From Bullied and Bulimic to Fit, Healthy and Happy – Geraldine van Vuuren

Geraldine van Vuuren endured many challenges and dark times because of her weight. She was bullied during her school years, which caused her self-esteem and confidence to plummet. It got so bad, that she started to starve herself, which ultimately led to bulimia. Today, Geraldine is fit, healthy, happy, confident and stronger than ever before. Here is her story:

Tell us more about yourself and your journey.

I am a 21 year-old student, currently studying BED, foundation phase and doing an internship at an amazing school. Once I have my teaching degree, I would like to study personal training and nutrition as I would love to educate myself about healthy living and nutrition. I’m a very out-going person and I am definitely a people’s person. I love to help others and I will always put them first. I am very passionate about fitness and living a healthy lifestyle, and I enjoy inspiring others and showing them that it is an amazing journey to be on and despite all the challenges that can occur, you always come out stronger and it is so worth it in the end.

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My fitness journey started a year and a half ago, and I wish it had started sooner.

In my last three years of high school, I was bullied. I always carried a lot more weight than the average girls. This was all seen as normal until I had a fall-out with a few friends; my weight was the main target for them and I had a constant reminder of being overweight every day. I eventually hated school and drowned myself in tears each morning begging not to go to school. I had lost my self-image and fell into the darkest negative space I’ve ever been in. My confidence was non-existent. I spent my last few years of high school trying to starve myself skinny, and bulimia and quick-fix diets became my tools of choice. My weight issue carried over into my varsity days. I had attached myself to the one thing that gave me comfort – junk food. This was the worst way of living and my lifestyle was disgustingly unhealthy. I had somehow turned a blind eye on my well-being and the way I looked.

One day I woke up and decided enough is enough! My eyes finally opened up to the mess I have made myself into. It was time to make a change as I could not keep living like this. This was the day I had taken my first steps into my healthy lifestyle. Soon after this, I met my boyfriend – a bodybuilder. He guided me into the right direction with getting a proper eating plan and a workout plan. Today, 17 Kg lighter, I am happier and healthier. I look back at what I used to look like and it sickens me to think I got myself to look the way I did and how I let others affect me in such a way.


With my boyfriend being a bodybuilder, he introduced me to the sport of competing. I grew such a passion for it and decided that the stage is where I am meant to be. I have competed in two shows so far. Stepping on stage was an overwhelming feeling and for the first time in a while felt confident and free to be who I am. I’m currently prepping for another show which is in August this year.

I have finally found something that motivates and drives me, and I want to continue pursuing this passion for the rest of my life.

What are some of the challenges and triumphs of your journey?

The challenges I have gone through has definitely made me into the person I am today and even stronger than I was before. I had no confidence and my self-image was non-existent. I had to rebuild my confidence from scratch and it was one of the hardest things to overcome as I had years of hurtful words stuck in my head. I realized that I had to step out my comfort zone to allow myself to grow my confidence. I have now stopped drinking for nearly a year and this unfortunately caused many of my friendships to end.

With me not drinking I started to go out less, to a point that I don’t go out anymore unless it’s a special occasion; I would rather go on adventures than be in a club every weekend. My friends at the time did not see things the way I did and I lost a lot of friends throughout the fitness journey. At the time it was a horrible feeling, but I soon realized that you have to let go of all the negative people in your life to be able to live a positive life and have a positive mindset.

On some days, I have to pinch myself to check if this – my life-  is real. I have grown so confident and independent. I fit into clothes that I would only ever dream of wearing. I can be on the beach in the bikini and not be the odd one out wearing clothes. I did so well in  my first two competitions, and each time I step on stage, I do it for myself and no one else! I never expect to win or place as it is not always about that, but I am so grateful for placing third in my first show and second in my second show. I am forever grateful for this and I strive to be better than what I was before.

What does being strong mean to you?

To me, being strong is so much more than having muscles and pushing heavy weights; it’s about having a strong mindset and a strong passion. There will be many days and challenges that will knock you down or make you feel like giving up is the easiest option, but you have to have a strong mindset to be able to remember why you started and get back up and carry on. You need to be able to be strong enough and accept that there are many people, who can be considered ‘haters”, who will take any chance they get to to bring you down because all they want is to see you fall. But you have to be strong enough to ignore them and prove to them that their words are just more motivation for you to reach your goals.  In my personal opinion, to be successful in everything you do, you need to have drive and passion, which pushes you further than others, and that makes you stand out from the rest.

Who inspires you to be strong?

I would be lying if I said that one person inspires me.  I feel like the people around me and people who are following my fitness journey all inspire me. I receive countless messages from friends and even people I don’t know saying how I inspire them and how they want to start their fitness journey as soon as possible. The fact that I inspire others is a wonderful feeling on its own as that is all I want to do and it motivates me to work harder. I have such an amazing support system and they all inspire me to go out there and give it my all.

I am currently following Courtney King, Winner of Olympia Beach Bikini. She is so humble and is herself in front of the camera; she is still down to earth despite all the titles behind her name. Watching her inspires me to work harder yet staying humble about it. She reminds me that you can still enjoy your life while prepping and living your healthy lifestyle.

Who do you nominate as #StrongWomen?

I nominate Shelby Neves (USN Face of Fitness 2016 winner). I met her 3 years ago and have been inspired by her ever since. I was fortunate to watch her first show and I could see a fire in her eyes and I knew she would go far. I have followed her fitness journey since day one and I am inspired by her hard work and determination. She first walked on stage as a beach bikini competitor and braved it up to walk on stage at Arnold’s South Africa in the fitness bikini division and she blew me away. She is extremely hard working and throughout her whole fitness journey she has stayed herself and down to earth. She is a true definition of a strong woman. She has a bright future ahead of her and one day I aspire to be where she is now.

What is your favourite #StrongWomen quote?

“And one day she discovered that she was fierce and strong. And full of fire, and that not even she could hold herself back because her passion burned brighter than her fears”


Follow Geraldine’s inspiring #StrongWomen journey on Instagram.

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Author: Mariska du Plessis

Mariska is the editor of Fitness Magazine, Bootcamp Instructor, Writer, Photographer and Wellness Blogger.

Follow her on Instagram: @justmariska_