FOR the average Jamaican, starting and maintaining a diet is hard work.
For Tanya Bourne, it was no different.
Life was pretty easy-going, consisting of work and regular hangouts with friends. Those escapades would most often include food which was not particularly healthy. Combine that with a mostly sedentary lifestyle, and Bourne was headed for trouble.
In her mind, if you're not sick, why worry too much about your health or your weight?
“You see, unless you gain the weight rapidly, you really don't notice. You're growing and you just adjust the size of your clothes, and because you're looking at yourself everyday, the change was not that obvious,” Bourne explained
She noted, however, that things changed after the birth of her son in 2012.
“I was gaining weight rapidly. I gained somewhere around 50 pounds after childbirth. Following that, I was on the contraceptive injection and that also contributed to my weight gain,” she recounted.
In an effort to stem the weight gain, Bourne decided to quit using the contraceptive.
“The weight was still stuck. It seemed like that weight was the most stubborn weight that I have ever gained. I started exercising, but when things got challenging I found all kinds of excuses as to why I couldn't continue.”
Her situation got to near crisis level when she hit 339 pounds. That was when she decided that she had to make some serious adjustments. The question she now needed to answer was: How was she going to start a new workout regime to not only help her lose weight, but change her lifestyle?
She then stumbled across the details of the the National Health Fund (NHF) Work-it-Out Challenge while scrolling through her Instagram feed.
“I had heard about the challenge before and thought to myself that I would like to try it. The requirements stipulated that you needed a team from your workplace and that time I didn't have that, but this time when I saw the information on my Instagram feed I was determined to enter,” explained Bourne.
A team was quickly assembled and she was ready to begin her journey.
At the beginning of the challenge, her goal was to lose 50 pounds, and that she did.
“I wanted this to be the start of a healthier lifestyle for me. I'm a very competitive person and I'm driven by the desire to win so this challenge was perfect for me,” she said.
Once the challenge got under way, her biggest hurdle was overcoming bad eating habits.
“I love food and so adjusting my diet and eating patterns was particularly difficult because I'm used to eating what I want, when I want. At times I felt like I was going crazy. I dropped meat from my diet and was having strictly seafood and vegetables. I had cut rice, flour, sugar and found some suitable replacements,” she explained, while noting that after eating clean for about a month, the adjustment became easier for her.
During the difficult times, Bourne drew strength from the support of her co-workers, teammates and friends. They kept her accountable and motivated every step of the way.
“We monitored each other's eating through a Whatsapp group that our team formed, and we joined a gym together and supported each other every step of the way,” she said.
Though the NHF challenge has ended, the lifestyle changes have become permanent for Bourne and her teammates. She said she now exercises four times per week, still eats healthy and is now down four dress sizes.
“I feel good and I'm looking great. A lot of people stop me on the road asking me how I did it and I use the opportunity to share my story with them. I share a lot of before and after photos, and I enjoy their reaction when they see the huge difference. I am so grateful for the Work-It-Out Challenge, and I would encourage anyone who is serious about making a change in their lifestyle to sign up for the 2019 staging,” appealed Bourne, who now weighs 278 pounds.
The NHF Work-it-Out Challenge is a weight loss and fitness team competition that encourages individuals to change their lifestyle to achieve a healthier mind and body. The competition lasts for 24 weeks and emphasises diet and physical activity as a way to reduce a person's risk of developing chronic diseases.
Have you managed to transform your body through weight gain or weight loss? Want to share your story with us? E-mail clarkep@ jamaicaobserver.com.