How much do you think losing 83 kg would change someone’s life? In Sarah’s case, absolutely everything changed.
Sarah joined the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet morbidly obese at 158 kg and suffering from all the pains, physical, mental and social, that come with being overweight. With hard work and a discipline it’s hard to imagine she steadily lost weight until she hit her goal of 75 kg*.
*In 2 years. Individual results may vary.
At her heaviest Sarah suffered from crippling headaches and pretty much lived on headache tablets. Today she can't remember the last time she had a headache.
She went from avoiding physical exercise at all costs to being active every day. In fact, her new passion in life is weight lifting.
Sarah has struggled with her weight pretty much since childhood. As she grew up, she was always aware of being the 'big girl' and got used to sitting back instead of participating in activities.
"My mother used to make meals all the same size so even as a young child I was eating the same size portions as my older brothers; and I was always told to, “eat everything on your plate," Sarah says.
"As a result, not only did I gain weight, I became accustomed to eating big meals and large portions of food which then set me on a cycle of steadily increasing weight over the years as I simply ate far too much food."
Sarah made the decision to change her life when her work rebranded their work uniforms.
"I was too embarrassed to say that I needed a size 28 so I asked them to bring their largest size. When they arrived the largest size they had was a 26. I tried it on and of course it didn’t fit – I couldn’t even get my arms in the sleeves let alone get it around me," she says.
And that was the moment when Sarah made up her mind.
I was mortified but bought the shirt anyway - 2 shirts in fact - rather than let anyone know. We still had our old shirts which we were allowed to wear until the new shirts arrived and I thought; 'Well I better do something or the new shirts will arrive and I will have to explain why I can’t wear it'!
Sarah joined the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet because she felt the CSIRO had an integrity she could trust. It also helped that her father had worked for the CSIRO and that she could get a refund of her fee when she completed the program successfully. It was pretty much love at first meal.
"I loved the foods which were just simple, everyday things I could buy from the supermarket. I loved the way that I could choose to have different meals everyday but could also choose to swap meals so that I could eat the same thing," she says.
A problem Sarah found with other diets was exactly that: meal plans were too prescriptive and complicated which often meant buying a whole lot of food which ended up not being eaten.
Before starting the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet, Sarah took a few days to get ready and into the right mindset, which she said was key to her success.
"I found starting strong was easy, as once I joined the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet program, I had a few days before my first weigh in and actual start day, and I used these days to get myself prepared by clearing out food temptations from the house, buying myself some walking shoes etc and this allowed me to prepare my mindset and get excited about starting."
"I loved the fact that the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet tracking tools broke my goal into mini goals which felt more possible and achievable, and this helped me feel motivated throughout. I started by just setting myself a target to be 100% on point with the food to begin, and once I had that in a routine, after a week or so I started just with a short 20 minute walk each morning."
"I found that the weight loss was so successful, this gave me motivation to keep going, and the results kept me motivated to keep going and ultimately achieve an outcome I never dreamed possible!"
After losing a bit of weight on the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet, Sarah decided it was time to start working on the exercise side of things as well. A small gym called Trend Fitness opened up in her neighbourhood and she gave it a try.
I went and sat in their car park several times wanting to go in but felt sick with fear of embarrassment and drove away.
A few weeks later, she found the motivation and went back and joined up.
"The gym is owned by the most amazing, wonderful husband and wife. They were warm and friendly and so helpful. The wife, Holly, arranged to be my personal trainer and we started straight away," she says.
"There are no gym jocks or bunnies at my gym. We are people of all shapes and sizes and we all support and encourage each other, motivate and help each other."
From sitting in the car park too embarrassed to enter the gym, Sarah is now the reigning Grand Champion of the gym's body transformation challenge. As well as weight lifting, she enjoys boxing, high intensity interval training, bike riding and simply walking.
"I now hate sitting still and just love being active and living life. I have never felt better or been happier than I am now," she says.
At the end of the challenge I bought a pair of size 10 jeans and you couldn’t wipe the smile off my face for days!
So, what's changed for Sarah since she lost the weight? In a way it's the everyday things she appreciates the most.
"It’s crazy simple, silly things that count when you’ve been obese your whole life," she says.
"Fitting into chairs in restaurants, not always being the biggest person at the party, doing up the seatbelt on an aeroplane, not having to hide at the back of a group photo to try and not be seen, walk up a flight of stairs without being out of breath, walking anywhere without being out of breath."
Write down your goals
"I have found keeping a journal really important for keeping motivated, and most importantly to write down my goals and if I am feeling like giving up, to read them and revisit why I started and what I am aiming for and this helps to reignite your fuel to keep moving forward."
Break your weight loss into smaller, achievable goals
"I found that the early results in this program were so good that this really spurred me to keep going and kept me motivated, but I have learnt along the way that when you have a bad day, accept it, don't punish yourself, let it go and move on."
Reach out if you're struggling
"The main question I get asked repeatedly is 'how do you stay motivated', and people who have fallen off the wagon and had a bad day struggle with getting back on track. I think the support network of the private Facebook group is absolutely critical as people realise they are not alone, and that everyone has those bad days and that you can get past them and keep moving."