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Sophia Strydom – 44kgs by eating well, Sleekgeek and Crossfit

YOU-CAN_LOGOWhile growing up, I constantly struggled with my weight. I tried numerous diets – occasionally they worked – but I always seemed to put the weight back on or even gain. I wanted a quick fix. From the starvation diets to the “take-this-pill-and-no-need-for-exercise” diets, I tried them all – none of them worked.

I eventually gave up. I had always been the “bigger one”, and I settled for that. It was who I was and, to me at least, clearly who I always would be. At the beginning of 2010, I was stuck in a bad relationship and I didn’t have the courage or the self-confidence to end it.

That relationship and my relationship with food just seemed to be going from bad to worse. I was about to turn 23, and I realised that I couldn’t stay where I was in life. I had to step up. It took a lot of courage, but I finally broke things off with my boyfriend. I had never broken up with someone before; I was always the one to be dumped.


After all the emotions and emotional eating subsided, I discovered I had a lot of extra time on my hands. I think deep inside, I was yearning to improve myself, needing to build up what my past had broken down. So, I decided to join a gym – after all everyone at work was part of a gym.

For my birthday that year, I asked my parents for money to pay the initial gym contract fee. I then scheduled an appointment to get my weight and measurements.

On the day, I put on my men’s XXL t-shirt, took a deep breath, and went for my appointment. Predictably, the person taking my measurements was one of the hottest personal trainers at the gym. Yeah, lucky me! I was blushing from ear to ear.
I didn’t own a scale, and so wasn’t really sure exactly how much I weighed at the time – but now I will probably never forget.

  Nervous, I stepped onto the scale and instantly felt nauseous at the number that appeared. “No, that can’t be right…” I blurted out, “Let me try again, maybe there’s a little glitch in the scale.” I stepped off and stepped back on again… and it said I was 200g heavier! I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was so embarrassed.

  I weighed 106,9kg! Yes, that’s 3 digits!

Staying strong, we went on with measuring my body fat percentage. Using some sort of machine thingy, he took my measurements and the number that popped up after a few seconds was 42%. Pardon? That certainly can’t be right. He agreed. He decided to fetch his callipers and measure me “old school”.

I should have just stopped him there; it would have been better for my soul.   So now this hot, ripped trainer was pulling and squeezing all my bits. I remember him looking me in the eyes, and saying that I have a body fat percentage of 47%.

Hold on… That’s nearly half my body, right? I just wanted to run away (probably the most I had thought of exercise in years, and it was to get away).   After the whole ordeal, I drove home and just sat in my car in the parking lot. I was feeling very fragile. I had a proper look at my measurements, reading it over and over again. I weighed nearly 110kg. I felt empty on the inside, and I started crying.

When I finally mustered up the strength to walk into my flat, I went straight to bed without dinner. I felt so sick. I knew I had to make a change. For too long I had tried to lose weight to make other people happy, but this time I was going to do it for myself.

The mind shift

The next evening, I did something that probably many people before me never get to. I went back to gym.

In my men’s XXL shirt, I went back! I spent just 20 minutes on the elliptical machine and then went home. I was so stiff from exercising for the first time in years that I could barely make it to my bed later. But I wasn’t going to let that stop me. I went back to gym 3 times that week.

Over time, going to gym 3 times a week became a habit, a habit that would evolve into 4, 5, 6 times a week over the years.   The more I exercised the more I learned about my body. I felt I needed a healthier diet to keep up with my exercise. So I started adding more veggies, cutting out bad foods, slowly turning my life around – no strict diet, no eating plan, just sort of listening to what my body’s needs and how it reacted to different foods.

I’ve got a bit of competitive streak and it helped to keep me pushing to the next level. Soon I was road running, then training for my very first 5km race, and then my first 10k race. But I was still intimidated by lifting weights, and honestly it had a lot to do with not knowing where to start. So I joined a personal training group at my gym to help me get over that hurdle.

Now let me tell you, weights transform your body. I could see that changes happening with the heavier weights. And much to my surprise I didn’t bulk up, I actually tightened up.

Picture 291

Discovered Sleekgeek

This is also when I discovered Sleekgeek. One of the girls I trained with had won the weight-loss challenge at the end of 2012. I was intrigued. I found myself spending hours on the Sleekgeek Facebook Group and website. [Click to join]

I was motivated, as I knew that if that girl could do it, so could I. And at the beginning of 2013, I entered my very first 8 Week challenge – Sleekgeek Comeback Kid 2013!

Started Crossfit

But how could I push myself to the next level, what would bring out my competitive spirit. Enter crossfit. I’d heard about it through my trainer, but for a long time I listened to the voice in my head saying, “No way are you capable of doing crossfit”. Finally one day I decided, what do I have to lose and went to Fourways Crossfit to try it out.

I actually sat in the parking lot for a while just watching the workout. I saw normal people, giving it their all and (gasp) having fun. I could feel the camaraderie from where I sat. I thought, “I have to be part of this and if I have to get out of my comfort zone to do that, that’s what I’ll do”.

I thought I was fit. Crossfit was no joke. Crossfit wiped the floor with me. It was love at first sight. I love doing crossfit now. I get excited about new WODs (that’s crossfit lingo for WorkOut of the Day). And when it gets really hard, I’m pushed to my limits and that voice in my head begins to scream, “You can’t do this”, I say to myself, “Well now I can”.

Physically, I’m stronger. I. Am. Strong. I have a new-found respect for my body and what it can do. I used to grumble, I’m fat, I’m slow, I’m sore. Now I know that if I work my body hard – challenging it while remaining patient – my body will respond in ways I never imagined.

I proudly wear my crossfit scars. Calloused hands – yup, pull-ups. Bruises on my wrists – kettlebell thrusters. Black eye – a reminder to catch that medicine ball with your hands. Bruised knees – 100-day burpee challenge. I earned these scars!

I’m now at a stage where I want to start competing in crossfit tournaments and eventually going the Africa regionals, as well as doing a Level-1 Crossfit Trainer course and using my knowledge and experience to help others do what I have done. I’m building every day – breaking my own personal records and rocking a bikini for the very first time without wanting to cover up! I am proud to say that I have now lost 44kg. I went on to do the Sleekgeek Winter Warrior 8 Week challenge too!


Love the Sleekgeek Challenges

I would recommend the Sleekgeek Challenges to anyone. I especially find that these challenges gives me focus, as it gives me a specific time to reach a goal. I need these shorter term goals to get to the greater long term goal. Every challenge is a step up towards that long term goal.

I also appreciate the whole community so much, it’s open to all, it’s online, it’s easy accessible. Young, old, big, small, they do not judge, they try to help if you need, and it makes you feel normal. Everyone has trouble with motivation, and sometimes you just need to see that you are not the only one. It’s truly an inspiring community.

The value that i got from the challenges is that I’ve come to understand my body so much more, what works, and what doesn’t. For me it’s not about the money spent – if you compare your beginning photos with your end photos – it’s priceless. What you put in, is what you get out.

I always tell myself not to look at my before photos at ALL during the challenges. I only look at the comparison in the end. and every single time it was worth the dedication. It might cost you some money – but EVERY SINGLE challenge my results was priceless.

Today I’m very proud to say I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been – eating clean, training hard. And yes, I do have bad days, I do fall off the wagon sometimes, but the important thing I’ve learned throughout this whole experience is to just get back onto that wagon.

People ask me all the time “What’s your secret?” But I really don’t have one.

The most important thing for me was to look at this journey as a long-term lifestyle change instead of just a diet. I adjusted the way I ate to include healthier options and smaller portions, but I didn’t keep myself from eating things I love (especially ice cream). It really is all about moderation.

It took me 3 and half years to lose this weight, but I know I did it the healthy way and will be less likely to gain it back.

Sophia xx

  • Sophia lives in Sandton, Johannesburg


SUBMIT YOUR STORY AND WIN R500 Wellness Warehouse Voucher


Sophia wins a R500 voucher courtesy of our sponsor for the “YOU CAN live life well” series Wellness Warehouse to be spent on their online store with free delivery nationally.

I believe very strongly that ordinary every day people like you and I derive great inspiration from the achievements of people who seem similar to us. If they can do it.. damn.. so can I! Right?

So through this program we will continue to tell people’s personal stories.

I want to great an archive of hundreds of stories of people who have changed their lives while others believe they cannot.


Submit your story to with the Subject line “You can live life well”

We require:

  • Your story in your own words covering at least (How you got to a point of change, how you made the change, tips and advise for others)
  • A selection of before and after photos
  • As many words as you need to tell your story

In advance, we regret that not all stories may be published. Your story is as important as anyone’s story but we can only publish one a week and the editor will make decision on this.

If your story is published you will receive a R500 voucher to the Wellness Warehouse online store with free national delivery.

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