Penny Raggett’s return from obesity and depression to vitality and happiness proves it’s never too late to make a change.

Penny Raggert  after BodyBlitz 12-week challenge - Women's Health & Fitness

I’ve been on the weight loss merry-go-around for most of my adult life. I have bounced between the high 50 kg up to the high 70s – peaking at 80 kg – so many times it makes my head spin. I started this 12-week challenge an overweight 39-year-old, who had started a descent into depression and who was barely surviving, let alone thriving.

I was fat, unhealthy, bloated and unhappy. Furthermore, I suffered from hypertension, which I needed medication to control. I’ll be honest (at the risk of sounding like a drama queen), I loathed my reflection; when I saw myself in the mirror I felt the prickle of anxiety at how much weight I was carrying and I was so frustrated at not being able to control it. I was also panicked at the possibility that my weight problem and hypertension could take me out with a stroke or heart attack.

My weight gain and lack of confidence also had a major impact on me psychologically. I use to be a very sociable person, who loved getting out and about. But since gaining weight and losing control of my appearance I stopped going out and catching up with friends, opting to hide at home with my big t-shirts and ‘fat pants’. It separated me from my friends and impacted on my relationships with my husband and daughter. To make this easier to deal with, I’d wash it down with one or two bottles of red wine! That’s my problem. It doesn’t lie in the training – I actually love to exercise. My problem is with the types of food, and alcohol, I put into my mouth! Add an old pattern of mine, of not following things through, and it was no wonder I was sliding butt-first into obesity. I have started so many 12-week challenges and have never completed one of them (one only lasted one day). In fact, I have so many ‘before’ photos, it’s like watching myself get fat in slow motion!

Penny Raggett before starting the Bodyblitz 12-week challenge - Women's Health & Fitness

Then I experienced a moment I think we all have, when we realise we can’t keep going along the same path; something has to give. Mine was when I realised I was a size 16 squeezing into a size 14; it was either a new wardrobe and a resignation to being fat until I died of a stroke or heart attack, or taking control of my weight, dumping the excess kilos and looking forward to a healthy and happy future. I knew which one I wanted; I just needed to know how to achieve it.

The first thing I had to do was to wrap my head around the idea that I could do it – that if I really wanted to change, I could take those steps to change my life. Getting in the right head space is important. Secondly, I handed over my diet to someone who knew what they were doing because diet is the big game player in weight loss, and I knew this was where I had fallen down in the past. You can train as hard as you like, but if your diet isn’t what it should be, chances are you are already setting yourself up for failure. I opted with an online diet plan from Kristen Lonie, who had achieved fabulous results with her own body transformation, going on to kick some serious butt on the world stage in body sculpting/building. Not only did she clean up my diet and give me the confidence I needed to lose weight, she also helped out with bits of motivation and inspiration when I needed it.

Next on my list was the planning stage. This was another integral step to succeeding. Every Sunday I would look at the week ahead and pencil in the time of day I would be training and what I would be doing. I made exercise just as important as brushing my teeth, taking a shower and going to work. There was no excuse of running out of time or being too busy. Sunday was also my food preparation day, when I made all my salads up for the week ahead so I had more time on work days to train instead of worrying about prepping food. It also ensured that I wouldn’t skip a meal or opt for an unhealthy or processed meal because I had ‘run out of time’ to prepare something healthy. (I would have up to 10 containers of salad in my fridge for the week ahead and they stayed as fresh as the day I made them!)

The 12 weeks were not without their hurdles. In my first week I suffered a lower back injury, which put me out of action for a week. But Kristen assured me that if I kept to my clean diet I would still lose weight, and she was right. Then I caught the flu during the last three weeks of the challenge and again I couldn’t exercise as I had planned. There were a few days when I felt so sick I made a few poor choices with my diet, but as soon as I felt a bit better, I was back on the wagon. The lesson I learnt is that injury, illness and unplanned events are no excuse to give up; you need to dust yourself off and keep going. The same goes for ‘falling off the wagon’; we all do it and you’ve just got to put it behind you and hop back on.

I ended this 12-week challenge almost eight kilograms lighter and almost a different person. In 12 short weeks I went from miserable to happy and super excited about my future. I am energised, confident and back out there socialising and enjoying my life. Relationships have been rebuilt and others have been strengthened, and there are so many good times ahead to look forward to. And as for my prickly hypertension, it’s finally under control!

For anyone thinking about a lifestyle and diet overhaul, just do it! Regaining control of your body and health impacts every area of your life and you will watch as other things slowly fall into place.

I still have a few more kilos to drop and a few more muscles to pump up, but I feel great knowing I am well on my way. My personal mantra during the challenge? ‘I don’t stop when I am tired; I stop when I am done!’

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