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💪 8-Week Body Transformation Challenge! 🥗

QA: Tanya drops 30kg and gains new-found confidence!


Name: Tanya Tolken
Age: 31
Location: Cape Town 

What do you do?
I am a Special Needs Educator.

What else do you do? [Hobbies, non-work stuff, etc]
I love all things music. I love socializing with hubby, friends and family as well as walking my paw kids. 

Recently, exercising has become a new hobby of mine as well. 


How long have you been a member of Sleekgeek?
I have no idea, should be at least 2 years now. 

How did you find Sleekgeek?
A friend of mine told me about it as well as the motivational stories. I decided to join immediately. 

What is your favourite part of the Sleekgeek Community?
The people, the stories and the motivation. 


Describe the “old you” before you made your transformation. How did you get there and what were you like?
I have always been a chubby child.

When I was in my last year at University I decided to lose weight. I think I mostly did it the unhealthy way, just eating mainly soups etc. However, through exercising, I was able to keep it off for five to six years. 

Then we got a dog, I changed jobs and suddenly I found myself not having as much time as I used to. This is when I stopped exercising and with that came the very unhealthy eating habits.

My husband and I started eating out more and getting take-a-ways and binge eating became a thing for me. Over three years I had picked up all the weight I had lost and nothing was able to motivate me enough because the food was just too good (or this I thought).

In January I reached my all-time low, I was 82 kg. At this point, I had no energy, I was getting take-a-ways and binge eating and constantly complaining about how unmotivated and unhealthy I was. 

What ignited your initial motivation to change?
Towards the end of 2018, I couldn’t fit my wedding rings on my finger anymore and doing small tasks required a lot of effort. 

Toward the beginning of 2019 I weighed the heaviest I had weighed in 6 years and I realized I was pulling faces on photos to make myself look ‘better’, otherwise, I just felt embarrassed. For example, we went horse riding in January and I felt I was too heavy for the horse, I felt so uncomfortable… And I LOVE horse riding.

I knew that I couldn’t continue like this. 

What are some of the things that the new you does differently now?
I exercise and I make better choices regarding food instead of just gobbling it down. I plan meals in advance and do shopping once a week for those meals.

What are some of the things that the new you still struggles with?
Weight training (especially regarding my arms). I have realized that you need some muscle to help you burn fat, but weight training is a real mind vs body struggle, slowly getting used to it though. 

If you could give yourself 1 piece of advice to help with that struggle, what would it be?
I have this one quote that I always keep in mind from Napoleon Hill, “Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle.”

Did you plateau, get stuck, or get disillusioned, or even slide backwards a bit on your journey?
At one point I reached a plateau, my fitness plan was changed a bit after that and it got me back on track (this included more weight training). 

What is better since you got healthy?
I have 100% more energy; I am able to get things done in twice the time.

I am more confident (which is huge for me) and generally just happier. 


What’s your favourite form of exercise? [Running, yoga, weightlifting, etc]
Definitely running and doing a circuit in the gym. However, a good intense strength workout combined with endurance exercises is also a winner.  

How long have you been training and how did you get started?
I trained a few years back but then stopped for just over three years. I have only been training for over 3 months now.

I started by walking (trying to run) at 5km park runs and doing 7 or 15-minute workouts at home. Walking my dogs consistently was also an important starting point.

To help me get excited, I bought a good pair of shoes, this was a big motivator for me.

What does your typical workout look like?
I usually work out for at least 1 hour.

I start off by always running for 20 minutes. Then I do at least 30 minutes strength training and end off with a cool down (elliptical, rowing or riding bicycle) for about ten minutes. 

Strength training can be circuit and abs (full body), legs (Lunges, calf raises, leg curls, Abductor etc.) + abs or arms (Deadlifts, Cable Fly, DB press, Front and Lateral raises etc.). 

Favourite exercise? [Distance / pose / movement / etc]
Anything that involves my legs, running, ball squats, leg curls and so forth. 

Least favourite exercise? [Distance / pose / movement / etc]
Everything involving my arms (they are so weak, but I’m working on it). But I especially despise arm raises and push-ups.  

How does exercise make you feel? 
I have to talk myself into going, but once I’m done, I feel fantastic. 

Do you prefer to train alone or with others? Why?
I prefer to train with others as it gives some motivation (and your time goes by really quickly). However, I train mostly alone.

Most embarrassing training moment?
For me, personally, the first few weeks going to the gym were embarrassing. I felt so ‘urg’, everything bouncing everywhere. It took me a while to realize who I was actually doing it for and since then I haven’t cared one bit. 

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

  1. Towel 
  2. Earphones (you got to have some music)
  3. Lifting Gloves

Your next training goal?
At this stage, I’m trying to build lean muscle and tone. I still have a few more kilograms to lose, to reach my goal, but I’m not hasty. 

Top 5 songs on your training playlist?
I don’t have specific songs to listen to. I have the Jaybird app (thank you SleekGeek) and use ‘Spotify’ for music.

The app creates different playlists that you can play (you can choose a playlist for your mood or what type of activity you are doing). 

How has exercise/training/Sport Changed your life? [Made it better, etc – please be specific]
Firstly, I have more energy and I’m not so tired and lazy like I used to be. Secondly, I feel great, I started to love my body again (how it looks and what it delivers). Thirdly, I’m sleeping better. And lastly, it has been rewarding.

Everything you put into training you get out. Every running, lift or freaking Cable Fly exercise will eventually pay off and I feel amazing seeing my body transform. 


What’s your favourite meal?
Previously it would have been Chilli Cheese Bomb Burger and Fries. Now, it’s still the Chilli Cheese Bomb Burger, but without the bun, sweet potato fries instead of normal fries and roasted veggies.    

OK, now what’s your favourite healthy meal?
At home, my favourite meal is stir-fry vegetables and chicken and when I eat out it would have to be Ribs and Roasted vegetables. 

Favourite protein?
Definitely eggs. If I could survive eating just eggs I would (ps. I would never have said that a few months ago).

And then I enjoy a meat chop just as much.

Favourite fat?
Nuts, especially during the challenge.

Favourite carbohydrate?
Sweet potato.

What’s your nutrition philosophy/approach? [If you have one]
I have to quote here:

“Nutrition is not low fat. It’s not low calorie. It’s not being hungry and feeling deprived. It’s nourishing your body with real, whole foods so that you are consistently satisfied and energized to live life to the fullest.”

How many meals a day do you eat?
I eat three meals a day. 

Do you have a cheat meal/treat strategy?
Yes, if I want something, really want it, then eat it and don’t feel bad. After this New Year’s challenge, I had to find out what my real cravings were (real cravings = not just something that looks ‘lekker’, but I really will enjoy), in my case, it was an Oreo Milkshake. Now and then, I will treat myself with the milkshake as a job well done. 


Most memorable personal best achievement to date. Something you maybe never imagined you could do?
My best personal achievement to date was coming third in the New Year’s challenge. I was shocked at how quickly I could retrain myself in regards to eating habits and my lifestyle, I never thought that I was capable of being that committed. 

Favorite quote?
“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”
Thomas Edison

“Change your thoughts and you change your world.”
Norman Vincent Peale

Favourite book? 
his is such a difficult question, I have too many from different genres. Really, I would have to add a few pages here. I don’t have on specific favourite.

What inspires and motivates you?
I have been immensely inspired and motivated by the SleekGeek community, I cannot state how other people’s journeys are so inspiring and keep you going when times get tough.

Furthermore, my personal progress keeps me motivated.

For what are you most grateful? 
Without a doubt, my husband. Starting this journey with him made it so much easier; I didn’t realize how well we could function as a team. He has been my biggest supporter and motivator and gets me to the gym on the days I really, really, really don’t want to go.

What do you want to say to other community members who might be nervous or hesitant to make a start?
Start now; there will never be a right moment. Make the decision to be happier, make time and make a plan… YOU deserve it!  

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

  1. Prepare, plan and be committed from the start. Set out reasonable goals and no matter what, do not compromise for them. 
  2. Take small steps at a time, over time those small steps walk long distances. Make the plan work for you; you know what is best for you. 
  3. Be proud of everything you achieve, EVERYTHING! If it was your first time walking 1 kilometre, be proud! It’s those moments when you overcome things you haven’t done before, that eventually help you to keep going. 
  4. Do this for yourself, do it because you want to feel great, be healthy, sleep well etc. Whatever your reason…make sure you’re doing it for YOU and believe that you can do it. 
  5. Create healthy habits that are sustainable, treat yourself, make it fun for yourself and don’t give up. 

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