“You should go see Josh”


AT HIS BEST: A now healthy and strong Joshua Irwin at the Wits gym.
Photo: Sibusisiwe Nyanda

Joshua Irwin had been overweight all his life. During his first year at Wits, his weight reached the point that he was forced to use the disabled parking area.

He remembers the shame of being “effectively disabled” by his weight. At his heaviest, Irwin weighed 130kg.

But two years ago, the third year Psychology major took matters into his own hands and, on his own healthy eating plan, Irwin lost 55kg in eight months. And this year, the self-confessed former sugar and carbohydrate addict took his quest for health a step further.

He is now a nutritional coach and personal trainer. The business idea came to him after he joined the Wits gym and saw “most people doing stupid things”. He became the “go-to guy” after people heard about his success.

He has since landed 13 clients, eight of whom are fellow Witsies. A former anthropology major, Kirby Randall, lost 12kg on his plan. Irwin claims another client lost 9kg in two months and that his own mother lost 12kg after taking some of his nutrition advice.

Irwin’s approach to nutrition goes against some well-known theories about how to get healthy. He argues people don’t need six meals a day to function, especially because most people underestimate the portions they have.

He fasts 16 hours in a day and stays away from carbohydrates and sugar. “By accident I didn’t have carbs once and I decided to go a few days without.”
He says the cravings for unhealthy foods “disappeared” when he stayed away from bread, grains and sugar.
He also doesn’t believe in using food as a reward.
A friend once told him: “Never reward yourself with what you’re trying to recover from.”
At 77kg, Irwin has come a long way from the first year who couldn’t walk from student parking areas.
“Walking uphill and downhill from East to West Campus can be incredibly painful when you’re overweight.”

For a long while, he tried to lose weight but would gain it back. He saw nutritionists for help but felt their “cut and paste” eating plans were impersonal and out of date. Irwin said his confidence had taken a beating.
“I was just tired of it and it hurt. You get overlooked often. You’re not even in the friend zone – you’re just not an option because you’re not desirable.”
He enjoys being able to be more sociable now. “I remember feeling I was extremely visible for my weight, not because I was a nice person or because I was smart … It was just, you know, that fat white guy with long hair. People would have preconceived ideas about you.”

He believes being thin is linked to how well people deal with their past life experiences.
Nutritionists miss this point, he argues, and this leads to their clients not being able to conquer weight problems successfully.
Irwin plans to do his Honours and Masters in psychology, focusing on behavioural and eating abnormalities. He feels the person-centred approach of therapy will help develop more meaningful relationships with his clients.
He wants to be the “go-to guy” for fitness and health in Johannesburg and has his sights on famous South Africans.
“I want celebrities who have had weight problems to be able to tell their friends: ‘You should go see Josh’, because of my work.”

SLICE: Skinny versus Fit

Liesl Slice

Liesl Frankson

IT’S THE time of the year when the reality of all the bad, unhealthy decisions we’ve made through winter start to weigh heavily on our shoulders…not to mention our waistlines and buttocks.

As the weather changes and we shed layers of clothing, we are struck by a sudden urge to shed a few extra kilos in the process.  With one month to go before spring, the Wits Vuvuzela newsroom, like the rest of South Africa, has been hit by a workout wave.

Fitness challenge

I’ll be the first to admit I’ve also taken up the fitness challenge. Thanks to one of our journalists, there’s now a scale at the front of the newsroom and I think everyone is looking for a quiet moment to weigh themselves so they can assess the damage when no one’s looking.

Even though we’re calling it the fitness challenge, most of us seem to be obsessed with losing weight. Most people automatically assume skinny people are fit, but that is definitely a factoid. I’ve met people who weigh far more than me, but are able to do physical activities I’ve only dreamed about in my wildest fitness fantasies.

I look at these people and admire them because they’ve got it right. They are healthy and fit. That should be the ultimate goal. It shouldn’t be eating once a day so you can look like a reed in your shorts after you’ve been pigging out all winter. Because no one can tell what you look like under all that clothing.

 Hollywood has okayed the big booty

Even though things have changed and Hollywood has okayed the big booty, we’re still trapped in a place where we think the hollow-cheeked look is sexy and – stranger still – we continue to resort to extreme means to achieve it. Extreme diets dominate our lives even though we know how bad they are for us. The solution is simple: exercise!

Instead of taking the lift to get your doughnut, how about using the stairs? If you aren’t willing to exercise, then face facts and start eating more healthily. So stop complaining and take action. If you don’t like what you see, change it. You can eat anything you want in moderation, so watch those portions. Get active every little bit counts.

If good old-fashioned exercise and healthy living isn’t your thing there are plenty of other fun ways to get the job done. Dancing is one way. Turn on your favourite song and shake it up for a good hour, you could burn anything between 300 and 700 calories without even noticing.

If you forget about being skinny for a second and chase after a healthier, fitter you

If you forget about being skinny for a second and chase after a healthier, fitter you, I’m almost certain your new dream body won’t be too far behind. And remember your dream body doesn’t have to be the slim and slender physique of Keira Knightley or Nicole Kidman if its not in your genes and, if it is, lucky you. We’re all different and we need to embrace and work with what we have been given.

Whatever you choose to do, start now and do it all year round. Then you can be the one laughing at those of us in a tailspin over how we’re going to look in our shorts when summer arrives, asking us  to show her what we’re working with.