My new-found relationship with health, fitness and consequently discovering myself, began three years ago.
There was a combination of factors that encouraged me to finally change my lifestyle and they all highlighted the same thing, which hit me clearer than ever before……
“Do it for your health Mel and the rest will follow”.
I am a wife and a mum of two young children, therefore a role model but a few years ago, I wasn’t a very good one. I was lacking energy, enthusiasm and confidence. I was avoiding social occasions. I was overeating, not exercising and creating an unhealthy environment for my family with my depressive, self-pity attitude. I was not a happy person and this was projected in my daily life.
I had so many excuses as to why I “couldn’t” change my lifestyle (e.g. no time, not enough money, the kids need me all the time, my family and friends need me, I’m tired, it’s hard, I will start next week, I won’t stick to it anyway, I don’t need to worry about me, I’ll be ok as I am, I’m happy enough etc…). Truth be known, I was lazy and I never prioritised or valued myself the way I should have.
I worried that if I took time away from my family or other responsibilities that I was failing them, but really, I was failing them because I wasn’t making time for myself. I had to change my mindset and attitude. I had to refuel me, to love me and to invest in me. I wanted to feel and look better and the only person holding me back was me. Reality check #1!
The next sign to change my lifestyle came about in the form of two emergency surgeries. This was to remove the eleven gallstones stuck in my bile duct and to also remove my gall bladder. These excruciating painful stones are solidified cholesterol and can cause liver failure and even death if not treated in acute situations, which mine had become. They are common in women, heavily overweight people and diets high in saturated fat. I ticked all those boxes and as a result of my poor health choices, I had to have an organ removed!
I remember my surgeons face being sympathetic but he also made it very clear that if I didn’t change my current way of living then I would put my health at further risk. My blood pressure was so high that I needed daily medication and he warned me that I was on the verge of developing diabetes and other chronic illnesses. I weighed 103kg at 164cm and was 31 years old with a metabolic age of 44! Reality check #2!
A couple of months later I had my close friend Stef, confide in me that she had been diagnosed with osteosarcoma (Bone Cancer) in her hip. Stef, 33 years old, wife to Mike, Mum to Ally 9 and Juliana 7, was a Bowen healer, blogger, actress and woman extraordinaire!
In an attempt to save her life, Stef had a hemipelvectomy. This was a major surgery, amputating her left leg, left side of the pelvis, left buttock and also her breasts. Words cannot describe how gut-wrenchingly tragic this was for Stef and those who loved her.
I was not just Stef’s friend; I was also listed as her next of kin alongside Mike and her parents (in the USA). I was with her daily, receiving calls 24/7 from the hospital and hospice. I was there for the highs, the lowest of the lows and all the lessons in between and those lessons will forever be the most valuable of my life.
Stef taught me the true value of health being our greatest wealth, of gratitude, of family time and of dream chasing; she taught me about mindfulness, yoga, journaling, nutrition, exercise, whole wellbeing, strength, sacrifice, love, light, bravery, and some serious bad assness!
While Stef was faced with losing her life, she taught me how to transform mine. There’s nothing like watching someone that you love die, to show you how to appreciate life. Stef inspired me to heal myself.
Stef made it her mission to help me. It was crazy at the time because I struggled to accept her worrying about me on top of everything else but I vividly remember her yelling, yep she yelled at me, “Cancer does not define me or prevent me from being a friend to you Mel. You are here every day helping me, let me help you with my knowledge, I want to help you”. I realised then that I gave Stef something else other than that awful disease to focus on, a project if you will, I respected and appreciated that, and so it began…. the transformation we cheekily named “From Fat suit to Fit Suit”. Reality check #3!
I started a CrossFit exercise regime 4x a week and ditched the junk food and fizzy for plates of wholegrains, protein, veges and litres of water. I’m not going to lie, this commitment to a healthier lifestyle, was hard, too hard sometimes!
All the excuses and justifications to stop kept creeping back in. I was trying to balance work, being a mum, a wife, a daughter and a friend to others as well as spend every day with Stef. I had to manage my grief of discovering my beloved grandma, who had passed away in her home when I went to visit her one evening and be a support for my husband through his grief after one of his best friends died of bowel cancer at 38 (only 12 weeks after diagnosis!). I really do hate Cancer!
It was a busy and testing 12-months, and I knew “I had” so many reasons to justify giving up. I wanted to eat buckets of comfort food, stay in my pjs all day watching tv and definitely not get up at 5.15am for cross fit 4x a week.
But, I kept going. Other people had more to deal with and could still do it. I wanted to show myself I meant it “this time”. I remained consistent. My new routine became my escapism. It became a form of therapy, something in my life that I felt in control of again. It was my “Mel time” and I never realised how valuable that time was.
On those harder days, I chose to remember my ‘why’ and this time, my ‘why’ was stronger than my excuses.
I used these reality check experiences, my new-found health awareness and the support of some very awesome family and friends, to build resilience, to educate myself, to develop better practices, to exercise, to eat clean and to overcome inner negative talk. By doing this, I managed to achieve a ‘weight loss’ total of 34kg during those 12-months and a ‘life gain’ of 100%.
I reminded myself daily, “Being overweight is hard, losing weight is hard – choose your hard Mel”. I would also remind myself that I was privilidged to have control over my body at this point in time and I was no longer prepared to take it for granted. I had learnt that it was important to respect it, love it, nourish it and thank it.
Investing in myself has had so many positive ripple effects but most noticeably, I am now a more energetic, super awesome and happy mum, wife, daughter and friend. I am no longer on any medication or putting myself at risk for lifestyle related illnesses and I’ve even managed to bring my metabolic age down to 18! I look and feel healthier and it’s liberating.
In Stef’s memory, and for the love of my family, I believe it is my purpose to use my journey and the lessons I have learnt to help educate, support and empower others to understand the value of their health. To do this, I became a qualified personal trainer (REPS registered) and health coach with further study still underway.
12 month journey 103 – 69kg
So……if you have struggled with a similar health situation, similar excuses or just want to change your lifestyle; I encourage you to join me on a journey of self-discovery and fitness enhancement. It is a journey where you can use your adversity, your vulnerability, and the love you give and receive to empower yourself. It’s hard work and confronting, but it’s so worth it!
Remember, your life will not get better by chance, it will get better by change, so design a life that you’ll love and have the best adventure doing it!