I’ve been overweight for most of my life, starting from around the age 10. I did play a fair amount of sport ranging from ice hockey and field hockey to cricket and squash – but I took part in them less and less as I got older and life got busier, eventually the bad eating habits just caught up to me and I matriculated in 2009 as the biggest guy in my grade.
I knew I wasn’t thin and fit, but it still shocked me really badly to find out that I was classified as obese in a health assessment that I took the following year. Towards the end of 2010 I was off to Europe to do a bit of travelling around and decided about 2 months before hand to at least try and lose a bit of weight more for practical reasons than anything else.
With a bit of doubt, I renewed my long abandoned gym membership at Virgin Active and hired a personal trainer to help me get going. The first few session were an enormous ordeal and most often finished with me hanging around the toilets for a good while afterwards, on the verge of being sick. However I loved the challenge and my trainer (Wade Petersen @ Table View VA) really went the extra mile to make the sessions enjoyable, motivating, and effective. I made some good progress before going overseas, but the most important thing was that I was hooked – I looked forward to the workouts and most of all I knew I could actually do it. I didn’t look for any fancy diets or anything like that, I just began with cutting out the far too frequent takeaways and daily junk-food snacks, working my way forwards from there.
I found Sleekgeek’s Facebook Group in January 2012 back when it was only a little over a few hundred people, just before their 12-Week Comeback Kid health and fitness challenge started. I decided to take the backseat and not enter the challenge, but I found the group support system fascinating and was determined to be part of the community.
I followed along with the 12-Week challenge pretending I was actually taking part. I started up a free WordPress blog to document my journey and keep myself accountable. I posted about my successes and failures, obstacles and tips, as well as any useful resources or motivational videos that I found along the way. By then I was working out at the gym by myself, so I also decided to share what I was doing by posting each of my workouts and meals online. I developed a sense of responsibility to stay consistent to those few who were reading my blog and it made an enormous difference to help me stay on track. Most of all I posted up some horrendously unsightly “before” photos of me without a shirt on and updated them every couple of months with some progress photos – it left me with no other option other than to keep on making progress each and every day.
Being involved with all of the members of Sleekgeek via the Facebook group was a source of endless motivation for me. I made sure to log on daily and check out what everyone else was talking about, make friends, and share some of my own successes. To this day I still think one of the most important keys to success in leading a healthy lifestyle is surrounding yourself with supportive and like-minded individuals who will push you closer towards your goal rather than create roadblocks at every turn.
One of the most notable things that I did to help improve my chance of success was I stepped back and reviewed my friends and those who had influence over me. It may sound harsh, but those who I felt contributed negatively to my life or even just didn’t add any value at all were cut off.
I removed them from my social circles both in real life and online on places like Facebook. This was about creating an ideal environment for myself where I wouldn’t feel self-conscious or be tempted to go back to my old ways. I wanted to be able to log onto Facebook and see a news feed full of positive influences, or be able to go out and socialize without ending up hungover and stuffed full of crap food.
I knew that the people in Sleekgeek were all exactly the kind that I actually wanted to be friends with. Whenever I made a good connection with someone in the group, I made an effort to build a relationship with them and send a friend request on Facebook or go join them for a hike up Lion’s Head. Thankfully my parents and other family members were all hugely encouraging too, they made an effort to cook healthier food and to stop buying my junk for me to eat. We kept our house as clean of the bad stuff and as well-stocked of the good stuff as possible. Taking the time to learn healthy recipes and buy good quality food.
Things just kept getting better from there. In 2010 I weighed around 97kgs wearing pant sizes of 43 waists and up. When I turned 21 on the 17th of April, 2012, I was weighing in at 77kgs with a waist size of 32. I went all the way down to 72kgs a few months ago and today am now (October, 2013) sitting comfortably back up at around 78kgs after putting on a good amount of lean muscle mass.
Initially my decision behind turning my life around was simply that I was sick of being tired and tired of being sick, and most of all both sick and tired of being fat. However as I kept making progress over the years my priorities started to change a bit. I saw how much my quality of life improved and how I could start doing things I would never have dreamed about doing in the past. Being able to lift weights more than double that of my own, hiking Lion’s Head like it’s a breeze in the wind, feeling good about myself while walking on the beach, running for hours on end, competing at events like the Impi Challenge, and just simply relishing any physical or mental challenge that comes my way. My health was restored, I regained the ability to get proper amounts of sleep, my university grades skyrocketed, and my confidence improved beyond belief. I now feel so much better than I could ever have thought was possible.
I’ve stopped simply looking at what foods will make me the thinnest or what exercises will make me the most muscular. I now see the enormous value in investing time and money in my overall vitality. I focus on eating real, unprocessed, nutrient-dense foods that are nourishing, non-toxic and biologically appropriate for my body (I’m a huge Paleo/Primal/Sleekgeek “Reboot” advocate). I make the extra effort to spend time working on my mobility and flexibility as well as getting regular chiropractic adjustments to strive for maximum function of the nervous system. Apart from hitting the weights room regularly throughout the week, I also aim to be fit on as many different levels as possible so that I can take on life knowing confidently that I can handle anything that comes my way.
I’m so incredibly thankful for what the Sleekgeek community has helped me achieve so far, and am passionately committed in continuing to help Elan reach his goal of transforming the lives of at least 100,000 South Africans for the better. You can expect to see me posting regularly in the Facebook group, either with the latest research on health and fitness or helping to answer questions that anyone might have. I’m also involved in coordinating Sleekgeek’s 8-week challenges and keeping the website running smoothly without giving Elan too many premature grey hairs. I’m always brainstorming for new ideas, so if you have any that might help Sleekgeek achieve its mission and want to bounce them around a bit then feel free to send them my way. I’m up for giving health and fitness related advice or feedback as well as getting some in return, and keen to connect with other like-minded individuals on both a professional or personal level.
- Eric Chowles is a Student living in Table View Cape Town and helps out with running Sleekgeek in his spare time
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