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QA: Handri van Blerk loses 19kg and gives herself a second chance

This week we chat to Handri van Blerk.

Handri got a wake-up call when her doctor told her she was “a walking heart attack.” 19kg’s later and with numerous Park Run’s under her belt, she proves that it is never too late to start your journey back to health.


Name: Handri van Blerk
Age: 55
Location: Klerksdorp, North-West Province

What do you do?
I’m a Branch Manager at a financial institution. Does being a grandma also count as a ‘job’ because that is what I would love to be full time? 

What else do you do?
SHOPPING! Everybody needs some retail therapy in their life.

I enjoy spending time with my family as much as I possibly can. I know it sounds so cliché but I really do enjoy my workouts at the gym and find that doing a park run is relaxing.


How long have you been a member of Sleekgeek?
About a year, I joined in 2018.

How did you find Sleekgeek?
I’m friends with Juliette Illingworth Meintjies, I saw she was on Sleekgeek, I scoped the group out and it only took me about 5 minutes to realize that this was a community I wanted to belong to.

What is your favourite part of the Sleekgeek Community?
That’s a good question, where to start though? I mean what is not to love? The support, the transformations, and the sense of community!

Although we don’t see each other physically, I know that all the Geeks will have your back no matter where you are in your journey. It just really keeps me motivated.


Describe the “old you” before you made your transformation. How did you get there and what were you like?
The old me loved to eat: the good the bad and the ugly,

I used to drink Coke the way you should drink water. A chocolate a day was nothing new. I was an emotional eater and just didn’t have a healthy way of coping with stress, anxiety and depression.

I was rude, angry and even more depressed. I just felt like everything was beginning to be too much.

What ignited your initial motivation to change?
My health. It was deteriorating badly and quickly.

Being told you are a walking heart attack because your LDL/HDL (cholesterol) AND Triglycerides were low was really all I needed to hear. I was very sad that I had let this happen but my family and those around me (friends and colleagues) picked me up and carried me.

What are some of the things that the new you does differently now?
My husband and I started walking around our neighbourhood. It quickly progressed into weekly Park runs.

When Discovery Vitality offered a special introductory gym contract at Virgin Active it was a no brainer to join (we are now renewing our annual contract which I never could imagine us doing). I go to the gym 4x a week and I still run a Park run every second Saturday.

Initially, I went to a dietician who helped me to start eating the 4 main food groups in a healthy balanced way which I still follow. This ties in very well with the Sleekgeek approach, that’s why I love the group! And I practice IF (intermittent fasting).

What are some of the things that the new you still struggle with?
Weekends! Am I right? I just remind myself: balance.

I no longer deprive myself. For instance, if I have a craving for chocolate I will eat dark chocolate. If I feel like having soda I will have some Slimsy Passionfruit and soda water.

I just make better choices, you don’t have to say no and starve yourself. 

If you could give yourself 1 piece of advice to help with that struggle, what would it be?
I should keep the same mindset that I have during the week on weekends as well as it will just help with my progress even more.

Did you plateau, get stuck, or get disillusioned, or even slide backwards a bit on your journey?
Of course! I’ve struggled with losing the last 5kgs since 2017 and it took me a whole year again to lose 3 of that 5kg and I’m still trying to lose the last 2kilos. So it’s been an uphill battle.

I have to remain consistent and dedicated because motivation isn’t always available, I cheat and then remain ‘faithful’ to my goals it’s called balance.

What is better since you got healthy? 
I still suffer from depression but I have healthier ways of coping, where previously my bouts of depression would last months, I can cope within a few days again.

My health has also improved dramatically. I still struggle with my cholesterol but it’s generic. It’s something that I will have for the rest of my life but it has improved.


What’s your favourite form of exercise? [Running, yoga, weightlifting, etc]
Drum roll please… running!

How long have you been training and how did you get started?
I have been going to the gym for a year now. My son introduced me to the gym.

Me, moaning and groaning: “I mean I’m 54”
Then: “I want to lose weight not build muscle” – ignorant mindset I know.

He told us about the Virgin active gym contract from Discovery Vitality and we decided to join and voila!

What does your typical workout look like?
30 min on the treadmill followed by 30 min off circuit training. Sometimes we will shake it up by cycling or rowing for 30minutes instead of running. Every second Saturday I still do a 5km Park run (I work every alternating Saturday).

Favourite exercise? [Distance / pose / movement / etc]
Plain and simple: I love running! Anywhere, for any amount of time, whether its 30min on the treadmill or a 5km Park run in 39 minutes (first PB was 60minutes).

Least favorite exercise? [Distance / pose / movement / etc]
Squats and plank. 

How does exercise make you feel? 
Running calms me down, makes me focused and just makes me feel serene.

Do you prefer to train alone or with others? Why?
I’m kind of set in my ways so – alone!

Most embarrassing training moment?
I wanted to jump back onto the sides of the treadmill before (rookie mistake) it completely stopped and I nearly face planted.

Top 3 things you must have at the gym or in your gym bag?

  • Definitely a towel. I hate sweat.
  • Extra pair of clean clothes – once again I hate sweat.
  • Water bottle, for obvious reasons.

Your next training goal?
Initially, I just wanted to lose weight. Even though I still have 2kgs to go, I’m working towards building my physique, to see what my body can look like at 55. Elle Macpherson, here I come!

Top 5 songs on your training playlist?
I’m not bothered, I listen to whatever music the gym is playing.

How has exercise/training/Sport Changed your life? [Made it better, etc – please be specific]
I used to suffer a lot from insomnia but since starting my training I sleep better. That, apart from losing weight and my health improving, is the biggest change.


What’s your favourite meal?
Meat and veggies.

OK, now what’s your favourite healthy meal?
I make myself a snack platter consisting of Pastrami/roast beef/biltong, cheese, gherkins, avocado and cherry tomatoes. Yum!

Favourite protein?

Favourite fat?

Favourite carbohydrate?
Linseed and soy bread

What’s your nutrition philosophy/approach? [If you have one]
Everything in moderation – balance people!

How many meals a day do you eat?
2-3 meals depending on my mood… I mean my hunger (once an emotional eater always one).

Do you have a cheat meal/treat strategy?
Yes, I don’t deprive myself. I try to pick a healthier version of what I’m craving but sometimes I’ll cave and just eat what I’m craving. I do not feel bad and just move on. One unhealthy meal/cheat won’t make me pick up the 19kilos I’ve lost.


Most memorable personal best achievement to date. Something you maybe never imagined you could do?
I NEVER and I repeat NEVER thought that I would be exercising to start off with and to be doing it at a gym. Woah!

Favorite quote?
“No guts, no glory.”

Favourite book? 
Anything written by Danielle Steel.

What inspires and motivates you?
Apart from all the transformations that are shared weekly on the Sleekgeek group, my husband.

He has lost 25kgs in 9months, he is my role model when it comes to consistency and just smashing it at the gym. For instance, he does 5-10 planks of 30secs each, he follows Cindy Landolt on Instagram and does her ab workouts. It stuns the trainers at the gym but he just keeps going no matter.

The young(er) fellow members at the gym have tried to do these exercises with him and they just couldn’t finish all the way, he makes me extremely proud! 

Hanri’s husband and inspiration!

For what are you most grateful? 
For saving myself in all aspects of my life – fitness has given me this gift, I don’t want to waste my second chance.

What do you want to say to other community members who might be nervous or hesitant to make a start?
Everybody is scared, everyone is nervous but just do it. If you can believe it you can do it. Don’t wait until you are told that you might die, do it now to be the best version of yourself NOW! 

What are your top 5 tips for anyone starting on a healthy journey?

  • Start small like walking around your neighbourhood. Really, anything small.
  • If you can afford it, go see a dietician to help you to get on the right track. Especially if you are an emotional eater and need someone to be accountable to, or you can join the Sleekgeek 8 Week Challenge.
  • If you can’t afford a membership at a gym or to go see a dietician, you can literally Google everything nowadays. Google, YouTube and Instagram is your best friend. 
  • NO QUICK FIXES! Believe me, been there done that. I’ve would have never lost so much weight and kept it off for 4 years without the proper nutrition and training (no pills, no shakes, no crash diets).
  • Reach out to the members of the Sleekgeek Community, we are all there to help one another. When I had asked someone about something, I was helped. Whether nutrition wise or training wise or just even on how to go about to buy the correct tekkies for my training goals.

AND then I would love to add a 6th tip if I may: SELF LOVE.
You are doing this for you, for your mind, your body and your health. No one else can do this. Love yourself enough through each phase of your journey and you will win this war.

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