a hysterectomy but I refused. I decided to seek natural ways to manage my situation.
After doing my own background research, I realized that the hormones were out of balance and my weight was a risk factor as well as other lifestyle and environmental factors. After making some lifestyle changes, I lost weight to 73kgs and the cysts disappeared. Unfortunately, I was not able to sustain this weight and it all came back.
My breaking point was in 2018 when my weight surpassed my maximum pregnancy weight. I previously weighed 65kgs and by the end of 2019 it oscillated between 79 and 84kgs. Between 2018 and 2019, I tried many options to control my weight and hormones. Unfortunately, by October 2019, I realized I was in a perpetual cycle of weight loss and gain.
At my breaking point, I was motivated not to increase beyond my maximum pregnancy weight of 83kgs, but here I was at 84kg. I tried many forms of workouts including aerobics, biking, cross-fit, gym, hot yoga, Pilates and walking among others but I was not disciplined and fully committed. I failed over and over.
At this point, my partner who has always been fit was very concerned and suggested we register for the 2019 Standard chartered Half Marathon as a motivation to start keeping fit. I was so unfit and found an excuse not to participate by traveling.
When I came back in November, he insisted we start walking in Karura for fitness and eventually start to run and target a future Marathon. We created time and a few days in a week we would walk in Karura for at least 10kms. I lost 4 kgs by mid-December 2019, but of course gained everything back over the festive season.
I became depressed and my sister Marilyn suggested that maybe I “up” my game to running instead of walking. She got me to register for Kilimanjaro 2020 full marathon and the Resolution 2020 run and to remain committed, she encouraged me to join running clubs and have running buddies. My partner supported me in this and helped me invest in the running gear and provided moral support.
I have been continuously working out since January 2020. Discovering running has enabled me to lose the stubborn weight and miraculously, I am now at 67kgs. The good part is that I am not in a fad diet so this will be sustainable so long as I remain active and rave up my metabolism through activities such as running which is the best form of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) from my experience.
I have come to love running so much! It fits my lifestyle very well and it’s also easy for me to plan myself, be disciplined and consistent within a week. My second preference is Yoga especially to strength train for running. Thirdly, I have also embraced strength training with weights to support my running. I also like biking and hope to resume soon post COVID-19. I had started to learn swimming and will resume once the restrictions are lifted.
Being part of a Running clubs has also been a major support system. The organized running offered by clubs truly ignited my innate passion of endurance running which I realized was instilled in me from primary and high school experiences and was just waiting to be unleashed.
My favourite running quote is “The Runners High is the New High” I love this quote since I used to take a lot of alcohol as a form of escape, but I have since quit and only take small quantities on VERY important occasions.
Reflecting on where I am now …
Becoming fit has really transformed me both outside and inside. I’m starting to like my body and will likely change my wardrobe to flatter what I am becoming nowadays J I also have mental clarity, I used to suffer a lot from brain fog. I’m also able to get things done and I have a lot of energy. Previously, I used to feel tired, fatigued and lethargic and ended up taking a lot of supplements to get energy. I used to eat a lot of junk food l, but nowadays I’m conscious of what I eat and drink.
To Younger women especially mums my advice is …
Put yourself FIRST, I cannot emphasize this more from my experience. Take care of “YOU” and you will be around longer to take care of your kids and enjoy the experience with your grand kids and even beyond.
I can understand as mums we tend to make huge sacrifices in terms of time, finances among others that then end up taking a toll on us and leads to issues like depression which then become a recipe of hormonal imbalances, weight gain, lifestyle diseases etc.
Make time for workouts and I suggest to look for what you enjoy and are passionate about for consistency & sustainability. To get you started, remember a sport you enjoyed in primary or high school as an inspiration.
Ensure your diet and your family has quality and organic ingredients, I cannot emphasize this more in the era we are living with so many environmental pollutants and emerging diseases. Create time for yourself to relax and do what you like with friends. Get time alone in nature to energize and spark new ideas. Lastly, I will re-emphasize – Invest in yourself and you will add more years to enjoy your life, with loved ones, and earthly investments.” You are your own best investment.
(Sheila Cecily Ommeh (PhD) is a Molecular Geneticist, Senior Research Fellow and Senior Lecturer in a Local University.)