Tumi Sebole – the incredible journey in losing weight and keeping fit

Boitumelo Sebole (Tumi) is one of the regular runners at the Kathu Parkrun. She is such a bubbly and energetic lady whose life seems to revolve around keeping fit and healthy. However, things were not always this way. I spoke to Tumi to get the secret about her incredible turnaround in weight loss and fitness. We also spoke a little bit about her background and  her role at Kumba Sishen Iron Ore mine, here in Kathu.

We simply had to profile Tumi because her story was so inspirational.  What struck me about Tumi during the park runs in Kathu was not her speed but determination during the run even when it was bitterly cold.  My wife, who is a colleague to Tumi at the mine,  could not believe Tumi’s transformation over the past few years. They worked together at Kumba Sishen Mine so the she was able to see the changes first hand.

Professional Background

Tumi was born and bred in Moruleng, Rustenburg. She studied there, did her primary and high school. She then went to do study an Bachelor of Science (BSc) Mining Engineering (Honours) in 2004 at WITS and completed her degree  in 2007. She started her mining career in January 2008 at TAC Drilling as a Junior Planning Officer. She worked there from January 2008 until May 2010. In May 2010 she moved to Anglo American Platinum as a mining engineering until March 2014.

Tumi completed National Certificate- Rock Breaking Underground Hardrock-Conventional Mining at Anglo American Platinum School of Mines Training Center, in December 2012. She gained valuable mining experience in underground mining. She obtained a Shift Supervisor Technical Promotion Certificate in September 2013, from Anglo American Platinum School of Mines Training Center.

In April 2014, Tumi then moved to Kathu and began working as a Shift Supervisor at Anglo American Kumba Iron Ore. She moved to Short-term Planning Department as a Mine Planner: Prestrip, in December 2015.

She is currently working as a Line Specialist: Operating Model at Anglo American Kumba Iron Ore, Sishen Mine where she moved to after the restructuring. She a miner at heart, a production girl. She loves mining. Since she  went into mining its been her life. She has been in the industry for almost 9 years.  Its been rough but she is enjoying the road!

Some background 

Tumi before the transformation


In March 2016 Tumi weighed 130 kilograms. She was seriously overweight and knew that things simply could not continue that way. Her parents had hypertension and diabetes and Tumi knew she was quickly headed in that direction as well. On 13 March 2016 she made a decision and embarked on a journey that would transform her life for forever.

And now for the transformation


At the time of writing this article in August 2017, Tumi is now weighing an incredible 84 kilograms. She has lost an amazing, unbelievable 46 kilograms. This has not been achieved through an overnight, shock-and-awe type diet but a very consistent and determined healthy life approach over many many months.

Here is her story in her own words, with some slight editing. Read on and be inspired ladies and gentlemen!

Before we get into into Boitumelo’s story about her transformation in weight loss, healthy eating and fitness, let’s find out a bit about her role at work. She has been in the mining industry for almost 9 years.

What’s it like to be a woman in mining?

Being a woman in mining is actually interesting. What I have found challenging is that there are few women who remain in production especially when you have to start a family. Being a mother and being in production is not easy.  I believe that women are handling that challenge very well.

It is amazing how we have evolved to take on these roles in a male-dominated environment and we still need to have more female mining engineering graduates to remain in production instead of diverting off into mine planning, technical services or consulting.I believe that women still need to play their role in the production world. We have a lot of input that we can offer to the production world. We are just as capable as men.

What made you decide to lose weight?

The reason why I started in the first place, I was tired of my lifestyle. When I started I was always tired, after working shifts.  I would just come from work,eat and sleep. Things needed to change. That was my AHA moment. I decided that I would take it one step at a time.

Where and how did the journey begin?

The journey began with me going to the gym in March 2016. Around April, I decided to look into my nutrition and to start cooking food at home instead of eating takeaways . In the past I never ate breakfast. I started with 21-day goals, introducing breakfast and then for the next 21 days I adjusted my snacks and it went on from there. I saw a big drop in my weight with the change to my eating habits and going to gym.

To what extent did the decision to lose weight and how did it influence your life? And your family?

Well with this decision to lose weight, it didn’t start as a decision to lose weight, it was more of a lifestyle change. It influenced my life tremendously.  My energy levels started picking up at work and at the gym. With my family initially they were very concerned about my weight, it was more of negative than supportive role. When they saw the weight coming off they started asking questions. They wanted to know what I was doing to lose weight. However, I didn’t indulge them on the details because it was more of a self-support system.

Biggest support was from friends

The biggest support I enjoyed was from my friends who would cheer me even when I did not feel like waking up to go and exercise. It is a good thing that my friends were there for me who urged me to keep at it. Documenting everything that I was going through for instance my days and my workouts, at least most of it  was important to me. I share my experience on Instagram and Facebook. That is where I document my life journey which also acts as a reminder on why I started this and the steps that I took to be successful. It helps to keep me in check when I deviate from my journey.

This journey has taught me a lot about myself. Its been a challenging and beautiful journey. It’s a constant battle coming from a family with diabetes and hypertension.

What have been the big milestones in the journey?

The biggest milestone in terms of my achievements was being able to run my 21 km, the Pokwane marathon. I was really proud of myself. I never stopped running from there, just pushing my boundaries in terms of activities.  I was just kept pushing myself. I never thought I would never run 21 km in my life. I actually hated running.

My biggest challenge is actually focussing on nutrition. Nutrition can make or break the challenge to lose weight. Maintaining nutrition is still a challenge and beating the sugar addiction was one of the toughest challenges along the way. Taking down my sugar challenges has been one of my biggest achievements. I have significantly brought down the sugar levels in my food.

What kind of a diet do you have and how do you stick to it?

I don’t have a set diet or diet plan as such. Like I said I started with introducing breakfast in my daily routine. I did some research to find out the best foods to eat. I started with muesli, yoghurt, I started using protein shakes in the morning. For mid-morning snacks then fruit and grape tea. For lunch I I would have a sandwich or have some veggies and chicken. For midday snacks I would have my nuts and my fruits. Then in the night I would have a smoothie or protein shake after working out and having something light. So I don’t really have a set diet plan. It was more trial and error and trying to reduce the sugar intake and have more portion control.

Sticking to the diet is a challenge, a daily challenge.  I had to sacrifice some of my favourite foods like chocolate and coke. I used to drink a a great deal of coke. I try to stick to the diet as much as possible, at least 80 percent of the time. It is not a smooth journey I don’t want to lie to you. There are still cravings but I try to manage them. The 80/ 20 rule applies, 80 percent is nutrition and 20 percent is working out. I run and do a lot of aerobics.

You seem to run and jog a lot. Tell us more about that!

With running it started off as walking on the treadmill. Everyone was feeling sorry for me at the gym when they started seeing me committing to the gym. They thought this lady is so big, how on earth is she going to make it. So I started with walking. My friend Nozi motivated me to take part in the parkrun and the plan was only to do 5 kilometres but we ended up doing 10. That was my first time doing 10 kilometres. That was the happiest day of my life and I have never stopped runnning since.

When I have a chance over the weekend I go for the weekly Kathu parkrun if I have not gone home to Rustenberg. If there is a race in Kimberley I might go for that as well.  I joined the Sesheng Athletics Club so I have my licence to run on the road. So it is running all the way.

What advice would you have for anyone who wants to lose weight and to live a healthy live?

My advice to someone who wants to lose weight is you need to start with your mindset. You need to want it as badly as you want to sleep. If you don’t want it that badly you will not put in the effort required to achieve it. Keep at it once you start. Want it so much that it’s the last thing you want to do. Everything starts with your mind . Your body does what you tell it. Sometimes I have difficulty in getting up to go to the gym.

Sometimes if I am less motivated to eat clean but the mind will motivate me to follow through. I end up going to the gym even if I am tired and fatigued.  The mind is the most powerful part of our body.

My advice is make that decision and stick to it. Have a reason why you want to do it in the first place. My reason was to live a healthier lifestyle.  My parents are diabetic and hypertensive. I have already picked up on the hypertension and this was not an option for me. I had to live healthy not for anyone else. Nothing about what people are going to say or keeping others happy. The decision was mine and I wanted to be happy with myself and my life.   I recommend the 80/ 20 rule, 80 percent being nutrition and 20 percent working out and exercise.

Now I am going to be doing bungee jumping. I could not do this because of my weight. Now I can do all things I could not do when I was overweight and it’s not a good thing being overweight. Everything has to be all for you. So just start with your mind. Even with running 2 kilometres, keep moving.

When I started working out I committed to one hour a day for the week, 4 days in a week to exercise then I increased my times from there. Right now I work out a minimum of 6 days a week. I do aerobics at the gym.  I have incorporated running and spinning in the gym as well. I need to incorporate more of weightlifting. I am looking forward to running the Soweto Marathon in November.

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How about that for some inspiration? If you really want to do something and put your mind to it, anything is possible as Tumi showed. What an amazing journey!