Scooping another spoonful of pasta onto my plate, I called out to my family, ‘Dinner’s ready!’
I heard the rumble of feet as my husband Tony and our four kids assembled around the table.
Then, once they were eating, I grabbed my fork and tucked into my steaming mountain of food.
Life was always hectic.
At 27, I’d given birth to our twin girls, Jessica and Erica, and a year later we had a son, Rhys. Three years on, our family grew again with another girl, Krystal.
With five hungry mouths to feed, I relied on big, hearty lunches and dinners.
But while carb-heavy dishes like pasta and pies went down well with the kids, it was a different story for my waistline. By the time I was 40, I was a size 18 - and I was only getting bigger.
As my dress size crept upover the next few years, Ifelt my self-confidence plummet.
I stopped looking in the mirror and I couldn’t stand to see my reflection when passing shop windows.
I barely recognised myself.
As well as big portions, I couldn’t seem to curb my sweet tooth.
I would munch my way through a whole packet of lollies or jelly snakes without thinking twice.
Plus, I’d drink five cups of coffee a day, and pour myself a glass of rum and sugary Coke each night.
I’d tried all the dieting fads before and I’d even had some success, but it never seemed to stick.
Whenever I got upset about it, Tony would pull me into his arms.
‘I love you for you,’ he would tell me.
But as time went on, I realised I didn’t love myself.
Then one day, in January 2019, I pulled on my size-22 T-shirt and noticed it was bursting at the seams.
I can’t go on like this, I thought.
By then, I weighed in at 127 kilos and I was struggling to get around.
The kids had grown up and had little ones of their own, but I could barely keep up with my grandchildren.
I needed to take drastic action – and fast.
A friend at work had lost weight using meal replacement shakes from Aldi, so I thought it was worth a try.
I went to my local store and stocked up on the different flavours.
The next day, I had one $2 shake for breakfast and another for dinner.
For lunch, I had a light salad with plenty of vegetables and protein.
I cut out my daily coffees and swapped my sugary soft drinks for bottles of water.
I knew going cold turkey would be hard but it felt like the only way for me.
Once I was home from work, I pulled on my joggers and headed out for a walk.
Half an hour later, I stumbled through the front door, exhausted.
As I continued my new diet for the next few days, I could feel my tummy rumbling with hunger.
‘Stick at it, it’ll get easier,’ Tony encouraged me.
I was determined not to give in, and over the next few weeks, I kept up with my new healthy regime.
I cut out red meat, dairy, potatoes and carbs.
Instead of lollies and chocolate, I snacked on small portions of red grapes, sesame snaps and popcorn.
Every day I headed out for my walk, and gradually, my energy levels started to rise.
I didn’t have a goal weight in mind, but Iknew I wanted to have a healthy BMI.
So, I focused on losing 10kg at a time, tracking my progress on an app on my smartphone.
After a month, I’d lost 8kgs and I started to notice my clothes getting looser. I still avoided looking in the mirror but my daughter Krystal began taking pictures of me.
She’d send me old photos of me next to what I looked like currently to remind me how far I’d come.
You can do it Mum! she would say.
Each morning, I glugged down my shake before heading off to work at Bunnings.
‘You’re looking great Jackie,’ my colleagues would comment, as I tucked into my fresh salad for lunch.
I felt it too! As the weight steadily dropped off, I grew more confident in myself.
After almost four months of walking, Tony set up a treadmill in the garage.
My BMI was still too high, but there was no way I was giving up now.
I upped my exercise to an hour a day and began buying clothes that were one size too small.
It was the motivation I needed to continue.
Eventually, after 10 months, I’d lost a whopping 65 kilos – almost half my body weight – and I hit a healthy BMI.
Pulling on a pair of size 8 shorts, I fastened the zipper.
‘I can’t believe it!’ I said, staring at my reflection, finally confident enough to look at myself in the mirror.
But the biggest difference wasn’t on the outside.
Now, I walk onto the shop floor at work every day with confidence and a smile.
I’m still drinking the shakes and eating lots of healthy food, and finally, I feel like I’m living my life to the fullest.
I’m even planning to go skydiving for my birthday this year – something I’d always been too big to do.
When I told Tony, he was thrilled.
‘The old Jackie never would’ve done that,’ he laughed.
But thanks to my $2 trick, I’m healthier and happier than ever. ●