We first met Monica Jessop back in July last year as a monthly winner of the BodyBlitz challenge

Charlie Suriano

Her inspiring story – she lost 13 kilos while managing type 1 diabetes and three active kids – impressed the judges and saw her awarded the title of 2011 BodyBlitz Grand Champion.
The 38-year-old from Mildura in northern Victoria describes the experience as surreal, having never expected to achieve such great results, let alone sit atop the winner’s podium.
“I am a regular mum and part-time worker with a busy lifestyle,” she says. “I did nothing unbelievable except make a commitment to myself and my family to get fit and strong.
“I feel confident, happy and more at peace with who I am and where I am going. This journey has been exciting and never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be crowned BodyBlitz Grand Champion.”

In the beginning
After having three children (aged six, three and 15 months) in five years, Monica was aching to get back in shape. During the 12-week challenge she took on a new job while still breastfeeding and her eldest child started school – add to that a new exercise routine and revamped diet and life was busy to say the least.
Monica says the hardest part of the BodyBlitz challenge was finding time to exercise, but treating her workouts like any other appointment was the key to her success.
“I could exercise at home or take the kids for a walk in the pram, but I needed to make my time work more efficiently. So I looked at going to the gym as an appointment – if I had to go for coffee with girlfriends then it would be after the gym or another time.
“There is a crèche at my gym, which is fantastic as I have no family in my town who can help me out.”
Being diabetic, Monica had long eaten a diet low in sugar and fat, but during the challenge discovered the benefits of eating more protein.
“I am a big believer in protein for breakfast, snacks, lunch and dinner. This has been almost enlightening as snacks like cottage cheese, almonds, sliced chicken and tuna are healthy foods that I can have and I don’t need extra insulin for them – a win-win situation.”
The most enduring effect of the BodyBlitz challenge is the confidence Monica has gained and the pride she now has in her ability to enact change in her life.
“The confidence and pride I have in myself filters into other parts of my life. I hope I inspire other busy mums to care about who they are and show them that they can be more than a mum or wife or employee.
“Everyone deserves to be happy and for me how I perceive myself is paramount to how I live my life with family, friends and work. I really do believe that if people feel good about themselves they ooze happiness and acceptance.”

Change for good
Staying committed for 12 weeks is one thing; changing your life for good is entirely another – something that Monica has achieved with flying colours.
After winning the monthly BodyBlitz challenge, she took some time off and didn’t train as hard. Since then she has relaxed into a regular routine of taking the kids to the park regularly, social netball once a week and gym workouts three times a week.
“Exercise is still important but I am not in the gym every day like I was for the 12-week challenge. Most weeks I have two days rest and on the other days I do step aerobics, pump and have started RPM, which is fantastic for those inner leg muscles.
“I have returned to netball on Wednesdays and often fit in a walk if I don’t make it to the gym. I run in the park with the kids, play on the play equipment and swim with the kids a lot more than I ever used to. Feeling good makes me want to do good things with my kids and husband.”
Healthy eating is also more relaxed post challenge, but Monica’s diet has changed for good.
“The day after I had my photo taken after completing the challenge I couldn’t even eat a chocolate chip muffin – which I ate every second day prior to the challenge – as I didn’t even feel like it. I had lost the craving for sweet foods and actually thought about what I was eating.
“I try and adapt a recipe or meal for my needs. Food in the house does not include high fat or high sugar treats and I also keep portions down. I love soup in the winter and enjoy salads in the warmer months.”
Monica is grateful to her diet and exercise mentor and proud of the way she has incorporated the professional advice into her everyday life.
“My weakness is not being accountable for my own actions, so I used Sue Heintz’s health team to tailor a nutrition and training program and support me for the first 12 weeks – after that I was on my own. Now I continue to use the knowledge and skills I have gained in my everyday life. It is second nature to want to exercise, eat well and feel good.”

Future goals
Since the challenge, Monica has lost a further two kilos (15 in total) but says these days she doesn’t worry too much about the number on the scales – what’s important is how she feels.
“People continue to comment on my weight loss. Last year I went to a Christmas party in a size 12 dress – wow! I wore a bikini to the pool the other day and my husband did a double take.
“I haven’t done my measurements [recently] as I don’t want to get too caught up in the figures. I feel great and look great so they don’t mean that much to me any more.”
Over the summer Monica hiked the Overland Track in Tasmania’s Cradle Mountain region, a long held fitness goal that would have been near impossible at her old weight. 
“The Overland Track was fantastic – six nights of tenting, no showering, carrying a 15kg backpack, eating dehydrated foods and walking six to 10 hours a day. What a workout. My core strength has definitely improved as has my back strength and general toning.
“It was great challenge for my mind and body – a short escape from reality and a time to reflect on where I want to be for 2011.”
So what’s next for this adventure bunny? Monica says white water rafting down the Franklin River in Tasmania or the North Johnstone River in Queensland is her next fitness goal. In the meantime, it’s back to the day-to-day demands of a work and caring for three kids.
And her advice to other BodyBlitzers?
“I think anyone who eats well and does regular exercise should be crowned a champion because it takes time, effort and organisation to reach your health goals. All good things come to those who work at it, so don’t give up. If I can do it so can you!”

Shot on location and winners stayed courtesy of Rydges Melbourne www.rydges.com