Wendy Boshammer, 37, Chinchilla, Qld
The vision was as clear as anything.
A little girl was standing on a chair at the end of the table. She smiled as she brought the food to her mouth and took a bite. Her face was already smeared with remnants of that day's dinner.And suddenly I realised. That little girl was me.
That was my mum Katie, now 59, and sister Fiona, now 39, sitting on chairs around the table. My dad Stan, now 63, was there too, at the family farmhouse in Brigalow, Qld, where I grew up. There was a warm and loving atmosphere among the family and I felt happy.
Just then, I was gently woken and the memory faded. My hypnotherapist, Michelle, had taken me back into the deepest recesses of my mind to discover what my relationship with food had started out like. And that vision from 33 years before made me realise something. 'Food makes me happy,' I told her.
The trouble was, food was also making me so unhealthy. At 148 kilos I was twice the weight I should have been for my 164cm frame. Losing weight had been my goal since I started piling on the kilos after leaving school.
'Food makes me happy,' I told her.
Growing up, I'd always been a big girl but I lived an active lifestyle on the family farm and I loved sports. From swimming to athletics, I was always busy doing something.
There were times when I'd swipe a jar of chocolate spread or some other treat and go down to the paddock with Fiona and our brothers Gavin, now 34, and Michael, now 32.
But it wasn't until I left school and got a desk job that my bingeing grew out of control. It wasn't unusual for me to devour a family-size chocolate bar in one go.
Sitting all day didn't help either. I soon started piling on the kilos and it became harder to exercise.
Feeling miserable, I'd reach for the chocolate to make me feel better. Before long my weight gain had grown out of control.
'I'll lose weight if you quit smoking,' I said to my husband Luke, 50. I'd hoped we could encourage each other but unfortunately neither of us were able to keep up our efforts. It's up to you, a little voice told me and I knew it was true.
Then in September 2013, I realised something. At the age of 35, somehow I'd lost six kilos in six months without trying!
'It's up to you,' a little voice told me and I knew it was true.
It got me thinking. If I really put my mind to it, maybe I could change. Having suffered from depression, I've always believed in the power of the mind. And whenever I was flicking through the local newspaper an ad for a hypnotherapist seemed to jump out at me.
Perhaps I could retrain my brain to think about food differently, I thought. I decided I had nothing to lose so I called the hypnotherapist, Michelle.
'Do you think it's too late?' I asked.
'Of course it's not,' she reassured.
But going in for the first session I was nervous. What if I can't do it? I worried. Michelle put me at ease. She explained that by using hypnotherapy she'd help me identify the root cause of my obesity and dig it out like a weed. In time, I'd form new, more positive habits.
During our second session she guided my subconscious to the earliest memories of my family sitting at the dining table. 'You can forgive your two-year-old self,' Michelle said. 'Let her know you don't have to be fat to be happy.'
Incredibly, once I was awake, I started to form new eating patterns. Instead of reaching for chocolate when I felt down, I started making conscious choices to do something else, like exercise.
It wasn't easy. With my weight still at 142 kilos, I'd be exhausted after walking just one kilometre.
Thankfully Michelle and my family were very supportive. After six weeks, my cravings subsided. I formed new habits, so when I flopped down on the couch to watch TV I could never stay there long. I'd find myself jumping up and heading out for a run without even thinking about it.
By sticking to my new regimen I shed 20.2 kilos in 11 weeks!
Gradually the old voice driving me to eat when I felt sad lost its power. When it did rear its ugly head one day and I drove to the supermarket in a desperate search for chocolate, I found myself driving into the car park and straight out the other side.
Within six months, I'd lost 40 kilos. This year I dropped to the 80 kilos I am today and halved my dress size from 24 to a 12.
Now exercise is my passion and I'll either run, row, swim or box for an hour twice a day, six days a week. In June this year, Fiona and I walked a whopping 44 kilometres from Chinchilla to Brigalow, with Michelle joining us for the last 10 kilometres.
It wasn't until I reached the end that I realised what I'd done. 'I couldn't even walk a kilometre a year ago,' I cried. Recognising my achievement was incredible, but even more special was being able to share that moment with my sister.
I'm telling my story to inspire others to do the same. There's nothing holding you back but yourself. It's never too late to make a change.
Originally published in that's life! issue 33 2015, cover date 20 August 2015
Hypnotherapy is a method of inducing a state of deep relaxation in order to treat disorders which are mainly psychological or emotional in origin. It is not a treatment in its own right but can be used as a part of medical, psychological and dental treatments.