Here, Karen, 46 tells the story in her own words.
Just another piece, I thought, tearing a wedge off the crusty loaf in front of me. Not even thinking, I ate a bit more and a bit more until the whole loaf was gone. It had become a really bad habit. I’d easily eat a loaf a day, washing it down with four litres of coke. Not that it matters, I shrugged to myself.
At 160 kilos I’d given up on diets, having tried so many in the past and failed. I told myself I was immune to the stares and nasty comments from strangers. It had been going on since I was a teenager and, with things unlikely to change, I decided I might as well carry on and enjoy my food.But then something did change.
I started feeling dizzy, even passing out. I was exhausted. And when my kidneys began aching I went to my doctor, assuming I had a virus. Blood test results showed something sinister. ‘You have kidney damage,’ he told me gravely. ‘You also have diabetes and your blood pressure is so high it’s out of control.’ Going on to explain my weight was to blame, he said I needed to do something fast. ‘I’ve only seen one person in 30 years reverse this kind of kidney damage,’ he told me.
Back home, I was terrified. A single mum to Will, 17, I knew I had to take charge. ‘I’m going to be the second person my doctor has seen reverse kidney damage,’ I vowed.
That week I drove into the gym car park. It was something I did often but this time, instead of sitting in my car crying, I got out. Nervously I went inside and, in that moment, my life changed.
The trainers understood how embarrassed I was of my size 28 figure and developed a program on the treadmill and exercise bike that I could do when nobody else was around. Swapping pizzas, cheese and bread for cereals, chicken and salads, the weight started falling off.
In just six weeks I lost a whopping 27 kilos. It gave me the confidence to go on the first date I’d had in several years. John, 43, was a friend of someone I’d met at the gym and, over a drink, we clicked immediately. ‘I’m trying to change,’ I said, telling him my worries. He listened so patiently and was supportive right from the start.
Even at 133 kilos, still big for my 161cm frame, he fell in love with me and I realised if John could love me, I should love myself too.
Motivated by that feeling, I started 2015 even more determined to get healthy.
Over the next two years I stuck to my diet and exercise plan, steadily losing around one kilo a week. By summer 2016, I was down to an incredible 68 kilos. I’d lost 92 kilos and shed nine dress sizes. I was now a size 10. ‘I’m so happy for you,’ my GP beamed, giving me my new test results. ‘Your kidney damage has reversed and you’re no longer diabetic.’
Dumping the seven pills I’d been taking to keep me going, I felt like I was walking on air as I left. I had a second chance at life and it was all because of hard work and determination.
John was so proud of me too. We’d got married the previous year and now he knew we could plan a lifetime together. And what a life! Suddenly I could do things I’d never imagined, like going on a roller-coaster and wearing swimmers to the beach.
‘Will you help me lose weight too?’ Will asked. I loved that I could inspire my son to be healthy and in the past year he’s shed 20 kilos.
For me, 2017 was about trying to maintain my weight and I also gave up smoking which was a huge deal. ‘I’m worried I’ll pile the weight on when I do it,’ I fretted to John. ‘But you’ve got to try,’ he encouraged.
Now, I’ve gone from a 30-a-day habit to nothing. Even better, there’s been no comfort eating as replacement. In fact, I started 2018 with a new target weight of 60 kilos. I feel better and healthier than I ever have. They say life begins at 40 and, at 46, I think I’m living proof of that!
Read more in this week's issue of that's life!