What prompted you to start your wellness journey, was there a particular moment or realisation?
After the birth of my second daughter back in 2014, I weighed in at 115kg (my heaviest was 125kg). I was breathless all the time, grossly unhappy with my appearance and was pre-diabetic. I had always had an emotional relationship with food and at that particular time in my life when I was struggling to breastfeed my newborn baby, food felt like a familiar friend who wouldn’t let me down. I was caught in a cycle of constant grazing on high-calorie foods in an attempt to boost my milk production and to try and make myself feel better about feeling like my body had failed me. Instead, my weight ballooned, and my mood spiralled further. I felt trapped in a body that didn’t match the person inside. My light bulb moment came when my youngest daughter was 5 months old. I’d gained at least 15 kilos in the time since she was born. I saw a photo of myself and I looked unrecognisable. It was then that I needed to do something about my weight.
What was the first change you made to your lifestyle?
When I first began my weight loss journey 5 years ago, I started by doing a moderate level of exercise – walking, etc. I eventually ended up practising aerial yoga and Aerial Silks/Lyra at CircStudios on the Sunshine Coast, up to 10 hours per week and had fallen so in love with the practice that the owners trained me up to be a Level 2 Certified AntiGravity instructor - where I still teach today. Moving my body on a daily basis was so instrumental to my positive mindset and I quickly saw the effects on my mood if I skipped a session.
Fast forward to July this year, I decided to really kick it up a notch to lose those last extra kilos that just wouldn’t budge and I made some pretty drastic changes at first. Firstly, I went on Be Fit Food’s Be Rapid meal plan for 8 weeks, and at the same time participating in an 8-week challenge at my local F45 studio.
I’d always been interested in ready-made meal plans but because I followed a gluten-free diet I was yet to find a brand that would accommodate my dietary requirements until Be Fit Food came along, so it was perfect for me. During my time on Be Fit Food, I trained at F45 five times a week, in addition to teaching and practising Ariel Yoga as usual.
What other changes did you initially make to your eating habits?
When I began my weight loss journey in 2014, I eliminated refined sugar, dairy and drastically cut down on my starchy/white carbohydrate intake - like pasta, bread and rice. I really took my diet back to a primal approach, focusing on good healthy veggies, pulses, legumes and lean proteins. I initially lost 10kg following that approach and when the losses stopped I moved onto a more extreme version of this and I lost another 35kg. However, because the calorie intake is very low, I wasn’t able to exercise, and still felt rather wobbly. When I stopped following this approach, I managed to keep a lot of the weight off but gradually gained back 10kgs.
In January of this year, I made a conscious effort to get back into shape and get nice and strong. I still had 13-15kg of fat to lose and didn’t want to restrict my exercise practice like I did last time – especially now that I was working as an aerial yoga instructor so I was looking for something that I could work in with my active lifestyle and that could really help me change my relationship with food in a meaningful and positive way.
What other changes did you initially make to your exercise habits?
Right at the start of my weight loss journey I started by incorporating walking into my morning routine – my girls are 19 months apart so I had them both in a double stroller when I began exercising and their combined weights provided great resistance as I pushed them around! I would average 5km a day, 5 days a week. After we moved to the Sunshine Coast, I found CircStudios and changed out the walking for the aerial arts. There is a lot to be said about trying to lift your body weight up a silk when you have next to no muscle tone, but the combination of AntiGravity Aerial Yoga and Aerial Silks and Lyra I quickly development enough muscle mass to make these practices part of my daily routine. Then in 2019, I started training at F45 too.
How did your weight loss/fitness progress?
I’ll admit to falling into a bit of a rut with my health and wellbeing while I worked on my small business from 2015-2018 and as my focus shifted, I saw the number on the scale increasing again slowly, because it was slow I wasn’t too concerned. But determined not to get complacent with my weight I really wanted to kick myself into gear in 2019. After the Christmas period, my weight had jumped back up to 79kg and I was keen to increase my exercise and reign back on the calories. I dabbled in a keto-diet approach until I signed up with to do the Be Fit Food Be Rapid program. I’d seen a few people on Instagram who’d had success with Be Fit Food and so it definitely piqued my interest.
I didn’t really make any changes to my lifestyle or exercise routine until the F45 8-week challenge. I eased into my increased training schedule by going to F45 twice a week, and once the challenge got underway I upped it to 4 and then 5 times per week. (I have never been a cardio kind of girl, so their cardio days were definitely the hardest for me).
I started on Be Fit Food the week before the challenge began, so that I could get used to the food and the portion sizes, and in the first week of being on Be Fit Food I lost 2.6kg. It was then that I had another lightbulb moment and realised that I could make an incredible and rather rapid change to my body composition if I really knuckled down and committed myself to both the F45 challenge and the Be Fit Food Be Rapid program.
What changes made the most difference?
The fact that I did both the 8-week challenge and Be Fit Food together really paid off for me, but I will say that being on Be Fit Food made me realise that my portion sizes were way out of whack! I had been overeating my entire life and having the luxury to not think about my nutrition (because all of the thinking was done for you!) meant that I could focus on my attention on exercise and moving my body.
How did you feel during the process?
Over the years I’ve definitely had my ups and my downs but I’ve never had as much energy as I do now. It’s funny to say it, because I’m working out hard and burning calories like nobody’s business when I’m in the studio, and by right I should feel exhausted, but each time I exercise my body releases this wonderful concoction of hormones and endorphins that makes me feel on top of the world! I never thought I’d be the type of person that wakes up before her alarm, but it’s been a few months now and it’s the best feeling to wake up refreshed instead of exhausted. Plus, my new diet and understanding of what I was putting in my body made me feel so much better and eating the right foods definitely gives me more energy to keep my body moving.
What did you find was the hardest thing about your journey?
The hardest thing for me personally is the physiological battle. I’m now healthy and treating my body as it should be treated - with respect. But because I was overweight for so long, it took a solid 12 months for me to see myself any other way then overweight. I still shopped in the plus-size section, I covered myself up and spoke down about myself for a long time. That has changed for me now but when the clothes come off and I look at myself in the mirror I see that my skin is stretched, loose and saggy - I guess they are my battle scars. I try to wear my loose belly skin as a badge of honour to show my girls how their mum turned her life (and theirs, as eating habits are passed down to our children) around.
What helped to keep you motivated?
Initially wanting to be alive to see my girls grow up was my biggest motivator. Then it shifted to seeing the number on the scale rollback (I’m a really visual person so that helped me when I didn’t see any physical changes) but more and more I love seeing the physical changes in my body. I can see the muscle definition in my shoulders and back, I feel strong and confident and my passion for life shines through in everything I do. I think when you are truly happy in your life, you radiate this light which attracts other like-minded people.
Do you have any favourite motivational quotes?
I really love ‘Only I can change my life. No one can do it for me.’ For the better part of my teenage and adult life I had people who cared about me gently (and no so gently) encouraging me to live a healthier lifestyle but I was the only one with the power to actually make it happen.
What are your current short and long term goals?
My only short term goal is to build more lean muscle mass! I love feeling strong! Strong is the new skinny! My long-term plan is to continue to improve my relationship with food, instil good, healthful eating habits in my girls and break the cycle of emotional eating. I never want them to have to go through everything I have - including a period of disordered eating while at the all-girls high school I went to. I never want them to feel the way I have. But if I can show them how to eat mindfully and healthily and be a positive role model then hopefully I’ll break that cycle.
What would a day on a plate look like for you now?
Because I’m always busy with the school run and often my aerial classes are in the morning, I do practice intermittent fasting. So I like to break that fast with a protein-rich, dairy-free two egg omelette around midday. My omelettes are usually packed full of baby spinach, tomato and half an avocado. In between lunch and heading to the gym if I’m hungry I’ll have a YoPro or a protein ball (I can thank Be Fit Food for my protein ball addiction! Their P Nutty balls are out of this world!).
I like to keep dinners simple and it’s either roast above ground veggies, or a big green salad with a BBQ’d protein, like chicken, fish or beef. If I’m feeling fancy or inspired I’ll whip out one of the many cookbooks that I’ve amassed over the years - One of my favourite ones is Smart Carbs by Luke Hines. I love that he shows you how to be imaginative and delicious while still being mindful with the ingredients you use.
What is your current exercise routine?
Even though the 8 Week Challenge has wrapped up I’m still going to an F45 session every weekday and plan to do another challenge soon. Plus I teach Aerial Yoga classes three times a week and train Aerial Hoop for fun!
What achievement are you most proud of?
On an individual level, I’m incredibly proud of the growth that I’ve made as a person. Not only shedding the weight but also getting my head around that fact that I am worth more than my body. But on a more public level, I’m so incredibly proud that I’ve been able to help inspire others through my Instagram page @the.lyons.life and blog who are currently in the very same situation that I was in.
I’m very active and real on my Instagram and share daily updates so my followers know me and my struggles. I love that they feel comfortable enough to reach out to me on social media and share with me their progress shots and their goals. I had wonderful support when I needed it, and I love being that support network for others because I know how bloody hard and isolating it is.
What advice would you give to others wanting to do the same?
I get asked this question quite frequently actually, and it’s one that isn’t always easy to answer. The catalyst for change (or your lightbulb moment) is often different for everyone. Start by asking yourself the question who am I doing this for? The answer needs to be YOU. Set your support network in order. Set yourself up to succeed, not to fail. And don’t sabotage yourself - only you can change your life. No one can do it for you.