She is not a run of the mill weight-loss coach; at a staggering height of 6 feet, one inch, she will pass for a first class model. Gangly, graceful and gorgeous, Carol Alex-Eyitene perfectly understands how to grind out results – especially when it comes to whipping women into shape with her weight-loss regimen and counselling. The Founder of Slimmer You, at size 22, with massive body frame, feeling unfit and miserable, Carol was warned by her medical doctor to pay closer attention to her weight. At home, the glistening look on her hubby’s face was waning just as his grumbling grew. Carol was not only losing her body to an out-of-control weight gain but her mind too – as she became increasingly unhappy about her body. She cut a pathetic picture as she painstakingly climbed flight of stairs day in, day out. The battle to curtail her body weight seemed lost forever. But like what seems only achievable in Hollywood movies, Carol did not give in as she went from being size 22 to a svelte size 14. She is a magnificent metaphor of what she does; always elegantly turned out in clothes that accentuate her long frame as she stands out in the crowd. Carol tells Omolola Itayemi about her fitness and weight-loss coaching regimen, her own personal struggle and what she’s been doing to help thousands of Nigerian women to stay slim, fit and healthy.
• At Size 22, I Found Myself Totally Unfit and Miserable
• I Am a Street Junkie; I Love Bright and Elaborate Things
• I Am More Confident About the Way I Look Now
She has worked at it for 15 sweet years, consistently achieving excellent results. Gregarious, goal-oriented, she attends to her clients with a depth of personal touch and passion that makes her their role model – Carol Eyitene is a constant source of inspiration to her many patrons.
On speed dial with most of her members who cut across all walks of life, her role in their lives as a weight loss coach cannot be over-emphasised. Further attesting to this fact, are the “before and after” pictures with stories hanging on the wall of her office space which lies at the end of Biaduo Street, South-West Ikoyi. It is quaint bungalow that has turned into a Mecca for every discerning woman who loves to eat right and watch her weight. The interior of this weight-loss centre is a highly sophisticated mix of innovative design pieces that span the contemporary and traditional, from the relaxing melange of terracotta brown and orange walls to the raffia balls placed strategically on a dark-brown commode. Walking into her office, one knows she is in the personal space of a weight-loss coach; from the shelves of weight-loss supplements to the professional weighing scale placed next to her.
Carol comes from a very close-knit family. Her father was a cop and her mother, a retired school teacher. Her childhood was one of fun and there were no dull moments with her sisters and brothers. She remembers travelling and living in different parts of the country as her father’s job dictated.
“With my sisters, it was the usual girly fights and make-up sessions which invariably drew us closer. We swapped books, make-up, clothes and other titbits. My mother was the disciplinarian of the house and we were always on our toes in her presence. My father, on the other hand was a firm believer in dialogue. He could talk you out of anything and everything. He rarely used strict disciplinary measures. It’s funny but I now operate the same style with my children. I’m a firm believer in dialogue,” Alex-Eyitene noted.
A graduate of English and Literary Arts from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, her foray into healthy-eating was not well defined; she stumbled on it while making efforts to lose weight.
“Ironically, I was one of those people who you wouldn’t think would gain weight, but after school I started piling on the pounds. It just happened and I think it boils down to one’s ability to afford more coupled with freedom from your parents and the ability to do anything,” she said.
A billboard model for her weight loss system, she went from a gargantuan size of 22 to a svelte size 14.
“At size 22, I was saddled with a huge and bulky frame which I found totally unfit and miserable. I wasn’t happy with the body I found myself in. I was also getting into my thirties and have been through several diets. The weight continued piling up and I found it difficult climbing flight of stairs and was always short of breathes. My husband didn’t like the overweight me and kept on grumbling. Also, my doctor advised me to lose weight; so socially and medically, I was unfit,” Carol recalled.
Her decision to lose weight and live healthy strengthened her resolve to find a way to do it right. Tired of different yo-yo diets, she decided to enlist the help of professionals and went out looking for weight loss places that were advertised.
She stated further, “I didn’t find any that suited my ideology of being able to eat everything I wanted without being deprived and yet lose weight. So I told myself, if I had to lose weight, it had to be something I could do forever unlike those days of dieting where it was all about deprivation of food. My next step was to try and do it myself which was no small feat.”
But while she thought she was going to do things herself, an experience changed her mind and body forever. While visiting her mother and sister abroad, she found a place that advertised: “If you can lose 100 kilos or more, you can train to be a weight loss coach” and Carol was instantly drawn to the place. She enlisted and the rest, they say, is history. But it wasn’t a part strewn with roses as she later found out. “It’s not easy being your own weight loss coach because it involves a lot of self-discipline,” she admitted.
However, she concentrated her energy on losing weight and did not think of making it a full-fledged business until people started mistaking her for her younger sister and wanted to know how she was – remarkably – able to lose weight. An ingenious mind, it did not take Carol much time to provide tips to others and eventually set up “Slimmer You” – her weight-loss centre. “I was on my weight loss journey and every time I looked at the mirror, ‘I’ll say, oh gosh, it’s a slimmer me already!’ So I coined the name ‘Slimmer you’,” she noted with excitement in her voice.
With her mind made up, she quit her job at the South African High Commission.
“When I told my husband I was going to resign (from) my job and be a nutritionist and weight-loss coach, he said, ‘well then, I’ll be your first client’,” Carol recalled.
For someone who doesn’t advertise her expertise, the patronage she gets over the years is noteworthy coming from various parts of the country.
“It’s on purpose; we operate a ridiculous strategy of no advertisement. But it works because for everybody who walks in, they already have a sister, colleague or friend who has passed through us successfully or who knows someone who has, and it is easier to convince them. So I’ll say we rely on word-of-mouth advertising,” she said about her marketing strategy.
The weight-loss guru considers her services cheap because she offers a life-time membership.
“I’ve got a membership base that cuts through all walks of life. It’s a lifetime membership and I’m considered affordable and I’ll say without any modesty, I’ve a different ideology and my members appreciate the fact that they don’t have to suffer when losing weight. I’ve still got the same traffic I’ve always had and I’m not bothered because I’m still very different from others. There are hurdles in every industry and weight-loss centres are no different.
“As a weight loss coach you have to remember weight gain bothers everybody and demands specialised services, which is one of the reasons why expansion is very difficult. Each member has their desired goal and helping them reach it is where I come in. It’s very hard to put down a little loss because of a bigger loss. Every loss is a victory and that is why there’s a variety of success stories on the inspiration board in the reception area. Every success is celebrated, no matter how small or large it is,” she acknowledged.
Despite her success stories, there is a snag.
“Working as a weight-loss coach is Nigeria is a lot different. I’ve found out some of my members are a bit impatient. We still live in a society where people want to lose weight fast. The only hurdle I have ever had to cross as a weight-loss coach is teaching people to be patient and lose weight healthily,” Carol stated.
She believes it was her call to serve humanity. Her service is tailored to fit the Nigerian system from offering local meal-plans where points have already been calculated to personalised measuring bowls and cups.
A TV series buff, she loves drawing and is an avid art collector with huge Nigerian and West African following. Her best artiste is Tola Wewe whose works she’s collected since the early 90s. A very hard worker, her ‘me-time’ is considered sacrosanct and nothing gets in the way. No noise or interference of any kind which affords her time to catch up on her favourite TV series such as the ‘Housewives’ and Wendy Williams show. A long-time devotee of ‘East-Enders’, a soap she’s watched for 19 years out of its 25 years on TV. The late music legend, Michael Jackson, is her favourite singer and ‘Hollywood Wives’ by Jackie Collins is her best read.
“I’m a street junkie,” she added. “I love all things bright, elaborate and ridiculous which abound in Las Vegas.
But the bright and ridiculous stops with Vegas, Carol is a connoisseur of bespoke clothing which she has a huge input in and of recent, some high-street pieces which has become her new obsession. A closet designer, she draws her styles of clothing and sends them to her bespoke tailors which belies the fact that she always turns out stunning and different.
“I’m very tall and have always had problems finding my size of clothing in regular shops. So I had no option than to turn to bespoke years ago, which ironically is the rage now,” she said.
With the rash of slimming options in the market including weight loss clinics springing up all over and promising fake miracles, people are becoming more wary. To put it bluntly, many people feel they don’t have much to offer. On the contrary, Carol believes a lot of people are the wiser towards such fake promises and ideologies and as such has given more credibility to Slimmer You. And as a result a lot of people are now keener on losing weight without giving up their favourite foods and are more interested in learning how to eat healthy and still lose weight.
Nothing rankles her like the word ‘Detox’, which she says is being abused.
“Interestingly, the human body doesn’t need more help in detoxifying itself because that’s what the liver does. This word ‘detox’ has now been used as a blanket word for the use of laxatives for weight loss which by itself is dangerous and doesn’t make any sense because the excessive use of laxatives can be very dangerous to the colon. So, this detox offers very short-term solutions for weight loss and can by no means be a long-term remedy for weight loss,” the Slimmer You boss advised.
Married to Ian for 21 years with four children, they met and fell in love with love; they still are, as fervently as they started. With her last child born eight years after the last one, motherhood, this time however has given her an entirely different view of life.
“The truth is I have totally forgotten what it was like to be a new mum. For the past five months I’ve been acting like a first-time mom. Because I still find I’m waking up to breastfeed and still in shock to having a newborn starring at me. Because he came as a surprise and he is a very kind boy and seems to have understood the circumstance under which he arrived. He is not your typical diva-like baby so common with this time. A lot of fun things have changed from eight years ago, from accessories to the ways things are being done.
“Also, a lot has changed from the way I look and feel about my body. I’m not so judgemental anymore and that is why I am able to wear shorter length clothing and more confident about the way I look,” Carol pointed out.
Little wonder she’s bounced back to her former pre-pregnancy size. Over the last two years, the change has not been on the home front alone, the centre has gone through its own changes.
She said, “We have added a wider range of local options to our eating guides, to the extent that our members are eating in a way that they don’t feel they are on a diet. Also, we now have available wide range of healthy alternatives on purchase to the members.”