Monique Eloff has regained control of her body and eating habits and is now South Africa’s own Supreme Queen Global Earth Africa. But when she was 18, a bad breakup saw her struggling with diet pill addiction. Here, she tells her story to inspire and educate other women about the dangers of weight loss pills and how she regained control of her body – and eating habits.
For four years, Monique had been battling with her weight and was trying to shed unwanted kilos. In 2005, when Monique was 18, a heartbreaking break-up sent her into depression and she tried to regain control by becoming fixated on losing weight. “My addiction started after going through a major relationship breakup and my inability to deal with the pain, the loss, the rejection and feelings of ‘not being wanted’,” Monique reflects. “I became obsessed with losing weight.” Monique visited a dietician but it didn’t work, mostly, Monique thought, because of a hormone imbalance caused by prolonged chronic stress that threw things out of whack in her body.
The beginning of a diet pill addiction
Thereafter, Monique tried an endocrinologist, but her treatment was expensive and she opted out.
It was around this time that Monique discovered weight loss pills. “I was introduced to a substance called ephedrine. In year one, I mixed ephedrine with cayenne pepper to make my own weight-loss tablets,” she says. “That worked really well. I started to lose weight and I experienced increased energy levels and I also experienced higher performance at varsity and even better grades in my studies.” Unfortunately, Monique started building up a tolerance to the drugs and needed more to keep losing weight. To get there, she turned to ephedrine in its purest form. “At certain points, I even refined it for snorting,” she confesses.
“One thing led to another. I could not sleep because of the adrenaline rush effect one gets using ephedrine. Then, I started taking sleeping tablets at night. I could not eat, because ephedrine is a potent appetite suppressant and I battled with fatigue and in turn, balancing my studies and my part-time work became extremely difficult. I was already on my way to complete burnout. My ability to cope, concentrate and perform was diminished,” she says.
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The turning point
There were signs of the diet pill addiction that others could see – but she couldn’t. For one, she had limited self-control, talked a lot and experienced severe reactions to stress.
On the inside, Monique was privy to extreme thirst, heart palpitations and shakiness. She felt depressed, anxious and sensitive. “Ephedrine certainly kept the weight off but the weight of the addiction literally crushed the life out of me and it left me feeling a great deal of shame, guilt and regret,” she says.
Added to that, she was experiencing gastrointestinal disorders, mood swings and shortness of breath. Her central nervous system was beginning to shut down and Monique was forced to get help. “I had no choice; my body made the decision for me,” she says. In 2007, Monique was hospitalised and underwent treatment.
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“I received treatment that was aimed at opening up the receptors in my brain in order for the normal flight or fight response mechanisms to start functioning again,” Monique explains. “My body experienced inefficiencies in secreting adrenalin, serotonin and other key hormones. I had a complete imbalance in my body.”
With treatment, Monique slowly started to improve, but the road to healing was long. “Diet and sleep played a crucial part in my recovery. I had to teach my body what a normal healthy intake of food consisted of and looked like, at frequent and consistent intervals,” she says. “Over time my mood and concentration levels improved. I could literally feel balance coming back to my body, and it felt amazing. The toughest part was the realization of how far I’ve taken my addiction and the damage it has done. The impact it had on my loved ones. What I’ve lost in the process and the fact that I had to drop out of varsity in my third year. I felt like a complete failure. I think my mental scars outweigh the physical scars, and for me, the biggest battlefield was my mind.”
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The glow up
Through all this, Monique feels that she’s grown a lot as a person. “My mess has become my message and today I get to tell my story unapologetically. I still have feelings of shame, guilt and regret; however, it shows that I am human and that it matters to me,” she says.
Now, 16 years later, Monique is at a happy weight and is taking things further in her life, earning her spot as the reigning Supreme Queen Global Earth Africa for 2023. “My wounds have given me great wisdom,” she notes. “This journey on earth is all about unbecoming to become, letting go of the things that are no longer serving you well.” More