This post originally appeared on Sleekgeek. View it here.
What do you do? [Job]
I am a co-founder and Director of a manufacturing company called The Creative Stone Company in Johannesburg. As a shareholder, I now have more time and flexibility and in the last two years, I did a coaching diploma through UCT, a Conversational Intelligence Diploma through the US and an Image and Styling Diploma so as to focus on helping coach young entrepreneurs and giving back after 20 years of being an entrepreneur. Our company has won numerous awards for Design Excellence and now it’s time to give back and help other young entrepreneurs because the future of this country depends on entrepreneurship. I have also started doing some motivational speaking on the importance of first impressions and personal branding.
What else do you do? [Hobbies, non-work stuff, etc ]
My hobbies in essence focus on my passion for healthy living, which has become a part of my identity and purpose: I gym, run/walk, swim, do water aerobics and yoga and generally live an active lifestyle. I also love cooking, exploring healthy, delicious recipes. I recently wrote a chapter in a book published in Canada about my long journey to wholeness, physically, psychologically and spiritually.
You and Sleekgeek
How long have you been a member of Sleekgeek?
For about seven or eight years, since attending my first supper at Pirates Club in Joburg many many moons ago. I fell in love with meeting like-minded people, people who had battled where it hadn’t been plain sailing to become healthy and whole.
How did you find Sleekgeek?
I only started becoming active at 52. Someone I know at the gym invited me to a SleekGeek Dinner one year later at the early stages of my transformative journey.
What is your favourite part of the Sleekgeek Community?
To feel less alone. To feel that you are not the only one that battles and grinds sometimes and other times I sail and inspire others. I feel that after a long nine-year journey, I am finally able to say that I have really found my way and if I can inspire others that it is NEVER TOO LATE to change your life that is my purpose. To shine a light for others, to encourage them to step into their light and shine, in confidence, self-acceptance and becoming a balanced happy person.
Describe the ‘old you’ before you made your transformation. How did you get there and what were you like?
Where do I start? I could write a book! I grew up plump and with troubled skin in a sporty family with some bipolar challenges so I sought refuge in emotional eating. I battled with yo-yo dieting for years which morphed into bulimia for a while as I struggled to control my weight as I had a family that was very judgmental about weight issues. So it has been a long journey to wholeness and happiness.
What ignited your initial motivation to change?
What ignited my shift (at the age of 52!) was my frustration at not feeling good about myself and thinking there had to be another way to live.
And that is what I FINALLY found. A different way to live. A different way to be in the world. A different philosophy of LIFE and HEALTH.
The first year was very hard. I got a personal trainer. I had never properly been to a gym before. It was hard. I hated the first year and moaned under my breath! Then something shifted, I started to like myself a little bit more, a bit lighter and happier. And then I started running races and I never looked back.
What are some of the things that the new you does differently now?
1. I like myself – FINALLY.
2. I have a different mindset – I never EVER weigh myself, but I can see if I got heavier and I stay aware of being healthy and fit.
3. I do NOT DEMONIZE food anymore.
4. My body craves healthy food and I see that as FUEL for training.
5. I talk kindly to my body. I do not berate it in the mirror. I thank it for how far we have come. This is a spiritual journey, it is not a war on the physical – that was the old me!!
6. I enjoy cooking and see it as a language of love. Before, I was terrified of cooking and saw food as the enemy.
7. Interestingly enough only No. 7 is: I train hard/am active almost every day because it has become part of my identity and who I AM NOW.
What are some of the things that the new you still struggles with?
1. Acknowledging how far I have come.
2. Acknowledging that I am an inspiration to many who fear ageing.
3. I still get easily intimidated by people who look amazing but haven’t had to struggle to get there – still working on that.
If you could give yourself 1 piece of advice to help with that struggle, what would it be?
My advice to myself is to tell my story more so that I can feel that acknowledgement and let it sink in. When I get intimidated, it is because for that moment I lose my sense of self. It happens much less often these days, so I take it as my ongoing journey of spiritual resilience and learning to love myself.
Did you plateau, get stuck, or get disillusioned, or even slide backwards a bit on your journey?
Yes, I got slim when I started running but still had some loose skin due to all the years of yo-yo dieting. As I got older (at 59) I started to think maybe the running wasn’t so good for me so I slowed down when I was studying and just did mainly water aerobics but that wasn’t enough to really make me fit and strong, so at over 60 I stepped up my gym dramatically and everything changed again. I got leaner, more sculpted and my loose skin improved a lot with weights and different activities. Now I multi-train in different ways. Some running, walking and swimming, alongside weights, yoga and water aerobics sometimes to ease stiffness. I feel so much more energetic and not as drained as when I was doing long distance running.
What is better since you got healthy?
Every single aspect of life. My marriage, my family, my openness with people, my self-confidence. Before I used to shop a lot for clothes because I was so insecure, now I only occasionally buy something as all my clothes look much better now. I can honestly look in the mirror and say that I am a really healthy, whole, balanced older woman who inspires others every day to live their best life.
What’s your favourite form of exercise? [Running, yoga, weightlifting, etc ]
It’s changed. It used to be running. Now weights are my foundation for everything else but I also do stretching/toning, swimming, running short distances (7 km – 12 km), walking, yoga, water aerobics and dancing. I do not fixate on anything. My weight OR a strict eating regime. I just crave being ACTIVE and HEALTHY.
How long have you been training and how did you get started?
I started at 52 when I started to look old, stressed and bloated. I look younger now in many ways at 61 than I did at 50.
What does your typical workout look like?
I often do one and a half to two hours of weights because I don’t enjoy intense cardio classes and that seems to work to shape my muscles more than hours of slow running as I did before.
But then I mix it up by adding swimming, water aerobics, yoga, a bit of walking/running and then even dancing at night once a week. I cannot believe that I am the same person who was 40 and not active AT ALL. In fact, I slept a lot and looking back I was actually quite depressed. Now I am a very happy person.
Favourite exercise? [Distance/pose/movement, etc.]
Weights for the results it gives me
Running with music for feeling like an athlete
Swimming for spiritual meditation – I love water
Water aerobics for fun and camaraderie in the pool
Yoga for calmness, stillness and flexibility
Dancing for fun and rhythm – I love music
Paddleboarding in the sunset for the sheer joy of nature.
Least favourite exercise? [Distance/pose/movement, etc]
Cardio – I force myself to do some cardio a few times a week as I know that it is good for me.
How does exercise make you feel?
It makes me feel young, alive and connected to a higher power – that I have some deeper purpose on this earth which is why embodying health and balance is so important to me.
Do you prefer to train alone or with others? Why?
I love training mostly alone. It is ME time. Even at the gym, I get into the zone and just do a lot of overall body workout. I like running alone, not comparing myself to others or trying to keep up with their pace, but I do belong to RWFL for weekly sessions and occasional races. I like swimming alone too. All exercise, even paddleboarding is like a moving meditation to me.
Most embarrassing training moment?
Sitting on the machines the wrong way in the early days and falling off the treadmill during peak gym time.
Now I feel so at ease in the gym, it’s been quite a journey.
Top three things you must have at the gym or in your gym bag?
1. My great earphones – always gym to music.
2. My swimming gear – sometimes I swim after weights or do a water aerobics class.
3. My phone and money for emergency healthy gym snacks if I do a long training session.
Your next training goal?
To get even fitter and shape my legs more. I always disliked my legs so I never trained them except for running. Now I do specific exercises for shaping my legs and I can start to see the difference. I am a work in progress even at 61!
Top 5 songs on your training playlist?
1. Mambo No. five.
2. Shania Twain: You’re still the one (A tribute to my husband of 26 years who is so supportive and kind and loving)
3. Livin la Vida Loca
4. Miriam Makeba – The Pata Pata Song
5. All songs with great lyrics and a great beat
How has exercise/training/sport changed your life? [Made it better, etc. – please be specific]
I am a completely different person in almost every aspect of my life. Far more disciplined. Far more confident, less insecure. More open. Stronger yet kinder and softer. It is not just my outer shape that changed. It is my inner soul that changed.
What’s your favourite meal?
Simple healthy salads with a bit of protein.
Roast vegetables with nuts, olives and feta.
Healthy strawberry smoothies.
Carb-free crackers with tomatoes.
OK, now what’s your favourite healthy meal?
You see! All of my favourite meals ARE healthy.
I don’t eat a lot of meat, mostly a plant-based diet but occasionally a schnitzel or salad with steak just hits the spot.
Olive oil and balsamic dressing.
Very occasionally have lamb chops with some fat on or ribs but limit fat due to genetically high cholesterol.
Sweet potatoes. Will occasionally have a nice dessert or ice-cream or chocolate as I never demonize any food but it’s very occasional. My whole life is moderation, balance and a natural yearning for healthy, tasty options.
What’s your nutrition philosophy/approach? [If you have one]
I have a very clear philosophy for myself – not necessarily to suit everyone. It is to love myself so much that I honour my body and my choices. I believe you are what you eat, accompanied by being very very active at my age. I honour myself so much that I very seldom eat ‘junk’. A packet of nik naks on a road trip however is just delightful so I don’t demonize anything (eating disorders in the past have made me never ever want to demonize food again). I love food now but crave healthy food AND train hard.
How many meals a day do you eat?
It varies, I have become really intuitive with food. I really listen to my body. Sometimes I eat small light meals, but sometimes after training hard I can eat a huge salad with protein, but generally, I eat light and healthy 2 or 3 times a day. Or I do sometimes intuitively do intermittent fasting as it makes me actually feel better, digest food better and gives me more energy. So sometimes I eat between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. But I think you first need to become disciplined and structured before you can become intuitive so that you have a solid foundation for healthy eating.
Do you have a cheat meal/treat strategy?
Yes, absolutely. How can one live forever on a rigid diet? It’s impossible. Health has to be a way of life. So when I enjoy a dessert/chocolate/ice-cream I just enjoy every delicious mouthful – yes mindful ecstasy – and then train hard the next day.
So I never associate food with guilt. That is what my personal transformation has been about. To never ever feel guilty about indulging sometimes – with joy and consciousness.
Most memorable personal best achievement to date. Something you maybe never imagined you could do?
I never ever in a million years thought that I would run two 32 km Tough One races and so many 21 km races.
When the starter said at one of my early running races ‘Athletes are you ready?’ I had to pinch myself. Me? An athlete?
Now YES I AM. Maybe I am not a Comrades runner or triathlete but I AM ATHLETIC.
Because I often doubt myself:
Marianne Williamson (famously quoted by Nelson Mandela) ‘Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do.’
The Four Agreements – Don Miguel Ruiz
Conversations with God – Neale Donald Walsch
Tony Robbins on Mastery
Love out Loud – Nicole Gibson
Robin Sharma, Dr Joe Dispenza
What inspires and motivates you?
1. Seeing people overcome challenges like the late Dr Sean Stephenson.
2. Listening to motivational speakers/leaders talking about their mindsets/philosophies.
3. Reading great books and autobiographies.
4. Following MindValley key thought leaders.
For what are you most grateful?
For my family. They are at the root of everything – the source of my evolution, the source of my healing. My husband and my two wonderful adult children have taught me so much and brought me untold joy, as have my extended family and wonderful friends in SA and globally. I am extremely grateful that I got a second chance at life after 50 and I say a daily prayer of thanks for that.
What do you want to say to other community members who might be nervous or hesitant to make a start?
It is never too late to change your life. I am living proof of that. When you make one change (even though it seems so hard at first, I know) the ripples carry through to SO many other aspects of life, you will never look back.
Love yourself enough to try. Love yourself enough to stick with it. You are worth it! You will fall in love with the rewards and you will fall in love with yourself (not in a vain way but in a beautiful, spiritual acceptance of who you really are.)
An imbalance with food (overeating/punishing diets) and an imbalance of INACTIVITY blocks you from being the best version of YOU!!
What are your top five tips for anyone starting on a healthy journey?
1. Get a personal trainer or a friend to assist you. It’s hard at first.
2. Join a gym or running/walking club – feeling less alone and more structured makes it so much less daunting / less intimidating/less lonely.
3. Find something that you love doing – walking in nature / walking the dog/swimming/yoga. You will find what makes your soul sing even if it takes a while.
4. When you find one/several things that you enjoy, eventually you will change your identity ENTIRELY as I did, from sloth to athlete or heavy and heavy-hearted to lighter and more joyous.
5. But you have to start somewhere. It takes GUTS to take the baby steps and then stick with it for nine months at least, then you become that person and even though you may plateau or have setbacks, you will never EVER go back to that old YOU.
BELIEVE IT’S POSSIBLE. IT IS!
I would like to end with a quote by Nigerian poet Ljeoma Umebinyuo.
‘Start now. Start where you are. Start with fear. Start with pain. Start with doubt. Start with hands shaking. Start with voice trembling but start. Start and don’t stop. Start where you are, with what you have. Just … start.’