Bradwin Roper’s weight has always yo-yoed. From a scrawny university student to a super-sized (but super successful) businessman, the FNB Connect CEO never paid much attention to his body’s massive fluctuations. “Honestly, I just used to think of my body as a vessel that was there to carry around my brain,” he admits, laughing. “I wasn’t treating it well.” Bottomline: he needed to shed weight.
A series of poor decisions and even worse habits saw Roper pack on the pounds until he was tipping the scales at 140kg. He developed Type 2 diabetes and hypertension; two conditions that were commonplace in his “big” family. “I didn’t think about staying active or what I was eating,” he says. An average day would see him skip breakfast and lunch, leading to a monolithic binge in the evening as he tried to squeeze 24 hours-worth of calories into a single meal. A study in the journal Proceedings of the Nutrition Society found that those who forgo their morning grub are more likely to miss out on important nutrients and make unhealthy choices with the rest of their fare.
The Wake-Up Call
On the cusp of turning 30, Roper visited his GP. The prognosis was grim: “He told me that at this rate, it would be surprising if I made it to 40,” says the CEO. All signs pointed to a serious health crisis unless he acted right now. He reached out to Tess van der Merwe, a professor of endocrinology, and several other experts who could help him engineer the ultimate intervention. Their advice helped him build the kind of habits he was sorely lacking before, applying science to a lifestyle that had previously been running off the rails.
When it comes to his daily menu, Roper likes to keep it simple. “I have one golden rule: make sure you’ve always got a healthy plate,” he adds. Simply put, he aims for 50% protein, 25% carbs and 25% veg at every meal. And he’s no longer skipping breakfast.
When he started his journey to shed weight, Roper was working as an expat in Lesotho. He needed to get moving, and there were hundreds of kilometres of terrain for him to explore. “I tried to keep it fun,” he says. “One day I’d go mountain biking, the next I’d hike for hours and hours.” His goal was to do something active—read: anything—every day. It’s this emphasis on fun that has carried through to his early morning workouts today, too. “I’m not strict on what I have to do,” he says. “I try to find things I enjoy, whether it’s a class or lifting weights.” Studies have found that novelty in your fitness routines can spark bonus motivation and enjoyment. Workout ambitions flagging? Try something fresh.
Roper managed to shave off 65kg. He’s more energetic, focused and comfortable in his skin. He’s also tapped into an unexpected benefit for his daily sweat sessions: “I’ve always struggled with anxiety but starting my day with a workout has really helped lower my stress levels and keep me calm,” he says. “Lots of guys go to the gym to burn calories, I go there to burn off anxiety.”