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Tanya Kirstein overcame a tough start to life and lost 33kgs

My story begins…..

High school, that time when most of us feel like we don’t know who we are and are still trying to figure it out. I was at my peak weight. I participated in a lot of sport that was hard on the body ie: gymnastics and swimming. I did a lot of cardio at the time to stay fit while eating high carb meals. I looked like a stick and had the stupid nicknames of “bones” or “split-pin”.

I thought I would always be skinny – that nothing would change. I was arrogant and I would flaunt it. Bikinis at the beach, high cut tops, short-shorts. For me, there was no such thing as having an excuse for being fat. I didn’t understand….but I learnt very quickly how things could change and that all my judgemental thoughts would come back to me ten-fold.


I was also dealing with a lot of emotional stuff at home. Physical abuse from my mother – the one who was supposed to be my best friend according to all the movies. The one who was supposed to be my protector. But, that was not in my cards. If it was a poker game I would be losing round after round. I had an emotional breakdown in my matric year just before my prelims. I couldn’t sleep most nights.

The sleep deprivation and emotional stress pairing didn’t work so well. My dad didn’t know what the reason was and after years of telling him and him not listening or not able to believe it I stopped saying anything. I was “rebellious”. That’s what was told to me constantly. I finally stood up for myself and it ended but I was sitting with the emotional side effects of where my mother would constantly tell me how I was the child she never wanted.

Looking back now I know this was the time I started using food as a comfort. At the time I didn’t care. I just ate a load of rubbish. Chips, sweets, anything that would console me. I wasn’t gaining weight so I carried on with the bad habit.  Those feelings of no self-worth carried on long into my twenties. I would still have nightmares that wouldn’t go away, would keep me awake at night. Even when I left my childhood home those emotions were trailing not too far behind.


Fast forward a few years and I am now 21. Still relatively lean but I had an unexpected pregnancy. I was devastated. I was not ready to have a child yet. At twelve weeks I miscarried and that devastated me even more. I also found out on the same day that my chances of having children and carrying them to term were low. All I could think was why me?

I cried myself to sleep most nights and my fiance at the time didn’t get it and didn’t understand. This feeling from not wanting to be pregnant to not being pregnant and wanting to be, to wanting to have a child. It put a lot of strain on the relationship and I ate my feelings away. More like drowning in food to console the emptiness I felt at that time.

When I did find myself again I had lost most of the weight I’d gained. And all I did was eat healthy and workout moderately. More than a year had passed when I found out I was pregnant again. We were only married two months at the time and all the previous fears surfaced again, what the Doctor had said kept repeating itself over and over again. I was terrified!

A baby and weight gain 

After finding a great Obstetrician my healthy baby was born. I’d been put on bed – rest for the duration. For those who don’t know that’s when you lie all day, only getting up for the loo or food. I gained 33kg’s during my first pregnancy. Lost half and then after second pregnancy gained 35kg’s plus the half from the first pregnancy. I was weighing 93.5kg’s!!!! This was my lowest point.

In all that time I knew I was overweight but figured I could lose it easily. I’d done it before, so why not now? I was never fat! So this should be easy right?? Wrong! I tried every diet pill, shake, fast that I could find. Hoping against hope that somewhere some diet pill would actually do what it claimed.

Feeling disgusted and disappointed when it didn’t.I hated myself so much, for what I was seeing. I was once again allowing my emotions to win. I was now that “fat friend”. The one that I would look at disapprovingly when I was younger. Karma had made its way to me of this I felt certain. Was this my lesson? Was I intended to learn to be more empathetic, caring towards those who faced the same struggle I’m facing now? I couldn’t accept that there was even a remote chance that I’d done it to myself.

I even resorted to anorexia. I stopped eating altogether. I just hated myself and what I was seeing. It didn’t last long though. I would get so dizzy and my blood pressure was constantly at a dangerous low. I was lying about eating when no food was passing my lips until my husband realised what was going on and put it into perspective for me.

Either I ate and became healthy or there would be consequences. At the time all I could think was why is he being so mean? I would eat but only when he was there and such small portions that I’m sure it was under 500 calories a day. And through all this guess what? No weight loss! Nada! All I felt was sick all the time.

My final wake-up call came at my second child’s baptism. I looked like Fiona from Shrek and not the pretty little princess version. I’d heard about the protein diet that was helping everyone lose so much weight and I decided to do my homework. I finally decided on the Ketogenic version and got the house prepped.

If I was going to do it, so was my husband.  In the back of my mind I kept hoping that this wasn’t just another fad diet. After two months of doing Keto and working out I had lost 15kg’s!!! I was stoked and kept at it for another two years where I weighed my lowest. I was doing a lot of body weight training and cardio. At the time at least twice a day. I thought “great” now I can stop and eat what I want again. Boy was I wrong!

I picked up 8kg’s to my intense disappointment. And instead of just going back to what I know worked I went into the same downward spiral of weight loss pills and shakes with no results. These stupid emotions that kept me feeling like I would never get a break – never have a win.

This continued for another 2 years of ups and downs and feeling awful in my clothes. I was not that fat girl anymore but she was all I was seeing. Would I get no relief? I wallowed in self-pity (and this we all master in) It’s better to feel sorry for yourself than to admit that you yourself are to blame for feeling unhappy and that only you yourself can change this. This was my psychological rollercoaster.

My second awakening came again from my husband who told me to stop being obsessed with my weight and the scale. That he liked the way I looked even if I didn’t (do you see the pattern here? My husband – my rock, also, the one who stepped in when I needed him most) I was so obsessed with the scale that whenever I saw one I was weighing myself. So after him giving me the emotional jerk I got back up and decided to set myself straight.  I would start distancing myself from those evil bugger emotions and get up and fight. It took a long time to get my head on straight and work through everything. It was not an easy journey at all!

There were still a lot of days of self-doubt hidden behind a fake smile. Even when I received compliments I would shrug it off as the person just trying to be nice. But, at the end of it all I am now stronger and better for it. I don’t use food to hide my emotions anymore. I hold myself accountable for my actions and when my self-doubt tries to show up I look for all the positives in my life. I count five things to be thankful for and tell the cow to get back in her closet.

I also started my own home gym so that any fragment of self-doubt about myself would not appear at the sight of someone built better or who’s thinner than me. I was being proactive by eliminating all distractions on my own journey of growth and progress. I started doing body-weight training again and cardio. I was pushing hard this time.

Thankful I found Sleekgeek 

I found the Sleekgeek Facebook Group about a year later and realised that there are so many other people just like me. All trying to be better versions of themselves. This was so inspiring and helping me so much. I would read everyone’s posts and soak up as much information as I could. All I could think of was wow! These people are amazing I wish I was like that. I watched my first challenge in the background and kept thinking to myself – hey, I can do that too.

I’m thankful for finding Sleekgeek. It has kept me accountable and helped me realise that all the time I was eating my emotions. That I was stronger than what I thought I was and that it was possible to find a second family. It makes me want to be a better , healthier version and damn the scale!! It also makes me want to help others who are going through their own struggles.

Throughout my whole journey I have learnt that arrogance will get you nowhere. You need to be thankful for your wins and stay humble. Help where you can, because everyone is going through their own challenges. Support each other even if you don’t agree. Not everyone’s demons are the same as yours so there is no one size fits all solution, just help them find theirs.

My advice to you is:

  • Don’t allow your emotions to win – EVER
  • You are truly stronger than you believe – just take the first step
  • Even when you feel like you don’t believe in yourself, someone else is looking up to you as their inspiration whether it’s your child, a friend or someone online
  • There is no such thing as failure – only lessons waiting to be learned. 

I wish you all good luck on your journeys

Tanya xxx 

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