The Free Dictionary defines “Wonder Woman” as a woman who can be a successful wife and have a professional career at the same time.
I met one of those women who helps women and men transform their lives with healthy lifestyle habits. She is renowned for coaching celebrities and athletes.
Meet Fatema Juma, a 27-year-old certified nutritionist and fitness trainer who introduces people to healthier versions of themselves.
As a child, Fatema, born in 1995, was on the heavier side of the scale, which contributed to bullying and low self-esteem.
“I had no friends in middle school and felt very unloved, but my family was always there for me,” she says.
She spent time alone because no one wanted to be friends with the “chubby” kid. She was the kid who was never invited to birthday parties, dinner parties, or even school lunches.
As a lone wolf, Fatema found solace in Cadbury chocolate bars, pringles and lays crisps, coca-cola and chocolate ice cream. It was a temporary solution and Fatema didn’t realize that they were doing her more harm than good.
The mother of three got married when she was 19 and had to put her studies on hold.
“If a guy likes me despite my weight, I can give up my studies for him,” she shares.
And that’s exactly what she did.
A few months later, Fatema realizes that she is pregnant. The marriage, however, did not last. Fatema always believed that her weight and her physical appearance were the reason for the failure of her marriage. It was a difficult phase for her.
For mental health concerns, Fatema and her daughter, Siyana, moved to the UK to live with Fatema’s grandmother.
When her daughter Siyana was five months old, Fatema experienced a sudden weight gain, which she called postpartum. She knew something was wrong when she felt excessive hunger, irritability, mood swings and insomnia, even though she was up almost every hour with Siyana. After consulting a doctor, she discovered that she suffered from hyperthyroidism. She started her treatment immediately because it was very severe.
Fatema was embarrassed that she could not take care of her daughter. She couldn’t run after Siyana without feeling out of breath and she needed help with the simplest tasks.
A few days after her diagnosis, Fatema said enough was enough. She couldn’t be there for her daughter if she wasn’t mobile herself. She was interested in clinical nutrition and dietetics and after a push from her family, Fatema decided to resume her studies for the sake of her daughter, who depended only on her.
Life as a single mother in the UK was difficult, but that didn’t give up on her strength or her faith either. She believed in herself and knew that everything would be fine. After four years of study, Fatema thought the best way to put what she had learned into practice was to put the theories to work on her own.
She weighed 88 kg and was 5’2 tall when she started training. She lost 35 kg in 12 months. She returned to Tanzania with a new found confidence thanks to her healthier version.
“I wondered how many women have to go through what I went through. Why do women suffer when they’re overweight? From personal experience, the fitness guru knew that self-respect only comes when we are happy with what we see in the mirror.She knew she had to help these women, and so in 2015 The Fitness Stop was born.
Building Women’s Confidence
Fatema started training five women, then 10, 20, 30 and now she is training over 200 men and women. His motive was to rid women of their self-doubt.
After her second pregnancy, due to the symptoms she was experiencing, Fatemae was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). She knew that taking a pill was not the answer to this situation.
She had gained 20kg during her second pregnancy and after giving birth she started working on herself to lose the postpartum weight. But due to PCOS, losing weight was a more difficult task this time around.
It is very unfortunate how common PCOS is in women of childbearing age. It may not be fatal, but it is heartbreaking for women who want to conceive but cannot due to weight and hormonal imbalance.
More determined this time, Fatema worked on herself and lost weight eight months after giving birth. Word had spread like wildfire that Fatema was training women with PCOS, some who went ahead and had successful pregnancies.
As she was sailing in the same boat as these women, Fatema was able to reverse PCOS with her knowledge. She tailored the workout and diet regimens to suit their bodies. There was always a phase where the women would give up, and Fatema would tell them; “If I could do it, so can you. You’re not doing this for me, you’re doing this for your dream! Dreams will only work if you do.
Fatema has helped 44 PCOS babies, the last one being born last week. It gives her immense joy to be able to help women and men achieve their dreams. L’Escale Fitness is now seven years old.
His successes include model and former Miss Universe Tanzania 2016, Jihan Dimack, Young African Sports Club striker Yusuf Athumani and several Indian and Pakistani celebrities.
“It’s not easy being fat in Dar es Salaam. Weighing 90 kg in my early years was a huge disappointment. Then I heard about Fatema from a friend and joining The Fitness Stop has been the best decision of my life so far. It changed my life. I never thought I could lose 35 kg in a year,” says Zeyn Gafoor.
Zeyn says it wasn’t easy eating healthy and working out constantly.
“But that’s what Fatema taught me. This change, this transformation is not a short-term success. She made meal plans so easy you wouldn’t think they were in deficit. You can eat salad and eat biryani, you just have to work and keep working! ” shares Zeyn.
Another client, Zainab Amin, says she gained weight after giving birth and managed to lose weight with the help of Fatema.
“I just couldn’t find the time to exercise, so the weight stuck to me like a cobbler’s wax. I would despise the mirror. After hearing Fatema’s praise, I decided to join her.
According to Zainab, Fatema taught her to love herself and after implementing this, she saw the biggest change in her life.
“I realized my worth and became consistent in training and eating a balanced diet. She also explained the importance of all the food groups and now I can enjoy my daily meals knowing that I’m in my calorie deficit,” says Zainab.
Fatema holds a master’s degree in clinical nutrition and dietetics and is currently pursuing her doctorate in women’s medical sciences.
The Fitness Stop Rangers were awarded the top position by the Indian High Commission in the annual Independence Day celebration this year. Fatema is also an in-house specialist at the Kisutu Polyclinic located near the old post office in the downtown Kisutu district.
Fatema has come a long way and still has a long way to go. It was just a brief glimpse of her journey from chubby bullied kid to fit, empowered woman. She believed in herself and overcame her trials. She also has the blessing of many families who have children at home thanks to her effort and hard work.
Fatema remarried and is now the mother of three beautiful daughters.
Life is as you want it to be, so enjoy it without remorse in your later years.
“Fitness is not compulsory for life, it is a gift we should appreciate, we do not appreciate good health until we are sick. Why wait to get sick and then regret living a sedentary life? It is now! Eat, sleep and repeat, but also add exercise to your day,” advises Fatema.
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