For Meagan all it took was a pair of shoes to transform herself

MeaganJ

When Elan asked me to share my personal story I said ‘yes!’ without hesitation. Putting that story into words is a bit more of a challenge… where does one even begin?

 Just under 4 years ago, I was weighing in at 86kg+, with a BMI of 34 and wearing a pant size of 40! I was obese and depressed. I was extremely negative, absolutely hating life and myself.  How on earth had I fallen so far into this bottomless pit?

 MeaganJ

The start of it all


Thinking back, my weight gain was the accumulation of many factors. I was always a big kid and also the heaviest amongst my peers. Being called chubby, big boned, stocky etc. has a way of defining you (in your own mind) as exactly that. I wasn’t terribly unhappy or self-conscious about this until the bullying started. Suddenly finding yourself without a friend in the world at the onset of your teens is a lonely place.

Massive insecurities surfaced, and my confidence disappeared. Not wanting my parents to know (seeing it as a failure) I pretended everything was fine at school when the truth was I was dying inside. And so the start of my secret life began… I turned to food as a source of comfort. When I was full I couldn’t feel my emotions anymore, so eating became my escape and secret hobby.

High school was better and I made new friends but the self-hatred and insecurities never disappeared and neither did my secret hobby. This was compounded by the fact I also never really knew what healthy eating was. I used to eat pasta for breakfast and 4 pies in one sitting! I played so much sport in high school (6 days a week) that I just maintained my chubbier than average size. As one can imagine, going to varsity the sport stopped and the drinking ensued.

My weight skyrocketed. I made various attempts at losing weight – trying to play squash, riding the Argus or joining the gym but the problem was I was too self-conscious and used every excuse in the book for a reason not to go. To be honest I don’t think I ever tried hard enough, it was always easier to resort to food to cure a bad day or simply for pleasure. I blamed genes for the way I was – predisposed to putting on weight.

Then I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome… now I had a further excuse to explain away my size – it was my hormones! I went to see a dietician, learning about better food choices and a balanced diet and managed to lose 12kg in the process, but quickly piled it all back on and more. My efforts never lasted long due to the fact I found them too hard or not as fun as, well, eating. I was always sick with no energy and had become somewhat of a hermit. I realise now I was not prepared to change my lifestyle in pursuit of better health and happiness… one needs to address the underlying cause and not the symptom itself.

 

The turning point


This brings me back to my turning point 4 years ago. I had an amazing boyfriend of 5.5 years at the time, but placing all your self-worth and happiness in one person is a recipe for disaster. The relationship ended and so too, I thought, my life. I was distraught, having no sense of value or who I was and felt completely out of control.

There was a beast staring back at me in the mirror and the reality of how I had let myself go hit. Even food was no longer a comfort as I was so sick with grief I could not eat.  I absolutely hated myself and my life and blamed the failed relationship on what I had become. I desperately needed an escape from my reality or simply a means to cope.

 

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All it took was a pair of shoes


Would you believe that all it took was a pair of shoes? Desperate to clear my head, I literally laced up a pair of squash shoes and decided to get out of the house (and my comfort zone), and just like that I started running. I must have run less than 100 metres to start, walking when my lungs and legs couldn’t take it anymore.

The strangest mental shift happened when I realised running was the only thing that ceased the negative thoughts – it actually made me feel capable again.  I wasn’t thinking about anything else but how I am going to make the next few steps ahead. Soon the determination to prove something of myself took over. It started with plotting a 4km route from my house.

I would run until I couldn’t anymore (which was not very far) and then I would walk. I made sure I covered the distance every day no matter how long it took me or how much I struggled. With no queues or time restrictions suddenly I had no excuses not to run… all I needed to do was step out of my front door.

I was slow and beyond unfit, but with each outing I would run just that little bit further and the added bonus was the kilograms were beginning to shed. I also stumbled onto the infamous ‘runners high,’ a very welcome sense of happiness started to return.

With this new found focus I decided to enter the 10km Gun Run (exactly a month after my very first run). On race day I didn’t walk once – sure I was slow, clocking around 75 mins, but crossing that finish line and absolutely balling my eyes out as I did, I knew I had reached a turning point in my life.

 

The Impossible just takes longer…


8 months later and 21kg lighter, I completed the Two Oceans and my very first half marathon (the furthest I had run before being 11km) all with only the sheer determination that I would do it! Two Oceans or any running for that matter was something I always deemed personally IMPOSSIBLE! Yes I was sporty at school but never athletic or one for endurance. I never saw the point of people doing events – who wouldn’t want to sleep-in instead?

My new-found passion for running is true testament to the mental shift that had taken place within me, slowly I began to realise how important it is to achieve goals for yourself and nobody else and that positive action leads to positive change. I started entering any event I could, from 5km fun runs, 15km mountain bike rides, 106km Amashova cycle races, Impi Challenge, 10km trail runs to half marathons.

Running and events in general equipped me with the skills to handle other challenges life would throw at me because it teaches you patience and perseverance.  With every new achievement I would prove to myself I was capable of more and I was stronger than I thought. It gives you focus to achieve your personal best – I knew now not to give up on myself so easily, that if I just put my head down and persevered I would get through whatever it was I was dealing with. Eating was no longer my go to source for comfort.

With my new fitness I joined Villagers Squash Club and reignited my passion for squash – playing twice a week in the Men’s and Ladies leagues. Sport had now become very much a part of my daily life and it is fun! Suddenly my confidence was at an all time high, people noticed the positive change in my attitude socially and in the workplace, they could literally see my happiness exuding. All of which was achieved without stepping foot into a gym or any extremes of a strict diet. This change in lifestyle did not involve anything extreme for that matter. I simply:

a) Started doing something I enjoyed which added value to my day.
b) Made healthier food choices in general such as coke light instead of coke or fruit juice, limited carb intake according to what I had learned at the dietician, and healthier snacks such as smoothies or low fat yoghurt.

I still went out to dinner and partied with friends, but in far more balance than I had ever done before.

 
Not all plain sailing


That said, it has not all been plain sailing since. I have fallen off the wagon more times than I can count due to various life events such as failed relationships, family deaths, illness, stressful times in the office, bouts of depression and demotivation etc… Each of these times I would turn to my die hard old habit of binge eating for a while, until I would realise the error of my ways. Such is life.

 There will always be ups and downs and I know there are more to come. What matters is that I have never gone back to the extreme of my old self. With each falling off the wagon and subsequent dusting off, a new lesson has been learnt, some of them being:

 

a)     Do not seek validation from anyone else but yourself.

 

b)     Only you have the power to change your reality.

 

c)     Change only happens when you truly make a long-term commitment to yourself.

 

d)     There are no short-cuts in life, success is achieved through balance in all areas.

 

e)     The goal is health and mental well-being, the aesthetics are the cherry on top.

 

f)      True happiness is within the journey, not the destination.

 

g)     Surround yourself with groups and people of similar interests – SleekGeek and Red Sock Friday are awesome! [Join Sleekgeek Group

 

 A new challenge… The 8-Week Sleekgeek Comeback Kid Challenge


Towards the end of last year I was so stressed out at work I had lost my passion for life. I struggled getting out of bed in the mornings. Even exercise would not help lift the perpetual black cloud; I was simply going through the motions of merely existing from one day to the next. I found I had become bored with my routines and had entered the Argus and Two Oceans out of habit and not actual drive to complete them. I had tried to start fitness routines and eating well only to have a bad day and eat myself into oblivion. I felt the old habits returning. I was desperate.

Oddly on the 5th of March I stumbled upon Seone Maskell’s personal story [Read it here ] and saw it had been posted in ‘SleekGeek.’

At first I honestly thought SleekGeek was some new exercise/diet gimmick group, but was intrigued as I found Seone’s story inspiring. I then went onto the website and found a few more testaments and read a bit more on what SleekGeek is about.

I followed on Twitter [Follow @sleekgeekSA] and the following tweet came through ‘Last night to enter the Comeback Kid Challenge, deadline has been extended!’ Not one to shy away from a challenge and really needing a push, I had to find out what this was about.

At first I was sceptical, especially when I saw you had to pay R500 to enter, and I was literally on my last dime, but decided ‘what the hell, I need SOMETHING to get me out of this rut’ and entered.

I started with the Sleegeek REBOOT 30 day Detox [Read about the REBOOT here] after never having gone a day without sugar. Suddenly I was on a 30 day detox that cut out carbs, sugar, dairy and booz! It forced me to think of food as fuel rather than pleasure. Once the cravings subsided, I realised I was more in tune with my body and my energy levels and moods were better. That was 9 weeks ago.

At first the challenge was tough on many levels, but over the weeks the nutrition, weight training and early morning classes at the gym became very much a part of my lifestyle. I also completed my 5th Argus Cycle Tour with a personal best of 4:13 and ran my 4th Two Oceans during the challenge. I completed the challenge fitter, lighter and more toned than ever before!

In total I lost 5.3kg and just over 37cm as well as standing 2cm taller! Despite the prizes on offer, first prize is how I feel within myself. The challenge and supportive SleekGeek community put me back onto the road to where I want to be, a place I never dared to dream possible. I have now registered to run the New York Marathon in November… watch this space!

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The Lesson

To this day I have lost 27kg from my turning point 4 years ago. I’ve gone from a size 40 to 32; from a negative, depressed individual to someone who is positive and has passion and energy for life. I am grateful for my path… it has taught me humility, and has equipped me to chase my dreams. I have landed a job as Creative Director in Bermuda…  yes I am going to work on a tropical island doing what I love! I am leaving the country at the end of the month to begin a totally new adventure. If it wasn’t for the path that lies behind me I would never be where I am now.

What we forget is that it takes a lifetime to pile on the weight and all the surrounding negativity that comes with it, but we expect instant results and gratification in trying to lose it. A lasting change is not found through shortcuts or any magic pill.

What is true, however, is that anything is attainable with the right attitude, guts and determination.

If I can do it, believe me, so can you.

Meagan x

  • Meagan Jackson is a creative director living in Cape Town, soon to be Bermuda.

 

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