Bullying affects everyone differently.
For me it fuelled my binge eating habits, which caused me to hit a very unhealthy weight.
I was bullied from Year 7 right up until I graduated high school. From the outside I looked like I had friends. Lots of friends. Some would even say I was part of the “popular group”, but it was because I was a part of that group, my schooling years were a living hell.
I was nicknamed “the wombat” because I was bigger than the other kids, some days my group would be my best friends and then the next they would completely ignore me as if I never even existed. One day the “leader” of the group even managed to convince an entire class to ignore me for a whole week. Why? I will never know.
In a world where no one wanted to be “the wombat’s” friend, I turned to food for comfort.
The more I hated myself, the more I ate. I would eat my parents’ healthy dinners in front of them, but would stuff my face with fast food and sugar in my car, making sure to throw away the wrappers and packaging to convince everyone, including myself, that it never happened.
I would buy loose-fitting clothes and cut off all the tags to try and convince myself that I wasn’t overweight.
Those six gruelling high school years severely damaged my mental health. I graduated an anxious mess; I was depressed, constantly questioning my self-worth, had given up on everything, and all in all, I hated myself. Then university came along – and that’s when everything went downhill further.
On top of my horrible binge eating habits, I discovered the wonders of alcohol. It helped me forget about my depression, and during times when I really loathed myself, I would numb my anxiety and drown my sorrows with alcohol. A lot of alcohol.
But who was I kidding? The scales and mirror didn’t lie – and both were telling me I was a physically and mentally unhealthy 27-year-old who weighed a whopping 118kg. The scary thing was that I needed more than a mirror to tell me I needed to do something about my weight; it took lumps growing on my breasts to send alarm bells ringing.
I have a very strong family history of breast cancer, so each cyst that appeared required full investigation. Not only was it extremely worrying each time I found a new lump, my breasts had become so big that they were a size 20E. I visited a plastic surgeon to inquire about breast reduction, and this is where I received the biggest wake-up call – I was too overweight to have elective surgery.
It hit me like a brick wall and I cried my eyes out. But instead of turning to food, I booked an appointment for breast reduction surgery for nine months down the track, which meant I actually had to lose weight by that date. No excuses.
That day was the beginning of a new and improved me.
THE BEGINNING OF MY JOURNEY
At first, I tried the fad diets and “quick fixes”, and at one point only drank lemon juice for three days straight. Of course, I didn’t achieve anything, except ending up binge eating more. It wasn’t until I found 28 by Sam Wood – an online health program that combines quick, simple, delicious meals with a daily 28-minute exercise program – in which the weight started to fall off, and I realised leading a healthy lifestyle wasn’t hard at all.
Okay, I’ve never endured anything more challenging in my life than those first few weeks. I had constant headaches, was always moody, and even had a metallic taste in my mouth (which is a side effect of weight loss).
But I had a goal to achieve and a woman whose body needed rescuing. Every night I would stand at the mirror and tell myself why and who I was doing it for, and reassure my self-worth.
It took a lot of persistence, but nine months later on the day of my surgery, I had lost 25kg. I then had revision surgery six months following that and lost a further 12kg. Three years since the day I decided to change my life for the better and I have lost close to 50kg, now weighing in at 71kg.
I now follow a low-carb high-fat diet. This is what a typical day on a plate looks like to me:
Breakfast: a smoothie from 28 by Sam Wood’s large array of delish smoothie recipes.
Lunch: a serving of protein with salad or vegetables. Lunch is my main meal of the day so I always make sure it’s nutritious and filling.
Dinner: I try to eat before 7pm. It’s generally a smaller portion compared to lunch, and is usually a salad or something light.
Snacks: I try to avoid snacks, but if I do, I make sure to snack only in the morning. I’ll have a piece of fruit, some vegetables, frozen grapes, or if I’m feeling indulgent, I’ll opt for the 28 by Sam Wood chickpeas (which I have to stop myself from eating too many of).
These are the biggest diet changes I have adapted:
– I used to skip breakfast (unless it was a Bacon and Egg McMuffin from McDonald’s), but now I can’t start my day without it.
– I no longer eat in my car.
– My portion sizes are much smaller than they used to be, and my plate is always packed with healthy and nourishing foods.
– I allow myself to live life, which means if I want to go out with my friends and eat pizza, I will. It’s all about balance, not depriving myself from everything.
MY WORKOUT ROUTINE
Exercise has significantly healed my mental health – I would even say it’s my new antidepressant. If I stop exercising for a few days, I notice I become very anxious and my mood is flat.
I went from been the “Queen of Excuses” when it came to doing any physical activity, to now exercising a minimum of five days a week.
I have discovered that I need to continuously mix it up to keep myself motivated, which I achieve by doing 28-minute workouts from Sam Wood’s program as part of my usual routine, while including swimming and netball sessions throughout the week.
THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES
Breaking over 20 years of bad habits and negative thoughts was not a walk in the park at all. Those horrible years of bullying made me my worst critic, and my weight loss journey still has its ups-and-downs.
But I have learnt to not be too hard on myself, to not set myself unrealistic expectations, and to be my own motivator. To this very day, I have lived by this one piece of advice Sam Wood shared with me at the very beginning of my journey: “You can only really succeed and make changes when you’re doing it for yourself and no one else.”
I might be a people-pleaser, but I know that there are always going to be those people who want to rain on your parade. I am running my own race, and if I have a blip, it’s purely between me and my journey.
— Juna Xu is a writer and digital producer at body+soul
— This article originally appeared on body+soul.com.au. For more tips on sleep, head to body+soul