“Weight Training Helped Improve My Physical And Mental Health”


When Lucinda Viljoen embarked on her fitness journey, she slowly found that her restrictive eating and over-exercising was pushing her further to the lighter end of the scale. Tired of the negative impact it was having on her health, she decided to switch things up. With the help of weight training, yoga, moderation and pure determination, she went from skinny to strong. Here’s how she did it…

Lucinda Viljoen                 

City: Cape Town

Age: 31

Occupation: Accountant

Weight before: 48kg

Weight after: 53kg

Time required to reach goal: 5 years

The secret weapon to her fitness journey: Focusing on strength

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Getting started

Lucinda says that she suffered from depression and anxiety in her teens and early 20’s. Eventually, it was her then-fiancé suggested that she see a psychiatrist for help. “The options were medication or a healthier lifestyle,” she says. When the meds did not work as well as she hoped, she decided to focus on moving more.

“My journey started with subsidized Pilates classes during lunch, joining Curves all ladies gym and eventually upgraded to my own home gym lounge setup with minimal equipment accompanied by exercise DVDs during the first 4 years of my journey. It was tough forming the habit of daily exercise and I quit many times during those first few years,” she explains.

Ups and Downs

But going from junk food binges and no exercise to restrictive eating, eventually lead to Lucinda being on the path to being a lot lighter than she intended.  “It was a slippery slope towards becoming too skinny. I reached a point where I was struggling with my energy levels, my productivity at work suffered, and the stress of eating too little and exercising too much took its toll on my health,” she says. A holiday to Zanzibar was the epiphany she needed to help her realise that she wanted to be strong instead of skinny and not feel guilty about what foods she ate.

It was this realisation that helped her to make the shift to aim to be comfortable and confident in her skin.

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A healthy mindset

Having to reset her approach to health and fitness, Lucinda began to take a fresh perspective to her goals, “[which] required a fundamental change in focus, to rather be strong, not skinny.” She started learning a vital lesson that “fitness is part of a healthy lifestyle and not all of it.”

READ MORE: “I Found An Alternative Workout Plan To Help Me Lose Weight — And It Doesn’t Involve Running Or Gym”

Everything in moderation

Aiming to live more of a balanced lifestyle, Lucinda avoided restrictive diets and instead began eating the rainbow. “I ensure that my plate is colourful, that I get enough protein, especially while I do weight training programmes, and drink enough water daily,” says Lucinda. She and her husband found the benefit in home-cooked meals, “Home-cooked meals truly help with staying healthy as you can control what goes into your meals and how much you eat.”

As for feeling guilty about certain foods — that’s a thing of the past. “I give myself the headspace to enjoy my food, whether it is a fresh salad and steak or a few slices of pizza and beer. Food is also fuel for my workouts so eating enough is very important to me, especially on high-intensity training days. I try to avoid restriction and guilt at all costs, and when I do feel like I’ve perhaps indulged too much, I will drink more water and include more greens at my next meal or snack,” she explains.

Strong, not skinny

In 2015, Lucinda says she fell in love with plyometrics and weight training. “This was the perfect combination to get my mindset out of wanting to be skinny to wanting to be strong enough to lift more, run further and have enough energy to push through boundaries I set myself mentally,” she tells us. Her workouts now include yoga, pilates, running and weight training. It’s this combination that has allowed her to stick to any training program she does. ” I’m always keen to try new workouts and have had phases where Yoga has saved me mentally, running has made me grateful and weight training has made me feel empowered,” she adds.

It’s taken Lucinda five years to reach where she is now, but through it all she’s learned some valuable lessons, pushed herself to the limits and changed her health for the better.

“Health and fitness have taught me so much about discipline, dedication, and perseverance. It’s also showed me that I am capable of so much more than I thought, that I am strong enough to make it through life’s challenges, to try again and again when I fail.

Lucinda’s Tips

  • Be flexible in your approach to movement but prioritize it to make sure that you do move.
  • Start by making small changes to your lifestyle and your eating habits.
  • Find healthy food and exercises you thoroughly enjoy, it will help you to remain consistent.
  • Ignore the scale, health fads and your social feeds’ idea of what is considered beautiful. Healthy lifestyles are different for everyone and will look different to everyone, and that’s ok.
  • Do not fear weight training, it is the most empowering type of exercise I’ve ever tried.

READ MORE ON: Fitness Fitness Advice Success Stories

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