Mariah Tonkin, 24, Hillcrest, Qld
Ever since I was little, I’d dreamed of cuddling a koala. So on my 23rd birthday, in October 2014, my mum Robyn and best friend Jess took me to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary.
As the adorable bundle of fluff put his arms around me, a photographer captured the special moment. I couldn’t wait to see the picture, but when I collected it my heart sank.
I had two chins and flab bulged out my back!
It must be a bad angle, I thought.
‘Let’s have a look, love,’ Mum beamed.
‘I’ll show you later,’ I flustered, hiding the photo in my bag.
As soon as I got home, I put it in a box under my bed. It was devastating. Although I squeezed into a size 18, I’d never really thought of myself as big.
Now it was like the koala was telling me I was fat!
Still, I didn’t change my terrible habits. Some days I’d get two takeaway meals and I’d often polish off pasta dishes meant for two people. Chocolate was my real weakness though. I’d scoff an entire share bar every night.
My clothes were so uncomfortable that whenever I got home, I’d change into my pyjamas.
Then in May 2015, I was cleaning my garage when I found some scales. Stepping on, a number appeared on the digital screen.
They must be broken, I thought, eyeing the three horrifying digits.
A few days later I tried again and the same number appeared – 120kilos! I couldn’t believe I’d let myself get so huge.
I’m a walking heart attack! I panicked.
The very next day I started eating healthily and exercising. I couldn’t afford the gym so I Googled workouts I could do at home. I swapped fizzy drinks for water too.
One day, I caved and bought a box of Roses chocolates. Opening the lid, my mouth watered.
What are you doing? a voice nagged.
Before I could change my mind, I threw the whole box in the bin, then took the bag outside. Back on track, the kilos melted away. And a year on I’d shed more than half my body weight.
Now I weigh 56 kilos and wear a size 10.
I’ve even started studying personal training and nutrition so I can help other people.
My family call me the incredible shrinking woman!
This May, I returned to the koala sanctuary with Jess. Wearing an identical outfit to the one I did before, I posed for another photo – one I would be proud of.
I’ve hung the snaps side by side on my fridge to remind myself how far I’ve come.
Now my life is life’s picture perfect!
This story originally appeared in that's life! Issue 27, 7 July 2016.