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QA: Kerry-lea Dennis goes from 122.2kgs to 94kgs!

Name:
Kerry-lea Dennis

Age:
44

Location:
Umhlanga Rocks, KZN

What do you do? [Job]
I am a qualified Executive Chef, but after 20 years of struggling to find a work/life balance, I resigned from my job in March and became a full-time student.

At the age of 44, I have just qualified as a Culinary Consultant and Skills Development Practitioner, in the field of Learning and Development, proving that you are never too old to change your career and reinvent yourself.

What else do you do? [Hobbies, non-work stuff, etc]
I love road trips to find hidden foodie gems and Farmer’s Markets, but my latest passion is Trail running (does walking count lol).

YOU AND SLEEKGEEK

How long have you been a member of Sleekgeek?
About 5 years, mainly as a silent Sleek and 3 years as an active and involved member.

How did you find Sleekgeek?
Via their Facebook page

What is your favourite part of the Sleekgeek Community?
I love everything about being a Sleek. The support and motivation via knowledge and information sharing encourages such a culture of Ubuntu.
I have also met the most incredible people through this platform, who have become my family.

Elan and Eric live their truth, lead by example and are my personal inspiration. I try to be a positive driving force for Sleekgeek in KZN.

YOUR TRANSFORMATION

Describe the “old you” before you made your transformation. How did you get there and what were you like?
The old me loved food! I loved cooking it and I loved eating it. I come from a huge family of incredible cooks and every family gathering and social occasion revolved around food.

I was a skinny tomboy but became a chubby teenager, an overweight young adult and eventually an obese adult.

After school, I decided to become a Chef and I lived and breathed the erratic and unhealthy eating habits of kitchen workers, combined with long and physically demanding shifts.

Meals were limited to whatever you could find to eat as quickly as possible, many times sitting in the kitchen scullery area on an upturned milk crate.
My one day off a week was spent catching up on sleep and exercise was the last thing on my mind. I was so big and so unfit that I struggled to climb the 3 flights of stairs to the kitchen and had to stand at the top while I caught my breath.

The weight crept up and when I fell pregnant with my son in 2000, I weighed 89kgs.

After his birth, I found myself as a single parent and there was just no money or time to buy or cook healthy food.

I ate at work and it was always high carb, high fat and high sugar meals just to give my body enough fuel to finish my shift. In 2016, I went for a Vitality Health Check and weighed in at 122.2kgs. I was pre-diabetic and morbidly obese. I was then sent for further blood tests and was diagnosed with PCOS and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. All these conditions make losing weight extremely challenging.

What ignited your initial motivation to change?
My young, healthy fit mother was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2016 and passed away just a few months later. Her last words to me were ‘Stop eating your feelings and take your life and health back’. I knew that I had to get my house in order and take rein of my health issues or run the risk of leaving my son without a parent.

What are some of the things that the new you does differently now?
The new me does not take my health for granted, I realize that sometimes you need to ‘un-become’ everything that you know and are, in order to become who you were always meant to be. For me, that means living a balanced, positive and active life.

What are some of the things that the new you still struggle with?
Consistency, commitment and resisting the urge to eat out of boredom or emotion.

If you could give yourself 1 piece of advice to help with that struggle, what would it be?
Meal planning and prep is the key to staying on track nutritionally. Having healthy snacks and fruit available limits access to junk food.

Did you plateau, get stuck, or get disillusioned, or even slide backwards a bit on your journey?
I hit a plateau for 4 months after losing 23kgs, slid back and gained 5kgs. But I am now back on track and looking to get to my next weight loss goal during the 8-Week Summer Challenge.

What is better since you got healthy?
Everything! I am more positive, confident and love seeing what my body can do.

TRAINING

What’s your favourite form of exercise? [Running, yoga, weightlifting, etc.]
Walking, Obstacle races and more recently trail runs/walks.
I have the coordination of a newborn Giraffe, so Yoga and Zumba are out of the question for my self-esteem and those having to witness it!

I have just been gifted 10 sessions with a personal trainer and am hoping to introduce weight and resistance training into my gym workouts in 2020.

How long have you been training and how did you get started?
I have been training for two years now. I started with a Parkrun. It was so hard on my 123kg body, everything hurt for two days afterwards.

I took 1 hour and 27 minutes and I was the last person to finish, in fact, the marshals had already packed up to leave.

What does your typical workout look like?
I try to train 3 times a week by doing a 5km Promenade walk in the evening, or if it is raining do an hour treadmill and bike workout at the gym. I do Parkrun most Saturdays and if there is a Trail run or road race on a Sunday, I will enter that too.

Favourite exercise? [Distance / pose / movement / etc.]
Trail Running/Walking. I am building stamina and my 2020 fitness goal is to enter 10/15km trails/road runs going forward.

Least favourite exercise? [Distance / pose / movement / etc]
Planks in the gym and hills on the trails ?

How does exercise make you feel?
Amazing! I feel healthier, I breathe easier (I am asthmatic) and I sleep much better after a workout.

Do you prefer to train alone or with others? Why?
I love to train with others, as I feel that having a buddy holds you accountable to get up and show up and they push you to perform. In fact, I have started a WhatsApp group called ‘Fit Buddies’ and we currently have 8 ladies who regularly get together for walks and races.

Most embarrassing training moment?
I was doing my first ever 5km Night Trail run at Giba Gorge and the single-track bridges were wet from a river crossing. My foot slipped, I fell smack down onto my stomach and started sliding down the side of a steep cliff. The next minute a skinny, young guy grabbed my hands and hauled all 100kgs of me back up onto the track. I was mortified!

Top 3 things you must have at the gym or in your gym bag?
Water bottle sweat towel and phone to take selfies. (Bontle taught me this)

Your next training goal?
To complete the KZN Summer Series Trail Runs and get comfortable enough at a 10km run pace to join a Running Club like Adidas Runners.

Top 5 songs on your training playlist?
Basket Case – Green Day
Where is my Mind – Pixies
Are you gonna go my way – Lenny Kravitz
Bad Guy – Billie Eilish
Lose Yourself – Eminem

How has exercise/training/Sport Changed your life? [Made it better, etc – please be specific]
I am stronger physically and mentally; I no longer sit on the couch on the weekends and I have a new drive and purpose. My sugar levels have dropped from 13 to 6 and are now within the normal range, so I am no longer considered Pre-diabetic. My cholesterol and blood pressure are perfect and I not morbidly obese. I am not at my goal weight yet, but I am focused and determined to reach it soon!

NUTRITION

What’s your favourite meal?
Cake. Carrot cake, Chocolate Cake (Is cake a food group?)

OK, now what’s your favourite healthy meal?
Roasted Chickpea, Feta, Butternut and Red Onion Salad (Pic attached)

Favourite protein?
Chicken or Tuna

Favourite fat?
Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Unsalted Roasted Cashew Nuts

Favourite carbohydrate?
Sourdough Bread

What’s your nutrition philosophy / approach? [If you have one]
I follow a personalized Nutritionist designed Low GI eating plan, combined with Intermittent Fasting of 16:8

How many meals a day do you eat?
2 meals a day with a snack of 1 fruit and 1 protein in between

Do you have a cheat meal / treat strategy?
I have a 90/10 strategy and try to eat healthy 90% of the time but the other 10%, I don’t focus on cheat meals but rather on adopting a more balanced lifestyle. As a Chef, I love trying new foods and do not want to deprive myself as it is a learning experience too, but then I make sure I do a workout to account for the extra calories.

MINDSET

Most memorable personal best achievement to date. Something you maybe never imagined you could do.
Definitely completing the Jump City Stadium Dash, a 7km race that consisted of climbing up and down 1000 stairs at Moses Mabhida Stadium, followed by an obstacle course and beach run.

I have also completed the 10km Durban City Marathon, Totalsports Women’s Race and FNB Surf City Run for the past 2 years.

Favourite book?
I was gifted ‘The 5am Club’ by Robin Sharma and it is brilliant.

What inspires and motivates you?
I am inspired by Elan and Eric as well as Sylvia, because their transformations are amazing, and they are so authentic in their daily lives.
I also follow the journeys of some incredible fellow Sleeks and my sister-in-law, who came back from a career and almost life-threatening injury, to qualify as a Springbok Triathlete, who will be representing S.A. at the Ironman World Champs in New Zealand in 2020.

For what are you most grateful?
My health and the amazing Sleek family I am making on this journey.

What do you want to say to other community members who might be nervous or hesitant to make a start?
Start now, start today, start with what you have. Start by walking 100 steps, by taking the stairs instead of the lift. Reach out to the community and find Sleeks in your area and get moving!

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

  1. Motivation doesn’t last, discipline does.
  2. Planning and meal prep is key. Invest in an Air Fryer, it will be your new best friend!
  3. Research healthy eating plans and if necessary, consult a dietician or nutritionist.
    There is no one-size-fits-all approach to healthy eating. Do not become overwhelmed, keep it simple!
  4. The scale is not your friend, instead, focus on centimetres and the way your clothes feel.
  5. Have fun! Find a way to get your body moving that you enjoy, sign up and commit!

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