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Single mom Jennifer Rorke loses 60kgs despite two chronic illnesses

Hi! My name is Jen. I’m 38 years old. I have two chronic illnesses – fibromyalgia and interstitial cystitis. I currently weigh 84kg and despite my challenges I have lost 60kgs. 

The interstitial cystitis I have lived with my whole life. It was misdiagnosed several times, and eventually only got properly diagnosed four years ago – when I also got diagnosed with fibromyalgia. I was told I would be on medication for the rest of my life – but let me go back a bit to give you all a bit of background on my life.

I was always an active. skinny kid. I could never sit still and was always doing some kind of sport – my favourite was swimming and gymnastics. Then I hit 13 and I started obsessing about my weight; even though I was skinny, I stopped eating and only ate once a day and became very ill. I was sent to a mental institution for a few months and this is where my unhealthy relationship with food started. I spent the next 35 years either being horribly underweight or overweight, even obese.

When I was at my biggest I weighed 144kgs and I was incredibly sick. I had type 2 diabetes, dangerously high cholesterol, and I was put on a stroke and heart attack warning list and had to carry around info about myself everywhere I went. On average I took 60 pills a day and resigned myself to having to live like that.

All of the medications I had been taking each came with their own side-effects, and every time I went to the doctor to talk about a particular side-effect I would get put on another pill to help with whatever I was feeling instead of the doctor just outright telling me to lose weight.

I was also in a destructive relationship and had very little love for myself. I was in pain daily and thought that self love was putting myself to bed with a bag of chips and binging on Netflix for weeks at a time and feeling really sorry for myself.

The turning point

In June last year I was introduced to a woman who taught  me about eating right to help with the inflammation and to cut down the acidity in my body ,and then my whole life started to change and I started weaning myself off all of my medication with the help of a doctor.

Once I started getting off my meds I started feeling alive again. I realised that I seriously needed to change – but I wanted and needed this time to be different; yes I wanted to lose that weight and be thin again, but more than that I wanted to be healthy and strong.

I set up some goals, wrote them down, and I started. That was the hardest thing I have done; I took myself for a walk around my complex, it wasn’t far – just 2000 steps – I got physically sick, I went home and threw up and everything hurt. I cried and felt really sorry for myself, but I got up the next day and did it again.

I got sick the first couple of times, but I carried on and eventually I was going around my complex twice, and then I was doing it twice a day, and then I started waking further and further. I cut out all refined carbs and I started eating meat, whereas previously I was a very unhealthy vegetarian. I started eating loads of steamed veggies and cut out all fizzy drinks and the weight just started dropping.

That’s when I decided to join a gym. That was in September 2017, I also quit smoking at the same time. I figured if I was going to change, then I would change everything.

I was doing all of this on my own until I joined the gym – wow, the trainers there – I literally owe my life to them! At the time I was also going through a very hard breakup and I would regularly run into my ex with his skinny new girlfriend at the gym but I didn’t give up. I would go to classes and cry and work out all the way through the class, and those trainers just high-fived me and gave me encouragement to carry on.

The first grid class I did I could only get through 2 rounds, I felt like maybe I was going to die.. I remember writing down my goals after that class and one of them was to be able to complete one full grid class, I kept going and each time I would do an extra round until one Sunday afternoon I went to a class and the trainer that day pushed me to do a complete class, I am so grateful to that trainer for helping me to see what I was capable of, I feel like after that day my training was seriously ramped up and I started pushing myself and challenging myself.

I however still felt a little lost and lonely through this as I lost a lot of friends because I no longer wanted to go out partying and choose gym over other things.

Enter Sleekgeek

I went to my first Sleekgeek Sunday morning walk, that’s where I met the most amazing inspirational people that have been so supportive towards me and my journey. These women have been my rock throughout my entire journey.

I joined the Sleekgeek Facebook Group, and suddenly everything wasn’t such a battle any more. There are thousands of people all going through similar journeys as myself, and so much love and support. Finally I found my tribe, and I found the strength to carry on. That was when I started getting really serious about my health and fitness.

The things I struggle with living with chronic illnesses are; if I push myself too hard I literally cannot move the next day, I’m used to pain and live in pain daily so I tend to ignore certain pain and injure myself more, I have dislocated my knee twice in 7 months. I am literally nauseous all the time, sometimes I deal with it better than other times.

I struggle to differentiate between weather I am really tired or just being lazy. I get scared of being sick and going to bed because I spent 12 years in bed being sick so rest days are tough on me, I need to change my mindset around them.

These are my fitness goals:

  1. To be able to do an unassisted pull up
  2. To run a marathon
  3. To do the warrior
  4. To weigh 75kg
  5. Muscles

This is what my life is like today:

I have reversed my type 2 diabetes, which means I no longer need medication for it.

My cholesterol is down to a manageable level, which means I no longer need medication for it.

My fibromyalgia is still here, but I manage it through my eating and working out – which means I no longer need medication for it.

I still have interstitial cystitis, but as with the fibro, I manage it with diet and exercise – but I do occasionally still take medication for when the pain is unbearable.

I no longer need to take medication for anxiety or depression.

I changed my gym times so that I don’t have to see my ex – yes, that means sometimes waking up at 4am to workout at 5am, but it’s worth it!

A typical day goes like this for me:

Wake up and  have a mug of green tea – no sugar, no honey. Take my daughter to school (yes, I’m a single parent too!), go to the gym, drink a protein shake when I’m done, work and while working drink water and snack on carrots or apples or biltong.

Lunch is always a salad with either tuna or chicken. I pick up my daughter from school at 5pm, get home, put running clothes on, take myself and one of my dogs for a run (usually 5km), come home and do sit ups (I currently do 200 a day ).

Then I make dinner – protein plus veggies – then shower and go to bed.

I eat really clean, I’m very strict with myself about this, I have food addictions and need to be hardcore with my eating. I also don’t keep a scale at home in case I develop an unhealthy obsession with the numbers.

I work out 6 days a week, Wednesdays are my rest days, it helps me to have a midweek break. I do strength training 4 days a week and cardio on the other 2 days, Im still new to strength training but it makes me feel badass

People keep asking me how I lost so much weight or how I got so healthy. The answer is – just do it. Get up off the couch and do it, go for a walk or a run or ride your bike – whatever it is that inspires you, just do it. I promise you, it is so incredibly worth it. This is your life, no one else is going to live it for you, be sure you are living your life to the fullest.

I still have work that I need to do on myself physically and emotionally but I am proud of how far I have come and all the hard work and dedication that I have put in to my health journey, and if I and do it, so can you.

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