That Itsy Bitsy Kayla Kid With, Like, 5 Million Followers

Men can often be quite dof but they can also be pretty sharp… When we were at university, my friend had a crush on a male model. (Literally). Her sister’s boyfriend was encouraging the crush, so my friend felt she should show him the competition: the male model’s girlfriend, who was also a model. She duly pulled up a picture of the Spanish schmodel online and said “See? Isn’t she stunning?” He took a good look and then responded by saying that whilst she might be considered attractive to most, he had to point out that she didn’t appear to have nostrils…

My husband’s response to my discovery of Kayla Itsines on Instagram was similar. “How is that BODY?” I wanted to know. “Mmm,” he mused, “great stomach but her legs are too skinny”.

Smart move, babe.

I had no idea who Kayla Itsines was, when I created an Instagram account in January. I was on a mission to shed a few kilos after the holidays and I started following a lot of fitness-type people. The hashtag “bbg” was all over Instagram. In fact, it was so widespread that it became very difficult to uncover the actual meaning behind the acronym – it had become part of the everyday lexicon of approximately 4 million people by then. After some digging, I discovered that it stood for “bikini body guide” – a workout and eating programme that one could purchase online if one wanted to look like Kayla. And one does – want to look like Kayla, that is. Skinny legs and all.

According to interviews, Kayla dropped out of university to become a certified personal trainer. Her rise to female fitness stardom began when she started posting pictures of her clients’ body transformations. When I started following her, I was inundated with “before and after” photos of women in bikinis, underwear or skimpy active wear. There were a fair number of Brazilian-style bikini butts: those bathing suit bottoms that aren’t quite dental floss but that don’t leave much to the imagination either.

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With her beautifully bronzed bod, a name like “Itsines” and a bevy of transformed online clients, posing in next-to-nothing, with the kind of sass that I imagined only South Americans can muster, I assumed that Kayla was Brazilian. Not so: she was raised in Adelaide, Australia, by Greek parents, hence the olive skin and year-round tan.

In my early Instagram days, when I was only following a handful of people, I saw a lot of transformed bikini butts but I also saw a lot of Kayla:

Kayla in itsy bitsy gym shorts with her head cocked to the right:

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Kayla in itsy bitsy gym shorts with her head cocked to the left:

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Kayla’s bicep looking impossibly large for her tiny frame

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Kayla’s bullet-stopping abs:

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Kayla’s bullet-stopping abs sore from “period pains”:

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After a while I didn’t think I could, er, stomach another Kayla selfie… Those legs… those abs… they were just too nauseatingly perfect. (And did I mention that she doesn’t drink alcohol at all, ever?) The interesting thing was, however, that many of her online clients around the world, looked about as good as Kayla in their “after” photos: ripped stomachs, defined arms, toned legs. Obviously, for every successful transformation posted, there must be hundreds or even thousands of drop-outs who bought the Bikini Body Guide and didn’t get anywhere near to achieving their dream bodies. But tons did. And I am pretty sure I know why – besides having an online Greek goddess for inspiration.

In 2006, I was attempting to lose weight for my wedding with Weigh Less. There was a free personal training session up for grabs for the person who lost the most weight in a particular week. I dutifully showed up at the next meeting, climbed on the scale and hadn’t lost a gram, but I was in the fortunate position of being the only person who actually attended the group meeting, so the personal training prize was bestowed upon me. I pitched up at the gym all eager for my freebie workout. Instead, I was subjected to a body assessment (hooray) and sales pitch. The monthly cost was way beyond my budget at the time, but I decided to go ahead. It was a turning point in my life, in the sense that the trainer got me from doing zero exercise to working out at least two or three times a week. Since then I’ve seen a personal trainer twice a week for the better part of ten years. I can recall eight different trainers offhand. (Almost all were good, I just like to mix things up). The thing is, not one of them handed me a nutrition plan and told me that if I didn’t largely stick to it, I would wouldn’t see results. The fact that transformations are at least 80% diet, is not new to anyone, but personal trainers don’t seem to recognise that if they don’t devise eating plans – even generic ones –  and spend five minutes of every session monitoring diet, most of their clients will never see results. In my opinion, personal training in the traditional sense needs to radically change.

As for Kayla’s 28 minute home work-out session, I thought it was devised for people with time-consuming careers, long commutes, no childcare etc. But going for an early morning run in winter is ridiculously hard and even making it to the gym before the school run is a challenge in the cold and the dark. So last week I decided to do Day 1 of Week 1 of the Bikini Body Guide. I was literally stiff for five days..

Is Your Body Lotion Making You Fat?

When I started Weight Watchers five months after Chiara was born, I resigned myself to the fact that no matter how long it took, I wanted this to be the last “diet” I ever went on. A year later, I was 13kg slimmer. I wasn’t super skinny but I was within a few kilos of the lower end of the healthy weight range for my height and build. Then I fell pregnant with Joe and I used this as an excuse to indulge. By the end of my pregnancy I had packed on nearly 14kg.

Thanks to an easy birth and a wonderful night nurse, I was back at Weight Watchers 10 days after giving birth and back at personal training when Joe was two weeks old. My gynae explained to me that it would be difficult to shift weight in the first 12 weeks following child birth and he was absolutely right. It did get slightly easier after that and by the December holidays, I had managed to shed close to 11kg of the 14kg gained in pregnancy. But then came Mauritius, overseas guests, Christmas, New Years, my birthday, kiddies’ birthday parties… Every excuse in the book for me to gain back 6kg out of the 11kg I had managed to shift. And if you deduct Joe’s birth weight from the equation, it meant that 8 months after his birth, I was exactly 1.7kg slimmer than the day I gave birth.

Enter severe self-loathing and the decision to do something drastic.

I knew of someone who had shed a fortune of weight very quickly through one of these expensive medical slimming programmes. I generally don’t like diets that make me drink my food instead of eating it, nor do I like ones where I can hardly eat anything. This diet had both of those elements plus one added bonus: a daily injection in the arse. Awesome.

Nonetheless I made an appointment, had a big fat pizza the night before and went to the consultation prepared to starve myself to thinness. I had to smile. The questionnaire wanted to know why I was overweight, as if it were one of life’s great mysteries. “I eat too much,” I wrote.

The briefing with the nurse offered some good news and some bad. The bad news was that the hormone we were to inject daily would take a week to arrive. Psychologically I needed to start immediately. So this was really bad. The good news was that exercise wasn’t really encouraged since you’d be eating basically “eff all”. I could work with that.

Another bad sign was that I was asked three times, by three different people (therapist, nurse, doctor) whether I’d done this before.

“No!” I felt like screaming, “if I done this before I’d be skinny, right? Right? RIGHT?”

Of course the worst news of all was the daily meal plan:

– 30ml of skim milk
– 2 small fruits (excluding bananas and grapes)
– a shake for breakfast
– lunch and dinner: 75g of lean chicken/ fish with 120g of steamed veggies but not the yummy ones like butternut
– 3 provitas (and boy do I look forward to those three bad boys)

The theory behind the programme is that when you inject yourself with the hormone that is activated when humans actually face potential starvation – the HCG hormone – your brain tells your body to attack your fat reserves. But you can’t trick your brain into thinking that you’re starving if you’re not – hence the fact that you can barely eat.

Although I haven’t felt starving on the programme (supposedly the hormone means you don’t feel hungry) I have felt utterly deprived and at times miserably depressed. It has honestly been the hardest diet I have ever been on – and boy, have I been on plenty in my life. However, I have managed to shift 5.5kg after 20 days of (more or less) sticking to the regime in a 30 day period. So, I would argue that it has been worth it, even if I do gain back 1kg after eating one Easter egg this weekend.

Having said this, winter is not the most ideal time of year to go on this diet, because, according to the programme’s literature, you could be giving up cupcakes only to have your starving body guzzle up the calories in your cocoa butter. This is the warning:

“Body lotion and body butter: You will be surprised at the amount of calories body cream, oil, body butter and lotions contain. During the initial 6 week period, it is advisable not to apply any body lotion or cream or oil to your body. The absorption of fat by the skin can make a difference to the total amount of calories consumed…”

So with the beginning of winter and Joburg’s high altitude, I look and feel like a crocodile but at least I’m a slightly skinnier crocodile than I was a month ago…

Home Exec Seeks BFF


During my sabbatical, there’ve been some signs that the whole “Home Exec” thing is not exactly for me. This morning I awoke to another such sign. Overnight, the ceiling-y-thingy underneath our upstairs balcony collapsed. It collapsed in exactly the spot where The Husband spends a significant amount of time puffing on his Peter Stuyvesants. Of course I was suitably grateful that the ceiling-y-thing did not fall on his head, but it would really have killed two birds if it had fallen on a couple of hadedas (‘scuse pun). At least that would have solved one home improvement problem (apparently it’s illegal to shoot the b*ggers) so a fatal piece of falling rhinoplast would have been ideal.

“Oh, Mr Conservation Officer, there’s been a terrible accident…” Instead, nothing but more Home-Maker maintenance. Not my strong point.

On the bright side, however, “my renovator” (that’s what I’m calling him from now on, even though I only met him this morning) could not be sweeter. He’s been running to me excitedly every time he figures out yet another source of our internal waterfalls, looking like he’s cracked a code or something. He then proceeds to explain the solution in great, painstaking, slow motion-like detail. Bless. Now, I want to live in a house where I won’t get rained on while I’m watching TV as much as the next housewife, but it really is a struggle to stay animated about drainage, plaster and pipes.

Aside from the fact that project managing home improvement is not my forte, there’ve been a few other signs that full-time home-making may not be for me. Looking back, I think I began to realise this a couple of months ago. It was after I got it into my head that I needed a partner in crime to help me through this life-changing phase. I rationalised that new mothers had Mom & Snots, the baby boomers had bridge and bowls and the kugels had Tashas. But what about us child-free ladies of leisure? What did we have?

I decided I needed a friend. I just needed to find her. Shortly thereafter, I started seeing this nice, normal-looking girl at the gym in the middle of the morning. She looked about my age and she wasn’t drawling “Hiiiiiii!” to every second gym-goer. “Aha!” I thought. “A fellow outsider! And if she’s working out at 9:30 in the morning she can’t have a regular day job. Maybe we can be friends!!!”

All these thoughts were racing around in my crazy little head, but of course, I was far too cool (too shy) to introduce myself. Then, later that day, I saw her at a coffee shop at the Blubird Centre.

“Oh my God,” I’m thinking, “This is DESTINY! We’re like…TWINS! We hang out at ALL the same places! And she doesn’t have any friends either!”.

It got even better: she had a huge slice of carrot cake in front of her! “She does gym AND she eats cake – OMG, she’s PERFECT”. I’d just arrived at the coffee shop with my current best friend (who was up from Cape Town) and I didn’t want her to think I was completely loony, so I just said, half-joking, “Hey, that’s the girl we saw at the gym this morning. She obviously doesn’t have a job either. Maybe she can be my friend”.

Now, Current Best Friend (CBF) is all about the confidence. At 19, she dragged me into London bars frequented by Naomi Campbell. (Not kidding, I actually saw Ms Campbell once). CBF would walk in looking like she owned the place and, more importantly, like she was simply born to drink champers there. I, on the other hand, would be hiding behind her, praying no-one recognised me as the waitress from the Spur-style joint down the road. So Current Best Friend leant over to New Best Friend and went:

“Hey. We really should sync our schedules”.

New Best Friend looked a bit confused but Current Best Friend was undeterred:

“We saw you at the gym this morning,” she explained.

By this point I was bright red but simultaneously imagining us as mid-week pilates partners and godmothers to our unborn children. I also seemed to have swallowed my tongue but fortunately, Current Best Friend is never short of a word or two, so happily, the conversation was flowing.

As I was half-way through my speech (in my head) for her kid’s christening, we learnt that she was out from London for two weeks her best friend’s wedding.

And that she had a job – and a personal trainer (thank you very much) – in London. (The little beetch). And that’s when I realised I needed to get a life – or a job. Or more Facebook friends. For now, I’ve settled on the latter.

And yes, it’s working pretty well. Thanks for all the birthday messages Facebook friends – you’re the best!

Alarms & Shorty Pyjarms

I have to say that being on sabbatical after a December holiday really helps the back-to-school blues. Despite having trouble keeping track of the days of the week when I got back to the Big Smoke, I managed to rock up for my bi-weekly personal training slot.

At 9am.

I’ve had this decadent, late morning slot for the past 6 months but have struggled to find a training partner – go figure. So when The Iron Man (my personal trainer) asked me whether I’d like to join his A-team of female clients at 6am in the morning, I found myself saying ‘yes’. The word just flew out of my mouth without any instruction from my brain. I think my brain may still have been on South American time, which tends to be a little “behind”.

In order to make the red-eye slot, I calculated that I’d have to get up at 05:30. I also calculated that to get 8 hours sleep (another New Year’s Resolution which is danger of being struck off the list for non-implementation) I’d need to be asleep by 21:30. And so, on Monday night, I dutifully climbed into bed really early and willed myself to sleep. I then fell into a a state somewhere between slumber and alertness, with my mental alarm going “FIVE THIRTY! FIVE THIRTY! FIVE THIRTY!” Needless to say, when that delightful hour finally rolled on, I felt like I’d been hit by a TGV. It was, after all, the crack of dawn so I figured the gym would be a morgue and I figured I could roll out of bed and stumble through the doors without so much as a smidgeon of mascara.

Apparently not.

Who would’ve thought it but Melrose Arse was positively heaving. Even the normally ultra-calm Iron Man was in overdrive. I was hustled to the step machine with the A-teamers and told to “warm-up quickly!”

Jeez, dude. There was none of the customary “hey, how’re you doing, how you’re feeling”. Which was just as well since I would have launched into a long lament over my lack of sleep, how the red eye slot might not be for me after all, etc, etc, etc. But none of the A-teamers had spoken a word so far, so I felt compelled to shut my mouth and to try and imitate their seemingly effortless pull-ups. Each of the girls was even tinier than the first and when The Iron Man did eventually initiate some conversation it was about their marathon training programmes.

“Ja, you need to be doing about 20-30km per day,” he was saying. WTF? (Mind you, I have also heard him say that he “chats to Lance” (Armstrong) on Facebook, so perhaps some of his assertions need to be taken with a pinch of salt.)

Then I learned that super sexy A-Team Member 1 has given birth to two kids and that A-Team Member 2 is in her early forties and five-months pregnant with her third kid. I think the three of them (2 A-teamers plus 1 unborn baby) collectively weigh less than I do.

Suddenly, in my semi-sleepless hungover state, I got the Iron Man’s plan for me: competition. I decided to chill out and just enjoy the work-out. The great thing about Melrose Arse is that no matter how gruelling one’s programme, the characters that frequent the place provide you with priceless entertainment. My current fave is what I’ve termed the “shorty pyjamas”. A few of the guys wear the tiniest, teeniest little pairs of shorts imaginable. I’ve seen similar proportions on Clifton beaches, but these are even better, because they’re nice and loose – they let the breeze in. And then a loose T-shirt is worn so it’s impossible to tell, for sure, how high the shorts have been pulled up. The whole ensemble is just a beaut. The best is – it cracks me up and improves my mood every single time. Bring on the pull-ups!