When Cheryl Green’s father-in-law committed suicide a couple of years ago, she fell into depression. This dark space came with many obstacles and Cheryl turned to binge eating as a coping mechanism. “I used to lock myself up in the ladies’ room at work and eat – that was my safe haven and no one could see me there,” she admits. Within 15 months she was 25kg heavier.
On the verge of an emotional breakdown, Cheryl realised that she could either give up entirely – or choose life. Here’s what she did…
City: Table View, Cape Town
Occupation: Senior admin clerk
Weight before: 107.1kg
Weight after: 82.8kg
Time taken to lose weight: 9 months
Secret weight-loss weapon: Determination and consistency
“I used to play sport at school,” Cheryl begins. In high school, she was part of the netball first team and regularly received the Player of the Year Award. But after school Cheryl gave up sport. “I always had excuses not to be active and told myself I don’t have time.” In reality, it was just bad time management.
After the death of Cheryl’s father-in-law, depression sank in its nasty claws. The slight weight issues she’d been struggling with became more of a problem. “As soon as I reached the 95kg mark, I just didn’t care anymore and ate whatever I could get my hands on,” she admits. Her diet consisted mainly of junk food. “I lived on white bread, pasta, potatoes and deep-fried food.”
She’d do anything to avoid exercise. The local supermarket was just 200m from her house, but Cheryl would drive there instead of walking. By July 2016, she was at her wits' end. Something had to give. “I had two options: end my life or change it for the better.”
“In January 2017, my journey to a new healthier me started,” Cheryl says. “I chose not to just live, but to live healthily.” In October, she got back into running. “I dusted off my trainers for the first time in 20 years and went running around the block,” she continues.
But things didn’t go as planned… “I ended up on crutches due to the weight on my knees. I was diagnosed with arthritis and low bone density. The specialist told me if I didn’t start living a healthy lifestyle, I’d be facing a wheelchair by 40.” It was this shock to the system that launched the real lifestyle change.
“I forced myself to join a gym,” Cheryl says, a place she’d never been inside before. She began training five times a week, focusing on cardio. “I had to adjust my eating habits and started concentrating on calorie intake,” she continues.
From binging at night and skipping breakfast, she forced herself to sit down in the morning and eat a healthy meal. “I had to cut bread out of my diet, which was like a death sentence. And from never drinking water, I was forced to drink at least eight glasses a day!” It wasn’t easy, but two months later, the same people who had laughed at her in the gym were asking what her secret was…
Cheryl runs three times a week at her running club under the supervision of a coach. Alongside this, she trains twice a week at the gym: 45 minutes of cardio and 30 minutes of weight training.
“Most weekends I run a race, between 10 and 21km,” she says. Getting back into running was a gradual process that started with treadmill walking. As her confidence grew, she moved outdoors. “Every week I gradually increased my running distance and minimised my walking distance.” Cheryl has completed 32 races to date, and two have been marathons!
“Once a week I allow myself a cheat meal, especially after a running event,” she says. “[But] counting calories has become part of my daily routine,” she adds. “I eat at least five times a day – small healthy meals – and I don’t eat later than 6pm.”
“The biggest reward was winning my life back,” Cheryl says. “I started to fall in love with myself again.” Cheryl has dropped four dress sizes and become an optimist, which has affected so many aspects of her life, including her relationship with her husband and kids. And she’s building new memories: “I can do activities with my children which I never thought were possible, like jumping on a trampoline with my daughter and crossing a finish line with my son.”
Always believe in yourself. “Start off with transforming your mind and your body will follow.”
Set yourself a goal. “Start off with one small goal, and once you’ve reached it, make another one, this time a bit bigger. Continue until you reach your ultimate goal.”
Do what you like. “Don’t force yourself to start off with an exercise you hate. If you like walking along the beach, so be it. If you like swimming, then start there. Exercise must be fun at the end of the day, not a punishment.”
This article was originally published on www.womenshealthsa.co.za
Image credit: iStock