Member Stories

2022 Healthy Life Awards Health Improvement winner Mary Shalala

Mary lost 31kg over 12 months. Read her inspiring story about turning around obesity and a multitude of health issues from migraines to joint pain to an active lifestyle, pain-free life full of energy and fun!
Published 20 September 2022

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Life before WW was a struggle on so many levels. I was constantly pushing myself past the point of pain and discomfort just to get through each day. I was riddled with inflammatory arthritis and suffered from many weight and diet related conditions that impaired my movement, physical health, emotional wellbeing, engagement in social events and general attitude to life. I felt like I'd completely let myself go. My partner at the time, and I, were eating on the run most days, comfort eating savory and sweet snacks every day, with no awareness or interest in the nutritional or caloric content of our foods.

My conditions continued to worsen, so by the time I finally sought help from WW I was bordering diabetes, high cholesterol, severe sleep apnoea, chronic fatigue, generalised inflammation, arthritic pain with restriction in most of my joints, and difficulty with basic mobility, requiring full assistance to go upstairs or even stand from a sitting position.

On top of that I had a prolapsed C5 spinal disc with nerve impingement and inflammatory bursitis in shoulders, requiring surgery. I had finally been accepted by a Pain Management Clinic after a seven month wait and was reliant on strong medication for management of pain, inflammation, anxiety, and depression.

The team at the Pain Management Clinic reinforced to me that the majority of my medical issues were due to and or exacerbated by my weight and my dietary intake of high inflammatory foods. I was 99.8kg and I heard for the first time that my weight was in the obesity category. I was told that if I could lose even 10 kilos then I could significantly reduce my symptoms but losing that much weight felt like an absolute impossibility. I realised that the ball was in my court to make effective and positive change, but I had no idea how to do that or where to start, and in my heart of hearts, I never for a minute believed that this goal was attainable.

My friends rallied to help me with advice coming hard and fast re all the different weight loss programs, that relied heavily on either fasting, deprivation of food groups, unbalanced dietary intake, unrealistic eating, or regimes that could cause dire medical issues, if not closely monitored. I knew that these were unsustainable and would set me up to fail. The friend I resonated with most was one who spoke of her WW journey, with enjoyment of healthy eating, using all food groups, having flexibility, choice, ease, great resources, community sharing, education and information, physical and virtual workshops, 24/7 support and so much more. I signed up to WW that day and I have never looked back since.

It’s safe to say that WW has completely changed my life on so many levels. I have lost over 31 kilos in just over a year and whilst that is just a number, here's what it translated to in real life:

First and foremost, I have been completely pain-free for over six months now and I am no longer reliant on strong analgesics and anti-inflammatory medications to get me through each day.

As a result of both dietary change and increased physical movement, my blood sugar and cholesterol levels are now within normal range.

When, at my worst with arthritic pain and inflammatory disease, I relied on my family to push me up the stairs to my bedroom, one slow step at a time, but I now run up and down stairs with ease and speed, as if that is my normal.

Recent blood tests have shown significantly lowered readings for the inflammatory markers but the absence of the symptoms on my lungs, skin, and bowels, are what has given me greatest relief.

My upper body weight loss has freed up pressure on my airways, significantly reducing my sleep apnoea, so I no longer need to use the CPAP machine at night.

I no longer suffer from chronic fatigue, insomnia, or anxiety. I am energetic and able bodied and now my home renovations are back in full swing with me doing the majority of the work on my own.

My regular migraines are a thing of the past, as is my brain fog.

My blood pressure is back to normal and my immune response is great.

I really believe I have a new lease on life and I feel 20 years younger. I am so much lighter, inside, and out.

The WW program is what makes weight loss so easy, manageable and sustainable for life. All the hard work is done for me, with the calculation of nutritional value in each food being converted into a Points system that makes adhering to this program simple. It allows for a personalised plan that incorporates my favourite foods. I am able to continue to eat foods that make me smile, enjoy my cultural dishes shared with loved ones, and still lose weight because of all the healthier choices I am now making.

The most notable impact that WW has had on my life was on the complete turn around of my medical conditions. I had been progressively gaining weight and becoming more and more riddled with ailments and after only one year with WW, the transformation was simply incredible and unbelievable. I am still in shock at how different my life looks now and how many changes took effect after losing 31 kilos.

Separate to the medical improvements were the many changes to other parts of my life. I got my confidence back and found that skip in my beat. I'm often asked where I get all my energy from. I am loving my flexibility, light footedness and zest for life and taking on new projects with excitement, confidence, and passion.

Movement in general is so much easier for me with 31 kilos less to carry, so I am engaging in many physical activities such as dancing, bush walking, rowing, home renovating and furniture restoration.

I have replaced the temporary comfort I got from eating junk food with comfort I get from loving myself enough to eat healthy, wholesome, and nutritional food and experimenting with new and exciting recipes that satisfy the palate and make me feel great for longer. As much as I never believed that this could happen, I now can easily walk through the lollies and chips aisle without having any seemingly magnetic pull.

I threw out my size 18 - 20 clothes and am now loving my new wardrobe of fashionable and funky size 10 clothing. I feel healthy, sexy, youthful and light hearted again. I am socialising so much more and enjoying new friendships and healthy relationships.

It may be that 31 kilos have been shifted, but for me, it feels like the weight of the world has been lifted. I am so incredibly happy. I love my life and I am so proud of myself and so grateful to WW.