Eric Chowles Interview [Sleekgeek Co-Founder]

Eric Chowles Interview

We’re testing a new format for Transformation Tuesday interviews!

Rather than letting people write their own story, we’ve decided to try and come up with a set of interesting questions that people always seem to ask as follow ups when it isn’t covered in the main story.

I’m putting myself (Eric) up as the guinnea pig and as a way to help you guys get to know me a little better 🙂

Let me know what you think!

Name: Eric Chowles
Age: 27
Location: Cape Town (Table View).

What do you do? [Job]
I’m the co-founder of Sleekgeek and head coach in the Sleekgeek Coaching Program. I also do a lot of the behind-the-scenes stuff at Sleekgeek like managing our website and technical stuff, graphics design, product development, marketing, blog post and guide writing, creating the 30-day challenges, and helping to develop Sleekgeek’s overall vision and direction.

Me (Eric) left, Elan right.
Get your own “Sleekgeek Health Revolution” t-shirt here.

What else do you do? [Hobbies, non-work stuff, etc]
Some of my hobbies include fly-fishing, PC gaming, photography, salsa dancing, reading, hiking, playing squash, learning new things, and working out at the gym.

What’s the time frame for your transformation pic? [Pictured at the top in featured image]
The “before” pic was taken in September 2010, and the “after” pic was taken in October 2017. Most of my transformation happened within the first 3-4 years, but I’ve still come a long way (both physically and mentally) since then.

Top 3 photos taken in 2010.
Bottom left taken in 2014, middle taken in 2013, right taken in 2016.

YOU AND SLEEKGEEK

How long have you been a member of Sleekgeek?
I first joined as a community member in November 2011. I got involved with Sleekgeek part-time in May 2012 while I completed my B.Sc in IT and then came on board full-time in January 2014.

How did you find Sleekgeek?
I honestly don’t know, I can’t remember… It somehow popped up in my newsfeed in the early days when there were like 100 members and I absolutely loved the concept. So I decided to hang around 🙂

What is your favourite part of the Sleekgeek Community?
As a community member, my favourite part of the Sleekgeek Community is being able to surround yourself with like-minded people and “re-invent” yourself as a healthier version or yourself. As a co-founder, my favourite part of the Sleekgeek Community is the massive potential that we have to reach (and help) so many people and leave a real impact on the world.

My dad and I in September 2010 vs August 2014.

NUTRITION

What’s your favourite meal?
I would have to say pizza. Especially if it’s a really good, thin-based Italian pizza. Simple and not over-the-top.

OK, now what’s your favourite healthy meal?
I really like a Greek Salad with lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, feta, olives, bell peppers, etc. I usually add some chicken or tuna to bulk up the protein.

Also known as a “big ass salad”.

What’s your nutrition philosophy / approach? [If you have one]
I’ve tried many different diets in my life, learning a little bit from each one. As the Head Coach in the Sleekgeek Coaching Program, I’m a strong believer (and practitioner) in the habit-based nutrition approach that we teach. It’s built around the concept that we should practice the skills and build the habits that let us do healthy behaviours on a consistent and frequent basis, rather than being “on” or “off” some kind of meal plan. For example, I believe that eating some kind of protein with every meal is a healthy habit to have. So, therefore, I do that whether I’m eating a super healthy salad or having whatever I want to eat at a restaurant. It’s scalable and adaptable. Whether at home, at work, at a braai, or while traveling. You can see some of my philosophy in action in the Sleekgeek Nutrition Guide. I would say the diet that I identify with the most closely would be the Paleo Diet in terms of eating minimally processed food, but I do include a wider variety of starchy carbs, legumes, dairy, and so on.

How many meals a day do you eat?
Usually 3 solid meals. I don’t like to think about food all the time, so less is more for me. Often I’ll skip breakfast if I’m not hungry or just for convenience, and I try not to snack unless I’m genuinely hungry.

Early days, taken in April 2012. Comparing the initial progress I made with my school pants since graduating in 2009. Even my watch is loose haha.

Do you have a cheat meal / treat strategy?
I eat pretty intuitively and follow the 90/10 Rule For Moderation. I’ll aim to stick to a nutrient-dense minimally processed foods 90% of the time. If things go according to plan and I feel that I’m satisfied with my recent eating behaviours, I’ll give myself 10% flexibility to enjoy some of my favourite foods. However, if things have been a bit messy and there have been some less than ideal food situations (social events, girlfriend brings home chocolate, etc) then that 10% flexibility gets used up with that and I’ll deliberately avoid anymore “cheats” or “treats” until the next week. It’s a sort of quota system that keeps me accountable and on track.

What you’re favourite protein?
Protein powder. I freaking love it’s convenience and flexibility.

What’s your favourite veggie?
Carrots. Again, super convenient and I find it helpful to fill me up and keep me feeling fuller for longer in between meals.


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September 2010 vs July 2013.

What’s your favourite carbohydrate?
I like apples. Again, super convenient and tasty.

What’s your favourite fat?
Dark chocolate! Somewhere between 80% and 90% is the sweet spot for me where just a small bit is satisfying enough while still being highly enjoyable.

Do you spend much time planning your meals or doing any meal prep?
I spend a lot of time making sure that my household is well stocked with convenient, easy-to-eat, healthy food that I actually like and will eat. Every time I shop I know more or less how much of what I need to keep me going until the next shopping trip. For me, that’s my main type of meal prep and planning ahead. In our house we do also try to cook enough food for dinner that there are some left-overs for the next day. Things like mince, rice, stew, chicken, braai meat, oven baked veg, etc. It’s a great opportunity to save a bit of time and money.

February 2012 (already having lost 15kgs) vs June 2017

EXERCISE

What’s your favourite form of exercise? [Running, yoga, weightlifting, etc]
Weightlifting.

Weightlifting definitely develops physical grit and mental toughtness.
Get your own Sleekgeek “Be Your Own Hero” t-shirt here.

How long have you been training and how did you get started?
I started training in 2010 when I was 19 years old. That’s when my journey first began, and it was entirely by accident. I was going on a Contiki Tour around Europe in September and was worried about not being fit enough to manage with all of the walking. So I hired a personal trainer to help get me into the gym and thankfully he got me really stuck into it. I made a bit of progress before going to Europe, but most importantly I got right back into it when I got home again and have been training ever since. Most of the “before” photos from 2010 in this post were taken on that trip.

What does your typical workout look like?
I typically do 4-6 days of weight training in the gym, with some optional cardio, hiking, or walking on the side. My 4-day workout plan I do 2 x Lower Body workouts and 2 x Upper Body workouts (alternated). In my 6-day workout plan, I split the Upper Body workouts into a Push workout and a Pull workout. Being able to scale my workout plan between 4 and 6 workouts helps me be more consistent and OK with “less than perfect”. I stick to mainly Barbell, Dumbbell, and Bodyweight compound movement exercises such as Barbell Bench Press, Dumbbell Row, Barbell Overhead Press, Pull-Ups, Squats, Deadlifts, and Lunges. I don’t change my workouts too much, I just do what works well for me and I do it really consistently while trying to get better and stronger over time. Even while traveling, I’ll find a way to do similar stuff with suitcases and resistance bands.

Squats and deadlifts with a suitcase while in Zanzibar.

Favorite exercise? [Distance / pose / movement / etc]
Bent-Over Barbell Row.

Least favorite exercise? [Distance / pose / movement / etc]
Long distance running / cycling / cardio. It’s just too boring and feels like a waste of time to me. In terms of weightlifting, the Barbell Overhead Press.

Do you prefer to train alone or with others? Why?
I prefer to train on my own because I like to have full control over my workout schedule and hate relying or waiting on other people. I make a friendly effort to socialise with people when I’m at the gym, but when I’m actually training then my headphones are in and I’m in the zone. If I get the chance to train with a friend then I’m always down but it doesn’t happen very often and I don’t tend to seek it out. My girlfriend and I will usually go to the gym together but mostly do our separate things.

Elan and I getting a quick workout in while traveling in JHB. We find a way to train just about every day when traveling as a way to stay anchored to our health and to prove that it’s possible.

Most embarrassing training moment?
Uh, I snapped a resistance band in half by accident while warming up and it smacked me in the face. The chick next to me got such a fright from the noise! But more seriously, when I first started trying to go to the gym I was so nervous and anxious that there were days I didn’t even make it past the front desk before turning around and going home again. It can be an intimidating place for beginners, but I’ve learned that most people really don’t actually care about you being there, and many will respect you for showing up over and over again and putting in the effort. The gym is now like my second home, to the point where I (seriously) sometimes accidently pull out my garage door remote as I pull up into the gym parking lot. My girlfriend laughs at me whenever I do that so I guess it’s kind of embarrassing too haha.

Top 3 things you must have at the gym or in your gym bag?
My Sleekgeek Gym Towel, Apple AirPods for music, and a water bottle. On upper body days I also have a resistance band to warm up with and on lower body days I have my weightlifting belt.

Your next training goal?
I’ve been training a lot for aesthetics and fitness, but recently I’m switching over to getting all of my main lifts up to at least Intermediate level strength standards. Currently working the most on my squat and pull-ups / chin-ups.

Pull-ups suuuuck, but are such an awesome exercise. A very natural movement pattern that we hardly ever do in our day-to-day lives.

Top 5 songs on your training playlist?
I change my gym music quite a lot, but currently I’m listening to:

 

How has exercise changed your life? [Made it better, etc]
Exercise has changed my life in that it’s contributed hugely to my overall confidence and discipline. I think that a lot of our confidence comes from our self-perceived value, so I feel more confident when I look good and know that I’ve put in effort into my appearance. It’s shown me how much I can actually accomplish if I set my mind to it, which is very empowering. Regular exercise also teaches you some valuable lessons about commitment, patience, hard work, and being comfortable with being uncomfortable.

MINDSET

Most memorable personal best achievement to date?
I would say my most memorable achievement is completing the Mt. Everest Base Camp hike in 2015. It still feels like just the other day and was absolutely the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. Less memorable, but perhaps more important was getting out of my “fixed mindset” where I absolutely believed I could not be fit / thin / healthy / attractive / successful. I now believe that I can acquire and get good at any skill that I dedicate enough time and effort to.

Mt. Everest Base Camp with my father in 2015.

Favorite way to treat yourself?
A shopping trip to the adidas store! I’m a huge fan of treats and rewards that enable you to achieve your goals rather than hold you back or undo your progress.

Favorite quote?
“Be your own hero.”

September 2010 vs a “Be Your Own Hero” themed Sleekgeek Dinner in December 2017.

Favourite book?
Tim Ferriss’ Tools of Titans.

What inspires and motivates you?
Myself. I’m a very self-driven person and don’t like relying on external motivation or inspiration. So I’m big on dreaming boldly, goal-setting, and tracking progress towards those goals. I believe that goals are less about what you achieve and more about who you have to become in order to achieve them. With that said, I do find that those who are imperfect and struggle, but perservere until they succeed the most inspiring. It’s inspirational in how they deal with and overcome their imperfections.

Most memorable compliment you’ve received lately?
Yikes, I’m terrible at receiving compliments. I tend to brush them off or even just flat-out ignore them. A friend of mine recently went out of her way to thank me for always being so inspirational and motivational to her. She even gave it to me on a note attached to a massive sunflower, I thought that was pretty cool and memorable! It means a lot to me because it ties into what I said about about what inspires and motivates me, and I hope that’s why I inspired and motivated her.

Conquering my major fear of public speaking. Now I love it!

Most memorable compliment you’ve given lately?
I walked into Virgin Active the other day and was waiting to be swiped in at the reception. The lady there was bent-over painting her toe nails and I had to wait a moment for her to notice me, stand up, close the bottle, and swipe me in. I could see she was kind of expecting me to be annoyed, so I made an effort to compliment her on her nails instead (I noticed that she had first done her fingernails). That’s not something that comes naturally to me (I get grumpy when I’m inconvenienced and I’m not great at thinking on the spot, especially with a stranger), but we both laughed about it, it made us both feel good, and it put me in a good mood for my workout.

For what are you most grateful?
Sooooo much, but most of all my health. It truly is the real wealth. Having come from growing up overweight and unhealthy my entire life where I couldn’t even imagine the possibility of ever being healthy and fit, I treasure it more than I can ever say. You can have all the money, friends, love, fast cars, jobs, and anything else in the world, but they are useless if you aren’t well and able to enjoy them.

What do you want to say to other community members who might be nervous or hesitant to make a start?
You don’t need to do it perfectly. I certainly don’t, and I don’t know anyone else who does. Every time you fail, you learn. The most successful people have failed and learned the most.If you find yourself hesitating to start, it’s because you’re scared of failing. Stop being so scared. Be more scared of never taking action and never achieving your goals.

What are your top 5 tips for anyone starting on a healthy journey?

  • Start (and re-start) as soon as possible.
  • Be less “all-or-nothing” and be more “always something”.
  • Stop being a bully to yourself. You don’t need to looooooove yourself, but be kind, be encouraging, be supportive, be compassionate. Lift yourself up rather than beat yourself down. Be your own best friend.
  • Your actions express your priorities. It doesn’t matter what you say or think, the only thing matters is what you do (consistently).
  • Get involved. You get out of the Sleekgeek Community exactly what you put in. The people who are the most vocal, who share the most, to compliment the most, who interact the most… They’re the ones who also benefit the most.

My very first Impi Challenge in 2013 with Sleekgeeks in our very first “Eat Clean, Train Dirty” Sleekgeek t-shirts.

What else do you want to know?

What else do you want to know about ME? (I did do a live Ask Me Anything video on Facebook the other day too.)

What other questions do you think we should ask future Sleekgeeks that we interview?

Let me know in the comments below or in our Facebook Group.





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