Interview Elan Lohmann (Founder Sleekgeek)

Elan-main

Name: Elan Lohmann

Age: 42 (and a half)

Location: Cape Town (Born and bred Jozi and moved to CT in January 2005 to head up News24.com)

What do you do? [Job] Founder of Sleekgeek

What else do you do? [Hobbies, non-work stuff, etc]

Of course I love to train at the gym! It is my personal therapy and some precious time I take daily for myself to reflect and think.

I hike, go to the beach and generally get outdoors as much as I can. I enjoy strolling on the promenade and taking in the sunset. I prefer to listen to audio books and podcasts rather than reading and enjoy content by gurus on a range of mindset and lifestyle topics. Growth and leadership are topics I am especially interested in.

I go to the cinema every Sunday night (literally).

When the exercise is done I am happy to “veg” out to some series or Youtube on the couch.

It may be slightly unbalanced but I live, sleep and breathe our Sleekgeek mission to make the world a better place through healthy living!

Getting the best start to the day on Lions Head. The “new’ Elan embraces nature.

YOU AND SLEEKGEEK

How long have you been a member of Sleekgeek?

I clicked “Create Group” on Facebook on 30 December 2011 and so Sleekgeek was born!

 So I am the “Original Sleekgeek” – like the first vampire I guess LOL.

How did you find Sleekgeek?

Sleekgeek found me. My personal journey changed my life. It enlightened me that life is simply better when you are healthy.

You are a better person, better partner, better parent and better employee when you are healthy.

When I started to eat better, exercise and lose weight my life improved dramatically on every level and I became passionate to share that important message with the world.

I felt so compelled to share that I walked away from a successful corporate career as an executive in a listed company to follow this new purpose and calling. For the first time I discovered what living a life of purpose means.

It was even covered in the media. For example this ITWEb article “Avusa exec quits for weight loss”

People thought that I was a “nutjob” at the time. I walked away from my job security and old life and identity when there were only around 600 community members in the Sleekgeek group. It was kind of crazy but I believed I had no choice in the matter.

It felt right. Sleekgeek chose me.

At the time I posted my thoughts on leaving corporate to pursue Sleekgeek full time here

It then became my mission to create a place that would help and support people on their journey. Establishing a place of shared learning and experience.

We have fought hard to protect our Code of ‘Respect, Uplift, Inspire” because the internet and social media can be a horrible place filled with hate speech and intolerance. We strive daily to let people on this journey have a safe space to express themselves and their opinions in an adult manner without fear of judgement.

We will not stop until we reach 1 Million people!

The world needs Sleekgeek. It is a force for good and this is only the start as far as I am concerned.

I could not ask for a better partner than Sleekgeek co-founder Eric to build this dream with. (Read his interview here)

What is your favourite part of the Sleekgeek Community?

I can think of so many things that I could write an essay but what springs to mind first is that I love that this community is so diverse. I have have met so many amazing people through the Sleekgeek community over the past 7 years. Online and in person.

The community is full of people of all different shapes, sizes, economic status and colour.  They come from all around the country as well as SA expats from around the world. But it works! I believe it is because we are united by a common goal to live a better quality life.


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There are people with different goals, doing different sports, eating different styles but all joined by a common purpose.

We are bonded by wanting to improve our own lives and the lives of those we love. Helping others feels damn good and this magic spirit rubs off on the rest of the community.

The goal is not simply to cross the finish line but rather to see how many people we can inspire to join us along the way.

That ripple effect of goodness inspires me personally every day to show up in the community and passionately promote healthy living!

YOUR TRANSFORMATION

Describe the “old you” before you made your transformation. How did you get there and what were you like?

2011 Victoria Falls Zambezi Trip

The old Elan was a lazy, sedentary chain-smoking workaholic living on takeaways and convenience food. He slept little, drank more and was stressed. He was physically weak and had little libido.

He lacked any self confidence other than in his career and in the boardroom.

His only priority was to climb the corporate ladder and earn more money.

I think I got to that place by not imagining that my life could be different. Health was simply not a priority in my frame of reference. I was body conscious my entire adult life but I was simply too lazy to do anything about my physique which I loathed. I had just decided that was my lot in life and I was not destined to be fit, healthy and have a decent body. 

I had a girlfriend who wanted to go hiking and I recall getting angry and defensive about this stupid idea. Who would willingly walk up a hill???? Gasp.

What ignited your initial motivation to change?

Vanity and shame (at first). I was going to a beach resort for 10 days on holiday in Zanzibar and felt terrible when I tried my board shorts on in my mirror. Imagining walking around in them all week felt terrible. When you dislike your body you tend to avoid looking at it. That extreme sadness at being at my lowest and the shame of what I saw finally lit the spark for me to change.

That inspired me to launch the first Sleekgeek Transformation Challenge with a handful of my friends and take my first “before” pics. We each put R500 into the kitty as prize money for the winner. There were 12 of us.

Rather than competing against each other, we found that social support was incredibly valuable. That is how Sleekgeek was born!

Since then we have run 22 transformation challenges. Helped almost 17,750 challengers lose more than 20 tonnes of weight and rewarded them with R2million worth of prizes!

The first set of “Before”photos I took for the first ever Sleekgeek Challenge on 25 October 2011.

What are some of the things that the new you does differently now?

My “default setting” has changed and I have shifted my normal. It is now natural for me to eat healthy, prepare my own food, exercise daily and sleep enough.

I still eat some junk food and have lazy days but these moments are in the minority. “You are what you repeatedly do”

The “new” me is also far more interested in pursuing balance and personal growth that transcends my work life.

I am driven to build an exceptional life. I am far more satisfied with life then I ever was and never regret my decision to leave my career.

Thanks to healthy living I have never been a better version of myself …mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically … the best is yet to come. 

What are some of the things that the new you still struggles with?

I am an emotional eater. I also love many foods that are not beneficial to weight loss. That part of you is never gone for good. You just learn to manage it better with the right tools and practice. I still do not have an “off switch” when it comes to snacking on certain treats.

I structure and design my life for success around my weaknesses accordingly to manage the situation.

If you could give yourself 1 piece of advice to help with that struggle, what would it be?

Keep reminding yourself of your WHY. Your purpose and your reason.

WHY you want to live a healthy life and why it is important?

I cannot change the world if I do not practice what I preach so that keeps me very focussed.

I have learned that the pain of not living your best life is far worse than the pain of saying no to junk food or skipping a workout.

When you are healthy you feel great so it is worth the sacrifices.

Did you plateau, get stuck, or get disillusioned, or even slide backwards a bit on your journey?

It was been an interesting journey over the past 7 years. I could write a book on this aspect of my journey so I will keep it brief for this interview.

2012, The first year was like a dream. I was delighted with my progress and felt reborn.

Feeling strong at Cape Crossfit in 2012.

In 2013 I started to focus more on exercise performance and gaining muscle. The scale crept up a little but I thought it was ok and manageable.

Looking back at photos during 2014 the creep continued even though I thought I had everything under control. I was eating healthy but it is more likely that on a high fat diet at the time I was simply consuming too much and unaware of it.

I went to Thailand in December 2014 and decided to ‘take it easy’ which translated to eating and drinking everything. When I came back I had put on 8kgs and was not in the kind of shape I needed to be as the leader of a health community.

It was upsetting but I believed I knew what to do to solve the problem. I came home weighing 100kgs and it took me a painstaking 2.5 years to shake the 10kgs and break 90kgs.

For 2 soul destroying years I ‘tried everything’ and made no progress. I literally could not shift a kilogram and it remains a mystery to me. I did not lack discipline but obviously had the incorrect strategies while battling my body at the time despite my best intentions. But as I said I could write an essay on this matter.

All you really need to know is that it was extremely difficult to lead a health community while not being able to help myself and get results. I was afraid people would not respect me or think I was a fraud.

I was trying my hardest which made it even more frustrating. I still cannot explain the problem. It was embarrassing and worst of all I felt it threatened my ability to do the life changing work I wanted to. I would dread making public appearances and avoid telling people I owned a health community when they asked me because I did not look the part.

BUT I just showed up each and every day with a smile hoping to inspire and motivate with my energy and passion if nothing else. My mission did not change.

Many days I had to fake it when I felt so utterly defeated. I felt broken and cursed.

But I NEVER gave up and finally when I had almost lost all hope change came.

I started to work with coach Craig Brown in Jan 2017 and with a change in overall approach to eating and training progress arrived. I decided to live like a body builder for 6 months and do exactly as he said and trust the process. Thank goodness it worked. Within 6 months I managed to break 90kgs and the voodoo.

The rigid approach (not sustainable for most people) seemed to work for me and my lifestyle. I built muscle and got leaner. 

I have since reverted to a less rigid and more sustainable lifestyle but have made sure to keep consistency as my key ingredient.

Never again will I slip. I weigh myself daily and have set boundaries for myself. I will not allow myself to experience that pain again.

I am grateful for the struggles because they taught me to appreciate and understand the struggles of others better.

What is better since you got healthy?

Everything. Without doubt.

EXERCISE

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

I love to lift weights.

How long have you been training and how did you get started?

7 years ago when I started my journey I had no clue about what to do at the gym so I used a New York Times best selling book called “Body for Life” which provided an easy to use upper and lower body workout system in the gym. I simply went and did those workouts.

What does your typical workout look like?

These days I stick to the tried and tested exercise movements and keep it simple. Nothing fancy. Deadlift, squat, rows, chest press, dips etc. The same kind of things body builders have been doing for years.

I train weights 5-6 days a week depending on what cycle of my training I am in. I train legs twice a week then alternate upper body workouts between “push” and “pull” movements. Over the last year I have struggled with a shoulder injury so I have had to work around that too.

I warm up by doing the movement I am going to do with light weights and build up to my actual ‘working sets’. I find this is more targeted for me than general stretching.

I alternate between heavy weight for low repetitions to build strength and lower weights for more repetitions to build muscle volume.

That all sounds complicated but really it is not. All you really need to do is make sure that the last few repetitions of a set are a challenge. You have to break muscle to make muscle and when things are too easy you are not going to create change. Stay safe but remember a workout is meant to be a workout!

I try to make every set count. I record my weights each session and try to increase them gradually and safely over time.

Gym selfie or it did not happen! Right?

Favorite exercise? [Distance / pose / movement / etc]

Any kind of rowing. One arm row or seated weighted rows are my best.

Least favorite exercise? [Distance / pose / movement / etc]

Any kind of weighted lunge. Or split squats. Bleh.

How does exercise make you feel?

Alive. Capable. Vital. Strong.

This 2012 Crossfit picture sums up how I feel when I exercise – bad ass!

Do you prefer to train alone or with others? Why?

I used to love group exercise in my Crossfit days but now I like to put my headphones in, crank up the volume and go it alone. I think it is also because I am more confident to do my own thing and manage to push myself without someone breathing down my neck. Sometimes I do miss the social aspect and camaraderie of group training though.

Most embarrassing training moment?

Too many pilates and squat farts to count…. Lol.

But the one time when I started Crossfit we used rubber bands to assist with pull-ups and because I am so inflexible while hanging on the pull-up bar in front of the class I got my foot tangled and stuck in the rubber band I was using. The coach and a helper had to come rescue me and get me down from the pull-up bar. It was a spectacle!

Top 3 things you must have at the gym or in your gym bag?

My wireless headphones (Wireless will change your life)

My playlist. 

Chewing gum. It relaxes me when I train.

Your next training goal?

Post my shoulder surgery (rotator cuff repair) my goal is now to get back to full strength so that I can push hard on my upper body again. Of course also to avoid further injury in this phase.

I also want to return to Krav Maga (self-defence combat system) and become more proficient at it.

I want to regain my hiking and overall fitness that I have lost while injured.

No kidding around at Krav Maga. Despite learning a core survival skill it is an excellent bonus cardio session too!

Top 5 songs on your training playlist?

  1. Till I Collapse – Eminem
  2. Lose Yourself – Eminem
  3. Light it up – Neffex
  4. One Shot – Neffex
  5. Fight Back – Neffex

Anything loud and heavy for me in general to lift weights or high intensity cardio.

For moderate or steady cardio I listen to audio books and try learn something at the same time.

How has exercise/training/sport Changed your life?

Profoundly. By getting fit I am so much more capable and confident. I love that I am always ready and able to walk up a mountain, run a few kilometers without stopping or not die first in a zombie apocalypse.

Being active positively spills over into all aspects of your life. I believe that going to the gym contributes massively to my stress management and emotional wellbeing as well as promoting much needed dopamine and endorphins. 

As an active person I feel alive and full of energy. I used to feel tired and sluggish in my former life.

NUTRITION

What’s your favourite meal?

Nachos at Caprice (The best in Cape Town.) I have them about 3 times a year. Once being on my birthday weekend.

OK, now what’s your favourite healthy meal?

I love a rump steak and vegetables or salad as a “go to” healthier option while eating out. I also enjoy omelettes filled with brightly coloured veg. If I am on the go or need a take away then my fave option is a Poke bowl.

Salmon Poke bowls!

What’s your nutrition philosophy / approach? [If you have one]

At the start of my journey I ate a Paleo lifestyle cutting out dairy, grains and added sugars. I have since realised that carbs are not evil and that people simply eat the wrong ones in the incorrect quantities. Food has become political and I personally no longer buy into fear mongering around food.

Food should be a source of nourishment and not stress. Food is not evil and the fact is most people simple eat too much even if they do not realise it.

So personally I have moved to a whole food approach that includes all food groups. I do not always get it right but I aim to get as much variety as I can into my nutrition. I get much better results on a low fat as opposed to a high fat diet. I try to consume nutrient dense foods 90% of the time and leave 10% for a little fun in my life. Achieving some balance is key.

The main thing is to consume appropriate quantities of protein, carbs and fats with a decent quota of vegetables included while cutting added sugars. How a person achieves that is up to them. I can think of a handful of nutrition approaches to arrive at that same result which is why I do not believe there is any one perfect diet.

Ultimately I believe the diet lifestyle a person can sustain over time is the best choice for them. Consistency wins overall.

These are the principles we teach with our FREE Sleekgeek Nutrition Guides and our Coaching program.

How many meals a day do you eat?

Typically 3 meals but sometimes 2 when I am not active, if injured for example, or if I anticipate a large meal that day at a social event.

There is no science to prove a major impact to meal frequency or timing so what works for an individual is best.

We teach in our coaching that it is better to eat when hungry so my meal times are not always consistent. This can also vary according to my training schedule.

I do not snack as a rule but in case of emergency I turn to carrots or a level spoon of peanut butter (be careful if you cannot stop!). Biltong on weekends or road trips. I over-eat nuts so I stay away from them.

What’s your favourite protein?

Steak. Most times I go out for steak and seldom cook it at home. That makes it feel like a treat.

What’s your favourite veggie?

A carrot. Simple, crunchy, fills you up and easily portable and good raw.

What’s your favourite carbohydrate?

Oats (especially mixed with my chocolate whey protein powder)

What’s your favourite fat?

Peanut butter. (one level spoon a day)

I always take the trouble to find peanut butter in foreign countries LOL #sleekgeekproblems

Do you spend much time planning your meals or doing any meal prep?

Prepping is my secret weapon. I bulk cook my protein every 10 – 14 days and freeze that. I steam my veggies almost daily to add and depending on the carbohydrate sometimes make a batch for 2-3 days. Using my system I am always less than 10 minutes away from a meal being ready to eat. When I come home hungry from gym this is amazing.

My system means less constant cooking, less dishes but also as a consequence less variety. The trade off is worth it to me.

Watch a video on how I prep my protein over at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fGkd3BNV0wY

Learning to feed myself and structuring my prep and planning has been critical to my success. Here I am making myself breakfast while on holiday in Croatia.

Do you have a cheat meal / treat strategy?

Saturday is date night dinner and anything goes. That often involves a shared dessert. Sunday is cinema night and popcorn plus smarties is a must for me. So those are my 2 weekly non-negotiables. To enjoy that privilege I work hard the rest of the week. I manage it to the point that I still get results with that bit of fun and relaxation in my life.

MINDSET

Most memorable personal best achievement to date. Something you maybe never imagined you could do?

Stopping smoking 7 years ago cold turkey after 16 years as a heavy chainsmoker. It was the hardest thing I ever did and never believed I could.

I had just created Sleekgeek and decided even though I was losing weight I could not create a health community as a smoker. It did not fit the identity I was working to create.

For the first time I realised I was gaining something rather than giving it up. That mindshift changed everything in many aspects of my life.

Smoking like a boss.. hard to believe that was 10 years ago. Who is that guy? It cannot be me.

Favorite way to treat yourself?

Travel (local road-trips) or overseas travel. On a smaller scale anything that helps me grow such as a new audio book. Otherwise a new item of clothing (not often) or furniture annually. 

Running in Prague during the Summer

Favorite quote?

“A man can succeed at almost anything for which he has unlimited enthusiasm.“

“Wake up determined. — Go to bed satisfied.”

Favourite book?

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

What inspires and motivates you?

My dreams. I love the quote that you should “doubt your fears and not your dreams.”

My inspiring personal vision for my own future and my bold and exciting vision for the impact I want to make in the world via Sleekgeek is what keeps me showing up with passion daily.

My enthusiasm to leave a legacy of health on the world is insatiable.  I will never be deterred from this purpose.

For what are you most grateful?

That I finally found my purpose and calling in life at age 35.

I am here to improve the lives of others with the message of health as my weapon through the Sleekgeek Health Revolution.

What do you want to say to other community members who might be nervous or hesitant to make a start?

Know that health is a skill and a practice so you MUST expect to suck at first before you improve. You will fail. That is a given. So there is no more reason to fear failure. It is normal. Give yourself permission to screw up as many times as you need to and just start. It gets easier.

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

  1. When life sucks it is time to double down on your health efforts and let health be your anchor. People eat junk and stop working out when life gets tough. That will just add to your pain. 
  2. Forget trying to be perfect. Nobody is and you are setting yourself up for failure.
  3. Success is not a straight line. Rid yourself of an “all or nothing” mindset.
  4. Understand that we are in this for life. So pursue what is sustainable.
  5. If you want to lose weight how much you eat is more important than what you eat. If you are stuck, evaluating your food consumption is the first thing to do.

I hope that you enjoyed getting to know me a little better!

Your fearless leader

Elan





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