Our special Rubies and Potters guest here at FamilyRubies today is Ella Enweonwu, a lawyer, a Ph.D. research student and a health and fitness guru. We are honored to have Ella share her beautiful story with us.
Prior to this guest feature, we have featured several professionals and entrepreneurs in the “Rubies and Potters” section of our blog. We do this to promote entrepreneurship, the need for people to develop their skills and talents and still be outstanding in all other areas of life.
Ella is giving Rubies and Potters another unique twist today. Ella is reminding us that “it is health that is real wealth, not pieces of gold and silver” – quote by Mahatma Gandhi
Rubies & Potters is a section of our blog where we bring to you great minds doing great things to keep you motivated and challenged! We’re taking time out to celebrate them and showcase them to the world in our own beautiful way.
Join us let’s do this together…
Good day, Ella, where are you originally from and where do you currently reside?
I am originally from Anambra state, Nigeria but reside in the United Kingdom
What is your religion/faith or belief?
I’m a Christian, I’m born again
When is your birthday?
1st January (Aww..she is a new year baby!)
Can you please share a bit of your educational background with us?
My early primary school education spans about 4 – 5 primary schools across Nigeria -Onitsha, Owerri, Maiduguri, Lagos and Abuja all due to frequent movements necessitated by my parents’ jobs. I had my Secondary School education at Federal Government Girls’ College Onitsha between 1997-2003. Afterward, I proceeded to study Law at the University of Abuja, and then to the Nigerian Law School Abuja Campus and was called to the prestigious Nigerian Bar on October 5, 2011. In 2013, I went on to get a Masters degree in International Human Rights Law from Birmingham City University, United Kingdom and in 2015 I got my Postgraduate Diploma in Research practice. In the same year, I began my Doctoral Research in Human Rights Law (with focus on child marriage in Nigeria) all in the same University. I am also an Associate Fellow of the United Kingdom Higher Education Academy.
Why did you choose law?
To be honest, I didn’t choose law. It was not my idea to study law in the first place. I originally wanted to be a Doctor, a Gynecologist to be precise, but somehow that didn’t happen. After my first JAMB where I had applied to study medicine at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, my folks somehow convinced me to switch over to the arts (long story). It was a huge switch for me but I survived. For me, it was either be a doctor or be a newscaster (I had a thing for the CNN newswomen those days) but my dad won’t hear of me studying journalism or mass communication as it was called. He insisted on a “professional course” and in the arts, that meant LAW.
Are you currently practicing? If not what occupies most of your time?
I do not practice law now mainly because I do not live in Nigeria at the moment and I have occupied myself with my research. Also, my passion for being healthy and keeping fit takes up my time too.
Ella, it seems like yesterday, looking back at how much you’ve achieved for yourself within this space of time is commendable. Please share your fitness story and how your journey to living a healthy life started.
I grew up as the chubby kid, chubby friend, chubby schoolmate…wait, who am I kidding? I was FAT! Lol. I was constantly taunted about my weight and to make matters worse I was blessed with big hips and a generous behind. It was called baby fat as a kid and all the adults then said “she will outgrow it” Well, I didn’t. Fast forward to when I had to stay at home for a year waiting to get into the university and the baby fat graduated to obesity. This time around people said, “not everyone is meant to be slim”. At 17 years I weighed about 75kg and by the time I finished university at 23 years, I weighed over 100kg! I am barely 5ft 3″ so you can imagine how all that weight made me look like – ROUND
Don’t get it wrong, I did try so many times to lose weight (especially trying fad diets and taking all manner of pills and concoctions) but somehow I piled it on again and I gave up so easily when I wasn’t seeing results fast.
Wow, what was the next step you took?
In June 2014, after series of tests in the UK, I was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome popularly called PCOS. That was the first time I was hearing about it and I was truly afraid. Thankfully, I was told it wasn’t cancerous or deadly but it messes up with a woman’s hormones. Sadly, some of the side effects of PCOS is UNUSUAL WEIGHT GAIN and increase in appetite. I was told there is NO CURE for it and the only way it could only be managed is by losing some weight. How can I lose weight when the damn thing makes me gain weight? Of course, this meant that any effort to lose weight will be fought by this PCOS and I will have to put in twice the effort a normal person puts in. Phew! I wasn’t ready for this stress. I took about two weeks to think things through and eventually decide to do something.
When did your weight loss journey start specifically?
I began my weight loss journey in July 2014 weighing over 125kg and with a BMI of 49 screaming OBESITY. I decided I wanted a faster method so I went with the Cambridge diet –just another sophisticated fad diet if you ask me. This diet involves not eating any regular food but their shakes and soup. I really don’t know how I survived the 2months I signed up for but I managed to and lost a whopping 18kg just under 9weeks! Yea the feeling of victory was good and I was beginning to love the new me. But it was short lived.
Short-lived? What happened?
In September 2014 I lost my dad suddenly. That loss was unbearable and I was in a huge shock. I became depressed and by March 2015 I had gained nearly all the weight back (about 15kg)
In April 2015, I decided to start all over again but this time the right way. I began to read about the best and effective way to shed weight and keeping it off permanently. I wanted something sustainable. From my mini research, I found out that the only sustainable way out of obesity is exercising and eating healthy. I started out by jogging for about 45mins – an hour, 4-5 days a week then later registered in a gym. I later discovered the benefits of weightlifting and I incorporated that into my routine.
So far, I have lost about 35kg and I am looking to lose 15kg more by the end of 2017.
Wow! kudos to you Ella, what do you currently do for a living?
Besides my research programme, I lecture part-time at Birmingham City University. I also provide online weightloss programs for ladies (personalized meal plans, workout guides etc) I also write on the side too. I run a blog where I talk about everything that catches my attention -http://redvelvetts.blogspot.co.uk/
How do you combine all these activities and still have it all together?
Hmmmn! Big question. Lol. Contrary to popular opinion I do not have it all together. It has been difficult combining being a full-time Ph.D. student, part-time job, trying to lose weight full time and helping other people on the side. It can be mentally draining but I try to find a balance. Some days I find that balance and I feel proud of myself for doing so well. On other days I don’t. But I never beat up myself for too long. I simply pick myself up and keep pushing! In this life, we can only try with God on our side.
Tell us about a memorable day or event on this journey.
I think that will be the day I lost my first 50lbs and the second will be the day I finally got below 100kg mark on the scale. But in all sincerity, every day I stay on track on this journey is a memorable day.
Ella, are you married?
No, not married.
Do you think being single at this time has contributed to your success story? If yes, how?
In all fairness, I think so. With no husband and a child or children, I am my own boss. I cook what I want and when I want and go to the gym whenever I want too. I think being married would have made it a little different but not difficult or impossible. I have a lot of married friends who have lost weight even with kids. So being married is no excuse to pursue your fitness goals.
Describe yourself in one word
GO-GETTER (we concur!)
What motivates you?
Fitness wise? I do not want to be the girl I used to be- obese, depressed, low self-esteem and shy because of my weight problems. I love the confidence I have now and how outspoken I am. I won’t trade that for anything. Career wise? Seeing young girls struggle/suffer under the shackles of age long traditions (like forced marriage) makes me want to do more. I want to help young women understand their place in the society and show them they have a voice.
Ella, do you have any mentors? If yes, who are your mentors?
Several of them. Every strong woman is a mentor to me. The likes of the legendary Oprah Winfrey, Chimamanda Adichie, Maya Angelou, Michelle Obama, Ngozi okonjo-Iweala etc
Your favorite life quote(s)
I have several of them. I’ll give a few:
You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them -MAYA ANGELOU
Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.- BARACK OBAMA
What are your aspirations in the next 5years?
A lot! But I want to focus on bagging that Ph.D. degree, become a household name within the women and child rights’ circle especially in Africa and write a book for young women.
What advice do you have for all the fitfams and aspiring fitfams out there?
JUST START. The time will never be right. Just start off and wobble/crawl along if you have to. You will eventually find the balance. You do not have to know it all to start off, all you need to have is your desire and passion to gift yourself a better, healthier and fit body. Also, do not look for quick fixes. They work but only temporarily. The old-fashioned way of exercising and eating healthy is still the surest and most sustainable method. It might take a while but it will get you there.
There are a lot of people out there who wish to lose weight, keep fit and adopt a healthier lifestyle but have no motivation, what words of advice/encouragement do you have for them?
Motivation is vital. you cannot lose weight without motivation. You need to find the reason why you have to do this. It could be for your kids, to improve your self-esteem or build body confidence. Whatever it is make sure it is something you can keep referring to for a long time to come. Motivation isn’t owned, every day you have to wake up, find that reason and keep fighting.
Any closing remarks?
Thank you Family Rubies for the opportunity to share my story on your platform!
Thank you, Ella! You go, girl!
Dear readers, if you have been inspired by Ella’s story, you can follow her on Instagram @ella_az and remember to share this article to inspire others…
Visit www.familyrubies.com “Rubies and Potters” category for more of our wonderful “Rubies and Potters guests!”
Thanks for reading.