For years Sharlene Packree, a Type-2 diabetic, turned to food for comfort instead of dealing with her problems. But while the weight piled on, her problems remained and her health deteriorated as she struggled to keep her glucose levels in check. Hitting rock bottom persuaded Sharlene to turn her life around. In her quest to become healthier and happier, she joined the gym, changed her eating habits and lost 25kg.
Sharlene Packree, 28, Joburg
Time required to reach current weight: 11 months
Comfort eating was Sharlene’s biggest weakness. Whenever she felt down, she would tuck into junk food, especially pies.
But as the number on the scale inched upward, Sharlene, who excelled as a swimmer at school, began to avoid exercise too. At her heaviest, she didn’t even climb stairs and battled to walk short distances.
In November 2008, after a nasty break-up, failing her exams and with her health suffering, Sharlene knew it was time for a change. “I hated the person I’d become. The woman in the mirror was a stranger,” she says. Sharlene joined a gym and rediscovered swimming: “I love being in water, so I signed up for the aqua aerobics class and did laps in the pool.”Within three months, the kilos had begun to melt away and Sharlene found her old confident self returning.
Sharlene knew that if she wanted to keep the weight off, she had to change the way she ate. “I now eat smaller meals five times a day, and try to include lots of fresh veggies and grilled chicken. In-between, I snack on fruit and crackers,” she says. This way, she never feels like she’s depriving herself–plus she has the energy to swim every afternoon and go for brisk walks.
Sharlene’s slimmer body has given her the courage to try new things: she’s gone bungee jumping and swimming with sharks – and slipped into a bikini. “For the first time in years I can cross my legs with ease, like a real lady,” says Sharlene, who has dropped three dress sizes and loves wearing shorts. “I discovered that I can do anything I set my mind to. The only motivation I need is a desire to improve my quality of life.”
Find an exercise routine you love. “Try Zumba if you like dancing or aqua aerobics if you enjoy being in the water.”
Make friends at gym. “A support system makes a huge difference.”
Have fun. “Think of losing weight as a game – and the winner is you.”