Fitness Fridays: How Fitness Helped Olly Bey Get In Touch With Her Faith — And Lose More Than 100 Pounds
When many think about weight loss, the hope at the beginning of one’s journey is that by the end, they’ll be in better health. Their body will be smaller, they will have more confidence and they will be in a place to not return to their previous way of eating and living. But for Olly Bey, her weight-loss transformation also came with a spiritual overhaul. The 32-year-old based out of London is Muslim, but she wasn’t committed to all that her faith required. Instead, she spent more time being a “good time girl,” as she called it, trying to muster up confidence through alcohol in the clubs.
“That was what would give me my confidence so that no one would feel like, ‘She’s the big, insecure girl,'” Bey said.
But when she finally decided to take her health seriously after witnessing the weight loss of another friend, Bey gained so much more than a smaller waistline. She felt more in touch with the vessel she had been given, and therefore, more connected to her faith — a connection she’d been seeking for quite some time.
She also found out about the far-reaching benefits of exercise and the impact that it can have on one’s self-esteem.
“When you are able to exercise, even if it’s only three days a week, what you get from it mentally, the endorphins it gives you, sets you up for the rest of your day,” she said. “When you can can create that consistency and discipline in your life, it’s a confidence booster and it’s transferable to other areas.”
We talked to Bey about her journey, physically and spiritually, how it started, and how it has managed to inspire her more than 15,000 followers. Here is her story.
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#transformationtuesday. – This was trip a to Spain I took with my friends, as usual I was fully clothed with a gurdle underneath in the heat. I honestly used to hate summer. My thighs would swell up from constantly rubbing together and I'd sweat like crazy because I insisted on wearing a gurgle instead of trying to do something about my weight. Let's leave aesthetics aside for one moment. If your weight is causing you to be uncomfortable, messing with your quality of life and damaging your health then do something. I know how hard and overwhelming it is to start but do what you can before your forced to do something. You don't have to start big but you have to start otherwise nothing changes. _ #bethechangeyouwant #changyourfatitude #startwhereyouare #youcandoit #youvsyou #itsnotarace #healthfirst #phukasthetics #chooseyoursmile #transformationtueaday #afrogirlfitness #changestartswithyou #positivevibes #exercise #extremeweightloss #over100lbdown #fitspo
MadameNoire: Was weight something you always struggled with?
Olly Bey: I literally came kicking and screaming into this world overweight. Even as a baby, I was over 10 pounds. I wasn’t really a big baby, everybody said I basically looked like my dad’s side of the family. They’re quite overweight and naturally big, so everybody kept saying, “You look like your dad’s side.” I’m Nigerian, so you look like your dad’s side. It was very accepted. I was overweight because everybody just said that’s how I was supposed to be. So I accepted it. Well, I kind of accepted it. When you’re young and people place an identity on you, you accept it. I never really questioned it, I just assumed that’s how I was always supposed to be.
What inspired you to make a change then if you were brought up to accept it?
My highest recorded weight was 259 pounds. I’m 5’2″ so it was a lot of weight for me. I’m quite short [laughs]. At that time, I would probably say, when I was 25, there was another friend of mine who struggled with weight, struggled with eating and I hadn’t seen her for a month. She came to my house and at the time I lived in a block of flats and so you had to press the buzzer. Immediately, when I saw her, I knew something was different. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. So she came in and we were catching up and I said, “What’s going on? You’re not looking the same.” She said, “I lost some weight.” For me, you know that saying, “Seeing is believing?” When I compared my daily eating habits with hers, hers were much worse. She could eat an entire tray of Krispy Kremes! So I was kind of like, “Yo, if she can do it then I may as well give this a try. Maybe it will work.”
So before she left my house that day she helped me get a meal plan together and let me know what I needed to do in terms of fitness. To be honest, on reflection, it was very much the blind leading the blind. The way people use the Internet now to find knowledge, we weren’t really doing that then so it was kind of her leading me and me following. I really went in with zero expectations. I didn’t go in thinking I could do it, I just said, I’m going to give this a try, and it started working! The weight started falling off. I was like, “This is crazy.” The weight was dropping off and it was good at the time because it made me committed. But I wasn’t doing it the right way. My calories were extremely restricted and I had no idea. I was looking at what calories were in food, but I wasn’t necessarily mapping out my entire day. I went extremely low-carb, so at first, the weight started coming off very quickly, and then it stalled. And then I didn’t know what to do at that point. My friend was like, we should try this diet and this diet, so I went through a stage where I was fad dieting because I was just trying to find a way to maintain the weight that I’d lost and lose some more. So that period went on for about a year because I just didn’t know what I was doing to be honest. And then I started gaining weight again and finally, that’s when my fitness journey started because that’s when I took ownership of myself. I knew I always had trouble managing my relationship with food. What do I see myself doing for the rest of my life? Because I don’t want it to be like this. So I need to find a way to sustain it and make it a lifestyle, know why am I eating this, etc. And this is when I started exercising and it was an important moment for me because when movement was involved in the program, everything changed. Fitness changed my life to be honest. I always get emotional just because the way it changed my life was so much more than weight loss.
How would you say it changed things for you outside of your physical appearance?
I come from a Muslim family. I never used to pray or practice. Just to give you a bit more about my life before, I guess you could have called me the good time girl [laughs]. You could kind of refer to me in that sense. I couldn’t really settle. I was quite confused in terms of like, should I be praying? What’s my relationship with God really like? To be honest, I was always drinking. A lot. In the club, I was drinking. If I wasn’t in the club, I was drinking. I think a lot of that was from the insecurity of being overweight. I didn’t realize my drinking was my way to give myself courage. I would go out with my girls and I was always the big one. I thought “No one is ever going to approach me,” so I had to appear to be confident and alcohol was my thing.
I kind of masked around that. But once I started exercising and I got serious about exercising, I would be up at 5 a.m. in the morning doing it consistently. In doing that, naturally I started cutting down on going out. I started cutting down on drinking and it literally, it was the first time I could be still and actually have a moment to hear myself. There’s no alcohol drowning out my thoughts anymore. What am I saying? What’s going on in my life? So I think what happened was, I had to get really disciplined with fitness. For example, when I first started working out, I just started out with some workout DVDs at home. Where do I fit it in? So at first I would exercise after work. But if your friends call you up and you want to go out with your friends, I was always having to compromise something. So I basically had to say to myself, if you’re going to make this work, you’re going to have to try and exercise in the morning. I had to train myself to wake up first thing in the morning, like 4:30 a.m. so I could start exercising at 5 a.m. It was hilarious because I would have to set up like 10 different alarms, I would sleep in my gym clothes so all I had to do was roll out of the bed and press play on the DVD player. But those kind of things, that discipline, I suppose, really set me up in another kind of way because it made me feel still. I didn’t want to drink because I wanted to be able to get my exercise in. It was giving me confidence in another way. Alcohol for me, I used it as a way to dull out the insecurities, but with exercise, it did it in a different way. And I think all of that, especially not drinking anymore, there was no blur anymore. I didn’t have anything to block out the thoughts. I had to sit down and think. That is what gave me the stillness to start reflecting on what is going on in my life. Surely this is not it. I wanted to have a relationship with God. I wanted to learn to start praying. I wanted to have a connection because I think it kind of made me really start realizing that tomorrow is not promised, and it’s not. It’s not promised, and I didn’t want, God forbid, if I was ever going to pass at the time, I didn’t want that to be what I’d done — because I was a real good-time girl [laughs]. So I just thought there has to be more to this. I know for a fact, if I had not introduced fitness into my life, I think I wouldn’t be where I am now.
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The snatchback won't happen by accident. Planning and organisation is KING in this jungle of processed and junk food #issastruggle 😥. OK so meal prepping is one of my do or die habits. Even when I'm off the rails with a few loafs of bread under each armpit 😂 I MUST MEAL PREP 👊. – Not sure where to start? Go check out my Meal Prep Like A Slayer Guide in the Changingyourfatitide Tool Box. Link is in my bio 💓. _ #mealprepguide #beginners #plan #stayready #mealprepboss #transformationtuesday #foodie #eattrainrepeat #glowup #coaching #fitnessmotivation #weightloss #health #extremeweightloss #nutritionisking #failtoplan #snatchback #instafit #photooftheday #foodphotography #postworkoutmusing #backandshoulders #girlsthatlift #eataccordingtoyourgoals #macros #myfitnesspal
You’re a big fan of meal prep. Food is a big part of the success in weight loss. Why is it so important to embrace the idea of meal prepping every week?
I actually run meal-prepping classes now. For me, I think meal prepping has been one of the number one things that has kept me on track. No matter what your home situation is like, a lot of people who are either overweight or they are unhealthy or they’re spending too much on their groceries are that way because they don’t have a plan. That’s the beautiful thing about meal prepping, it’s not just for people who want to lose weight. When you meal prep and you have that, you save so much money, so the benefits are absolutely amazing. But for me, it’s given me structure and freedom. People think dieting and losing weight is about willpower. But willpower actually has nothing to do with it. Willpower, you can’t rely on it because life happens. If I didn’t meal prep and I wake up late for work tomorrow, I have to run out of the door, I don’t have any meal prep, I’m starving, and my colleague says, “Let’s go to an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet,” there’s no way I’m going to say no! I’m not going to say no because I’m tired, I haven’t eaten, I’m hungry, and I just want to go. If weight loss is your goal, you’re not going to meet your goal by going to the Chinese buffet. So having your food meal prepped, it allows you to avoid those situations because life will happen. In that kind of scenario. you can’t necessarily rely on willpower because we’re human. You’re human at the end of the day. Having your food meal prepped allows you to remove yourself from those situations. It’s obviously about balance. It doesn’t mean I’m always going to say no, but when I need to be focused I don’t want to be eating that food. I want to eat stuff that’s going to nourish me. The fact is, you stay ready so you don’t have to get ready.
Have you come to embrace the loose skin that can come for many people who lose a significant amount of weight? And do you see yourself doing anything in the future to remove it or are you fine with things the way they are?
It’s a real tough one actually because I think for me, when I lost weight, I never ever imagined I would lose this much weight or get this far. I never thought ahead of excess skin and what my body would actually look like. To be honest, I just thought I would lose the weight and end up with a banging body. So when I lost the weight, I’ve shown my belly on my page before, but I haven’t shown my breasts. My breasts are really bad. That’s where it’s worse. My breasts are what I’m most insecure about. When I was at my largest, I had really big breasts. I thought I naturally had big breasts, I didn’t realize they were just big because I was overweight. So when I started losing the weight and they started going and the skin, now they’re kind of like deflated balloons. I’m single, right? It does always make me think, if I find a man and meet someone, is he going to be disgusted by this? I know I shouldn’t care, but I do. I won’t deny it. I’m human. I’m a woman. It does concern me because I struggle with it. But if I haven’t quite accepted it, how can I expect someone else to?
I was speaking to my cousin actually the other day about my breasts because she asked the same question, if I would get surgery. But the thing is, I’ve got keloid skin. So it’s kind of for me a no-no. I could do that thinking I’m going to fix it, and then give myself another issue and I just don’t think it’s worth it. So I do think I’m going to have to learn to get over it. It’s definitely a work in progress because what I’m trying to undue at the moment is years of low self-esteem. And I’ve kind of gone from having low self-esteem from one body and then having low self-esteem with another body. It’s a lot to get your head around some days. Generally, I have days where I don’t even care and fitness helps with that. But when I’m having low body days, and I tell this to a lot of the girls that follow my Instagram page, try to focus on what your body can do. We hold so much value to the way our body looks, and it can’t be helped because that’s the way society is at the moment. This is what you see. Everything is about everybody else’s body so you start to feel like you’re defined by your body. I try to remind myself that I’m not actually, because irregardless to how my body looks, my body is strong. I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been. Why should I be horrible about this body? It’s doing so much. It’s keeping me alive. I try to remind myself of these things when I have days where it’s hard to look in the mirror. You are more than your body. What about your thoughts and the amazing things you can do? That’s not your body, that’s not the way you look. That’s you as a whole. And that saying, we are wonderfully made. If I’m saying I hate my body, then I’m saying I hate what God has blessed me with.
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Realise that your efforts are not in vain, even if your not seeing any immediate results. 2015 I worked my butt off for a whole year, anything I lost…I gained 💔 believe me it was the most frustrating period of this journey. Patience and perseverance is 🗝 , don't give up even when things seem REALLY hard, it's that really hard period where you get to discover yourself beyond the scale. Keep going and don't quit before the magic happens. #weekendmotivation #keepgoing #duringvsnow
What keeps you motivated to keep doing this? To continue with this healthy lifestyle and journey?
Different things push me. Working out is not just about weight loss or getting muscles. A lot of it is therapy for me. If I’m stressed out, I’m going to go and hit the gym because that’s my time to think and I’m free from any stress. That’s where I get my best ideas sometimes, when I’m trying to get my squat on. I have my a-ha moment [laughs]. In that respect, that motivates me. But another thing, especially since I’ve come this far and I never thought it would happen, I see so many women who don’t believe they can do it. They go for options of surgery, and I’m not against surgery, I think everybody’s struggle is their struggle. Whatever anyone is trying to do to get healthy and in whatever ways they need to do it is positive. But I do think a lot of women don’t give themselves the chance. I feel like my story is for your everyday woman. I want to show real women you can do it. It’s really easy when you’re on Instagram and Twitter and you see a ripped up body from somebody who’s never had weight issues in their life. If I can show a real woman that you can get, not my body but their best version of their body, then I’m up for that. I think sometimes we can box ourselves in an identity, but I want my story to show that you don’t have to, if you want to change, you can change in any way you want to. Women need to see real women doing it and doing it naturally and showing that it doesn’t have to be perfect. All you’ve got to do is keep trying and try to be your best you. I never thought my story would have this impact. I never even thought my story was anything, I just thought I was a girl who lost some weight. But if my story is providing hope, then I’m going to share it as much as possible.