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Michelle Pearl learns self love is the greatest lesson

My journey to losing 30kgs hasn’t been an easy one. Well .. the first time I lost it was. The first time you ask? That’s because I put a large portion of it back on the first time around.

I wasn’t fully aware of my weightloss journey and wasn’t in the same space I am in now. That woman was motivated, had a strong case of “beginners’ luck” but she still didn’t know self-love, self-acceptance and even after losing 30kgs didn’t have the confidence and perception of her own beauty.

The second time “30kg leaner me”, is a whole other Diva. To my core I know who I am. Here is a little bit of my story.

I was always the chubby kid. I played a lot, but I still loved donuts. I was the overweight awkward teen. I played sport, but never made the first team, I had a home gym but still wasn’t able to wear a bikini.

As a young adult, I partied hard (actually very hard), and we all know what copious number of cocktails followed by a “hangover culling breakfasts” do for one’s caloric intake. I did nothing about it. I found myself working a desk bound job eating a selection of Pizza, Subs or Sushi for lunch washed down with a Monster because I had no energy.

I remember one summer where I drank half a Monster instead of Coffee as my morning kick-start because it was too hot. Pasta for dinner of course because that all I could really cook, and really enjoyed. I had ballooned to 136.5kgs and I had no idea how I had gotten there. I honestly can’t say I was unhappy, yes I wanted my life to be different, more fulfilling, but I was still the life of the party (when I went out), loved by everyone and that’s all mattered to me. I was successful in my own right, and really didn’t conceive having anything better for my life at the time. I was working towards my studies and was okay just living life in the way that I did.

Body Dysmorphia

One of the last memories I have of shopping as a morbidly overweight person; was buying a size 12 (very stretchy skirt) and thinking gosh, size 12 I am still killing it. The same day I had to purchase a size 22 top and size 20 jacket with a button that wanted to pop off when I closed it, because nothing “cute” would fit me. I remember being in that change room of that infamous big person ladies clothing shop thinking, this can’t be right. It was. I was so jaded and with such an exceptional case of body dysmorphia that I truly did not realise I was that overweight. 136.5 Kgs and a size 22 (which I needed to stretch out), to be exact.

Enter Sleekgeek 

This however wasn’t the trigger. I still can’t tell you what drove me to want change. All that I do remember is stumbling across the Sleekgeek Facebook community and printing out the 30 Day Sleekgeek Reboot Challenge and telling my mom that from the 1st of August 2014 this was what we were going to do for 30 days. Just 30 days.

I remember there was a member who posted their meal plan and this was my starting point. From the Sleekgirls Group I printed out a whole bunch of 30 Day Fitness Challenges and that truly was where I started. I had no specific objective other than to see the outcome. I didn’t want to get lean overnight. Didn’t want to prance in a Bikini (okay maybe a Zara dress). All I wanted was change. Something inside me knew I was deeply unhealthy and that even though I didn’t see it, I needed to change it. I made a promise to myself that I would live a different life, one of adventure, one of passion and one of fulfilment.

Was Reboot tough? Errr ya, initially anyway. I hate vegetables, but I got used to coconut milk in my coffee, loved strawberries dipped in nut butter, fooled myself into believing Cauliflower could be anything and truly found my groove and started feeling better. That is the key. I felt better, more energetic and like I could keep this going.

I started “training”, it truly was a humble beginning but exercise albeit daunting was something I knew I needed to start. When compared to the Crossfit WODs, Power Lifting, Obstacle Course Races and Trail Runs that my training currently comprises of, I am honestly always in awe of where I come from.

I armed myself with a Squat Challenge, a Push-Up Challenge, a Burpee Challenge and a Treadmill I started my journey to fitness. Let me paint a quick picture for you: in my cramped lounge because I shuddered at the thought of going back to a commercial gym, on a carpet, two dogs cheering me on I started my programs. I could barely do quarter Squats, I managed a grand total of 3 Push-Ups and 3 Burpees. Those Burpees were largely unpleasant, weighing 130+kgs, my belly slapped me, my heart was pounding and I truly wondered WTF I was getting myself into. Needless to say those were the last Burpees I did for a little while. I would power walk on that treadmill until it literally started smoking; that all was quite simply where I started.

I saw results quickly, I went “low carb” and did mostly home training for the first while and lost 30kgs in 12 months. Yeah! I was owning it! But…I wasn’t consistent. I didn’t take long before I was back at 115kg’s which I maintained for like forever and then I was down to 108 and back up to something else. That was the continuous dance I did. See the trouble with my journey is inconsistency. I will go hard for a little while and would often end up sick or injured because of the rapid change and lack of balance and then ended binging and back to where I started.

One thing that never fails me is ability to just start again. I feel like I am the poster child for just keeping going. 4 years to be exact. People always compliment me on my commitment to my cause of a better life. I’ve realised I can’t see myself at my goal weight, but what I can see is living my best life and being the best version of myself I can be, that is what motivates me.

Highs and lows 

A lot has transpired in this 4 year journey, there has been some good, some great and some very very ugly. As a result of my magnificent new confidence I made a complete career change in which I am extremely successful. I started dating, which is a huge thing for me because I remember hating my body to the point that I did not want to share it with anyone. I feared having a partner and having him labelled as a “Chubby Chaser”. Sadly no one can really keep up with this wild personality and woman on such a mission of self-discovery. But I am dating and that is a huge thing for me.

A massive low, and something that truly affected me emotionally, mentally and physically was the crippling loss of my father in 2016. It crashed my entire world. He was my motivator, he was the person who believed in me the most in this world (after my amazing mom), and wanted to see me accomplish every one of my goals. He did a couple of parkruns with me; and loved seeing my progress and the woman I was becoming. He would love this new fiery individual that is flourishing.

It was established that as a result of not properly coping with his loss, that I had Adrenal Fatigue and what came with my particular stage of Adrenal Fatigue was weight gain. I was back up to 125kg’s by end of 2016, with training and eating cleaner than I ever remember eating, life kind of just happened. Only whole and real foods, almost Vegan, superfoods, you name it, I tried everything to feel normal, lose weight and just have energy. I didn’t realise how sick I was until I almost had a nervous breakdown and realised I had to make some serious changes. I took a homeopathic treatment route and while I am worlds away from where I was, this is always my bodies my default coping mechanism and is something I have to be so careful and conscious of.

Crossfit and power lifting 

Amidst all of the loss and dealing with a world less colourful, I found Crossfit and powerlifting. I found myself on a lifting platform and placed 5th in my category, but truly the miracle was Crossfit. Having a community of people who lifted me up, pushed me, held me and see that I was able to achieve great things exactly where I was at. It honestly was the most beautiful experience.

I fell in love with the sport and have grown into an athlete of strength and endurance. Those around me in the box quickly came to realise that if over 100 and sometimes 120kg me could do it, they had nothing stopping them. This has been the greatest blessing to realise that my actions can assist people in changing their lives. It taught me that I always have more to give. That I can be better than I was yesterday, and that being strong is my superpower. Lifting is a huge passion of mine and it shows in the way I dominate and push myself and is something I am always working on. I may not be able to do a Pull Up and my “Double Under” Skipping is still shaky but my Deadlifts are strong AF.

My coach Bruno Calha and I are working on a few things and my weaknesses and I am looking at studying coaching. I am that passionate about the sport and how I know it can make a difference in people’s lives. I think if anyone can find the thing that drives them, that motivates them, then they are blessed.

Learn to love yourself 

I have learnt many a valuable lesson in this time. The biggest of which is to love myself exactly as I am. What if nothing changes? What if I never reach my goal weight? What if I stay being over 100kg’s? These are all mammoth questions I asked myself. I had to learn to love and accept as I am without judgement and continue to work on becoming the best version of me in the process. Take a second to really take this last paragraph in. The one thing you owe yourself in this lifetime is to honour yourself – are you doing that? Are you gentle on yourself? Do you see your beauty or your strength?

Living my best life has become the thing I strive for most in life!

Experiences, new places, new ways of finding my limit and new way of growing into this new person. I truly feel that when becoming the best version of yourself is your goal everything else falls into place.

Motivation is never constant. Believe me. I am such an all or nothing person and yet commitment is my biggest struggle. I throw everything at it when I am going balls to the walls and inevitably burn out or and this is the honest answer don’t see significant enough results to keep chipping away and moving forward. I am just complacent, if anyone has some words of wisdom for me on this subject I will take all the guidance I can get.

Dare to dream and just try, never fear being a beginner.

Can I be honest with you, and real with you for a second?

I am the most cheered person in everything I do. Never once have I received criticism. Okay maybe I have a strong “resting bitch face”, but I have always had people commend my efforts rather than breaking me down. I have tried a lot of new things – Trail Running, Gym Training, Weightlifting, Obstacle Course Racing, Crossfit, Parkrun, Beach while on holiday, Salsa. All I did was try!

Was I amazing when I started? Mostly, no. Did I want to get better? And did I just keep showing up? Yes! You are worthy of the future you dream of and every amazing thing you can conceive. You just need to hurtle yourself passed your fears first; you are stronger than your self-doubt.. Whatever you have been thinking of starting? Just do it!

Finally, to reiterate the Sleekgeek ethos – Be Your Own Hero!

Celebrate your wins! Celebrate your journey. Pick yourself up. This journey can be hard, there are days you will cry. There are days you will look in the mirror and call yourself ugly (I did that). There are days you will call yourself fat even after losing 30kgs (I still do this).

It’s up to you to see what an amazing human being you are, and truly, you are! It’s up to you and look back on where you come from and have your heart swell with pride with your own achievements because they are yours and yours alone. You have come this far, no one else. Be humbled by the magic that resides inside you, by the person within who wants to live a different life, (whatever that may mean to you). Let that “magic” be your super power and fuel every one of your dreams.

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