As a child I was always playing outside, I don’t think I had a bad relationship with food. My parents always made sure my brother and I had a balanced meal. Fridays would be take away night and it was a little feast.
I did athletics and swimming at school but think from high school things changed. You are older and adolescence kicks in so you feel awkward and self-conscious and there are older boys and girls around you and I think I still did some sport in standard 6 but that ended quickly.
No ways was I getting into a costume or shorts anymore. At any athletics days I opted to help make sandwiches and serve cold drinks to the teachers out on the field. I didn’t participate and didn’t try out for anything.
I am a comfort eater, when I’m sad when, I’m happy, when I’m stressed; it all goes in my mouth! I guess over time if you don’t pay attention to that monster it grows and takes over. For some it grows faster and eventually I guess my monster got out of control.
So fast forward a few years and having tied diets and magic potions nothing really stuck. I was more active now but only because there was a social side to action cricket. We had our little group that would probably play 3-4 night a week, some a game after the other. It was fun and we did well. I even ended up playing Inter provincial tournaments for Eastern Gauteng but sadly it was a big party after every game every night we played. The beer didn’t help but I wasn’t looking to lose weight anyway. I was just having fun and partying with my friends really.
I moved out the house too round that time and into probably the best place I could have! I stayed with my best friend Justine and her Friend Cheryl. We each had our own room and shared the rest of the house like house mates. Cheryl, who owned the house, was a health freak. She warned me Shandene if you move in here you will not bring rubbish in this house. I was scared but looked forward to having meals prepped and packed for me. She would wake me up in the mornings for the morning gym session. We were allowed on free meal a week which she was very strict about.
Evenings I still played cricket and socialised after but I noticed my weight falling off. I remember it happening quickly, like blinking and one day I was like 10kg lighter, I felt amazing and I was so happy. Life was fun and exciting and new again but not for long.
My father passed
It was round here that my father fell ill and after a 2 year battle with Cancer he passed away. I moved back home to be with my mother and brother. For those who have lost a father you know how hard this is and still to this day every now and then I feel for a brief second like it’s just happened and it’s a raw pain that can’t be numbed. I was daddy’s little girl and if anything happened I knew I could count on him no matter what.
In 2013, it was After 6 years of eating my feelings and emotions of my father passing that I came back from a December holiday in Cape Town with friends. Looking at the photos from the trip was like being slapped in the face really hard. I couldn’t believe how far I had let it go and how much weight I had put on.
Put a plan in place
I immediately put a plan in place. It was like a someone flicked a switch in my head and that Monday back at work in the January was D-Day! I had a treadmill at home, found a couch to 5km type running plan.
This was it!
I remembered I enjoyed running back when I was training. I had also always loved a runner’s physique from watching the Olympics.
2 years later I ran my first Comrades Marathon in 2015. I am now on my way to my 4th!
In terms of my nutrition I took everything I learned from Cheryl when I was in the house with her and applied that to my meals.
I still gave myself a free meal which sometimes I used at a friend’s birthday or family lunch but it was that one freebie and that’s it. The next day I was back on my plan.
Breakfast was oats or rice cake with tomato and mozzarella. Snacks were biltong or fruit or nuts. Lunch mostly salads and dinners were mostly broccoli and ostrich mince. I cut as much Carbs and sugar out of my diet and included more protein
I’m a creature of habit so a set plan and set meals is what kept me on track. I don’t mind the same breakfast, lunch and supper every day. I followed the “eat right for your type” lifestyle plan and 5 days a week I ran on that treadmill, my “5am club” started rising early each day.
I had a lot of support on my journey from friends and family. I had to have a lot of willpower too because some nights where everyone else was having baked potatoes and butter I sat and ate my broccoli and meat.
Having a support structure is very important because it’s easy to fall back into your own ways but I tell you seeing the numbers on the scale drop is motivation enough.
Having to buy a new wardrobe is phenomenal.
I didn’t know about the Sleekgeek community back then so I was my own “Sleekgeek”.
If there was something I didn’t know I googled it. Sometimes not the best answers but I took what I needed from other posts and ignored the rest.
The desire to lose weight was now taken over by the desire to look good, feel good and be the best version of myself I could be.
I also took running more seriously. I joined a running club. Trading my treadmill for the road and my earphones for actual human interaction.
I have learnt that it can be done; you just have to be willing to take that first step and try. It doesn’t happen quickly and it’s not easy but it is possible!
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Seeing my before and after pictures. Showing people where I have come from and inspiring people along the way. People I don’t even know were following my journey. Some who only know me now and don’t know where I have come from.
Definitely also completing Comrades Marathon 3 times and my 4th one on the way.
I’ve also done 2 Two oceans, numerous marathons and half marathons that have shown me south Africa in a new light I have run places I’ve never even driven before.
I have also done a few triathlons and will be attempting Ironman next year.
Losing 25kgs has also been wonderful.
Absolutely none of this would have been possible if I hadn’t made that decision to take back my life all those years ago.
There were lows, I still have them today. Training for an endurance race keeps you hungry and I find it hard to stick to my meal plan during peak training. Sometimes that monster comes out to find me again and I do feed him. But I know what I need to do to send him packing so I hop back on track again and keep moving forward.
My brother has since immigrated which was a very emotional change for me and no I didn’t stick to my plan as I should of because food or more sweets were my crutch but again I know what I need to do to get back on track. Motivation is very hard to find on days when there is a slab of chocolate in the fridge.
- As with running a big endurance event like comrades, you need to plan. I always say “plan your race and race your plan. It can absolutely be used for means. Plan your meals and stick to them. Prep is everything.
- Don’t keep junk food in the house because it calls out your name in whispers, you can hear it loud in your head.
- If you fall get back up, don’t stay there.
- Set realistic goals for yourself and reward yourself for achievements. It’s not about where you want to be it also about how far you have come!
- Weight loss is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.
It’s never too late to start! I only started at 32!
Shandene Van Der Walt.