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Tania Francis is winning at her health journey!

Throughout High School I was never overweight.  I was blessed with wide hips and a round booty but I embraced them.  Thanks to the Kardashians and Nicki Minaj’s of the world who made big booty’s the “in thing”.  I weighed 65kgs at the end of matric.

I have always loved food.  My weakness is sweet treats and rich creamy pasta dishes.  I always had sweets and chocolates in my desk drawer. My first permanent job had an ice cream fridge which was detrimental to my waistline but I was young and not really concerned.  

When my boyfriend (now husband) and I moved into our own place I discovered that I loved cooking and in turn enjoyed eating the meals I made even more.  I would take leftovers to work for lunch every day. I was eating too many refined carbs and far too much sugar every day.

When I saw my photos from my 21st I was shocked by how much weight I had put on.  I weighed 70 kgs at this point and it was a case of enough was enough. I needed to do something.  I started exercising and eating a bit better. My weight dropped and I felt much better about myself.

Fast forward to June 2013.  The stress of work and studying for my degree had taken its toll and I had put on the weight plus more.  I weighed 75 kgs and was very unhappy with the way I looked and felt about myself.

Going round in circles 

We were getting married in 9 months and I wanted to look my best.  I joined Virgin Active and went to gym a few times a week. I walked on the treadmill, swam, attended spinning and step classes.  I cut down on carbs and sugar and in January 2014 when we had our engagement shoot I weighed 68kgs. There is no better feeling than when the numbers on that scale drop.  I was so happy and proud that I managed to do it.

After our wedding I went back to my old eating habits because there was no motivation to stay on track and I put on a few kilos.  We were planning on having a baby so I was going to put the weight on anyway. It wasn’t the best attitude to have but it boiled down to the love of food again.

In May 2014 I found out I was pregnant with our son Riley.  My first gynae appointment at 8 weeks I weighed 75kgs. I suffered from terrible nausea for the first three months and the only way to alleviate it was by eating constantly.  I picked up about 8kgs in my first trimester and 20kgs in total. I was so close to 100kgs it was frightening. By the time it was my six week check-up after he was born I was down to 83kgs.  

After my son was born it was all about him.  I enjoyed watching him grow and learn new things and for the first year of his life he was my main focus.  I did not care how I looked. After his first birthday I wanted to lose the weight but didn’t have the motivation to do it.  I kept using the excuse “I’ve just had a baby”. I set a goal for 2016 to lose 5kgs but I did nothing to achieve it.

The turning point 

On the 4 of January 2017 the below picture from our engagement shoot three years prior popped up on my timeline.  I was at breaking point. I realised I could not keep saying to myself that I just had a baby. He was turning two in a month.  He was no baby anymore. I kept looking at that picture and I just felt like crying.

I weighed 80kgs, 7kgs more than my pre-baby weight.  12kgs more than my pre wedding weight and I was over it. I looked 6 months pregnant and felt uncomfortable in my clothes, I hated having my photo taken and clothing shopping was a nightmare.  I constantly hid behind my boy when there were any pictures being taken. I knew I had to do something.

When my husband got home that day I told him I was going for a run.  I think he almost fell on his back. I put on my takkies and put one foot in front of the other.  I only managed to jog 200m and I had to stop I was so out of breath. I was always a walker but I couldn’t feel my muscles the next day but the day I started running I could feel my muscles were sore and it was the best feeling ever.  I ran for 20 minutes that day and when I measured the route the next day it was only 2,5kms. I was a bit disappointed because it felt like 5km’s but the main thing was that I had done it, even if it was mostly walking and a bit of jogging.

I ran 2,5 kms most days after that and slowly but surely it got easier and I managed to run 1km without stopping.  The day that happened was amazing! I started eating clean, well what I thought was eating clean. I cut out carbs, even the good carbs and lived on salads mostly.  Salads for lunch and salads for supper. It was very difficult.

Weekends were my “weak end” though.  Whatever I lost during the week, I put back on over the weekend.  

I was a bit of a running snob though.  I wanted to run alone as this was considered my “me time”. Just myself and the music in my ears.  I continued like this for some time until one day I ran with another person. I actually enjoyed it and it became a habit.  It’s a lot easier showing up when you know someone is waiting for you. It was also good to have someone to say “You are not stopping now, run a bit longer.”  I bought myself a fitness tracker which was a game changer. It was always about running faster and further. I was constantly challenging myself. I did eventually learn how to run for fun as well.

Enter Sleekgeek

It was during March 2017 that I found the Sleekgeek Facebook Group.  Seeing all these inspiring stories everyday helped me so much.  I joined a running club and became very focused on my times to complete 5kms and 10kms.  I set a goal of sub 30 for 5kms and sub 60 for 10kms. I never reached these goals but I came pretty close.

In July I broke my middle toe and was told I could not run for a month.  By this point I had lost 4 kilograms but the month of not running slowed me down.  During August 2017 I did the Free Sleekgeek 30-Day Healthy Habit Challenge with my mom. It was then that I decided to do the Sleekgeek  8-Week Challenge.

I had put on 1 kilogram during the non-running period and I knew my eating plan needed some tweaking.  I started having oats for breakfast and cut out bread. I cut out most sugar and stuck to the mod carb plan.  After taking 8 months to lose 3 kilograms I lost 3.3kgs during the 8-Week challenge.

I reconnected with a friend from school, Mellissa Bosch and we helped each other through the Challenge as Buddies.  After the Challenge ended we continued to check in with each other and keep each other motivated.

It really helps to have a like-minded person to help on your journey.  We are still checking in with each other and run together every week. We have become best friends and chat every day about everything and anything and I’m so glad to have her with me on this journey.

Achievements and progress 

My goals for 2017 were to lose 7 kilograms, fit back into the jeans in the picture and run a 21 kilometre.  I’ve reached these goals and I feel so much better about myself. I had to buy a whole new wardrobe because I threw out all my thin clothes aside for the three name brand jeans I had.

I went from running 2.5kms in 20 minutes to running 5kms in 31:38 and 10kms in 1:04:58.   I went from wearing extra-large clothing to wearing medium. I completed my first half marathon on 17 September 2017.  When I got to the finish line I had tears in my eyes and I was so emotional because I was so damn proud of myself. To finish something you didn’t think was possible is the most amazing feeling in the world.  I have completed three half marathons in total so far and I have a few more to do this year.

For those of you who feel guilty about leaving your child for a little while and doing some exercise or going for a run.  Don’t feel guilty. I did in the beginning until I realised that running makes me a better person and a better mom. I run to keep myself sane.  It’s my stress relief and I feel free when I run, I honestly love it.

My dream is to complete the Comrades.   It’s a massive achievement and it’s something I want to work towards.  I would like to complete a full marathon by the end of next year and hope to do the Two Oceans Ultra Marathon in March 2020.  If I manage to achieve this and get my pace down to 5 minutes (currently 6:48 per kilometre) injury free, I will begin training for the Comrades.

My mindset about food has completely changed.  I don’t need pasta and fried foods every week. I have found much better substitutes for the unhealthy foods and I have survived.  

I no longer have sweets and chocolates in my drawers. I have biltong and fruit. I’m not saying I will never have a chocolate again because it is all about balance, but I know what effect they have on my body if I eat them every single week.  

I have also realised that good carbs are not bad for you.  I feel my weight loss was easier once I incorporated some good carbs.  I have lost 9kgs since January 2017 and 42.5cms since I measured for the eight week challenge in September 2017.  It wasn’t easy, but it was definitely worth it.

I keep my meals simple and only change the protein and carbs.  Breakfast is oats with whey protein and milk. Lunch is salad with whatever protein I have.  Supper is protein, colourful veg and some good carbs. My snacks are biltong, whey protein and full cream yoghurt and fruit (one or two per day).  If I need something sweet I have apple with some peanut butter.

My goal for weight-loss this year was to get down to 68kgs.  I don’t think I am going to reach it and I’m okay with that. I am happy with the way I look.  My body has decided that for now the scale is going to stay the same but I’m still losing cms and I’m happy with that.  

I can feel I am building muscle which may have something to do with this.  I have distanced myself from the scale. Throughout 2017 I weighed everyday and it was not good for me.  Now that I weigh 2 to 3 times a month I am a much happier person. The number on the scale should not define how you look and feel about yourself.  I weigh more than I did at my engagement shoot but I’m fitter and stronger and I think I look better. My face has slimmed down so much and my chubby cheeks are gone. So much so that I took the plunge and cut my hair the way I’ve always wanted to.  I was too scared before because of these chubby cheeks I’ve always had.

Some of my non-scale victories have been suddenly having collarbones.  I have also noticed lately that I can see my ribs on my chest. I have lost 12cms off my stomach since September last year.  My marshmallow stomach has become firm. I don’t take XL tops any more to try on. All my size 36 clothing is too big for me.  Medium tops actually fit me. I can wear fitting shirts with confidence now. The best thing I could have ever done was begin this journey.

I will be doing the Sleekgeek  8-Week Summer Challenge this year again and I can’t wait.  The Sleekgeek Community is amazing and has honestly changed my life. I would not be where I am now without Sleekgeek and the friends I have made along the way.

My tips for your journey are as follows:

  • Eat Clean
  • Find an exercise that you enjoy doing and then find someone to join you.  You are more likely to show up if there is someone waiting for you. It’s also more fun with a friend
  • Celebrate every bit of progress even if it’s small, it’s still something
  • Keep a water bottle with you wherever you go and start your day with the biggest glass of water you can find
  • Take progress pictures and measure yourself
  • Share your  pictures and victories with the Sleekgeek community, you may just inspire someone
  • Try and keep your treat meal to one meal and not a whole weekend of meals.  I found if I had my treat meal on a Friday it became a treat weekend. I have also found that if I start my weekend mornings with oats and whey as I do the rest of the week it is much easier to stay on track
  • This road is long and there are no quick fixes but it is worth all the blood, sweat and tears

This year for me is all about getting fitter and stronger and I hope to inspire some of you along the way!


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