Her first name is Sheetal and her alias is “Strong”
Sheetal Kotak really brings a whole new definition to the word – “Strong.”
When I was introduced to this extraordinary lady, I was totally blown away…and humbled.
She is certainly NOT your every day person.
One part of her is a loving mother, fiancé and career woman while the other part of her – just like night and day – is this immensely strong super woman who consistently wins body building awards year after year.
As I looked into Sheetal’s history I was increasingly inspired and so will most people be who hear her motivational story.
This is the Sheetal “Sheetal” Kotak story.
Sheetal decided to get ‘strong’ after the deaths of her father and of her brother just a year apart from each other.
Just before her father passed he called Sheetal but she was so busy and promised to call him back. She never got the chance.
Sheetal still wonders if answering that call could have saved her father’s life.
Sheetal who had been battling with anorexia and her self confidence (she never felt sure of herself and she was very shy) became depressed and the anorexia worsened further.
A year later she lost her brother to a car accident. Just a few weeks before the car accident her brother visited her, gave her a burger and asked her to eat and be “Be Strong.”
He died in a car accident a few weeks later but his last words to her sank into her heart, her soul, her body and her mind forever.
Those two powerful words were the fuel that were going to guide and motivate Sheetal for the rest of her renewed life.
Sheetal made a conscious decision to aspire to be strong ‘physically, mentally and emotionally in every way possible’
In 2013, Sheetal came across a fitness poster on social media and that was how her journey as a professional fitness competitive athlete started.
Her trainer and Fiancé Ambrose, encouraged her to try out for the competition which was held in Kampala Uganda. She tried out just for fun and actually ended up winning in all categories.
This inspired her to set a new goal of competing which further fuelled her to work even harder.
Sheetal had another scare in 2016 after a hospital diagnosed her mother with Cancer then admitted her. This took a toll on her, as she was preparing for her international debut in South Africa. She was afraid of losing her mother too. However, this motivated her to fight harder for the contest. It took every bit of Sheetal’s energy and strength to stay inspired. She cried at the gym everyday thinking of her mother.
Luckily her mother made it through and was the first one to call to ask Sheetal if she won the competition.
Today Sheetal has won several bodybuilding competitions, which include:
Musclemania Africa – Uganda 2013 Bikini 1st place
Musclemania Africa – Uganda 2013 Figure 1st place
Musclemania Africa – Kenya 2014 Overall winner
Musclemania Africa 2014 Figure – 1st place
Ms. Nairobi 2015 Figure – 1st place
Ms. Kenya 2015 Figure – 1st place
Musclemania Africa 2015 – Figure 1st place
Ms. Modern Fitness 2015 – Figure 1st place
Ms. Kenya 2016 Figure-2nd place
WBFF S.A. 2016 – Diva Fitness 35 plus – 1st Runners’ Up (meaning of WBFF?)World, Beauty, Fitness & Fashion
Ms. Kenya 2017-Just placed 1st on 1st July 2017!
Sheetal is the Ambassador for a US based Clothing apparel called BEFIT-
‘She is soon to be be competing with the International Federation on Bodybuilding – which has many shows across the world happening almost every month – in 2018.
She will be the first figure athlete from Kenya in IFBB and is currently under the wings of renowned Olympian US-based Coach, Zoa Lynsey-
Sheetal is also the Head of Tendering, Imports and Logistics at a private company.
But most importantly, what Sheetal is – is a perfect source of inspiration and motivation for women and even men alike all over the world.
Sheetal not only overcame the darkest moments in her life but she actually allowed those moments to make her much stronger and I don’t just mean that physically.
Sheetal has achieved what not many do in a lifetime – absolute discipline, endurance, perseverance, regeneration, consistency, excellence and distinction in a vocation less trod by women.
She is a breath of fresh air to all. You CAN live your dream. You CAN be who you want.
You can be STRONG.
NEKITA: Who are you?
SHEETAL: I am human, I am Strong. I am self -love. I say this because people have always seen me and I myself too for a long time as weak, unworthy, and unloving. I am everything opposite of that today and I shall forever see my worth even when nobody does. I am human, I make mistakes, and that doesn’t and should not deny me of love or worthiness.
NEKITA: Describe yourself in two words.
SHEETAL: Courageous, hardworking.
NEKITA: What’s your best quality?
SHEETAL: My work ethic is sick. I do whatever I do with obsession-either its 100% or none at all.
NEKITA: What’s your worst quality?
SHEETAL: Communication-I am still not a very people oriented person. I don’t like crowds, I feel suffocated, I can’t communicate clearly or precisely even when I want to at times.
Temper is also one of them-I am short tempered.
NEKITA: What do you do and what do you hope to be doing in the next 5 years?
SHEETAL: I work as head of tendering and imports in an engineering firm. I see myself working in the same organisation, if not better. Continuing my hobby of bodybuilding too and helping mentor women in the same sport locally because the sport is therapy to many issues we don’t otherwise see. I also just want to be a good mom and a good partner and focus more on my family and bonding.
NEKITA: How did you get into such a gender segmented activity/sport such as body building?
SHEETAL: After battling depression for very long and anorexia for 2/3 years, I was seeing a therapist whose treatment helped me realize how to use the gym to strengthen myself instead of weakening myself etcetera… I think he helped me so much that right after I had the courage to walk away from my marriage where I was unhappy and now my goals changed, I stopped all anti-depressants, sleeping pills, mood enhancers that I used for over 8 years, I stopped drinking alcohol in an abusive manner and I went to a nearby gym and said I am her to be made STRONG. My late brother also told me to become strong before he passed away and that also drove me into changing my ways, and changing my life.
NEKITA: What’s your inspiration for bodybuilding?
SHEETAL: My inspiration comes from being able to mould myself to my liking. To have control of my body if not my circumstances. To have the power to strengthen myself, to my own preference, look strong. To be able to translate my pain and fears into strength – knowing yes, I can do it! Bodybuilding has changed me and my life. In a good way. I smile, I can talk to people, I don’t fear anyone, I am confident, I am brave, disciplined, determined, its endless.
NEKITA: Who are the body building heroes you look up to?
SHEETAL: I look up to Dana Lynn Bailey as my first ever hero followed by my US Based Coach Zoa Linsey IFBB PRO who has taught me so much in a short period of time since I joined her team last year.
NEKITA: In order to get into shape, do you have to eat strictly proteins or vegetables? Are you allowed to enjoy desserts, burgers or fried chicken and fries?
SHEETAL: Yes, it’s the 80/20 rule. Life must have balance. I am very disciplined with my food during competition season and off-season too as my Coach Zoa says; you have to live like an athlete. I am however allowed to eat a burger on a weekend or ice cream, pizza as a relaxed meal IF I have been disciplined all week with clean eating. My food is a balance of good fats, carbohydrates and proteins in order to keep good shape.
NEKITA: How do you stay healthy? Does your body get all the nutrients it needs?
SHEETAL: Yes, I eat a huge variety of foods, the more the variety of vegetables, proteins both plant and animal based, good complex carbohydrates fuel my body to make it strong and healthy.
NEKITA: How competitive is this body building industry? Are there many other women like you?
SHEETAL: In Kenya we are about 4 or 5 at the moment in my category which is for figure or body fitness. I started this sport in Uganda when we had none here then in 2015 KBBF office was elected and we began here from 1,2 and now 5. In the bikini softer category we have many – now at least 20 women competing. We hope we can inspire others to continue to grow.
NEKITA: Some critics say women shouldn’t be body building – it should only be for men. What do you say to that?
SHEETAL: What a man can do, a woman can do better.
NEKITA: What are some of the challenges you’ve faced as a woman in a male dominated sport?
SHEETAL: I’ve faced many issues but, some include having to be a certain female body image to avoid being an outcast, blame for breaking the female stereotype, acceptance from some friends and family, gender sport discrimination, substance use allegations, abuses from egotistical males that cannot tolerate strong women, social media bullying, among others.
NEKITA: What has been your most rewarding career milestone?
SHEETAL: I don’t know really… every day is a milestone, each day I become stronger physically, mentally and emotionally, because everyday I want to be better than yesterday.
NEKITA: Are your friends and family members supportive of your career choices?
SHEETAL: They are now. Initially they were scared of society and the stigma but now they are all very proud of me. I have also been nominated twice for the ASIAN WEEKLY NEWSPAPER FOR THE SPORTS PERSONALITY AWARDS IN THE PAST.
NEKITA: Keeping fit is one of the hardest battles most health craving people face today. How do you advice the average Jo or Jolene to keep in shape or lose weight? What’s the fastest easiest route?
SHEETAL: There is no easiest or fastest route. Bottom line is small steady progress will get you there. Smart small decisions and choices are the secret to making it easier and possible and of course believing you can because if you don’t then most likely you won’t.
NEKITA: Do you teach fitness or body building?
SHEETAL: No, I don’t because I have a 8-5 job and can’t manage both.
NEKITA: Aside from actually lifting weights and exercising do you indulge in any other sport? Like swimming for instance?
SHEETAL: No, I don’t really do any other sport.
NEKITA: What advice would you give to other women who would also like to venture into the body building business?
SHEETAL: It will take everything you have got, but also it will reward you with much more than you wanted. It goes beyond physical looks, it will discipline your way of life, teach you how valuable time is, life is, reconnect you to your inner being. You absolutely have the power to change! Trust the process and progress even when you don’t see it.
It is difficult to be a female professional bodybuilder. Women; therefore, must strictly observe time to enjoy all its possibilities. Time is the most important because every second counts. If you wisely use it then you could cook, work and train. So, plan, commit, believe and achieve.’ Women, however, must realize that professional bodybuilding is not about pride but, humility, assistance and focus.
Pride has no space in bodybuilding. It is not about you but, you versus you.
NEKITA: What has been your greatest accomplishment in life?
SHEETAL: To have conquered my demons of the past.
NEKITA: What has been your hardest obstacle in life and how did you overcome this?
SHEETAL: Being Anorexic, being an alcoholic, being depressed are all the hardest obstacles that I’ve faced in life and I overcame them all by taking a decision to change which was a decision partly inspired by my brother’s last words to me and partly from my determination to turn a new leaf.
NEKITA: How do you balance your career and home/family life?
SHEETAL: I wake up at 4am and hit the gym till 7am. Go to work, get back home, do family stuff, dinner with kids etc and go back to gym till 9pm. On contest prep days, I train twice. The boys are grown now so they also help me at home if I may have a late work shift which I also do at times! We help each other they are my biggest fans!
NEKITA: What do you do in order to relax when not body building?
SHEETAL: I like to read inspirational stuff or poetry. Other hobbies I also love include baking, watching films, reading good books and having family outings
NEKITA: Which exemplary female inspires you the most?
SHEETAL: Mother Teresa-she was self-giving, loving, strong, and kind-everything I want to be.
NEKITA: What is unique about you?
SHEETAL: That I am quite the stereo type breaker. From my hair, to my tattoos, to my mixed sense of style and everything that I like is mostly of character and a bit weird. Lol.
NEKITA: Back in high school were you sports inclined?
NEKITA: Tell us a secret about yourself that no other person knows.
SHEETAL: Then its won’t remain a secret will it lol -I always wanted to be a singer as a young girl 😊
NEKITA: It came to my knowledge that you’re an identical twin. Do you both share the rumoured/superstitious ‘Twins psychic bond’?
SHEETAL: Well, what I have seen happen is we fall sick almost the same time mostly or if she has a cold, I will get it too even if am far from her – but nothing more than that.
NEKITA: Everyone has a sense of fashion and style. What’s yours?
SHEETAL: Casual, comfortable.
NEKITA: Which movie has inspired you the most?
SHEETAL: The green mile, Shawshank redemption.
NEKITA: What’s your life’s motto?
SHEETAL: Be fearless- Trust that he shall carry you when you need him most-AMEN
I also believe that It isn’t all about undoing the past, building the new. Not just achieving the impossible, but turning your obstacles into triumphs.
“Once you emerge stronger, you’d have smashed through barriers you once thought impossible.”
NEKITA: If you had the power to change the world in one way what would you do?
SHEETAL: I would help all insecure kids, those that feel unworthy, scared, unloved, alone, depressed and teach them how to be strong, love themselves and believe in themselves just like I did. I wish someone did to me long ago – but its never too late.
For more of the motivational Sheetal “Strong” Kotak please visit her Personal Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Sheetal.J.Kotak
Her athlete page: https://www.facebook.com/sheetalstrong/
or her Instagram: @sheetalstrong.