“As you grow older it will become harder to make progress, so you will have to work harder to reach your goals”
How it Started
I grew up in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape, which is where my love for the outdoors started. From an early age we spent a lot of time on the beach and on farms fishing with my dad, something that is still dear to me today. I love long walks on the beach, to find a great fishing spot or watching the sun rise while floating on the glassy water of one of our beautiful dams.
Something I really enjoy about life in Cape Town and in South Africa is the outdoor lifestyle we have available and I try to take advantage of that whenever I can hiking on the mountain, running, braaing, camping and fishing.
I also LOVE craft beer, but almost never drink those anymore.
Growing up I was never the skinny kid in our group of friends, I always had a bit of a belly, but was by no means unhappy. We were an active bunch and spent a lot of time outdoors playing soccer, touch rugby and later surfing or generally running about. We rode bikes and explored all over the place, thankfully we did not have the technology available today to keep us indoors. Food was just something you ate and I really had little clue what healthy was…I mean I ate apples and those keep the doctor away right?
At school I played the seasonal sports like most other kids (cricket, rugby, swimming, athletics and cross country). We had a gym, but our PE teacher never really bothered showing us how to use it, so we didn’t.
Like most kids I knew I ate cereals and toast for breakfast, pies and sandwiches for lunch and meat, rice and potatoes for dinner…then we discovered pizza. My favourite snack was toasted cheese on white bread. Sugary drinks, chips, doughnuts, pastries and other sugar laden snacks were part of daily life. The school tuck shop healthy option was a cream doughnut with little insight into the dangers of sugar and childhood obesity. High school education did not really teach you anything about healthy eating habits. My mom put me on Weighless in my late teens, which helped, but it was not sustainable when I left home and went back to anything that tasted good with beer.
After school I headed for London and lost most of my weight there running around in night clubs and doing manual work. Eating habits would probably be termed as shocking if I think about it today. Life was more about parties and having fun back then. Food in the UK included lots of junk, crisps, booze, booze, booze and soft drinks.
In the late 1990’s I returned to SA and after coming to terms with being back started to enjoy the outdoor life Cape Town has to offer more and more. I joined the Health and Racket club, but only really swam and did cardio. I did not really know how to use the weights area and was probably a little intimidated. I cannot really remember why I stopped.
Around 2003 we got dogs and I started hiking a lot on the mountain, having Jack Russell’s I am pretty sure I have been into parts of Newlands Forest nobody else has seen trying to get my dog to come back. At this point we had a little more knowledge around food and the belief that the USDA food pyramid was the way to go. We still ate a fair amount of junk, but followed the pyramid pretty well, with a diet heavy in low GI carbs, fruit, vegetables and low in fat. This was working, but not that well and nothing was really sustainable. Dieting always felt like hard work and any losses always ended up in gains.
In 2007 I weighed about 107kg. I started going to a personal trainer…this was a breakthrough moment for me. I could not understand why I had not done this before and loved the way I felt after a hard workout. Adrian was an awesome trainer and taught me how to do all the core weight training movements with the correct form. I learned all about opposing muscle groups and how to train for gains by increasing weight, using supersets and drop sets. I started measuring my body fat and body measurements as a way to determine progress instead of using the scale alone. I got fitter and stronger, at my best my body fat was just under 13% and weight around 88kg. Eating was pretty strict at this point with 6 meals a day and lots of protein, although there was still way too much booze involved…
I was also running a lot and building up to the 2008 Knysna half Marathon, aiming for a 1:45, I finished in 1:47 and was really happy with my time. At this point I was probably the fittest and strongest I had been in my life. I was doing triathlons, running, swimming cycling and weight training. I trained 5-6 days a week.
From this point onwards I can make many excuses, but things started going downhill. My diet was not sustainable and weight started to climb and fitness dropped. I was still weight training, but the downward slide had begun.
I was not going to include this chapter of my life, but my wife suggested I do to create context. At the end of 2010 my best friend was killed in a tragic motorcycle accident. I can honestly say that New Year will never be the same for me. We had been friends since standard 7 (for the young ones that’s grade 9) and had shared many adventures together both in SA and travelling in the UK and Israel. My kids loved Justin and he was always over at our house. We were regular running and hiking partners and motivated each other to push harder to achieve our goals.
The loss was a huge emotional blow for me and in many ways I gave up at this point and stopped caring about health or fitness. I drank a lot more during the following few years and let my eating go completely. I struggled to get going with any kind of weight loss or fitness attempts I made.
I can make many excuses, but the fact is I simply let myself go and struggled to deal with the loss.
Fast forward to 2015…126kg and a size 42 pants and 46 shirt!!! Seriously WTF, how did that happen?
At this point I was convinced to try Sureslim for 3 months…that was total waste of money and I lost nothing. I could just not get into the rigid eating program and felt totally restricted.
My oldest son was 9, youngest 7. I looked in the mirror and seriously thought I would not be there to see them grow up if I did not do something. I could not walk up a single flight of stairs without getting out of breath, I could not play active games with my kids and did not want to go to the beach or do much outdoors. When you are overweight being outdoors in the heat is not fun.
Over a period from 2009 to 2015 my weight increased gradually, I noticed it, but kept finding excuses not to do anything about it. I had a few failed starts with various diets. At this point exercise was pretty much down to the 3 days a month I had to be at the gym to keep my Vitality membership going. I can make many excuses for getting to this point, but at the end of the day I simply let myself go.
I had been reading a lot about Tim Noakes and Banting, the successes reported by many people attracted me to this diet. I was sceptical about this eat fat to lose fat concept and the impact that could have on cholesterol and heart disease, but at this point I was prepared to try anything. We bought the Real Meal Revolution book and started eating food only from the green list in January 2016. Green list foods are food containing less than 5g of carbs as well as proteins and fats. We eat all full fat foods and our diet consisted of 65% fat, 25% protein and 10% or less carbs. Fortunately I did not experience much carb flu and adapted easily to this new lifestyle. The weight literally dropped off, with a loss of almost 7kg in the first 4 weeks. I created a diary to track my weight, waist and the food I ate. I set milestones on the way to my goal to measure progress and compared my meals for the week to my losses to make adjustments. I experimented with different breakfast options and excluding dairy to see what had the best effect on my losses. In my cases, as long as I stuck to the ration of fat/protein/carbs it made little difference. Eating LCHF I found that my appetite was a lot lower and eating 3 traditional meals a day was no longer required, so I moved to 2. One of the main philosophies of Banting is that you eat when hungry, so the first meal of the day is often late morning and the last early evening.
I started exercising more regularly again, although at this point walking on the treadmill for 20 minutes 3 days a week was about all I could manage. As my weight dropped and I continued to exercise I became fitter and started running and spinning, the number of days a week increased to 4 and time to 30 minutes. I also joined Vitality Active Rewards at the beginning of 2016. Its pretty amazing what a person will do for a simple free coffee.
By June 2016 I had lost 21kg and 13cm on my waistline. At this point I started including weight training in my routine again. In hindsight I probably should have included this earlier, but just did not have the energy initially to face heavy weight sessions. My strength had dropped massively from my peak in 2009, to the point where it was a little scary. Fortunately muscle memory seems to be an actual thing and I regained a lot of my strength pretty quickly. I started with 2 upper body sessions a week.
After 3 months, around September 2016 I included a third day for legs. At this point I was doing 3 days a week weight training and 3-4 days cardio. Cardio consisted of running (HIIT or outdoor) and HIIT spinning with occasional hikes on Cape Town’s beautiful mountains.
Having support was very important in my success
Having my wife join me on this journey and change to a LCHF lifestyle has been a great help and an awesome support structure. Not having to cook separate meals or watch everybody eat pizza definitely made it easier in the beginning. We both enjoy the way we eat and find it sustainable and easy to follow. I joined the ‘Banting 7 day meal plan’ Facebook group at the beginning of my journey and have found that to be a huge source of support with my food lifestyle.
I am inspired by personal progress (which makes dealing with plateaus difficult), innovation, seeing the progress made by others, which is why I get so much inspiration from SleekGeek. I would be very happy if my story could help inspire others and help them reach their health goals.
SleekGeek has been my go to support group for fitness and training. Elan, Meg and Eric make an awesome team and are always there to support members of the group without judgement.
I must say I am a bit of a SleekGeek addict and love seeing the progress and success stories posted by group members. I also admire honesty with which people share their experiences and ask for help, which is always forthcoming from the SleekGeek team and group members.
I am truly inspired by the Sleek community on a daily basis.
You guy are awesome, keep it up!!!
Fast forward back to today
My routine and diet are still pretty much the same. I view Banting or LCHF as a lifestyle and the only sustainable way of eating I have ever tried. My body has become fully accustomed to functioning on a very low carb intake of less than 50g a day and on most days under 25g
To date I have lost 41kg and 33cm on my waistline. My cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar levels and fitness level are all excellent.
Over the past 16 months I have learned a lot about myself and my journey. I gained my self-confidence back after not believing that I could do it when I started. I re-discovered that I am addicted to exercise and get pretty irritable if I don’t train, guess that must be withdrawal from the endorphin rush training gives you. I am a little schizophrenic when it comes to training, I am neither a bodybuilder nor a fulltime cardio person. I really love both and have to spend a lot of my time making sure I can feed both beasts. Exercise has become a critical part of my work life balance, especially working in IT and sitting behind a desk most of the day.
Don’t be afraid to stand up for your lifestyle, in the same way a vegetarian will not eat meat to make somebody happy, I won’t eat carbs or sugar just to make somebody happy.
Don’t arrive at events, like parties, hungry or go shopping hungry, this leads to temptation which can be hard to resist.
Even with sticking to my lifestyle I know that I am bad with snack tables and tracking how much I eat.
An important lesson for me was that we often confuse hunger and thirst. In most cases I was not actually hungry, but thirsty and just needed to drink a glass of water.
Food and boredom also have a bad relationship, so I try to keep busy.
I am a big believer in setting goals when it comes to health and exercise, this not only gives you something to celebrate (buying new running shoes, not cake!!), but also allows you to measure progress in milestones.
Breaking through 100kg and back into single digits was a serious milestone for me. I had a whole box full clothes that no longer fitted me…that box is empty now and most of those clothes are too big. Even the leather pants I wore when I was 19 and super skinny fit me now, in fact I am wearing size 32 jeans, which I have never done before.
Being able to run again is amazing and watching my times constantly come down is great, currently at 25:33 for 5km and aiming for 22:00.
My weight training progress has been great, being able to do pullups and weighted chin-ups has been a long term goal, which I have smashed and am loving.
It may sound vain, but I spend too much time looking in the mirror lately. Seeing the veins and growing muscle definition is not something I am used to and its quite fascinating to look at.
Around the end of 2016 a LOT of people at work and others I knew started noticing my transformation, this was a great confidence boost for me and confirmation of my progress.
Nobody has a life without challenges. The mental challenge in the beginning was probably the most difficult. I had no confidence of losing the 40kg excess weight I was carrying or getting to any decent level of fitness and strength again. It took a lot of effort to get started and a lot of dedication to get back into a gym routine where I could see I was making progress.
7 months into my journey and still weighing over 100kg I was hit with an 8 week long plateau where I lost nothing at all. This period was particularly frustrating, but eventually did pass. At this point I discovered the benefits of fasting to stabilise blood sugar and stimulate weight loss during plateaus.
I now practice fasting most Monday’s and practice intermittent fasting most other days, although my philosophy with eating is to eat when hungry and stop when full, so I listen to what my body needs.
As with any learning process my health change is an ongoing one. The more progress I make the more I learn about my training and my health.
My wife sleeps much better now that I no longer snore. My energy levels are awesome. I feel like a twenty year old again and can keep up with my kids. I can climb mountains again and love leading from the front when we go on family hikes. I now know what it is like to sit on the bones of my bum ☺
Generally it is much easier to do anything that requires being active.
- Don’t compare your progress to others, this is your journey and we are all different.
- Set goals with milestones and don’t make excuses and never give up.
- Abs really are made in the kitchen, weight loss is 90% diet. Find a way of eating that works for you.
- With persistence you will break through your plateaus, whether they be weight loss or training.
- The longer you put off starting your journey the longer it will take, so start now.
- Food is not a reward, so stop stalling your progress by rewarding yourself with food.
I try to train in the mornings to avoid making excuses and always train fasted with only black coffee and a glass of water mixed with vitamin C to keep the lurgies away.
I train every day that I can. I feel like an addict sometimes, but get cranky when I don’t train or do something active. Somewhere the voice in my head says if you stop for a day you may end up back where you started.
I have a few favourites at the moment. Shoulder press, dumbbell chest press, pull-ups, chin-ups, rowing and running.
I don’t like not being able to complete and exercise without good form. I try to enjoy any exercise I do, if you don’t enjoy what you are doing you are not likely to do it well, so I make myself learn to like it. The harder you work the better your results
2017 Goals: As I said, setting exercise goals is important.
- 4 x 10 pull ups with added weight – Work in progress
- 4 x 10 dips with added weight – Done
- 4 x 10 chin ups with added weight – Done
- Body weight dumbbell chest press – Work in progress
- 22:30 5km – currently 25:30
The Workout Arsenal
- Flat and incline dumbbell press
- Barbell bench press
- Decline press
- Fly’s (incline and flat)
- Peck deck
- Cable crossover
- Dumbbell pullovers
- Wide stance push-ups.
- Wide grip pull-ups
- Bent over barbell rows
- Seated cable row
- Lat pull-down
- One arm bent over row
- Dumbbell shoulder press
- Military press
- Arnold press
- Lateral raises
- Front raises
- Upright rows
- Weighted chin-ups
- Seated dumbbell curls
- Hammer grip chin-ups
- EZ bar curls
- Barbell curls
- Concentration curls
- Weighted dips
- Close grip press
- Skull crushers
- Triceps pushdowns (bar and rope)
- Triceps Overhead Extension with Rope
- Dumbbell kickbacks
- Hack squats
- Bulgarian split squats
- Leg press
- Seated calf raises
- Standing calf raises
- Romanian dead lift
- Box jumps
- Planks (all different types)
- Leg raises on the dip bar
- Decline ab crunches
- Ab wheel
Would love to add these:
- Clean & press
- Muscle ups
- Pistol squats
- Overhead squats
- HIIT Spinning
- Fast paced hiking
Weights exercises follow a 12, 10, 8, 6 rep routine with the final set working to failure. Drop sets are included where necessary and supersets to increase lactic acid production. I try to mix up the weights routines and include different exercises from time to time to prevent my body from getting use to the load. From time to time I will try 6×6, 8×8 or German volume training routines to try break through plateaus.
Generally I stick to what works and avoid fad exercises.
Cardio consists of Rowing, running and spinning all done at high intensity (80%+ average heart rate). I include HIIT on a regular basis as well as runs on the road or trail. Hikes on the mountain are also a regular alternative to cardio in the gym.
I try to include 15 minutes of cardio after my weight training sessions if time allows.
Swimming is occasionally included and is something I would like to include more.
Normally be a ParkRun or perhaps something a little longer, around 10km.
I like to train chest, back and abs, I enjoy the longer time I can spend at the gym without the pressure of getting to work. Sunday morning I will be at the gym at 6am.
4 sets of 4 exercises for each body part from the arsenal
45 minute HIIT spinning – intention is to push this to 60 minutes
30 minutes high intensity rowing – intention is to increase to 45 minutes
This is another big day for me, training shoulders, arms and abs
4 sets of 3 exercises per body part from the arsenal
30 minute HIIT running or 45 minute HIIT Spinning with intention to increase running to 45 and spinning to 60 minutes
LEG DAY!!! Love leg day
4 sets of 7-8 leg exercises from the arsenal for legs