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Renier Van Staden loses 68kgs for his daughter

Every single one of those workout videos I use to see adults “jiving” to as a kid was a lie…

The instructors would constantly preach about how easy it is to change, to take back your life… “Come on honey… You can do it!! And one and two and three and four…. Drink water… Avoid Carbs… No, avoid bad carbs… No, eat carbs but avoid sugar… No, eat sugar but watch out for the bad sugar.”

Is it any surprise that I was morbidly obese along with almost half the world’s population?

I have, until 2 years ago, never been worried about my health and wellness. I used to drink a lot on weekends and would every now and then start up the “old Diet train” but would always fall off that train as soon as I lost 10 or 15 kg’s.

The moment people started telling me how much better I look after dropping some weight, I kinda relaxed and would ALWAYS ALWAYS pick that weight up again (along with a couple of extra kilos to boot).  The problem was that the people closest to me would always soften the blows by saying that I’m tall and the weight is spread so nobody can see it and that I am a big guy and shouldn’t worry about it because “YOU LOOK FINE”.

Yeah those words unfortunately never ever helped. That’s like telling someone who has been shot in his leg that it’s okay and he doesn’t need to go to the hospital because it’s only his leg. It could have been worse… Yes, it could have… I could have never come back from where I was. Lost my health, my self worth and probably my life eventually.

I have been a lover of food as long as I remember and am no stranger to finishing a second or third helping of pasta or any form of Sunday lunches. My absolute Kryptonite unfortunately was bread. I would be so hungry by dinner time that I would polish a plate or two of food and then being an extreme night-owl I would by 10-11pm make myself another plate of food which consisted of about 6-8 slices of white bread, more peanut butter than I would like to admit and strawberry jam.

That load, combined with 2 or 3 cups of coffee every single night after dinner helped me to reach the 168kg’s that would become my peak weight.

Peaked at 168 kgs 

Realistically speaking the weight might have been more but that was the most a scale ever screamed back at me. My scale at home maxed out at 150kg’s and showed that all too familiar “Err” sign and I kind of ignored it and told anyone who asked that I was around 154/155kgs.

I should have been in a coma

Then after a particularly heavy weekend of drinking (another of my pre-journey vices) I would end up at the doctor’s offices and tip the scales at 168kgs and after that weekend and doctor’s trip my life would start to change but first, it almost ended.

So being a BIG guy, I always had the ability to drink LOADS and not feel the effects as badly as others. I would pack the drinks away almost arrogantly not wondering or worrying what effect it all has on my body. So one particular weekend (“The Binge of 2016”), I managed to not only finish a bottle of rum in half a day but I also managed to polish a 2l bottle of “Melktertjies” on a dare which is basically just Condensed Milk with Vodka.

Was not drunk at all and had a great time, got home safe and went to bed unaware of the storm that was about to hit my body and change my life completely. The next day I woke up and felt awful, not even hangover awful, like food poisoning with migraines after being hit by a bullet train AWFUL.

Thought nothing of it and was only worried that my vision was blurry. Slept the whole day and woke up early evening with my vision still messed up. Ate something horrible and fattening, felt happy and went back to sleep. Next morning I woke up feeling WORSE and going to the bathroom every 30 minutes and my vision was not just blurry anymore but started to darken.

Called in sick, drank lots of water and slept the whole day again. By the evening, no improvement. Tuesday morning I felt worse than I ever had and could not see further than a meter ahead of me clearly.

Called in sick again and then got in my car (extremely unsafe due to my vision) and drove at 20km per hour to the hospital with my hazards on.  When I got there they immediately checked all my vitals and the nurse ran to fetch the doctor when she saw my Blood-Glucose levels. They got me on an IV and started asking me all sorts of questions about my family history and and and…

When I asked what’s going on they said that I was supposed to be in a coma due to my blood-sugar level being on 28 when it was supposed to be between 6-7. Doctor ran some tests and confirmed that I had Type 2 Diabetes and that I literally was busy poisoning my body with my lifestyle.

I saw my daughter growing up without me

As the Medical lecture about lifestyle choices and all that jazz started all I could think about was my little girl, Dané, the person who means more to me than anything in the world. I saw flashes of her having to care for me due to me being ill and overweight and sick. I saw her walking down the aisle on her wedding day on her own because her dad can’t walk anymore. I saw her having kids and saw myself sitting on a reinforced chair and watching, not able to hold them or play with them.

In those couple of minutes while the doctor was explaining that it is basically self-inflicted I decided to turn my life around. No matter how long it takes or what sacrifices I would need to make, that would be the turning point. That would be as far as I let my health slip and that I would start taking steps to take back control and choose a healthy life as opposed to merely living.

Time for change 

After recovering and resting, I started making changes. Small but important ones. I decided to quit drinking which was a no-brainer after what happened. I cut out bread from my diet completely and try to limit pasta to once a month as opposed to twice a week the way I used to.

I made a choice to start jogging which ended up with numerous days of me just walking 2km because I could barely jog 100m without feeling like I want to pass out. Lots and lots and lots of water… I made a rule that I would get myself some dumbbells and whenever I watch a movie on the couch, I HAVE TO be doing work with my arms/shoulders.

If I don’t or I get tired then I’m not allowed to watch TV. I started telling myself that a little bit of something is better than a whole lot of nothing so I kept at it. People in my life have seen me lose 10kg’s and pick it back up again (with interest) so when I shook the first 10kg’s everyone was happy and supportive as they always are but they told me afterward that they didn’t expect much due to past failures.

But I stuck to my guns through the doubts, not only from other people but sometimes in myself… Being that size and unhealthy, it’s so easy to just let it go and relax and get back into those old habits. But I kept telling myself that I know how it feels to fail and have failed so many times. I know what shame feels like and I know what it feels like to quit. I want to see what happens if I don’t… What if I just keep going? Could I really change my life?

25kgs down, diabetes gone

So when I hit 25kg’s down and was jogging regularly and working out with my dumbbells I had to make a choice. Either I join a gym and step it up or I have to get those workouts in without a gym… My issue with the gym was that I had to get in my car and actually GO THERE whereas my home workouts I could do right there… So I chose to stay home, alone, and keep going. I research the hell out of everything so I started delving into HIIT workouts… Burpees, sprints etc.

I found a Burpee challenge on Youtube where a World Famous trainer, Jeff Cavaliere, challenges you to do 120 escalating difficulty Burpees in 10 minutes and just like that I had a new goal. No matter the weight loss, I wanted to be able to do 120 Burpees (10×12 with escalation) and finish it…

So I started and almost died. Getting through the first 2 sets took everything out of me even at 25kg’s lighter. So I decided to start with 3×10 which I managed. Week later 4×10 etc… It took me 6 months before I finally managed to complete a 12×10 set and in that time I lost another 20 kgs and after going back to the doctor to be checked out I got the all clear that my Type 2 Diabetes was gone.

68 kgs down 

All in all over 2 years I lost 68kg’s and am hovering on 100/101kgs at the moment. I am hoping to lose another 10kg’s and feel incredibly frustrated sometimes because obviously the amount of weight loss has slowed down immensely.

But I’m not going to stop. This is who I am now. I do my best to live a healthy, active lifestyle and regularly have to tell people that this journey is not a DIET (hate that word).

I made a choice that I would not be that person anymore and everything in my life needs to be a reflection of that choice. A diet means that you are looking to shed some weight before a certain time and that it will eventually end. What I do day in and day out will not end. I still have weak moments where I eat something bad or skip a workout but I remind myself that life happens and that I am what I do on a regular basis.

I follow my own version of Intermittent fasting (IF) that seems a bit extreme to most people but it really works for me. I generally eat after 9pm  and then go to bed immediately afterward. I only have that one meal a day that I make as healthy as possible whilst still giving me enough energy to get me through my hectic workouts. It is usually around 2,000 calories so I am not starving myself – but rather getting it all into one meal. That meal generally consists of Rice Cakes with LOTS of tomatoes and cucumbers and LOADS of Cayenne pepper and then I switch out a decent portion of protein with whatever I have on hand, whether its chicken or pork or tuna or even slices of cold meat.

I still eat out with friends and go to braai’s but when I’m back at home I am back on my schedule. Truthfully it really is a case of doing something I have never done to be able to achieve something I never have…

With Sleekgeek you are never alone 

Losing 68kg’s took me two years and even though I was not always alone, I always knew this is something I have to do myself. Your friends and families and even your partner can only get you so far, you have to make the hardest yards alone. Waking up before everyone else to start your workouts. Eating healthy alternatives when others are feasting on things you know would set you back.

I did not have anyone to talk to or relate to, no examples to follow but I just kept trucking. And then one day someone invited me to join the Sleekgeek community on Facebook  and all of a sudden there were LITERALLY THOUSANDS of people on the same journey I was on.

It opened my eyes and just about overnight renewed my motivation and faith in myself. Seeing the incredible transformations absolutely rock my world because every single one of those amazing people achieved these incredible goals in their own ways.

There is no set formula or secret shortcut to losing weight and changing your life. It takes hard work and dedication and lots of self-control. We are living in a world or quick and easy also means unhealthy and fattening so we have to constantly keep ourselves in check. I needed to call myself out on my own bullshit before I could make a change. I did and it was without a doubt one of the hardest but most gratifying things I have ever done.

Even though I feel and look like a completely different person I went through some awful lows as well. Mostly because I was doing it alone and I was single at that time to boot. Getting yourself out of bed and working out on your own motivation is extremely hard when you can just stop and literally nobody would know. Nobody would push you to keep going. You can just quit.

I feel there was a time when I had to convince myself every single day that I need to keep going. I say this a lot on the Sleekgeek group –  Our minds quit LONG before our bodies do and that’s the truth… When you are running a 5 or 10 or 50km race, you start convincing yourself that you can’t go any further when in reality your body still has tons left to give. When we strengthen our minds and willpower then we find that we have the ability to achieve absolutely incredible things.

Hard but worth it

Making this change in my life has taken a lot out of me but it has given me back much more than I ever expected. I was hoping to regain my health, which I did, but I also gained sanity, clarity, a sense of peace that only comes with truly being happy with the course your life is taking.

I have been blessed to be able to help a lot of people on their own journeys with advice and motivation and even met an incredible woman through the Sleekgeek Community that was taking the same journey as I was and now walks that journey with me, motivating and strengthening me every step of the way.

It all boils down to one very simple thing. Choose. Choose to keep living the life you are living and accept the consequences or choose to change and never look back. Don’t choose to change for 6 months or a year. When you truly one day make that choice then it becomes part of you, physically, spiritually and mentally… But the choice is yours and yours alone.

I realised and made peace with the fact that the 168kg guy is still in here with me and, if I let him, he will find his way back out again so I keep fighting…

Keep working at it day in and day out. When you have been as low as I have, anything is a step up that mountain towards that summit and finally that amazing view of where I used to be.

My most valuable tips for this journey are a bit unorthodox as I am myself:

  1. Music! A playlist can make or break a workout so take time and find those songs that set your soul on fire.
  2. Cayenne Pepper! Put that stuff on EVERYTHING!! The health benefits are immense and its a Fat Buster!
  3. This is your journey, own it and just do you as hard as you can! Not everyone will lose weight the same way so never compare. What works well for one person could do nothing for the next.
  4. Doing something small beats doing nothing at all! Start doing what you can manage and never forget the person in your “before pics” who took the hardest steps of all.
  5. Call yourself out on your own Bullshit! We can talk ourselves out of a workout and into a chocolate bar in seconds. You choose who you want to be every minute of every day. Will what you do take you closer to your goal or further from it?

And that’s me. I want to thank Elan and Eric for the opportunity to share my story and for being beacons of motivation and advice to all of us.

Thanks for reading!

Have an amazing day and go be AWESOME Geeks!!!!

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