When Felicity Dreyer caught sight of herself in a photograph taken on her birthday she was stunned and upset at her size. So shocked, in fact, that she decided there and then that she would have to do something drastic. And after sticking to her guns, a year later Felicity is a staggering 56kg lighter and feeling great.
“I realised that I was slowly killing myself with the extra weight brought on by my poor lifestyle. I was insulin resistant, had high blood pressure, I was on antidepressants, had terrible indigestion and heartburn as well as headaches most days. I had a malignant melanoma removed and three surgeries for breast cancer. I felt like I was tempting fate with all my extra weight!”
So in September 2013 she decided enough was enough, and she began her journey towards better health.
Tackling the diet
Felicity began by following the online group, SleekGeek, and began their recommended "Reboot" plan, which is a strict 30-day Paleo-style way of eating.
“I was very strict with myself because I knew I needed to re-educate my mind with regard to eating habits. This meant no sugar, no simple carbs, no dairy, no processed foods and no alcohol. It was quite an adjustment at first, but within days I started feeling so much better and the weight began to drop off.”
Read: Paleo: is it worth the switch?
Encouraged by an amazing 1.5kg weight loss a week, Felicity continued with this demanding eating plan. “At first I didn't worry about portion sizes. I felt it was more important to be eating the right foods.”
For Felicity, the hardest part of this weight loss and lifestyle change was adopting a habit of regular exercise. But she knew it was important, not just for her weight loss efforts, but to improve her overall health.
So she started with "Run/Walk for Life" three days a week, sticking to their programme to the letter.
Shortly after that she found a personal trainer who introduced her to weight training, and, much to her surprise, she discovered that she had a passion for Olympic weight lifting. Then it wasn’t long before Felicity added regular trail runs and hiking to her weekly exercise.
Read: Noakes backtracks on Dairy
Even when a hike up Lions Head resulted in a badly broken ankle she did not let this keep her from her new lifestyle. Despite being confined to a hospital bed for five weeks she continued training with her personal trainer using resistance bands. Once discharged from hospital she refused to let her injury keep her away from the gym and continued training with her trainer, despite the fact that she was confined to a wheelchair.
This determination and dedication paid off and within a few weeks she was running again and doing a weekly mountain hike to supplement her weight training at the gym.
‘If I can do it, so can you’
“I believe my new lifestyle is sustainable. And I have used this year to fine tune my nutrition to include foods that I enjoy, such as a couple of blocks of 85% cocoa Lindt chocolate when I need a little pick me up.”
Yet, despite her amazing journey, Felicity says she still focuses on small goals at a time, like losing 1kg a week.
“Don’t look at how much you have to lose in total – rather focus on a manageable target and then make it happen. The time will pass anyway and it's wonderful to look back and say that I'm so glad I started when I did.”
Read: Fad diets are hard work but can deliver
Her advice for others who are on the verge of changing their lifestyle is to find a diet plan that you will be able to sustain.
“I managed Christmas, New Year, and my daughter's engagement just a couple of months into this journey, and the feeling of having power over your food instead of the other way round is itself very empowering!
“It takes time and commitment to lose a lot of weight. You have to realise that and be prepared to invest that time. You have to stick with the programme and trust the process.”
How to maintain balance when dieting
Am I eating right to lose weight?
5 Common diet mistakes