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​​City weight loss initiative saved my life​


Big losers become big winners in a weight loss challenge under Jozi’s Healthy Lifestyle Programme.

A 50-year-old Johannesburg woman has related how the City of Johannesburg’s Weight Loss Challenge has saved her life.

Lerato Pitso – a mother of one who weighed 120.9kg at the start of the challenge in February – was declared the winner of the challenge when the three-month contest came to an exciting finale at Zoo Lake in Johannesburg at the weekend.

The Weight Loss Challenge is part of the City’s Go Jozi Healthy Lifestyle Programme, launched by Executive Mayor Councillor Parks Tau about three years ago to help prevent non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity – which all lead to premature deaths – and enhance the City’s life expectancy. Pitso, who before the challenge endured annoying stares and whispers as people gossiped about her weight, said the City’s initiative had saved her life.

“I’ve been battling with my weight since I was a teenager. I’ve tried every diet available but nothing worked. I was on the verge of committing suicide. This challenge saved my life. I was tired of people being unkind to me, whispering as I walked past and others taking photos of me from behind. That was humiliating. I tried several diets. I would shed a few kilos only to put them back on because [the fitness trainers] never taught me how to eat properly. That was until Go Jozi got me on the right track.”

In 2013 she survived a pulmonary embolism attack. It was a wake-up call for her.

“I had to do something about my weight otherwise I was going to die. At some point I was walking on crutches. My struggle also affected my child’s life. I feel really good. Now we are both very happy. I can do all the things I could not do before losing all this weight. I swim and box as part of my exercise regime. My personal trainer, Claude Maphosa, keeps me on track. My diet is strictly low carbs, high protein. It’s working and it has inspired a lot of people, especially in my family. People must not pass judgment when they see an overweight person because they don’t know their struggles,” Pitso said.

For winning the challenge, Pitso was presented with several fabulous prizes, including free Urban Wellness gym membership valued at R2 800, a tablet, vouchers for healthy food, clothes, hair treatments and cooking lessons worth thousands of rands.

Bontle Musupi, who reduced her weight by 10kg – from 84kg to 74kg – won the second prize, which included a R1 150 Virgin Active gym membership and a tablet. Third-placed Wilhelmina Moloi also won a R1 150 Virgin Active gym membership and a tablet.

Musupi was grateful to her volunteer trainers in Alexandra.

“I lost all this weight by training on an athletics track and eating properly. No bread or pap for me, just fruits and vegetables and lots of running – 5km-8km every day. I was overweight and now my BP is normal. I feel fresh and have bragging rights. I am encouraging other people in my neighbourhood to join in,” she said.

The finale was witnessed by more than 500 Johannesburg residents, who braved the freezing weather to be at the event. Among them were grannies and face-painted children. Wandile Zwane, the City’s Executive Director of Health and Social Development, and other top City officials also graced the occasion.

According to Weight Loss Programme Coordinator Thoko Nhlapo, about 136 contestants had signed up for the challenge in February. Zwane said the challenge was a huge success, adding it would be extended from three to six months, starting in August.

He congratulated residents for their positive response to this and other programmes aimed at improving their health. He said he was also impressed by the turnout at Zoo Lake, “considering the weather and other circumstances”.