Jennifer Sierra, now 28, was 13 when her mother first put her on a diet. Among five siblings, “I was always the heaviest.” Sierra, who stands just under 160cm, yo-yoed between 63 and 72kg until her marriage at 21, when things fell apart.
“I’d eat greasy sandwiches for breakfast and lunch, then anything fried for dinner,” says Sierra. In 2009, having a baby left her at a peak of over 81kg.
Sierra, whose pregnancy weight stayed put, avoided reality for about a year until late 2010, when she saw an unflattering Facebook pic: “I honestly didn’t recognise myself,” she says.
She tried counting kilojoules for about five months and lost a little weight. But after she hit a plateau at around 77kg, she decided she needed a kick in the bum and signed on with a trainer in May 2012.
“What changed my life was learning that everyone already has a six-pack. It’s just that fat is covering it,” says Sierra. To find those legendary abs, she confronted her gym phobia and met with her trainer for Saturday sessions of push-ups, squats, presses and lunges.
On other days, she put in 30 minutes of a cardio-boosting walk-run combo on the treadmill. She also started planning and packing her meals in advance, with an eye on protein, carbs and fat, instead of just kilojoules.
By the next autumn, Sierra was down to 65kg. To reach the next level, she upped her tough workouts to four times a week, targeting a different muscle group each day. By May 2013, she weighed under 54kg and she’s kept it off.
Her new confidence has transformed the shopping experience: it’s liberating, she says, to know she can rock whatever she pulls from the rack. “Plus, sharing clothes with my sister is awesome.”
Start somewhere: "I used to think you already had to be fit to lift or run. False! Start now. That’s how you get there.”
Ask for help: Going into the weights room for the first time can be scary, “But most people are thrilled to help you,” she says.
Look beyond kilojoules: "Just because a food has only 420kJ doesn’t mean it’s 420kJ of good stuff."