What you need to know:
- For media personality Sheila Mwanyigha, the wake-up call did not come in the most pleasant ways.
- If you have been keeping up with her on social media, then you should have noticed a difference in her physique.
- She is now slimmer and lithe, thanks to hundreds of hours spent in the gym and the adoption of a healthy lifestyle.
There comes a time when everyone gets that wake-up call; whether it is to work on advancing a stagnating career or to hit the gym to improve your fitness.
For media personality Sheila Mwanyigha, the wake-up call did not come in the most pleasant ways.
If you have been keeping up with her on social media, then you should have noticed a difference in her physique.
She is now slimmer and lithe, thanks to hundreds of hours spent in the gym and the adoption of a healthy lifestyle.
After several cancellations of planned meetings, I was finally able to get an interview with her. Through the phone, one can still feel how cheerful and bubbly she is.
“I am not on a fitness journey because that means you reach your desired target and stop. What I am going through is a life overhaul, a holistic process which is for the rest of my life. When you are fixing your life, it is something else. It is changing how you approach everything, and that is not easy,” Ms Mwanyigha said.
“My whole lifestyle has changed; what you are seeing on the outside is because of the things that are happening on the inside. It is never something that just happens overnight,” she added. Months of trying different diet programmes helped her achieve some results but then it was easy to fall back to old habits.
“I have been on so many different diets. The last intense one I did was about seven years ago and I got good results. But the problem with a diet – and anyone who has been on one would understand – is that it has an end date. The day you finish that diet, everything that you had denied yourself is waiting for you after that,” she explained.
This made her decide to embark on a complete reset of her life in terms of eating clean and knowing what works for her.
She notes that some people copy and paste what others are doing yet that is not what the body needs. Doing so, she said, may be setting up one’s body for a rebellion.
“I think for women emotions are far more easily eaten than felt. We eat the emotion instead of feeling it and identifying its course. And Covid-19 did not make things any better for any of us. We went from a highly active lifestyle to sitting in the house all day. You can’t see your friends, you can’t go to places that are familiar or to the gym, and it was like we were imprisoned for some time,” she said.
This is the period people cultivated very bad coping habits, from eating to over-indulgence in alcohol, she noted.
Being a terrible cook, she depended mainly on take-outs — which are unhealthy in the long run.
“You can only take so many takeaways in a week. Also, take-away is not prepared with you in mind. They put too much oil, you add too much sugar or salt and because of anger and frustrations that may have been happening at that time, one glass of wine becomes two and then four. And then you tell yourself you will go back to the gym. But when you get there, you are too heavy to run,” said Mwanyigha.
According to her, all these make it difficult for people to recognise themselves. Therefore, a lifestyle change should be personal and not something copied from another person.
Ms Mwanyigha spent months working with a nutritionist to come up with the best plan for her.
“I told myself that the things I have learnt, I cannot unlearn but I can learn new ways that can help me because I want to be healthy. Because if you have got family histories of diabetes and hypertension, you do know that it is very much in your hands to influence what happens to you,” she shared.
“A nutritionist can help you figure out a lot like maybe you do not need to eat three meals in a day. For me, it also took going to the doctor and finding out why I was hungry all the time. Do I have worms? And it was finding out that maybe one's digestive process does not move as fast as it used to,” she said.
Her doctor suggested that she takes only two meals a day, and this worked well. She then moved to just having one.
“The question is: What time does that meal work for you? For me, it is from midday. This helps that by the time you go to sleep, you are probably done with the digestion process. Right now, my last meal is at 3 pm,” she said.
Her wake-up call came during the height of Covid-19. “Seeing people I knew die of Covid-19-related complications moved me. And I think one or two of them did not even know they had underlying conditions and by the time they were finding out, they were dead and buried,” she said.
“The second thing that gave me a wake-up call is that I am advancing in age. Not that I am an ancestor or anything, but you are just thinking that already my bandwidth of coping with things is faulty and life is not necessarily getting easier. But you have to get stronger. How do you get stronger when the first thing when you wake up in the morning is that you are tired? This was a warning bell and I realised I could not fix the problem I was having with dieting,” she said.
Ms Mwanyigha officially started her journey late last year, and now she is finally getting to see the result.
Her day begins at 6 am. She spends some minutes meditating and praying. She then has breakfast, goes to her office and works until 11 am.
Then she goes to the gym and, depending on what is on her timetable, she either does yoga or aqua aerobics.
She then eats her lunch at 3 pm and does some light exercises at her house for an hour, watches some television and goes to sleep.
With the journey, she also had to give up some food. She says she does not eat red meat anymore. She has also stopped taking alcohol.
So has the new Ms Mwanyigha been receiving a different treatment?
“No, because the people who saw me when I was putting on more weight were there and in fact, they were the ones telling me to go to start going to the gym. The most important thing is that I know who I am and who I am is not a physical expression, I am the person who goes after the things she wants.”
“I was in a car crash in 2007 and if ever there was a time that really demonstrated to me and helped me detach was that accident, because I got 19 stitches down the left side of my eye. You won’t notice it unless I show you. I remember one night watching the music video to my song, Niwe wako milele, and I started crying because I looked at that Sheila and she was so beautiful. And I thought I had become this bridal Frankenstein with stitches, wondering if I would heal and get back to looking like myself,” she said. She advises people to remember that they are racing with themselves and that race has to make sense to them.