What would you try…

if you had no fear?

what would you doI went dragon boating this morning for the first time. It was one of those sparkling Sydney mornings… sun shining, clear blue sky, a slight chill in the air. It was great to be up and alive.

And, turns out, dragon boating is fun. I went with a group of girls from work – but there were 16 other people in the boat with us, all newbies. We weren’t good enough to win any races, but there we were, down in Blackwattle Bay, sun shining down on us, out amongst the tinnies, the rowers, the other dragon boats and a luxury yacht or two, splashing around, having fun.

It made me think how much losing weight and getting fit and healthy has given me. Before I started working out and lost weight, I used to avoid outings like this. It doesn’t stop everyone, but it used to stop me. I was always fearful of embarrassing myself, or being too fat to do something, too unfit to last the length of whatever it was. I would never have said yes to going along.

I used to live with a really high level of background stress. I don’t think I ever really acknowledged it, but I was worried about stuff all the time. Would the seatbelt fit on the plane? Would I be able to get out of the full restaurant without knocking someone’s table? Would I fit in the space?

And that was just the physical stuff. The amount of thought I gave to what other people thought of me was ridiculous. Were they looking at me as I pulled the seatbelt around myself? Were they judging me if I ate the cake?

It probably shouldn’t be like that – certainly no-one should be judging anyone on how they look, and if I had a better self-esteem, maybe I wouldn’t have felt so constrained by it. But being fat made me feel I was able to participate in life less. It made me put off so many things, it made me fearful, it made me anxious. It made me delay life, and have less fun.

Probably the thing I was most fearful about was really putting in the effort to actually lose weight and get fit and healthy. Because what if I tried really hard, and I couldn’t do it. What would that mean? At least if I hadn’t really tried, I could always give it another go. So I didn’t. For a really long time.


What I know now is I CAN do it. It was not easy – there are many days when it still isn’t. But I can do it. And I can keep doing it.

Losing weight has given me so much. I feel like I’ve been given a whole new chance with life, and I want it all. I want to run, I want to lift, I want to dragon boat, I want to play tennis, to snorkle, to swim, to ride my bike… to do ALL the things! And being fit means I actually can, most of the time.  And the thing is – that’s a great motivator to keep doing the other stuff – the working out, the eating right – because the trade off is everything else I get to do.

The new normal is the me who gets out of bed to train – even on the days I don’t really feel like it. The new normal is the one who thinks consciously about what she eats. And today, the new normal feels great. The only regret – and I try not to focus on regret – is that I didn’t do it sooner.

There’s more of me on twitter!

I want to inspire people…

I want someone to look at me and say, “because of you I didn’t give up.”

When I made it to the 50kg goal a while ago, the owner of my gym asked me to write a testimonial for his website. I wasn’t keen – I still hold on to a lot of shame about even having to undertake this journey – but he said he thought people would be inspired by my story. He also said I could be anonymous… guess I’ve blown that now.

I’d never thought about being inspirational. This was something I had finally felt motivated to do, and it was for a very personal set of reasons – I hated myself and my body, and I knew I was going to make myself sick if I didn’t do something to change. I remember saying to him at the time I hadn’t done it for anyone else, I’d just done it for me.

It took me a long time to even feel proud of what I was achieving. I was dogged and determined in my approach, but it felt like it was punishment for years of “bad” living. It’s only recently that I’ve been able to talk to people about what I’ve done, and acknowledge and feel proud of what I’ve managed to achieve.

So it was pretty special today when my little brother told me he was proud of me.

We spent the day driving up the coast to go to a funeral. Not the most pleasant of excursions, but it gave us hours in the car together. We talked about his kids, our work, the rest of our family – all the regular stuff. And then on the way home we worked our way around to diet and exercise.  He’s put on some weight lately, and he is finding it really hard to do much about it between long hours at work and a busy family life. He started asking about what I was eating, how I was exercising – how I’d “done it” – and how he might be able to change things around to fit into his life.

And I felt inspirational, right there.

When I was at the gym tonight, my mind kept wandering off thinking about who I’d found inspirational when I started. There were lots of people who were supportive – my trainers, friends, colleagues who all went out of their way to encourage me, especially at the beginning when it was really hard – and thank you to you all. But actual inspiration? Really that was just one person – my friend Marie. She’d lost a lot of weight, and more impressively, has kept it off.

Marie and I had worked together years ago, and when I came back to Sydney, she encouraged me to join her gym. And it was her success that inspired me to face my fear and call Jace, go and meet him, and go to my first session. She has supported me ever since, but part of getting through the door that first time was the inspiration that I took from her story – the belief that she gave me that this might be possible.  What I saw in Marie’s story was someone like me, who had done the thing I so wanted to be able to do.

Google tells me that inspiration is defined as the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, esp. to do something creative. Marie’s success made me believe I could do something, that I could make a change, that this time it could work.

Because you can know all the statistics and the facts, you can know you should do something, you can even know how and where to do it, but sometimes what you really need is to know is that someone else has been there before you – someone real, someone like you – and that it’s possible.

So, I’ve decided to breathe deeply, and get more comfortable telling my story, because maybe it will be the thing that makes someone else feel that it’s possible for them too. And wouldn’t that be a cool “new normal”.

I’m also on twitter.

Losing weight over the phone

We hear it in the news all the time.  In western countries, obesity rates are rising. Dramatically.

In my own country – Australia – over 14 million people are overweight or obese (Monash University Figures). That’s from a population of 23 million.  And there’s lots of reasons for it – cheap, fast and plentiful energy-dense food. More screen time. Busy lifestyles. Less need to move.

Those Monash figures go on to say that if weight gains continue at the current rate, by 2025 close to 80% of Australian adults will be overweight or obese, and that it has become the single biggest threat to public health in Australia.

I’m a pretty lucky person. When I finally decided to get serious about losing weight and getting fit and healthy, I had the resources available to get the help I needed. I joined a good gym, I got a good trainer, I had a group of supportive friends around me. I also knew how to cook, and I’m educated enough to at least know the basics of good nutrition.

But not everyone is so lucky. Like most health indicators, obesity is linked to disadvantage. That means there are a lot of overweight people out there who can’t afford the kind of interventions that I paid for.

Now – I know I had the knowledge to do it on my own. But it was a long haul. I’m a pretty determined person, but I know that at some point on a bad week I would have gotten a bit disillusioned, decided it was all to hard, and consoled myself with a bag of chips, a pizza and a tub of icecream. So would have ended another diet and fitness regime. It had happened before.

Knowledge by itself just isn’t enough. There needs to be a supportive element. But how do you produce that in a way that is accessible to the numbers of people we’re talking about?  How does a health system – which even after massive injections into preventive health over the last five years, still only spends around three percent of the budget on prevention – afford interventions that support so many people to lose weight? Especially when the external environment is working so hard against it.

I read an article this week that gives me some hope. This group telephone intervention would be relatively inexpensive to run, and the results show it was even more effective than individual telephone support, because of the encouraging environment created amongst participants over time.

Now that’s not the whole answer by a long shot, but it is encouraging to see some work being done on interventions that are cost-effective and easily replicable.  Because if we don’t start doing something, as a community we are not going to be able to afford the health bill.

I’m also on twitter.

(I would also like to acknowledge Heather Frey and Lori Shemek for their twitter support, freely given. A couple of timely messages of encouragement, which may not have seemed like much, but were truly appreciated.)


… just take the first step.

So, here I am. The first step on this new journey. My first blog post.

I’m on a quest for my “new normal”.  Just over a year ago I moved back to Sydney, bought a new flat, started a new job and decided I was going to try one last time to “lose weight and get healthy”.

For some background – I’ve been the fat girl for all my adult life – increasingly so as I got older and less active, and life got more complex and busy. And I wasn’t happy. I didn’t like myself, I hated the way I looked, and I was pretty sure I was eating my way to an early grave.  I had tried all the diets, paid out a lot of cash to different weight loss companies and gyms. None of it had worked, and I honestly didn’t have much faith that anything ever would.

But I decided to give it one more go. I decided to be honest, and ask for help when I needed it.  I joined a new gym , I got a new trainer, I got a food diary and I got started.

My first day in the gym was Wednesday the 9th May 2012.  Today I am more than 65kg lighter, and the fittest and healthiest I have ever been.  I run, I play tennis, I ride my bike, do CrossFit, TRX, Pilates and yoga, and I lift heavy things. A lot.

Like all the best things in life, it hasn’t been easy.  There have been tears and tantrums, good and bad weeks, great triumphs and disappointments. I have learnt an enormous amount – about food and exercise, but most importantly about myself – and I have truly changed my life. I have done things, and continue to do things, that amaze me and which I never thought possible.

So now I’m just under 5kg from the goal (turns out everything they say about the last five kilos is true – but more on that later!), and I’m trying to figure out what happens from here. What is the “new normal”? How does this all fit into my life from now on? How do I transition into less structured eating? Can I have chocolate in the house? Is there a place for spaghetti in my life? Do I keep working out like a woman possessed? Can I count shoe shopping as exercise?  Will going shopping and fitting into the pretty frocks ever get old?

But maybe most importantly, will I ever stop being the fat girl in my head?

In the beginning I was too embarrassed to do anything as public as blog about my journey. Since then I’ve gained a bit of confidence, and frankly, I’m pretty proud of what I’ve achieved so far, so I’m gonna give sharing a go. I hope you get something from it, and maybe I’ll learn something from you too. Let me know what you think.

I’m also on twitter – @SportyMaenad01