After two pregnancies and battling her weight and body image troubles for more than a decade, Jessica Whaler has found her best post-baby body.

I grew up a competitive swimmer and throughout my teens I only knew what it felt like to be super fit. When I quit swimming, after being so disciplined for the majority of my life, I threw myself full throttle into late nights, parties, drinking, smoking, late-night kebabs and hangover food. In my early 20s I started gaining weight. I have no issue with admitting that I used alcohol as a crutch socially and that I spent a decade comforting myself with food.

I quit the nightlife and the lifestyle that ensued for the birth of my first son, but gained 30 kilos in that pregnancy, a post-partum weight of 95 kilos. In the years that followed I lost a total of 40 kilograms. The breakdown of my marriage by my son’s third birthday and the depression that followed caused my eating habits to wain and I became quite thin. I was not eating enough for my body and although I was petite, I was tired and iron deficient.
After a tumultuous introduction to the dating world for the first time in over a decade, I met Dustin. He introduced me to weightlifting and I fell in love. When I became pregnant with my second son I was fit and strong. There are so many women out there who manage to stay fit during pregnancy…kudos to them! However, that’s just not me. I battled morning sickness and lethargy and by the third trimester I didn’t care about anything except eating. I had grand plans that all went out the window and I compared myself to examples of fit pregnant women and then I made myself miserable about it. Throughout my life I’d spent so much time comparing myself to others, this time I chose to stop that nonsense immediately. I relaxed about everything and simply enjoyed myself for the remainder of the pregnancy and looked forward to my return to exercise, with the incentive being the BodyBlitz challenge.

Having a goal with a deadline to work toward definitely gave me the motivational kick that I required. I have attempted to enter in 2007 and 2011, never completing the 12 weeks. Not even coming close. I didn’t want to be that person again, I didn’t want to give up! Now, weight training has become a part of my life; it has been great for my mind and my body, I am confident and I am happier. I am now addicted to feeling good and getting that feeling from exercise instead of food.

On overcoming challenges:
I started the competition and was going really well, I lost seven kilos in the first five weeks and then I tripped while walking my son to school, falling forward and rolling onto my shoulder at great velocity, injuring my trapezius muscle, putting myself out of training for three weeks. In my defeatist 20s I definitely would have given up, but now I’m in what I am calling my power 30s and I kept going. I kept eating really well and walked slowly and gradually introduced exercise again. Even if I didn’t win, I was going to cross the finish line!

On workout motivation:
Any cardio exercise that I did to complement my weights program I made sure to include my children as much as possible, I walked my eldest to school each morning and home every afternoon. On weekends I planned active adventures with the whole family. I also looked for incidental exercise wherever possible.

On food swaps:
During the 12 weeks, my partner and I bounced off each other, inventing healthy low-carb high-protein meals. It was fantastic – we both missed junk food and sugar together. We enjoy the occasional carb load now, but we keep it to Friday nights and once a week now we are in more of a maintenance mode.

On cheats:
I will not lie, I did indulge in a few little goodies over Easter, but rather than quitting I put the long weekend behind me and started fresh again, determined to make up for it the following week. This was different than anything I have done in the past. The old me would have given up, thinking I had messed up and fallen off the wagon, and just forgotten about the competition. But I was determined to finish this time and I wasn’t going to let some chocolate get in the way.

On measurements:
I don’t even care about the measurements because my body feels strong and toned. I am absolutely stoked – I look amazing and better than I did throughout my 20s pre children. My confidence is through the roof because I look and feel great.

On goals:
I want to keep working out and get into bodybuilding, powerlifting or Olympic weightlifting, or all of those! I love to compete and have goals to work toward. So watch this space! This is just the beginning.

Breakfast: Egg white, mozzarella and short-cut, fat-trimmed bacon omelette every morning

Snack: Low-fat cheese slice with six wholemeal rice crackers

Lunch: Barbequed (grilled) chicken breast with zucchini and cottage cheese

Snack: Apple

Dinner: Bolognaise sauce with super-lean mince and zucchini pasta

Snack: Greek yoghurt with teaspoon of peanut butter


Monday: Weights (combination of hypertrophy & max strength)

Tuesday: 60-minute walk in sunshine with son in baby carrier

Wednesday: Weights

Thursday: 60-minute walk in sunshine with son in baby carrier

Friday: Weights

Saturday: Outdoors exercise with family –

Sunday: Incidental exercise (shopping, groceries, chores)/ Active Recovery