How Survivor SA’s Rose-Lee Transformed Her Body And Her Life

And why Rose-Lee is an advocate for cheat meals!


Yamkela Mdaka |

Most of us know her as the Survivor SA castaway who was painfully blindsided, but she’s a lot more than that. Rose-Lee Smith (33) is not only a crime scene forensic analyst, a mother, and a wife, but she’s also a great source of inspiration for turning your life around.

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She went from 103kg to 69kg in less than a year! Here, she shares her turbulent, yet rewarding, journey with us.

Rose-Lee’s turning point

Rose-Lee’s journey to weight-loss started five years ago when her first daughter was around one.

“I weighed 103kg and I remember using a friend’s scale a few days after I’d weighed myself at home because I was certain mine was broken,” she says. “The turning point for me was being told, during a medical check-up for work, that I was clinically obese.”

READ MORE: “I Lost 38 Kilos When I Discovered My Passion For Running”

She felt like an active, energetic person stuck in an overweight, lazy person’s body “and I desperately wanted to get out”.

Why exercising became her first love

While there were many other changes in her lifestyle (which we’ll get to in a moment), Rose-Lee attributes much of her weight loss to exercise – more specifically, group training classes.

“I would wake up in the morning to check the gym’s timetable and get all pumped up about which class I would be doing that evening,” she says. “Gym classes offer direction and variety, and I even used to change up gym branches to experience a different trainer’s routine and a fresh environment.”

She particularly loved spinning. But it didn’t start out that way… The first time she went for a spinning class, she pretended her phone was ringing so she could leave the class early. Sounds familiar, right? “After a month of trying, I’d eventually do a 45-minute spinning session as a warm-up before my one-hour boxing class – the hard work does pay off.”

Besides losing weight, exercising just made her feel incredible and gave her a new lease on life. She became a new person inside and out.

“I joined a badminton league, took my kids roller skating, go-kart racing, joined in for a season of corporate cricket, played squash with my husband, started park-runs, went for walks in reserves with my family and did a couple of 10k races.” Sjoe, a mouthful! But that’s what happens when you deliberately work towards becoming the best version of yourself…

But what was she eating?

When she was pregnant with her second daughter, she gained some of her weight back, with the scale reflecting 89kg. When her daughter turned one she was able to take up her exercise routine again. This was also when she decided to adopt a plant-based approach to eating.

“I lost 16kg over about six months and although I still eat meat and dairy when I’m out, at home I cook none of it,” she explains. She goes on to say that there’s a whole other world out there when you consider all the different ways to incorporate plants into your meals.

Her eating schedule involves skipping breakfast and opting for a good lunch. She eats dinner before 5pm, then exercises. “On the weekends that’s all out of sync and I eat whatever is on the menu. But I kill it at the gym to make up for it.”

Why she’s anti-diets

In Rose-Lee’s experience, quick-fix diets have always been disastrous. She agrees that you’ll probably lose some kilos quickly, but emphasises that it’s not a sustainable long-term solution. “I was on survivor for only nine days, but I lost 5kg from the lack of food. I piled on twice as much in the following weeks, which I’m working to get off.”

[By contrast, when she lost over 30kg, she did it without any products, shakes or quick-fixes and she’s managed to maintain it for a couple of years.]

Sometimes life happens

Sometimes it can feel like the commitment to healthy eating and fitness won’t ever become easier, but while it may not be easier, it does become a way of life.

READ MORE: 7 Types of Hunger That Can Sabotage Your Weight-Loss Goals

“As with most things, there can be deviations from what becomes your norm” – because life happens… For Rose-Lee, the painful moment that changed everything for her was her mom becoming ill and passing away. “I neglected myself for a few months, but I had to remind myself that the hump on the road is just temporary.”

Steal her advice

Rose-Lee’s advice is simple: just give yourself two weeks. “Eat healthy, avoid processed foods and exercise your heart out. If you do it correctly and consistently the bug will surely bite at the two-week mark.”

She adds: “Remember that cheat meals are perfectly fine. I had them regularly and they kept me sane! But always push yourself a little harder during your next workout to make up for it.”

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