Five years ago, Florence Uwamwezi discovered what everyone who tries to lose or manage their weight must sooner or later discover, starvation or crush diets, will not do it.
The change of lifestyle begun with a combination of health diet and exercise, which she turned into a project for others like her. Not even staying at home to defeat Covid-19 need be an excuse to cut out exercise.
Today, Uwamwezi is fighting fit at 85kilogrammes, down from 105kilogrammes, and is captain of “slim and fit”, a club she launched over two years ago, that now has 150 members, many of whom purposely huff and puff, with her in front of them as inspiration that it can be done, and done the right way.
“Before we started the club” explains Uwamwezi, “I would eat only vegetables for two months at a stretch, and I would lose weight, but as soon as I ate anything else other than vegetables, I would be back to the original weight.”
There is no lack of information about shedding excess weight, in fact the problem is there is an excel of it, often confusing the unwary. With other members of the club, Uwamwezi dived into cyberspace and selected what seemed sensible to her.
“We found out that starving ourselves was not the solution, in fact, if anything, we learnt that it could lead to other health problems. The answer was a combination of a healthy diet and exercise.”
Breakfast now consists of fruit, or porridge, “no sugar, even honey” lunch is mostly vegetables like Doodo, with carbohydrates, like cassava, sweet potato or yams. Evening meals are light, consisting mainly of vegetables. “It is important to maintain energy levels” says Uwamwezi.
Regular exercise is now a way of life for the group. With the support of a physical instructor Geal Girumugisha, the women exercise for one hour, or a minimum of three days a week, for those who cannot yet manage a daily routine.
Each member of the group has their own individually tailored programme, and together with the instructor, sets herself a target to be reached.
“You have to know the appropriate exercise depending on your level of fitness. You cannot jump around when you weigh 100kilogrammes. Even if you did manage to do it, you would be able to do it for only one day, because of the strain on your joints and legs,” said Girumugisha.
“Members came to the club weighting 100, 175, 250 kilogrammes, and by maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine, were able to lose 15, 8, 20 kilogrammes, in a space of six months,” enthused Uwamwezi.
With the need to fight Covid-19 as well as expanding waist lines, the woman have embarked on a form of exercising that fits within the guidelines to stay at home and keep a physical distance of two metres.
The answer is Hight Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT. It is a form of exercise which requires no equipment, and can be done indoors. Involving exercises like squats, press ups, kicks, the exercises are cardio vascular, and can help reduce weight because of the calories they burn, according to Girumugisha.
Advice from among others Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC), the World Health Organisation (WHO) warns that overweight can lead to increased susceptibility to non communicable disease like type 2 diabetes, strokes, and risks of coronary heart disease.
Raised Body Mass Index (BMI) can increase the risk of some cancers, including colon, prostate and breast cancers.
A combination of exercise and healthy diet is recommended to maintain a healthy BMI. You are advised to speak to your doctor, before you embark on any exercise regime.