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QA: Busy career mom Maxine is winning on her journey!

Name:

Maxine Chowles

Age:

39

Location:

Brussels, Belgium (South African living abroad.)

How much weight have you lost on your journey so far?

Started at 89kg in March 2018, currently at 75kg in August 2020 = loss of 14kg so far. The goal is to get to 72kg by Christmas 2020 and finally 68kg by my 40th next year.

What do you do? [Job]

Research Manager

What else do you do? [Hobbies, non-work stuff, etc]

Mom to 2 beautiful daughters (born 2015 and 2019), Wife to the world’s best husband, Food lover / blogger (when I have time)

YOU AND SLEEKGEEK

How long have you been a member of Sleekgeek?

I have watched (from the sideline) as my cousin Eric transformed over the years but only decided to join a Sleekgeek 8-Week challenge in May 2018 after I had spent 2 months on the start of my own personal journey.

How did you find Sleekgeek?

My cousin.

What is your favourite part of the Sleekgeek Community?

Constant support and inspiration. Everyone has their own story and their own battles and watching people share their journeys (good and bad) keeps me going.

YOUR TRANSFORMATION 

Describe the “old you” before you made your transformation. How did you get there and what were you like?

I feel like I have always struggled with my weight, I was a chubby primary school child, then did lots of sport at high school and slimmed down. Then the first year of university I gained 10kg, did Weight Watchers and lost it. I started working and the weight slowly crept up. 

I moved to Belgium 12 years ago, and the first 10kg gain was “easy” to put on with beers, chocolate, and making new friends / socializing. I started food blogging when I moved here – a good excuse to bake and eat, right? Plus all the restaurant invitations streamed in and I had an excuse to be a pig and overeat. I ate when I was bored, tired, sad, happy. Any excuse.

The second 10kg gain, I blame on my firstborn’s inability to sleep in the first 2 years of her life. I was reaching for an afternoon sugar rush most days to get through my workday. I routinely had 2 breakfasts, one at 5/6 am while up with the baby and then a second one around 9/10 am. I was so exhausted and sedentary that even sitting on the floor to play with my daughter was tiring and getting up required help. I ate her leftovers at the end of each meal, telling myself that I didn’t like food waste.

What ignited your initial motivation to change?

I thought I was carrying my weight well, my wardrobe was primarily black and I thought I was “hiding it” with floaty clothing. In March 2018, I went to a friend’s birthday party and saw the photos that she had uploaded to FB the next day and wanted to cry. I wasn’t hiding anything… I stood on the scale and couldn’t believe that I was almost 90kg!

That very day, I started walking, pushing my oldest (at that time, the only) daughter in her stroller after a day’s work. It started as a 2km daily neighborhood walk and after a few months, I was racking up 8-9km every single day. I ate smaller portions and introduced more fruit/vegetables. I saw a dietician who helped me put an eating plan together (as I had been diagnosed with PCOS which makes it difficult to lose weight along with the difficulty to fall pregnant again). The weight didn’t fall off overnight. I was losing 0,1kg to 0,2kg each week… slow and steady. Sometimes I wondered why I even bothered until months went by and I realized that every gram added up.

When I had lost 12kg – about 6months later, I found out that I was pregnant again. I managed my pregnancy weight well and actually weighed the same amount at her birth as I did on the day that I found out I was pregnant. After that, I managed to maintain (give or take 2-3kg) around the 78-80kg mark.

2020 was time to get back on track and work on the second 10kg. So when Elan and Pamela put together a “run my first 5km” program, I knew that this was something that I wanted to try. I didn’t even run at school but I have always dreamt (yes, sleep dreaming) about effortless running.

At the start of the COVID lockdown, I found out that I was pregnant again. Baby #3 gave me terrible morning sickness and lethargy – I stopped running and just tried to balance working from home and caring for 2 small children 24/7 all while confined in a 4th-floor apartment. Due to the lockdown, I wasn’t able to see a Dr until the end of the 1st trimester. Sadly, the scan showed that there was no longer a heartbeat –  I was one week away from the “safe period” and the 2nd trimester and I was heartbroken. I ate my pain for a few weeks… and suddenly my double-digit losses over 2 years of hard work were now in single digits and I needed to look after my own health (physical, emotional, and mental).

The June 2020 Sleekgeek challenge and getting back into running (jogging) helped me get my head straight again and I managed to get to my lowest weight (75kg). My heart was still heavy, but I wasn’t medicating with food anymore.

What are some of the things that the new you does differently now?

The “new me” is still evolving. When I have a bad eating day, I accept it and try not to feel guilty. I am learning to wipe the slate clean and start afresh the next day. There is definitely a lot more fruit/vegetables being consumed than before. Slow and steady wins the race. I am definitely more active than I have been in years and actually feel sluggish if I don’t go out for a walk/jog at least three times a week.

What are some of the things that the new you still struggles with?

My love of carbs – I can’t (and won’t) give them up. Sometimes a bowl of pasta is just so moreish! I am learning that weeks between Sleekgeek challenges are about maintaining as opposed to gaining back half of what I lost in the preceding challenge. A treat doesn’t haven’t to extend to an entire day (or weekend or week).

If you could give yourself 1 piece of advice to help with that struggle, what would it be?

Don’t be so hard on yourself. Tomorrow is a new day. Slow and steady wins the race. Whatever happens, don’t give up, you are worth it!

Did you plateau, get stuck, or get disillusioned, or even slide backwards a bit on your journey?

Of course, life happens – tragedy, losses, life, financial worries, COVID. But never to the point where I was right back at the starting block. I have gone up and down, up and down with my new peak never higher than the previous one. And for the most part, I have been stuck around the 80kg plateau mark (~10kg loss), so my end goal for 2020 is to make it down to the low 70’s.

What is better since you got healthy? 

I have always loved taking photos, now I enjoy being in them as well (as long as it is my good side).

TRAINING 

What’s your favourite form of exercise? [Running, yoga, weightlifting, etc]

Walking, Yoga, and recently “running”.

How long have you been training and how did you get started?

Walking for the last 2,5 years, Yoga for the last year, Running for the last 6 months.

What does your typical workout look like?

Weekend: A long walk with the girls – the youngest in the stroller and the oldest on her bicycle or walking (skipping, dancing, jumping) next to me.

Office Day: Lunchtime jog in the forest next to our office

Home Office Day: YouTube workout video in the lounge

Favorite exercise? [Distance / pose / movement / etc]

Yoga. I recently learnt that I could do crow pose (even for a few seconds)

Least favorite exercise? [Distance / pose / movement / etc]

I used to say running (and still sometimes do).

How does exercise make you feel? 

Afterwards, I feel invincible – the endorphins released make me feel amazing.

Do you prefer to train alone or with others? Why?

Running alone. I am still a bit embarrassed by my novice(ness) when it comes to running, so I want to get comfortable (and be able to talk and breathe at the same time) before I attempt social running. 

I need to be in a class for yoga – the instructor can correct postures, provide assistance, etc.

Most embarrassing training moment?

Everyone who has ever done yoga knows that a fart can escape.

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

If I am at the office, I go for a run in the forest next door, and thankfully there is a shower in our office building that I can use. 

I normally pack:  Microfibre towel, earphones and shower toiletries.

Your next training goal?

Run 5km under 30min

Top 5 songs on your training playlist?

  • The Time (Dirty bit) – Black Eyed Peas
  • The Monster (feat. Rihanna) – Eminem
  • Bring me to Life – Evanescence
  • Beautiful Trauma – Pink
  • This is Me – Greatest Showman

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

I actually want to be more active! I want to learn to paddleboard and rock climb. I no longer feel embarrassed about my activity levels (or lack thereof). I feel healthier – I might not be skinny yet, but I feel stronger and fitter. I feel proud of myself for getting as far as I have and realize that this is just the beginning. 

NUTRITION

What’s your favourite meal?

Pizza

OK, now what’s your favourite healthy meal?

Bolognese (with grated carrot) on a bed of zoodles (zucchini noodles).

Favourite protein?

Greek yoghurt

Favourite fat?

Avocado

Favourite carbohydrate?

All of them ☺ …. pasta

What’s your nutrition philosophy / approach? [If you have one]

Eat the rainbow.

How many meals a day do you eat?

3 (breakfast, lunch, and dinner). I used to snack but found that it was an easy way to overeat my daily calories and in all fairness, I ate because it was there, not because I was really hungry.

Do you have a cheat meal / treat strategy?

If we order a pizza – I share one with my 2 daughters, which means I only have half. Previously, I would have ordered 3 pizzas (one for hubby, one for me and one for the girls), knowing full well that the girls would never even eat half of one, and then I would “snack” on their leftovers a few hours later.

MINDSET

Most memorable personal best achievement to date. Something you maybe never imagined you could do?

5 km in 37 min.

Favorite quote?

“Everything will be ok in the end, if it is not ok, it is not the end.” – The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Movie 2011.

Favourite book? 

The 5 love languages by Gary Chapman.

What inspires and motivates you?

Seeing other SG success stories.

For what are you most grateful? 

My faith, my family, and my job. 

What do you want to say to other community members who might be nervous or hesitant to make a start?

If it was easy, everyone would be skinny. Picking up weight took months and years of inactivity and eating badly, so we can’t expect it to fall off overnight. Start slowly and take one day at a time. There will be roadblocks and obstacles – you will fall off the wagon, but success is about getting up again and not letting the failure define you.

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

  1. Take those before photos (no matter how horrible they are… they make wonderful progress stories)
  2. Don’t trust the scale – it lies! Photos and cm’s are far more accurate representations of your success
  3. It isn’t “all or nothing”… small changes add up in the long-term
  4. Slipped up? Wipe the slate clean and start again (even if you do it 6 million times)
  5. Just try – what is the worst that can happen? You “only” lose 2kg? It is still less than when you began but you might have learnt something about portion control, activity or made some Sleekgeek friends along the way.

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