Meet the national winner of FitSlim 2019, Henk Viljoen

The annual Run/Walk For Life FitSlim Challenge is geared towards making a real change in the lives of participants.

This year’s FitSlim Challenge, which took place from 2 September to 26 October, seems to have kick-started this metamorphosis of body and mind for many of the people who took part in it – and it shows: FitSlim 2019 had more than double the amount of participants that it had last year, with a combined total weight loss of 2,839 kilograms.

This is, ultimately, a challenge that promises great rewards to the winners, and in this regard we are grateful to the many sponsors that made this year’s FitSlim Challenge possible.

We’d like to introduce you to this year’s overall national winner, Henk Viljoen of the Rietondale RWFL branch. Henk wins R5,000 in cash, an ASICS voucher worth R1,200, a FUTURELIFE® hamper, seven days’ vacation accommodation at The Peninsula Hotel in Cape Town, a Fitbit Charge 2, 12 months’ RWFL and EFL membership, a pair of Oakley sunglasses, and a pair of calf sleeves from Compressport.

We had a chance to sit down with Henk to discuss his journey towards better health during the FitSlim Challenge 2019.

What has always been your biggest challenge when it comes to managing your weight?

To maintain self-control over those hunger pains, especially delicious foods when watching MasterChef, and all those ‘oh-please-eat-me’ foods. One other problem is to stay disciplined to keep in shape and stay fit as always.

Fortunately, FitSlim 2019 once again helped with the confidence and disciplined lifestyle.

How did the FitSlim Challenge help you to improve your weight and overall health?

FitSlim 2018 and 2019 helped me to stay focused on a healthy lifestyle. It happens now that when we go out to restaurants, I first look at the healthy options available.

I now think twice before eating all those high-calorie foods and sweet things. I am actually leaning towards to a more vegetarian lifestyle, as I have lost my appetite for all those juicy steaks and chocolates – I have replaced them with plant-based eats and other sweet things like fruit and dates.

My high blood pressure has dropped from more than 135/100 to about 110/78. My heartburn is something of the past, and I don’t have sinus issues anymore either.

How did you stay motivated throughout the challenge?

I had the end-goal in mind: to do well again and prove to myself that I can do well again this year. I also had to prove that age is just a number, and anyone can lose weight and become fit, even if you are over 50.

I also had the support of my wife and my son and, of course, Run/Walk for Life to show everyone as an ambassador what a difference Run/Walk for Life can make for you.

Were you a Run/Walk For Life member before the challenge?

Yes, I joined Run/Walk for Life Kempton Park in January 2018, and entered the FitSlim 2018 Challenge. This gave me perspective on how to focus and manage a healthy lifestyle and meal plan/programme.

I started as a walker and didn’t imagine becoming a runner. I started with my first parkrun in July 2018, with a time of 48 minutes. I eventually started to walk faster and to run a little bit. In 2019, I started to run more and longer, and my time started to improve. I did my first 10-kilometre with the Wally Hayward race in Pretoria on 1 May 2019, and realised that I can do this! I changed my status as walker to runner in June 2019, and on Saturday, 2 November 2019, I ran for about 98% of the BDS Race, finishing my 10km in a time of 65 minutes. This was my fifth 10-kilometre race and now I have my mind set on the 21km for 2020.

I have managed to maintain my weight and stay fit. I was also determined to enter FitSlim 2019 to reach my ideal weight and also do well again. My focus for 2019 was also to enter and complete my first 10-kilometre run, and I have managed to complete five by now, improving on my time with every race.

I can’t imagine my lifestyle without Run/Walk for life, as there are so many good friends and support from all.

What do you like most about Run/Walk For Life?

The motivation of everyone, and to support one another. It is always a wonderful feeling during races to see the sea of yellow RWFL shirts along the road, and to start chatting as if we know one another.

I see my three sessions a week as a wonderful outing in nature, instead of becoming a coach potato or restaurant junkie again.

Do you have any secrets or tips that you would like to share with people who are struggling with their weight?

Number one is to decide and MAKE THAT CHANGE NOW. Once you have made the mindset change, there is no turning back. I did it after 52 years, and it came at the right time. I should’ve done it earlier. Nothing is going to stop me now!