Too fat, too thin, too tall, too short, too many flaws. Body issues have got to be one of the hottest topics of the day.
Many of us are so unhappy with what we see in the mirror that we’ll even risk our health to change it.
This real-life drama is reflected in the storyline of SABC 1’s Skeem Saam’s character Pretty, and it’s causing quite a stir.
Actress Lerato Marabe, who plays the role of the student who falls ill from attempting a quick-fix weight loss attempt, tells Drum she had body issues of her own as a child. And that is one of the reasons she’s proud to play the role.
For those who missed it – University student Pretty auditioned for a swimsuit advert and was told she had to lose weight in just a few days. First, she took weight loss drops that didn’t work. Then, when her mother realised what she was doing and forced her daughter to eat, Pretty went behind her back and vomited it all up after every meal. As a result, she collapsed and was rushed to hospital.
Read more | 6 things no one ever told me about losing weight
“Pretty is going through what a lot of women go through,” Lerato says. “Weight is a struggle for a lot of people, and I am glad to be able to portray such a reality.
“This is also an opportunity for parents to learn and have insight into what their children go through. Some of these products are unauthorised and don’t clearly stipulate the side effects. This means not all products are safe, so people must be careful.”
This is a scenario many ordinary South Africans can relate to, including Lerato. The actress says she was very thin when she was growing up and she wasn’t comfortable with her body. Her shape changed in high school and she learnt to love the new body she was in.
“What I’d like to see people take away from this storyline is that we should all strive for comfort and loving the skin we are in. I’m not saying people shouldn’t try to work on themselves and improve their appearances, but I think they should do that for themselves and not to try to fit in. Our bodies are unique, so trying to change that can make us lose our authenticity.”
Naturally, the show is delighted with the attention it’s getting.
“We pride ourselves in using a number of characters to address social issues that affect our country,” says Skeem Saam publicist, Sumaya Mogola. “And our Pretty story was an especially important one to tell – a message to everyone feeling some sort of pressure to conform.
“We believe in encouraging self-confidence and being proud of who you are and how you look. Pretty is a beautiful young lady, but she suffered from an insecurity of not feeling good enough. She needed to understand that the people that loved her accepted her just the way she was.
“We also hope that anyone looking to venture into a new career or hobby will do in-depth research first, then decide if it's something worth doing and having in your life,” Sumaya adds.
The right way to lose weight
A quick-fix solution is not the way to go, especially if you’ve lost a few kilos and want to keep it that way.
Take a more holistic approach, says medical director of Netcare’s primary care division, Dr Rolene Wagner.
“There are several diets, supplements and meal replacement programmes that claim to quickly reduce weight. These programmes are often promoted by people who have been able to use these methods to achieve weight loss over a specified period of time.
“However, a holistic approach is most likely to help you not only reach your goal weight but also maintain a healthy weight in the long-term,” she Dr Wagner.
You can get professional support and guidance on living a healthy lifestyle from dieticians that are registered with the Health Professionals Council of South Africa (HPCSA), she says.
Apart from our diet, exercise is also a vital component of weight loss. Physical activity improves your quality of life, reduces your risk of heart disease and strokes, and provides many other health benefits.
However, as Dr Wagner points out, over a quarter of men and almost half of women are physically inactive.
“The heart is a muscle and needs exercise to stay fit and healthy,” she says. “The heart of someone who exercises regularly will beat 45-50 times per minute compared to someone who does not exercise regularly and whose heart will beat 70-75 times per minute. This means 36 000 extra beats per day and 13 million extra beats every year.”