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QA: Corli lost 60kgs when she started walking and hiking.


Corli van der Merwe




Cape Town

How much weight have you lost on your journey so far? Please provide start and current weight thanks 

I lost 60kg. Starting weight 150kg, current 90kg.

What do you do? [Job]

I’m a digital publisher at Media24. 

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

I love reading, gaming, hiking, walking, listening to podcasts, and spending time with friends and family.


How long have you been a member of Sleekgeek?

I joined Sleekgeek in the very early days, it must have been late 2011 or 2012. I’ve been a member ever since but not always as engaged as I have been in recent years. 

How did you find Sleekgeek?

I heard about Elan’s decision to leave the media and work on SG full-time through mutual acquaintances and decided to follow Sleekgeek on social media, as I was very focused on my own health journey at the time.

What is your favourite part of the Sleekgeek Community?

The supportive nature of people in the community and also the kind of leadership that Elan, Eric, Savannah, and Sylvia display. They share many similar experiences to the rest of us in the community and they lead in an authentic and inspiring way. 


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

I’ve had issues with food for as long as I can remember. I started gaining too much weight in high school and since then my struggle with weight was a major theme in my life. It was only much later that I realised that it all stemmed from poor coping skills and unhealthy habits that I needed to work on. I ate all my feelings and didn’t understand how to live an abundant life without overindulging in food too frequently. Food was also there to soothe difficult emotions and stress, and an inactive lifestyle in general only made the problem worse.

What ignited your initial motivation to change?

When you get to the weight I was at my highest, you likely experience struggles doing ordinary things that other people take for granted. Flying on a plane, tying my shoelaces, walking up a flight or two of stairs, any kind of physical task – even getting up from a low couch or the floor. My health started suffering, I was diagnosed with high blood pressure and I just didn’t want to live the kind of life I was living at the time. 

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

I am a lot more aware of what is going on inside my mind, I would say that 70% of the work I do now is mental and the other actions follow on that. The things that other people might see include frequent planning of food and exercise. I make a point to regularly stock my house with healthy food options, I food prep every Sunday and I make time for regular exercise and general activity.

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

Sadly losing a large amount of weight does not cure you of a lifelong practice of unhealthy habits and mindsets. I still struggle with emotional eating, I’ve realised work stress is a huge trigger for me. I’m also quite prone to inactivity when I feel overwhelmed or very stressed. 

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

To focus on one improvement at a time, to be kind to myself and consider how far I have come, to make a choice that a future me will be happy with.

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

Boy did I! Your body does what it does, I have had periods where the effort I put into my health did not reflect in the results I got. The covid era has been challenging as my entire life changed in a matter of a few days, the same as most people out there. I’m still trying to figure it all out and I’ve realised that this is exactly what the future will be like as well – I will have to keep adjusting, making new plans, all the while being committed to living a certain kind of life. 

What is better since you got healthy? 

EVERYTHING! I can do many things that were either impossible or very challenging at some point. At some point in my journey, I started keeping a list of non-scale victories for my new lifestyle. There are currently 40 things on that list and many of them can move me to tears. I seriously recommend this idea to anyone that needs to lose a significant amount of weight, it was very helpful to me. 


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

I’ve fallen in love with walking and hiking. In September 2019 I walked 220km along the Camino de Santiago in Spain with my mom, a celebration of both our relationship and how far I came from the days when even a short walk was taxing. These days I also enjoy doing functional training with my trainer.

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

I lost a bit of weight before I started training and eventually, I started walking. For a long time, I just walked. I honestly think walking is incredibly underrated as exercise. The mental health benefit is also significant. Eventually, I started running and I was up to 15km when lockdown happened. 

What does your typical workout look like?

I do a 45min session with my trainer three times a week. We do lots of functional training, with weight training and boxing mixed in.

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

Walking, boxing, hiking. 

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

The assault bike and sled/prowler press – both are brutal!

How does exercise make you feel? 

As if I can do whatever I set my mind to. Empowered.

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

I prefer to gym alone or with my trainer. Walking with others is fun but I also enjoy walking on my own.

Most embarrassing training moment?

Luckily can’t think of anything!

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

  1. Water! I get a dry mouth really easily.
  2. Airpods are an absolute winner.
  3. My phone, so I can listen to music or podcasts.

Your next training goal?

For now, I want to improve both my fitness and strength. I’d love to develop a consistent six-day-a-week training regimen.

Top 5 songs on your training playlist?

  • Gaslighter – Dixie Chicks
  • Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger – Daft Punk
  • Courage – P!nk
  • Machine – Imagine Dragons
  • This is me – Keala Settle

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

Walking has improved my mental and physical health immensely. I find running very empowering, I’ll never forget how great I felt after my first 15km race. I think achieving physically demanding goals can show us that we can do so much more in other areas of life as well. 


What’s your favourite meal?


OK, now what’s your favourite healthy meal?

I enjoy transforming typically unhealthy meals into healthy meals. It’s hard to pick a favourite but I love a good, healthy burger or wrap. 

Favourite protein?


Favourite fat?


Favourite carbohydrate?

Wraps or potatoes.

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

I’ve calorie counted on and off over the last few years. I’m a big proponent of CICO but generally, I think there are many ways to lose weight and that the key is to find a way to eat that allows you to lose weight in a sustainable way. It is no use going on a ‘diet’ and then just gaining everything back. Sustainability and your ability to maintain any weight lost should be at the forefront of your mind.

How many meals a day do you eat?


Do you have a cheat meal / treat strategy?

No, I try to opt for moderation instead, working more indulgent foods occasionally without really labeling them as ‘cheats’.  


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

Running a 15km race. Changing my life in the way that I have in the last few years. 

Favorite quote?

I have many, I keep a document with quotes and phrases that speak to me. One that I like today:

“It’s like, at the end, there’s this surprise quiz: Am I proud of me? I gave my life to become the person I am right now. Was it worth what I paid?” – Richard Bach

Favourite book? 

I’m a voracious reader. Books I have found to be very helpful in my own journey include:

  • Atomic Habits by James Clear
  • The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
  • The Choice by Edith Eger 
  • Emotional Agility by Susan David
  • Mindset by Carol Dweck
  • How to Change by Katy Milkman

What inspires and motivates you?

Recognising how far I have come, seeing others achieve their goals, great conversations about what people have learned in their own lives.

For what are you most grateful? 

For getting to the point where I took action and started to change my daily actions. 

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

Life is short and unfortunately, poor health choices have consequences. You can experience a much better life and it is all possible. Realise that there are many people out there who have lost weight (and kept it off) and that they are no better than you. It is possible for all of us and the best news is, it’s in your hands to make it happen. 

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

  • Find a healthy lifestyle that works for you and allows you to lose weight sustainably. You cannot hate it, you have to enjoy the process to keep it up for the rest of your life. 
  • There are so many ways to exercise, keep on trying until you find something that works for you.
  • Focus on sustainability rather than trying to lose loads of weight quickly. What you learn along the way is what will keep the weight off, if you lose too fast you miss that opportunity and are more likely to regain it.
  • Get to know yourself and develop an understanding of why you make the choices you do.
  • Be kind to yourself along the way, it makes it a lot easier if you are your own biggest supporter, not your own biggest critic.

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