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QA: Roxanne changed how she thought of herself and it changed her life.

Name:
Roxanne Shepherd

Age:
37

Location:
Johannesburg

What do you do?
General Manager (Risk Administration)

What else do you do?
Bootcamp, pole fitness, yoga, obstacle course races, read, binge watch Netflix series, dance like an idiot in front of the mirror

YOU AND SLEEKGEEK

How long have you been a member of Sleekgeek?
Since 2013. I remember joining so that I could try reboot (when it was still the strict paleo version).

How did you find Sleekgeek?
I was complaining about being overweight and unfit. Both my sister and a friend recommended it independently so I figured I’d better join the group.

What is your favourite part of the Sleekgeek Community?
Definitely the Sleekgeek 8 Week Challenges even though the first 2 I entered I didn’t complete! I did complete the last 2 in 2019 though. I love the support and inspiration amongst the challengers.

YOUR TRANSFORMATION

Describe the “old you” before you made your transformation. How did you get there and what were you like?
This sounds ridiculous but I didn’t really notice it at the time, I mean I did, but I didn’t see the extent of it because if I just avoided the scale, mirrors and cameras I didn’t have to face it.

In 2010 I gave birth to my daughter and while I didn’t gain much weight while pregnant I did start to pick up a lot of weight after she was born. She never slept well and I didn’t adapt easily at all to being a working mom. I felt like I had lost my identity as I found I no longer had any time to do the things I had loved before I became a mom. As the months went by it just became easier to live on takeaways and ready-made meals. All while I was feeding my daughter home-cooked organic meals I ate hamburgers, pizza and pasta – it makes no sense now that I think about it. Exercise wasn’t even a consideration in my life at that point.

Months turned into years and then more years, and while I tried on many occasions to lose weight I always went with an all or nothing, very restrictive approach so it never lasted for more than a month or two at the most. Inevitably I would put on more weight than what I had lost. Eventually, I ended up weighing more than 92kgs – I know I got heavier after that, I just stopped weighing myself once I had seen that number.

What ignited your initial motivation to change?
It was a series of life events that gradually (this was a very slow process) got me to face the truth of the lifestyle that I was living.

In May 2017 my 53-year-old dad was paralysed in a motorbike accident. I watched him struggle in ICU on a ventilator to try and recover for 8 months until he eventually passed away. His recovery was hampered by the fact that he was diabetic and a smoker, and while his injury was severe, his pre-existing underlying health issues played a huge role in him being unable to wean off of the ventilator. I was so shocked at the impact your health has on your ability to recover from an unexpected traumatic event and I started to realise that could have just as easily been me. So while I have never been diabetic or a smoker I was obese and there was no doubt my health was being affected. I needed to start doing something about it if I wanted to be around to watch my daughter grow up and also be able to actively participate in her life. It still took me another year and a bit from this realisation to physically start doing something about my unhealthy lifestyle though, but looking back now I can see how I was already laying the foundation for change.

Because of my dad’s accident, I started to see a psychologist to deal with the trauma and in those sessions, just by a natural healing progression, we delved deeply into my body image and self-esteem and I got to confront and deal with a lot of negative issues from my past.

Once I had completed 9 months of therapy a close friend of mine convinced me to join our local bootcamp with her because she didn’t want to go alone. Little did I know how significant that was going to be for me. I didn’t really want to go, but I didn’t want to let my friend down. I swore and complained the whole way during that entire first session (and many more after that), but I was also completely overwhelmed not only at how unfit I was but also at how supportive everyone in the class was.

I decided then that I had spent so many years trying to change because I hated myself and the way I looked and it had never worked. What if I changed my approach and decided that I needed to change because I loved myself? I had nothing to lose at that point and made a promise to myself to attend every bootcamp session, barring illness or injury, even if I didn’t feel like it. I just had to show up because I loved myself and loving myself meant I needed to care about my health.

What are some of the things that the new you does differently now?
Pretty much everything! I have gone from being completely sedentary to loving being active. I go to bootcamp twice a week, pole fitness once a week. I sometimes add in home workouts when life is particularly stressful because I find it helps. I did the Warrior commando race in November last year and have registered to do the next one coming up now in March. I love to go for walks or go bike riding with my family on weekends.

I am no longer fixated on food. I eat when I am hungry and I stop when I am full. I don’t restrict any food groups or even junk food that much, but I do find that I don’t want to eat takeaways or sweets very often anymore. I do try to make healthy choices as far as possible but if I really want a chocolate I am not going to agonise over it, I’ll just have the damn chocolate and get on with my day!

Most importantly, even though it is very difficult, I keep my focus on having a healthy self-esteem and mental health as much as possible.

What are some of the things that the new you still struggles with?
Definitely anxiety. I have quite a stressful job and I get easily overwhelmed, and when that happens I find my self-talk starts to become negative and before I know it I can’t look at myself in the mirror anymore or I start making stupid irrational decisions. It is amazing how ingrained lifelong negative patterns can be.

If you could give yourself 1 piece of advice to help with that struggle, what would it be?
Ask for help and talk it out, you would be surprised how many people out there want to help and support you.

Did you plateau, get stuck, or get disillusioned, or even slide backwards a bit on your journey?
Often, but I never let go of my promise to just show up. So some months I didn’t put much effort into my workouts or even really bother to try and eat healthy at all. There was a period of time last year where even though I had made the most amazing progress I had a major mental health regression and just wanted to retreat from the entire world, but the mere fact that I always showed up for my workouts anyway meant that I was constantly confronted with motivating and inspiring people, and because of that I always managed to push through. Any plateau I faced didn’t generally last for more than a couple of months at a time. That being said I only lost a few kgs a month anyway and I refused to let that stress me out so I didn’t freak out too much when I hit a plateau or gained a few kgs. It took me over 2 years to get to the point that I am at now and I never rushed myself.

What is better since you got healthy?
My confidence and self-esteem have improved dramatically. I am capable of voicing my opinions, expressing my needs and wants and just generally being able to speak up without fear, which has helped me (and sometimes caused friction) in all areas of life. However losing weight didn’t solve all of my problems, in fact, I was disappointed to find out that all of my problems came along for the ride with me. I did become better equipped to deal with them though, which is why seeking professional help for my mental health was such an important part of my journey.

TRAINING

What’s your favourite form of exercise? [Running, yoga, weightlifting, etc]
I honestly can’t choose any specific form of exercise as a favourite because I do quite a varied range of exercises and I enjoy them all. Right now I just like to move and be challenged.

How long have you been training and how did you get started?
I have been training since October 2017 thanks to my friend who dragged me to bootcamp with her. As I got fitter I started adding in other kinds of exercise either at home or in the form of other classes. I still attend bootcamp and now sometimes I even take the class.

What does your typical workout look like?
A good mix up of cardio and resistance training either using weights, bands or my own body weight. So lots of burpees, squats, lunges, deadlifts, pushups, tricep dips, suicide sprints, high knees, planks etc, etc. Every single workout is different but always encompasses the same principles. I personally like to have short intense bursts of cardio in between sets of resistance training.

Favourite exercise? [Distance / pose / movement / etc]
Pole fitness probably ranks quite close to the top at the moment just because it’s a new challenge that I have taken up recently and it is so much fun. I have been taken aback by the increase in upper body and core strength it has given me in such a short space of time. However, I am not a great dancer so I have loads of work to do on flexibility and coordination. Doesn’t stop me from enjoying it though.

Least favourite exercise? [Distance / pose / movement / etc]
Definitely long distance running! I haven’t mastered the art yet.

How does exercise make you feel?
Euphoric. I honestly feel like I could conquer the world after a good workout. No matter how bad the day was I always feel more positive after a workout. It has become one of my favourite forms of stress relief.

Do you prefer to train alone or with others? Why?
Depends on the workout. I love bootcamp, yoga and pole because of the groups of people that I do it with, but if it is running I prefer to be alone so that I can put on my music and drown out the world for a bit while I focus on trying to figure out how to run and breathe at the same time.

Most embarrassing training moment?
If you haven’t farted during yoga are you even doing it right? Seriously though, about a year back I thought I was stronger and more balanced than I actually was and thought that a handstand would be easy. I was trying to show off, but my arms buckled underneath me and I essentially fell on my head. It was a swift lesson in humility and knowing my age. A handstand is now one of my top goals for the year, but I am far more cautious and use the wall while I build up the strength, balance and courage. It is definitely going to take some time.

Top 3 things you must have at the gym or in your gym bag?
iPod – music fuels the workout, unfortunately, mine just broke so I’m feeling a bit lost right now.
Sweat towel – I am so over sweat stinging my eyes!
All of the water – have to stay hydrated.

Your next training goal?
Being able to do an unassisted handstand (without falling on my head) and Warrior Black Ops in May.

Top 5 songs on your training playlist?
For high intensity:
Post Malone feat. Rani – Sam Feldt
Scream & Shout – will.i.am & Britney Spears
Run the World (Girls) – Beyonce

For low intensity / stretching:
All My Friends – Dermot Kennedy
Lose You to Love Me – Selena Gomez

How has exercise/training/Sport Changed your life? [Made it better, etc – please be specific]
Training has not only made me physically stronger but it has made me mentally stronger too. If I have a bad day at work, or if something is bugging me and I am overthinking everything, I know that if I work out I will be able to get out of my head just enough so that I can come back to the problem when I am done with clarity and a fresh perspective. It is difficult to think about that mean client when I have to focus on getting through that last set while still remembering to breathe – it creates a much needed mental break. That doesn’t mean that I don’t still struggle with anxiety, but I now have a way to step back for a bit and I have become a more rational person since I have included training as a stress relief mechanism in my day to day life.

NUTRITION

What’s your favourite meal?
Sushi and lots of it.

OK, now what’s your favourite healthy meal?
Medium rare steak with a side salad or steamed veggies or a lentil, chickpea and vegetable curry with brown basmati rice.

Favourite protein?
Lamb chops

Favourite fat?
Avo

Favourite carbohydrate?
Anything potato

What’s your nutrition philosophy / approach? [If you have one]
I work on a very general 80/20 type of approach – 80% planned out and considered healthy and 20% freedom because I need to relax and enjoy my life. Having suffered from eating disorders for many years I try not to fixate on or restrict any type of food. I do however try to stick with healthier options and eat intuitively (ie: eat when hungry and stop when full). I make sure that I always eat food I enjoy, I just don’t see the point in forcing down a meal you hate for the sake of ‘being healthy’ – how is that good for your mind and soul? That being said, I promise you that there are plenty of healthy meals that are absolutely delicious you just need to find the ones that work for you and your lifestyle and likes.

The biggest nutrition factor for me when it came to losing weight and stabilising was eating a good protein-filled breakfast (omelet’s rock) and packing lunch and snacks for work because it is difficult to justify ordering takeaways when you have a perfectly good meal packed and waiting for you.

How many meals a day do you eat?
I am a snacker and generally can’t eat big meals so depending on how busy I am anywhere between 3 and 6 meals a day. I try to aim for 5 equally sized meals a day but things don’t always go according to plan.

Do you have a cheat meal / treat strategy?
No real strategy. Obviously consistently eating cheat meals is not productive to any health goals, but I don’t plan cheat meals or treats. I generally don’t give in to cravings immediately though, so I will eat my prepared/packed meal first and then if I find that I still want what it is that I am craving then I am more than happy to have it and move on with my life. Nine times out of ten the craving disappears as soon as I have eaten a good meal.

If I am going out to a restaurant, which is not often, you will definitely not find me eating a salad – I want the good stuff! When I have a treat I make sure that I have it, enjoy it and move on.

MINDSET

Most memorable personal best achievement to date. Something you maybe never imagined you could do?
Learning the rope climb. I always told myself it was impossible, but decided to face it when I registered for the warrior race last year. I spent a solid 2 months increasing my upper body strength and practising the technique grounded on the floor before I was able to pull it off. When I did pull it off I made it all the way to the top on the first go and nothing could wipe that smile off my face. As it turned out they didn’t include a rope climb in the race… but I am glad I know how to do it now anyway.

Favourite quote?
“Success doesn’t come from what you do occasionally. It comes from what you do consistently.” – Marie Forleo

Favourite book?
At the moment I am reading and working through ‘Recovery’ by Russell Brand.

What inspires and motivates you?
Knowing that what I do today is setting me up to be able to do things that I could never do before. I keep my Instagram feed full of positive content. Being able to see what I could do if I don’t give up is my biggest source of inspiration – so essentially other people’s transformations in everything from weight loss to yoga poses to conscious awareness. I internally celebrate everyone’s victories no matter how small. I’ve been a much happier person since I ditched comparison for creation and inspiration.

For what are you most grateful?
The ability to move, not everyone has that gift.

What do you want to say to other community members who might be nervous or hesitant to make a start?
Stop overthinking it. Just choose one step (the easiest one to achieve) out of that complex multi-step plan you’ve set up in your head which you plan to implement when Jupiter aligns with the sun and the third star in some far off galaxy (I know you’ve done it) – and make it happen.

Once you have been successful in achieving and maintaining that first step, congratulate yourself on setting up your first sustainable healthy habit, and then add in the second step.

It is going to take a while and you are going to go backwards at time, but please be kind and patient with yourself because self-doubt and negative talk will never cement a positive habit.

What I found is that the steps flow so naturally from the first step. In my case, once I had made regular exercise a habit (that was my step one) I noticed how what I ate during the day affected my ability to exercise well, so step two, which was looking at my eating habits, became a no brainer and really it turned out to be quite easy.

Be kind, be patient, never compare, but most importantly stop thinking about it and just start.

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

  1. Get your mental health sorted – nothing sustainable is born from hating yourself and your body. Learning to love yourself is an extremely difficult exercise when you are confronted by a media that is continuously pointing out what is ‘wrong’ with you, but honestly, self-love is the biggest gift that you can give yourself. It is worth the effort.
  2. Move your body, the endorphins do wonders – find an exercise that you love so that it isn’t a chore that you are going to put off.
  3. Be patient – you probably didn’t put on the extra weight in a month so you’re not going to lose it in a month.
  4. Be realistic – a sustainable habit is something you can continue forever, don’t set yourself up for failure by creating unrealistic goals for yourself.
  5. Be consistent – failures will happen all of the time, what matters is being able to get back up and still carry on with your purpose when they do.

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