Congratulations, you should feel so proud,’ my family told me.
It was April 2017 and, aged 36, I had just completed my master’s degree in Human Resource Management.
After so much hard work, I was looking forward to my graduation ceremony. I knew it should be one of the happiest days of my life.
When the day came around, I picked up my daughter and my camera, hoping to get at least one decent pic.
I didn’t really like having my photo taken, but it was a special moment, and I knew it was important to have pictures to remember my graduation.
A few weeks later, though, when I was looking through the snaps, I had a shock.
‘Oh my God!’ I whispered.
Seeing how I looked, I just wanted the ground to swallow me up.
‘Is that really me?’ I gasped.
My heart sank.
I don’t even recognise this woman, I realised.
My body looked how I felt inside – exhausted, hopeless and miserable. It felt like a slap in the face.
While I felt accomplished academically, I was at rock bottom emotionally.
The truth was, I was officially obese.
My weight was 86 kilos, which for a lot of people would be perfectly healthy, but standing at barely 157cm it meant my BMI was almost 35.
Anything over 25 was classed as overweight, and anything higher than 30 was classed as obese.
I need to make a change, I decided.
My weight issues started in my 20s, after losing my wonderful father to cancer when I was 19.
I never really dealt with my grief.
Then in 2006, I sadly lost my sister.
Looking back, I can see that I turned to food as a coping mechanism for my devastation.
And my lifestyle wasn’t very healthy either.
Throughout my 20s, I was the lead singer of a rock band. On the road, we’d drink our weight in beer and eat loads of fast food.
In 2008, tragedy struck again when the band’s bassist, Brad, passed away.
Then in 2014, our guitarist, Jimmy, one of my best friends, passed away in his sleep.
After losing so many people I loved, I was in a dark place.
But when my daughter, Regan, was born in 2016, she brought so much joy to my life.
Being a busy mum, my weight crept up on me as I found myself at the fast-food drive-through more times than I would have liked.
Tomorrow I’ll be better, I told myself.
I binged on anything deep fried, with mozzarella sticks and greasy potato chips being my favourite.
But seeing that photo was a wake-up call.
Growing up, Mum, my sisters and I had tried out fad diets so I knew they weren’t the answer.
I need a lifestyle change, not a quick fix, I decided.
As an animal lover, I didn’t eat meat. And in October 2017, I watched a program about how dairy products are made and I became even more concerned about animal welfare.
That’s when I decided to cut out milk, no matter what – even if giving up my creamy coffee was a struggle.
From that point forward, I was completely vegan!
It meant saying goodbye to my usual breakfast of eggs with cheese - eating porridge and fruit instead.
The change was hard at first, but I persevered.
And, seeing as I was making a big change to how I ate, I decided to drop my chips for wholegrain crackers instead.
Instead of hot chips for lunch, I had quinoa with tofu and vegies.
I also switched my usual Macca’s drive-through dinner for homemade chickpea pasta with vegies in a tomato-based sauce.
I had to make sure I was getting all the nutrients I needed from plants
instead of meat and dairy.
As the weeks went by, I watched the numbers on the scales go down and my clothes become looser.
But most importantly, I began feeling healthier and more alive than ever before!
‘Are you using a new face serum?’ a friend asked me one day. ‘Your skin is absolutely glowing!’
Not only was my skin looking radiant, but my eyes were brighter.
And incredibly, the asthma that I’d been struggling with for my entire life disappeared.
It was like I’d uncovered a new amazing diet secret - a magic button that changed everything!
Suddenly, I had all this energy and started running.
At first, I could only go for a few minutes before I’d have to stop.
But now, two-and-a-half-years later, I’m fitter than ever and can run between 10 and 30 kilometres a day!
Having dropped 40 kilos, my BMI is now classed as normal for my height.
I’ve been told that I look 10 years younger and when I look back at the pictures of me on my graduation day – the photo that changed my life – I look like a completely different person.
For the first time, I can feel comfy in jeans and I can also wear a bikini.
I’m so glad I made the change. Most importantly, I’ve never felt better!
Day on a plate
Brekkie: Eggs with cheese, toast with butter, juice
Lunch: Hot chips
Dinner: Macca’s or other
Dessert: Ice cream
Snacks: Chips and sour cream dip
Brekkie: Oatmeal with fruit
Lunch: Quinoa with tofu and vegetables
Dinner: Chickpea pasta with vegies, tofu and sauce
Dessert: Piece of dark chocolate
Snacks: Wholegrain crackers, fruit
After graduating university, Jane Elizabeth was so proud of everything she'd achieved.
But, when she looked back at the photo of her big day, she barely recognised herself and knew she needed to make a change.