At the beginning of 2013, I weighed around 130kg.
I couldn’t walk upstairs without losing my breath. I couldn’t sleep lying flat because of intense heartburn. My feet, ankles and hands swelled every day. I was constantly worried if I would fit in chairs that had arms at the sides. That said, I worked incredibly hard in my job as a teacher. I was actively involved in my son’s schooling and sporting pursuits – always offering to coach, manage, score at rugby, cricket and soccer games. I didn’t smoke or really drink that much at all. I just consumed more calories than I used. I put on weight consistently in my 20s and 30s and even though I had tried a myriad of diets, the weight always crept back on.
It was after seeing a particular photo of myself on Facebook – where I looked so different to what I thought I looked like – that I knew I had to take action.
The photo that surprised Leah, Christmas 2012.
I signed up for a 12-week body challenge that included fitness tests, recipes and calorie counting. It was hard going. The first three weeks in particular I was so hungry but I learnt to make sure that what I was eating was going to fill me up and fuel me for the day. The fitness test included a one km time trial run. My first go at this I clocked in at over 10 minutes! What was I doing? Running on my hands??!! Fast forward 12 weeks and I had lost 15kg. My heartburn had disappeared and my ankles weren’t swelling quite so severely.
By the end of the first year I had shed 30kg. My marriage had also ended and as a result I developed extreme anxiety. I was thankful that I was already fully entrenched in the habit of moving and eating well. I never had thoughts of turning back. I resolved to continue getting fit and healthy for me and my son.
Near the end of the second year a friend suggested I take up running with Intraining – a local non-profit running club. I thought he was crazy! I wasn’t a runner! But the thought stuck and I signed up. The coach was amazing and incredibly patient. It took a few months but I managed to run three km without stopping before signing up for a half marathon. With the support of the club, I completed the 21.1km distance in July 2015 and signed up for the full marathon the following year. All in all, I had lost between 50 and 60kg.
Leah as an Intraining member.
I stopped weighing myself because my focus shifted from wanting to be slim to wanting to be fit.
While training for the full marathon I was introduced to triathlon by very patient friends. I was gifted a mountain bike (to actually learn how to ride from scratch) and in my first triathlon at Bribie Island, my friend, Tanya swam beside me the whole 300m of the swim, rode next to me for the 10km cycle and finished with a three km run. It was the hardest thing I had ever done, but… I was hooked!
Listen: Jessie is tired of getting body shamed by the gym. These are her thoughts. (Post continues after audio...)
During my marathon training I signed up with an endurance coach through T:Zero because I had set my sights on IRONMAN. I got a professional dynamic bike-fit through my physiotherapist and set about getting my body ready for one of the hardest events out there. My mindset had shifted once again. This time from wanting to be fit to wanting to be strong. I wanted to be a strong, confident and capable woman. I completed the Gold Coast Marathon and was greeted by none other than former world champion marathon runner, Robert De Castella, at the finish line. He told me that I was now a marathoner for life. I was so emotional that I think I blurted out a marriage proposal to him!