Juanita’s journey to self improvement creates her career as fitfluencer

Grappling with chronic depression and anxiety can be crippling to those who suffer from these afflictions. And the impact is often even more devastating for those who lack the means to get help.

This was the unfortunate situation in which Juanita Khumalo found herself. “At that point in my life I was battling my depression and anxiety alone because I couldn’t afford therapy. I subsequently turned to food as a source of comfort, which caused a tremendous amount of weight gain.”


However, Juanita soon realised that this was unsustainable, not to mention downright unhealthy. “I knew I needed a lifestyle change and instead turned to fitness as my coping mechanism of choice.”

Cardio queen

At the outset, Juanita would engage in endless cardio to keep her mind occupied and help her lose weight. “My approach lacked any significant focus on weights and functional training, though,” she explains.

While she lost a lot of weight initially, much of this was muscle which isn’t ideal. “I decided to get a personal trainer, who helped me realise that weights are not the enemy. In fact, weights can be a more effective means to burn fat and I soon started to realise the changes I wanted and create a more defined physique.”

Diet change

Of course, the best gym programme would be largely ineffective without an appropriate eating plan.

“At first I followed a really restrictive diet throughout the week, but on weekends I would overeat which counteracted all my hard work.”

To ensure her efforts in the gym had the desired impact, Juanita invested a great deal of time and effort into researching the best approach to both her nutrition and her training.

“I aim to apply the 80/20 rule when it comes to my eating. I ensure that I eat a healthy, balanced diet 80% of the time, with the other 20% offering room to play with because, to be quite honest, being on an overly restrictive does not work. Most people end up binge eating and that’s how most viscous cycles begin. This may also potentially lead to eating disorders.”

Juanita also practices mindful eating and is constantly aware of her emotional triggers. “This entails taking time to enjoy your food and realising how the foods you eat makes you feel and what it does to your body. When you follow this approach you’ll start to develop a healthier relationship with food.”

Exercise overhaul

Juanita’s new approach also consists of exercise six times a week at 5am for 1.5 hours. “I incorporate a lot of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) – it’s my favourite yet toughest workout because I love a challenge. I combine it with moderately heavy weights at each station (usually 6 stations) and do light cardio during active rest periods between each station. This workout is not longer than 40 minutes, but it really blasts fat and keeps your heart rate elevated.”

Juanita’s weekly training split?

  • Monday – Back and biceps
  • Tuesdays – Chest and triceps
  • Wednesday – Legs and glutes
  • Thursday – Abs
  • Thursday – Full body workout
  • Friday – HIIT + abs
  • Saturday – Legs and glutes
  • Sunday – Rest

While Juanita still includes cardio exercise for the benefits, she has realised that combining it with other strength training exercises delivers the greatest benefits, particularly in terms of body transformation.

Updated approach

Since losing 10 kilos, Juanita sought to maintain her new physique by following a calorie maintenance plan that combined a healthy balance of all 3 macronutrients groups – proteins, carbs and fats.

“I usually bake and grill my food – I literally put my veggies on the baking tray and, boom, 20 minutes later my food is ready! I find the simpler my meals are, the better. This also makes it easier to measure my calories.”

Juanita is now shifting her dietary approach to align with her 2019 goal, which is to build more muscle. “As such, my diet now includes more protein and carbs. I’ve also increased my daily calorie intake to work towards this goal.”

Her aim is emulate the physique of Frantzcesca Casimir (@fancy85fit_). “I know I have a lot of work to do to look like that, but I love a challenge!”

Juanita’s supplement approach to support her efforts in the gym and the kitchen includes a pre-workout, BCAAs during her workout, and whey isolate protein after training and during the course of the day to supplement her protein intake and aid muscle repair and recovery.

Next steps

Juanita says her next investment will be to complete a nutrition and personal training course to inform her approach and enable herto better advise her growing online community.

“This is important because so many women have come to see me as a source of guidance and inspiration for living a healthier and better life and want to know how I achieved my transformation. I want to give them the most beneficial advice possible.”

Juanita says her greatest ambition in life now is to use her purpose and passion to a build wellness and fitness empire. “My main objective is to serve the world and create positivity that can change the lives of others.”

In this regard, she has already launched her wellness company called Trove Wellness. “I’ll be hosting Trove Fitness Bootcamp regularly and hope to see them grow as my influence in the fitness community broadens through my continued efforts. I believe being a fitness influencer is my calling and purpose and I hope to live a life which fulfils it.”

Quick facts:

Favourite music to train to? Depends on the exercise. Weight training – hip hop. Cardio and functional training – fast paced music like dance and electro

Favourite exercise? Legs! I could name more, but my fave 2 are leg presses and deadlifts

Favourite cheat meal? Sushi and dessert. An Oreo McFlurry or cake or ice-cream. Anything sweet really.

What do you do to relax? I have a lazy day at home spent reading, or I catch up with friends, attend church or sleep!

What’s in your gym bag? I’ve got 2 gym bags – 1 for my change of clothes and toiletries, which I keep in the locker and one I carry inside the gym with resistance bands, gloves, knee guards, mountain gliders, a water bottle and a supplement bottle.

Author: Pedro van Gaalen

When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.

When he's not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He's worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.

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