She can’t believe that just over a year ago she was wearing size 48 pants.
In only 14 months Doné van Tonder (33) from Krugersdorp in Gauteng has managed to lose a whopping 60kg and 180cm.
“I feel like a million bucks now. Sometimes I can hardly believe I’m wearing such small sizes. And it’s amazing to be able to buy clothing in any shop,” she tells YOU.
She says her weight loss has totally transformed her life.
“I’m my outgoing self again and I no longer hide in the house. I love walking next to my husband and feeling sexy and being a healthier mom to my seven-year-old son and two-year-old daughter.”
Doné’s journey started way back in 2011 with YOU’s online weight-loss programme, Project Beat the Bulge.
She was delighted when she was chosen as a contestant in the competition.
“But then there was a home invasion at my mom’s place. I was 21 and still living there. It happened in broad daylight, just after 11am.
“They stabbed me 22 times – in my stomach, back and lower back. They tied me up with a wire hanger and wrapped a scarf around my face and stuffed it into my mouth. Then they raped me. There were two of them, but just one did that.”
After the attack she felt so ashamed about what had happened that she kept the rape a secret.
“It was something I kept to myself. Why? Because I felt dirty, very dirty. What kind of man would want a woman who’d been raped?”
She started drinking and partying hard in an attempt to numb the pain.
“I met my husband about a year after the attack. He swept me off my feet. We partied together. We were always in a club or at a bar and we started sharing the pain in our lives with each other.”
She describes their relationship as “tumultuous” and “up and down”.
“After every fight I’d eat in secret: three pies and a two-litre cola, a whole pizza; or pizza and McDonald’s with ice cream.”
In 2020, she and her husband, Robert (32), went for therapy.
“He stopped drinking. Things started feeling like a dream because there was no more fighting.”
A holiday to Uvongo in KwaZulu-Natal later that year inspired her to commit to a weight-loss programme.
“I love the ocean, but I felt incredibly uncomfortable. We went for lunch every day at a local centre and one day as we were leaving, there was this slim blonde woman with her two slim daughters.
“She pointed at me and started laughing. They went out of their way to show they were laughing at me. I was so hurt. When I got in the car, I started sobbing uncontrollably,” Doné says.
“My husband comforted me and played me the most beautiful song: The Way That I Love You by Passenger. He kept telling me how beautiful I am. To him, I’ve always been the most beautiful woman, regardless of how big I was. He was always complimenting me. And when I said I wanted to lose weight, he told me he’d support me.
“I was at the point where size 48 pants were too tight. Shirts, I had to buy in XXXL or 42.”
On 4 January 2021 she started her diet in earnest. With the knowledge she’d acquired during the YOU’s Project Beat the Bulge and the help of a dietitian, she put together meal plans for herself.
She tried different approaches, such as cutting out certain foods to see what worked for her.
“After my first week, I’d lost 6kg and that excited me. My husband and my mom were the only people who knew I was trying to lose weight.
“In the past, I’d always make sure everyone knew so that they could motivate me, but this time I kept quiet. My husband bought the food I asked him to. He kept telling me to stay strong – if he could stop drinking, I could stop eating unhealthily.”
The pep talk worked.
“I started walking and worked out a light circuit cardio for myself, just 30 minutes, and I did it every day, except on weekends,” Doné says.
“I always post pictures on Facebook. By the time I’d lost 30kg, people started noticing it in my pictures and messaged me. Many people thought I’d had gastric bypass surgery but it was just hard work and eating right that got me here.”
Doné says she hopes she can serve as an inspiration to others.
“That’s why I’m sharing my story on my Facebook page DVT Weight-loss Journey.
“I’d love to have my own weight-loss studio someday, where overweight people can gym without feeling judged because if you’re fat, that’s how you feel in a gym.”
She still finds it hard looking at the loose skin on her body – the result of all the weight she put on and then lost.
“Of course, it’ll be easier if I can get rid of the pouch of skin on my tummy. I’m very self-conscious about it, as well as about the skin on my arms, but I’m incredibly proud of what I’ve managed to achieve.”
And she doesn’t plan to stop her diet until she achieves her goal.
“I’d like to lose another 10kg,” Doné says. “I’m so much healthier since I’ve been skinnier. And I’m not so angry anymore either.”