Health, Not Size Journey

Apr 21, 2020
Written by
Marciel Hopkins
Photographed by
Marciel Hopkins

decided to enter Miss South Africa in 2015. As a curvy girl wearing a size 14 jean, I knew I’d had to lose weight first. I only had 4 months to do it before appearing in a bikini in front of panel of judges for the first judging round of Miss South Africa. I was always the bigger girl in my group of friends when attending high school, even though I always dreamed of becoming a model. Realising I will never be skinny enough to become a model, I thought of Miss South Africa as my final opportunity to be in front of camera before my “adulting” life starts. Embarking on my journey to become Miss South Africa, I ended up losing 14kg in 4 months!

I was training 2 to 3 hours a day, doing intense weight training with my personal trainer and cardio in my free time. I remember doing up to 4 spin classes a day in a desperate attempt to lose weight as quickly as possible. In-between training and obsessive healthy eating, I was running on a very tight schedule: Completing my honours degree in psychology from Stellenbosch University and I was Primaria of my residence. I was adding a lot of pressure on myself by pushing my body to be “bikini-ready” in only 4 months, but I got addicted to the feeling of losing weight every week: It kept me going!

I was obsessed with healthy/clean eating: I cut out all sugar, alcohol, bread, pasta, pasteries and red meat. I researched fat burning foods and I was living off protein shakes, skinless chicken, boiled eggs, raw vegetables, green apples and 8 cups of green tea a day. I was drinking large amounts of tea to try and keep myself warm. I was losing weight so quickly, that my body was struggling to adjust to the cold winter weather. I would weigh myself every week, keeping track of every gram weight I lost. When I gained as little as 200g, I would cut something out of my diet. I looked at myself in the mirror, week after week, not being happy with my body or my progress. I was never satisfied, as I knew I could even be smaller and more toned. I used to look at my bum thinking, “You should be smaller and your cellulite is disgusting.”  I don’t think I was ever truly myself when I had a smaller body, even though the world thought I was rocking hot. Even after losing 14kg, I never felt good enough, because I was measuring myself against wordly, beauty standards.

My Miss South Africa journey filled up one year of my life. I ended up being a top 12 finalist, which was a massive achievement for me who had no previous beauty pageant experience. It was a year of intense training, obsessive healthy eating and constantly comparing myself to unrealistic beauty ideals. I was in a daily battle with food and my body ; struggling to keep her smaller than what she wanted to be. I had food anxiety, massive self-esteem issues and I realised it wouldn’t be realistic for me to maintain this “forced body” on the long run. Within 3 months after the competition ended, I was back to my normal body size as I was before the competition. I went back to my normal lifestyle quite quickly: Enjoying a glass of champagne with my girlfriends and having a barbeque with my family over weekends. I was still training 3 to 4 times a week, but my body went back to her natural, happy place.

My transition sounds quick and carefree, but it was really hard! I was going through severe identity and body issues after gaining the weight again. It felt like I disappointed people and I was ashamed of the weight that I put on. It was a two year journey for me to really grow into a place of self love and body acceptance after Miss South Africa. Today, at the age of 27, I am happier and healthier than ever before. I feel confident and comfortable in my own skin, without having the need to measure myself against the worlds’ beauty standards. I realise that health is a holistic state of well-being and it’s not just about how I look from the outside, but also about how I feel from the inside.

I signed my first contract as a curvy model 3 months after Miss South Africa. That didn’t mean that I was suddenly the most confident woman in the room, but being more body positive was something I was actively working on. My new mantra is being kinder to myself and appreciating my body for the fascinating vehicle she was. I did not step on a scale once after Miss South Africa. I made a decision to never be defined by numbers again, nor will my shape or size determine how worthy I am: I am worthy either way.

Today I am an international model, life coach, inspirational speaker and TV presenter.

It was an interesting body journey that I embarked on 5 years ago,

but I honestly believe it made me the woman I am today. I have learned many valuable things that I can now share with other women all across the world: Healthy looks different on every body and we cannot compare ourselves to unrealistic body goals on Instagram/the internet. We can only strive towards being the happiest and healthiest version of ourselves. Bodies are not static or perfect; they move and change as our lives evolve. Always remember: You are worthy of love and respect, no matter your shape or size.

Some of my best tips/thoughts to help you with more body confidence:

- do a social media clean up; unfollow all pages that don’t inspire you

- stop weighing yourself, a number on a scale can never define your worth; rather focus on feeling healthy in your own skin

- set mini goals for yourself in terms of exercise and healthy eating, it should never overwhelm you

- find exercise that you like, it should never feel like punishment

- exercise is not punishment for what you ate, but rather a celebration of what your body can do

- never feel guilty for eating, unless you stole the food ;)

- throw out old clothes that you don’t fit into anymore, it’s not good for your self esteem to hold onto it

- stop spending time with people that make you feel bad about yourself or who criticise other bodies, it’s not good for you mental health

- more self love, less self critique!


Warm regards,

Marciel Hopkins

Say hello on insta - @marcielhopkins

MORE articles

You May Also Like

Courtney Faith: A Journey to Self-Love in the Heart of Orlando

Like many navigating the complex tapestry of societal expectations, Courtney found herself entangled in the web of unrealistic beauty standards. The struggle to appreciate and love her body fully was a poignant chapter in her life, marked by moments of pressure to conform to a predefined image.

Read More