Wrap up warm folks.
“My fitness journey began probably around the time of Fall 2009. When I arrived in the US, I was 17 and all I did was study and eat – I didn’t really work out. I’d say that I weighed around 150lbs when I arrived in the US and I gained a lot of weight – I think the maximum I weighed was 260lbs. My mom and friends would tell me ‘you’re gaining weight’, but I didn’t really realise that.
So, I started taking a weight lifting class, I took a swimming class and that helped me for that summer of 2009 through to the Fall and it just continued. I was about to transfer to UC Berkeley and I just got off my last day of running class and I asked my coach ‘how do I keep doing this?’ because I didn’t want to go back to what I was, and he said ‘if you can wake up every day at 7am or 5am or whatever and just walk - all you’ve got to do is just walk. Just use music, use music to pull you through, as your time, as your miles. Count your miles with music’ and you know, that’s what I did.
Through music, every morning, I would just walk – 3 miles became 10 miles and I would jog and next thing I knew, I was an absolute cardio Queen!
I got in to the US army because it has this programme where they employ people from other countries. They unfortunately don’t have it any more, but basically you get your citizenship after 9 weeks of basic training - but you have to graduate basic training. So, after I graduated from college, I moved to Denver and that’s where I got my Masters in Public Health, however, a lot of jobs would not hire me. You see, most companies won’t hire you in the US if you’re not a public citizen. You know, there’s a lot of paperwork involved, and they’d have to pay extra to hire you.
So, I heard about the programme and I put my life on pause. I was like, you know what, let’s do it. It was scary, and my parents did not approve because I was a Nigerian woman, and it was like ‘how dare you join the army’. When I joined, I didn’t know what to expect, but it’s been humbling.
As an African girl, your sole purpose is to get married. I’m also the first daughter, so that’s a little more added pressure and stress. You’re supposed to make your father proud.
I don’t know if my father is proud of me yet, but he’s more on-board with what I’m doing now.
I know that if I was a guy they would preach it to everybody. But, I’m a woman. And it’s the culture part of it. I’m trying to get it across to people that it doesn’t matter, and hopefully, making an impact on the Nigerian community. To let Nigerian women know that you can get out there and be who you want to be. Regardless of your culture.
"But it’s alright to reserve culture… but don’t let it change the talent that God has given you, don’t let it change that.”
“After my dad passed away, I got really unwell, I started thinking like; I started hating my body basically. And that’s when I began to restrict my food.
By the time February 2015 arrived – I ended up in hospital. At that time, it felt like a failure to end up in hospital; I didn’t want to get better at that time, but I was glad that finally the physical aspects of my eating disorder were going to be helped.
After I came out of hospital, which was a crazy 7 months; my only goal was to get skinny again.
I continued going to counselling and therapy and it just didn’t work. I didn’t want to get better in myself. Around September 2016, I discovered fitness YouTubers like Whitney - yeah Whitney was my main one - and then in January I went to my very first meet-up in London, alone.
I began my fitness Instagram when I left that meetup because I was inspired by everybody I saw around me. Everyone just looked so strong and so happy and they all made friends because they were all so like-minded.
So, I started up my page just to document my kind of little journey and I didn’t expect it to go anywhere. As time went on, I made a few friends and they all live in England.
By this time, my mind wasn’t fully healed but I had decided to make myself better because after I had been to the gym a couple of times, I was like, I bloody love this.
Not only physically, but also mentally. I just loved that feeling of just getting into the gym and lifting things. Even though I wasn’t that strong, I was stronger than I ever was before.
I get so many messages when I do a post on my mental health or my struggles, which I still actually go through today, and it’s kind of crazy because never in my wildest dreams did I think that I’d have such an impact on anybody’s life. Even if it’s one or two people – I know how isolating it is to be in a space where it physically feels like you can’t get out of your mind. You feel trapped and it’s horrible, but it’s scary because no one truly understands it unless they have been or are currently going through it themselves.
I know how impossible normal life seems, or life as it once was, and how it feels like it’s never going to come around again.
But, I like to remind people that it is going to come. It just takes time and it is going to be hard.