Having always been active, Melissa Lawrence thought she was fairly healthy. But after a major health scare, she decided she needed to re-evaluate her lifestyle – from the medication she was taking to her love of garlic bread. Here’s how she made her health a priority, became the best version of herself – and lost 17 kilos in the process.
Occupation: Interior designer and founder of Studio Melissa Louise
City: Cape Town
Weight before: 68kg
Weight after: 51kg
Time required to reach current weight: 11 Months
Secret weapon to your weight loss: Purpose
“In my teenage years I played school, club and Western Province hockey,” says Melissa. “I played first team hockey from the age of 14 and this included a very strict training schedule.” But enter university, and the strict training schedule that kept her so active suddenly fell away.
Despite daily runs, the weight crept on. The reason: Her eating habits. “My diet was largely made up of high-fat foods. I overindulged in takeouts/fast food, lamb chops, cheese-heavy creamy pasta, wine and garlic bread,” she admits, “[and you can’t out-exercise a bad diet.”
Her turning point came when she was admitted to hospital for acute liver failure. “It was a big shock because I considered myself healthy,” says Melissa. “Doctors believe my liver was struggling due to the antibiotics I was taking for the treatment of psoriasis [a skin condition].”
And this was just one of a number of setbacks – Melissa also lost a family member and was retrenched at work. She felt like everything around her was out of control. Now, given that her health had taken such a knock too, she knew it was time to make a change.
Her doctor recommended that she adjust her diet and stop taking all medication, from antibiotics to birth control. “This detox has done wonders for my body,” she says. “As for diet, I’ve cut out all alcohol, I eat low- to non-fat where possible, no red meat and lots of green vegetables and other liver-friendly foods, such as blueberries, green tea and garlic.”
As for exercise, after her hospital admission, she was only allowed to walk. And that’s what did for six months. In the last five months of her journey, Melissa added weight training to her exercise regimen and started doing Parkruns every Saturday.
Now Melissa walks/runs three times a week. She says the best way to start your day is with movement – “either stretching, a dance party in the lounge or weight training.” As for her home workouts, she keeps it simple with kettlebell and resistance band exercises. “I usually do 15-30 reps of kettlebell goblet squats, one-arm rows, one-arm presses or a single-arm squat to press. [I use a resistance band] when doing lunges, squats, leg extensions or hip flexor exercises, again keeping it at 15-30 reps.”
As for eating healthy, Melissa feels it’s best to be prepared. “I always carry a bottle of water with me and really enjoy snacking on tender stem broccoli.” Throughout her journey, Melissa made the choice not to weigh herself because she didn’t want to slip into the obsessive behaviour she experienced in her twenties. “It wasn’t about the number – it was about how I felt. I adjusted my diet and, as time went on, my clothes didn’t fit the same anymore,” she says.
Once she shifted her focus to being healthy, the excess weight fell off. “My goal is to nourish my liver, treat my body with respect and lead a full, healthy, balanced life. When those things aligned, I found myself happy with my reflection.”
“I feel much healthier now and this can be seen in my everyday fitness performance. I run faster and further, and my reps are higher,” says Melissa. The entire experience has changed her perspective on life: “I feel more energised and I enjoy being outside more now. I even went for a run in the rain the other day – overweight me would never have done that!” She’s spoiled herself with a new wardrobe!
Choose who to listen to: “A little voice in your head will whisper that you can’t do it. Don’t listen to the whisper; listen to the loud voice that says you can! If all you’re strong enough for today is one step, that is more than standing still – every baby step adds up.”
Move your body: “Have an achievable goal. It makes it easier to keep moving forward when you’re working towards smaller achievable goals that will contribute to the larger goal. For example, I’ve set a goal to do the Parkrun every Saturday. I started by walking the 5km route, slowly I was able to run some of it, then all of it, and now I am beating my time every week.”
Fuel your body: “Don’t think about the things you ‘can’t have’. That simply makes them more desirable. Rather, add more of the things you know your body needs – more water or more fruit and veg. I’ve really enjoyed experimenting with food, finding recipes on Pinterest and putting my spin on them. After some time, you will find your balance.”
Women’s Health has launched a whole weekend of wellness and inspiration just for you: Women’s Health LIVE Festival of Wellness. We have three stages – covering Trends, Inspiration and Fitness respectively, with an amazing line-up of celebs, cover stars, social influencers and our WH experts. You’ll also have the chance to take part in beauty pop-ups, like getting your hair done at the ghd Dry Styling Bar, stock up on festive season gifts from talented local designers and try new movement classes, like rebounding with Lisa Raleigh or Rockingnheels with Takkies. Plus, there’ll be food trucks and the Fry’s Plant-Based Food Court serving up delicious, healthy meals, bubbly will be flowing – after all, what’s summer without a bit of sparkle? – live DJs and more fabulous entertainment.
What You get
Your ticket gets you free access to all the talks, workshops and movement classes, free beauty makeovers and ghd hair styling, as well as plenty of freebies and surprises from our partners. It also includes a limited-edition Women’s Health shopper, which you can fill up as you make your way around the Festival – you can expect lots of things to sample and buy. Book your tickets at Quicket.