Updated 05 November 2013

From XXL to rocking a bikini 44kg later

At 110kg and 47% body fat, Sophia Strydom took charge of her life and is now 44kg lighter and infinitely happier.

Sophia Strydom was fresh out of a bad relationship and just about to turn 23 when Sophia decided to join the gym. She knew she was overweight, but when the scale showed that she was almost 110kg and 47% body fat, it came as a big blow.

“After being weighed at the gym I drove home and sat in my car crying. I had a proper look at my measurements, and read it over and over again. I felt empty on the inside.

“I knew I had to make a change. For too long I had tried to lose weight to make other people happy, but this time I was going to do it for myself. The next evening, I went back to gym. In my men’s XXL shirt, I went back!”

It was this determination that kept Sophia going back to gym again and again. And even though she struggled to get up at 5am every day to exercise, she kept chipping away at it until it became a regular routine and a new lifestyle.

One step at a time

“The first day I spent just 20 minutes on the elliptical machine and then went home. I was so stiff from exercising for the first time in years, but I didn’t let that stop me. I went back to gym three times that week and then going to gym three times a week became a habit that evolved into going four times, then five times a week.

As her body started to respond more to the increase in exercise, Sophia began feeling healthier, and this motivated her to take a critical look at her diet too.

“The more I exercised the more I learned about my body. I felt I needed a healthier diet to keep up with my exercise. I started adding more veggies, cutting out bad foods and slowly I began to turn my life around – no strict diet, no eating plan, just sort of listening to what my body’s needs and how it reacted to different foods.”

As the months went by Sophia’s lifestyle changed gradually to include more regular exercise, which she was now starting to enjoy and look forward to. She began setting herself goals and before long she was competing in her first 5km road race, and then a 10km race.

Invigorated by how her body was responding to the exercise she found herself a personal trainer who did small group training to help her overcome her fear of weightlifting and within a few weeks she started to notice a dramatic change in her body.

It was about this time she also stumbled across the social media sensation that is SleekGeek. She signed up to their Facebook group and at the beginning of 2013 she entered her first challenge – Comeback Kid 2013.

Spurred on by the supportive online community she found herself craving more community support and signed up with a Crossfit gym.

“I am strong”

Sophia is not the same person she was when she stepped into the gym for her measurements in a men’s XXL t-shirt. She is now 44kg lighter and confidently struts around in a bikini in the summer.

But the changes are not only physical. Mentally and emotionally she is a stronger, healthier and more confident version of herself.

“I have a newfound respect for my body and what it can do. I know that if I work my body hard – challenging it while remaining patient – my body will respond in ways I never imagined. I’m building every day – breaking my own personal records and rocking a bikini for the very first time without wanting to cover up.

“I’m very proud to say I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been – eating clean, and training hard. And yes, I do have bad days, I do fall off the wagon sometimes, but the important thing I’ve learned throughout this whole experience is to just get back onto that wagon. The most important thing for me was to look at this journey as a long-term lifestyle change instead of just a diet.”

Weighing in at a petite but strong 66kg Sophia says she never imagined she’d get to her goal weight.

“The weirdest thing for me now is waking up every morning and realising I no longer need to lose weight. After so many years of trying, it’s still a bit unreal for me.

So what advice does she have for other people who are contemplating a lifestyle change?

“The most important step is to start and just keep going. There will always be ups and downs. You’ll have good days and bad days, but never stop trying. And remember, what you put in is what you get out. Never stop giving your all.”


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