Natalie Jardine was denied donating blood in matric because she was underweight, unfortunately when she did gain weight, she got way more than she bargained for. Everything changed for Natalie when she caught the running bug — it transformed her lifestyle and helped her become a better runner.
Occupation: Marketing agency founder and business coach
City: Cape Town
Weight before: 97 kg
Weight after: 59 kg
Time required to reach current weight: The first big loss was only 5 months (18kgs) and the rest took almost two years.
Secret weapon to your weight loss: Running
Natalie admits that her 12-16 hour days were mainly responsible for her gradual weight gain. Between juggling a demanding publishing career while studying marketing, Natalie didn’t have much time to think about healthy meals or exercise. “When [my] studies were done, it was replaced with networking events and a hectic party lifestyle,” she says.
With her work schedule being very busy, a typical day of eating would include a Creme Soda cooldrink in the morning to cure the hangover and maybe a sandwich. She was often too busy to grab lunch so by the time the late afternoon rolled around, she would opt for something quick like a curry or sushi… with a glass or two of wine. If she was having late night team meetings, more alcohol would be involved. When her workday finally came to an end, take-out food was the easiest option to reach for.
“The social aspect of wine and beer was always the main culprit for me. The snacks at networking events (because I’ve forgotten to eat most of the day) never helped, but mostly my inability to pay attention to what I was putting into my body — and how much of it — was the reason I ballooned,” she explains.
Natalie’s turning point came in two parts: a body-shaming comment and a friend needing motivation. The body-shaming came from a personal trainer who remarked she “could really do with losing all that weight”.
However, her turning point came when a friend asked her to help him get motivated for a marathon. “When memes and ‘you can do it’ didn’t help, the marketing campaign manager in me decided: ‘For every single km I run, you have run 10’,” she says. This idea ended up working beautifully as he managed to finish his marathon with a good time, while Natalie caught the running bug.
Natalie adds that it was never a conscious decision to lose weight but rather a conscious decision to fuel herself to better her running, which had become her passion. She gradually became more aware of what she was putting into her body so she started dividing her plate to quadrantes for carbs, veg and protein.
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When it came to holding herself accountable by tracking her running and eating habits, Natalie started journalling. She documented all her runs, food, water and booze intake, and other habits, such as her general state of mind. She also found apps that helped get her on the right track, “I downloaded a running training app, RunKeeper, which I used religiously to help my running training,” she explains.
“I ran three times a week — they were low-mileage runs, but [I was] consistent. On the days I didn’t run, I did exercises like curtsey squats, sit-ups, and the odd push-up.” In an effort to monitor what she ate, Natalie became a fan of meal preparation. Every Sunday and Wednesday she would prepare all her meals and snacks for the week, which consisted of three meals a day and two snacks (plus no alcohol). She says the app Noom, came in handy when it came to tracking calories.
While she doesn’t count calories any longer, she’s a firm believer that it sets you up for success. “With this app, I learned that nutrition isn’t just about what food you eat and when you eat it, but also your sleeping habits, how much stress you allow to affect you and so many other things,” she explains.
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All Natalie’s hard work paid off — and she got to buy herself a whole new wardrobe. “I dropped so many dress sizes that I had to get a stylish friend to help me shop because I didn’t know where I began and ended,” says Natalie. Besides weight loss, running has completely changed her life. Late night parties have made way for early morning runs and hikes. Her stress levels are now calmed by hitting the gym, yoga studio or on the road. Even celebrations have changed. “My birthday parties used to be a rush of five events over two days including several bars, staying up until dawn, into a brunch into some wine tasting trips. However, this year, it was a 10K run, a picnic in Kirstenbosch and a hike up Lion’s Head”.
“The running training gives me more energy during the day and there is NO feeling like hitting a personal best time on a race — whether road running, trail running, 10K or half marathons. The compliments help, but I still can’t believe that I can quite easily run 5 km under 30 minutes,” she exclaims.
Natalie says that she has learned many lessons during her journey. The biggest three being that you really can’t ‘out-train a bad diet’, that you need to be aware of what you put into your body, and that teamwork definitely makes the dream work.
From apps to hike crews, yoga studios, run crews and friends, Natalie had herself and a team cheering her on all the way: “he [a friend and running partner] remains the voice in my head saying ‘Easy. You’ll get there. Your legs, your mind, it’s all you that keeps you going’”.
- Get Organised. “Schedule and plan: I plan my week on a Sunday morning, but instead of starting with what other people want (work, meetings, social requests), I diarise meal times and workout times. Everything else is scheduled around this”.
- Give yourself an active break and mix it up. “Vary your training by adding in something like HIIT, Pilates or cycling to keep things interesting and anxiety at bay. Personal trainers also keep things interesting, if you can afford it and are into that kind of training”.
- Omg! Just have it all ready. “Don’t try and avoid certain foods or even replace too many things that you currently enjoy. It’s okay to eat something other than a chicken breast and broccoli. In fact, I recommend it! Don’t use food as a reward, but when you crave something for a few days, make a conscious decision to indulge “just this once” every so often. You’ll end up having less — less guilt, less of the desired item and less of an inclination for it next time. Also, all that brainpower spent resisting can be used for something else!”