Final Essay

Has it really been 12 weeks already? It feels longer some weeks, shorter some, overall the whole thing has flown by, and thankfully so have the results. I remember when I started this thinking holy shit, how am I going to do this? I have been abusing my body for 10 years and it is going to take a lot more than 12 weeks to undo that damage. Those were my initial thoughts, after the first few weeks I would find myself either really happy or really sad. Not sad in a depressed way, but sad in a completely exhausted, ravaging for junk food, training, sweating, smelly mess. All I wanted to do was collapse in a heap and sleep the weekend away in bed – instead I had to do boot camp early on a saturday morning, followed by p.t’s and what seemed like ruthless, never-ending exercise. What I realised this morning is that this has now become a habit, I see my Saturday as an important fitness day for my body, instead of a day off, and this is one of the most noteable changes I can muster to date.

I am no longer the hungover, depressed, gorging mess I was when this challenge started. I don’t relish getting off my face every weekend and spending the weekend recovering with greasy food and movies. I would rather wake up early and spend the morning on the beach, or in a park exercising with friends. I did not think after the first few weeks of walking in bleary eyed, tired, hungry, desperately needing coffee that I would ever stick to it – in fact even look forward to it. As much as I do still complain now 12 weeks later (god help them in winter!) it is something that I won’t give up.

It is no secret that the trick to this challenge and to weight loss is diet. While I cannot lie and say that I never cheated (because um YEAH I DID!) the improvements in my diet are astounding. Who knew I could actually enjoy oats for breakfast? Brown rice with chicken breast and brocolli for lunch? Eating more during the day and less at night seemed like the strangest concept to me and I am proud to say that I think I have my portion sizes right for the first time in my life.

As far as actual exercise and weight loss go – I have put my body through the ringer and pulling it back into line has been no easy feat. I am a whinger by nature (stop nodding and laughing RIGHT NOW VALVO!) My mind gives up long before my body does and mastering that is still a work in progress. Consistently losing both kilos and centimetres off my stomach every week has been the propellant that has fueled my fire during this challenge. Without it I would have given up weeks ago. Consistently heading to P.T sessions, group classes and individual gym sessions has been setting a routine for myself that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

I have gone from an XL to a M in shirt sizes, a 38 – 34 (possibly 32 soon!) in pants sizes. My face is considerably slimmer as is my side fat which I am happy to say is pretty non-existent these days. Yes I still have a bit of a belly, but rome wasn’t built in a day. Getting fit is a long term commitment and 10 years of abuse magically go away in a mere 12 weeks.

Internally I have never felt such clarity, I have never felt more together. During the 12 week challenge I left a horrible, shitty job that was dragging me down emotionally and professionally, and plucked up the courage to apply for a job I want and is a career. Fortunately for me after a couple of weeks of horrifying unemployment I was accepted into the position and am now back on track in the career that I want. I have started dating again and am not ashamed to be myself. I love being around people again and don’t feel like the fat, ugly lump everyone is obligatory nice to. I am no longer embarrassed to be seen in public and in photos and it is something that I never thought would happen again.

Like any challenge as much as you do by yourself, it is the people that you surround yourself with that help you on your journey. I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by some of the best people on the planet who have helped me through this journey. If I have forgotten you I apologise in advance.

Levi Valvo – the trainer, creepzilla extraordinaire himself! I am sick of writing nice things about you. So all I will say is this, until I met you I thought I only had one brother. Now I believe I have two. Your patience, your energy, your humour, your belief in me, especially when I didn’t believe in myself goes beyond what anyone else has ever done for me. Thank you for pushing me, while making me laugh the whole time. Never stop believing in the power of what you do and who you are because it is inspiring and I am so glad you are in my life. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!

Corinne, Sophie and Tahlia – you girls have given me the harsh truth when I needed it (I never did get that schnitzel!)  given me encouragement and kept me sane between exercise and catch ups. It is so good to have honest friends who tell it like it is. Thank you so much.

Hannah Birdy bird – you girl are amazing! So beautiful, so talented, so sexy! You are friends with me through everything and nothing changes that. Thank you for being there for me through fat and thin and my life is so much better because of you.

Pinny & Grant – no-one encourages me with weight loss and to be myself as much as you guys have. It is hard to believe that we have known each other for 5 years now and you have always been there and encouraged me through everything and I will always treasure our friendship no matter where we are in the world.

Dante – your journey started way way back and seemed so impossible when I thought about doing it. Thank you for listening to me when I was frustrated and being “the gay inspirational guy”

To my brother who took my phone calls and is another “harsh truth” person I love you, and I am so happy to say that my pant size is smaller than yours now hahaha! MY sister you crazy freak you make me laugh so much!

To my parents who love me if i’m fat or thin, your encouragement during this and support, even when i was tired and cranky. Thanks for making profiteroles with homemade chocolate sauce and whipped cream and then telling me they didn’t taste that great anyway, then for not saying anything when 2 mysteriously disappeared overnight because I gave in to my cravings.

Crazy Carol – Girl you are the hardest working fitness freak ever! You have worked so hard in this challenge and am so proud of what you have achieved in such a short time with everything else going on in your life. Don’t ever stop because you have an amazing story!

Michelle & Bianca – for keeping me in check when Una’s and Messina were crying out to me. Thank you for eating pizza in front of me and thai…and chocolate…yeah thanks bitches! haha

Before things get too mushy I have to reflect on where I came from. Before this started my whole life was a mess, I was working in a dead end job, I was addicted to Zoloft and would spend my whole existence in a foggy haze in which I never really felt like I was existing. I drifted from day to day in a moody non-existence, where my feelings were controlled by the amount of food I ate. I drifted away from society finding solace in video games and movies, in which I could just sit back and watch and not have to interact with the outside world. Some would call this agoraphobia, I don’t think I was that bad…or maybe I was. I pushed so many friends away through this illness and have lost many treasured relationships because of the way that I was.

This challenge has brought me out of my shell, to be the happy and loud person I know I really am. I am no longer too shy to hi to people and make new friends. This is always the person that I wanted to be and was when I was younger. 2 years ago I was standing on top of a mountain ready to end it all, I was controlled by medication I was told was going to help, unwilling to help myself and ready to take my own life, I knew that I had to give my life one more shot. I had to find something that worked, I had to find something that would heal me that didn’t involve medication. I spent the next year eating my feelings and remaining stagnant. My dose of the anti-depressants increased and I lost everything. I moved back home with my parents as I lost my job because I had no concentration or reliability. I would spend my nights just in a vacant haze playing video games or watching movies not wanting to interact with the world.

I had to start work again because I thought maybe it would be the thing that would pull me out of my situation. Did it? Of course not! But I kept at it because it got me out of the house and justified my weekends locked away in my room watching movies and playing games. Eating whatever I want, I was consistently putting on weight every week and not caring about what this was doing to my body. It wasn’t until one day at work when I caught myself in the mirror and thought “wow! you are really fat!” and that was the thought that changed my mind. I found a gym on the way home from work so I would be accountable for going, I found a trainer who knew what he was doing and knew about nutrition and could understand and care about my unique situation.

I started going to the gym for a while and was still taking my antidepressants, when this challenge started I took my last one the day before and threw the rest and my prescription away. This was one of the most scariest things I have done in my life, I was leaving myself completely to fitness and to my own mind. I had no idea if I would be ready, would I turn to alcohol and food again as a coping mechanism? The whole idea scared me out of my mind. During this time I could feel my brain getting stronger every day. I poured all of my sadness and depression into my workouts and little by little the wall that was up in my brain, starting slowly deteriorating. It wasn’t easy, there were days when I didn’t want to get out of bed and exercise, I had to force myself out and even when my brain was telling me to cry and lock everything out, I pushed through and forced myself to keep going. I did have support from friends and family but I still believe that the willpower and effort it took me to do this is the biggest breakthrough of this challenge.

So where do I stand now? I don’t even think about the pills anymore, I am not 100% happy all the time but I am happier. I know that I have the strength to overcome anything, I have a strong and healthy core and it can weather any storm that life throws my way. I keep active and fit to stay healthy and this contributes to my happiness, but is not the sole factor of it. This challenge has shifted my brain and my body and I can finally start living again. I have emerged from my self-imposted cocoon of sadness, I have busted through the shell, fighting the whole way and am ready to fight and live an inspiring and meaningful life. This challenge does not stop here, my attitude to food and fitness has changed and I will keep the lessons I have learned here for the rest of my life.

Here is to a happy life, a healthy life, a fit life, a life that is worth talking about, a life that is worth writing about, a life that will hopefully inspire and help someone else. Before this challenge I believed it impossible that fitness could help depression, now I believe that along with counselling, healthy eating, supportive friends and family it is the reason I am still here today. I didn’t wait for someone to save me, I was the sole administrator of my own rescue.

I am stronger than depression, I am larger than loneliness and NOTHING will ever exhaust me.



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