If you met Anisa Essop 15 to 20 years ago, you probably would not recognise this survivor of gender-based violence (GBV). Essop weighed 128kg, was depressed and in an abusive marriage to a drug addict.
Today, at the age of 42, she has left that relationship firmly in the past, weighs 67kg, and teaches others how to take control of their health and fitness.
Anisa Essop’s fitness mission
The qualified fitness trainer says her overall mission is to help others achieve their personal fitness goals.
Essop has been a trainer for the past 19 years, but in 2019 she decided to create her own brand: Anisa Fitness.
She says the goal is to “assist people with their physical and mental health, as well as a healthy lifestyle”.
Essop is her own biggest influence and a firm believer that “everyone needs fitness”, which is her reason for teaching clients from four to 75 years of age.
During lockdown she has been posting free at-home workout videos on her Facebook page and Instagram profile. She is offering self-defence classes in August to mark National Women’s Month.
Before South Africa went into lockdown, Essop offered group training at various gyms. In addition, she created her own events for those unable to afford gym memberships.
She also does corporate team-building fitness classes and markets various clothing and health brands.
How to live a healthy life
“People misunderstand the fact that eating healthy is costly or very expensive,” says the fitness instructor.
She say often the amount of money spent on take-aways, alcohol and luxuries is much more and “results in health issues that lead to visiting the doctors for medication”.
Overall, she notes that healthy eating keeps the body energised, builds a strong immune system, promotes better sleep and improves quality of life.
When Essop got married she weighed 56kg, but that shot up to 128kg. According to her, she was eating too much because she was depressed.
Leaving an abusive relationship
The fitness instructor admits to being “physically, emotionally and mentally abused” by her “abusive drug addict ex-husband” of nine years.
“Every time I would drop weight, he would beat me. I felt like a prisoner. I was not allowed out the house without him nor have any friends,” says Essop.
Essop looked at this “unhealthy environment” where she was raising her two children and decided to get out. She divorced her husband in 2005.
“I decided to get back my body to start teaching and give my children a better life.
“I learnt I could face my fear and rise above stronger to achieve my purpose on this earth,” she says.
Originally from KwaZulu-Natal, Essop later worked in the Eastern Cape and now lives in the Western Cape.
After her divorce, in 2006 Essop partnered with a Dr Tyliti and opened a gym called Queens Fitness centre in Queenstown.
During this time, Essop also worked as a part-time chauffeur and became a district manager for Avon. She moved to Cape Town in 2010.
“I learnt could face my fear and rise above stronger to achieve my purpose on this earth,” she says.
Community of fitness warriors
In a time where many suffer from low self-esteem, weight gain, violence, abuse and loneliness, Essop hopes to “help people achieve their dreams”.
Her goal is to build a diverse community of “fitness warriors” who are able to “come together to forget about personal issues and celebrate life”.
“I also offered free fitness events in the rural areas such as Khyalitsha, Blue Downs, Nyanga and Gugulethu to the youth coming from less fortunate homes,” she says.
“… Never give up hope”
Essop urges those looking to make a personal change not to eat out of emotion and “never give up hope”.
For those looking to get into the health and fitness industry, she recommends that you have qualities such as passion, dedication, vision and consistency.
“You need to invest financially, be a people’s person, mentally strong and physically fit,” says Essop.