Carli Johannesburg is one of our JHB Sleekgeeks who has become a leader and ‘rockstar’ in the Sleekgeek community that other ladies look up to and adore. Her posts are always very popular and she inspires like wildfire!
Today we get to hear about her journey in her own words.
I think I was 7 or 8 years old and after a fun day out we returned home and rang the bell. My mom was home but did not open. We knocked and knocked and eventually climbed over the swimming pool fence to get to our parents bedroom window. We opened the curtain and called my mom. She did not move. We yelled at her but she still did not move. She was in a coma and the next thing I can remember were the ambulance lights and a very dark confusing night. That was not the first time she tried to commit suicide but definitely one of her worst attempts. 250 sleeping pills is what I remember everyone saying.
We stopped counting her attempts after 25 times (that I know of). That night was the first for me. The first time I knew about it and understood that she tried to kill herself. That night my whole life changed and that night was a big part of me changing as a person. I have not been able to get the details of that out of my memory and it’s been haunting me my whole life.
And I did not know it then, but years later after lots of therapy I finally know that I realised I needed to grow up that night. I had to look after myself as I realised my parents were not going to do that. I was a deep thinking and serious child. I hardly had any rules and did what I wanted. The freedom, hardly any rules and doing what I wanted certainly affected my weight as I never had discipline. This also strongly comes back into my eating habits my whole life, never applying boundaries and discipline to my eating.
When a young child is seriously addicted to food, an emotional binge eater, mostly eating in secret, always sick from over-eating and constantly thinking about food, there is a reason. I would walk to the store and work out how many chocolates I could buy for all my pocket money and it would be finished by the time I got home. I did this very often. I felt guilty over-eating too much at a very young age. I was constantly sick and I was taught to make myself throw up by sticking my finger in my mouth. This eventually turned into Bulimia in high school. I was not really that fat as a kid, but I was bigger than the other kids. But I was a kid, who spend most of my time swimming, running, skipping, being active so my weight was kind of under control.
In primary school I started my first diet and soon became obsessed with exercise and losing weight. I was teased by other kids for years and when I look back at my photos today I can hardly believe it.
In High school my parents got divorced and I had to live with my mom. I was basically raised on junk food 3 out of 7 nights a week. Sometimes more. My mom was too depressed to cook or clean or do anything most of the time. I had to take the mom role throughout my high school years but cooking was the one thing I was not interested in doing and very happy to have junk food every night of the week. (I could not even cook when I got married). I was addicted to food so why would I say no to this treat from heaven? If only I knew then what impact it would have on my life later.
In high school I was not huge, just overweight but thought I was massive and I would always be on a diet, appetite suppressants, magic shakes, quick fixes, laxatives and I often quickly lost 20kg just to stop and gain back 30kg. That was the story of my life. But when I look at my photos I see something different today and wish someone could have told me how beautiful I was. But I had a very bad body and self-image. I was obsessed with weight and training and for the years suffering from Bulimia I would train for 2-3 solid hours a night until my mom would make me stop. I was diagnosed with depression but because of my mom’s depression changing my life, I hated depression I refused to take my meds. One day I threw my Prozac away and decided I was in charge of my emotions and life. But food was my best friend and worst enemy. I was never not eating something. Food was my best comfort and my best friend.
Why share this deep and intimate details with you? Because people would ask what happened and how I would allow it to go that far? Many people would think I am just lazy stuffing my face for no reason. That’s my reason. I am no longer embarrassed about what happened in my life and the truth about it set me free. Because this is what made it all start but dealing with this is what finally set me free from emotional binge eating. Today I know how important it is to deal with your past and pain and let it go.
My “Fat Kid” Years
Quickly changing to big tops when I gained a little weight. But I was not fat.
The years of eating disorders and starvation diets
My weight exploded
After sorting out my Bulimia but not my emotional binge eating, taking a year off after school with no plans or ambition and dating a guy since age of 18 for almost 7 years my weight quickly exploded after he told me I could gain 50kg and he would still love me just as much. So I gained 50kg and eventually more, only realizing years later he fed me and sabotaged all of my weight loss efforts due to his own insecurities of losing me. Eventually giving up the effort to wear make-up or give myself a lot of attention I mostly wore black and tried not to be seen. But I was loved. Someone thought I was incredible and adored me. Together we lived for eating. Often in the middle of the night just because.
I would lose 20-30kg in every diet just to gain back all of it and more. I did that so many times I must have lost 100’s of kilos. At 19 the scale went onto a 3-digit weight and at the age of 21, I weighed 150kg. Right through my 20’s and into my 30’s I weighed between 150-166kg. 166kg!! I had to buy the biggest size clothes you get and for 15 years I was morbidly obese. I never understood why I was such a failure. But the only help out there was the next magic diet.
After 7 years I finally ended the relationship. While taking a year to find myself, start gym again and eat healthier, I was diagnosed with Insulin Resistance. I was pre-diabetic and they told me if I don’t change my life immediately I would become a diabetic. I saw a dietician and learned about eating healthier, finding balance, making my own choices and working out. I kept going and lost 30kg and lots of body fat. I reversed all the symptoms. But I kept going back to old habits and stuffing my face. I was the typical “Start on Monday person” but the Mondays kept moving for years when my best attempts failed early on Monday already as I was so full of sugar from the weekend cheats, that all I craved was more sugar and lunch time could not come fast enough to find more sugar loaded crap and try again on Tuesday, resulting in more fails and declaring to start again on Monday. That’s how I quickly gained a lot of weight very fast for years. Once in a while I would be strong enough to keep to it for a few weeks and lose some weight, until I was weak again and cheated for a few weeks before starting on Monday again. Sounds familiar?
My 21st Birthday – Smiling but not happy
This is me today
I have now lost 85kg. I stay in Gauteng and have been married for 7 years. We don’t have kids yet which is a huge part of why I wanted to lose the weight. I definitely want a comfortable pregnancy and I want to raise my kids in a healthy environment and teach them about health and nutrition and balance but I want to be the example and walk the talk. I turned 35 this year. I am a receptionist. My other big passion besides weight, health and fitness is Guinea pigs. I also love photography, singing and animals.
In 9 years with my husband, he never told me once I’m fat and need to lose weight. But I still believed I needed to lose it for him to be good enough and constantly tried just to fail again. We shared a passion for food as he loves to cook and because of him I started eating veggies and many other foods I refused to eat my whole life. He never complained and for a long time I don’t think I truly grasped the seriousness of my weight and how bad it was. Once again I was loved. We got married and I weighed in at around 130kg. I would continue to lose weight and gaining it all back. I kept eating in secret every chance I had. I would often try to change my habits just to keep slipping back into old habits.
I was a complete sugar addict. I had a minimum of 2-3 slabs a day, combined with chips, donuts, cold drinks, muffins, burgers, chips, cookies, pastas and pizza and an overflow of ice cream etc. My groceries would not consist of fruit & vegetables etc. It would be only crap.
One day, almost 3 years ago I cried and I was done. I hated what I was doing to myself and wanted to stop for good. I was depressed but ready to change once and for all. My husband reminded me to start a food diary again and I started eating healthy and balanced and started seeing a Biokineticist who taught me how to eat and train in order to lose body fat and gain lean muscle mass. In 10 months I lost 50kg. I changed my life and started walking 10km races. I have never walked before in my life but realized I had a talent for speed walking and it became another obsession, which I loved. I got medals for doing something good health wise and I lost weight and things changed. My big passion has always been Zumba. After someone hurt me I stopped going to class and then to the gym altogether and allowed my feelings to get in the way and started eating again. I gained back 40 of the 50 kilos I lost and suddenly I realized what I was busy doing. I was doing what I always do, after I truly believed I was changing my life. The gain happened slower this time since I was not on any crash diet before going back. I decided to now make changes for the good for the final time in my life before I gain back that last 10kg. And that was the end of the cycle. I had enough! Working so hard just to undo it all over and over again. I was done. And so I found the Sleekgeek Facebook Group and started with my first Sleekgeek Ultimate You 8-Week Challenge.
I Love that even at my biggest, I still had love and compassion for myself
Why make the change?
I have gone on diets hundreds of times and I have tried them all. I made myself physically sick with diet pills, fat loss products, laxatives and many crazy attempts and wasted a lot of years and money and still ended up bigger than ever. I knew the truth was that I had to change my life for good. I was sick of not getting clothes that fit. A Donna Claire size 28 stretch pants was once tight on me. A Size 28 top was sometimes not big enough to hide all the fat. I bought clothes that fit, not clothes I loved. I stopped buying clothes I loved at age 19 and 17 years of fashion skipped my life. I was sick and tired of things like:
- Asking for an extended seatbelt in an airplane and the car seatbelt not fitting
- Being uncomfortable and breathing heavy at night while sleeping
- Always being hot and sweaty & moving with difficulty
- Hiding my, once beautiful legs, in long pants right through summer, year after year
- Always standing out in crowds and strangers always staring.
- My back giving in many times and not being able to walk or crawl without screaming in pain
- Feeling like a complete failure as I stuffed my face with junk day in and day out
- Living on pain meds and not fitting into my bath properly or sit in the movie seats in comfort or even my hairdresser chair without being squashed.
- Ordering and buying bras at a studio for a ridiculous price
- Failing at every diet and gaining all the weight back & not liking the reflection in the mirror
- Stressing when summer arrived and I could not hide my huge neck with my scarves.
I was tired of being sick and tired but not doing anything to change it. I got older and older each year and still could not risk getting pregnant with my body and health. I had to change. But would I ever really be able to change it all around? Was it not too late? Have I not done too much damage? I was covered in stretch marks already. I had flabby fat and skin already and knew I would never look the same again even if I lost all the weight. Would I ever be able to really lose such a huge amount? I doubted myself. But I loved myself and knew I was worth it to do it. But I started again and this time truly did things differently. I no longer tried to lose weight for anyone else other than myself.
I went back to gym and Zumba class for good. I love the class but especially our teacher and our routines. I love being able to move and getting stronger. I strongly believe you have to find something you love and then you will never be able to stop again. I went back to my Bio. And when I wanted that junk, I would ask myself why and think about it. I never really knew what health, wellness, nutrition, balance meant. I spend a lot of time on google educating myself and learning about food. I entered Sleekgeek 8-Week Challenges and lost weight each time and gained back weight before starting the next challenge. I felt like such a failure.
Then for my 3rd challenge I started working harder than I have ever worked in my life. I spend hours on google searching for recipes. Hours cooking food and hours in the gym, in the streets walking, working out at 5am in the mornings and I won the challenge winning R10,000. BUT I changed now. I am not the same anymore and I broke the cycles. I just finished my 4th Challenge. 2 months ago when I started my 4th challenge I weighed in at 99kg and today I’m close to 80kg.
Now as I am 35 I am in a better shape I have been in years. As I’m getting older, I am physically and mentally getting younger and feeling great. I look and feel better now than when I was 21. And finally back to a 2-digit weight after 17 years.
I did many walks, sometime through pain of blisters and heels that made me wanted to quit over and over. Walking through finish lines crying, often thinking about giving up but never did. I finally learned about perseverance and not giving up anymore in my life. I learned about discipline.
I went from a girl with no goals and no ambition who gave up on all her dreams to a strong, determined woman ready for anything. I went from being the master of excuses to someone who makes no more excuses and rather finds solutions. My personal Motto is #ZeroExcuses as that is how I am living my life. My Bio once told me I am the master of excuses and I walked out crying, but had to look deep within myself and realise how true that was and thank her because that brutal honesty changed my life. I still have about 14kg to go and If I feel this amazing now, I can’t even begin to imagine how I will feel when I reach my goal weight and all is finally back to “normal” again.
From being a person hiding and never approaching someone if they don’t approach me, being afraid of people, I now talk to people first, I work on my confidence daily and I don’t hide anymore or feel that I don’t count. Losing weight and learning how strong I really am, changed me as a person.
How I eat & Train
I went back to the basics. I eat 5-6 times a day. 3 meals and 2 or 3 snacks. Protein with every meal, fruit & vegetables and good fats.
- Breakfast: Oats with cinnamon and berries or fruit & nuts or eggs and tomato and avocado
- Snack: Fruit & Protein like eggs or biltong
- Lunch: Left-overs from Dinner or meat and salad
- Snack: Fruit & Protein or veggies and protein
- Dinner: Protein and veggies and some good fat.
Giving up cold drinks, even diet drinks was something I thought would be impossible as I lived on them and would still lose weight on diet drinks and it kept me sane, but I was still feeding my body sugar and never got rid of the cravings, so I now mostly live on water. I really cut back on carbs and sugar but especially refined sugar and carbs. If I want pizza I make my own. I make my own nachos and burgers and wraps and ice creams but all in a healthy way. Eating healthy finally turned me into a chef and I love trying new recipes and creating masterpieces, without the guilt. And I truly feel I eat like a queen.
I do a lot of cardio in the gym, different machines, Zumba, swimming, I hike, lots of walking and I play squash with my husband. I start each day with a walk and walk whenever I have spare time. I take my tekkies everywhere I go. I’m now also starting with muscle training again.
I have treats once in a while as I believe in balance but I mostly try to make it myself so that I know what goes into it. But I do still have controlled cheats. I try not to eat out of emotion and hurt but making my own choices about my cheats. My grocery trolley literally changed into fresh fruits and vegetables and meats and herbs and good fats. I no longer use fat free or low fat or diet products. I spend a lot of time making my own foods and treats but I love being in charge of what goes into my body. My favorite snack is Biltong, nuts and avocado & fruit. And my favorite treat that keeps me sane is popcorn. My favorite exercise is Zumba and my least favorite exercise is Burpees and lunges.
Eat to live, don’t live to eat
For the first time in my life it’s not just about the weight loss, but about health as well. I want to be truly healthy. I look at what goes into my food, whether I really need it, why I want it and distinguish between a physical and emotional hunger. I had more emotional hunger in my life than physical hunger and for years never even knew what physical hunger felt like as I was always over full. Now I love to listen to my body. I lived to eat, now I truly eat to live. My life no longer revolves around food and it’s so freeing. I was a prisoner to food and sugar and addiction my whole life and now I am in charge. It’s the best feeling in the world.
I still have them at times. This journey is not always just easy but because of my positive attitude people think I fly through it. I’ve cried because I wanted to join the crowd in eating the junk and saying no when all I wanted was to say yes. I had days feeling like I’m getting nowhere, feeling a failure when I would stuff my face after months of eating clean. Other lows are looking good in clothes but because of years of losing and gaining weight and skin stretching really badly, not looking anything close to when I last weighed in the 80’s when I was 18. My skin stretched really bad and I will need some serious operations in a few areas. I get a lot of people telling me that is why they don’t want to start. But I had to stop thinking about that and make the changes first and today I believe a miracle will come my way to support me in the finances for the operations.
Never going back
Not a chance! For the first time I made true changes, inside and out. My habits, goals and priorities changed. My lifestyle is not a diet that will eventually end. I can sustain it for the rest of my life, even when life happens and when eating out & when celebrating because it’s all about choices and not rules. That to me is a true healthy balanced lifestyle. I love what I’m doing. I love feeling energetic and strong and able to do the things I want. I always had lots of stamina, even as a big girl. Now I have loads and a lot of people refer to me as the energizer bunny. My recently bought Size 16 (Donna Claire – which is 1 size bigger than normal sizes) is now too big. My feet fit into shoes again. The physical changes are endless. I feel happier & comfortable in my own skin. I have the most incredible support system in my Sleekgeek family and such a group of people behind me. I have incredible friends who support me and understand when I pass on certain things. I have a husband who eats whatever I give him without ever complaining. He listens to me daily talking about health and weight and he made true sacrifices for me for a long time as this is my new passion in life.
I went from someone with all the excuses in the world not to be active as I have a desk job, to now winning step challenges and people refer to me as the Energizer Bunny. I’m on a mission and will continue to better myself. have a body that is completely capable and I can no longer abuse it. My stomach was a trash can, now it’s my temple. I truly am a temple of God and I do this to honor Him as he did not create me to be the person I made myself to be. I am stronger than any food addictions. I celebrated every single event and emotion in life with food and lots of it. Now I celebrate life by being active, going for a hikes with friends and enjoying life, going for parkruns and charity runs, being alive and grateful. There are no more snacks on the tables before dinner. When friends come over there is no longer a display of snacks to be laid out. Life truly changed.
I gained a lot the day I realized Motivation will merely get you started but will never see you through.
- Decide what you want and what you need to do to make it happen
- Then making a solid decision to do what you need to do and to stick with your choices no matter what life throws at you. Stick to it no matter what.
Change happens when you make small daily changes and stick with it. Being busy with a specific challenge currently, for the last 3 months, I realized what true clean eating is. I have not touched anything that comes in a box or can or bottle. I eat fresh fruit & veggies and meat and tiny amounts of good oils. I have not touched sugar, carb vegetables, sauces, coffee, grains, seeds and dairy.
For the first time in my life I succeed because I transformed my mind and not only my body. A mental transformation is so important. How you think about food and your relationship with food. Binge eating and emotional eating only changed once I started changing my mind about food. I talked to myself a lot, I got some professional help in my challenge and got the tools with how to deal with the reasons I overeat. If you just change your body but never change your mind, the chance is very good that you will gain it back. Every aspect of my life is healing and getting better and undergoing a transformation. Why? Because I transformed my mind and my heart and the way I think about everything. It’s so important to heal the inside and not just the outside. Letting go on all the baggage that weighed me down on top of all the extra weight truly transformed me.
I started by telling you my story. I end by telling you that every bad thing that happened in your life no longer determines what choices you make today. Your past, your wounds and hurt no longer has to have an effect on your choices and what you put into your mouth. Food does not make it better, only worse.
Deal with the issue and find solutions. If you can get your head right, you can do anything you decide to do. The only real difference between every failed diet and your new healthy lifestyle, is your head.
Nothing is Impossible and anything is possible. It’s never too late. If I can do it, so can you.
We all have a story. Some really heart breaking. But you are bigger than it and you can be free. If you can just grasp that it does not have to affect you the rest of your life, you don’t have to be a victim and prisoner to food, you have free will and choice with every piece of food you put into your mouth, with every choice you make, then you might just make that transformation and change for the better, for good. Many years ago I almost gave up but it’s never too late.
I look forward to my future where my weight will never hold me back anymore. Where I am happy and content with myself, no matter what it looks like underneath the clothes. I look forward to doing all the things I could not do for too long. There is no ideal weight for me – Ideal will be when I am content and happy with me.
Starting BMI & Body Fat at 146kg Current BMI & Body Fat
BMI of 56.2 – now 35.5%
Body Fat of 41.6 -now 29.4%
My top tips to anyone wanting to start:
- Stop the diets and change your lifestyle.
- Don’t drink your calories – eat it. Drink water for life.
- When you “cheat” do it with something you will enjoy that will be worth it. Guilt is a worthless feeling. Be in charge of that decision and go on immediately.
- Don’t rely on Motivation. It will get you started, but won’t keep you going. Make decisions and stick with it and focus on your goals.
- Have fun. You should enjoy your food and not feel deprived. Learn how to make your food in alternative healthy ways, yet still delicious. Enjoy your journey, it’s never ending.
- Make exercise part of your life. It truly fights depression and makes you feel alive, amazing and strong. But do remember, you cannot out train a bad diet.
- Have a food diary and write down everything you eat, your exercise etc. I have been doing it for years and it really makes a difference.
- Do not keep your fat clothes for incase. Throw it out and never allow yourself to go back there.
- Forget about the Big number you have to lose. Set small goals and reward yourself for reaching them with things you love to do.
- Never give up. If you make a mistake and fall off, get right back up again and continue.
I look forward to your journey!