QA: 50kg down for Lee Low-Shang!

FEATUREDIMAGELEE

Name: Lee Low-Shang
Age: 44 point something…
Location: Cape Town

What do you do?
Entrepreneur, goal/dream chaser.

What else do you do? 
I enjoy being outdoors, reading and learning something new every day. I love watching rugby, football and athletics. Generally speaking, any sport intrigues me, individual or team sporting codes.

Music, and socializing… obviously ☺

YOU AND SLEEKGEEK

How long have you been a member of Sleekgeek? 
Approximately two years or so now, but it already feels like a lifetime!

How did you find Sleekgeek? 
By accident really.

One day while browsing Facebook, I came across an inspirational story of a young lady. Her story just struck all the right cords at the time and resonated so very well with me. I will reveal her name since I have just recently met her in person, and requested her permission to do so.

Bianca-Leigh Nagel, thank you for your story, and inspiration. 

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What is your favourite part of the Sleekgeek Community? 
At some point, everyone has had a sense of struggle and helplessness, and here they get to experience great camaraderie and a feeling of belonging to a community with its sights firmly set on inspiring others.

It’s weird, right? How could you feel the abstract in the virtual space?

Guess what, I did, as do many others I am sure. Have a look around…

YOUR TRANSFORMATION 

Describe the “old you” before you made your transformation. How did you get there and what were you like?
You need to sit down for this one…

The younger Lee was a fun, sport-loving extrovert. A fairly good athlete and I did well at most sports that I dabbled in, from primary school through high school. I either captained sides or contributed toward its leadership.

Post rugby years, my career took a firm grip of my daily routine, and suddenly ‘I never had time’ to make practices or meetings, and then games etc. Being young and fairly active at the time, the party scene didn’t appear to have much impact on me physically. Or so I thought.

I smoked, I consumed alcohol, and I partied. The first 3 blows in my self-proclaimed 5-Strike combo to my demise. Slowly, the mind rot settled in (strike 4), and inevitably, eating became a game of roulette (strike 5). Life was irritable and miserable. I hated myself, for every quick-fix of fizzy drink and pastry, on a tired “3 am party brain”, or “too lazy to make lunch for work” mood. I hated my physical appearance and avoided mirrors and reflective surfaces like the plague. Yes, I said that. 

My humour often ‘saved’ me the embarrassment, and my smile hid deep-rooted pain and disappointment. But I knew that I had fallen deeply into the abyss.

And with that, life happened. A barrage of illnesses, including chronic Hypertension, bouts of Pneumonia and Asthma (yeah – hospitalization can be very sobering) and then, the dreaded D.

I was diagnosed with Depression and PTSD. Me? The happy-go-lucky, fun loving, funny, happy, always ready for a party Lee….was no more. The cloak had been firmly tugged from my grasp, and I had to deal. Oh hell, I had to deal! 

What ignited your initial motivation to change?
Health scares.

A failing mental state with life falling apart at the seams, along with the self-realization that I was stuck in a body seemingly intent on self-imploding. My cousin, an avid runner, for years had been teasing me to join her. She had embarked on her Banting journey a few years prior and found great results along the way. Reluctantly, yes I kicked and screamed, I eventually succumbed to her constant pestering. It certainly felt that way at the time! 

By then, I had managed to ditch the smoking a year or two prior, of course with the added constant nibbles and binge eating. Clothes were an issue. A huge one… pardon the pun. By the time I sat myself down and tried to cut my toenails without hyperventilating, I had reached 50. Not years old. Not km. A men’s waist size…FIFTY. My early adult life, I hovered around the 36 mark. Reaching 50 was a shock! But going out the other end, a point where conventional stores, do not stock any larger clothing, was my breaking point.

I knew that I needed help, psychologically and physically. I adopted the Banting and Keto lifestyles for a while, while I learnt what worked for me, and what didn’t. I still draw inspiration from some of its principles, among a few other lifestyles too. Research and adapt.

What are some of the things that the new you do differently now?
I learnt to deal with what was in front of me, and that only. No amount of stress and worry over something beyond my control, ever ended well. Invest in you today, and again tomorrow. And then the next. But most importantly, let it all start with your attitude. 

I learnt that from a dear friend recently, and all I ever wanted to accomplish, I am now finding renewed energy and impetus with that little change. As humans, we tend to overthink and oftentimes, we ‘nutmeg’ ourselves into a tight corner. Of course, a target and a vision in life are essential. But I remember a time when that flame went out…..and I promised myself, that the one thing that I need to be, is the best version of me. 

Right now, in the moment. Tomorrow, I will try again. 

My eating? I am of the firm belief in eating sustainably. By that, I mean, non-chemically enhanced or produced (quick-fix type weight loss stuff) foods. And importantly…..learning the REAL difference between hunger and thirst. I used to mistake my hunger for thirst – I’ll own that. Sure, it may cause a few giggles now, but I remember a time when all I wanted to do, was nibble and drink the stuff. Crisps, pastries, snacks, braai…oh well, I guess anything really. All washed down by the well marketed and publicized fizzy stuff. I had no idea, that I was actually ‘creating’ my own thirst. 

It was only when I paid particular attention to my hydration, did I realize that I was taking on way too much fake, and far too little ‘real’. For a month, I ‘detoxed’ (yes, we’ve all done that – lol) but this time, I used just plain water. The results were outstanding! My energy levels had increased, and the headaches had dissipated. During that time, I learnt that ‘hunger pains’ could really just be your body craving for hydration or a flush out. And the more I became accustomed to learning when and how to drink water (it’s a thing for me now – lol) the more the results confirmed my theories.

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What are some of the things that the new you still struggles with?
Sleep. I have learnt that quality rest is essential on any journey. No amount of constant training will be truly beneficial without adequate recovery and rest. I am treating it as a skill that I have had to acquire.

Another critical point is that refined sugar is everywhere. It’s learning what to consume IN PLACE of your easily attainable off the shelf quick fixes that will set you apart. And you know what, normal water, is just perfect, as are healthy free-range eggs.

If you could give yourself 1 piece of advice to help with that struggle, what would it be? 
Be mindful and listen to your body. It is constantly having a subliminal conversation, and sometimes, we’re just the audience needing to learn what works for us. Other times, they send out stark messages. Be prepared for both. For example, if you’re constantly tired, but you’re maxing out on fizzy drinks daily to increase energy – then surely, something is amiss. 

Did you plateau, get stuck, or get disillusioned, or even slide backwards a bit on your journey?
Hell yeah. I have not met anyone who has not plateaued or grew frustrated during their journey. It is nature’s reality check, I believe.

I was hospitalized twice during my journey, and I completely lost myself. Life was far too challenging during those times, and at some point, I wanted to tap out, on exercise, on eating healthy…on life. That’s a reality right there. Nothing quite makes your training shoes quite disappear into your wardrobe, like being mentally unwell or physically injured. 

I had both at the time >insert facepalm here< lol!

Speaking of injuries, I became a long-time sufferer of shin splints, and Plantar Fasciitis issues have crept in too since the start of thrusting this bulky cumbersome frame through the soles of my trainers. I blitzed through various pairs, by the way, soles collapsing under my weight, and unnecessary pain shooting up from my toes, all the way into my quads. I tried a few different pairs and brands along the way, but they all cried foul after a few weeks.  Again, the frustrating delays and rehabilitation phases, were so energy-sapping, and oftentimes, debilitating.

What is better since you got healthy?
The smaller things. Firstly, becoming a better Lee. And in doing so, the self-realization that a better mindset will trump negativity on any bad day. I used to be a very chirpy early riser, much to the irritation of the family, and wife especially. I am finding that getting in a few hours quality sleep, makes me rise with an achieving smile. Why? In the past, sleeping for an hour or two a day, was a BIG achievement. Now, on a good day, I’m nudging the 6-hour mark, and then feeling revitalized like never before! That is a huge victory in itself for me!

And then doing that daily. Reinforcing the notion, that I am ‘good enough’, and that no amount of negativity can rent space in my mind any longer. I will not succumb to that life again.

Blood pressure has normalized, and touch wood, I am no longer constantly sick of something or other. The D has taken somewhat of a backseat. But I am now aware of what my triggers are/were, and dealing with it. 

Every darn day.

TRAINING 

What’s your favourite form of exercise?
Believe it or not, my favourite is rowing. Nowadays, I’ve turned to (ahem! still a bit shy to admit)….road running. I am very much more of a WOG person right now, walking more than jogging, but I’ll come around eventually. Some weights and cardio have entered the fray – thanks to loose skin and jiggly bits! Lol!

How long have you been training and how did you get started?
I started an informal group, called Walkie Talkies about 24 months ago. I needed company on my evening walks and started by calling on fellow neighbours and friends to join in on and walked through our suburb. I used it as an opportunity to highlight safety and security within our community and allowed us to shoot the breeze and serve as a bit of therapy while getting some steps in.

Then, I entered my first Park Run as a dare, and the rest, well….that’s still a work in progress. And now, some 40 odd Park Run events below the belt, I am still a proud WOG man – if that’s ever a thing lol.

Would you believe, my first ever Park Run was 66 min (unofficially timed), and I never believed at that point that I’d even manage to break the 50min barrier. It’s extremely tough stuff getting 165kg+ around!

What does your typical workout look like?
Thrice per week, a run/walk with my new crew. I have joined a running club – Carbineers – that I feel suits what and who I am right now. They are a supportive group, and super fun! And/or doing some weights in between during the week, to help tone and improve muscle development.

Favorite exercise? [Distance / pose / movement / etc]
Rowing. But this running ‘thing’ is growing on me…step by step. I always enjoyed sprints and explosive stuff like dead lifts etc.

Tip: I also changed my vocabulary from using the term exercise to the term activity. I found early on, that saying ‘exercise’ was a little bit of a mental barrier that I needed to overcome. Saying ‘activity’, sounded way more fun! 

Least favorite exercise? [Distance / pose / movement / etc]
You would not believe me…. but running ironically! This journey is just as much about becoming healthier, as well as slaying dragons. I could never do a proper 400m sprint at school. 100m and 200m, no problem. I was an okayish sprinter. The endurance/distance/’are these people crazy?’/ ‘thing’ haunted me until fairly recently.

Learning to deal and manage yourself over a distance takes some doing, and a skill I definitely needed to acquire – especially, when all I wanted to do was stop due to the physical pain, or not start at all due to the mental distress and self-imposed barriers.

How does exercise make you feel?
Euphoria – in achieving what I had set out to achieve for that session and for the day. It also allowed me to experience a platform of being ‘exercise tired’. Nothing trumps that kind of tired, and subsequently, I sleep fairly well thereafter. Of course, some days are better than others, but I’d rather have a bad day doing wellness stuff than nothing at all.

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Do you prefer to train alone or with others? Why?
Honestly, it differs. Most times, having positive people around you is exactly what you need to pull you out of a funk, and provide some much needed positive reinforcements, and giggles…

Other times, you need a down and dirty ‘grunt’ session, you know….just to let it all out. Lots of expletives in that session, I’ll happily admit! ☺

Most embarrassing training moment?
Don’t laugh!

In the earlier days (lol!) I was using a famous brand ‘natural’ exercise booster/thingy majig for the first time, and er… it went pretty well initially. The walk/run was going well until I had a cramp about a half-hour in. No, not in the legs and certainly not in the arms…

Yup! You guessed it, smack bang in the breadbasket (tummy). The churning resembled a broken washing machine stuck in the rinse cycle – with one of its legs broken! Ka-doep x 1000. Repeat. 

I was at least 20 minutes from the nearest pit stop, and oh holy hell, the entire free world was going to suffer my wrath if I didn’t make an emergency delivery. Ever heard the term “going bos”? Now you do. 

Let’s just say, that I’d like to thank my primary school teacher Mrs Kiewitz, for teaching me what an evergreen tree was.

Top 3 things you must have at the gym or in your gym bag?
Phone – for tracking the workout, keys, and asthma pump. Ai! Yeah man, that too…

Your next training goal?
To lose the last remaining 15 or so kilograms to get to my self-imposed goal weight, for this year. And hopefully, have a go at Two Oceans next year – my vision 2020 #v2020

And to tone! And to build running endurance. And to remain healthy and injury-free (touch wood!). And to eat healthily. And to inspire just one person every day. And to make better food decisions. And to be a little more positive every day. And….well, you get the picture – I could probably “And” quite a few more.

Top 5 songs on your training playlist?

  • Led Zeppelin – Immigrant Song
  • AC/DC – Thunderstruck
  • Snoop Dogg – Who am I?
  • Coldplay – Adventure of a lifetime
  • Pink – Just Like a Pill

Some Biggie Smalls & Depeche Mode thrown in for good measure….you know, for some kick-ass stuff.

How has exercise/training/Sport Changed your life? [Made it better, etc – please be specific]

  1. Firstly, an improved mindset – without question! Everyone sees the outer physical gains/losses. Not many see the release of the brain fog and clutter, and the momentum you carry into the following day. No one gets to see the inner lights starting to fire up, and things suddenly falling into place. Improved decision making is aided by feel-good endorphins. An often underrated positive tick in the right box! Also, I encountered that your basic survival instinct kicks into a higher gear, as you are no longer as lethargic, and your senses awaken somewhat. 
  2. Able to handle the daily stresses of life with ease, as you manage to release some of that built-up stress and anxiety during your workout routines.
  3. Physically, healthier. In every aspect. Of course, injuries are always a mere stone’s throw away, but because your body is physically healthier, it’ll react better during recovery and be more responsive to the medication and treatment. A fighting chance if you will.

NUTRITION

What’s your favourite meal?
Sushi or a good ol’ medium rare rump! I am a huge fan of old-school traditional cooking too… Tomato food!

I am a keen cook, enjoy trying new things in the kitchen, and braai!

OK, now what’s your favourite healthy meal?
The simple egg. It is pretty versatile, and I enjoy it poached, sunnyside up, scrambled or as an omelette or fold-over, with either a homemade Hollandaise sauce, some cheese, avocado, pesto or some seasoning, on or with another versatile favourite of mine – the coleslaw! 

Mine normally includes lots of mini florets of raw broccoli, raw spring onion, sliced raw baby marrows and some feta cheese, with freshly cracked black pepper, mayo and some sesame seeds…..Other times, I’ll poach the egg, add it on top of a fresh spinach and rocket salad and roasted baby tomato, garlic and baby marrow with a basic vinaigrette. Secondly, no real prep required, because it wouldn’t take longer than 10 minutes or so to assemble. Guess what? Those ‘4 egg’ meals last me an entire day, even often through a workout, with sufficient energy and vitality.

Favourite protein?
Egg, chicken, braai’d rump or White Stumpnosed Fish from the west coast. Anyone of the leftovers, I ‘pull’ apart and use with my ‘slaw or greens the following day. I love leftovers! What meal prep? ☺

Favourite fat?
Cheese and Avo!

Favourite carbohydrate?
Butternut! I substituted potatoes with them a long while ago. I have a newfound respect for the bell-shaped hardy veg! Plenty of options! An absolute favourite in curries and stews! No need for rice or any other carb. Great source of fibre too. 

But nothing….and I mean NOTHING, beats a great potato wedge or roast potatoes for that matter. No! Wait! A traditional koeSISter. Not the plain plaited variety, the good ol’ coconut drizzled, sugary, little brown, warm, palm-sized, oval balls of unicorn breath – with glitter. And heartburn.

I melt…

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What’s your nutrition philosophy/approach? [If you have one]
During the early stages, I remained focused on eliminating processed sugars, and carbs. I still do, but in moderation now. What it taught me during that phase, however, was to read food labels!

Now, a while down the line, my philosophy has changed somewhat, but I still keep a close eye, especially on unfamiliar products. More out of curiosity, I suppose. I don’t have cheat days, I don’t believe they exist. What I do believe, is that if you are working toward a specific goal, and it requires you to be sacrificial in some areas in order to achieve that goal, nutrition is your first point of call. I’m a bit of a believer now, that bellies are indeed lost in the kitchen. Treat food as medicine and sustenance, instead of a ‘means to end hunger’ meal. 

I know that it will – and should – change again, especially as I enter a different phase. Eating plans have to evolve as our bodies do.

How many meals a day do you eat?
Most days, only 2.

Really. If my workout/training is going to be a bit bonkers in the evening, I ensure that my protein, heavy ‘healthy fat’ – laden breakfasts, are had around mid-morning, and possibly a fruit in the afternoon. But not always the case. Two hours or so before my evening session, I’d have a small leftover salad and possibly a chicken breast or similar. The other ‘hunger’ pangs I’ve learnt, was more hydration based than anything else. I don’t do intermittent fasting, or whatever the latest buzz words are now.

I eat strategically, and when I’m really hungry, and not just thirsty. I love coffee, so can easily consume 3 to 4 cups in a day, with a half teaspoon measure or so, of brown sugar. I can’t handle that ‘brak water’ sugarless stuff lol, but can easily gobble down sugarless cappuccino’s any day of the week – my favourite! Weird hey? 

And then….I keep changing it up. Every 10 days or so, I’ll swop to a lunch format instead of the usual breakfast one, but with a late meal – but never later than 6 pm.

Winter? Soups! I have no shame in that, and I keep it as fresh as can be, without processed tin or sachet additives.

I try and keep my body guessing somewhat, and I find that mixing things up, greatly assists in alleviating boredom. 

Do you have a cheat meal / treat strategy?
Earlier on in my journey, I was very strict. I needed to be, as I have an addictive type of personality. Carbs and sugar were my BIGGEST fans and I wanted to see them all the time! I worked extremely hard (and a little smart) to break that cycle.

Nowadays, due to a better mindset, if I see the koeksister, I eat the koeksister. If I see my adult beverage of choice, I’ll have some. Social events and braais are no longer a scary prospect for me, as what they used to be. I have learnt, that what you lose on the swings, you can make up on the roundabouts. You are not an immovable object, you are a transient being. LIVE! Do the necessary adjustments after the snack/treat/cheat days, whatever, and get on with it with gusto. You are better than the sum of all your fears. And your end goal should be visited and revisited as often as you need to.

MINDSET

Most memorable personal best achievement to date. Something you maybe never imagined you could do?
There are a few:

Losing 50 kilograms of weight, over 24 or so months! MASSIVE for me!

On Saturday, 24 August 2019, I completed my very first LSD (long slow distance run) with my running club – Carbineers. 16km @ 2h45 or so hours. On the road. Yes, I would NEVER have considered even saying that!

I have never gone more than 10km on foot, and it was especially meaningful as I had recently joined the 50kg+ weight loss club around mid-August 2019!

Losing weight, clawing my way back from a depressive state and becoming a better version of myself by doing the small things well. 

Every day, until it becomes routine.

I am no longer afraid to admit that there were dark days and the impact that depression had. I refuse to bow to the disease any longer and instead, call it out on its BS! I know that I could not have achieved what I have, without owning it. 

I enjoy learning and what the process has taught me was to accept that the problem exists in its entirety, and fight back by using my body as my arsenal and shield.

Favorite quote?
“Lead by example, others will follow.” 

Acta Non Verba” ~ actions, not words.

What inspires and motivates you?
Inspiration can be drawn from anything or anyone that you need to. It is a subjective thing. But, the one thing that always grabs my attention, is a person or entity who surpasses seemingly insurmountable odds, to rise and snatch victory or success. Our very own Wayde, Caster etc, but not just our elite athletes come to mind. The very lone runner or cyclist on a cold and dark Saturday morning, the swimmer needing to jump into the 5-degree Celcius pool in winter, or even just the one person making an honest attempt at just becoming healthier. That’s impressive to me. I find real value in people being honest with, and during their journeys.

My motivation… comes from looking at my daily medication and how much I’d rather not be taking hypertensive treatments and the like. Hearing nice, unsolicited compliments from people following my progress, it positively reinforces the idea that I am doing me, and I am doing well.

For what are you most grateful? 
That I am blessed enough to have a great support system, a wonderful family and a great core group of close friends, who encouraged and believed in me, irrespective of how unhealthy or unhappy I was…the true heroes who saw the tears and anxiety, the anger and despair, my wife for her unwavering support, and this awesome community!

What do you want to say to other community members who might be nervous or hesitant to make a start?
They say, ‘the hardest step is the first’. 

I say, once you believe that you really deserve to be the best version of you, you will make that first step autonomously. And when that happens, and you really believe that things will change for you, (trust me on this…) you will not allow negativity to rent any more space in your existence, let alone in your mind. I too started where you are now, potentially even worse off. But every day, I just aim to do the little things well. Whether it is a 5-minute walk or just stretching, let it be the best you can muster, for you at that moment. Become centred, and endure. The fruits of your labour will be long-lasting and sustainable.

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

  1. Be real and honest with yourself. Start with the ‘Why is it important for me to become healthy; what do I need to do in order to get to my targets; how am I going to handle this; what is my journey; where am I supposed to start or end; what is my reality?’ type questions. Ask as many questions of yourself. Document it – you’ll thank me later, as you start ticking them off one by one….the sense of achievement is astonishing!
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Everyone needs guidance and there are more people willing to share some knowledge, than what you’d think.
  3. Believe in the change that you seek, the journey will have more meaning then. The discipline or code you select to participate in or attempt isn’t necessarily the “be all and end all”.
  4. Irrespective of which discipline or sporting code you chose, being dedicated to your health and wellness is more important than choosing running, as an example. Yes, running maybe your vessel to fitness, but your mind will be your carrier. Your nutrition plays an enormous role in this journey, and these two, go hand in hand – without question. Bellies are lost in the kitchen – remember?
  5. Be mindful of wardrobe malfunctions too lol! It could be a costly experience if you are into being super stylish! Jokes aside, you can never underestimate the true value of a decent pair of proper fitting undies and sport wear! And more expensive, DOES NOT always mean a better fit. Get started with what you have, your journey will allow you to make purchases frequently along the way. Be conservative in your choices as it will change as time goes by.

Lastly, I’d like to say to any aspiring ‘feel-good, health-seeking person’ reading this, in the larger scope of things we are all just passengers on this giant spinning rock, floating through space at a million miles an hour. We cannot change the entire world, but we can change “our” world, and our immediate influence. Be kind always, and inspire someone today. Acta Non-Verba.