“I Picked Up Weight When My Rugby Career Ended” – Here’s How I Shed 20Kgs

Losing weight reminded him once again of who he was

Megan Flemmit |

It was in 2013 that Mandla’s dream of becoming a professional rugby player came crashing down. For the past 15 years he’d been disciplined; he played rugby at high school, and then went on to play for the Sharks Rugby Union. After breaking his leg, he had to accept the harsh reality that his rugby career would go no further and in the process he picked up weight.

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Without the rigid training schedule the sport demanded, Mandla had the freedom to do what he wanted. Partying with his friends became a more frequent activity. His diet also suffered. “My bad habits were able to take root and fester, because the reason for maintaining such a strict regime was gone.”

Breaking Point

Towards the end of 2014, Mandla no longer recognised the man in the mirror. His weight had ballooned to 108kg. “My body seemed stretched to the limit of what my skin was able to handle; my eyes were dim, my mind raced.” Unhappy with his reflection, and tired of just existing, he decided to take control of his life again.

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If he was going to make commitment to living a healthy lifestyle, first Mandla needed to assess his life. “I became more conscious of my choices, and how they affected me.” Mandla was determined to become mentally and physically fit. He knew it was the only way he would be content with his life again. Once his goal was set he had to be accountable to it every day.

In the beginning, Mandla tried every fad diet he could think of. He wanted to lose weight as quickly as possible, and thought the diets would do the trick. Although some worked, he learned an important lesson: there’s no shortcut to success.

Instead, he threw himself into an Exercise Science course and took up running – which became a metaphor for his life. “The hills were challenges; but with each step, I knew I was getting closer to my goal. Over time, 2km slowly turned into 4, then 8; now I’m running my first half marathon.” Mandla trained five times a week, and before long was creating his own workouts with the info from his course. After three months of strict discipline, dedicated training, and following a proper eating plan, he’d lost 9kg – and found a renewed passion for fitness.

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Turning down invitations from his friends was a difficult but necessary step he had to take. “As a guy, it was difficult to admit to my friends the real reason I had to decline invitations;  but it became easier over time.”

Igniting The Fire

Staying motivated to train remained Mandla’s biggest hurdle. Competitive by nature, he trains best when working towards a goal. “It is a bit challenging to maintain a regime for the sake of it; it’s something I work on daily. But in the meantime, I find fitness challenges and apply myself to them.”

One of these challenges was entering our Cover Guy competition in 2016. Years of intense training and following a clean diet saw him take 2nd place. The achievement gave recognition to all the hard work and commitment he put into turning his life around.

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Mandla shed 20kg and reconnected with his passion for health and fitness. His identity was once again rooted in living an active lifestyle. “Losing weight reminded me of who I am, and that I could do anything I set my mind to.” The former rugby player had found a new passion in life, but no longer need sports to motivate him. Instead he allowed his own physical and mental health to inspire him. Being able to help others with the knowledge he gained was even more rewarding. “So many people have asked for advice on how to achieve similar results. Now I can encourage them, and it feels like I’ve found my purpose again.”

For more transformation stories like Mandla’s, buy our December issue today

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