One day when my son was two years old, I went for my annual physical exam. Although I was still healthy and didn’t have any medical conditions, my Body Mass Index (BMI) reading placed me in the OBESE category. That was a big wake up call for me. I haven’t been called obese in over 19 years. That’s when I decided that post pregnancy vacation was over and it was time for me to get to work. As a health and fitness professional, I understood the importance of looking the type and being able to effectively communicate what I preach through appearance, deeds and words. I also knew the health risks associated with being obese such as high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, some cancers, low quality of life and so forth. I needed to stay healthy, not just for myself, but for my son, my family, my career and the people who I have been called to inspire and motivate to live a healthy and active lifestyle. 

Recent pictures after losing over 55 lbs (25 kgs) of post pregnancy weight.

The Birth of ChezaDance Fitness Studio through Weight Loss

Combating Childhood Obesity

Rachel Valentina Nghiwete is the Founder of ChezaDance Fitness Studio, an idea that was birthed as a result of her weight loss experience:

At the age of 13, my school in London (England) hosted a dance party for the students. It was my first time dancing so hard at any party. It became apparent that I was naturally gifted at dancing when other students and teachers marveled at my dance moves and asked me to show them how to dance. I became the center of attention at the school party, making up new moves as everyone cheered me on and followed along. That was also the most exercise I had gotten in a long time, and because I was so out of shape, my body went into “shock.” My muscles started to ache and I experienced my first muscle cramp in my right calf. I screamed in pain bringing the whole party to a standstill. Teachers who were chaperoning the party came to my aid and massaged my leg to get rid of the cramps.

The cramp validated my weight problem, and showed just how out-of-shape I was. Truth be told, growing up, I had always been the chubbier, fatter kid out of all the skinny kids around me. When I lived in Angola (Africa) in refugee camps for exiled Namibians, my childhood friends nicknamed me “Lakela Kabushwa” - that is, Rachel the fat kid or “Fatty Rachel.” At 13, I had grown into an overweight teenager, weighing at 187 lbs (85 kilograms). As my weight spiraled out of control, my concerned parents often bombarded our family doctor with questions as to why I was overweight, while my two sisters who were around the same age and height as me were much thinner, and within their healthy weight range. 

Although family, friends and classmates constantly made mention of my weight, it didn't bother me because as far as I was concerned, I was fine. I continued to deny my weight problem. One day at the age of 14, I noticed that my face was fat and to my surprise, I was not happy about it. I thought that I looked ugly, and figured that it was probably because of my weight. With the little knowledge that I had about God, I began saying a simple prayer every night: “God please make me beautiful.” Soon after my short prayer, I was suddenly filled with a burst of energy, and I started a workout program to lose weight. I woke up early every morning to exercise for at least an hour to a fitness video that we had at home.

About a month into my exercise program, I found that the fitness video was not challenging me enough anymore, so I gave it up and started putting together my own dance fitness routine that was more fun and challenging. In four months, I was able to get my weight to drop tremendously, from the 187 LBS (85 kg) to 132 lbs (60 kg). My family, friends, and classmates marveled at my quick weight loss, and showered me with compliments and many questions on how I had gotten such dramatic results so quickly. My proud father – impressed with the discipline I had exercised in order to reach my goal - joyfully volunteered to become my weight loss spokesperson, jumping at every opportunity to tell my story: "she gets up early every morning to exercise...” During my weight loss program, I also learned to watch what I ate. Our chef had always cooked healthy food even prior to my weight loss, but I started eating smaller portions, unlike before when I simply ate too much. I also did a lot of cardiovascular exercises for at least an hour seven times a week, including dance fitness, jogging and running, which are my favorite physical activities. 

Overweight at the age of 12 and 13 in London, England.

Post pregnancy weight gain......

To cut the long weight loss story short, losing weight as an adult in your thirties is lot harder than losing the weight at a younger age like I did when I was 14 years old. You have fewer distractions and your metabolism is faster, and therefore you are able to lose weight faster. Losing my post-pregnancy weight was a challenge, it was not as easy as I thought it would be but I was determined to lose the weight. I understood that I didn’t put it on overnight and therefore I wasn’t going to lose it overnight. I also don’t believe in quick weight loss fads because they don’t work. So I stuck to the traditional and proven way of effectively losing weight and keeping it off. The same way I effectively lost the weight at age 14 and kept it off until I got pregnant, is the same way I was determined to lose the way with through exercise and a balanced diet. I’m a firm believer that effective, long lasting weight loss is 70% good nutrition and 30% exercise. To lose my post pregnancy weight, I ate healthier, watched my portion sizes, engaged in exercises that I enjoy such as dancefitness, running, cycling and weight training. I also used the sauna and steam room a lot, to detox and de-stress, which I believe played a significant role in my overall weight loss. I ended up losing over 55 lbs/25 kg. I am now at a healthy weight and within my ideal weight. You can do anything you put your mind to, with determination, persistent, perseverance and faith. 

It’s possible to get pregnant and give birth without gaining a lot of weight. However, everyone’s story and body is different. In my case, I would say things happen for a reason. Both of my weight loss experiences have better equipped me on how to better communicate the message of health and weight loss to children and adults because I have been there and done that by successfully personal training myself in my childhood, as well as in my adulthood. However, knowing better than I ever did before about childhood and adulthood weight struggles, I highly recommend that everyone makes exercise and nutrition a habit, and a lifestyle at every stage of their life, pregnancy and post pregnancy included. It’s a lot easier to keep the weight off than to gain it and try to lose it. Consistent healthy weight is good for your health. Additional helpful tips and details on how I managed to successfully lose weight twice and keep it off will be shared on another platform because it’s too long to be posted here. I encourage everyone to take advantage of the health and fitness programs offered by ChezaDance Fitness Studio to assist you in your journey to optimal health and wellness.

Thanks for reading. Please feel free to share the website link to my weight loss story, to inspire and motivate others to health and wellness. 

Shedding the weight at 14 years old through exercise

Overcoming Adulthood weight gain, after giving birth

After the weight loss at age 14, I managed to maintain a healthy average weight of 128 lbs (58kg) for more than 19 years. I maintained a healthy weight by eating healthy and exercising 5-7 times a week. I never gained weight for all those years until I became pregnant with my first child in my early 30s. I didn’t put on too much weight during my pregnancy. I was able to manage a health and wellness facility, personal train clients and teach group exercise classes until the last week of my pregnancy. 

​After giving birth, I wasn’t in a hurry to lose the baby weight that I had gained. I was still comfortable within my own skin and I thought I looked just as good, although not as slim as I was before the pregnancy. My confidence and self-esteem was intact. I was happy and enjoying being a new mom that weight loss was the last thing on my mind. I had decided to work on my baby-weight loss after my son was at least two or three years old. There were people who constantly made mention of my weight, probably out of concern, but again, that didn’t affect how I viewed my body. However, I gained a lot more weight after giving birth to a point where friends, family and strangers thought I was pregnant. My highest weigh in was 196 lbs (89 kg). In addition to working a stressful job as a Manager at a commercial health club, I had a sweet tooth and consumed a lot of sugary food and beverages, and I hardly had the time to exercise. I also ate a lot of carbohydrates and I didn’t pay attention to my portion sizes. Stress, lack of exercise, large food portion sizes, sugary drinks and food all significantly contribute to weight gain. Nonetheless, I was still not in a hurry to lose weight. At the back of my mind, I knew that once I decide to lose the weight, I will lose it in no time.

Maintained the weight loss into adulthood for over 19 years, without gaining it back until.....

Taking the weight off.....

Initially, I had only planned to exercise until I reached my desired weight goal. But once I lost the weight, I didn’t want to stop exercising because I saw and experienced the joy and other benefits that a fitness and healthy lifestyle brought. I looked more beautiful and felt great. I also had a more positive outlook on life and a renewed sense of confidence and felt as if I was on top of the world, capable of doing anything that I put my mind to. A healthy lifestyle does that to you, even at age 14.

After my weight loss experience, I decided to dedicate the rest of my life to helping other people live better and healthier lifestyles, so they too can experience joy and benefits of a healthy and active lifestyle. As I grew up, I was more and more convinced that this was my calling and purpose in life. I became a certified Personal Trainer and Group Exercise Instructor. I also attended American University where I obtained a Master’s Degree in Health Promotion Management.