My name is Vinita Otieno-Wanjohi. I am 41 years old, and a mother to 3 beautiful girls aged 12, 10 and 6 years.
I have been involved in the Health and Wellness field for the past 29 years, and my fascination with fitness started when I was around 12 years. Since then, I have been in the gym for the past 29 years, not only working out to stay fit, but also professionally as a Personal Trainer. Later on in my story, I will share with you tips that might be helpful to you from my years of experience.
My interest in fitness started when I was in class 2. I noticed how my teachers would pick on kids especially those who were a bit overweight. To me, it looked like they made the assumption that since they were chubby they were inadequate and lazy which is a totally wrong notion. In my young mind, that is how I perceived it. It’s funny how later on in life most of these kids excelled in swimming, rugby and other sports. But the notion of counting someone out based on their physical appearance stuck with me. So I began to run around the estate and loved the ‘feel good” moments after the runs.
Then came my teen years when one day over breakfast, as I piled my fourth slice of bread – slathering it with jam and peanut butter, someone close to me said, “don’t eat too much or you will ‘lose market!”, petty as it may sound it stuck with me.
You see words have so much power over us, which heightened my interest in staying trim and drove me further into fitness. Seeking validation not to “eat” myself out of the market, while enjoying the endorphins that came with working out.
In college, my eating habits were a struggle and my habits revolved around night partying, early morning bingeing and overeating all things oily and greasy. My breaking point was looking at myself in the mirror one day and asking myself the difficult question; ‘Vinita are you happy?’
Around the same time, I lost someone very special and I finally made the choice to break these unhealthy patterns once and for all and build new ones.
I joined two gyms and swam in the afternoons to work through my thoughts and seek clarity. As I became more self-aware, I learned that to transform oneself, one must be willing to see beyond the shoreline presented by your mind at that very time. I have come to love how working out can help you get clarity when you want to think through issues.
My Health and Fitness Journey
In my 20’s, I discovered weigh training and fell in love with it.
Over time, I have continued to weight train and I have incorporated cardio. In my younger days, I went all out and even participated in fitness related competitions specifically in the “Figure Category”. This was around 2004.
In that space of time, watching what I eat before competitions was so important and stressful which took away the joy out of food. However, with years gone by, and now that I am a mum and older, I find what works is eating healthy portions.
Rather than obsessively count calories, I watch my portions and often eat smaller meals spread out throughout the day. I try to eat my last meal at around 6pm, so that I can also process the food while my body is still moving and active. And even on days when I fall off the wagon like most of us do, and my jeans get tighter. What’s important for me is to accept that its human, and I can always reset and get back to my healthier portions and continue to consistently workout.
Becoming more self-aware and broadening my perspective has been key. I have taken a more holistic approach to fitness not only focusing on my body, but also my nourishing my mind and soul. Meditation and prayer are very important to me.
Meditation fills me with intention, and reminds me to command my thoughts.
All in all, I continue to challenge myself and recently took up Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) cardio classes which during Covid-19 season gave me something different to focus on.
Fitness has transformed me in so many ways. One, it has helped me both physically and mentally and shaped my journey in life. Two, it has made me a better decision maker and given me a level of discipline and structure that has translated in so many things that I involve myself in. Three, it has made me a better planner, and as I set my goals, it has taught me to be willing to be flexible as I work towards the results I want. Most importantly, it brought me my life partner who I met and fell in love with.
When I became a mum, thankfully my body didn’t change much. The art of balancing between motherhood, being a wife, a friend and more was a whole new process. I dealt with it by submerging myself in the one thing that gives me joy – fitness.
As a mum, and through all my 3 kids, I purposed to create my ‘me-time’ doing something positive for myself by working out. This helped me process this new stage of life while continuing to take care of myself.
As a Health and Wellness Coach
I work with both men and women. When it comes to women I tell them it’s about two things, your mind-set and planning.
A lot of what we do as women in general requires planning, dedication and a lot of effort on our part to see things through. It is very easy for us to wake up in the morning to workout out then the nanny doesn’t show up. In such a scenario, that one hour we were going to dedicate to exercise is re-assigned to other duties.
Secondly being a mum is not easy. What they don’t tell you about motherhood beyond what a big blessing it is; is that it requires patience and the fatigue that comes from balancing it all as a wife, mother, caregiver and all the roles you play can be exhausting!
My advice to mums is create a plan and adapt as you go along your fitness journey. Be flexible, create a plan, chart the course and walk the journey. Don’t give up!
Another thing I would like to emphasize on is for those who fall off the wagon after making it a New Year resolution to finally get fit, or lose that weight. I think the beginning of the year comes with unnecessary pressure that you don’t have to subject yourself to.
What you can do is to hold yourself accountable and take stock of the previous year. Admit where you feel you failed and recommit to do better. Be kind to yourself and know you are not alone. Many people are commitment averse, but you can choose to do better.
Replace ‘commitment’ with the word ‘dedication’ and ask yourself, What will I dedicate my time to next year? What will I value next year? What will be different next year? What can I change NOW…to make my New Year goals more attainable. Dedicate your time to things that matter and slowly and surely you will find the commitment to yourself becomes easier.
What about that flat tummy that almost everyone seems to want? As a Health and Wellness Coach, I have seen that it’s one of the top reasons people come to the gym. For women who have become mums, I tell them to be kind to themselves. That beautiful pouch has housed your beautiful little one(s) and sometimes it may not be 100% possible to go back to how flat your tummy was. However, you can still tighten it or just learn to love it. Strive for balance. Laugh more, read positive books, work on your inside and build your self-worth. Make friends with your potbelly, make small changes beginning with what you consume, add some form of exercise, drink water and love yourself.
Advice to younger mums
Dear Mum, You are beautiful. You have birthed a miracle. Be patient but true to self. Kindly do not blame your little one for the changes on your body but take time to nurture the baby and heal from the inside, while bonding with your little one.
Read up on healthy meals while breastfeeding. This journey called motherhood is not easy- sitting in salty water as you heal from birth, sleepless nights, a crying colicky baby, leaking breasts and so on.
But as you wean your baby, purpose to reclaim your body and think of how you can feed it well and exercise. This is not only important for your body, but also your mental well-being- and this applies to mums with older children too.
Prioritize to take care of your mind, body and soul and make it a lifelong habit. Health and fitness is a journey, it’s not a destination.