Here, Anika Bortolin, 31, tells the story in her own words.
S￼itting in the doctor’s office I found it hard to hear his words. ‘You have a high-risk pregnancy,’ he said.
Looking down, you could barely tell I was four months pregnant. But at 100 kilos, the doctor said my weight put my unborn bub in danger. Always a bigger girl, food was where I found comfort. Constantly teased at school for my weight, my self-esteem was non-existent. At eight years old, the constant torture from other kids was so bad my parents decided to homeschool me. But I never forgot how my peers taunted me and I used food to ease my pain. I’d often start the day with a biscuit and coffee, then have a healthy sandwich for lunch. But in the evening I’d pile my plate high with a supersized portion of creamy pasta and polish off a bowl or two of ice cream. Now, having always wanted to be a mum, I didn’t want to jeopardise that. I’m going to get healthy, I thought, researching online.
Reducing portion sizes, I tripled my vegie intake. Standing on the scales at six months pregnant, I hoped my hard work had paid off. It read, 96 kilos. ‘I’ve managed to lose weight!’ I beamed to my hubby Nicholas, then 26. ‘That’s amazing,’ he replied supportively. Not having been under triple digits for years, I couldn’t believe my healthy eating was working. But it wasn’t enough. My doctor explained I was still at risk of complications. Keeping to my strict diet, the weight slowly fell off and I gave birth to our daughter Olivia. And almost two years later, we welcomed our baby boy Lachlan. After giving birth, I weighed 80 kilos and still felt like I wasn’t a healthy size. But cooing over our bub, I was overjoyed. Then six days after having Lachlan, something didn’t feel right. Dripping in sweat, I couldn’t lower my fever.
Rushing to hospital, I underwent lots of tests. ‘I’m scared,’ I said gripping my hubby’s hand. Sweeping my hair off my face his lips pressed my forehead. As my test results rolled in the doctors were stumped. Pumped with antibiotics, I was left alone in my hospital bed with my mind ticking. I’m unhealthy, I thought, staring at the tubes flowing out of my arms. I need to lose weight – for me and for my family. Once discharged from hospital, I began a strict diet. I downloaded an app to help me calorie count and overhauled my eating. My daily bar of milk chocolate changed to an occasional square of 80 per cent dark chocolate. I swapped an artificially flavoured yoghurt tub to a smaller portion of Greek yoghurt. Dusting off an exercise bike I found in the back of the garage, I was excited. Setting it up in our bedroom, I jumped on after the kids were asleep. ‘Are you ready for bed?’ Nicholas would peek out from under the covers. ‘Just one more kilometre,’ I puffed. Then, like clockwork, I jumped on the scales and mentally noted my forever dropping weight.
I slimmed down to 60 kilos, but my food choices left me with no energy. I’d even started avoiding nutritious foods because they were often high in calories.
‘Do you want to join TIFFXO with me?’ asked my sister Kristin, 41, noticing my fatigue. Signing up, it was great to have my big sister with me. Reading about nutrition and healthy foods, I realised the dangers of obsessive calorie counting and started listening to my body. TIFFXO taught me to be ‘happy fit’ and focus less on the scales. I whizzed up fruit smoothies and protein balls to snack on, and my meals were piled high with vegies.
With renewed energy, I set up my laptop to do Tiff’s daily exercises in our lounge room. ‘Can we play too Mummy?’ Olivia, four, would ask. Grinning, I loved it when my tots worked out with me. Stabilising my weight at 55 kilos, perfect for my 163cm frame, I decided to donate my old clothes. ‘They’re all too big now,’ I told Nicholas, throwing out old jeans and T-shirts. All that remained was my handmade wedding dress from six years ago. Slipping it on, the size 20 baggy white material gaped over my thin frame. Staring into the mirror, it was incredible to see where I’d started.
After dropping half my body weight, I’m finally the mother figure I dreamed of being. Now a size 8, my self-esteem has returned after losing it 23 years ago. Meal prepping every Thursday, I go out of my way to teach my bubs about a healthy balanced lifestyle. ‘We pluck potatoes out of the ground and pick apples from a tree,’ I tell my kids. I don’t obsess over calories but I always opt for healthier options – with an occasional square of chocolate! My kids are my heroes. They are my motivation to stay healthy for the rest of my life.
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