Fitness guru Sbahle Mpisane, 24, is a symbol of confidence. But it wasn’t always so, for her story begins with the exact opposite: scant self-esteem and a terrible body image.
“As a teenager, I desperately wanted to be thin,” she says. “Pills, diets… nothing changed my natural shape. It wasn’t long before I was sad, angry and terribly self-critical.”
Her first year at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, where she studied housing and town planning, was even worse than boarding school: “I felt depressed and totally out of control.” Then came a morning in October 2014. “I woke up tired of feeling sorry for myself. I felt like I needed to stop fooling around and do something productive. I realised I would always be curvy, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t be healthy and self-accepting. So I started exercising. A week later, I felt like a different person as I learnt to appreciate my body and the discipline that came with training.”
Sbahle posted her progress on social media as a form of personal incentive. “Three months in, I was receiving so many questions and comments that I decided to share my workouts and diet.” And that led to FitnessBunnie, a mix of personal coaching and bootcamps for up to 300 women.
“The past two years have been amazing, with bootcamps in SA, Lesotho and Botswana,” she says. “Now, I want to add more African countries to my programme.”
This year also saw her joining the Nike ‘Believe in More’ team, alongside role models like Caster Semenya and Gena Löfstrand, and instructing thousands of people at the Essence Durban Festival. Next up? Tropika Island of Treasure airing this February.
“I’m very excited, but it’s not just a game for me,” she says. “I’m very competitive.”
See all the 2017 GLAMOUR Women of the Year winners here.
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