Alan van Rooyen and his entire family are Sleekgeek enthusiasts. He is a fond figure in the community and I affectionately call him “Al=Dawg”. It is never too late to make change and Alan proves that. Today he was kind enough to tell us his story in his own words….
Alan Grew up being that chubby fat kid, the family staple diet was “Rys, Vleis and Aartappels”, he knew nothing about eating healthy food and salad was never served at home. His Dad used to comment, “That is rabbit food”
There is a history of high cholesterol and heart disease as well as diabetes in Alan’s family as well as cancer, he lost his Mom to Breast/Lung cancer and his Dad was diagnosed with Bone Cancer and succumbed at the age of 80.
He had many nicknames over the years “Fats”, “Kasimir”, “Big Al”….and just accepted that was the way things were. He would eat a greasy burger and supersize fries and then buy 2 Chunky Kitkats if he was really “skraal” and then think he was having a balanced meal if he finished it off with a Sprite Zero.
He used to think he was fit – ” I played Water Polo and Swam Midmar ” so that made him healthy! The reality was that he did play lots of sport at school and as a young guy in his 20’s. He did play Water Polo at provincial level and yes he did swim the Midmar mile 10 times – but that was between 20 to 35 years ago. Who did he think he was “PeterPan” ?
Lesson 1 : Amazing how we convince ourselves that we are healthy because of what we used to do.
What he did not understand was that in order for his body to maintain strength and remain healthy he actually needed to get off his fat arse and do something on a regular basis and not just THINK about what he used to be able to do.
Alan realized at 52 years old he better sort his sh#t out or he was heading for a health disaster of note – actually the Doc told him that! But he likes to think it was his decision. After all he was pre diabetic, he had elevated cholesterol of 6.8 (on Meds) and was hypertensive with a Resting BP of 145/90 and weighed over 135kgs.
So one day (after the Doc told him) he decides he is going to stop his crap and take care of his health – after all who else is responsible for his health? Not his wonderful wife nor his 2 beautiful daughters who by the way have been giving him gears for years about his slothful ways.
His oldest daughter Kirsten was on her own journey to improving her health and had lost 15 kg’s at that stage, she was one of his early inspirations while his younger daughter Kayla continually asked him to join her at gym on the weekends – but there were always way more pressing things to do. He had “Chores”, he “had to go to Church” etc – Alan was a master of the excuse, he actually wrote the book on excuses. [Read Kirsten’s story]
During 2014 he suffered a number of health related issues – on reflection he realises that these were all early warning signs- like:
- Constant ear and Sinus infections – which he now ascribes to that excessive intake of sugar
- Sleep apnea ( a result of his obesity and this was also contributing to his spiralling weight)
- He suspected he had diabetes – not really surprising with all the sugary stuff he was stuffing in his mouth
- He also suffered 2 retinal tears in the same eye and was starting to pick names for a Guide Dog because he had indications of similar issues in the good eye.
Lesson 2: Listen to your body, don’t ignore the small signs they can lead to BIG problems.
Slow and Steady catches the Monkey
So how did he get going?
In late Nov 2014 he made a decision to change his lifestyle (he had tried the diet thing previously many times):
- He started walking the dogs 1.2km each evening – he took strain, but each day he walked a little bit further, eventually doing 5km walks on the weekend.
- He started eating properly – he cut out the late night snacks, chocolates, cakes, sugar etc.
- Stopped using the lift anywhere and used the stairs – started with the 3 flights at work, 58 steps, every day he counted them and would get to the top blowing hard – but he never took that damn lift again.
By Christmas he had lost about 5kg’s, and to his credit he remained disciplined over that difficult festive period, he maintained his exercise routine and managed his food intake.
By Early Feb 2015 he started back at Gym – he started swimming again but had to stop due to chronic ear infections – previously a setback like this would have been taken as a sign and he would have lamented, “this is the only exercise I really enjoy so I am not meant to get healthy, look what is happening to me – I quit”, this was a turning point for the old Alan and the NEW Alan started to emerge.
I realised that I had to keep going, I had shed about 15kg’s and was not determined that I was not going backwards, so I started Cardio 2- 3 times a week, switching between the Treadmill, Bike and Rower, this kept my body guessing and I was really enjoying the gym and how I felt after a really hard session. I introduced some High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) training to stretch myself further.
Around this time (June15) an old friend and flat mate of mine was diagnosed with extremely aggressive cancer and I was able to spend some special times with him working through his situation and in his honour I ran an Army standard 2.4km with a mutual buddy – my first run since my National Service in 1988 – just a short 27 year gap since I had some young bloody corporal chasing me around the parade ground.
A few days before we ran, my mate Raymond told me with tear filled eyes – “Alan I just wish I could walk again you go and run for me, thank you.” I ran 2 more races in his honour before Ray passed away in Aug 2015, this loss again made me realise that everyday we need to grateful for what we are able to achieve and we need to stop being negative about what we can’t do – and have we even tried?
Lesson 3: Stop the bloody excuses and get out there and do something to improve your health and your lifestyle
I have tried the running thing a few times, – certainly not going to become a Comrades runner, I managed a 5km run ( 1st time) along the SleekGeek promenade (Seapoint) and did not die or tear a “poep string” or blow an Achilles or “hammie”. I have done a few parkrun’s and a night run and will keep doing these as a filler.
Images that are etched in my memory
One Sunday morning I was doing cardio in the gym and was about to call it quits because I was a bit tender and a bit flat – and in comes a disabled guy on crutches – I stayed on the bike and pedalled hard as I watched him battle his way down to the steppers – I never gave up that day and every time I am battling I think of him.
Lesson 3: That guy never gave up, everyday for him was a battle and he never gave up – what gives you the right to give up?
At another weekend Gym session, I saw a father and son in the gym – the dad was a tall, well built guy who looked after his body and his son was about 12 – the son was blind – the dad would get his son comfortable on one of the machines, make sure he was set up ok and then let him go. The Dad would go do a couple of reps or sets and then check back with his son to see if he wanted to change machines. That Dad made the time to get his own exercise in with his challenged son, he supported his son and cared for his son.
Lesson 4: That parent could have curled up in a ball and said I have too many challenges to keep in shape, but he didn’t he found a way to work out, he found a way for his son to work out and build a healthy body – so what the hell is your bloody excuse? Think about it.
So what have I learned along the way ?
- You can overcome your own beliefs about yourself and your situation – just because the Doctor said it would be hard to lose the weight at my age did not mean that I should not try!
- There is no silver bullet, magic potion, or rinkhals snake oil that you can take to make it easy – I piled the weight on by eating badly and limiting my exercise to as little as possible.
- The only way to succeed is to work at it regularly and keep lifting the bar .
- The only way to change where you are is to change what you do.
- Everyday is about choices – you have to decide what you want – do you want to go forward or backwards?
- KISS – Keep It Simple Sleeks – don’t over complicate or over Analyse it – try something and if it does not work make a change.
- If you put more kilojoules in than you use then you will not lose weight, I used the MyFitnessPal app to help me track my food intake – I kept at 500 Kj under my goal on a regular basis and made sure I ate small amounts every 3-4 hours, and drank plenty of water.
- You need some sort of support network, I am blessed to have a wonderful supportive wife and 2 gorgeous health conscious daughters who have constantly pushed me and encouraged me and taught me about eating properly. Forever grateful to them and to the Sleekgeek family .
Some quick stats
- My pants size dropped from 44 to 38
- Shirts from XXXL to L (I battle to accept this!)
- Cholesterol below 3.5 (from 6.8 ) but I am still on Meds but 5mg instead of 10mg.
- Blood Glucose back to Normal, was pre diabetic
- Blood Pressure 125/80 – from 140/90
- Starting weight 133kg estimated – probably more like 135-137kg.
- Achieved target weight 99kg after 11 months, BMI at 32
- Time Period to date – 21 months (Nov 2014 – Aug2016)
And where am I now?
Exercise – I am maintaining but need to get more in. I am getting a minimum of an hour of cardio and free weights a week. 45 Minutes of Pilates at least once a week and I still only do stairs.
I have a treat meal on a weekend and I am managing my weight between 102 and 99kg since Jan 2016.
Do I battle? Yes every day. Do I fall off the wagon? Yes but the trick is to get back on as soon as possible before those old habits consume you and do NOT wallow in self pity and self loathing – falling off is not failure – Failure is not getting back up!