Zintle Ntshikila

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In 2016, Elle South Africa named Zintle Ntshikila’s “@Teamhlasela” one of five South African Health Instagrams to follow. Today, it remains clear why she was given that title. Perusing her page is instant motivation. The weight-loss consultant, fitness junkie and self-made healthy home cook posts vivid, enticing images of fresh produce and dishes she’s prepared and inspiring before and afters chronicling her personal health journey. It’s hard to believe that the fit and fashionable Ntshikila, or “Zie Ntshiks” as she’s known, was once more than 100 pounds heavier. She shares her story on Essentials.com, “I’d always been on the larger side, and had endured teasing about my weight throughout childhood...The problem was, I was so used to being chubby; it was my ‘normal’. So I didn’t watch what I ate…”

A pivotal moment came in 2012, after she attended South Africa’s popular annual fashion, food, music and horse racing event then called the J&B™ Met. “I saw photos of myself, and I cried for three days. The realization finally hit: I was fat, and I needed to make a drastic change.” She stopped eating fast food and began cooking her meals, integrating more fresh vegetables into her diet and exercising portion control. She cut out bread, meat and sugar and hydrated obsessively. She slowly began integrating physical activity into her daily routine. Walks with her husband became jogs, and before she knew it the pounds were dropping off. Her Instagram progress updates were initially ways for inspired friends to keep track of her progress, but they grew to touch the lives of people across the globe.

With now more than 100 thousand followers, she marvels at the way social media can make connections. “Social media is a fabulous place to find daily fitness inspiration and motivation because there are so many people—all at different fitness levels—posting,” she tells Essentials. “I’ve also found that following someone on a similar path to you helps take some of the drudgery out of losing weight.” Still, Zee notes that everyone has their own unique fitness journey. Her best advice is to know that “You are your only competition; don’t compare your pace to anyone else, and only strive to beat your personal best.”