Illness or injury

"After cancer treatment I wanted to be fit & strong."

After a shock cancer diagnosis, Morag was inspired to make her health a priority.

Morag's weight loss story

Name: Morag Gray
Weight loss: 24.5 kg
Was: 105.4 kg
Now: 80.9 kg
Height: 1.80 m
Age: 45
How long it took: 55 weeks
How she did it: Group Coaching in Mt Annan, NSW, with Coach Marie Elliott.

Then & Now
Morag before and now

Something wasn’t right
For more than two years my doctor assured me there was nothing to worry about, but there was a little lump on the side of my face. I always woke up feeling off and I had a gut feeling. I knew. Fast-forward to a check-up with a different doctor, a whirlwind trip to a specialist and being rushed into surgery, the results came in: there was a malignant tumour in my salivary gland. I had cancer.

Life changed in an instant
Everything changes after being given news like that. You start to think about all these crazy things: How did this happen to me? Why is this happening to me? Who’s going to look after the kids? You start planning your funeral without even meaning to. It’s horrible. But, 30 radiation treatments later – squeezed in during the school holidays and after work – and everything changed again for me. Most of all, my outlook took a turn. Before the diagnosis, I wasn’t happy being overweight. But back then, I was more worried about my image and how I looked.

My health and happiness became priority

After finishing my radiation treatment, my health and happiness became the most important thing. I’d done Weight Watchers a few times before and had always dropped kilos, but I’d never hit my Goal weight. This time, I wanted to do things differently. My new mantra was to be fit, healthy and strong. I wasn’t going to focus on the big picture – I was going to concentrate on losing 5kg at a time and rewarding myself as I went. Occasionally, I’d find myself complaining about things, and then I’d remember: I’m alive, I have nothing to complain about.

"I’ve lost almost 25 kg, so sometimes I’ll lift up a 5kg bag of potatoes to prove to myself how much that was. It’s a lot!" 

Staying the course
I wanted to be successful this time, so tracking my food using the app, planning my meals and listening to my body were key. I wouldn’t let a bad day turn into a bad week or month. If things didn’t go to plan, I’d tell myself it was okay and I’d start fresh the following day. I found simple ways to stay motivated, too. I’ve lost almost 25kg, so sometimes I’ll lift up a 5kg bag of potatoes to prove to myself how much that was. It’s a lot! It would be amazing to go to the supermarket and lay out five big bags of potatoes so I could see how much excess weight I was carrying around. So, when a friend worries about “only losing 500g”, I remind them that’s the size of a margarine tub. Or if someone’s stressed about “only losing 200g”, I remind them that’s a slab of butter! It all adds up.

My husband lost 20 kg too
Having a strong support network is essential to getting me time. My family continues to be wonderful, especially after everything I’ve been through. My husband Mansell, 43, and I have made so many positive changes together, including walking regularly. On Sundays, we’re no longer sleeping in and lazing around – we’re up at 6.30am. We go on a mini adventure every week by taking advantage of the Sydney public transport deal that allows you to have unlimited travel for $2.50. We plan a trip and prepare snacks and clothing the night before. That way we enjoy incidental exercise and have fun exploring. It’s wonderful doing this as a team. Mansell has lost 20 kg! My son Daniel, 21, cooks for us one night a week, and my daughter Nicole, 19, helps out with the housework. They might sound like little things, but they make a big difference to me – it gives me time to exercise or do something for myself.

Taking 'me time'

Before, I never used to take time out. Now, I understand that self-care is vital. I love my nightly bubble bath, seeing friends for coffee and spending time with family. Nowadays, I make time for myself – even if it’s only five minutes. I’ve been free of cancer for two years. I only have one life to live, so I no longer sweat the small stuff. I’ve stopped worrying about doing the dirty dishes – I’ll go have that coffee with friends instead. I’m living life again and it’s empowering. I’m in control of my life, I’m in control of my weight and I’m in control of my health. It’s wonderful.

Morag's Husband on her weight loss...

Morag and her husband

When Mansell got on board with his wife Morag’s healthier lifestyle, he also reaped huge benefits.

“When Morag was diagnosed with cancer, I was only concerned about her getting better. But then, as time passed, I realised I needed to look after myself, too. Most of the men in my family are bigger in size, and there’s a risk of diabetes and heart disease. Plus, I realised it would probably make everything easier if we worked together. I wanted to do it for myself and be there for Morag – plus I also had another pretty big motivator. If I lost at least 20kg, then I could get a motorbike! (And yes, I now have a motorbike!)"

"Morag and I are far more conscious of what we eat now – everything is bulked out with fruit and vegies. It’s a big change from me snacking on sausages rolls or whatever I could get my hands on!"

"I’ve given away all my XXXL clothes and bought a whole new wardrobe on a recent trip to Hawaii. People who haven’t seen us for ages can’t believe it! We’re enjoying being fitter, healthier and doing more activities. This experience has definitely brought us closer together. It’s motivating, because if someone doesn’t feel like going for a walk, then the other one can say, ‘Let’s go!’”

Mansell, Morag’s husband