However, Sophia woke up the next day with renewed energy having gained some perspective on her situation. “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. After a pep talk I headed back to gym that evening.”
She recalls how scary it was to take that first step, especially as she was plagued with doubt about her ability to succeed. Her first form of exercise in years was 20 minutes on level one on the elliptical trainer. “When I got home I was so stiff that I could barely make it to my bed, but that wasn’t going to stop me. I went back to gym three times that week. Over time that grew to four, then five, and eventually six times per week. It’s now an integral part of my life.”
The more she exercised the more she learned about her body. “I soon felt that I needed a healthier diet to keep up with my cardio-based exercise regimen. I added more veggies to my meals and cut out bad foods. I did so slowly though – no more extremes; no strict, restrictive diets, no regimented eating plan. I just ‘listened’ to what my body told me and noted how it reacted to different foods.”
Sophia’s competitive streak ensured her training continuously progressed, and before long she was running on the road. “I started training for my first 5km race, and then my first 10km race.”
However, at that stage she was still intimidated by weights. “My trepidation with the weights room had a lot to do with a lack of knowledge. To overcome this I decided to join a personal training group at my gym. That’s when I learnt that weights have the power to transform your body.”
As she progressed to heavier weights Sophia’s body started responding more rapidly. “To my surprise I didn’t bulk up, I tightened up.” Sophia was soon on the hunt for the next challenge, which is when she came across the competitive world of CrossFit.
Sophia’s advice to someone starting a transformation: “Dream big, work hard, find what’s most important to you in life and don’t let fear of the unknown hold you back. When you change your mindset, you will change your life.”
Thinking she had the fitness needed to take on CrossFit, Sophia was initially found wanting. “CrossFit wiped the floor with me at first, but I love it now. It rebuilt my mental strength, and then took it to another level. I now know that anything is possible if I put my mind to it.”
Armed with this new self-belief and self-confidence Sophia decided to start prepping for her first fitness show. “I got myself a coach, Louise van der Nat, and we started my competitive fitness journey together. I’m so glad I found her as she has changed my life for the better, not only in body but also in mind.”
Following this experience Sophia says she is a stronger person, physically, mentally and emotionally. “I have a newfound respect for my body and what it can do. I know that if I work hard while remaining patient my body will respond in ways I never imagined. I also learnt how to set realistic goals, and how to go about achieving them. I have a more positive, determined attitude towards life in general and I now choose to take on any challenge I may fear, and I conquer it.”
Sophia admits that this change in mindset, and in her physical appearance wasn’t met with approval from everyone in her life. “Not everyone is so understanding and accepting of this lifestyle. This journey can cause you to lose friends and damage relationships with family, but the experience gave me a thicker skin. I also know that the friends I have now are my true friends. My journey has also helped me establish a growing community of people on social media who encourage me every step of the way.”
Sophia has now lost 44kg and says that she can finally wear a bikini again with confidence. “This meant that I was able to reach my goal of competing in a fitness show, and I fell completely in love with the sport. I stood between girls who had ‘normal’ bodies for most of their lives, and I wore my stretch marks with pride, albeit underneath the dark competition tan.”
Following her success people often ask what Sophia’s secret is. “The truth is I don’t have one. This journey has been a long-term lifestyle change in terms of the way I eat and train. There are no quick fixes. It took me four years to lose this weight but I know I did it the healthy way. In doing so I have learnt to love myself again. For the first time in my life, I feel like a strong, confident, proud woman.”
Sophia’s top diet tip: “Change your mindset with regard to food. I don’t call my cheat meals ‘cheats’, I call them ‘treats’. Don’t break yourself down about slipping up. One salad won’t make you thin, one treat meal won’t make you fat. Allow yourself to enjoy the pleasure of life too.”
Favourite healthy dish: Salmon and broccoli.
Favourite training routine: I love training shoulders.
Favourite exercise: Heavy deadlifts make my day.
Must-use supplements: BCAAs and whey protein.
2014 Rossi Classic – Top 10 in the Miss Bikini division
2014 Rossi Classic – 4th place in the Miss Toned Bikini division
2014 Body Beautiful – 5th place in the Fitness Model division
2015 WBFF SA – 4th place in the Fitness Diva division
2015 WBFF SA – Top 5 in the Transformation division, which qualified me for WBFF Worlds
Studio photography by Richard Cook, FlashBack Studios and MIke Mullane.
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Author: Tanja Schmitz
Founder and Editor of Fitness Magazine. You’ll find her behind her computer or on her bike, dreaming up new ways to improve or create content for you.